What does the Bible mean by the word firmament?

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The firmament at the creation of the world

The word firmament is in Hebrew raqia‘ (Genesis 1:6). The English word “firmament” 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.

Firmament 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). Thus, the first thing that the Lord created was light to expel the darkness that engulfed the earth (v. 3-4).

On the second day, God created the firmament. He said “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so” (Genesis 1:6-7). Here, the firmament refers to the expanse of the heavens above the earth.

The firmament, which consisted of the great mass of primeval “waters,” was divided into two distinct bodies. The first part was the “waters which were above the firmament” (v. 7) which are generally considered by Bible scholars to be water vapor. And the second part is the water which is beneath such as oceans, seas and lakes. The atmospheric area of vapor formed a tent or dome, covering the earth, and commonly known as sky. This area was the space separating the clouds, which are in the higher regions of it, from the body of waters which are below it. The atmosphere is the orb of very small particles. Moses used the word firmament to include the whole space which is occupied by the solar system.

And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day” (Genesis 1:8). The product of God’s creative power on the second day of the creation week received a name, even as the light of the first day had received one. In the Hebrew as well as in the modern translation, the word “heaven” is the name given both to the place where God exists and to the firmament.

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 plant. 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 for firmament in the Bible

Firmament 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).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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