THE ATMOSPHERE AND THE WATERS
BY: ADOLPH E. KNOCH
The second saying of God is involved in the first, as we have seen. The action of separating the gaseous envelope of the earth from the fluids was provided for in the creation of light. Indeed, the light was but the result of the activity of God’s spirit. And so it is with all of God’s achievements. All are found first in Himself, and are only the outworking of what was within Him. By the multiplicity of His wonders we are bewildered, and fail to trace all to their Source. But here, at the very outset, the matter is simpler, and the chain complete. God is Spirit, the vibration of which produces light, the energy of which separates the atmospheric gases from the watery fluids (Gen.1:6). We easily overlook the Deity in His operations. And we are not logical enough to trace them to their first and ultimate Origin. We do not realize that mere “natural” forces are not intelligent enough to act independently. Not only the power is divine but its control is in His hands. It was not the light that thought out the idea of separating the air from the waters. God provided both the energy and its direction. To remind us of this we are not told that the effect of the light was such that the gas ascended and the water separated of itself. To forefend such silly, “scientific,” atheistic ideas, God once more spoke. And so it was at the beginning of each day. Nothing evolved of itself. But all unfolded its divine potentialities at a simple statement of His will.
Once more we hear the simple, yet magnifical statement of what is to be. The Deity does not need to use the imperative voice in nature in order to express His will. As He alone supplies the power, all He needs to do is use it, and foretell the result just as He does in all predictive prophecy. The Original reads, “There is coming to be an atmosphere in the midst of the water, and there is coming to be a separation between water and water.” In the first instance (v.3) the statement is simply repeated, “It is becoming light.” Now, however, the record simply reads, “And it came to be so.” This formula is used in the Hebrew in all the following cases, but here it does not appear in the Hebrew text until the end of verse 7. As it was preserved at this point, following the divine declaration, in the ancient Greek translation, we restore it.
The “firmament” of the Bible has been the sport of scholars. It is given as conclusive proof that this book is full of ignorant fables. We are told that the ancient Hebrews thought the heavens were a “firm” hollow shell on which the stars were fixed. It is true that the Septuagint Greek translation uses a words which means “solid,” and that the Vulgate Latin version made it firmamentum, from which the AV took its “firmament.” But the inspired Hebrew term, in the STAMP family, does not give support to these ideas. It gives us the divine viewpoint, not the human. It looks at it as a whole from above, not as man sees it from the surface of the earth. (Gen.1:6-8)
Like water, air flows. Water flows downward into the lowest hollows of earth’s surface, and the atmosphere fills all the rest and rises far above both. To put it another way, water and air fill all the low spots and seek their level. The land is very uneven, but the waters fill the seas, and the air forces its way into every depression on the dry land. This characteristic is figured for us in the highly pictorial vocabulary of the Hebrew tongue by comparing it to the thin layer of foil which was stamped out of metal, such as copper, silver or gold, to overlay the wooden parts of the tabernacle (Ex.39:3; Num.16:38,39), and the carvings of idols. (Isa.40:19; Jer.10:9) This Hebrew stem, rqo STAMP, as a noun, rqio, is their name for the atmosphere. It covers the contours of the earth like the thin foil, which was stamped out to overlay the sacred furnishings of God’s dwelling place. The atmosphere is the costly covering of the earth. Next to light, it is the principal factor, which changed it from a chaos into a fertile, life-sustaining habitation for plant and soul life.
So accustomed are we to the air in which we live that its marvels escape us. As we have seen, we can live without food or water for hours at a time, yet a very short time without air is usually fatal. Normally, we go without food or water for hours at a time, but we breathe in or out almost constantly. Neither can we stand very great changes in quantity of air. This is dependent largely on the pressure, and changes with elevation above sea level. It takes time for the body to adapt itself to even small variations, for the pressure of the air within cannot be suddenly altered. As a consequence, mankind is confined to the surface of the earth, and finds it difficult to climb the higher mountains. The most important functions of the atmosphere for humanity are connected with life and light. It makes the celestial luminaries visible to our eyes and provides our bodies with vital oxygen apart from which we cannot survive, and which is joined with the other elements of which living tissues are formed. About one-fifth of it is a vitally essential gas, without which there could be no soul-life on the earth. It may be that this is referred to in the formation of Adam, when Yahweh Elohim blew into his nostrils the breath of lives (Gen.2:7), for the oxygen is that part of the air which is absolutely essential to life. When man ascends to the higher altitudes, where it is scarce, it is necessary to supply it by artificial means.
A striking feature of the restoration of the six days is the sevenfold recurrence of the word separate. God separated between the light and the darkness. (Gen.1:4) The atmosphere is the separation between the waters above and beneath. (Gen.1:6, 7) On the fourth day the luminaries separate between the day and the night (1:14) and separate between the light and the darkness (1:18) It will be noted that the first one separated abides, while the second eventually vanishes. Darkness and night will be done away. (Rev.21:25; 22:5) So also with the waters. Those beneath the atmosphere are found on the new earth as a river of life (Rev.22:1; 22:17), while those above became the deluge of death. (Gen.7:21)
Had we written this, we probably would have said that the atmosphere is above (not in the midst of) the water, and would not have made a separation between the waters, for we seldom consider how much water or moisture there is in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. In order to appreciate God’s marvelous mercy in placing water above as well as beneath the atmosphere, we will imagine that the water, being heavier than air, must always remain below. Then the ground, even if it was once saturated, would dry out and become absolutely unfit to support life of any kind. As it is, there are lands with so little moisture that they cannot be inhabited. Water is more necessary for life than food. Plants, as well as soul life, will shrivel up and die apart from a proper supply of moisture. Nevertheless, there are regions, in the center of continents, more than a thousand miles from a sea, which have more than enough water, especially in the equatorial belt. How wise is the wonderful provision that water is not only heavier than air but can also be changed so as to float in it! It is very variable, changed by heat from a solid to a fluid and a gas. We are well acquainted with the fluid, water, but some know little of it as solid ice, while most of us seldom recognize its invisible gaseous condition unless it cools enough to show its shape in clouds or fog.
But we must not take the present conditions as normal for antediluvian days. We never read of rain falling on the earth until the deluge. Indeed, we are distinctly told that Yahweh Elohim did not bring rain on the earth. At that time humidity came up from below and irrigated all the surface of the ground. (Gen.2:5, 6) Sub-irrigation is a much better method of watering plants than surface flooding or rain. It would be much more used in arid regions if it were not so expensive. It is probable, however, that in those days, the moisture was not only absorbed by plant life, but rose through it into the air and was stored above until the deluge, when it descended for forty days and forty nights. Combined with the water from beneath and that which came through the crevices of the heavens, it covered the whole earth. (Gen.7:11) Under present conditions it soon descends as rain. But then it may have been stored as invisible vapor. It may be that the limits of this method were reached at the time of the deluge, so that it gradually came down.
God has given us a continual reminder of this in the rainbow. This was not visible to the antediluvians because the atmospheric conditions were not such as would refract the light into the multicolored arch which we see today. Now this is God’s guarantee that no repetition of the deluge is possible. The moisture repeatedly forms globules of water, which fall as rain. They had neither rainbow nor rain in Paradise or in the rest of the earth in that eon. As the moisture went up for two thousand years, more or less, depending on which chronology we take, it is not at all astonishing that the deluge covered the earth. That is nearly as long, or longer, than from the birth of Christ to the present. I have seen magnificent rainbows, with an unbroken arch showing all the colors of the spectrum. At the grand canyon of the Colorado, I saw it as a rainround, a full circle, without ends. In the yawning depths of the abyss the “ends” continued to form another inverted bow, completing the upper semicircle. But the most soul-stirring of them all I saw on the hills above the lake of Galilee. What a picture! What solemn associations! In the center, below me, was the lake, recalling all the sacred scenes centered around my Lord and His disciples, while high above the sign of God’s unconditional covenant spanned the lake from shore to shore. God and His Beloved were brought very near by these visible tokens of their presence.
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ATMOSPHERE AND THE WATERS, THE [Adolph E. Knoch] 1