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firmament Summary and Overview

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firmament in Easton's Bible Dictionary

from the Vulgate firmamentum, which is used as the translation of the Hebrew "raki'a". This word means simply "expansion." It denotes the space or expanse like an arch appearing immediately above us. They who rendered "raki'a" by firmamentum regarded it as a solid body. The language of Scripture is not scientific but popular, and hence we read of the sun rising and setting, and also here the use of this particular word. It is plain that it was used to denote solidity as well as expansion. It formed a division between the waters above and the waters below (Gen. 1:7). The "raki'a" supported the upper reservoir (Ps. 148:4). It was the support also of the heavenly bodies (Gen. 1:14), and is spoken of as having "windows" and "doors" (Gen. 7:11; Isa. 24:18; Mal. 3:10) through which the rain and snow might descend.

firmament in Smith's Bible Dictionary

In Scripture the word denotes an expanse, a wide extent; for such is the signification of the Hebrew word. The original, therefore, does not convey the sense of solidity, but of stretching, extension; the great arch of expanse over our heads, in which are placed the atmosphere and the clouds, and in which the stars appear to be placed, and are really seen. --Webster.

firmament in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

FIR'MAMENT . The word "expansion" would more perfectly convey the meaning of the original word. Gen 1:17. A similar idea is suggested Ps 104:2; Isa 40:22, and the same word is used to denote a "covering," Num 16:38-39, or a "spreading over," Isa 40:19, or "spread forth." Isa 42:5. The Jews probably understood the word "firmament" to denote an immense arch or canopy sprung from one side of the horizon to the other, studded with stars and forming a sort of separating wall between the upper and lower waters. See Ps 19:1; Dan 12:3. The stars are represented as dropping from their settings in it. Isa 34:4; Matt 24:29.

firmament in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

The great vault or expanse of sky that separates the upper and lower waters. The firmament was created by God on the second day to separate the "waters from the waters" (Genesis 1:6-7). One use of "heaven" in the Bible is to refer to the ceiling or canopy of the earth. Heaven in this sense is also referred to as the firmament or sky (Genesis 1:8). Into this expanse, God set the sun, moon, and stars (Genesis 1:14-18). The word "firmament" comes from the Latin word firmamentum in the Vulgate. There it is used to translate the Greek word stereomaoin the Septuagint rendering of Genesis 1:6-7. The original Hebrew word Gaqiacspode notes a strip of hammered out metal. God spreads out (verbal form of raqiaspro) the sky (Job 37:18). At times the use of the word connotes the idea of extension or expansion-thus the expanse of the heavens at creation. In Genesis 1:6 the firmament separates the mass of waters and divides them into layers. The firmament is mentioned nine times in Genesis, the Psalms, Ezekiel, and Daniel. It is described as bright, transparent like crystal, revealing the handiwork of God, and signifying His seat of power (Psalms 19:1; Psalms 150:1; Ezekiel 1:22; Daniel 12:3). Some scholars argue that the Hebrews had a primitive cosmology where the firmament was visualized as a rigid, solid dome-a celestial dam (Genesis 7:11; 2 Samuel 22:8; Job 26:8; Job 37:18; Proverbs 8:28; Malachi 3:10). Above the firmament flowed the heavenly waters. The firmament was punctuated by grilles or sluices, "windows of heaven" through which rain was released. Others argue that such interpretations are unsound, in that they confuse poetic and figurative language with literal prose. Others say Israel's inspired writers used language of experience and appearance rather than language of precise scientific description. See Heavens.