Comparisons of the Bible Translations and the Original Hebrew: ‘Let it separate the waters from the waters’

Today we will continue with ‘Ma’ase Bereshit’  {מעשה בראשית} – Hebrew for ‘the act of the Creation of the world’ and speak about the SECOND day of Creation:

“And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.” (Genesis 1:6-9)

The main thing created on the second day of Creation is, undoubtedly, the ‘expanse’. But what is it, exactly?

In the King James Version of the Bible, this word  (‘expanse’) was translated as ‘firmament’ and it derived from the old Latin translation of the Bible (‘Vulgate’) which used the Latin word ‘firmamentum’ that comes from ‘fīrmus’ – Latin for ‘strong’, ‘support’ or ‘stable’ and the origins of the English word ‘firm.’

Martin Luther, who translated the Bible into German in the 16th century, used the old German word for ‘fortress’ or ‘stronghold’ – ‘Feste’ – and by that influenced the English translators of the KJV.

‘Expanse’ and ‘firmament’ are not the same thing at all, so why did the English (as well as the other translations) encounter difficulty in translating the original Hebrew?

Well, that is because the ambiguity  of original Hebrew word ‘Rakia.’ {רקיע} This Hebrew word and its root, R-K-A {ר-ק-ע}, appear a couple of times more in the Hebrew Bible and can have TWO  meanings.

The first one is taken from the part where the Hebrew Bible tells us about the making of the priestly garments in the Book of Exodus:

“And they hammered out gold leaf…” (Exodus 39:3)

The original Hebrew word for ‘hammered out’ is ‘Va-Yerak’u’ {וירקעו} – which derives from the same Hebrew root as ‘Rakia’ – and actually means ‘flattening’ as in making something flat and by the Hebrew logic, it means that now this something is expanded and that is how we got the FIRST version of the English translation ‘expanse.’

The second Hebrew interpretation for this word is better than the first one because it is based on the IDENTICAL word – ‘Rakia’ – and not a verb that derived from the same root.

The word ‘Rakia’ can be found in the Hebrew Bible a few times but only in THREE cases we have a certain feature that helps us to identify its function. The first appearance in our case is found in Genesis, of course, and then it seems like that ‘Rakia’ is a ‘buffering’ between the waters (‘separate the waters from the waters’).

The second biblical reference is in the Book of Daniel:

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above.” (Daniel 12:3)

‘Sky’ appears in the original Hebrew as ‘Rakia’ and we can learn from this verse that one of the features of ‘Rakia’ is that it shines. 

The third biblical reference will solve the riddle and can be found in the Book of Ezekiel:

“Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads.” (Ezekiel 1:22)

There, the original Hebrew word for ‘crystal’ is actually ‘Kerach’ {קרח} which means ‘ice’ and that makes a lot of sense because a layer of ice can be shiny and look like a crystal and fits exactly to the description in the Book of Daniel, as well as to the one of Genesis because a layer of ice ‘separates the waters from the waters.’ In addition, it can explain the TWO English versions of the words because a layer of ice is BOTH strong and firm and expanding.