Reading 1 Samuel 2:8, it seems to suggest that the earth has pillars. Can anyone explain please??

  • Pillars are foundation elements; the expressions pillars/foundations of earth/heaven appear throughout scripture, and denote the usual stability of these elements (after all, the earth doesn't usually crumble or shake underneath one's feet, nor does the heaven come crushing down on one's head). – Lucian Aug 29 '20 at 1:31
  • Biblical cosmology looks nothing like the low earth orbit fisheye lens photos and CGI NASA puts out. Proper hermeneutics demands understanding the text in the context of the day and not in a modern remote context – Nihil Sine Deo Aug 29 '20 at 2:02
  • 1
    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks or your question. Please remember to take the tour (link below) to better understand how this site works. – Dottard Aug 29 '20 at 2:04

English Standard Version 1 Samuel 2:8

He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.

The Hebrew lexicon translated as pillars is מָצוּק h4690 matsuq. NIV translates it as foundations

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; on them he has set the world.

The only other place this word occurs is in 1 Samuel 14:5

One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba.

In this case, NIV translates it as stood.

Job 26:7 New International Version

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.

Technically, the Bible does not say that scientifically the earth has pillars. It is up to you to interpret the word matsuq. It could be a metaphor for foundations.

  • Wasn't that an example of interpretation? If not, then define interpretation. – Tony Chan Aug 29 '20 at 18:10
  • Job 9:6 and Psalm 75:3 speaks of pillars. Saying the Bible doesn’t scientifically state... is irrelevant because the Bible is not a scientific textbook but when it does touch upon science it’s bound to be true even if the science has not caught up or is obstructed due to its anti-God hijacking. An interpretation is welcome provided it’s hermeneutically sound, what we “know” today is irrelevant to what it meant to the audience it was addressed to. Also you don’t know the earth doesn’t have pillars, you on faith trust men and reject the possibility that the Bible is accurately describing earth – Nihil Sine Deo Aug 29 '20 at 18:58
  • Thanks. I have made modifications. – Tony Chan Aug 29 '20 at 20:41
  • It’s rather unusual to invoke metaphor when the text doesn’t demand it. For the pillars of the earth, metaphorically the foundation of the earth, are the Lord’s and on them (plural) he has set the world, metaphorically on it (singular) He has set the world. I don’t see why a metaphor is needed here and the text doesn’t allude to one either. Are you trying to change what is recorded? To what end and for what purpose? – Nihil Sine Deo Aug 30 '20 at 4:31
  • Love the quote in Job, let’s quote Job again shall we? “Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror?” Job‬ ‭37:18‬ ‭ Amos describes the same hard structure “who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth. Amos 9:6‬ Job speaks of the foundation of the earth “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭38:4‬ So while the earth is not suspended/hanging on anything it is sitting/set on a foundation and has pillars. Your edit doesn’t prove your bias ‭‭ – Nihil Sine Deo Aug 30 '20 at 16:08

Biblical cosmology whether one agrees with its accuracy in describing what can only be described as the universe, has no semblance to the modern helio-centric planetary spinning spherical bodies being displaced at enormous speeds through an expanding vacuum where >97% of its content (dark energy and dark matter) is unaccounted for and lies buried in the realm of mathematical theory propped up by more hypothetical conjectures.

Anyone who attempts to merge the two together will invariably fail miserably and potentially do much damage in the process to their faith with regard to the inerrancy of Scripture.

It is human nature to try to create an amalgam of the two when one holds both accounts as true. This leads to cognitive dissonance and the texts of Scripture will sooner or later expose the canyon sized fissures as is the case with this OP.

In stark contrast to modern cosmology, Biblical cosmology does not demand billions of years leading up to creation, it has a far more recent origin circa <7,000 years.

Day 1 of the universe which includes all the heavens, has a beginning and ends with day 2

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭

The earth in the Bible is a plane and not a sphere. The earth does not move, which means it cannot be spinning, much less be orbiting or traversing

“He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭104:5‬ ‭

The earth is exactly stationary.

Joshua confirms that only the heavenly bodies are moving and not the earth.

“At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.” ‭‭Joshua‬ ‭10:12-13‬

The firmament is attached to the earth which is why when the earth shakes the heavens do also in the Bible. Joel3:16, Haggai 2:6,21

““Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked, because he was angry.” ‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭22:8‬ ‭

The earth is placed on pillars

“When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭75:3‬ ‭

Without a doubt the plane of the earth has pillars supporting it up. The sun moon and stars are local and in the firmament. They move, the earth does not. The pillars much less.

This is the understanding that men who lived closest to Adam had of what cosmology looked like. The further away one gets from creation the more unrecognizable cosmology looks in today’s context.

There are over 200 verses describing cosmology from the Biblical stand point, some more explicit than others. When carefully studied they paint a picture that has no semblance to what modern men have been told cosmology actually looks like. This is probably why the OP is struggling to place pillars on which the earth rests upon whilst also visualizing a tiny blue marble spinning 1,000mph at the equator, 66,600 mph around the sun, >500,000mph in the Milky Way and so forth

Fact is Biblical cosmology has no galaxies, and no planets only stars and lights, a great light and a lesser (in brightness) light. And no ancient text describes the modern version of cosmology but all despite being from different cultures and geographical places have a version similar to Biblical cosmology.

  • There is no contradiction. Any point in space may be considered as the 'fixed point' and then, relatively, all other bodies move in relation to that fixed point. If one stands on the earth, then the earth is one's 'fixed point' - naturally. And what is beneath one's feet, invisibly so in its extent, is a pillar. Earthquakes may cause one's stance to tremble, but God preserves the under-girding in stability. (Up-voted +1). – Nigel J Aug 29 '20 at 4:53
  • There is no space @Nigel, not in Biblical cosmology. “Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭148:4‬ the separated physical primordial waters are in the heavens even after the flood that filled the terrarium. Also fixed points only work if the earth is not spinning but Joshua didn’t tell the earth to stop spinning because it’s not a sphere but a plane. If the sun and moon stopped for almost 12 or 24 hours in modern understanding the earth had to stop too and halting 1,000mph and spinning it back up would have killed all life with tidal waves. – Nihil Sine Deo Aug 29 '20 at 9:19
  • @NigelJ Further to NSD's excellent answer, the Biblical Earth is not even curved - it's dead flat (barring surface variation in hills and valleys). This makes sense for a creation story from a non-seagoing civilisation. People with more ready access to the sea could see masts dipping below the horizon, hence the Indian creation story that the Earth is a curved turtle shell, as a rational modification of a flat Earth. But the ancient Israelite tribes did not have that information. – Graham Aug 29 '20 at 9:38
  • Psalm 75:4 [MT] "When the earth and all its inhabitants were melting away, I established its pillars forever." (נְֽמֹגִ֗ים־אֶ֥רֶץ וְכָל־יֹֽשְׁבֶ֑יהָ אָֽנֹכִ֨י תִכַּ֖נְתִּי עַמּוּדֶ֣יהָ סֶּֽלָה) – חִידָה Aug 29 '20 at 10:03
  • @ctaylorgraphics how does that relate to pillars and poor people? And when has that happened? It hasn’t – Nihil Sine Deo Aug 29 '20 at 17:28

The verse in question is from Hannah's song:

1 “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. 2 “There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. 3 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. 4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. 5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. 6 The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. 8 He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and on them he has set the world. 9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. 10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” (1 Samuel 2)

The song is about the LORD and His works with mankind. The general idea is God often completely reverses the fortunes of human beings, in accordance with their conduct. This is underscored by the contrasts between or within the lines of the parallelisms in the central part of the song.1 Since there is no other place in the song to suggest Hannah has the creation of the earth in mind, there is no reason to attribute pillars of the earth to that point of view. Nor would such an understanding follow the theme of the song as the pillars of the earth "support" the world, tebel, which is the inhabited earth.

"Pillar" is only used in Hannah's song and later in 1 Samuel:

The one crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba. (1 Samuel 14:5)

The meaning here is a type of rocky feature. If Hannah's song was translated as such we would have: the crags of the earth are the LORD's and on them He has set the world. "Crags" contrast with "rock" and other images where a characteristic of the earth is used metaphorically:

The is no rock like our God...He raises up the poor from the dust; He lifts the needy from the ash heap...for the crags of the earth are the LORD's and on them He has set the world...the adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces.

"Crags" are are "bigger" then "dust" or the "ash heap" and are situated "above," but there is no "rock" like our God. Crags symbolize the wicked (v. 9) and adversaries of the LORD (v. 10). So Hannah sees those "in charge" of the "world system" received their position by the work of the LORD. Just as the LORD will reverse her misfortune (the barren woman) because of her (good) conduct; He will reverse their fortunes and break them into pieces because of their (evil) conduct.

  1. Shimon Bar-Efrat, The Jewish Study Bible, Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 563
  • Since there is no other place in the song to suggest Hannah has a material understanding So the hungry are not satiated physically, and the satiated don’t go hungry physically? The bow is not broken physically? Hannah won’t be giving birth to a physical baby and mothers with children won’t be losing their physical children. How is she not referencing “material understanding”? Why does creation have to be mentioned for cosmology to be alluded to? – Nihil Sine Deo Aug 31 '20 at 3:37

Here is a depiction of how the ancient Hebrew mind saw the cosmos. They knew there was "water under the earth" (Ex 20:4) because springs would appear out of the side of a mountain and digging a well would produce water so they assumed that the land was floating on some pillars in a very deep ocean.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...

enter image description here


Reading 1 Samuel 2:8, it seems to suggest that the earth has pillars. Can anyone explain please??


1 Samuel 2:8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and he hath set the world upon them.

The question first to ask, is what is meant by pillars? What does pillar mean geologically or conversely, if you are describing geology in terms of ancient Hebrew, what term would you use to describe a layer of rock?

And that is my suggested answer it simply means a supporting structure fashioned out of a single piece of rock. Geologically this is a continent.

The preflood world had continents that had water under under them and not rock. After the fountains of the great deep were broken up in the flood (Genesis 7:11), these were destroyed completely.

These pre-flood continents would have been supported by the modern continents as well as the underlying water, which actually would be under enormous pressure.

We still have a memory of these pre-flood continents in the legendary continents of Atlantis, which was where the Atlantic Ocean is, and Lemuria, which some people place in the Indian ocean.

There would still be seas in the pre-flood world, but these would be much shallower than modern oceans that become very deep when you move off the once-supporting pillar of the continental shelf which is about 4-5km above the ocean floor.

  • Very interesting - though you will need scripture to support your theory otherwise it would simply be your opinion which BH is not about. – user48152 Sep 3 '20 at 4:41
  • I am interpreting the scripture quoted, which is what BH is about, unless I am mistaken. – David Sep 3 '20 at 4:50
  • Originally I was going to talk about pillars as rock layers, but my answer became this. Not sure how this fits with the hydroplate theory. – David Sep 3 '20 at 4:54

Of course the 'pillars' may be readily seen as spiritual foundations. God is much more focussed on the spiritual realities of His marvellous creation than the mere physical structure that enables it to proceed.

Indeed, the whole OT looks forward to the NT and the 'spiritual awakening' that simple physical events, practises and principles will be granted as new depth of meaning and function is revealed to those with eyes to see. This is seen for example in the sacrifices, the tabernacle/temple, the nation of Israel/God's people, the Holy Days, Kingship etc.

We can also readily see the spiritual expressions in the verse - the poor, the mighty, the honour, the faithful etc. where God sets up a basis for which men may live and prosper - not at others expense, but that all might enjoy the treasure of life with Him.

He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honour. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and on them he has set the world. 9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail...

The context is clearly not about physical foundations but the underlying, all-encompassing spiritual forces in play to bring about God's sovereign will - and His plan will not be 'moved'!

No one but God has set in motion the way everything will play out from when the 1st Adam was formed - no one will but God has set the foundations - the pillars, for how life is going to work out in the end after a long time of general suffering from sin has ended.

Hannah begins with a word about salvation and the surety God has provided;

prayed and said “My heart exults in the LORD My horn is exalted in the LORD, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. 2“There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

Obviously, the 'Rock' is another foundation metaphor - sturdy, stable and sure.

The 'pillars' are righteousness, justice, honour, faithfulness, love, mercy, grace, truth --- it's a long list and God will ensure they all stand!

If there is any doubt regarding the spiritual undertones of this passage, here is a brief survey;

I rejoice in Your salvation.

Nor is there any rock like our God

And with Him actions are weighed

The LORD kills and brings to life

The LORD will judge the ends of the earth (which includes figurative 'bows' being broken)

But the key is in the word 'for' - showing that the things that were said before are dependant apon this.

He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honour. FOR the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world. (not the 'earth' but the system of all that is on which mankind operates)

How do the poor rise up? Because God will ensure it works out in the end due to the invisible, but powerful, principles He has established.

Again we see this metaphor applied in Rev 3:12

All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem.

And no, it's not like Lot's wife who became a pillar also :)

  • 1
    That’s an interesting hypothesis super-spiritualizing the text. Except the text also contains physical non metaphoric language. Bows are broken, is that not physical? Satiated lacking bread, is this spiritual? The hunger cease to be hungry, is that true or metaphor? The barren bornes children, Hanna is about to have physical children or is this spiritual too? Does God make people poor and rich, hypothetically? Your answer is reaching and clutching at nothing. It’s a stretch. – Nihil Sine Deo Aug 31 '20 at 3:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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