Ancient Hebrew Conception of the Universe and Flat Earth Biblical Belief

Rakia - Ancient Hebrew Conception of the Universe

The Flat-Earth Belief of Bible Writers

by Adrian Swindler

All Christian sects recognize the Bible as the primary source of revelation. This compiled material was allegedly inspired by God and written by chosen authors to reveal him and his will to man. The Bible, then, is the foundation of the Christian religion. To Christian fundamentalists who believe in verbal inspiration, the Bible is an infallible foundation. They claim that “the Holy Spirit so dominated and guided the minds and pens of those who wrote (the Bible) as to make their writings free from mistakes of any and all kinds, whether it be mistakes of history or chronology or botany or biology or astronomy, or mistakes as to moral and spiritual truth pertaining to God or man, in time or eternity,” (Wilbur F. Tillett, “The Divine Elements in the Bible,” The Abingdon Bible Commentary).

Despite the obvious sincerity of those who so view the Bible, the inerrancy doctrine has no basis in fact. That the Bible contains mistakes in every area mentioned by Mr. Till is a truth widely recognized by reputable Bible scholars. One of the most consistent scientific errors that Bible writers made concerned their misconception of the earthʼs shape. In Psalm 24:2, for example, it was said that “the world and all that is in it belong to the Lord; the earth and all who live on it are his. He built it on the deep waters beneath the earth and laid its foundations in the ocean depths,” (GNB).

This passage and others like it in the Bible make no sense until they are interpreted in terms of the ancient Hebrew conception of the world as represented in the graphic illustrations on the following page that were published in the New American Bible and The Interpreterʼs Dictionary of the Bible. (Similar ones appear in other Bible dictionaries.) If you will study the graphics and then read the above quotation again, the psalmistʼs meaning will become quite clear. He thought the earth rested on foundations or pillars that God had set in the ocean depths. Needless to say, modern science knows better.

Here are just a few of the many other passages that prove Bible writers were ignorant of Earthʼs spherical shape:
Daniel 4:7-8, “I saw a tree of great height at the center of the world. It was large and strong, with its top touching the heavens, and it could be seen from the ends of the earth.” This was allegedly an inspired dream, yet it conveys a flat-earth concept, because no matter how tall a tree would be, people on the other side of a spherical earth could not see it.

Matthew 4:8, “The devil took him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and displayed before him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence….” The only plausible reason for the “very high mountain” was that the altitude would make it possible to see to the ends of the earth. Only on a flat earth would this be remotely possible, so the New Testament writers were as ignorant as the Old.

In Genesis 11:4, the people wanted to build a tower up to heaven. If you look at the graphics above, you can see their concept of heavenly bodies under the dome, not all that far away. Presumably, the Lord was afraid they would be able to accomplish their plan, so he caused them to speak various languages. This, of course, is not the reason people speak different languages, but nothing is too fantastic for the ignorant to believe.

The following references show that Bible writers thought there was water above a solid dome with floodgates (look at the graphics again) that could be opened to make it rain:

Job 38:22, “Have you entered the storehouse of the snow, and seen the treasury of the hail?” Look at items two and three in the graphic from the Interpreterʼs Dictionary, and the intended meaning of this statement becomes very clear.

Psalm 104:3, 13, “You stretch the heavens out like a tent, you build your palace on the waters above… You water the mountains from your palace.” Here God dwells in a palace above the waters over the firmament or dome. To water the mountains, he opens the floodgates. Quite unscientific!

Genesis 1:6-7, “Let there be a dome to divide the water and to keep it in two separate places… and it was done. So God made a dome, and it separated the water under it from the water above it.” So the NAB and The Interpreterʼs Dictionary of the Bible are quite correct in their graphic representations of what the Bible writers believed and taught. How many of you readers believe the earth is flat? The Bible teaches it is!

Christian fundamentalists have used various scriptures to try to prove that Bible writers knew the earth was round. Since I have already shown that these writers thought the earth is flat, if some verses actually do teach that it is round, then there is a contradiction in the Bible and the fundamentalists lose anyway.

Job 38:13-14 is sometimes quoted as a round-earth text: “Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.” Claim is made that the statement about the earth “turn(ing) as clay to the seal” was a reference to the earthʼs rotation, but this passage has nothing to do with movement. The word used was haphak, which meant “to convert, to change, or to make clear.” It is the same word that was used in Exodus 7 in reference to Aaronʼs rod turning into a serpent and the waters of Egypt turning to blood, so rather than the word meaning turning in the sense of movement, it meant turning in the sense of changing. The GNB clarifies the meaning in Job 38:14: “Daylight makes the hills and valleys stand out like the folds of a garment, clear as the imprint of a seal on clay.” So, far from teaching the revolution of the earth, this was merely a reference to the effects of sunlight in the morning. Notice also that the KJV refers here to “the ends of earth.” This would indicate a flat earth, since there are no ends to a globe.

Job 26:7 has also been cited as proof that the writer of this book knew that the earth was a sphere: “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place and hangeth the earth upon nothing.” An NAB footnote at this verse says, “The North: used here as a synonym for the firmament, cf. Is. 14:13,” (emphasis inserted). Thus, we read, “He stretches out the dome (firmament) over the empty space.” In other words, the dome was unsupported in the middle. The reference in Isaiah 14:13 says, “You (King of Babylon) were determined to climb up to heaven and place your throne above the highest stars (see the graphics). You thought you would sit like a king on that mountain in the north where the gods assemble.” The “north” was indeed used as a synonym for the heavens or firmament, so the passage was actually speaking of a “mountain in the heavens where the gods assemble.”

“He… hangeth the earth upon nothing” simply expressed a Hebrew belief that the flat earth, although supported by pillars, did not rest on the back of Atlas or a turtle or an elephant, as their pagan neighbors believed. In this Job was right but not because he was inspired; otherwise, he wouldnʼt have said in the same context, “The pillars of the heavens tremble (see the graphics) and are stunned at his thunderous rebuke,” (26:11). He thought the thunder was Godʼs voice!

Fundamentalists use Isaiah 40:22 to argue that Earthʼs rotundity was known to the writer: “It is he (God) that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” They misunderstand the first half of the verse, which is clarified by the placement of “Godʼs throne” in the NAB graphic, and they avoid the second half. The NAB gives us a proper translation of the verse: “He sits enthroned above the vault (dome) of the earth…. He stretches out the heavens like a veil, spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.” See the graphic illustrations again and check the Hebrew concept of firmament as explained in Eerdmans and other reliable Bible dictionaries.

The Hebrews were inspired by nothing more than their political and religious motivations. Thus, being ignorant of scientific facts, they thought the earth was flat, that sick people were possessed by demons, and that essentially everything was caused by either gods or demons. Unfortunately, many people are still just as ignorant.
Article written by Adrian Swindler.


  1. Believing in God isn't necessarily being ignorant. I believe in God but also science, for example, I believe that God made things like the Big Bang theory happen. If you think that everyone who believes in God is ignorant, you are calling over 84% of our population ignorant. Geniuses like Einstein believed in God.

    1. That is Adrian's article, not mine. I am agnostic. Though I do question the idea of inspired writings and that particular religious beliefs and/or practices are required for salvation.

  2. Where would a flat earth idea come from? During the time of the kings of Judah, the Greeks were already talking about a spherical earth. Pythagoras, who lived in the 6th century BCE had already postulated that the earth was a sphere. Eratosthenes (276 – 194 BCE) measured the size of the earth with remarkable accuracy as a spheroid shape. So what happened?
    The church happened. Looking at the ideas in the bible with a closed and anti-sectarian mind leads man to believe that the earth is flat. That the heavenly bodies move around the earth, and that’s all there is to it.
    First, turn to Isaiah 40:21-23 and see the earth from a new perspective. The world “circle” is used. This word in the Hebrew is described as a noun meaning “circle” or “horizon.”
    The early Catholic Church would see the word “circle” and read it as a flat disk, something which has a definite edge, like a saucer or dish. In our modern thinking, it’s easier to understand this bit of figurative language. This text is written from the perspective of God, sitting high above the earth, looking down upon it. Most of us have seen pictures of the earth from high above. Does the ISS see the entire globe, or only one side of it? A “circle” of earth, whom is so large that the people who dwell on it are miniaturized.
    Looking from the view of man, though, we can investigate the two meanings of this word in tandem. The horizon, as man sees it is circular. Why? Because of the spherical shape of the earth. The bible was accurate in describing the physical view from all perspectives.
    We do have to keep the context in perspective as well. This is a figurative verse in which Isaiah is trying to describe how God watches over the entire universe from His position of all-knowing and all-powerful. Isaiah is using language, inspired by God that the readers could understand. As can we in interpreting the meaning in its context.
    Next, we’ll look into the oldest book of the bible, Job 26:1-14. This is a beautifully written book with language intended for a different era.
    Here we can look into the understanding of an ancient Hebrew in a time before the Law of Moses. Job is the man speaking to his three friends who are trying to get him to repent for the wickedness they believe, wrongly, he had done. I include the entire passage to illustrate the language here. He is, as Isaiah had done, using language which is figurative so that he can understand what’s happening in the world around him, such as in verse 7, the earth is not hung, even if it is on nothing, but this is a way for Job to understand that the earth is not riding on the back of a turtle, or on the shoulders of Atlas. Verse 10 is our verse of interest for discussion. Again we have a “circle” This is a verb variation of the same noun we see in Isaiah meaning “to encircle”, but what is God encircling according to Job? He’s encircling light and dark. A flat earth would need no boundary like this. A flat earth would be either light or dark at any time, and this wouldn’t make sense. Even in the theory were the earth sits inside of a dome, or vault would not fit this idea. It only fits within a construct of a spherical earth. When she sun shines upon the earth, there is a point, on the earth’s surface, where the light can no longer reach due to the curvature. This creates a circle of termination of light on the earth’s surface. The boundary between light and darkness is what God has created, and its two-dimensional nature is supportive of a three-dimensional earth-sphere. Job had, albeit rudimentary but, some understanding of the shape of the earth being spherical.
    The flat earth theory is not one which was from ancient times which, as man learned more he disproved. The opposite was the case. From an ancient day, man had some understanding that the earth was a round sphere and not a flat disk. It wasn’t until the Catholic Church’s stubbornness to give any credit to science that this information was lost, then misinterpreted through a church doctrine designed to keep the masses in subjection.

    1. Hi Mr Byers, You are trying to understand the Bible's cosmology simply by bending words to say what you want them to mean instead of first studying the ancient use of such concepts. Take for instance this passage from a Mesopotamian hymn of creation that stands out among Mesopotamian literature in a way similar to how Job 26:7 stands out among Israelite literature. It’s “The Samas Hymn,” and it states, “You (Samas, the sun god) climb to the mountains surveying the earth. You suspend from the heavens the circle of the lands [the earth]” [W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960), ll. 21–22]. Just as in the case of ancient Mesopotamian literature there is nothing in Job about the shape of the earth, nor is there anything in Job about the earth’s position relative to an object in, say, outer space, nor is there anything in Job about the earth moving. There is nothing that suggests Job is speaking of a spherical earth hung in outer space. See here for more info:

      There are Christian Old Testament scholars like John Walton who point out the need to study Genesis 1 with ancient eyes and in its original historical and cultural and context:

      Video series by Wheaton College OT professor John Walton, "Genesis Through Ancient Eyes"

      Walton's website:

      Walton's new work, Genesis 1 and Ancient cosmology

      Michael S. Heiser, a scholar in the fields of biblical studies and the ancient Near East, who is also Academic Editor of Logos Bible Software: "Interpreting Genesis 1, Who's the Literalist Now?" (the article includes a link to a video on the topic)

      "Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography in the Bible" Research Paper:

      Series on the same topic

      "Biblical Creation and Storytelling: Cosmogony, Combat and Covenant" (an article that demonstrates that not all the creation stories in the Bible are found in its opening chapters, and some of those stories, found in the Psalms, Job, etc. could be as old or older than the final versions of the creation stories that were placed at the start of Genesis 1, and these other stories involve the ANE motif of "creation via combat").

    2. Nor did the world convert overnight starting in 6 BCE from the view of the cosmos as flat with the earth as its foundation, to a spherical earth. In fact even the spherical views of the earth held by church fathers raised in a Hellenistic culture brought with it questions such as how people could live "upside down" and rain fall "up" on the opposite side of a spherical earth. Also, the words of Scripture including the NT assumed a flat cosmos, as did the Book of Enoch which remained popular in first-century Palestine.

      "All of the available evidence demonstrates that the earth’s surface was thought to be basically circular in shape. The geographic terms translated, ‘circle of the earth,’ ‘circle of the lands,’ ‘circle of the four corners,’ ‘circle of the four winds,’ and ‘circle of the four (regions),’ if understood literally, demonstrate that the earth’s surface was a circle, with nagu radiating from the outer circle. Similarly, the author of the Babylonian Map of the World drew the level of the earth’s surface as two concentric circles…” p. 349 of MESOPOTAMIAN COSMIC GEOGRAPHY

      According to some ancient Mesopotamian writings, at least one region of the flat earth’s surface lay in perpetual darkness. So the ancients believed that even a flat earth could have darkness and light on it at the same time. Moreover, the sun was believed to be relatively small in a flat-earth cosmos and only sailing directly above one part of the earth at a time, so even flat-earthers would not have expected every region of the earth to be lit with light at the same time. The Bible even states in the story of Joshua that he commanded the sun and moon to halt over specific regions, “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, over the valley of Aijalon” (Joshua 10:12). When the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras dared to suggest that the sun was far larger than the Peloponnesos (the southern peninsula of Greece) he startled his contemporaries. The Israelites likewise regarded the sun, moon, and ‘the stars also,’ as mere satellites of the earth, "made" after the earth and "set" in the firmament as lanterns for the human race.

      Isaiah 40:22 states, “It is he that sitteth upon the circle (Hebrew, chug) of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” Because this passage mentions “the circle of the earth,” some people try to see in it a reference to a spherical earth. But the context of the verse has nothing in it stating sphericity, only “tent-icity,” since God “sits upon the circle” and spreads heaven out like a “tent to dwell in.” The Hebrew word chug has a primary meaning of “circle” and no lexicon of ancient Hebrew offers “sphere” as a meaning for chug. Moreover, see the previous section on Mesopotamian cosmology for references to “circle of the earth,” and other phrases they employed with “circle” in them to depict the earth, including the Babylonian map of the world that depicts the limits of the flat earth’s surface as two concentric circles. Therefore, the phrase, “circle of the earth” is not unique at all and was already in use by flat-earth-believing Mesopotamians long before the book of Isaiah was written. Elsewhere in Isaiah, the most the author says of the earth is that God “spread it out” (literally pounded or flattened it out) at creation (Isaiah 42:5 and 44:24). So there does not appear to be a single verse in the Bible that depicts the earth as a sphere. See

  3. Logically complete cosmological concept. /due to lack of knowledge of the English language was not able to correct the translation Implemented by Google/
    In order to present the unlimited space originally Elementary:
    1. variety (homogeneous) сompleted - enough to postulate the presence in it of two elements with SIMPLE and COMPLEX /closed systematically manifested the essence/
    2. heterogeneous completed - enough to postulate the presence in it of one more element - the Most High and Almighty God - with open exhibited systemic nature.
    Not hard to imagine that even at the lowest possible deployment intangible components the nature of God - the Spirit of God - for the level of the original downwardly directed continuous deployment the material component of the essence of God, there is a curtailment of SIMPLE and COMPLEX /i.e.. their decay occurs due to blocking of origin upwardly directed constantly deploy components of their intangible essences/, as the maximum possible heterogeneous nature of God to the minimum possible number of cell uniformity (№1h) and God on the basis of the material components of the minimum possible №1 deploys heterogeneous to its essence as possible numerical element uniformity (№2H). The process of clotting №2H begins at a certain point in time God begins at the end of its deployment. Curtailment of the Spirit of God to the level of initial deployment again unfolds №1H - God's potential for transformation into a №1H in №2H and №1H in №2H limitless!