I have recently heard an interesting take on Job 38:14. It includes the word haphak (Strong's H2015) which seems to have the primary meaning of turning. According to my interlocutor, this shows that God was giving supernatural revelation of the natural world and the spinning globe to Job, knowledge he could not have perceived through his natural faculties. The argument goes that the clay is turning (haphak) on a potter's wheel and is being formed into a pot. Brown Driver Briggs says that the meaning of turn here is in the sense of change or transform. Most translators do not include the idea of rotating in their translation of this verse. However, if it says turning, perhaps it is referring to a spinning globe. Is there anyone who is knowledgeable of the Hebrew language that can confirm or refute this novel theory?

3 Answers 3


The Earth "will turn over" תִּתְהַפֵּךְ Tithapekh as a חוּג "globe" 🌎 or 🔷 "square"?

  • Using feminine conjugation: מִתְהַפֶּכֶת mithapeket = “It turns”; הִתְהַפְּכָה hithapkah = “It turned”; תִּתְהַפֵּךְ tithapekh = “it will turn”

  • Although Job 38:13 & Isaiah 11:12 describe כנפות Corners of Earth, we see יְשַׁעְיָהוּ Yeshayahu (Isaiah) later reimagined חוּג Circle of Ha-Arets in Isaiah 40:22.

If you read Job 38:13, אִיוֹב Iyov (Job) is told הָאָרֶץ Ha-Arets (The-Earth) has Kanafot כנפות (Corners), specifically four כנפות Kanafot 🔷 envisioned also by יְשַׁעְיָהוּ Yeshayahu (Isaiah) in Isaiah 11:12.

However a Circular vision of Earth 🌎 appears in Isaiah 40:22

Regarding חוּג הָאָרֶץ "Circle of The-Earth", we read 12th Century Commentary by Ibn Ezra on [Isaiah 40:22] :

"Here it is stated that the earth is round and not square, though no verse is required for the support of this statement; for it is known by convincing proofs."


How can a חוּג Circle have four כנפות Corners? << That’s a better question for Isaiah.

  • "The KJV translates Strong's H3671 in the following manner: wing (74x), skirt (14x), borders (2x), corners (2x), ends (2x), feathered (2x), sort (2x), winged (2x), miscellaneous (8x).". Of more than a hundred uses, only Job 38:13 and Isaiah 11:12 translate "kānāp̄" as ""corners". The "four" could just as easily have been a reference to the four points of the compass, without any implication of a square shape. Oct 7, 2022 at 16:03

We must be extremely cautious of reading modern ideas into an ancient text to avoid eisegesis.

It is true that the verb הָפַךְ (haphak) means "to turn". However, Hebrew is famously flexible in its meanings and shades of meaning. The same verb is used in a variety of ways, one of which (see BDB) is:

c. turn = change, transform (1) followed by accusative = alter; a colour (עֵינוֺ) Leviticus 13:55 (P); skin Jeremiah 13:33; bed (מִשְׁכָּבוֺ see ׳מ; Che his lying down) Psalm 41:4 i.e. restore to health; (2) pervert דִבְרֵי אֱלֹהִים Jeremiah 23:36; (3) followed by accusative with Infinitive Psalm 105:25 he turned their heart to hate his people; (4) turn to, into, followed by two accusative Leviticus 13:10; Psalm 114:8 rock into pool of water; usually followed by accusative + לְ, Psalm 66:6 sea into dry land, Psalm 78:44 rivers into blood, compare Psalm 105:29; Jeremiah 31:13 mourning into joy, so Psalm 30:12; Amos 5:7 justice into wormwood, compare Amos 6:12; Amos 8:10 feasts into mourning; Deuteronomy 23:6 = Nehemiah 13:2 curse into blessing; Amos 5:8 death-shade into morning.

More specifically, the form in Job 38:14 -

Hithpa`el Imperfect3feminine singular תִּתְהַמֵּךְ Job 38:14; Participle מִתְהַמֵּךְ Judges 7:13; Job 37:12; מִתְהַמֶּכֶת Genesis 3:24; — reflexive & intransitive: ... 2 transform oneself, Job 38:14 of earth under rising dawn.

Thus, most versions reflect this meaning accurately:

  • NASB: “It is changed like clay under the seal; And they stand out like a garment.
  • CSB: The earth is changed as clay is by a seal; its hills stand out like the folds of a garment.
  • ISV: It turns itself as clay of a seal And they station themselves as clothed.
  • NAB: The earth is changed as clay by the seal, and dyed like a garment;
  • ESV: It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment.

The ancient Hebrew lacked any idea of the existence of a "planet earth". "Earth" here refers to soil and arable land, not the planet as we understand it today. This is confirmed by the fact that the change/transformation is like clay under a seal which cannot be interpreted as "rotation" or similar.

Thus, the central meaning of the verb הָפַךְ (haphak) is "change" or "transformation" as is seen at dawn.

  • The answers I have received on this question thus far have been impeccable. Thank you so very much. I pray your great intelligence brings you many blessings. Oct 11, 2022 at 16:25

It is turned as clay to the seal.(KJV) I believe the seal is not like a rubber stamp but like a rolling pin, so it is turned/rolled on its axis over the clay. (Known as bulla) If this is the case it's a great discription of the earth turning on its axis way before man knew that the world rotates in this way.

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