New Life and the Waters Above the Firmament

This post is the second in a series. In the last post, I explained how the Waters Above the Firmament are actually mentioned in the Bible in places you were not expecting them.

I shared how in the story of Noah’s Flood, the most common word used for oceans or “sea” is never used. The point is that it is the “Waters above the Heavens” that are accomplishing the flood, not some ordinary occurrence here on earth. Instead, the word “water” (mayim) is used, and the word “the deep” (tehom) is used. This word tehom is a unique word that is used in special occasions. It is not an ordinary word for a large body of water.

You can see the continuation of this special use of the word tehom in passages like Proverbs 3:20-21:

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
    by understanding he established the heavens (shamayim);
by his knowledge the deeps (tehom) broke open,
    and the clouds drop down the dew. (Proverbs 3:19-20)

That invocation of the word tehom does not sound like a large body of water on earth. Instead, it sounds exactly like what was described on the second day of creation.

The purpose of this post is to show how rich the Bible’s metaphorical or symbolic ( or literal?) use of the words “the deep” (tehom) and “the heavens” (shamayim) actually are. By understanding this conceptual framework, you can understand some very deep and complex things that the Bible communicates.

The Strange Function of “The Deep”

In the last post, I mentioned how “the deep” (tehom) is only used four times in the book of Genesis. Check here if you don’t believe me. The first time is in Genesis 1:2:

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep (tehom). And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)

The second and third time happen in the account of the flood.

But the fourth time is a little bit stranger. It happens during Jacob’s blessing of his twelve sons, who are the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. Here is how he blesses Joseph:

“Joseph is a fruitful bough,
    a fruitful bough by a spring;
    his branches run over the wall.
The archers bitterly attacked him,
    shot at him, and harassed him severely,
yet his bow remained unmoved;
    his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
    (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone (eben
) of Israel),
by the God of your father who will help you,
    by the Almighty who will bless you

    with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep (tehom) that crouches beneath,
    blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

The blessings of your father
    are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
    up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.
May they be on the head of Joseph,
    and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
(Genesis 49:22-26)

There is some extraordinarily rich poetry going on here. There is allusion and double-meaning. This is also a good exploration of the dual-authorship of scripture.

Exploring Genesis 49:5

Before we go into an exploration of the word tehom used here, let’s first look at a previous line. It is a good example of how there is DOUBLE-MEANING in the words that are being used, whether the human author knows it or not.

For example, look at that phrase:

by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone (eben) of Israel)

Since we have “Shepherd” capitalized in this modern translation (ESV) of our English Bible, we know that this must be a reference to Jesus. After all, Jesus is God, the Christ, and when Jesus, God, or Christ is used, we always capitalize the word whenever He is mentioned, even He is only referenced in a pronoun. The thing we miss is that capital letters were not around in the time of the Old Testament or the New Testament.

I’m not saying that this is a BAD interpretation to capitalize “shepherd” and give the reader a hint. But I do think it gives too much information for the true experience of the passage to have its effect. After all, how was the speaker here supposed to know that Jesus would call himself a shepherd:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

We also get a capitalized “Stone,” which seems to correspond to something else that Jesus is called in the New Testament:

“Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”” (Romans 9:32-33)

But that stuff is not going to happen or be written until more than 1,000 years into the future of what is being written in Genesis here.

Who and What Jacob is Talking About

What other shepherd and what other stone was Jacob, the speaker in this paragraph, talking about? What other stone is being referenced? Well, first, we must remember that Jacob is also named “Israel.”

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
(Genesis 32:24-30)

Next, we need to look back at the famous story of “Jacob’s Ladder” in Genesis. There is definitely an important “stone” there:

Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones (eben) of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven (shamayim). And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. (shamayim)

So early in the morning Jacob took the stone (eben) that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone (eben), which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
(Genesis 28:10-22)

Well, that sure sounds like a “stone of Israel.” And since we’re still on the subject of that small verse, can you guess what Jacob’s occupation was? He was a shepherd:

So Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan. They are now in the land of Goshen.” And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were.”
(Genesis 47:1-3)

We also learn in Genesis that Jacob’s success as a shepherd was quite literally FROM GOD. Here is what happens not long in the text after Jacob has his dream on the “stone” (eben) of Israel.

As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.” But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you. Name your wages, and I will give it.” Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your livestock has fared with me. For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?”
(Genesis 30:27-30)

That is a lot of cited text, and a lot of story about Jacob. But let’s remember something. This paragraph in Genesis 49 is where Jacob is blessing his sons.

But look at how this blessing of Joseph is framed. The blessings that Jacob is trying to give to Jacob are the same blessings that Jacob received himself:

The blessings of your father
    are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
    up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.
May they be on the head of Joseph,
    and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.

Jacob/Israel is the speaker and he is speaking about things ALREADY done by “the Mighty One” of Jacob.

And yet, our Bibles have capitalized “stone” and “shepherd” as if it is referencing Jesus. Jesus is ALSO from the line of Jacob. He is ALSO a stone of stumbling. He is ALSO a good shepherd. Is the capitalization wrong? No. That is just the dual authorship of scripture at work. Jacob meant himself when he spoke. God meant himself AND Jacob when he spoke.

That is how the dual authorship of scripture at work. The clearest place in scripture where this dual authorship is at work is in John 11, where Caiaphas the High Priest unwittingly steps into the mix of scripture-writing:

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
(John 11:49-52)

So don’t be afraid of two meanings coming from a single passage of scripture. It happens all the time. Ordinary human authors can do it by themselves. Why can’t God also do it, too?

The Double-Meanings of the Biblical Text

Now that we’ve covered how rich this passage is, let’s move into the passage that uses the word “the deep” (tehom).

by the God of your father who will help you,
    by the Almighty who will bless you

    with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep (tehom) that crouches (rabats
) beneath,
    blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

This is a strange grouping of concepts. It is hard for us to understand. Notice how the location of this passage changes from “the God of your father” to “the Almighty” to “heaven” to “the deep that crouches beneath” and then it moves to “blessings of the breasts and of the womb.”

It seems that we’re moving from the divine realm of the Almighty God to the reproductive organs of a woman. The thing that causes that shift is “the deep that crouches beneath.” What the heck is going on?

In fact, this change is not all that crazy when you know what “the deep” (tehom) actually is.

How does the Deep “crouch”?

First, let’s ask why the Deep here “crouches” beneath. What does that mean? The Hebrew word is the verb rabats. It is conjugated as a participle. That means it is a verb that is acting like an adjective. From the various ways this passage is translated into English, we can see that it is difficult to understand what is going on:

  • blessings of the deep that crouches beneath (ESV)
  • blessings of the deep that lieth under (KJV)
  • Blessings of the deep that coucheth beneath (ASV)
  • blessings of the deep springs below (NIV)
  • blessings of the deep that couches beneath (RSV)
  • blessings of the deep that lies below (CSB)

This translation reminds me of that quote “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Here, it seems we have “lies,” “crouches,” and even damn “couches,” too. What is going on? This is a weird passage.

But stop thinking of this as a one-for-one translation of a Hebrew word for an English word! Try to get your head into the head-space of the writer. Notice how we move from heaven above into the reproductive organs of a woman. It comes through “the deep” (tehom) which is wher the “Waters above the Firmament” are.

We must remember that Jacob is trying to pass on the SAME BLESSINGS that he received from God to Joseph himself. And what are these “blessings of your father”? Let’s go down the list.

Remember that Jacob received a blessing from the Lord as he rested his head on a stone (which was mentioned here). We can remember that Jacob spoke of the shepherd that went forth from the stone (and that was Jacob, who was blessed when he was with Laban). That’s what we’ve already covered.

But there is something more, too. We must remember that Jacob had two wives, one he hated, and one he loved. One was barren the other was not:

So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.
. . .
Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” And she called his name Joseph, saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!” (Genesis 29:30-31; Genesis 30:22-24)

The last blessing that Jacob received from God was a son from the wife he loved. The blessing WAS JOSEPH, the same person Jacob is blessing now. And the person in the story who causes the womb of Rachel to be opened and for Joseph to be born was GOD HIMSELF.Jacob is making a connection between the waters of “the deep” (tehom) and childbirth.

The Pun, Irony, and Double-Entendre of Genesis

But before we even go there and explore that, there’s another detail we need to cover. Jacob is explicitly connecting the birth of Joseph to God’s COMPASSION. The word for “womb” in Genesis 49:25 is racham which actually DOESN’T mean “womb.” BUT it is related and similar to the Hebrew word rechem, which DOES mean womb. This line is a PUN in Hebrew!

There are LOTS of Puns in this entire story. In fact, the prophesy about Jacob and Esau in Genesis is also a delphic-oracle-style confusing prophesy:

And the Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you[c] shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the older shall serve the younger.”
(Genesis 25:23)

There is a lecture by Peter J. Williams (which I will link back to here when I find it) that talks about the way that Hebrew grammar syntax and grammar is different from our English translation of this passage. In the original syntax and grammar, this prophesy is unclear about whether the older shall serve the younger or whether the younger shall serve the older. In Hebrew, it reads something more like:

The older the younger shall serve

That’s like the classical delphic oracle prophesy problem. We should also note that from the description of Jacob and Esau in Genesis, Esau, the hunter, was undoubtedly “stronger” than Jacob, who usually stayed in the tent (like a wimp). With that background and without knowing the end of the story, which one would YOU think would be the one serving the other? That’s the pun and irony of the story.

Even the name “Joseph” (Yoseph), from the footnote on the ESV Bible says that the name means “Joseph means May he add, and sounds like the Hebrew for taken away.” That is EXACTLY what happened to Joseph and Jacob. It was Joseph who was taken away to Egypt and subject to hard labor and unfair treatment before he was reunited with his family. This is exactly what happened to Jacob who had to flee from Esau and go to Laban, and was subject to hard labor and unfair treatment before he was reunited with his home. It is also what happened to Israel — the nation, not the patriarch — who went down to Egypt, was subject to hard labor and unfair treatment, but was brought back to its home.

There are ALL KINDS of double-meanings and puns in these passages. There is irony and karma and double-entendre and delphic meanings to certain prophesies. The book of Genesis is one of the oldest and most significant works in all of human history. If it has that type of staying power, we should expect it to be just as rich and dense as any modern work of literature.

The Double Meaning of “The Deep.”

With that background, we can now move on and explain why “the deep” is invoked in Genesis 49:5. Jacob is making a deliberate connection between the birth of Joseph and God’s opening of Rachel’s womb in Genesis 30.

But he is doing it through a rich metaphor that (when you think about it) is not that metaphorical. Just as the entire world in creation came from the “waters of the deep,” Jacob also connects the birth of Joseph to a blessing of “the deep.” In other words, it is a blessing of God. It is the creation of life.

And here is where the line between literal and metaphor gets blurry. The creation of new life in the womb is not LITERALLY a blessing from “the waters of the deep,” and it is not FIGURATIVELY a blessing from “the waters of the deep,” either. It is BOTH! Let me explain.

Some Details of Childbirth

In order to understand this, we need to stop thinking like a modern scientific human. Instead, we must think like the ancient humans who wrote this passage.

What happens right before a person is born? How do you know it is time for a baby to come out? Well, there is a biological thing that happens that lets you know a baby is coming. That’s when the “water breaks.” Hm…. interesting that we use the word “water” (mayim) there, isn’t it?

This “water” that breaks is actually (if we’re going to be modern and scientific) the amniotic fluid that surrounds the developing infant. It is not MERELY water, but is instead a complex mixture of water, electrolytes, proteins, carbohydrates, and other things that protect a child, give it nutrients, and provide life, nourishment, and growth. It is NOT merely “water.” Water doesn’t spontaneously produce life.

But wait…. …what water DID spontaneously produce life in Genesis? Think of the metaphorical (literal?) parallel at the beginning of Genesis where life ACTUALLY came from. Not just the life of a newborn, but LIFE in general. Look what the second chapter of Genesis says:

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
(Genesis 2:5-7)

While I’m not going to pretend what is “really” or “literally” or “scientifically” going on here, I think the description shows that there is definitely a WOMB-LIKE quality to the earth in this passage.

As a strange tangent that I feel bound to share because it blows my mind, there is a brief passage in the dialogue of Plato The Timaeus, which an ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian start talking about “really old things.” Here is what they say:

On one occasion, wishing to draw them on to speak of antiquity, he began to tell about the most ancient things in our part of the world-about Phoroneus, who is called “the first man,” and about Niobe; and after the Deluge, of the survival of Deucalion and Pyrrha; and he traced the genealogy of their descendants, and reckoning up the dates, tried to compute how many years ago the events of which he was speaking happened.
(Plato, The Timaus)

When you look up the origin story of this Greek first man named Phoroneus, you see that a consistent detail of his origin is that his mother was “the essential spirit of the very earth of Argos herself, Argia.” That sounds FREAKISHLY like Genesis 2. Additionally, you note that they talk about “the Deluge,” which sounds FREAKISHLY like the flood. You also find that they are tracing the genealogy of the descendants, and reckoning up dates to compute how long ago it happened, which sounds FREAKISHLY like the genealogies in Genesis. But that’s a rabbit trail I won’t go down here.

The Metaphorical/Literal Parallel Between Childbirth and “The Deep.”

Therefore, do you see why there would be a DELIBERATELY difficult passage to translate about the deep (tehom) that CROUCHES or LIES down? This is a double-entendre. In one sense, it is a reference to the grandiose waters above the heavens that lie over the firmament. In another sense, it is the water that is expelled from a woman’s vaginal canal before birth. Strange. What can bridge the gap?

Well, the creation of NEW LIFE can bridge that gap.

And do you see how it equates to these waters “crouching down”? Do you see why there is a double-entendre between the magnificent and grandiose waters that “lie” above the heavens? Do you see how this is equated with the waters that come when a pregnant woman “crouches” in pain with the coming of new life?

Google birthing positions if you’re in the mood for that stuff. You’ll see what I mean. This is DEFINITELY a double-entendre. This is how you can collectively invoke lying down, crouching, AND couches, too. (Although I must admit I saw more exercise balls in those photos than “couches.”) You might not have thought that there was any way to conceptually travel from “heaven” to “the womb” like Jacob does in Genesis 49:25, but it is definitely possible.

These rich metaphors and pictures exist when you set aside the frameworks that our modern scientific blinders put on us, no matter how useful they may be in some circumstances. These important ideas from scripture can only jump out when you see the LITERARY metaphors, symbolisms, devices, and concepts that the scriptures use and that we have forgotten.

That is yet another reason why the “waters above the firmament” are important.

Conclusion

As I said before in previous posts, I’ll say again here. I hope this “Waters Above the Firmament” series is fun and enlightening to you. But trust me: No matter how “revolutionary” this is to you, this stuff is just a side-project to me. My real research project is something far more complex and well-documented.

What I mean is — and I know how this sounds, so please stay with me — I found the Star of Bethlehem. Yes, that’s right: The Magi’s Star, both the the “Star in the East” of Matthew 2:2 and the “Star of Bethlehem” of Matthew 2:9 is a real astronomical event that we can ACTUALLY DEMONSTRATE and prove. And I have done it. I know exactly what it is, how it happened, and how the star led the Magi to a particular house in Bethlehem. I have seen it predicted in the Old Testament (which in part involves a little bit of “Waters Above the Firmament knowledge), and I have even seen it ACTUALLY DESCRIBED in non-biblical ancient histories.

But I need help. The right way to do this (so I am told) is to get this published in an academic journal. The goal is to get this discovery “approved” so it can trickle down to the masses from there (rather than a personal blog). But as I have come to find out, when you are not an academic with letters after your name, peer-reviewed journals will barely even read your submission. There are tools of the trade, ways to fashion your writing, and other niceties of mine that can work on a blog or in a Court brief that do NOT work in academia. I need an experienced guide, an editor, and an academic to help me. The research is already done.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in helping me or seeing what I have, shoot me an email at mrcalebjones at gmail dot com. I’d also be happy to speak to a church or Bible study on the topic, too. Like, totally serious. If you’re curious and would like to hear me talk, I’d happily share. If you pay me for it, then I’ll DEFINITELY share. This is going to be my thing. It’s a big deal. You won’t want to miss it.

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