“And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭

In English to say something “appeared” can give the sense, connotation or impression of a magician causing something to appear out of thin air. Applied to God saying “let the dry land appear” might give the same impression.

Is this what the text is saying in the Hebrew, the earth did not exist below the waters prior to the waters parting and gathering together? The earth came into being at the moment of the waters gathering? (Obviously there was no DRY land under the waters, but was there land under the waters?)

Specifically how is ותראה (translated appeared) supposed to be understood? And does it convey in any sense that the earth was made/created/formed on this third day of Creation and not prior?

4 Answers 4


The verb here comes from the root ראה which means "to see, to appear" with the connotation of "to comprehend, to understand". See the TDOT entry(1):

  1. Everyday Usage. a. Unlike other verbs referring to visual perception, rāʾâ denotes the experience of seeing as a totality, in which sensation and perception merge. The experience of the visual nature of reality has as its content the meaning, character, and nature of the images perceived; this experience is the polar opposite of sensation, i.e., the experience of the concrete nature of reality, an experience that conveys the nature and intensity of such sensory data as color, form, and spatial location. The verb rāʾâ refers particularly to that segment of the process that brings the perpetual flux of the visual experience of living reality to the level of conscious recognition—i.e., conscious perception or the act of comprehension. From the interplay of conscious perception and experience—i.e., the accumulation of remembered images and their meaning—arises the faculty of visual and spatial orientation. In this process the seeing subject experiences a detachment from the perceived reality and is enabled to grasp this detachment perceptually, recognizing and appropriating it. The act of the recognition and the act of comprehension merge in a complex personal process that on both the linguistic and the textual level can be represented by rāʾâ but frequently is realized by the use of rāʾâ and yāḏaʿ in parallel (Nu. 24:16–17; Dt. 11:2; 1 S. 25:17; Isa. 29:15; 41:20; 44:9, 18; 58:3; 61:9; Jer. 2:23; 5:1; 12:3; Ps. 138:6; Job 11:11; Eccl. 6:5; Neh. 4:5[11]). Not infrequently, a text accentuates the act of conscious perception as a way of obtaining knowledge (Gen. 18:21; Ex. 2:25; Dt. 4:35; 1 S. 6:9; 10:24; Isa. 5:19; Ps. 31:8[7]). Sometimes the complexity of the personal process of perception is underscored by the juxtaposition of several verbs belonging to the lexical field “recognize, perceive,” without distinguishable nuances of meaning. The combinations rāʾâ, śîm, yāḏaʿ (Isa. 41:20); bîn, rāʾâ, śāḵal (44:18); šāmaʿ, rāʾâ, bîn (6:9); rāʾâ, šāmaʿ, qāŝaḇ, bîn (32:3–4); and šāmaʿ, ḥāzâ, rāʾâ, šûr (Nu. 24:16) do not convey a purposeful differentiation of visual and noetic apperceptions, but instead express the totality of the human perceptual faculty.

It is possible that the dry land "appeared" out of nowhere, but that's not the sense of the word, which is that it was made visible as a result of being uncovered by the gathered water. This is also how this verse is traditionally understood by the rabbinical tradition. See, e.g. Rashi's commentary (translation from sefaria.org):

Genesis 1:9 — יקוו המים THE WATERS SHALL BE DRAWN TOGETHER — For they were then spread over the surface of the whole earth, and He now gathered them together into what now constitutes the Ocean, which is the largest of all seas (Genesis Rabbah 5:2).

Btw, there are rabbinical tales that between Gen 1.1 and Gen 1.2, there was a whole age in which Satan was made ruler of a very different looking earth, and then fell -- some traditions discuss a pre-adamic race, and another garden of Eden -- all ending with God's judgement against this original earth that resulted in the chaotic scene of Gen 1.2, with waters covering the land and the earth in chaos as a result of this judgement. I am not trying to advocate for this view, but pointing out that such traditions would only be possible if the connotation of the word was uncovered rather than created ex-nihilo.

At the same time, we shouldn't overplay the above linguistic remarks to assume that just because it didn't come from nothing that the earth in a sense couldn't be created on the third day, because the process of "separation" is also a creative process. Here is Rashi again discussing Gen 1.7, and providing a nice summary of this notion that division/separation should be viewed as part of the act of creation:

Genesis 1:7 — ויעש אלהים את הרקיע AND GOD MADE THE EXPANSE — He put it in proper condition in its place: this is the meaning of “making” it. Similarly (Deuteronomy 21:12) ועשתה את צפרניה “And she shall let grow (literally, make) her nails”.

מעל לרקיעעל הרקיע״מעלכי טוב ABOVE THE EXPANSE — It is not said here “upon the firmament, but “hanging from above”, because they (the waters) were suspended in space (Genesis Rabbah 4:3). Why is it not stated in reference to the work of the second day “that it was good”? Because the work associated with water was not completed until the third day — He only began it on the second — and anything that is not completed is not in a state of perfection and at its best (and so cannot be termed “good”). Therefore on the third day when He completed the work associated with water and another work was commenced and finished, the words are repeated, once in reference to the completion of the work of the second day, and again in reference to the completion of the work of that day (Genesis Rabbah 4:10).

So an alternate view is that the earth was mixed in with the water as a type of unfinished work, and only when it was separated from the water was it truly "earth", because after all the definition of earth here is "dry ground", and we can debate whether earth is earth until waters are gathered away from it and it becomes dry.

Personally, I think it's useful to have both senses of "creation" in mind when reading Genesis.

(1) Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Revised Edition, Vol. 13, pp. 214–215).


The text of Gen 1 fairly clear about what happened here and is part of the general pattern of the creation week.

First three days: Separation Second three days: Population
Day #1: Light separated from darkness Day #4: Light in the sky - great light for the day and the lesser light for the night (and stars) to populate the day and night
Day #2: Waters above separated from waters below to create the heavens Day #5: Sea creatures and birds to populate the waters and the heavens
Day 3A: "Waters below gathered יִקָּו֨וּ to allow dry land to appear", ie, waters separated from dry ground to create the earth Day #6A: Land produces living creatures of livestock and others that crawl on the earth
Day 3B: Earth brings forth vegetation Day 6B: Human kind created from the earth

Notice that the creative activity in the first three days consists almost entirely of separation. It is in the second three days that God's creative efforts require creation (from the waters or the land) light, birds, sea creatures, land creatures and finally humans.

Thus, the description of the dry ground appearing is specifically as a result of separating and gathering קָוָה (in Niphal form) the waters.


The earth was made and formed

Isaiah 45:18 instructs:

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

Hebrews 11:3 instructs that the Jewish fathers had a certain and clear understanding that the "worlds"--including this world--the earth together with it's seas--were made, not just uncovered:

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

All the worlds--including this earth--was made by gathering together of previously ungathered particles of waters--gaseous waters--those things unseen--** unto one place--not several--places:

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

This means that the gathering-together was the method used to both "make" the seas and to "form" the dry land. Otherwise, there would only been ONE SEA as a result this description because the waters were gathered together unto only ONE PLACE. But verse Genesis 1:10 insists that there was more than one Sea:

And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas (plural): and God saw that it was good. (My insertion)

Moreover, verse 9 also told us that dry land appeared as a result of that "gathering together" miqveh of the waters. מִקְוֶה miqveh first of all means "hope" (expressly the things hoped for in Heb 11:3, supra) and also collection, collected mass (that gathering together of invisible matter in Heb. 11:3, supra).

Then, that מִקְוֶה (gathering together of the waters) was named "Seas" and the dry land was named "Earth". These both constitute ONE WORLD of the many worlds that were made from those invisible waters. In fact, the Earth was founded upon that very same process of "the gathering together of the waters" as we see in Psalm 24:1-2:

[[A Psalm of David.]] The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas (that gathering together of the waters), and established it upon the floods.** (My insertion of the definition of Seas)

Therefore, both the Seas and the Earth were the result of the gathering together of invisible matter--the gaseous-like waters that God "created" on Day-One.

Those invisible waters throughout Scripture are used as a "type" of the eternal spiritual Word of God. The gathered-together liquid waters are used as a "type" of the visible flesh-and-blood Word of God, on earth, under the firmament.

Both the Seas and the Earth were things that were made by the Word of God as we saw in Hebrews 11:3, and also as we see in John 1:3:

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (My emphasis)

So if the type of the Day-One waters being the invisible Spirit Word holds, then all things must have been made of the waters. That would mean that the Word of God was the "beginning of the creation of God", as Revelation 3:14 affirms about the speaker of that statement:

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

No wonder that when Jesus, that Word of God made flesh, after His resurrection, while speaking to the two on the way to Emmaus, said in Luke 24:25:

Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

I am certain that these two men learned about the Living Waters that day.

The waters, are shown to be merely a type of the real thing--the Word of God--as we find out in Mathew 24:35, and other Scripture:

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

"Heaven and earth" is used here exactly as the same "the heaven and the earth" are used in Genesis 1:1--as a single body of invisible gaseous waters, without form, and void.

  • It’s an interesting angle, clearly influenced by modern cosmology. Although you did enlighten my understanding in the process, concerning the waters being heaped into one place. “Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has WRAPPED up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭30:4‬ ‭given Biblical cosmology has an ice shelf SURROUNDING the circle of the earth which, if it melts the waters would cover the dry land explain a lot. Thank you Jan 9, 2021 at 4:36
  • Thanks for the interest @NihilSineDeo. I only wish that you could be excited about this "angle" being in accord with proper modern cosmology, rather than being influenced by it. You do have a good understanding of Scripture. Jan 9, 2021 at 4:53
  • I couldn’t careless about modern cosmology when contrasting or analyzing the Scriptures. The two cosmologies are incompatible to the nth degree, hence my comment about your answer being “in accord with proper modern cosmology”, as you put it, takes away from you exegesis, yet you still managed to highlight a great point despite your non Biblical cosmological view. I already gave you an up-vote. Feb 5, 2021 at 3:46

In Genesis 1:9 was the earth exposed or fabricated, ותראה?

Genesis 1:1-2 (NASB)

The Creation

1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. "

This means that the heavens, that is the sun and the billions of stars, galaxies and planets including the earth which was completely covered by waters, were created billions of years before the six creative days on earth, and the Sabbath.

From verse 1:2 the Bible says that at one time the earth’s surface was “formless and void," and its surface was completely covered by waters. This means that there were no continents. But the next words highlight what scientists say is the most important requirement for a life-sustaining planet, an abundance of water. And that God’s spirit was "moving over the surface of the waters."​ (Genesis 1:2)

The Bible then explains that God changed the formless surface of the earth to make dry land. (Genesis 1:9, 10) He evidently caused the earth’s crust to buckle and move. As a result, deep troughs may have been formed and continents pushed out of the ocean.​

Genesis 1:9-10 (NASB)

9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so.10 And God called the dry land “earth,” and the gathering of the waters He called “seas”; and God saw that it was good.

Psalm 104:6-9 (NASB)

6 You covered it with the deep sea as with a garment; The waters were standing above the mountains. 7 They fled from Your rebuke, At the sound of Your thunder, they hurried away. 8 The mountains rose; the valleys sank down To the place which You established for them. 9 You set a boundary so that they will not pass over so that they will not return to cover the earth.

Job 38:8-11 (NASB)

8 “Or who enclosed the sea with doors When it went out from the womb, bursting forth; 9 When I made a cloud its garment, And thick darkness its swaddling bands, 10 And I [a]placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors, 11 And I said, ‘As far as this point you shall come, but no farther; And here your proud waves shall stop’?

Psalm 136:6 (NASB)

6 To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, For His faithfulness is everlasting;

Geological evidence shows that : “From Pre-Cambrian times down to the present, the perpetual process of building and destroying mountains has continued. . . . Not only have mountains originated from the bottom of vanished seas, but they have often been submerged long after their formation, and then re-elevated.”​

  • Where did you find the proof of that first narrative paragraph? You attempt to liken Psalm 104:6-9 to the Day-Three "gathering together. Yet, that portion is clearly speaking of that latter action that occurred during the flood at the time of Noah. After covering the mountains, "they fled" and were prohibited from ever returning to cover the earth. If this was during some time previous to the flood, was God lying? Should we not trust what God has to say? If I sound sarcastic, please don't take it that way. I have been through all these scenarios myself, also. Jan 11, 2021 at 20:04
  • Bill Porter: You're not being sarcastic, we are here to share knowledge and your positive comments are appreciated. The Jerusalem Bible reads Ps 104:5 “You fixed the earth on its foundations, unshakeable forever and ever.” This is interpreted to mean that after its creation the earth could never move. In fact, though, the verse stresses the permanence of the earth, not its immobility. The earth will never be ‘shaken’ out of existence or destroyed. This verse leaves no doubt that Ps 104:6-9 refers to the creative days. Reading in context is important. Jan 11, 2021 at 21:01
  • Compare verse 3 with verse 13, all in continuous context. The flood's waters came from the rain and from the earth. Notice that if the watering was from His chambers, before the flood, that would mean contextually that His chambers were in the earth, which we know that they weren't (v. 3; Gen 2:5) . However, Gen 7:12-20 reveals that covering of the mountains by the waters from His chambers, and Gen 8:1-5 reveals the final hasting away of those waters. This clincher is finalized by the Covenant with Noah in Gen. 9:12-17, which is was at that very same time, in perfect context. Jan 17, 2021 at 18:41

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