THE SECOND DAY
We quote: “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
Immediately an interesting question confronts us here
We will first state the question as such. On the one hand, did the Lord upon the second day of creation-week for the first time make separation between the heavens and the earth, so that until now they were united but that they are separated by this firmament upon the second day? And, on the other hand, was the firmament the means whereby the Lord separated the waters above from the waters below; or, was this firmament the means whereby this separation, which already existed since the first moment of creation, was maintained? This question, we understand, is an interesting one. If the former interpretation be correct, then the Lord created the firmament to make separation between the waters and also between heaven and earth; if the latter interpretation be correct, then this separation between the waters above and the waters below already existed, but the firmament was created to maintain this separation. Prior, then, to the creation of the firmament God simply maintained separation between the waters above from the waters below by His almighty power. I believe that we may safely say that the text indoes not necessarily support the first interpretation. I do not think that the text simply rules out the second interpretation, that it necessarily teaches us that heaven and earth were united, or that there was one huge mass of water and that this water was divided by means of this firmament. The text certainly permits the interpretation that this separation already existed but that it was now the firmament, created by God, which would maintain this separation.
We prefer the second of these interpretations, the explanation which regards heaven and earth as already separated and the firmament as the means to maintain this separation which already existed between the waters above and the waters below. First, the text itself permits this interpretation. Do we not read that the Lord divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament? Does this not imply that these waters were above the firmament and that they were below the firmament? Be this as it may, the text at least allows this interpretation. Secondly, we prefer this interpretation because of what we read in : “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” This verse speaks of the heaven and the earth and surely implies that the heavens and the earth were separated from one another. Hence, we would conclude from this verse that this separation existed already from the very first moment of creation. The chaos, therefore, of the things above and of the things below existed already from the very beginning. The earth, we read, was covered with water, as in : “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.” Would not the same thing apply to the heavens? Is it possible that when the Lord caused the dry land to appear upon the third day, so that it was no longer covered with water, that the same thing might have been done upon this third day to the heavens ? Be this as it may, we would read verse 6: “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters,” as implying that the waters were already separated from the waters, and that the firmament was created to maintain this separation, which until now had been maintained by the Lord’s almighty power. God had until now maintained this separation between the waters above and the waters below without the firmament. Of course, we do not mean to suggest that, beginning on the second day, this separation is being maintained by a firmament and not by the Lord’s almighty power. God’s almighty power maintains this firmament from moment unto moment. It is simply meant that the firmament is the means from now on whereby the Lord by His almighty power maintains this separation between the waters.
The word, firmament, is derived from a word which means: to thin, stretch out, in the Holland: uitdunnen, uitslaan, spannen door uit te rekken. How the Lord created this firmament we are not told specifically. However, it is surely not impossible that the Lord formed this firmament by stretching, thinning out the waters which are above and the waters which are below so that they constitute this firmament. This interpretation we would base upon the following considerations. First, the literal meaning of the word, firmament, itself would suggest this interpretation. The word means literally: to thin, to stretch out. Secondly, modern science tells us that the firmament, that wonderfully blue ocean above us, indeed consists of a very fine, delicate matter, so that the blue sky is nothing else than a wide and deep ocean of ether-matter. The entire universe is filled with this delicate matter, this ether, so that nowhere a vacuum exists. Thirdly, this also appears to be the presentation of Holy Writ, namely, that God created the firmament by thinning out the waters, so that the waters above and the waters below are now separated by this firmament, this blue ocean of ether. We have already called attention to the literal meaning of the word, firmament, which means: to thin, stretch out. Besides, that Scripture does not conceive of the earth as merely a flat surface with a roof overhead, so that one, coming to the edge of it, would be in danger of falling off this earth (thus people conceived of the earth ages ago, so that also from this viewpoint Columbus’ dauntless venture to cross the ocean must be considered a marvelous experiment especially in the light of the prevailing conception of his time) is clear, for example, from a passage such as …. Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment: Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain.” Job 37:18 can be read literally as follows: “Hast thou with Him spread out the sky unto a very fine matter, material?” And the second part of this text speaks of the sky as a molten looking glass. In Ps. 104:2 we should note that the psalmist, as does also the prophet, Isaiah, speaks of the heavens as being stretched out like a curtain.: “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” We should note, in this connection, that the prophet in this text speaks of the “circle of the earth.” And in and we read: “Hast thou with Him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?
This will also throw light upon the significance of the “waters above” and the “waters below.” A common interpretation explains the “waters above” as the clouds. This, however, is quite impossible. First, the clouds very obviously belong to the waters below, are formed by the waters below and return unto these waters below in the form of rain. Secondly, God made the firmament to maintain the separation between the “waters above” and the waters below,” created the firmament between them, so that the waters above the firmament must be understood not as below the firmament (as are the clouds) but above it. The waters below, we understand, are then the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, etc. The waters above are the original waters which were separated from the waters below. Even as the earth was originally covered with water, so also originally the heavens were covered with and surrounded by water. These we understand to be the waters above.
Finally, in this firmament the heavenly bodies move about. That the earth moves about the sun is therefore not to be attributed to the sun’s magnetism or power of attraction, but simply to the tension or power, if you will, of the firmament to hold these various bodies in their respective places. Hence, what is true of the relation wherein the earth stands to the sun also applies to the relation of the various bodies to one another in this tremendous space of the universe. Nowhere does a vacuum exist. In this tremendous space the firmament holds all the bodies in their places. We believe that this is the presentation of Holy Writ. We read in: “And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” When the heaven, this firmament, shall depart, be rolled up, disappear as a scroll, the stars of the heavens shall fall upon the earth and all things will be torn loose out of their places. This is also the presentation in : “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us- ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” Also here we read that the heavens will be rolled up as a scroll. All things will collapse. Then the heavens will pass away with a great, a tremendous noise, and all the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
The firmament or heaven holds all the heavenly bodies in their respective places. When this firmament is rolled up these heavenly bodies collapse and the end of all things will be at hand.
THE THIRD DAY
We read in this passage: “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called He seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.”
We may note at the very outset that God’s creative act upon this third day of creation-week consists of two parts: the creating of the dry land and the forming of the plant world.
God’s creation of the dry land.
First, let us notice this creative act as such. On the one hand, it is evident from the text that this land which the Lord caused to appear upon this third day was not created upon this day of creation-week. We read that God said: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear. Hence, these words certainly imply that the land was already in existence, having been created in the very beginning. The Lord did not create the land now but merely caused it to appear, On the other hand, this also enables us to understand somewhat the ninth verse: “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” Also here we read the majestic words: And God said. Hence, by His almighty power the Lord caused the dry land to appear, to rise, and the bottom of the sea to sink, thereby causing the waters of the sea to be rolled or gathered together unto one place and the dry land to appear. Besides, also here in connection with the divine creation of the dry land, we should note the amazing and utter soberness of the narrative. We are not given a vivid and thrilling description of this truly mighty and wonderful work of the Lord. The details are completely lacking. Scripture is not interested in describing things in a sensational manner from the human point of view. We are dealing here, we must understand, with a work of the living God. As such it was the work of a moment, did not require hundreds and thousands of years to be completed. All the emphasis falls upon the fact that it was a work of divine creation, the work of a moment, for God simply said, and therefore it was so exactly as the living God had said. The simplicity of the language used here simply emphasizes the divinely majestic aspect of this work of creation.
Secondly, we may also conclude that the dry land which the Lord created upon this third day was limited and did not embrace all the present continents, such as North and South America, Europe, Asia, etc. The world as it exists today differs from the world as it existed before the flood and as it was called into existence by the Lord’s word of almighty and irresistible power. This observation we would base upon the following grounds. First, we believe that Scripture gives us this presentation in Genesis 1. The divine narrative informs us that all the waters were gathered together into one place, and that the dry land appeared. From this we would conclude that there was no division of oceans and seas but that all the waters constituted one gigantic sea. And when we read that out of and in the midst of that one gigantic sea the dry land appeared, we receive the impression that there was but one dry land, but one continent, and that this one continent was limited in size.
Secondly, continuing with our grounds for our observation that the original earth was limited in size and did not embrace all the present continents, we would remark that before the flood there was no need for several continents such as exist in our present day. Today seven continents are inhabited by the peoples and animals of the earth. Before the flood the world’s population was limited and certainly did not need these several parts of the world.
Thirdly, this also enables us to understand a passage such as. We again quote this passage: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But in the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” The apostle, in this particular passage of Holy Writ, is referring to the world as it existed before the flood. Today, he declares, there are scoffers, mockers, who mock at and ridicule the second coming of the Lord. They ridicule, we read, the promise of His coming, declaring that all things continue to exist as they were from the beginning of creation, and thereby implying that all things will continue to exist. Hereupon the holy writer declares in the verses 5-6: “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” The implication of the holy writer is obviously that they are willingly ignorant of the fact that the world did not exist as it does at present, but that the earth, before the flood, was standing out of the water and in the water, standing, as it were, as an island in the midst of water. In the days before the flood the scoffers, although standing, as it were, in the very midst of the water, ridiculed the very idea that their world would be destroyed by water, declaring that all things would continue to exist even as they did from the beginning. And today the wicked scoffers, although surrounded as it were by fire (verse 7: “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men”) ridicule the idea that the world will be destroyed by fire, declaring also now that all things will continue to exist as they did from the beginning of the creation. We may, therefore, conclude from this passage of 2 Peter 3 that the earth as before the flood and at the time of the creation of the world, was limited in size and completely surrounded by water. However, these mockers, we read, are willingly ignorant. They hate the Lord Jesus Christ and His coming, are afraid of the coming destruction of the world, and therefore willingly, willfully shut their eyes to reality and believe what they wish to believe. This fear of the wicked world appears repeatedly upon the foreground. When a few months ago, last year, upon a certain Sabbath, a strange haze obscured the sun (this phenomenon was later attributed to the smoke of forest fires in the Canadian province of Alberta), many frightened people asked the question whether the world were coming to an end. The fear and dread of the end of the world fills the world of wicked men. Indeed, when strange phenomena arise or when terrible events occur and force themselves upon the attention of the wicked world, when they are forcibly reminded of the catastrophe of the end of this world, they fear and quake. Otherwise, however, they are willfully ignorant of the facts. Standing in the very midst of the water before the flood they simply shut their eyes to that dreadful fact and simply made themselves believe that the world would continue to exist as it did from the very beginning. And today, standing as it were in the very midst of fire, they simply shut their hearts and eyes to the word of the living God that this world will be destroyed by fire, and persist in their vain belief that the world will continue to exist as it did from the beginning of the creation. Thus it ever was and thus it ever will be unto the end of the world, when the Lord, because of this wicked and willful ignorance, will overtake them as a thief in the night. Let us watch and be sober, all the more because the end of all things is at hand. But, as remarked before, we may conclude from the passage in 2 Peter that the earth as before the flood was limited in size and completely surrounded by water.