Troublesome Topic: The Beaten Surface

Genesis 1:6

Translation

Then ELOHIM said, “Come into being, oh beaten surface

Go to footnote number

between the waters, to divide the interval between the waters and the waters.

Paraphrase

Then THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS said, “Oh  vast, strong, thin, arched surface that I see in my mind, I command you to become a physical reality, so you can divide the space between one bunch of water and the other bunch of water.”

Genesis 1:7

Translation

Thus ELOHIM made

Go to footnote number

the beaten surface, and He divided the interval between the water that was beneath the beaten surface and the water that was above the beaten surface.

Go to footnote number

Paraphrase

In this way THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS created the vast, strong, thin, arched surface, and He made a division between the water that was beneath the vast, strong, thin, arched surface and water that was above the vast, strong, thin, arched surface.

Genesis 1:8

Translation

And ELOHIM called the beaten surface “the heavens.” And there was evening, and there was morning, the second day.  (See comments below.)

Paraphrase

Then THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS gave the vast, strong, thin, arched surface names that included “sky, space and heaven.” At this point there had been a transition from daylight to darkness, and a transition from darkness to daylight, and since it was ready to commence the next transition, it was obvious that another day, the second day, had elapsed.  (See comments below.)

The Beaten Surface

Although the use of the word for “beaten surface” has given translators fits, it makes perfect sense if God were trying to communicate a layer of water out there that serves to hold things in place. While not being made of precious metal and not beaten with a hammer, such an indescribable amount of water would be vast and strong in its ability to hold things in place (gravity); vast and strong seem to be the two key aspects of this word that are in view in this passage.

Footnotes

1: “beaten surface”

The word used here comes from a root meaning “to beat.” It was usually used of precious metals that were beaten with a hammer for covering objects with a thin layer of gold – called gilding. Because it was “something solid that was extended by beating it until it was thin,” it came to mean such things as “expanse, extended surface, firm, solid.” Hence the King James rendering of “firmament.” The surface could be flat, curved, or shaped. Here it is obviously curved.

The use of this word in this context has given headaches to translators for a very long time.

To us it seems silly to think of the sky as something solid. However, I think the sky was described as being solid because whatever was up there did not come crashing down upon us; the things up there stayed up there and the sky was, in a manner of speaking, holding them in place. Thus, among the various emphases possible, the focus here is that it is a layer that is strong and expansive.

2

This is not the same word for “created” used in Genesis 1:1. This word is more general, and means “to do, to accomplish, to make” and a few other things. The use of this word does not negate the meaning of the word “create” used in 1:1. God did create the heavens; you could also say that He made them, they are both true statements.

3

This clearly states that there is a layer of water “out there” above or beyond the “heavens.” See my discussion of this issue in the long comment inserted into the text after verse 8.