This post is the third in a series about the Waters Above the Firmament, first mentioned on the second day of creation, which SEEM to exit the entire narrative of the Bible (but which in reality do not).
The first post discussed how the flood of Noah has some deliberate parallel to these waters above the firmament and the waters of the flood with the use of the word “the deep” or “tehom” in Hebrew.
The second post discussed how this word tehom is used to communicate a very COMPLEX parallel to the actions of God, including actions that literally happen on Earth, but which are ascribed to God.
This post is about the next time the word “the deep” (tehom) is used in scripture. It is in Exodus 15.
The Context of the Use of “the Deep” (Tehom) in Exodus
This word “the Deep” is used in the song of Moses in Exodus 15. But if you want to understand the song of Moses in Exodus 15, you need to understand what happened just before in Exodus 14. This passage is quite famous. It is the parting of the Red Sea. You can get an idea of what happened in a single GIF:
But it is the word choice that is important. We’re going to highlight some important words that we’ve been studying in this series so that you do not miss them. They are not always constant in the translation. The passage is as follows:
When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea (yam) and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea (yam) on dry ground (yabbashah). And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea (yam), and the Lord drove the sea (yam) back by a strong east wind (ruach) all night and made the sea (yam) dry land (yabbashah), and the waters (mayim) were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea (yam) on dry ground (yabbashah), the waters (mayim) being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea (yam), all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea (yam), that the water (mayim) may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea (yam), and the sea (yam) returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea (yam). The waters (mayim) returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea (yam), not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground (yabbashah) through the sea (yam), the waters (mayim) being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
The thing I want you to realize is that the word “the deep” (tehom) does not AT ALL appear in this passage. Instead, the word “the sea” (yam) is repeatedly used.
What our previous examples from Noah and Genesis 49 have shown, this means that this event happened “under the firmament.” As we saw on the third day of creation, the waters UNDER the firmament are named “sea” (yam). The word “waters” (mayim) are a little bit ambiguous, because they are applied to BOTH the waters above and below the firmament. But the word “the deep” (tehom) never lost its original name, and “the deep” (tehom) refers to waters ABOVE the firmament.
What we can see in this description is that the parting of the Red Sea definitely happened UNDER the firmament.
I’m not telling the reader they have to believe that this parting of the Red Sea happened, but I am telling the reader that you must believe that the scripture is SAYING that it happened. Reading the Bible without accepting works of divine power is like reading Harry Potter without accepting acts of magic. It’s stupid. Don’t be that guy. Accept a text on its face, and judge the text on its own terms.
But anyway, let’s move on.
The Special Use of “the Deep” in Exodus
Now we get to the part where the word “the deep” (tehom) is used in Exodus. it happens in the very next chapter. I have highlighted the use of the words that we’ve always been studying, but also highlighting similar words that seem the same, but are definitely different Hebrew words. Follow along here in the interlinear if you’d like to check yourself.
Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea (yam).
The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a man of war;
the Lord is his name.
“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea (yam),
and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods (tehom) covered them;
they went down into the depths (metsolah) like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast (ruach) of your nostrils the waters (mayim) piled up;
the floods (nazal) stood up in a heap;
the deeps (tehom) congealed in the heart of the sea (yam).
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
You blew with your wind (ruach); the sea (yam) covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters (mayim).
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.
“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples have heard; they tremble;
pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Terror and dread fall upon them;
because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O Lord, pass by,
till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
The Lord will reign forever and ever.”
For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea (yam), the Lord brought back the waters (mayim) of the sea (yam) upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground (yabbashah) in the midst of the sea (yam). Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea (yam).”
The thing I want you to notice here is that in the previous chapter, the chapter where the event was actually described. We never see the word “the deep” (tehom) and ONLY get the word for “the sea” (yam) and the umbrella-term of “waters” (mayim) to refer to how that sea was moving.
We do, however, get the word “wind” (ruach) this is the same rich word that refers to life, to spirit, and to what was hovering over “the waters” (mayim) in Genesis 1:2. Is it a spiritual thing of divine power? Is it an atmospheric thing of moving air? Maybe by using the same word, the author is trying to say “it is both.” That is what I think.
Because notice what happens in the after-the-fact description of what just occurred. No longer are we limited to the use of “sea” (yam) when we talk about what killed the Egyptians and parted to reveal dry ground. Instead, Moses claims that it was “the deep” (tehom) that congealed. He says it is “the deep” (tehom) that covered the Egyptians.
If we ignore the significance of the “waters above the firmament,” the Moses is just using a different word to describe a HIGHLY IMPROBABLE sequence of events. But if we accept that “the deep” is a complex and rich word that is used to describe God’s active intervention in our physical world, we can see that even though Moses saw “the sea” (yam) moving, he knew that it was “the deep” (tehom) that was being formed and fashioned according to God’s power.
We can also notice the actor in this event too. It was a “wind” (ruach) from the East in Exodus 14. But in Exodus 15, this “wind” (ruach) is explicitly attributed to the nostrils of God. This is an echo back to the very beginning of Genesis, as well:
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep (tehom). And the Spirit (ruach) of God was hovering over the face of the waters (mayim). (Genesis 1:2)
The point isn’t that the Lord God has nostrils. The point is that THE LORD GOD DID IT. But for us, it is important to see how this was described: It is described through a complex and parallel interaction between the waters that are above the firmament (tehom) and the waters that are below the firmament (yam).
This fact requires looking at a specific fact about the entire Exodus story that I bet you didn’t know.
The Surprising Fact About Exodus You Probably Didn’t Know.
If you listen to this explanation of Peter J. Williams’s on the Exodus story, he reveals a rather shocking fact. The Exodus is not a story about going from “slavery” to “freedom.”
If you don’t believe me, look at what the Pharisees say to Jesus when he tells them that he can set them “free”:
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
What? The Jews have “never been enslaved to anyone”? Haven’t these Jews read the book of Exodus? Of course they have. They just didn’t read it like you did.
Instead, Williams explains that the word translated as “slave” (ebed) in our modern translations is MORE OFTEN used to talk about where the Israelites are GOING TO than it is to describe where they are COMING FROM in Egypt! Well, that’s strange. How do we explain this?
The story of Exodus is about whose servants these people will be. Will they be the servants of God, whose “yoke is light and whose burden is easy” (Matthew 11:30)? Or will the be the servants of Pharaoh, who gave them “bitter and hard service” (Exodus 1:14)? In fact, one of the ironies of the story of the Exodus is that due to the story of Joseph and the famine (Genesis 47-50), literally EVERYONE in Egypt is a slave of Pharaoh except for the Priests (who had a “fixed portion” of food from Pharaoh) and THE ISRAELITES who took their flocks to the land of Goshen, who “acquired property” and were provided for by Joseph (“according to their number”).
The irony and set-up of the book of Exodus is that the Israelites are the ONLY GROUP IN EGYPT who are NOT SLAVES of Pharaoh! Then, the Pharaoh “who did not know of Joseph” tries to make the Israelites slaves. And what ensues is a big flex by God Almighty, like:
The point of Exodus is not that the Israelites are now “free.” The point (and the thing that Moses and Aaron repeatedly petition the Pharaoh to allow) is that the Israelites go to the wilderness to SERVE God.
The Complex Metaphor of the Exodus
The power of this metaphor (a literal metaphor, by the way, because it actually happened) is accentuated even more when we understand the connection between “the deep” (tehom) and the waters above the firmament. In Genesis, these waters form a sort of barrier between heaven above and the earth below. In a parallel way, the sea (yam) acts as a barrier that separates Egypt from the wilderness.
In the Exodus, the Israelites cross “the sea” (yam) as if they are walking on “dry ground” (yabbashah). When you incorporate Moses’s invocation of “the deep” (tehom) with what just happened, you see how powerful of a metaphor this is.
There is a ruler of this Earth. He has laid an unjust claim on the people of God. But God, by his power and his spirit (ruach), has made a way in the waters that divide heaven from earth. By his power and his mighty and outstretched arm, “the waters” (mayim) have parted, and they are no longer a barrier against us. Instead, they are a “wall” that protects us as we walk away from this Earth and its unjust ruler with his hard labor and unjust claim that we are his servants and not the Lord’s.
In the Christian life, we are walking ON THE EARTH (yabbashah) at the same time we are walking all the way to heaven itself. When that ruler of this world chases after us, the same waters that washed away the wicked of the flood will wash him away as he pursues us. God’s people will be safe, and his enemies will be defeated. What must we do to accomplish this? The answer for us is the same answer that Moses gave to the frightened people of Israel:
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Form the word “the sea,” (yam) we know that the waters under the firmament were all that the Israelites saw part before them. But the later explanation shows us what is really going on.
Other Places This Cosmic Geographical Metaphor Appears
This idea of an expanse bordered by water, that no one can cross is not limited to Genesis and Exodus. We know there is an expanse that no one can cross that has been placed between heaven and earth. It shows up in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus after the rich man has gone to Hades, and Lazarus is at Abraham’s side. This is the exchange:
And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
Notice how there is a “chasm” between the man in Hades. That sounds like the “expanse” of the firmament. And notice how there is “water” up there. I wonder what water he is talking about.
But this expanse is VAST. It is so vast that those in heaven cannot come down to Earth, and those on Earth cannot pass up into heaven.
But there is another place this metaphor appears. It involves someone who does cross this divide. Take a second look at this miracle, documented in Matthew and John:
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
And again, we read:
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going
Notice what is happening — what is LITERALLY happening.
Jesus was alone on a mountain, communing in prayer with God. But in the dark of the night, in the absence of any light from heaven, he saw his disciples down below, struggling as they tried to cross the water that divided him from them. They could not get to the other side of the waters, to their home (Capernaum), where Jesus had asked them to go.
So Jesus, descending from his place with God, and CROSSED THE WATERS to get to his disciples. Not only does he walk across the waters, but with his command, he allows even Peter to walk across the water. The moment he gets in the boat, they are IMMEDIATELY at their home.
In this miracle of Jesus, the Sea of Galilee is a mirror of the waters above the firmament, the expanse of heaven. And just as Abraham said, it is true that no mere man can cross the great chasm and the waters above the firmament that divide the heavens from the Earth. But it is no mere man who descended from the mountain and walked across the Sea of Galilee, either. As the disciples rightly said “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
These are the types of symbolism and metaphors that become clear when you understand how important the “Waters Above the Heavens” are in the story of scripture.
I’ll return to my repeated refrain. I hope this “Waters Above the Firmament” series is informative and amazing. However, this is really just a side-project of mine. This “Waters above the Firmament” thing is just a side-project spin-off of my real research, which is both far more complex and far more well-documented.
The truth of the matter is, I FOUND something in the “Waters above the Firmament,” so to speak. The thing I found is The Magi’s star in Matthew 2, both the “Star in the East” and the “Star of Bethlehem.”
But I need help. The right way to publish and prove my work is to get it 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, but there is also more to do. In fact, it is possible to do an ACTUAL EXPERIEMENT of an upcoming astronomical event on December 22, 2020 to prove something about the ancient star of Bethlehem. See this link to a reddit post I made looking for help if you are interested.
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.