A Textual Matter
Genesis 1:6-8 is not an allusion to the natural world. I know there is a penchant that whenever something challenges, even obliterates our sense of narrative there is this tendency to shut down.
For me I only use the KJV because it is the nearest thing we have to the actual text of the original scribes. Other interpretations behave as snares because they reflect the author's sense of interpretation.
Here, the questioner opens with the ESV translation, which, as it concerns the Second Day of creation, reads:
6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 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. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
From the outset, this translation places the reader at a severe disadvantage. It uses the word "expanse" which is a word used in broadening the context in which the KJV employs "firmament" (7549-7554; Genesis 1:7 Strong's Concordance numbers are in parenthesis from base to root). Wherein, given the most complex element of firmament is at its root (7554). It is there we find firmament to be, in the Hebrew, raqa` (raw-kah'), and alludes to the action "to pound the earth (as a sign of passion); by analogy to expand (by hammering)".
The authors of the ESV understand their use of "expanse" as alluding to a "canopy". Under this context, "expanse" does not translate well. The notion of a canopy, suggests a static structure, and therefore there is not underlying efficacy. With "expanse" there is no action "to pound the earth (as a sign of passion)". Though canopy does appeal to being a "visible arch in the sky", yet, how do you reckon the efficacy within the KJV's use of firmament (7554), in that there is the action of "hammering", as it concerns the firmament?
Even more so, the questioner asks whether firmament means the same thing throughout Genesis 1:6-8. His concern is with God calling the firmament "Heaven" (Genesis 1:8).
What we reveal here is how a "firmament" is a feature or tool, God employs to clarify the nature of the waters. It is not simply that there is water above and blow the firmament. Rather, given God makes and asserted attempt to "divide" the waters, the inference is that these bodies of waters are distinct from each other. How we reckon them is as ethereal and ephemeral waters.
The Firmament: God's Instrument
The firmament is a device employed by the Divine. It is, in itself, of its own signification. Only once God settles the firmament, does He then reckon its unique employ in that He names the firmament "Heaven" (Genesis 1:8).
First and foremost, it is for us to know that the Bible's creation is a metaphysical creation. It is metaphysical, in that, from the First through the Sixth days of creation, God's concern is with naming all that is in existence. That is, the Bible's Creation seeks to impress on the reader the power of the spoken word. It is in this sense we take up the events that take place on the Second Day of creation (Genesis 1:6-8), when:
6 ...God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:6-8)
The "firmament" is not a body of land. This firmament is not an allusion to an island, continent, or to Pangaea. A body of land does not meet the concerns of the "firmament" (Genesis 1:6-8), because Pangea does not separate the atmosphere from the lakes, streams, and oceans. A body of land does not separate the waters above from those below, but merely exaggerates what constitutes the waters below. Where, by their being a body of land, instead of their being one continuous ocean, there are tributaries, lakes, and streams. And so, because of evaporation and condensation, we resolve that God is not speaking about a natural firmament.
If we are to delve into the substance of the Second Day of creation (Genesis 1:6-8), it is necessary we begin by stripping away the natural veneer. Opening our way is the verb "made" (Genesis 1:7). Within the context of Genesis 1:7, made (6213) is, in the Hebrew, `asah (aw-saw'). This context of made (6213) is a primitive root. That means, we are dealing with the efficacy of the word made (6213) from the outset.
In this context, made (6213) means, "in the broadest sense", "to do or make". It bears the synonyms to "accomplish", "advance", "appoint", etc. In these examples we resolve that made (6213) bears the efficacy of cobbling or bringing things together, an instrument born from elements that already exist. And in this sense of made (6213), God cobbled things together to make the firmament.
So, where in Genesis 1:7 we read:
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. (Genesis 1:7)
We are better to recognize this as the effect the tool borne from the Divine's desire to cobble together an instrument for the said purpose to "divide the water". Scripture makes us aware of God's desire where He:
6 ...said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. (Genesis 1:6)
The inference being, the earliest firmament (Genesis 1:6), is an allusion to an effect that clarifies. While the latter firmament (Genesis 1:6) is the object God envisioned to make the intended clarification. What we are to understand in the desire (Genesis 1:6) coming into being (Genesis 1:7), is that, as it pertains to the waters and the firmament. What God sought to do in dividing the waters (Genesis 1:6), was to clarify what existed in and from the Beginning (Genesis 1:1).
That is, right here, the implication is that not only is man, as male and female, in existence as physical beings. But so too are all other living things. By the verb made (6213; Genesis 1:7) are we ever aware that God is not "creating" something, in which it requires Him to "breathe" life into it. Instead, God employs a "firmament" for the purpose to clarify what already exists.
The Matter of a Pillared Image
Given God is seeking to clarify and not to create. We are better to give attention to the firmament itself. Within the context we find it in Genesis 1:6-8, firmament (7549-7554). Within the Hebrew, firmament, is raqiya` (raw-kee'-ah) (7549), and means "an expanse". In essence, it is a "visible arch of the sky". This allusion is essential to reckoning the metaphysics of what's transpiring on the Second Day of creation. What comes with a "visible arch" is the expectation of there being endpoints, or pillars the arch bridges. Our challenge is to articulate the pillars on which the arch rests and the gap bridged.
To see firmament (7549) more fully, we now must take up its efficacy (7554). To understand its efficacy it is for us to understand the purpose of this arch. It is for this purpose we turn to its root (7554; Genesis 1:7). Within the Hebrew, the root for firmament (7554; Genesis 1:7) is raw-kah', and means "to pound the earth (as a sign of passion)". As its broader purpose is to "expand (by hammering)". Why these are difficult conceptions of an efficacy, is because the analogies and implications allude to actions, when we understand the firmament as a fixed element.
How then do we reconcile these efficacies? How we reconcile this firmament (Genesis 1:7) with the actions of it being able "to pound the earth", and that it pounds the earth "as a sign of passion", is to keep in mind that, as a tool or device employed, the firmament is not in and of itself the end. It is the allusion to an end. Meaning, this firmament alludes what God employs as a "firmament". And that, what God employs sits within these ephemeral and ethereal waters as an "arch in the sky".
Settling the Firmament: The Matter of the Ten Commandments
With the Bible's creation being metaphysical, the implication is that what transpires on the Second Day of creation is an allusion to something. And what it alludes to embodies the Ten Commandments.
If we are to reconcile all that transpires on the Second Day of creation (Genesis 1:6-8) with the Ten Commandments, then it is for us to give an accounting of all we must settle. Aware that the firmament (7549-7554; Genesis 1:7) is a great expanse, metaphorically a "visible arch in the sky". Not only must we reckon the arch, but to also reckon the pillars upon which the arch rests, since then it allows us to appreciate the chasm bridged.
Secondly, it is for us reckon how, what serves as the metaphor for the firmament (7549-7554), though "fixed" and "solid", yet bears an active nature with properties to not only "to pound the earth", but to "expand" "by hammering". As we'll see, the inferences borne in this active property of expanding the expanse by hammering, centers on what it means to broaden and thereby illuminate.
Lastly, it is for us to make application so that we are better to see, witness, and experience the whole of what the Divine intended by the effects born on the Second Day of creation (Genesis 1:6-8).
By the etymologies that follow the words made (6213; Genesis 1:7) and firmament (7549-7554; Genesis 1:7), God strives to bring clarity to the primordial waters. Primordial, in the sense, that these waters bear an existence in and of themselves, that they are Eternal. What this infers, as it pertains to man and the natural Universe, is that every physical effect is already in existence. And by all that there ever is to be, being in existence. What God is doing here is establishing the rule or law by which man is to reckon himself with all that God is about to assign an essence.
How God assigns something an essence, is in the same sense as man assigns all things an essence. It is the principle power that affects man as the image of God, but that he's not God. Everything has an existence. Whether animate or inanimate, ephemeral or ethereal, all things have an existence. However, they do not attend to having an essence until we assign the object or experience a name. Once we assign the entity a name it is then we pull the object from oblivion, into the reality we've fashioned, a reality born of the names we've assigned to those things which for us bear an essence.
When you look at the rest of creation, in the wake of the Second Day of creation, what you discover is the word made (6213) is throughout each day. Save but for what transpires on the Fifth Day of creation (Genesis 1:19-23) where God "created" the fish and fowl, everywhere else we have the verb made (6213). Why the exception for the fish and fowl, is because these entities are not as readily apparent in the everyday lives of man. Where with the fowl it takes an especial and acute patience to observe how each species of bird behaves within its clime. When it comes to the fish in the sea, man must rely totally upon his imagination until technology allows for him to study sea life up close. So this is the reason there is a difference in the use of the "made" and "create".
We bring attention to this so that we are better to settle God's actions that settles the Bible's Creation as an overwhelmingly metaphysical. And what makes it metaphysical is that on each day, following the Second Day, God's effort is to assign a name to all that is already in existence. The implication for man being, that for him to unravel the mysteries behind each species of living thing, by securing his intelligence with a name. In each instance does he draw himself nearer to the Creator's intelligence of all things.
This is the reason that undergirds all that takes place on the Second Day. It is on the Second Day that God establishes the law by which, if man observes, he creates for himself the means and pathway to unlock the mysteries of the Universe. The Law. or code of law, that serves to create the spiritual conditions and climes by which man unlocks the mysteries of the Universe is the Ten Commandments.
With this, we are better now to settle the firmament. Aware that the firmament (7549-7554; Genesis 1:7) is a great expanse, in essence, a "visible arch in the sky", the question becomes what are the pillars that serve as its endpoints, and what is the gulf bridged by the arch. As for the pillars, they are a composition of the Ten Commandments. Jesus creates for us the means on how best to divide them where, in answering a Pharisees's concern as for which commandment is the great commandment:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)
In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus unfurls a way for us to look at the Decalogue. It is a vision that brings the Second Day into remembrance, as Jesus breaks up the commandments in two codes, the first where we love our god; the latter in how we love our neighbor. It is the matter that they "hang" is where we entertain the firmament, as the firmament serves to bind the two codes of law. And by it serving as the structure upon which all hangs, the firmament also serves for us to witness the action of "pounding the earth".
Jesus alludes to this "pounding" where he declares how all the law and the words of the prophets hang. Aware that within the etymology of the firmament, this pounding, bespeaks to "a sign of passion". Bound within the conception of the Ten Commandments, is that it is a corpus of law that takes measure of all laws, teachings, commandments, and utterances. This sense of "hanging", is that the Spirit of the Ten Commandments serves to determine the verity of every spiritual effect of man's, whether word or deed. No more is such a passion realized than in a man's service and worship to his god. Such service and worship bears witness to the binding of marriages, as well as their dissolution; the building of nations, cultures, and civilizations, as well as their fall. And we make ourselves mindful of such passion given it becomes the means by which we unveil the firmament in the midst of the waters.
Given what Jesus reveals to us in Matthew 22:37-40, we are better now to establish the firmament and the pillars upon which it rests. Where we are to love our God with all our heart, it is here Jesus alludes to the first four commandments--the spiritual or ethereal pillar. Where Jesus reveals that the second is likened unto it, and therefore a complement to the first. What substantiates the second, Jesus tells us, is to do unto our neighbor as we'd have him do unto us--the secular or ephemeral pillar. This pillar is composed of the latter five commandments, beginning with the Sixth Commandment (Exodus 20:13).
Now, with our pillars, we have the means to settle the firmament. To separate the waters above from those below, the metaphor for the firmament God established on the Second Day, presides as the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:12). It is that commandment where the LORD commands every child with the command to:
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Now, with the Fifth Commandment (Genesis 20:17) as our firmament (expanse), having settled what serves as its pillars that we reckon it as "the visible arch" in the sky. We are better to answer how the family is the "visible arch in the sky", by understanding the gulf this firmament bridges. And the gulf the family bridges is that which exists between heaven and earth.
The Family: The Firmament's Metaphor
It is the Spirit of the Ten Commandments we find established from the beginning. It is on the Seventh Day when God establishes the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3). And because it is from the beginning, God makes, not only the observance of the Sabbath obligatory upon all men and peoples. But the whole of the Decalogue. And no does a man or people participate in the observance of the Decalogue than as father and mother.
When we participate in the earth as father and mother, it is then we partake in the Sabbath without ceasing. As parents, we serve for our children as the bridge, or "firmament", between yesterday and today, the unseen and the seen. As father and mother, we bear the obligation to reveal and bind our children to the struggles and sacrifices of ancestral fathers. Where, in binding them, it is we who must impress on our children the beliefs and lessons by which their fathers lived, and reckon those spirits with how we are to enter and dwell in the present world.
As it pertains to the present world, our obligation as parents is to bind our children to the mores and beliefs that gird them in why they must not covet; why it is wrong to lie; why it is wrong to steal; why it is wrong to commit adultery; and why it is spiritually fatal to murder. The latter commandment is of an especial matter, since to take another man's life entails you having made the LORD an adversary. Vengeance is unto the LORD. And there is no greater avenger for the murdered than the LORD Himself.
Pounding and Expanding: The Activity of the Firmament
Having the family as our metaphor for the firmament, we are now in a position to take up the activity of the firmament to "pound" and "expand". Again, turning to the subject of etymology, we find the active principle of every biblical word in its root. Where it concerns "firmament", at its base (7549; Genesis 1:7), it alludes to an expanse bearing the appearance of a visible arch in the sky. While, as for the efficacy that follows this visible arch, at its root (7554) it bears the efficacy "to pound the earth (as a sign of passion)", and "by analogy to expand (by hammering)".
The question becomes, given what serves as our "visible arch" is the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:12), as it is this commandment that bridges Heaven (the waters above, the first four commandments) and earth (the waters beneath, the latter five commandments). To see the active principles of the firmament, we must first note that there is the literal "pounding of the earth" which bears the analogy that at the ends of such an intense labor, there is a broadening, or continuation of what's been established.
How we come into this is by considering the testimony of Solomon as it pertained to his father and mother. In testifying to his father and mother, in the 4th chapter of Proverbs, Solomon declares:
3 For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. 4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. (Proverbs 4:3-4)
What Solomon presents to us in Proverbs 4:3-4, is what are the provident functions of a father and mother. In fulfilling their roles as pillared complements, what we observe is that the provident function, the sole function of a mother, is to impress on her children their father, and how they stand in the sight of their father. The reason, is because, once settled in this knowledge, the child is then in a spiritual place where he's ready to receive the pounding from his father, the teachings, instructions, and commandments by which the child is to live and have life.
There is a broader concept to this, as it concerns the bride and bridegroom, in respect to the church and Jesus, a parallel that becomes clear when we consider the provident function of the father.
As for the father, now steadied by his mother, Bathsheba, in how David, the king of Israel is his father, and how David loved him. Solomon then testifies of his father that "He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live" (Proverbs 4:4).
It is in what Solomon reveals of his father, that he presents to us that transient element opened to pounding. Aware that in honoring our father and mother we reckon ourselves in the presence of our father and mother, the expanse that bridges Heaven and earth. They serving as our firmament to bridge the unseen, a it concerns our ancestral past, with the present world. Where our mother serves as the source from which we gather assurance as for who our father is. It is our father who serves as our source of strength as for how we ought to enter the world that we might live.
As for the hammering, this is a labor of our father. The implication is of an effort underfoot to make straight the path of righteousness. Our mother is the source of a truth, and bears the obligation thereof. There is nothing upon which to "pound", given her entire effort is to continually train our eyes upon our father.
It is in this sense a mother prevails as the church, synagogue, or mosque within the home, in that, it is the obligation of the synagogue, church, and mosque to train the eyes of their respective congregations upon their LORD, whether their LORD be Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad. It is Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad because it is by their spirits, it is by their teachings and commandments that we find ourselves delivered unto the gods borne in and by their spirits.
From these examples of bride and bridegroom we resolve that it is the father who serves as the lawgiver within the home. It is the father who prevails as the source of revelation and truth within the home, as it is he who takes on the role as one who founds a religion. Solomon reveals to us how his father David served in such a capacity, in his father's admonition to "keep my commandments, and live" (Proverbs 4:4).
And so, it is with the father that we observe who does the hammering. Why would there be any need for a pounding is because it is the father who determines whether the Spirit of the LORD prevails in his house, or mammon. If the father's teachings and commandments are in harmony with the spirits of the LORD, then he serves as the proverbial hammer in his house. A hammering whose effects we bear witness to in the father's children, as they are the expanse.This expanse being the result of the father's hammering, which is his efforts to train up his children in the Spirit of the LORD.
However, if the father's teachings and commandments chide with the spirits of the LORD, then there is cause and need for pounding the father. And the need to pound the father centers on an urgency for him to repent, and thereby set his face upon the LORD that he corrects himself and thereby the spirits that quicken him. Since then he's better in training up his children in the way of the LORD. But for such a father, if there is to be an expanse borne by his children in their generations, then it has to be bit by bit, as each generation must learn from the errors of their ancestral father.
With this, now that we've resolved how, as the embodiment of the Fifth Commandment, the family serves as the "arch in the sky". We are better to observe the active principle that takes place within, which is the pounding. We are better now to settle how this firmament serves to separate the upper waters from the lower waters.
The First and Great Commandment: A Practical
It is a revelation that serves to unveil to us that, though the firmament does indeed separate the waters above from those below. It does not mean that it is not possible to cross, or traverse the waters.
Here is where we enter to see how the events on the Second Day, center on efforts by God to bring clarity to the Eternal waters that are the Decalogue. In entering, it is to ask, How do we "traverse" the waters? How do we find ourselves ascending from the depths of the waters below to ascend into zenith that is the waters above? All centers upon whether we covet.
If and when we covet, what we do, is that we establish ourselves in trespass with the LORD. The specifics of what we do when we covet, is that we declare unto ourselves a god we believe worth serving. Such a god takes on an infinite number of possibilities, as it's left to the individual's imagination as for what his god is, and how this god comes into his possession.
The predicate for this god's being, is that it is something we've sensed and therefore long to possess it. When such a passion reaches its peak, that we'd open ourselves to doing anything under the sun to get that which we desire. It is then we covet, as it is then our "longing" now attends as a god.
It is at this very moment we ascend into the zenith of the waters above the firmament, where we further our trespass with the LORD. We further or entrench our trespass in that we've taken a god unto ourselves that is not God, and therefore contravene the First Commandment (Exodus 20:3), wherein the LORD commanded us with the command to:
3 ...have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
Now, in traversing, having reckoned ourselves with our newly founded god. We then descend back into the depths of the waters beneath the firmament. Having traversed the waters, now back into the depths of the waters below. We now find ourselves standing on the threshold as for how we might entertain what remains of the latter five commandments that we might take possession of our God. Do we bear false witness (Exodus 20:16); Do we steal (Exodus 20:15); Do we commit adultery (Exodus 20:14); Do we commit murder (Exodus 20:13); or is there some orderly combination of them all.
And the reason why we avail ourselves to such choices, is because when a man fashions for himself a god, if his contrivance is to live and have life in his life. It's a god in desperate need for commandments and teachings to make him real and spiritually palatable. It is for this reason, the first of all commandments, by which contrivances come, is the Ten Commandment. That where the LORD commands us with the command "Thou shalt not covet" (Exodus 20:17). Mammon commands us with his command "Thou shalt covet", that is, if it is possible for us to ever realize that god we seek.
So, in conclusion as for what the word "expanse". It is for us to know from the outset this is a poor word choice, given the etymology that substantiates the word firmament. Nevertheless, bearing the family as its metaphor, the firmament alludes to the Fifth Commandment. On the Second Day of creation, the reason God establishes a firmament in the midst of these spiritual primordial waters, is to bring clarity to their nature. In our example of traversing the waters, we see how the firmament attends as an imperative, since, in its absence, there is no means for us to discern when we've breached the LORD's commandments and where we find ourselves within the scope of such a breach.
It is on this basis we resolve why God calls the firmament "Heaven". Since this is the hope for every pillared union of father and mother, that in their home the spirit that prevails is the Spirit of the LORD.