Genesis 1 Day 2: The Creation of the Atmosphere: Sky and Clouds

Genesis 1:6-8

By Ron Jones, D.D. ©Titus Institute

Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), ©2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."


Introduction:

On Day 1, God created the raw material of the universe, the earth as a gigantic earthen sphere covered by water and outer space unoccupied until the proper time. He will be like a master sculptor who has prepared the clay to be molded. His Holy Spirit is hovering over the face of this world wide ocean ready to participate with the Father and the Son in the creation. God then creates a supernatural light by which the earth can begin to rotate on its axis and the first 24 hour day can begin. Day 2 opens in v.6 with God focusing on the atmosphere.


Genesis Day 2: The Creation of the Atmosphere: Sky and Clouds

v.6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."

First, we will look at the expanse, then we will look at the waters.

v.6 Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters

"Expanse" is "raqiya" in the Hebrew. The Hebrew word "raqiya" is translated "expanse" (ESV, NASB) or "firmament" (KJV, NKJV) or "vault" (NIV). The best translation is "expanse" which is based on how the word is used in the context here. The word "expanse" means something that is spread out over a large area. In this case, it is an atmosphere.

v. 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse.

God separates the waters covering the mantle of the earth into two sections with an expanse or space in between. This expanse is the atmosphere, the sky, between the waters below and the waters above.

v.6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."

v.7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.

So, what do the waters above the expanse refer to?

The "waters below the expanse" is the sea. The "waters above the expanse" refers to the water vapor in the clouds which produce rain. There are various interpretations of these waters, but if you search the Old Testament you will find that water vapor in the clouds that become rain is called "waters."

Let's look at a couple of verses.

Job 26:8 He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them.

Rain is called "waters" from clouds.

Job 5:10 he gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields;

Did ancient people know that there was water vapor in the clouds that produced rain? Yes. Adam and his descendants were intelligent and built great civilizations. Most likely God told them, but they also saw it for themselves. As we will see in Genesis 2, it was important for Adam and his descendants to understand the hydrologic cycle for their farming which was the foundation of the growth of civilization as God intended. God is describing in simple language that what we see of the creation God created.

Mathews explains, "The second separation of creation is the division in the waters. God formed an 'expanse' to create a boundary, giving structure to the upper and lower waters (1:6-7). The 'expanse' is the atmosphere that distinguishes the surface waters of the earth (i.e., the waters below) from the atmospheric waters or clouds (i.e., the waters above). The Hebrew term raqia (expanse) may be used for something that is beaten out or spread out like a covering (Job 37:18; Ezek 1:22-26; 10:1). The stars are depicted as the brightness of the raqia (Dan 12:3). The atmosphere then is depicted as a canopy or dome spread out over the earth. There is no indication, however, that the author conceived of it as a solid mass, a firmament' (AV) that supported a body of waters above it. The expanse describes both the place in which the luminaries were set (vv. 14-15, 17) and the sky where the birds are observed (v. 20). Thus Genesis' description of the expanse is phenomenological. To the observer on earth, the sun and stars appear to sit in the skies while at the same time birds glide through the atmosphere, piercing the skies. In the Old Testament elsewhere there is evidence that the Hebrews understood that clouds produced rain and thus, from a phenomenological perspective, 'water' can be described as belonging to the upper atmosphere (Deut 28:12; Judg 5:4; 1 Kgs 18:44-45; Eccl 11:3; Isa 5:6)." (Mathews, K. A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol. 1A, p. 150). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers)

v.7 And it was so.

Again, Moses emphasizes as God declared it, it was immediately done.

The Three Heavens

v. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven (literally heavens, plural).

The Expanse/Sky is called by God "Heavens." That means the sky and the heavens are called by the same name. In Genesis 1, God calls outer space "heavens" and the sky "heavens" and God calls outer space the "expanse of the heavens" and the sky "the expanse of the heavens."

Let's see this.

1. Genesis 1:1 God creates the heavens and the earth.

2. Genesis 1:6-8 God creates an expanse between the waters and calls it heavens.

The heavens in v.8 is the same Hebrew word rendered heavens in v. 1.

3. Genesis 1:14 God creates the sun, moon, and stars in the expanse of the heavens. Three times Moses uses the phrase "the expanse of the heavens."

5. Genesis 1:20 Birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.

If we put this together carefully, we see that there is an upper heavens and a lower heavens. The upper heavens is the area above the sky, which is outer space where the sun, moon, and stars now exist. The lower heavens is the sky, the atmosphere.

There is also a third Heaven(s) - the heavens where God dwells.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases

Paul brings this out in his second letter to the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 12:1-4 1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows - 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.

The first heavens is the lower heavens - the sky The second heavens is the upper heavens - outer space where the stars are The third heavens is the spiritual heavens where God dwells

Note: When you see the word "heavens" in the OT, always ask yourself, "Is the author talking about the lower heavens, the upper heavens, or the lower and upper heavens together or the third heaven where God dwells?"

God is using phenomenological language not scientific language here. He is using the same terms for the sky as for outer space and allowing his people to draw the conclusion that there is a lower and upper heavens. It is all space to the observer on earth. God is not interested in making a scientific distinction between the area of earth's atmosphere and the area of outer space. On a clear night it all blends together and that is how God created it and describes it.

Mathew writes, "Thus Genesis' description of the expanse is phenomenological - to the observer on earth, the sun and stars appear to sit in the skies while at the same time birds glide through the atmosphere, piercing the skies." (Mathews, K. A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol. 1A, pp. 150). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers)

This incredible description of God's creation of the heavens, sky and outer space, sets the Lord as the supreme being above the gods of the ancient near eastern culture. The Sumerians, for instance, worshipped Anu as the sky god and Enlil as the god of the atmosphere. These were powerful gods in the minds of ancient near eastern peoples.

But none of these false gods can compare to the true God of the Jews, Yahweh, the creator of the heavens!

v.8 And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.