Word for Word: Episode 56

Our Home: The Earth

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יִקָּו֨וּ הַמַּ֜יִם מִתַּ֤חַת הַשָּׁמַ֙יִם֙ אֶל־ מָקֹ֣ום אֶחָ֔ד וְתֵרָאֶ֖ה הַיַּבָּשָׁ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־ כֵֽן׃
וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים לַיַּבָּשָׁה֙ אֶ֔רֶץ וּלְמִקְוֵ֥ה הַמַּ֖יִם קָרָ֣א יַמִּ֑ים וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־ טֹֽוב׃

And God said to the water under the sky, "Get together into one place, so that which is dry can be seen". And so, it happened. God called the dry stuff "land" and the gathered waters he called "seas". And God saw that it was good. 
-- Genesis 1:9-10 (dynamic equivalent translation).

The narrative of the creation of the world we know is a bit simplistic to us in that God just seems to tell inanimate matter to act on its own accord. The translation "let [this happen]" to give room for natural laws to just go into affect and form stuff on its own. In the case of water and bedrock, this is quite literally what happens when a liquid flows into a solid basin, "seeking its own level". 

On the newly formed planet, the water had great, unending ocean that covered any solid rock to great depths. No land was to be seen. Though life would be possible, mankind would not have a chance. Things had to change. Only two things could make this happen. Either the water would have to find a place to go, or the land would have to rise above the surface.

The formation of islands from volcanoes is a rare, but dramatic illustration of new land forming. A slightly more common occurrence is for the land to collapse to be filled with water. The latter phenomenon is probably what happened early on the third day of creation. The word for "gather together" is at its root "to bind, as if by a rope" with the rope being a twisting together of cords. The only way to bring water together into a single place is through a funnel. The water above the vortex would swirl around and exit in a twisted mass, bound together by natural forces to look somewhat like a rope. 

The water above the vortex would drain until the subterranean reservoir was full, leaving a vast, but not global ocean surrounding a singe continent of dry land. Hydraulic pressure, through cracks formed by stress on the rock, would then bring water up to the surface to form lakes and rivers. Though there are many quite a few volcanoes, the ground water, or worldwide aquifers, is by far greater in mass. The hydrologic cycle being necessary for both geography and biology, the work of God on earth had gotten out to a good start.

With the waters "in one place (מָקוֹם "maqom": standing place, 'm' of place + קוּם , qum: to stand), the land would by default also be in the other place. There is no way to know just what the specific proportion of water to land was at first, but the later "fountains of the deep" (see Genesis 6) probably refers to vast water stored inside the earth. As plural "seas", the water and the land must have formed large inlets that formed the ideal climate for worldwide plants to flourish.


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