Question: Genesis 1:6 seems to indicate that there is a body of water in space, if it is taken literally. Hasn’t this watery canopy over the earth been disproved, demonstrating Genesis should not be understood literally?
Here’s the passage in question:
Gen. 1:6-8 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day. (NIV 2011)
Actually, the concept presented in Genesis 1:6 is far more exotic and intriguing than a water canopy surrounding the earth. Taken literally, combined with the further information provided in Genesis 1:7-8, 14-18, here is a more accurate description of the universe at its birth from a biblical perspective.
Day one saw the beginning of time: “In the beginning…” (1:1). Next, the basic matter of the universe came into existence as a shapeless blob of water containing the elemental ingredients of “the heavens and the earth.” Then God began agitating this newly created material—a process described in verse two as “the Spirit ”— (Hebrew: ruach, which also translates as “breath,” or “wind,” depending on the context) —“hovering” — (Hebrew: rachaph, which also indicates “shaking,” or “agitating,” depending on the context) — “over the surface of the deep” (1:2). The “deep” was a common Hebrew term for a large body of water. Completing day one of creation, God also provided light, independent of a physical source (1:3-4). So the blob of water and elements were agitated into a rotation equivalent to that of the current earth spinning on its axis, providing a dayside and nightside—“the first day” (5).
Genesis 1:6-8 picks up this account on day two with what appears to be an explosive separation of the watery mass into two parts. One portion of this mass is propelled outward from the other, creating a massive “vault” (or “expanse”) between them. This vast expanse is usually translated as “sky” or as “the heavens,” but verses 14-18 make it abundantly clear that the entire expanse we loosely describe as “space” is what Genesis has in view.
The time frame involved in stretching the vastness of space relative to earth seems to be no more than forty-eight hours (days two and three of creation). Populating this expanse with stars, solar systems and galaxies was virtually instantaneous, "set" in place from the region of earth within the twenty-four hour period (far beyond the speed of light) of day four (1:14-18).
Some fascinating facts emerge from this. First, the most fundamental building block of life (chemically speaking) that is found on earth—water—should also be discoverable throughout the universe. It should come as no surprise to find indications of water on comets, asteroids and planets. Second, while we do not know how much water was ejected outward on day two of creation, we do know that the universe has an outer limit. And even if space is still expanding, water will be at its outer boundary like the thinning skin of an expanding balloon.
Scientists frequently express shock and surprise when elements common to the earth, including water, are discovered on the moon, Mars, asteroids or distant planets.
2Pet. 3:5-6a But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.
What is “forgotten” is that Genesis is God’s revelation to humanity as to how and, more importantly, why He brought the universe and mankind into existence. That’s why…
Heb. 1:2 …in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.