Word for Word: Episode 55

A place called "Heaven"
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יְהִ֥י רָקִ֖יעַ בְּתֹ֣וךְ הַמָּ֑יִם וִיהִ֣י מַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין מַ֖יִם לָמָֽיִם׃
וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִים֮ אֶת־הָרָקִיעַ֒ וַיַּבְדֵּ֗ל בֵּ֤ין הַמַּ֨יִם֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לָרָקִ֔יעַ וּבֵ֣ין הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר מֵעַ֣ל לָרָקִ֑יעַ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃
 וַיִּקְרָ֧א אֱלֹהִ֛ים לָֽרָקִ֖יעַ שָׁמָ֑יִם

And God said "Let a space be in between the waters to separate them." Then God formed a space between the lower waters and the upper waters. That's how it happened. So, God called space "Heaven".
-- Genesis 1:6-8a (author's translation)
Translators are sometimes forced to choose between interpretations in the use of the Hebrew word "Shamayim". I have followed the Hebrew in uses the most general term to reflect a basic understanding of the act of creation of this space.
In order for an artist or an artisan to work, he must have plenty of space. Though the whole universe, as information, might fit neatly in a finite box in God's infinite mind, its existence has to fit in a continuum we now call "space-time". It is this space that stretches out far beyond our imagination.
This space is so vast that it has become known as the home of the Creator. Taken from a Word meaning "lofty, or lifted up" the noun Shamayim is in a plural form. Probably not coincidental, it contains the word mayim, waters, out of which it was formed. In verse one, "the heaven(s)" were said to be created, with the idea of being the extreme limit of creation.
The inevitable collapse of the created matter-energy continuum held in one place could only be stopped by a force far stronger than gravity holds over mass. That supernatural power had to be infinite. That power was in Him who had the right to name His own creations.
Though it is tempting to just accommodate ancient perceptions of the extent of the sky above, I don't think it is necessary to limit the space here named Heaven to that between the surface and the clouds. Such an interpretation introduces a perpetual challenge to observed reality. It is better to seek a translation that allows the separation to be universal rather than global (see Psalm 148:1-6).
Physically, water is a bond of the most compact fuel and the oxygen needed for it to burn. This hydrogen bond provides for a stable climate, as well as life upon our home, the earth. However, when broken, an incredible energy is released. When we, like Abram before us, look up into the sky, we see that energy in the innumerable stars.
In some small way, all that energy reaches us to assure an balance only God could understand. Let us praise God for His wondrous work (Ps 148).


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