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Bible Lexicons

Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament


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The Hebrew word rakia (רקיע ) stands for firmament, i.e. the space in which the stars are set (Genesis 1:7-8). Our interpretation of the word is derived from the Greek στερέωμα, through the Latin firmamentum. It means that which is fixed and steadfast, rather than that which is solid. The word once occurs in the N.T., namely, in Colossians 2:5, 'The steadfastness (στερέωμα) of your faith in Christ;' and other forms of the root are used in the same way. The application of this word to the heavenly bodies is simple and beautiful; they are not fickle and uncertain in their movements, but are regulated by a law which they cannot pass over. ' by the word of the Lord were the heavens made (ἐστερεώθησαν), and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth' (Psalms 33:6). 'I have made the earth, and created man up on it: I, even my hands, have stretched out (ἐστερέωσα) the heavens, and all their host have I commanded' (Isaiah 45:12). 'Mine h and also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right h and hath spanned (ἐστερέωσε) the heavens' (Isaiah 48:13).

The Hebrew word is derived from rake, to spread out. this verb is found in Job 37:18, 'Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking-glass?' Psalms 136:6, 'To him that stretched out the earth above (or over) the waters;' Isaiah 42:5, 'He that spread forth the earth;' 44:24, 'That spreadeth abroad the earth by myself.'

The firmament, then, is that which is spread or stretched out - hence an expanse; and this is the rendering received by many at the present time. Perhaps, guided partly by this usage of the Hebrew word, and partly by the rendering of the LXX, we may attach two ideas to the term, namely, extension and fixity, or (to combine them in one) fixed space. The interplanetary spaces are measured out by God, and, though the stars are ever moving, they generally preserve fixed relative positions; their movements are not erratic, not in straight lines, but in orbits, and thus, though ever changing, they are always the same.

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Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Firmament'. Synonyms of the Old Testament.
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