I realize there is a similar question

In Psalm 148:4 are the waters above the highest heaven?

But I’d like to revisit this verse and ask a different question or pose the question differently hopefully the answers will be consistent with Biblical Cosmology and without (too much) cognitive dissonance

Clearly David didn’t attend modern schools because according to David there are waters above the heavens.

“Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭148:4‬ ‭ESV

Word here is מים mayim which is part of the Hebrew word שׁמים shamayim heavens. In Hebrew the sky is part water as its derived name implies.

David did not lack in his vocabulary the word for vapor הבל hebel. Or vapor קיטר qiytor used in the same psalm v8. Or vapor אד ‘ed.

Instead he opted for waters as I believe the Spirit inspired David to write.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭

If we trust David was inspired to prophetically compose psalm 22 writing details about the crucifixion that he had no humanly possible way of knowing hundreds of years prior, why do we doubt inspiration when he describes the heavens and its contents above? It’s still a psalm, it’s still poetry.

Question, why do modern readers chalk this off as metaphor or poetic writing. Doesn’t poetry describe real phenomena or does it always describe hyperbolic, fictional and/or exaggerated phenomena?

The bigger question, should this be a metaphor, why would God who claims inspiration and claims He doesn’t lie, mislead by claiming waters above heaven if in fact there is no firmament and no waters above?

  • <hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/8142/…> seems like a decent understanding of Biblical Cosmology. Could be updated to include additional Scriptures but it will suffice and it’s a third party independent response. Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 20:18
  • Revelation 17:13 @Constantthin???? Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 13:23
  • A little bit off topic, but Rev 17:13 is an interesting verse and the identity of the beast is one of the big mysteries. The Preterists probably believe that he already has been on the scene. I personally believe that its fulfillments is still in the future. Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 7:28

7 Answers 7


Autodidact ( and more or less Mac's and ethos),

This is a very old question. This issue has been debated as much as creation vs evolution since the 1960s in scholarship. There are hundreds of peer-reviewed papers, rejoinders, commentaries and MA Theses and PhD theses on this stuff--not to mention YouTube debates and interviews. It's not new.

Therefore, if you (i.e. Autodidact specifically) seem to spend so much time on biblical cosmology as we have already exchanged via email, read the relevant expert literature on this matter and become an expert yourself. I myself spent several years on this stuff and I think Im satisfied with my view of it now. But, this whole issue of biblical cosmology and Inspiration is a big can of worms and no answer in this forum will ever really answer your question(s) because it's far more complicated than just one verse here or one verse there. The entire Bible is filled with non-scientific language--it's not simply cosmology. The Bible reflects ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman concepts and worldviews. It's normal that if you take Inspiration and Innerancy out of one passage (2 Tim. 3.16) and you then mix it up with all sorts of issues that the authors were not concerned with, you then run into these problems, and we've all been there in scholarship. The points you guys made in the comments do not answer the question at hand.

My answer (which is based on scholarly research) is that the OT reflects the ancient Near Eastern worldview in cosmology, numerology (3, 7, 12, 24, 70), physiology, zoology, sexual reproduction (seed / bosom), etc, and the NT reflects the OT and Greco-Roman worldviews. It's normal. Remember that Abraham came out of Ur in Mesopotamia and Moses out of Egypt. The Hebrew text is filled with Babylonian, Assyrian, and Canaanite concepts and linguistic cognates. It's normal, they lived there at that time! They were surrounded by them. God spoke to them so they could understand and the authors described and spoke in the language they knew with the concepts they knew ( look at the Tabernacle and the Temple--filled with Edenic and ANE concepts). It's inspired at the Message/messages level, not at the scientific level. Therefore, yes, the biblical authors believed there is water (a heavenly ocean, NOT vapor) above the solid (raqia) sky/dome. But, in real reality, it is not like that. The earth and the sky and space is how we see it in Google Earth, NASA. Therefore, in real reality there is no ocean and the sky is NOT solid. I already know you disagree with my previous sentence, since you are a flat-earther primarily because of the Bible and Inspiration (secondarily because of some scientific understanding that you became convinced of--Im not going to challenge you here since Im no scientist, Im an exegete).

The biblical text does not need to be scientifically accurate for Inspiration and Innerancy to work. It's a false cause and a false assumption. If you think that resolving this cosmological matter solves the Inspiration issue, please reconsider. There are a whole bunch of other similar issues throughout the entire Bible--it's not just cosmology. For instance, off the top of my head, Luke CORRECTS Mark's Greek. Mark's Greek is not as smooth as MAtthew's or Luke's and they both change Mark's Greek when it's off. It's not God nor the Holy Spirit that made a mistake in Mark at the language level, it's Mark! But Inspiration has nothing to do with this! It's a common false cause.

Please start reading this famous paper that all scholars who specialize in this quote and cite in their academic papers. Then, google and read all of Paul H. Seely's papers. Then, compare that with other rejoinders and refutations online that are peer-reviewed. Then, you will start to understand little by little how it works. It takes months and years. You will not be convinced nor satisfied by just googling here and there once in a while.

2 resources for you to start academically on this matter:

Paul H. Seely

THE FIRMAMENT AND THE WATER ABOVE Part I: The Meaning of raqia in Gen 1:6-8


Start with this paper from Seely and then google other papers from him. You dont have to agree with everything he concludes, but he makes some really good points that lots of Hebrew scholars have cited many times over (I've seen in the literature, I've been in it).

Then, look for this book on Inspiration and Innerancy (or google something similar, but by scholars, not some amateur with no credentials):

Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation Kindle Edition

I will be writing on biblical cosmology and Inspiration and Innerancy on my blog in the coming months : mtl-ct.ca

For now, my latest post is about Peer review, its importance and its flaws...

  • I agree it’s more complicated than one verse at a time, but complicated is not the same as unimportant or irrelevant. If I’m wrong then I’ll accept correction. “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence”. Ovid. Evolution has been demolished, but instead of going away it’s been pushed into aliens seeding the planet with life from a foreign distant galaxy, it’s time fake space is demolished too. And if the Bible is to stand, then let it stand. “The truth is like a lion; you don't have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself”. Augustine. Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 23:15
  • Also there is a distinction between Mark relating a historical event with bad grammar and God being quoted word for word in the OT Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 23:24
  • Autodidact... I think I understand what you mean by Mark and bad grammar vs God quoted verbatim in the OT. But, you dont seem to have really captured what Im saying. Let me say it another way: We dont have the original manuscripts (mss) of the Bible at all (or any ancient literature). We only have reliable ( it turns out ) copies with textual variants in both Hebrew mss and Greek mss. When NT authors like Paul quote the OT, they are quoting from the Septuagint (LXX) which is an imperfect translation (we have 4 versions of LXX) from copies of the Hebrew textual families.
    – XegesIs
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 13:30
  • .....THEREFORE, Inspiration and Innerancy has nothing to do with specific words, or Hebrew vs Greek or even modern translations. It has nothing to do with scientific, geographic, historic, physiologic, numerologist (etc..) accuracy. Inspiration has to do with what God said about creation, death, sin, punishment, redemption, Messiah, resurrection, etc.. at the Message / messages level. Otherwise, we are doomed! Paul quotes from LXX and it's still the word of God!
    – XegesIs
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 13:34
  • 1
    Let's continue by email ok ?
    – XegesIs
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 14:48

According to this (very good) question, if it's true or false, we have to see the Psalm 148:4:

4 Praise Him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. (KJV)

or in Hebrew:

הַֽ֭לְלוּהוּ שְׁמֵ֣י הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם וְ֝הַמַּ֗יִם אֲשֶׁ֤ר ׀ מֵעַ֬ל הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃

We can see that the word "waters" is referring to the above waters, since in the previous parte, this is, Praise Him, ye heavens of heavens we can start to imagine if this doesn't refer to what comes next, which is waters that be above the heavens, and this is false, because there is the connective "and" separating both sentences. Now, we could argue that הַֽ֭לְלוּהוּ which ends with וּ which is referring to G'd (Him), for in Hebrew, he, is הוא, refers to Praise Him, and there is a command for the "waters above heavens" and "heavens of heavens" to praise Him, and this is true. However, what would it be "waters above heavens"? We have to go a bit deeper, since King David was jewish; it's known in judaism that water refers to soul, then in this case, this would mean that all the people are referred to waters. However, the verse states waters above the heavens which is the people above the heavens, well, this is not hard, for it seems there is a wall that separates the souls that will be saved from those that will not, as in Isaiah 12:3:

3 Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. (KJV)

or even in Isaiah 43:2:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Now, we go a bit deeper when appears a distinction between waters and living waters, this last one referring to the G'd He Himself as in Zechariah 14:8:

On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. (ESV)

In this passage, Zechariah refers to the souls of the ones that were saved, but it's not just he that points this out, also this can be seen in Jeremiah 17:13 that explicitly clears this matter:

O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.

So, indeed G'd is the fountain of living water. But the son of King David, Solomon also explains the same, in Song of Solomon 4:15:

A garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.

So as the souls that are saved go, according to judaism, to a state which is as if they were in the big state, that is, of G'd, and the heavens of heavens or heavens inside heavens is known in jewish philosophy as Zeir Anpin or the Messiah (for many, Jesus Christ) which is the state of being the Creator, but G'd is the only One.

The other answer, which is simpler, according to astronomy, which is that simply that the waters above is just the rain, which is true, according to birds being able to fly over the face of the water in Genesis 1:20:

20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

obs.: the translation misleads, since in Hebrew, the use of עַל means above in general, it's not the preposition in which is present below. So in the above sentence, it should be in place of in, the preposition over, i.e., עַל.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יִשְׁרְצ֣וּ הַמַּ֔יִם שֶׁ֖רֶץ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה וְעוֹף֙ יְעוֹפֵ֣ף עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ עַל־פְּנֵ֖י רְקִ֥יעַ הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃

What it has to be clear in here is that main meaning is in terms of the godly aspect of Salvation, not about the waters being above or not, so the question is neither false nor true, because it's about another question. In jewish philosophy, even though, I quoted the above, there are other verses that differentiate, this happens because there are many layers in matter of worlds and how they join with sefirot emanations.

  • Thank you for your response. Please elaborate or conclude your point with this sentence. Thank you again. obs.: the translation misleads, since in Hebrew with use עַל not the preposition in. Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 18:55

Pardon my simplicity, but I have simply understood the waters above the heavens to be the source of rain and hail, namely the clouds.

This is rather simple - water vapour (steam) is actually invisible. It is only when it becomes condensed in tiny droplets suspended in the atmosphere that water (in liquid droplet form) becomes visible as mist or clouds. These droplets are quite small but water none the less. When these droplets grow (for a variety of atmospheric conditions that need not distract us here) and sometimes even coagulate, they get large enough to fall as either rain or other kinds of precipitation.

Thus, "waters above the heavens" is literally just that - water suspended above the atmosphere that the ancients called heavens. some clouds are very high indeed and some clouds are much lower as can be seen by simple observation on the ground.

The waters above the heavens were EXTEEMELY important to an agricultural society because without that water they could not grow anything. Hence we (unsurprisingly) find references to it in many places in the Bible.

  • It has been put forward that it refers to the Thermosphere, but cannot be dogmatic on it.
    – user26950
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 20:41
  • I fully understand your perception, does not mean I agree or endorse it. Why are they described as waters and not clouds or vapor like I’ve pointed out in my question. “He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭26:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬ and from your response I’m led to understand the waters of psalm 148 are in the clouds. The psalm says the waters are above the heavens. So are you saying that the clouds are above the heavens? Because even if the clouds are in the heavens the verse says the waters are ABOVE the heavens not in them. Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 20:41
  • Obviously the clouds in the in the atmosphere/heavens. But the ancient perception was that the clouds existed above the heavens and the very highest we above the highest heavens. It is not even metaphorical.
    – user25930
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 21:07
  • If the "birds of the air" (literally, birds of the heavens) was used as a common expression (Gen 1:26, 28, 2:20, Deut 28:26, Ps 104:12, etc), then clearly waters above the heavens are the clouds.
    – user25930
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 21:18
  • I reserve to agree with ‘clearly’ at this point. >>And God said, Let there be lights IN the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years Genesis 1:14 << that makes the sun and moon (and stars) also inside ‘a’ firmament (which is called heaven Genesis 1:8). If what you just said is correct, that the ancients thought the clouds (and not water) was above the heaven then the clouds are above the sun, moon and stars because they are described as being inside and not above the heaven like water is described in Psalm 148:4. Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 21:32

Why can this not refer to plasma which is the 4th state of matter. We see glimpses of it here from earth as we gaze at some of the more amazingly beautiful phenomenon of the heavens. It’s rare to have plasma on earth before nuclear reactors but when it does happen here it appears as rivers of rippling northern light, red sprites and solar winds. I love to see the weekly posts on spaceweather.com to enjoy the photos of these gaseous yet very liquid behaving creatures. In the days before city lights these would have been more visible and wise men would even follow rivers to cribs


Why is there so much complication in answering one of the simplest questions in the bible??? You only need to lift up your eyes to the sky on a sunny day, and you will see the answer to your question. Let me explain what I mean. If you look at the ocean on a sunny day, what colour it would be? Obviously blue. Okey. Now if you looked on the same day to the sky, what colour it would be? Obviously blue. What else there needs to be explained? Both are blue because both are composed of water. Clear your minds of men landing on the moon! And open your minds to God's Words, He is not trying to confuse us, we are confusing ourselves with our ignorance. By the way, Noah's ark will make much more sense ones you realise that sky is water.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 12:59
  • Because often the most "simple" things in the bible point to much deeper more complex spiritual truths. Natural things are used as metaphors to describe spiritual things. A relevant example would be to read Jesus meeting with the woman at the well. He asks her for a drink of water - he responds to her answer by saying "If you knew who was asking you for a drink you would have asked him and he would have given you living water". She thinks he is talking about water from the physical well - when he is clearly talking about something else entirely. Water in the bible is usually a spiritual symbol
    – Marshall
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 9:48

"Then the angel said to me, 'The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages." (Rev 17:15)

Thus, the bible symbolically equates “waters” with people. So, the “waters” in question could apply to people in heaven. However, literal water could be an alternative interpretation of “waters”.

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. (Gen 8:13-15)

The point is that it had never rained on earth before the deluge. If it had the rainbow would have been seen, because although God can override physical laws he can not change them.

Thus, all the water, or the basic elements of water, that came raining down had for a long time existed in the sky as a massive vault above the earth.

”And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” (Gen 1:6,7)

Suns go through different stages; from yellow; to red giant; to white dwarf. Planets seem to have the potential to go through different stages too. Starting with a hydrogen/oxygen canopy, moving to a state were the canopy has been shed creating one big body of ocean water.

So, alternatively, or in addition, to “waters” meaning people it could also refer to a celestial planet with a waterish appearance because of a similar atmosphere to what the earth had before the deluge.

  • 1
    The question is about the verse in the book of psalms that speaks about the water ABOVE the heavens. The waters representing the populace in Revelation is not about waters above the heavens, these are waters on earth. I don’t see the connection between these two verses except for the use of the word waters. Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 4:30
  • You observation is correct. It is just the symbolism of waters standing for people that is applicable. Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 4:36
  • But that’s the point, it is not applicable because one set of waters is above the heavens and the other is on earth and we know of no myriads of people prior to Jesus being in or above the heavens. People were sent below the earth not above the heavens. Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 4:46
  • 1
    @Constantthin +1 Your post touches on correct answer but can be improved by more scripture to show the consistency of the use of the symbol of water. Water in the bible is "kind of" used to represent people/beings. But more then that their "words" or "voices". Water being the symbol for words is so deeply entrenched in scripture you have literally countless options to choose from. Gods voice being described as "many waters" (Ez 1:24 Rev 12:24) the serpent spewing a torrent of water from its mouth at the woman of revelation or Jesus words being water that washes to name 3 you could add
    – Marshall
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 9:40
  • 1
    @Nihil Sine Deo - I think the idea is the water below the firment are the beings/voices of human kind. Those above are those of the heavenly / angelic realm. God - angels etc. With this in mind it would mean the story of Genesis describes how a seperation was made between humans in the physical realm - and spiritual beings in the heavens. We are the waters below they are the waters above.
    – Marshall
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 9:43

"and the birds of the air, over the livestock". Genesis 1:26.

Here we have, -over the birds of the "shamayim", and over the cattle.

"and the birds of the air." Genesis 1:28 again air/shamayim.

In Gen 1:1 when God created the heavens/shamayim, plural, the birds flew in the lowest of them.

How many heavens are there? Many: "even the highest heaven" 1 Kings 8:27.

Birds fly in the lowest heaven, then rain clouds above them, and then higher still the moon and the sun.

Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens [shamayim] to separate the day from the night is in Gen 1:14.

We get clouds of water above the "places" where birds fly. It appears to me that these "places" could be the heavens of Psalm 148:4.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.