BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia):      וַיִּקְרָ֧א אֱלֹהִ֛ים לָֽרָקִ֖יעַ שָׁמָ֑יִם

ESV (English Standard Version): And God called the expanse Heaven.

NLT (New Living Translation): God called the space “sky.”

שָׁמַיִם (šāmayim), heaven, sky, firmament, air (#9028).[1]

רָקִיעַ m. Gen. 1:6, 7, 8; Psalm 19:2; fully רְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם Gen. 1:14, 15, 17, 20, etc. the firmament of heaven, spread out like a hemisphere above the earth (from the root רָקַע), like a splendid and pellucid sapphire (Ex. 24:10, compare Dan. 12:3), to which the stars were supposed to be fixed, and over which the Hebrews believed there was a heavenly ocean (Gen. 1:7; 7:11; Ps. 104:3; 148:4; compare, however, Gen. 2:6). LXX. στερέωμα. Vulg. firmamentum. Luth. Befte.[2]

רָקִיעַ S7549 TWOT2217a GK8385 n.m. Gn 1:6 extended surface, (solid) expanse (as if beaten out; cf. Jb 37:18);—abs. ר׳ Ez 1:22 +, cstr. רְ׳ Gn 1:14 +;— στερέωμα, � firmamentum, cf. Syriac sub √ supr.;—1. (flat) expanse (as if of ice, cf. כְּעֵין הַקֶרַח), as base, support (WklAltor. Forsch. iv. 347) Ez 1:22, 23, 25 (gloss? cf. Co Toy), v 26 (supporting י׳’sthrone) 10:1. Hence (Co Ez 1:22) 2. the vault of heaven, or ‘firmament,’ regarded by Hebrews as solid, and supporting ‘waters’ above it, Gn 1:6, 73), 8 (called שָׁמַיִם; all P), ψ 19:2 (|| הַשָּׁמַיִם), זֹהַר הָר׳ Dn 12:3; also הַשָּׁמַיִם ר׳ Gn 1:14, 15, 17, עַל־פְּנֵי ר׳ הַשּׁ׳ v 20 (all P).*[3]

רָקִיעַ: רקע, Bauer-L. Heb. 470n; SamP. arqi; MHeb. DSS (Kuhn Konkordanz 208), Sam., JArm., Syr., Mnd. rqiha sky, firmament (Drower-M. Dictionary 437b): cs. רְקִיעַ: the beaten metal plate, or bow; firmament, the firm vault of heaven: Sept. στερέωμα, Vulg. firmamentum; by רָקִיעַ was understood the gigantic heavenly dome which was the source of the light that brooded over the heavenly ocean and of which the dome arched above the earthly globe (see von Rad TWNT 5:501); for bibliography see further Eichrodt Theol. 2/3:57, 130; Westermann BK 1/1:162f; Zimmerli Ezechiel 55; O. Keel Jahwe-Visionen und Siegelkunst 250-255; Reicke-R. Hw. 719.

—1. a. הָרָקִיעַ Gn 17f Ps 192 Ezk 123.25f 101 Da 123, רְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם Gn 114f.17.20, רְקִיעַ עֻזּוֹ his mighty firmament Ps 1501, רָקִיעַ Gn 16 Ezk 122, רקיע Sir 438; —b. רָ׳ following a prepositional phrase: עַל־פְּנֵי רְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם in front of, before, across the firmament of heaven Gn 120 ( *פָּנֶה D 7 b), cf. Westermann BK 1/1:190: beneath or upon the heavenly surface; similarly, Nielsen HUCA 43 (1972) 6.

—2. expressions: with הָיָה Gn 16, cf. 114f; with II הלל pi. (בִּרְקִיעַ עֻזּוֹ) Ps 1501; with I זהר hif. (בְּזֹהַר הָרָקִיעַ) Da 123; with נגד hif. (sbj. הָרָ׳) Ps 192; with נתן (בִּרְקִיעַ) Gn 120; with עָשָׂה (obj. הָרָ׳) Gn 17; with קָרָא (לָרָ׳) Gn 18. [4]


My BHS translation: God named the great expanse, heaven.


LXX (Septuagint): Καὶ ἐκάλεσεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸ στερέωμα οὐρανόν·

BETS (Brenton English translation Septuagint):  And God called the firmament Heaven

NETS (New English Translation Septuagint): And God called the firmament Sky

OSB (Orthodox Study Bible):  So God called the firmament Heaven

Only the NETS uses the idea of sky…


VUL (Latin Vulgate): vocavitque Deus firmamentum caelum

DRB (Douay Rheims Bible):  And God called the firmament, Heaven;

NAB: (New American Bible):  God called the dome “the sky.”

caelum (coe-), i, n., sky, heaven; in pl., caeli, orum, heaven[5]


English Translations with variant readings:

GW: God named what was above the horizon sky.

Whatever the title of the expanse is in the translation (dome, vault, firmament, horizon, expanse…) God names it either sky or heaven in all the translations I have.


Comments and commentaries:

Then called God to the expanse, heaven. This expanse is, then, the proper and original skies. We have here an interesting and instructive example of the way in which words expand in their significance from the near, the simple, the obvious, to the far and wide, the complex and the inferential. The heaven, in the first instance, meant the open space above the surface in which we breathe and move, in which the birds fly and the clouds float. This is the atmosphere. Then it stretches away into the seemingly boundless regions of space, in which the countless orbs of luminous and of opaque surfaces circumambulate. Then the heavens come to signify the contents of this indefinitely augmented expanse,—the celestial luminaries themselves. Then, by a still further enlargement of its meaning, we rise to the heaven of heavens, the inexpressibly grand and august presence-chamber of the Most High, where the cherubim and seraphim, the innumerable company of angels, the myriads of saints, move in their several grades and spheres, keeping the charge of their Maker, and realizing the joy of their being. This is the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2) to the conception of which the imaginative capacity of the human mind rises by an easy gradation. Having once attained to this majestic conception, man is so far prepared to conceive and compose that sublime sentence with which the book of God opens,—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”[6]

This is the first occurrence of the word Heaven since verse 1. The Hebrew word translated Heaven is always plural. It refers here to the place of the stars, sun, and moon (Gen 1:14–16), but it is also the place where birds fly (Gen 1:20). In 1 Kgs 8:30 it is also the place of God, and the place where God is enthroned (Isa 66:1). In English “sky” is not associated with the place of God but is the common term for the open space seen above the earth. Many languages have only one term for sky, “up,” while in others various terms are used according to the location; for example, of high flying birds of prey, of the heavenly bodies, or of the clouds. Examples of naming the firmament are “God gave the name ‘sky’ to the skin that stretches over the earth” and “God named the skin tent that covers the earth ‘sky.’ ”[7]

Day two (vv. 6–8). God put an expanse between the upper waters and the lower waters and made “heaven,” what we know as “the sky.” It seems that these waters were a vaporous “blanket” that covered the original creative mass. When separated from the landmass, the lower waters eventually became the ocean and the seas; and the upper waters played a part in the Flood during Noah’s day (Gen. 7:11–12; 9:11–15).

The word translated “firmament” (expanse) means “to beat out.” In Scripture, the sky is sometimes referred to as a dome or a covering; however, Scripture nowhere supports the pagan mythological notion that the sky is some kind of solid covering. The luminaries were set in this expanse (1:14–17) and that’s where the fowl flew (v. 20).[8]

1:8 For the third time God named his creation; here the expanse is termed šāmayim, “sky,” the same word rendered “heavens” in v. 1. The “expanse” is considered part of the “heavens,” and the two occur together in the description “the expanse of the sky” (1:15, 17, 20). The “heavens” are the skies visible to the human eye, whereas God’s abode is the heavens above, where his court convenes but cannot be seen.

The theological significance of God’s creation of the skies is the clarification that God alone rules the powers of the heavens.148 Divine rule of the skies was particularly important for Sumerian religion, which gave prominent place to the heavens in its pantheon of gods (cf. 1:14). It was Anu, the sky god, and Enlil, god of the atmosphere, who established and deposed the kings of the Sumerian city-states.149 Baal in the Ugaritic pantheon is identified as the “Rider of the Clouds.” He was the god of storm and rain (cf. 1 Kgs 18), but Israel’s faith declares that Yahweh is the source of heaven’s powers (Ps 68:4). The passage therefore asserts that the heavens and their celestial inhabitants are merely instruments to serve God and his earthly creatures; they are not autonomous authorities.[9]


CLV (Chuck Larsen Version): God named the great expanse, heaven.

CLV In the beginning God created heaven and earth but the earth was invisible and incomplete. And darkness covered the abyss. The spirit of God was brooding over the abyss’ darkness so God issued a decree that there should be light, and there was light. God saw the light and declared that the light was very good. Then God named the light “day” and he named the darkness “night.” And it was evening and it was morning: Day One! And God declared, “Let there be some solid border that will keep the waters above separated from the waters below.” And so it was. So God made the barrier, and he caused a separation between the waters which were under the barrier and between the waters which were over the barrier. That’s what happened. God named the great expanses heaven.

[1] Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 160.

[2] Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 780.

† prefixed, or added, or both, indicates ‘All passages cited.’

S Strong’s Concordance

TWOT Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.

GK Goodrick/Kohlenberger numbering system of the NIV Exhaustive Condordance.

  1. nomen, noun.
  2. masculine.
  3. confer, compare.

abs. absolute.

+ plus, denotes often that other passages, etc., might be cited. So also where the forms of verbs, nouns, and adjectives are illustrated by citations, near the beginning of articles; while ‘etc.’ in such connexions commonly indicates that other forms of the word occur, which it has not been thought worth while to cite.

cstr. construct.

+ plus, denotes often that other passages, etc., might be cited. So also where the forms of verbs, nouns, and adjectives are illustrated by citations, near the beginning of articles; while ‘etc.’ in such connexions commonly indicates that other forms of the word occur, which it has not been thought worth while to cite.

Greek version of the LXX.


  1. confer, compare.

√ root or stem.

supr. supra, above.

  1. confer, compare.

Wkl H. Winckler.

  1. confer, compare.

Co C. H. Cornill.

v verse.

Co C. H. Cornill.

×3 three times.

P Priests’ Code or Narrative.

|| parallel, of words (synonymous or contrasted); also of passages; sometimes = ‘see parallel,’ or ‘see also parallel.’

v verse.

P Priests’ Code or Narrative.

[3] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 956.

DSS Dead Sea Scrolls; → Dam.; DJD; Kuhn Konkordanz

Sam. Samaritan Pentateuch; → HAL Foreword; Würthwein Text 47ff (fourth ed.); Murtonen Vocab.; Ben-Hayyim

JArm. Jewish Aramaic; JArm.b Jewish Aramaic of the Babylonian tradition; JArm.g ~ Galilean tradition; JArm.t ~ Targumic tradition; → HAL Introduction; Kutscher Fschr. Baumgartner 158ff

Syr. Syriac

Mnd. Mandaean

Sept. Septuagint; → Swete Septuagint, Göttingen Edition 1936ff; Rahlfs Sept.; Brooke-M. OT in Greek; SeptA → BHS Prolegomena p. iv; Würthwein Text 75f (fourth ed.); SeptRa → Rahlfs Septuaginta

Vulg. Vulgata; Biblia Sacra Iuxta Latinam Vulgatam Versionem, ed. R. Weber, Stuttgart 1969; Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam Clemintinam, Rome 1956

TWNT Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, 1–9, Stuttgart, 1933–

BK Biblischer Kommentar, Neukirchen

see further

* hypothetical form

D second (doubled) verbal theme of Akkadian and Ugaritic (cf. Heb. pi‘el)

  1. confer, comparable with

BK Biblischer Kommentar, Neukirchen

HUCA Hebrew Union College Annual, Cincinnati

  1. confer, comparable with

hif. hifʿil

hif. hifʿil

every Biblical reference quoted

[4] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 1290.

  1. neuter
  2. plural

[5] J. M. Harden, Dictionary of the Vulgate New Testament (London; New York: Society of Promoting Christian Knowledge; The Macmillan Co., 1921), 15.

[6] James G. Murphy, Notes on the Old Testament: Genesis (Boston: Estes and Lauriate, 1873), 48.

[7] William David Reyburn and Euan McG. Fry, A Handbook on Genesis, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1998), 38.

[8] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Basic, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub., 1998), 26.

148 See Barth, God with Us, 16–17.

149 W. von Soden, The Ancient Orient: An Introduction to the Study of the Ancient Near East, trans. D. G. Schley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 176.

[9] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 150–151.