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The Bible and Cosmology

Bible passages about cosmology:
More quotes from the books from
Genesis to Job in the Hebrew Scriptures
(a.k.a. Old Testament).
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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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References to cosmology from Genesis and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament):

The following quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible. It is not the easiest translation to read. However, it does help us avoid copyright problems. We will give only the literal interpretations of these passages.

  • Genesis 19:24:

    "Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven." This is translated in the New International Version of the Bible as "burning sulfur."

As noted in our description of Genesis 7:11-12, the Hebrews believed that there were actual floodgates in the solid vault over the earth that supernatural beings could opened so that water could be poured through -- landing in the form of rain or snow. In this passage, it was brimstone (sulphur) and fire that was believed to have been poured down to the earth over the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

This event may well have happened, but perhaps not as the author(s) of Genesis described. The burning sulfur may have come from below rather than from above.

An article in BibleBelievers.org states:

"Geologists inform us that the southern Dead Sea is a burnt-out oil field....an earthquake caused a section of [the] earth's crust to slip along [two]...fault [lines]. A drop of just one inch would wreck a large city. The tremendous pressure exerted by the dislodged mass forced the underlying oil and gas up along the fault lines into the atmosphere where they ignited to form a continuous liquid fire."

Memory of this cataclysmic event may have been preserved for centuries until it eventually made it into the biblical record, after having been associated with acts of immorality by the inhabitants in the area.

Religious conservatives often attribute the destruction to God's anger at homosexual behavior by the citizens of the two cities. See "The story of Sodom and Gomorra." Many religious liberals associated the destruction with attempts by men in the city to rape a group of visiting angels. Some references to Sodom in the the Bible refer to other factors as the actual cause of God's hatred:

"Among the sins of the Sodomites, Ezekiel lists pride, fullness of bread, abundance of idleness, haughtiness, and being unwilling to strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." 5

A passage in Jude has been interpreted as associating the punishment with an attempt of men in Sodom to commit bestiality. Although angels in the Bible are described as human-like in appearance, they are in reality a different species.

Secularists would attribute the event to purely natural causes. 

Was it a random event caused by a random earthquake in an oil and gas rich area, or was it the result of an intentional mass murder of all the seniors, other adults, youths, children, and babies in the area resulting from God's hatred of the moral failures of some of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah? The question appears to be unanswerable.

  • Genesis 28:12-13:

    "And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the LORD stood above it...."

    This passage describes a dream experienced by Jacob. He had a vision of a ladder whose base was on the earth and whose top reached Heaven. Angels were using the ladder to travel from Heaven to earth and back. God appeared above the top of the ladder, and talked to Joseph. As in the account of the Tower of Babel, heaven is here portrayed as being only a short distance above the earth -- a location reachable by ladder that was so short that a conversation could be held between its top and bottom.

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  • Joshua 10:12-13:

    "Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies...."

    Here, the sun was believed to have stopped moving. This speaks again of a stationary earth and a sun revolving around it. The moon was also described as having stopped moving.

  • 1 Chronicles 16:30:

    "...the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved."

    This is one of many passages in the Bible which describe the earth as firm, stable, and immovable.

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  • Job 26:7:7:

    "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing."

    In the Hebrew cosmology, the earth is supported by columns. The next logical question is what bears the weight of the column, earth and firmament? Job seems to imply that there is nothing to support the earth. God hung the world, its columns, the firmament and heaven on nothing.

  • Job 28:23-24:

    "God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven."

    The earth is viewed as having ends, unlike a sphere which has no end and no beginning. From Heaven, the passage implies that one can view the entire expanse of Earth.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References:

  1. J.D. Douglas, et. al, "Old Testament Volume: New Commentary on the Whole Bible, Tyndale House, (1990), Page 7. This is a conservative commentary.
  2. John Marks, "The Book of Genesis." Part of Charles Laymon, Ed., "The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press, (1971), Page 3 & 4. This is a liberal commentary.
  3. Gregory Riley, "The River of God," HarperSanFrancisco, (2001). Page 27-28. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  4. "The true location of the Red Sea crossing," at: http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/
  5. "Sodom and Gomorrah: The Cities of the Plain," PAX Television, 2001-OCT-19, at: http://www.arkdiscovery.com/sodom_&_gomorrah.htm
  6. Robert J. Schadewald, "The Flat-Earth Bible," at: http://www.positiveatheism.org/

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Copyright © 2002 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-APR-22
Latest update: 2016-JUN-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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