The Firmament and the Anchor Yale Dictionary

While ancient and conservative scholars have come to the same conclusion, below is an extensive entry on the Heaven as a physical reality in the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary.

In the Hebrew Bible “heaven” is sometimes used as a synonym for “firmament” (Heb rāqı̂aʿ) to describe the dome-shaped covering over the earth that separated the heavenly waters above from the earthly waters beneath (Gen 1:6–8; Ps 148:4). Heaven, or the firmament, was thought to be supported by pillars (Job 26:11) and had foundations (2 Sam 22:8) and windows. When the windows of heaven were opened, the waters above the firmament fell upon the earth as rain (Gen 7:11; 8:2; Isa 24:18). Through these windows God also poured out blessings upon the earth (Mal 3:10). The birds fly across the firmament (Gen 1:20; Deut 4:17) and the sun, moon, and stars were set in the firmament (Gen 1:14–18).

Whereas the firmament referred specifically to the canopy covering the earth, heaven often had a broader meaning, referring to all that was above the earth, including the firmament. Rain, snow, hail, and thunder come from heaven (Exod 9:22–35; Isa 55:10; Josh 10:11; Rev 11:19). Heaven contained the storehouses of the winds, the snow, and the hail (Job 37:9; 38:22; Ps 135:7; Jer 10:13).

 Heaven is also a place for signs. God placed the rainbow in the heavens as a sign to Noah of the covenant which God made with him (Gen 9:12–17). God’s power is displayed in the signs and wonders which are performed in heaven and on earth (Dan 6:27). Signs in the heavens also portend God’s judgment on the earth, particularly the eschatological judgment (Joel 3:3–4; Matt 24:30; Luke 21:11, 25; Acts 2:19; Rev 15:1).

 The phrase “heaven and earth” was used to denote the entire universe, the totality of God’s creation (Gen 1:1; Deut 4:26; Ps 121:2; 146:6; Mark 13:31; Acts 17:24)…”[1]

Hastings Bible Dictionary provides the following summary diagram:



All of this just demonstrates the difficulty in reading Genesis 1 as a substitute for science.


[1] Reddish, M. G. (1992). Heaven. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 3, p. 90). New York: Doubleday.


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