The Creation of the Firmament
October 28th, 1956 @ 8:15 AM
THE CREATION OF THE FIRMAMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-28-56 8:15 a.m.
In the first chapter of Genesis, we’re following the work of God as He remade the world. Last Sunday morning, we followed the steps of the Lord as He let light burst upon this darkened and watery waste [Genesis 1:2-4]. And this morning, we’re going to study The Creation of the Firmament – the making, the arrangement, of the firmament. And this is one of the most amazingly fascinating of all of the things I have ever studied and read of in the Book.
The astounding and unbelievable thing is that Moses, thousands of years before modern scientific investigation and discovery and the use of ingenious instruments – before science knew anything, before science itself was born – this man Moses writes as though he had read the latest books published by the latest devout, reverential, scientific scholars.
Moses wrote in the day when the world was filled with fantastic superstition explanations of the phenomena above, around, and beneath us. Yet, not any of that superstition is found, not any of that darkness of childish thinking is found in the great writings of Moses. He writes as though he lived in our day and in our generation. Not only Moses but all of the authors of the Bible so write. Job wrote like that. The Book of Proverbs is like that. Ecclesiastes is like that. All of these books are like that.
How is it that men – mortal men, mundane, terrestrial, dying men, men made out of clay – how is it that men could write thousands of years ago and it be perfectly in order and in keeping with the things that modern scientific instruments are able to discover, things the naked eye could never see, things that an ingenuous mind could never rationalize? How is it these men of God were able to penetrate beyond the senses and to know these marvelous things that God hath wrought?
Well, our answer is plain and simple: "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" [from 2 Peter 1:21]. This is inspiration. This is the Book of God. The finger that wrote God’s name in the sky across the heavens is the finger that guided the pen that wrote down those holy and infallible words.
The division of light was last Sunday morning. How did Moses know God divided the light? This morning it is the division of the waters – the Creation of the Firmament. All right, let’s read it – just about three verses. The sixth verse, the first chapter of Genesis:
And God said –
wayyōmer – that’s the most repeated word in the Bible, "And God said" –
God said, "Let there be a firmament –
a rāqia –
"Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters." –
the great watery waste: the heavy vapors merging with the tumultuous seas and ice and glaciers below –
God said, "Let there be a rāqia in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters."
And God made –
God made. Not bara, "create" – the stuff was already there. It was just waste and void –
And God ‘asah –
God arranged. God rearranged –
God made the firmament, and divided –
badal, divided. We studied that word badal last Sunday morning – "God divided the light" [Genesis 1:4] –
And God divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
That’s not an age – 500,000 years or a billion or a trillion. That was a day – evening and morning. God did that in one day.
Now, let’s look at this word translated "firmament." And here the infidels and the critics scoff and laugh. "And God said, ‘Let there be a rāqia’ – translated "firmament" [Genesis 1:6].
Well, the infidels and the rationalists and the critics, they look at that and they laugh at the childish mind of Moses. For they say, they say, "by rāqia" – translated "firmament." The reason it’s translated firmament is the Latin Vulgate translated it "firmamentum." "Firm" – the idea of solid metallic substance: "firm, firmament." The Latin Vulgate translated it "firmamentum." Then when the King James Version came along, and the other early versions, why, they used the Latin Vulgate term. That’s where you get you word "firmament."
Now, those scoffers say that rāqia – translated "firmament" – meant that Moses, like all the rest of the Hebrews, believed that there was a solid metallic arch, which you call the sky, and that the stars were set in that arch. The sun and the moon were set in that arch, and that above that solid metallic sky, the rain water was up there. And when the Bible speaks, "God opened the windows of heaven and it rained" [from Genesis 7:11], why, that meant that God pulled the plug up there in that great metallic arch and the water fell through.
Now that’s what they say that means. And to my amazement and to my dumbfounding and to my stupefaction, in Cruden’s Concordance [A Complete Concordance to the Holy Scriptures, by Alexander Cruden, first published 1737, still in print by Zondervan], it says that same thing! I have a Cruden’s Concordance at home, and under the word "firmament," Cruden’s says – why, I wanted to fumigate my hands. I wanted to throw the book out the window. I still would do it if the thing hadn’t cost me about three dollars and a half, and I’m too stingy to throw it away. I could not believe my eyes! There’s Cruden’s Concordance defining "firmament" as the childish Hebrew idea that above this earth is a great metallic arch and, of course, applying it here above that arch would be the rain water that God lets down when He wants it to rain on the earth.
Now, I can’t see how men under high heaven, how men that walk this earth, can ever get such preposterous ideas except that they are looking by day and night for some thing to disqualify the Word of God. There is no syllable, there’s no suggestion of an idea of any such thing in that word rāqia translated "firmament."
It comes as all your Hebrew words – that is, I presume this is true, all I know are – all of your Hebrew words are built upon roots that have three consonants in them, three consonants.
And this one is raqa. Like the word for "divide," all those forms – badal, bara’, asah – they all are three consonantal letters. Now, raqa, from which rāqia the substantive is built, raqa means "to spread out, to expand, to stretch." That’s all it does mean. It doesn’t mean anything else. And rāqia means "a stretched out, a spread out, a limitless space."
That word is used in the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures seventeen times. Nine of those times, it’s used right here in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. And every time, every time, every time in the Old Testament history – in the Old Testament Scriptures – that rāqia, raqa is used, it is something nebulous. It is something intangible; it is something ethereal; it is something vast and limitless and spread out. And that’s all the word means.
And to read into it the idea that it refers to a solid metallic substance that holds the rain water up there in the sky, there’s no suggestion of an idea of that in the word: raqa, to stretch out, to spread out – rāqia. "God said, ‘Let there be a vast limitless spreading out, stretching out, open space. Let there be a vast, limitless, nebulous, intangible, open space in the midst of the waters to divide the waters above and the waters below’" [Genesis 1:6].
Now, there are three ideas of that word "heaven." "And God called that open space ‘Heaven’" [Genesis 1:8]. Now, you look at it. In the fourteenth verse here it says God put the luminaries – God put the light holders – in that firmament [Genesis 1:14]. That is, the sun and the moon and the stars are up there in this firmament. Now, look in the twentieth verse: "And the birds that fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven" [Genesis 1:20].
So there are three heavens. The first heaven is where the birds fly. That’s right up here. The second heaven is where the sun, the moon, and the stars are; and the third heaven is where God lives – beyond the sun and the moon and the stars.
So, when he uses the word "firmament" here, he’s talking about the great open expanse – the great world of air and atmosphere that is above us in which we walk. Our heads are in it, in which the birds fly, and in which the sun and the moon and the stars have been placed.
Now, it says here that God created. He made a firmament [Genesis 1:6]. And the second act is that He divided those waters, and He put some of the waters up there in the firmament and He put some of the waters down here on the ground with this great open space in between [Genesis 1:7].
Now the reason God did that was He is preparing for life, and if God had not created a firmament – this open space between the two – why, nothing could live but the fish. And then the fish would soon die because water has to be aerated – has to be oxygenated. Now water has to be impregnated with water – with the oxygen – or the fish’ would die.
So the only way in this world that God made – the only way for life to exist was for God to create a great space in which the waters above could be separated from the waters beneath. And in that space, all of these things that are that make life possible were arranged. And we’re going to talk about them this morning – the most amazing things that Moses refers to right here that makes life possible.
So you come to the second day now and this earth is a watery waste: snow and ice and glaciers and great tumultuous seas covering the entire surface, and then the atmosphere above, heavy and vaporous, merging with the waters below, and just light appearing through it from the first day’s work. Now, at the end of this day, you have what you see now: the great open expanse and the waters above divided from the waters beneath [Genesis 1:1-8].
All right, now let’s look at those waters above. Isn’t that an astounding thing that Moses would say? God made the firmament – asah [Genesis 1:7]. He rearranged this thing so there was a firmament, and the waters divided under the firmament from those above the firmament and it was so: two great bodies of water [Genesis 1:6-7]. Why, even I don’t realize that and I live 2000 years AD and Moses was writing 1500 years BC. I never realized that until I started preparing this message: that great ocean of water up above divided from the ocean of water below, and you and I live in that ocean up above.
The vast firmamental sea that is above us and we are on the bottom of it like crustacea – like crabs and shellfish and lobsters crawling around on the bottom of the watery sea, the ocean bed, or the ocean floor. Why, you and I crawl around on the bottom of the great firmamental sea, and those two seas are exactly alike. Every peculiar characteristic of that watery sea, the ocean, is characteristic of the firmamental sea which is above it.
For example, the ocean has billows and waves and tides that ebb and flow with irresistible power. The great firmamental sea above us has billows and waves and tides that ebb and flow and great currents like the Gulf Stream and like the Japanese current – great currents that are irresistible. You can navigate the oceans down here through the watery expanses on this earth. You can navigate the great firmamental sea which is above us.
There are creatures that live in the watery sea below that can live in no other environment. They are made to live and they swim through that watery sea. There are creatures that live in the firmamental sea above us and they swim through – they fly through – the great firmamental sea. And this is their environment just like those creatures do down there in the watery sea, in the sea of the ocean. And there is a specific weight and gravity and density of that ocean sea. There is a specific weight and gravity of the great firmamental sea which is above us. They are exactly alike.
For example, if you were able to catch one of those strange creatures that live down there, way down there in the depths of the ocean, you see, there is a specific weight, gravity of this oceanic sea, the great watery sea in the great basins of the oceans. And as you go down, the pressure gets greater and greater and greater until finally, way down there, some of those creatures live where the pressure is 10,000 feet to the square foot.
The great weight of the sea around them presses on every hand, and a creature that lives way down there, his body, his musculature – the thrust of his muscles – must be great enough to withstand the pressure at 10,000 pounds to the square feet.
And you catch one of those creatures – you catch one of those creatures and bring him up to the surface of the sea, and he’ll explode. Down there his musculature, the thrust of his muscles, is made to withstand 10,000 pounds to the square feet. Up here at the top of the ocean, the pressure is 2,100 pounds to the square feet. So when you bring one of those creatures up to the top of that watery sea, why, the very thrust of his muscles tears him apart.
I think even 250 feet down, if you catch a red snapper out there in the Gulf [Gulf of Mexico] – if you catch a red snapper, by the time you get that red snapper up to the top, he’s dead. The thrust of his muscles has literally torn the insides of him apart, and he’s dead. And you men who are fishermen nod your head. The great sea of the ocean has a tremendous weight and pressure.
All right, the firmamental sea has a light weight and pressure. Down here where we walk around on the floor, on the bottom of this firmamental sea, there is a pressure, a weight of it. As you go down into this sea, as you go down and down and down and down, why, the weight, the pressure, gets heavier and heavier and heavier and heavier until finally, when you get down to sea level, the pressure is 14 pounds 9 ounces to the square inch or 2,100 pounds to the square foot.
And if you catch one of these creatures, like humankind, put a noose around his neck – put a hook in him real good and catch one of these creatures down here that you call man – catch one of these creatures down here on the bottom of this firmamental sea and pull him up to the top of the sea, he’ll explode too. You will explode. First, you’ll get dizzy. First, you get dizzy. Then your head will nearly burst open. Then you will fall into unconsciousness and the musculature of the human structure will tear you apart. You will bleed at the mouth and eyes and ears, and all of the insides of you just simply come apart because a man is built to live on the bottom like crustacean on the bottom – like a shell fish, like a crab, like a lobster. He is built to crawl around, to walk around, on the bottom of the great firmamental sea, and his structure is made to withstand the pressure of 14 pounds 9 ounces to the square inch or 2,100 pounds to the square foot. And when you pull him out and take him way up high – 50,000, 100,000 feet up there in the air – the muscles that are built to thrust at the rate of 2,100 pounds a square foot, your muscles simply tear you apart and you die.
The seas are exactly alike. The ocean sea and the firmamental sea above us: exactly alike. There are two seas. How did Moses know that?
You know, you take a man and he’s a strong man. He can lift 200 pounds. Oh, he’s like Samson himself [Judges 14:5-6, 19; 16:28-30]. He’s like Sandow [Eugen Sandow, 1867-1925] when I was a boy looking at pictures of him. Sandow: he can lift, he can lift 200 pounds. You let a ton of lead or a ton of brick fall on that man, and it’ll crush him to death.
Yet, did you know that every one of us carries 14 tons all the time – every day and every night? Right now, you are carrying 14 tons. You are built for it. Every little gauzy creature – those little nebulous flies and bugs – they are built to withstand the pressure of 2,100 pounds to the square foot, and the little old creatures are miracles of God’s design. All of us are built – the thrust of our muscles is built to withstand 14 tons – the average man. It’s a tremendously marvelous thing that God has done here.
Now, let’s look at the composition of this firmamental sea for just a moment. There are other things that are in it but mostly the firmamental sea is made up of two parts: 79 parts nitrogen and 21 parts oxygen. That’s what this firmamental sea is made of. Now, we’re going to look at something else in it, but that’s mostly the gaseous substances that make up the firmamental sea.
Now God did a marvelous thing with that nitrogen/oxygen in order for us to live. Nitrogen is just a little lighter, just a wee tiny bit lighter than oxygen. And the reason God did that is this: when you breathe, you take out the oxygen and exhale the nitrogen. Now, nitrogen is not good for you. You couldn’t live on it. You have to have oxygen to live. If oxygen were lighter and nitrogen heavier, then in a room like this where all of us are breathing and we took out the oxygen and the nitrogen went down and not up, it wouldn’t be long until this room would be a death trap. And every room in the world would be a death trap, and the whole world would be a death trap.
But God made that just like this. The nitrogen is just a little bit lighter than the oxygen so that when you inhale, you take the oxygen out – your lungs do – then when you exhale, the nitrogen is exhaled and it goes up into the air. On a cold frosty morning when you breathe out, your breath will go up – just gradually go up into the air. That’s because the nitrogen is a little heavier, is a little lighter, than the oxygen. So when you go way up there to that roof up here where that thing is stopped, that’s not very healthful right up there ’cause all the exhaling of our breath gradually sends up there to the top. But then from these crevices and creaks and little old places around, the cracks in the doors and everywhere, well, the oxygen comes in and our breath is constantly replenished and we’re able to live.
Did you ever think of another thing about how God controls that thing?
Nitrogen is the ingredient in some of our greatest explosives like dynamite and nitroglycerin and TNT and all of that, and oxygen is the one gas that is vital in combustion, and here they are together. When God says the elements shall melt with fervent heat [2 Peter 3:10], all He’s got to do is speak and the whole thing will go up with a roar. But He keeps them apart – nitrogen and oxygen. Now that’s the firmamental sea above us.
Now, we’ve looked at its structure. But listen, that’s not anything compared to its function – how God made the sea above us. It’s an amazing thing the function of that firmament. It’s an astounding miraculous thing that God has done and that Moses should speak of it here: the waters above and the waters below [Genesis 1:6-7]. The great, vast oceans of water that are above us as well as the great seas that are down here in this earth, God divided the two – put one of the oceans up there, put the biggest ocean up there, and the smaller oceans down here.
All right, now, let’s look at that. I said the most amazing thing about this is the function of the firmamental sea. You’ve got a problem to make things live in this world. You’ve got to make the vegetation grow, and then the animals eat the vegetation, and we eat the vegetation and then sometimes we eat the animals. So in order for man to live, we have to have vegetation to grow.
Now, vegetation, in order to grow, vegetation – and that’ll come on the next day [Genesis 1:11-13] – vegetation, in order to grow, must have water. But the water’s down here in the ocean. It’s down there in the seas. It’s in the great basins of the earth, and you’ve got these high plateaus and you’ve got these high mountains and you have these high plains. How are you going to get the water out of the ocean up there on the mountains and on the high plains? How you going to do that?
That’s a real problem considering the fact you’ve got the problem of transportation – getting it there way up on a mountain 20,000 feet high and these great plateaus, 9,000-10,000 feet high, and even here in Dallas. Did you ever try carrying a bucket of water from the Gulf up here to Dallas – just a bucket? I’d be worrying about 650 feet high. You got a problem of transportation then.
The water in the seas is salt, full of minerals. You couldn’t use it. You’d pour it on your flower bed or pour it on the corn field and everything’d die and it’d ruin it.
Then another thing, the weight of water’s tremendous. It is 800 times the weight of the atmosphere – 800 times. I never knew how heavy water was until they began to put these salt waters in the mains of Dallas and we go down and buy a five gallon bottle of water, a five – just five gallons. You stagger around with five gallons. My land, five gallons. Takes a good hefty man to lift just five gallons of the stuff. Brother, you’ve got to have millions and millions and millions of tons brought up thousands of feet and miles and hundreds of miles away. How you going to do that? Well, God did that when He made the firmamental sea.
So let’s see how God did that. Let’s solve those three problems one at a time. First, the problem of weight. How in the world are you going to get that heavy, heavy, heavy water way up here? How you going to do that? It’s an awful problem the weight of it – the weight of water.
All right, this is how God does it. The most amazing thing in this world is water. We’re going to look at that if God will give us time. Water – just plain water – the most amazing: it has such tremendous inherent contradictions. Of all of the other laws, the most amazing thing is water. Now, water is able of terrific expansion. You can take water and turn it into steam and expand it 600 times – 1,600 times its volume. That’s the reason you can get such tremendous pressure in steam. Take a little bit of water, heat it up, and that little old place in there instead of holding just that much water it has to hold above 1,600 times as much. Boy, that’s where you get the explosive power: run a turbine, run anything. Now, that’s water.
Now, when the sun comes down – the hot sun comes down there at the equator and everywhere else but especially in the tropical sea – when the hot sun comes down, it heats that water and it expands the bulk of it 900 times its original size. Now, I said the weight of water was 800 times the atmosphere, but the rays of the sun expand it 900 times so it becomes about an eighth lighter. So the sun, beaming down – and any other heat that comes down on the water – it expands the water to a volume 900 times and that turns it into vapor. And being an eighth lighter than the atmosphere, why, it just sails away and there it goes just everywhere, just everywhere. All over God’s creation, wherever there’s water, if any kind of sun warming hits it, there it turns into an eighth lighter than the atmosphere and up into the air it goes and up in the air it goes – up in the air it goes and up in the air it goes.
Well, how much water can it hold up there? Listen, the firmamental sea can hold all the waters of all the oceans and all the seas of the world and then it hasn’t begun to hold all that it could. Did you know that? Let me illustrate how much the air will hold.
If you take a room 60 feet by 60 feet by 60 feet, which wouldn’t be anything as big, not nearly as big as this – 60 by 60 by 60 – even at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which is cool, it’ll hold 252 pounds of water, just that little bit of atmosphere. A square mile of air above this earth on any ordinary summer day has in it 500,000 tons of water – just one square mile: one billion pounds of water.
Oh, didn’t I say just five gallons? Brother, that’s 500,000 tons of water – just any day. So you just go out there and look up, and right above you, right square above you, is 500,000 thousand tons. Oh, Lord, don’t let it fall! Dear Lord, keep it up there a little while longer. It’s an amazing thing. That great firmamental sea has oceans up there that make the oceans of the earth look like little old puddles – the great waters that are up there in the firmament. Well, that’s the way we got one problem solved. How you going to lift up that terrible weight? God does it by evaporation: making it lighter than the atmosphere, and there it goes.
Well, what’s He going to do about the impurities? Well, salts don’t volatilize. They don’t evaporate. So just the water, the pure water, evaporates, and up it comes and leaves all the salts in the ocean.
Now, what’s He going to do about transportation and how you going to get it over there to fall down on the ground where it’s needed? Well, God does another miracle. He does the opposite one. He has just evaporated it out of the ocean and up it goes into the air and there it is up in the firmament, a great ocean of water.
Now, how you going to get it down here on the land? Well, the winds blow and there it goes on top of Pike’s Peak, and the winds blow and there it is on top of Mount Everest, and here it is over Dallas. Great wind currents carry it all over the world.
Well now your problem is how are you going to get it down for it’s fluffy; it’s fleecy; it’s real light. It’s lighter than the atmosphere, and it’s floating all around here. But that’s not going to do us any good to have this sea up there in the air and it stays up in the air. You got to get it to come down on the earth.
All right, God does that by condensation – the opposite process. Let’s take a cloud out here. There’s a cloud out here northwest of Dallas, and it is 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That cloud, great billowing current, you know, coming up from the hot earth, and goes up there and there it gets cooled off. All right, if you cool that cloud nine degrees – put it down nine degrees – it’ll dump out one-fourth of its water content. And if you cool that cloud down 12 more degrees – make it 21 degrees in all – it will spill out a third more; make it a half, it will spill out half of its content.
You cool that cloud down 21 degrees, and it’ll dump out one-half of the water that’s in it. And that’s what God does to make it rain. All it would take would be for somebody to put an air cooler up here on these hot summer days, and you’d have all the rain that you would need. Our problem is just an air cooler, isn’t it? But that’s what makes it rain.
You have the same thing in a refrigerated unit. If you have a refrigerated unit, you got to make some provision for the water. When you condense the air, when you cool the air, the water comes out. That is, it does at my house. And God made it that way. And if it doesn’t at your house, you come and have a little session with me. There’s something wrong over there where you live. Whenever you condense the air, the water comes out, and that’s the way God makes it rain.
Well, the infidel laughs. "Ha, ha, ha," he says. "That shows you there’s no design. There’s no intelligence back of all of this because it rains on the ocean. Oh, just storming out there on the ocean, just raining. Did you ever see it rain on the ocean, just rain, rain, rain on the ocean? And what good is that? That shows you there’s no design." That’s what the infidel says.
Well, all you got to do is tell the infidel, "Listen here. The reason God did that was so His fish could live." God’s got some other things He’s interested in besides just rain – rain and water. He’s got some fish down there, and those fish down there have to breathe. They got to live off of oxygen.
And the reason it rains and the rain falls on the ocean, God’s aerating His waters in the sea – all the little raindrops carrying the oxygen down there with them so the fish can breathe, so you happy men can go out and catch them and bring them home and we can eat them. That’s why God did that. He did that so the fish could breathe.
Well, time’s up, but I’m going to tell you about water time or no time. Water is the most amazing thing in this world – water. There is a law in the world that whenever you cool a thing it contracts. When you heat a thing, it expands – expands: that’s a law. All right, water obeys that law. You cool it, it’ll contract and contract and contract and contract to about 38 degrees Fahrenheit. And then, for no reason at all except God did it to make this world go – for no reason at all, it violates the law of contraction and it begins to expand and expands on down to 32 degrees until it’s a ninth bigger than it was before.
Job – how did Job do that? Job says here: "The waters are congealed like a stone on the face of the deep, and the face of the deep is frozen" [Job 38:30]. Why doesn’t the stone sink? Why doesn’t the stone sink? Why doesn’t it? Because God made it violate that law for no reason at all except God did it, and it expands instead. And listen, if God hadn’t done that, why the water would have frozen, sink to the bottom, frozen, sink to the bottom, frozen, sink to the bottom, until finally to the north and to the south at the poles, you would have had a solid sea of ice from the bottom to the top. And the great ocean currents that are made by the sweeping down of the cold from the north and the sweeping up of the hot from the south, you wouldn’t have had any ocean currents and this world would have been stagnant and dead. God did that just to make life – just to make it live.
Now, the opposite process is true. The law says when you heat a thing it expands. Well, lo and behold, when I take a piece of ice and heat it, melt it, it doesn’t expand. It contracts. It contracts until it gets to 35, 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and then it starts expanding. And finally, you can make it into steam. God did that just so the stone would float, just so the great ocean currents would be moving, just so we could have life in the earth. And I got to quit. But isn’t that wonderful that Moses put all of that? Divided these seas, the seas above and the seas below [Genesis 1:6-8]. Ah, that’s God. That’s the Lord.
Now, we sing a stanza of a hymn – a stanza of a hymn. While we sing our stanza of a hymn, if there is somebody this morning to give his heart to the Lord, or to come into the fellowship of the church, you come and stand by me, while we stand and while we sing.
THE CREATION OF THE FIRMAMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2. Divided – Heavens
– raqiyah, vast, limitless, spread out
Function of the firmament
Characteristics of water