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8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
6 Let there be a firmament5858 “Sit extensio.” In the next verse he changes the word to “expansio”. “Fecit expansionem.” — “He made an expanse.” The work of the second day is to provide an empty space around the circumference of the earth, that heaven and earth may not be mixed together. For since the proverb, ‘to mingle heaven and earth,’ denotes the extreme of disorder, this distinction ought to be regarded as of great importance. Moreover, the word רקיע (rakia) comprehends not only the whole region of the air, but whatever is open above us: as the word heaven is sometimes understood by the Latins. Thus the arrangement, as well of the heavens as of the lower atmosphere, is called רקיע(rakia) without discrimination between them, but sometimes the word signifies both together sometimes one part only, as will appear more plainly in our progress. I know not why the Greeks have chosen to render the word ςτερέωμα, which the Latins have imitated in the term, firmamentum;5959 See the Septuagint and Vulgate, which have both been followed by our English translators. Doubtless Calvin is correct in supposing the true meaning of the Hebrew word to be expanse; but the translators of the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and our own version, were not without reasons for the manner in which they rendered the word. The root, רקע, signifies, according to Gesenius, Lee, Cocceius, etc., to stamp with the foot, to beat or hammer out any malleable substance; and the derivative, רקיע, is the outspreading of the heavens, which, “according to ordinary observation, rests like the half of a hollow sphere over the earth.” To the Hebrews, as Gesenius observes, it presented a crystal or sapphire-like appearance. Hence it was thought to be something firm as well as expanded — a roof of crystal or of sapphire. The reader may also refer to the note of Johannes Clericus, in his commentary on Genesis, who retains the word firmament, and argues at length in vindication of the term. — Ed for literally it means expanse. And to this David alludes when he says that ‘the heavens are stretched out by God like a curtain,’ (Psalm 104:2.) If any one should inquire whether this vacuity did not previously exist, I answer, however true it may be that all parts of the earth were not overflowed by the waters; yet now, for the first time, a separation was ordained, whereas a confused admixture had previously existed. Moses describes the special use of this expanse, to divide the waters from the waters from which word arises a great difficulty. For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy,6060 Astrologia. This word includes, but is not necessarily confined to that empirical and presumptuous science, (falsely so-called,) which we now generally designate by the term astrology. As the word originally means nothing but the science of the stars, so it was among our own earlier writers applied in the same manner. Consequently, it comprehended the sublime and useful science of astronomy. From the double meaning of the word, Calvin sometimes speaks of it with approbation, and sometimes with censure. But attention to his reasoning will show, that what he commends is astronomy, and what he censures is astrology in the present acceptation of the word. — Ed. and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach all men without exception; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned.6161 The following are the words of Pope Gregory I: “Idcirco enim pictura in ecclesiis adhibeter, ut hi qui literas nesciunt, saltem in parietibu videndo legant quae legere in codicibus non valent.” Epis. cix. ad Lerenum. The things, therefore, which he relates, serve as the garniture of that theater which he places before our eyes. Whence I conclude, that the waters here meant are such as the rude and unlearned may perceive. The assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read concerning the waters above the heavens, notwithstanding their ignorance respecting them, is not in accordance with the design of Moses. And truly a longer inquiry into a matter open and manifest is superfluous. We see that the clouds suspended in the air, which threaten to fall upon our heads, yet leave us space to breathe.6262 “Capitibus nostris sic minari, ut spirandi locus nobis relinquant.” The French is more diffuse: “Nous menacent, comme si elles devoyent tomber sur nos testes; et toutesfois elle nous laissent ici lieu our respirer.” “They threaten us, as if they would fall upon our heads; and, nevertheless, they leave us here space to breathe.” They who deny that this is effected by the wonderful providence of God, are vainly inflated with the folly of their own minds. We know, indeed that the rain is naturally produced; but the deluge sufficiently shows how speedily we might be overwhelmed by the bursting of the clouds, unless the cataracts of heaven were closed by the hand of God. Nor does David rashly recount this among His miracles, that God layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, (Psalm 104:3;) and he elsewhere calls upon the celestial waters to praise God, (Psalm 148:4.) Since, therefore, God has created the clouds, and assigned them a region above us, it ought not to be forgotten that they are restrained by the power of God, lest, gushing forth with sudden violence, they should swallow us up: and especially since no other barrier is opposed to them than the liquid and yielding, air, which would easily give way unless this word prevailed, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters.’ Yet Moses has not affixed to the work of this day the note that God saw that it was good: perhaps because there was no advantage from it till the terrestrial waters were gathered into their proper place, which was done on the next day, and therefore it is there twice repeated.6363 The Septuagint here inserts the clause, “God saw that it was good;” but, as it is found neither in the Hebrew nor in any other ancient version, it must be abandoned. The Rabbis say that the clause was omitted, because the angels fell on that day; but this is to cut the knot rather than to untie it. There is more probability in the conjecture of Picherellus, who supposes that what follows in the ninth and tenth verses all belonged to the work of the second day, though mentioned after it; and, in the same way, he contends that the formation of the beasts, recorded in the 24th verse, belonged to the fifth day, though mentioned after it. Examples of this kind, of Hysteron proteron, are adduced in confirmation of this interpretation. See Poole’s Synopsis in loco. — Ed.