Re: [asa] water above the solid dome in Genesis

From: <>
Date: Sun Apr 13 2008 - 14:01:20 EDT

I'm trying to figure out how rain can be denied in Genesis 2:5 and present, as mist, in 2:6.
read this article by Mark Futato:

This is the best exegesis of Genesis 1-2 that I have ever seen, and Mark is an outstanding Hebrew scholar.? I'll give a short summary from his article on the particular point I was discussing, but I know that I do so?at the risk that some might fail to read the whole article. ?I plead that everyone not read only my summary.? The whole article is a very rewarding read and it is short enough that it will take only a few minutes.

Gordon Brown's summary was correct.? It is this:

The author names two types of plants that are absent:
?? a. wild
?? b. cultivated
Then?he spells out two problems that explain their absence:
?? a. no rain for the wild plants
?? b. no man to cultivate the cultivated plants
Then he tells the two things God did to fix these problems
?? a. he made rain begin
?? b. he made man

The article goes further and shows how these agrarian issues are consistent with the larger context of Genesis 1 & 2, and he relates it to the social issues present at the time of the Exodus, as to how this passage is polemical against Baal worship (since Baal was the rain god, cf. the much later story with Elijah and the Baal prophets regarding who controls the rain).

According to Futato, the passage translated in our versions as:

"But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground." (Gen. 2:6)

is better translated,

"so he [God] began to make rain clouds arise from the land and water the whole surface of the ground."

The translation we find in our?Bibles is wholly illogical, anyhow, since if there was already a mist watering the ground then?it would make no sense to say the absence of moisture (in the form of rain) was explanatory for the absence of wild plants!? The mist or rain clouds rising from the ground only makes sense internal to the story as something God _began_ to do _after_ the time that there was no rain, in order to correct the problem with the absence of moisture.

Futato does not make any claim that the rain clouds rising from the land is a reference to evaporation and condensation.? Rather, he points out that this probaby refers to the _apparent_ motion of clouds rising from the distant horizon as they translate toward the observer from far away.? See the following passages that have the identical description of rain clouds as we find here in Genesis 2.? In all cases, the word translated "earth" is the same as the one translated "land" in Gen.2:6.

Psalm 135:7a --
He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
Jeremiah 10:13b --

he makes clouds rise?from the ends of the earth.
from the ends of the earth.
The same view prevailed in the divided Kingdom.? See what Elijah and his servant said the seventh time he looked out over the sea, following?the confrontation with the prophets of Baal:

1 Kings 18:44 --
The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea."
??????So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.' "

So we not only see that the clouds are described as "rising" from the sea (or over the land if you were in Sumer), but we see the expectation that the clouds are coming with rain.

In light of this, I don't see any other reasonable conclusion but that the author of Genesis 2 knew that rains come from the clouds that travel across the sky, and _not_ from windows in a solid dome.

If anybody disagrees with this, I hope they will read Futato's entire article and reply to Futato rather than to my brief and inadequate summary.? But I really don't see any reasonable way for a person to disagree with his very clear exegesis.


-----Original Message-----
From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Sent: Sat, 12 Apr 2008 6:50 pm
Subject: Re: [asa] water above the solid dome in Genesis

I'm trying to figure out how rain can be denied in Genesis 2:5 and present, as mist, in 2:6. The /Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament/ notes that /'ed/ of Genesis is apparently cognate with the Akkadian /edu/ (both need diacritical marks), both the annual inundation of the Euphrates and irrigation. The other use is in Job 36:27, where they suggest "stream".


One should also look at 2:10. The whole passage seems to fit the notion of water above the firmament with sluice gates letting it out. It appears from Psalm 148:4 that the notion of waters above the heavens persisted, and were given explicit limits by God. Was this psalm part of a very ancient tradition? It looks to me as though you are desperately trying to make the writers of scripture into modern scholars.

Dave (ASA)


On Sat, 12 Apr 2008 16:04:15 -0400 writes:

Dick made a great point on another thread that there coudn't have been "one"?ANE view for 3000 years.? I think that the discussion over accommodation in the Bible is hampered by the assumption that the OT itself represents just one ANE view.? But since the text is a redaction of a number of older texts, and since some of them were probably _much_ older than others, we shouldn't expect to see just one ANE view represented.?

For example, in Genesis 1 we see waters above the heavens, but in Genesis?2 we see a mist rising from the surface of the earth to become the rain (I'm following Mark Futato's reading, which I find?very compelling).? Indeed, it's hard to believe that the Hebrews by the time of the Exodus wouldn't have figured that rain comes?out of clouds, yet.? It's hard to believe that the Babylonians wouldn't have figured it out by then, either.??In the Flood account, which might be based on a very ancient tradition, we see the?classic ANE description of rain?coming out of windows from the solid dome.?

In order to figure out where?God?was accommodating an ANE view, we?would have to know where the authors actually held that view, or where they were referring to it via idiom or tradition, or where they referred to it for literary or other purposes.? Accommodation would only be important in the first case.? This?may be difficult to sort out?since we don't know the details of?the?history of?compilation and editing differnet parts of the text.? In the flood account, I think it's safe to say that we see accommodation.? In Genesis 2, I don't think the author held an ANE view at all regarding rain.? What of Genesis 1?? Was the author "modern" and only using ANE language for the literary value in the construction of the two triads using "classical" language, or did he himself really hold that view?? I think it depends partly on when he was writing and what he thought his audience would understand.? I thi nk these considerations make the discussion?about accommodation more complicate
 d but more interesting and satisfying.


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Received on Sun Apr 13 14:03:29 2008

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