What does the word “firmament” mean?

Author: BibleAsk Team


The word firmament, “an expanse,” is in Hebrew raqia‘ (Genesis 1:6). The English word comes from the Latin firmamentum, the Vulgate rendering of raqia‘. Firmamentum, literally means “a support” and corresponds to the Greek word stereoma. The translation, stereoma, may have come from the concept anciently believed that the heavens are solid, firm concave.

This word is used in the Bible mostly in the book of Genesis (9 times, King James Version). Before God created the firmament, He created light. The Biblical record tells us that originally the surface matter of the earth consisted of a fluid substance. “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The first act of creation that the Lord created was light to expel the darkness that engulfed the earth (verses 3-4).

The second act of creation was in forming the firmament. The huge mass of primeval “waters” was divided into two separate bodies. The “waters which were above the firmament” (verse 7) are commonly understood by commentators to be water vapor. The climate of the earth was different from what it is today. Explorations in the far north shows that there were originally tropical forests there but now that region of the earth is covered with ice.

God called the firmament Heaven. In the Hebrew as well as in the modern translation, the word “heaven” is the name given both to the place where God lives and to the firmament. But in Genesis 1:2 “heaven” refers to the atmosphere that is seen as a canopy, or dome, covering our earth, and generally called sky.

The creation of firmament was necessary, for Life could not exist without air. Plant and animal life needed the atmosphere. Without air our earth would be a lifeless place. No vegetation of any kind could be found anywhere, and no living creature could live for any period of time. Thus, God made the earth perfectly suitable for life and habitation.

Other References

This word is also used in the book of Ezekiel (5 times, KJV) and in the book of Daniel (1 time, KJV). In Ezekiel, we read “Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne” (Ezekiel 10:1). And in Daniel, we read, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

In addition, this word is used as well in the book of Psalms where we read: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1). “Praise ye the LORD. . . . Praise him in the firmament of his power” (Psalm 150:1). By their greatness and order the heavens disprove evolution. It is not work of chance, but of God. Their arrangement prove God’s existence.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

Leave a Comment