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Genesis 1:1 says

God created the heavens and the earth.

So what comes in heavens (the sky, space and God's place) or the heaven of God where He is now .. that place was existed before creation.. because God was before creation so where He was at that time?

So I want to ask heavens in Genesis 1:1 means only sky and space or also God's place?

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The Hebrew word translated heavens here is הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם, from שָׁמַיִם ("shamayim")

The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon gives two principal definitions of the word:

  • The visible sky, where stars etc. are
  • The abode of God

Additional details, and less-common usages of the term, can be found in the extensive entry on biblehub.

Which meaning is intended is derived from context. The context of chapter 1 (see esp. verses 14, 16-18) indicates that the first meaning is intended here. God created the place where the sun, moon, stars, etc. are found.

שָׁמַיִם is not a cosmologically precise term, such as "Milky Way Galaxy" or "Solar System". It would be anachronistic to expect the writer to seek to mathematically describe spacetime--as defined by General Relativity--in a text written more than 3,000 years ago. Given what is recorded in the rest of Genesis, we can safely conclude that the author had more transcendent purposes in mind.

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Answer

Genesis 1:1 is primarily the description of the creation of the physical universe including the earth. It does not include the spiritual realm.

Why?

Job 38:7 describes “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” when God founded the earth. It is clear that the spiritual realm already existed when the heavens and the earth were created.

So, the heavens in Genesis 1:1 include the sky and the space. But it doesn’t include the spiritual abode of God.

Explanation

It would be futile to attempt to fit the modern cosmology into the Genesis first chapter.

The reason is: basically the Bible is not intended to be a science book. God has given the rational intelligence to human beings so that he can find out the physical facts (Gen 11:6). But the spiritual truth is beyond his rational grasp and hence God gave it in His Word which is “spiritually discerned”.

It is generally observed that the physical facts in the Bible are mostly written from the perspective of the beholder. Often, whatever is visible to the person who watches are described as he sees them.

In fact, even in modern education, we have found that this is the best method to start teaching. Hence we teach today:

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west (though scientifically it is inaccurate).

Yet, the Bible describes bits and pieces of modern cosmological findings here and there:

“God……hung the earth in empty space” (Jog 26:7; GNB).

What is interesting is that the modern cosmology says that the Universe is expanding with the principle of ‘the farthest the fastest’. But the Bible stated long back:

“So says Jehovah God, creating the heavens and stretching them out” (Isaiah 42:5).

Conclusion

The word of God is not a science book; it is a Book that deals with the spiritual matters. Often it describes the physical phenomena from the eyes of the beholder. And the beholder, when he looks up, sees the Expanse or sky, the space, the Sun, the Moon, the stars, the meteors etc., existing in the same direction.

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In Gen 1, the word שָׁמַיִם (shamayim = "heavens" or "sky") is explicitly defined in V608 as follows:

6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters, to separate the waters from the waters.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the waters beneath it from the waters above. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "heavens/sky.”

And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

Note that on the second day we have a simple process:

  • God separated the waters above (clouds, the source of rain etc) from the waters below (lakes & rivers etc)
  • this created a space between or and expanse
  • God names the spaces or expanse between the water above and the waters below as "shamayim" = "heavens". We now call this "atmosphere" or "sky".

This is confirmed in subsequent verses in the same chapter:

  • V9 - And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens/sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.
  • V20 - And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens/sky.”
  • V26 - Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens/sky and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
  • V28 - And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens/sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
  • V30 - And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens/sky and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Now this leaves the instances in V14, 15, 17 where some incorrectly suggest that God placed the sun, moon and stars. However, the text does not actually say this. Indeed, the words, "sun" and "moon" do not occur anywhere in Gen 1, or Gen 2 - actually, its first occurrence is in Gen 15:2. The moon first appears in Gen 37:9.

Note what the text actually says in V14 - it was the light from these bodies that was made to appear first in the heavens/sky and these lights were placed in the expanse of the sky between the waters above and the waters below.

[The sun moon and stars do not exist in the atmosphere but their light certainly does.]

Therefore, the exclusive meaning of שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) in Gen 1 & 2 is equivalent to our "atmosphere" or air of the sky, etc.

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  • Thanks for the distinct perspective. I'm not sure I follow, though. Verse 16 refers explicitly to stars (not just their light). It sounds like you're saying the stars are in the atmosphere...could you clarify? Commented Jan 12 at 21:23
  • @HoldToTheRod - Only their light is in the atmosphere - see V14.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 12 at 21:35
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    That doesn’t work, Dottard. “Let luminaries (ma’or) be in the expanse” (verse 14). “Let them be for luminaries (ma’or) in the expanse…..to give light (or)” (verse 15). So God set the luminaries (the sources) in the expanse to give light (effect) on earth (verse 17). Commented Jan 13 at 4:12

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