Articolo N. 159
Bible students sometime wonder whether the Bible gives any further reliable account of the physical shape of the earth. When discussing the theme, a passage in Pr 8:26-29 comes easily to the mind. It’s a powerful report about creation made by the lips of Wisdom, the Great Architect, also called the Master Worker. First, a consideration of the chronological contest of the passage proves to be necessary. At that time earth “had not yet been made”, it was not visible, in the sense that the dry land had not appeared so far. Earth still did not exist. Pr 8:26 reads: “When as yet he had not made the earth and the open spaces and the first part of the dust masses of the productive land…”. Only waters could be seen everywhere, unlimited. It was the time when Wisdom was acting as a Master Worker and heavens were being prepared. The creation of heavens evidently preceded the creation of earth. Genesis states it: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Now the Master is talking about several different moments of his activity. Which was the order to follow to achieve the wanted schedule?
Heavens were in progress; according to the starting verses of the Bible in Genesis, the early element had been water; from water heavens raised up. Later on, during the third creative day, the dry earth appeared. As far as the vault of heavens was reaching a more defined shape and achieving solidity, the boundless waters could be separated and brought together into a more restricted area, now worth of the name of sea. As a consequence a limit to the watery deep had been established. Up to then, waters were simply unlimited, but now, finally, they had certain boundaries to respect. A ceiling having been provided in the form of a dome, water vapors could condensate into clouds. The water cycle went into existence. Only at the end of a long process, I mean the building of the dome, the foundations of the earth could be set. (Ps102:25; Job 38:4-6)
A circle on the surface of waters
Thus, considering the contest, when the Master accomplished the whole building of the sky, marking a circle on the surface of the waters, he was not certainly giving shape to a spherical globe. This is because the earth platform, in the sense of a huge “water basin”, had been created before, at the very start of works accordingly to the words of the first verse in the Bible. And water was the first element, when all the earth was totally unseen, immersed in the darkness and “God’s active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters.” (Compare Ps 24:2; 136:6) These are the reasons why the casting of a circle on the surface of the waters should be understood as the building of the heavenly vault over the waters. The Hebrew word used here is hug and the Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, translates it only as “vault of the heavens”.
The vault of the heavens
Albert Barnes (1798–1870), an American scholar best known for his extensive Bible commentaries, about this subject wrote: “The circle of the earth – Or rather, “above” (על ‛al) the circle of the earth. The word rendered circle (chûg) denotes “a circle, sphere, or arch”; and is applied to the arch or vault of the heavens, in Pr 8:27; Job 22:14. The phrase ‘circle,’ or ‘circuit of the earth,’ here seems to be used in the same sense as the phrase orbis terrarum by the Latins; not as denoting a sphere, or not as implying that the earth was a globe, but that it was an extended plain surrounded by oceans and mighty waters. The globular form of the earth was then unknown; and the idea is, that God sat above this extended circuit, or circle; and that the vast earth was beneath his feet.” Barnes’ Notes
The circle of the earth
So let’s me kindly introduce a similar point of view. The Bible never says God is dwelling on the earth but it always indicates the heavens are his abode and the earth is his footstool. The Bible has many descriptions of God’s throne, for instance Eze 1:26 reads: “Above the expanse that was over their heads was what looked like a sapphire stone, and it resembled a throne…It was like the appearance of the glory of Jehovah.” So, according to Ezekiel’s description, Jehovah’s throne is set above the expanse and not below it. Considering Isaiah 40:22, the One dwelling upon the circle of the earth, Jehovah God, is not One dwelling on the ground of the earth, but, of course, on the vault of the heaven. The meaning is that the circle of the earth is an expression meaning the vault of the heaven. There’s no alternative.
Suspended upon nothing
Another of the verses often quoted in support of the theory of the globular concept of the earth is Job 26:7. It reads: “He stretches out the northern sky over empty space, Suspending the earth upon nothing.” This Bible verse is a superb example of poetic style in the Bible. The most important formal element in Hebrew poetry is parallelism, achieved by logical thought. Here “empty space” and “nothing” are the two corresponding, equal plates of the balance, and they convey the same meaning.
In addition, I have to examine the Hebrew language used to express “empty space”. The word you can find is to.hu, the same used in Genesis 1:2. The northern sky is the heaven or the earth dome. In antithetic parallelism each line expresses contrary thoughts. (Cf. Psalm 89:11-12 where a parallelism is established between the heavens and the earth on one side and the north and the south on the other; you will certainly remark that the north is set in correspondence with the heaven). So, there’s antithesis between the heaven and the earth, and both are stretched upon the primeval waste, the watery deep, to.hu. The verse is another confirmation of the meanings I have just discussed. Earth is stretched on the huge abyssal waters extending everywhere, inside and outside the dome.
A boundary between light and darkness
To conclude, there’s still a verse to consider. It’s Job 26:10 which is reading: “He marks out the horizon on the surface of the waters; He makes a boundary between light and darkness”. Or, as in the Rbi8E: “He has described a circle upon the face of the waters to where light ends in darkness.” This verse has a verb, chug, which basically means to make a circle. The outstanding concept is that here, in Job 26:10, as well as in Pr 8:27, a circle was drawn on waters and not on earth. Inside the boundaries of the vault, the dome over the earth, light was provided, outside there was only deep darkness.