And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters; let it divide asunder (or “a space between”) the waters from the waters.
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יְהִ֥י רָקִ֖יעַ בְּתֹ֣וךְ הַמָּ֑יִם וִיהִ֣י מַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין מַ֖יִם לָמָֽיִם׃
And God said, “Let there be”… The first day has ended and the second evening has begun. It is the second day of creation–approximately 24 hours after the Earth was first brought into being. True to His nature, God has not ceased to improve His creation. This verse also begins with וַיֹּ֣ (“and”), signifying a continuously flowing account. The second day has proceeded directly from the first–the narrative is unified. The impression given is of a rapid series of events. God created the Earth and then He created the light and then He created the firmament…. God’s focus was set upon this task and His focus was not broken. He waited neither more nor less than a day before proceeding with His day’s work, which was premeditated since before the beginning. God continued to speak and the universe continued to listen.
…a firmament… רָקִ֖יעַ (raqi, “firmament”) means a wide expanse, an uninterrupted empty space (not a vacuum, but a space which is devoid of solid or liquid matter). It couldn’t be a vacuum because a vacuum is made of nothing and requires no creating. Genesis 1:20 says that birds were to fly in the open firmament. This firmament, then, refers to the sky, or the lowest heaven (see Genesis 1:8). Other possible renderings of רָקִ֖יעַ include “vault,” “canopy,” or “horizon.” It is derived from the verb רָקַע (raqa), meaning to “stamp out” or “to spread.” Isaiah 40:22 says that God stretched out the heaven. With a few words God stretched out this expanse all the way around the globe. It is described in scriptures as having the appearance of a transparent work of sapphire (see Exodus 24:10), a molten looking-glass (see Job 37:18), a carpet spread out above the earth (see Psalm 54:2), or a curtain (see Isaiah 40:22); but there is nothing in these poetic metaphors to warrant the idea that the heavens were regarded as a solid mass, a σιδήρεον, or χάλκεον or πολύχαλκον, such as Greek poets describe. The רקיע is called heaven in Genesis 1:8, i.e., the vault of heaven, which stretches out above the earth. The waters under the firmament are the waters upon the globe itself. The word in the Syriac language has the sense of binding and compressing, and so it is used in the Syriac version of Luke 6:38.
…in the midst of the waters… The Earth at this point was still entirely water. It was no longer an indefinite mass of chaos thanks to the calming power of the Holy Spirit (see Genesis 1:2). This body of water was now still enough to be given an atmosphere. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was working on it the entire first day, or perhaps not–perhaps the waters were calmed at the very beginning of the first day. Either way, God already did the requisite work beforehand so He could now create this firmament. If not for the prior calming of the waters, an empty sky would not have been possible–the incessant torrents and deluges would keep it filled. Everything progressed according to God’s premeditated purpose.
…let it divide asunder the waters from the waters. The firmament was created inside the waters; God stretched out the waters to create the expanse in between. Imagine this analogy: It is as if God lifted some of the water up as one would lift the lid off a box, and the firmament in between was created. Note that the atmosphere was not created on top of the waters, but in the midst of them. The reasons for this were many, and will be explained in further detail later.
And God made the firmament, and divided asunder (or “a space between”) the waters [which] were under the firmament, and from the waters which [were] above the firmament–and it was so.
וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִים֮ אֶת־הָרָקִיעַ֒ וַיַּבְדֵּ֗ל בֵּ֤ין הַמַּ֙יִם֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לָרָקִ֔יעַ וּבֵ֣ין הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר מֵעַ֣ל לָרָקִ֑יעַ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃
The main point to observe in this verse (since all else has already been explained) is the location. The firmament was not just created in the midst of the waters, it was created to separate the waters above from the waters below. Just in case it isn’t abundantly clear already, the firmament was touching the upper and lower waters. Since it was separating the upper and lower waters, it had to be contiguous to them both. There is no empty space between the ocean and the air, you see. The firmament directly bordered the waters below and the waters above. The “waters above” cannot be referring to waters somewhere in the depths of outer space because they would lie beyond the firmament–not touching it. The outermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere, the Exosphere, can hardly be said to extend more than 6,000 miles above sea level (and even past 600 miles can best be described as “vacuum in denial”). Even with generous leeway as to the definition of “firmament,” there are no great waters in space anywhere near Earth. So what were the waters above?
The most obvious answer for this would be that the waters above are clouds, but this does not stand up to examination. For one thing, the clouds do not cover the entire sky. Even on the very cloudiest day, somewhere on Earth will be clear–they are not above the whole firmament. For another thing, the clouds are not above the firmament; they are inside it. Clouds form within the homosphere, which only extends as high as about 50 miles (80 km) above sea level. Not only did clouds not make up the “waters above,” they could not have existed until after the flood. In Genesis 9:13 God created the rainbow as a symbol of His promise to never again destroy the Earth by flood, which means the rainbow did not exist before then. It must be that the conditions in the antediluvian world did not permit the creation of the rainbow. Because rainbows form from refraction and dispersion of light passing through water droplets in the clouds, and because water and light existed back then (see also Genesis 1:2, 1:3), we can only assume that clouds did not. Obviously the atmospheric conditions on Earth back then were quite different from how they are postdiluvian. There is much evidence in scripture that allows us to reach a scientific understanding of these conditions.
The Canopy Theory (the best possible explanation) holds that there was originally a layer of ice suspended above the Earth by the Meissner Effect about 10 miles up.3 Keep in mind that the Earth’s magnetic field is becoming weaker as the decades go by–in the days of Adam it would have been at least 20 times stronger than it is today. A strong magnetic field could easily hold a canopy of ice in suspension (and the air would have been pushing up against the ice just as much as the ice was pushing down). This canopy served four purposes:
One: It pressurized the atmosphere. This atmosphere would permit larger life-forms that are otherwise impossible. An adult brontosaurus can measure 72 feet (22 meters) from head to toe, yet has nostrils no bigger than a horse’s, and very small lungs. The only way for an animal that size to feasibly get enough oxygen would be if the atmosphere were denser and/or more oxygen rich. Air bubbles in prehistoric amber balls have been found to contain 35%-50% more oxygen than today’s air. So-called megafauna were the norm in those days. Plants would also be greatly benefited by this change. Mori Kei of Kao University grew a tomato plant with pressurized CO2 and filtered sunlight. It eventually grew to be 40 feet tall and produced 15,000 tomatoes.4
Pressurized atmosphere would allow for increased cell regeneration and would allow most organisms to enjoy a longer life-span. Hyperbaric chambers are sometimes used to treat a variety of medical issues by exposing the patient to high-oxygen-content air (sometimes pure oxygen) at high pressure. Hyperbaric medicine has been used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning, necrotizing fasciitis, traumatic ischemias, decompression sickness, and many other conditions. If Adam and Eve lived in such an atmosphere, it is not difficult to imagine them living long and healthy lives. Forget about healing wounds–imagine the positive effects as well. Oxygen is routinely said to imbue the breather with increased energy. The chemist and clergyman Joseph Priestly, after breathing pure oxygen, wrote, “The feeling of it to my lungs was not sensibly different from that of common air, but I fancied that my breast felt peculiarly light and easy for some time afterwards.” Imagine having that feeling your whole life. When breathing air is an exciting experience, you know that the Lord has blessed you.
The pressurized atmosphere also permitted higher humidity without rainfall, clouds, or other bothersome atmospheric phenomena. Air pressure would be more or less equalized everywhere, and high. High pressure means clear skies; low pressure means a storm is coming. Air pressure would be stable with little regard to elevation above sea level and make living atop a mountain no different from living in a valley. Altitude sickness would be nonexistent, and decompression sickness (a.k.a. “the bends”) would be drastically reduced or nonexistent. Having a pressurized, oxygen rich environment would result in the saturation of the blood with oxygen–exercising would be painless and stamina would be incredibly high.
Two: The ice canopy blocked most cosmic radiation. It ought to be obvious that this is very important not only for ensuring a long life, but also the quality of the genetic pool. Radiation causes mutations, and UV radiation in particular is known to hinder the functioning of DNA. A small amount of UV is beneficial because it stimulates the production of Vitamin D and is visible to many animals. What percentage of the Sun’s radiation was blocked by the ice layer is not known, but it must have been high enough to mitigate or eliminate the harmful effects while preserving the beneficial ones.
Three: It made the stars much more visible and observable. The refractive index of ice is 1.31, meaning that light travels through a vacuum 1.31 times faster than through ice.4 Comets and shooting stars would appear to trail more (not just from the refraction but also from angular magnification) and would give off a more spectacular show. The ice canopy would also add focus. Joshua Silver, a professor from Oxford University, invented a pair of glasses with water-filled lenses that the user can adjust by changing the amount of water inside.5 These glasses are able to correct the vision of over 90% of patients. Imagine the impact a layer of water would have on the night sky with the same effect. It is impossible to know for sure just how beneficial this ice canopy was for star-gazing because we can’t replicate it, but we can say for certain that Adam and Eve’s view of the night sky was more brilliant than ours (especially those of us who live in cities).
Four: It contributed to the Ice Age. This will be discussed in more detail later. The super-firmamental waters that originally protected mankind were used to help bring about its downfall. The waters of creation became the waters of destruction.
The Canopy Theory is not only supported by scripture but is also the only reasonable explanation for the world as it existed before the flood. How did Adam and his progeny exceed 900 years of age? Why is there evidence of a high-oxygen, high-pressure atmosphere in times of old? Why do we find fossils of gigantic plants and animals that could not exist in today’s atmosphere? These questions and more can only be answered by this theory.
3 In the second video of his “Creation Seminar” series, Dr. Kent Hovind explained the Canopy Theory in detail. Creation Seminar 2 – Garden of Eden
4 (Hiroshi, Koichibara, “Tomatomation,” UNESCO Courier, March 1987.)
5 Esther Addley, Inventor’s 2020 vision: to help 1bn of the world’s poorest see better The Guardian, December 22, 2008
And God called the firmament “heaven.” And the evening and the morning were the second day.
וַיִּקְרָ֧א אֱלֹהִ֛ים לָֽרָקִ֖יעַ שָׁמָ֑יִם וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר יֹ֥ום שֵׁנִֽי׃ פ
It is curious to note that God did not say “it was good” at the end of His work on the second day. Some Jewish teachers explained this by claiming that Satan and his angels fell on the second day, so it was not good. This explanation does not stand up to examination. God declared at the end of the sixth day that all of creation was “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) He would not have said this if some of creation were evil. The angels did not fall until after the sixth day. Also, God told Job in Job 38:7 that ALL the angels shouted for joy when He laid the foundation and cornerstone of the Earth. Whether you consider the dirt to be the foundation, or the waters to be the foundation and the dirt the cornerstone, either way all of the angels shouted for joy on the third day. The assertion of the writers Calvin, Delitzsch, Macdonald, Jarchi, and Alford is the correct one: that the work begun on the second day was not finished until the middle of the third, at which place, accordingly, the expression of Divine approbation was introduced. Indeed, God said “It is good” twice on the third day, once after founding the land upon the waters (see Ps. 24:2) and shutting up waters in the fountains of the deep (Ps. 33:7), and then again after creating the plants. So God did the upper water work on the second day, when He created the ice canopy, and then did the lower water work on the third day, when He gathered the waters together. When He was finished with the water work He then said “It is good” on the third day.
The Jewish historian Josephus wrote, “After this, on the second day, He placed the heavens over the whole world, and separated it from the other parts: and determined that it should stand by itself. He also placed a crystalline firmament around it, and put together in a manner agreeable to the earth, and fitted it for giving moisture and rain, and for affording the advantage of dews.” Flavius Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 1.
Another Jewish text states, “and God made the firmament, its thickness being three fingers between the limits of the heavens (atmosphere) and the waters of the oceans.” J. Bowers, D. S. Joanthgan translation, The Taroums and Rabbinin Literature, Cambridge University Press, 1969, P. 95. The canopy may have been around three inches thick.