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

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Sun Apr 13 2008 - 18:29:48 EDT

I find the argument very strained. To tie the report of a lack of rain to
the coast (note 8) when the story is specifically about Mesopotamia, and
what looks to me as something like the Mesopotamian original specifically
notes irrigation, doesn't ring true. I note that v. 10 is very specific
about a river as the means of watering the garden. Putting the rain in
the highlands when vv. 5f are supposed to be local rain seems to be one
of the ad hoc arguments to make things fit. It's well that the /'ed/ only
occurs twice in the entire text. This makes it easier to ascribe any of a
wide variety of meanings to it.

As for note 13, it seems not to take into account natural watering and
the effort of many to produce irrigation canals. Irrigation doesn't just
Dave (ASA)

On Sun, 13 Apr 2008 14:01:20 -0400 writes:

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.

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

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 complicated but more
interesting and satisfying.


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Received on Sun Apr 13 18:33:35 2008

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