Chapter 8: the second day; the clearing of the lower atmosphere.
Gen 1:6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
This “day 2” view shown to Moses was of huge waves on the one global sea but with much better atmospheric visibility. The obvious change in the state of Earth, as witnessed by Moses, was that the low-level cloud cover had lifted. Moses could now see overhead and all the way to the horizon where the seawater appeared to be connected to the waters above (dense cloud cover). The low-level fog had lifted. It is not reasonable to think Moses could have seen anything beyond the waters in the sky. Where did Moses stand during the presentation? He stood on solid ground (Mt. Sinai or the surrounding desert) and simply saw a replay of creation events.
8.1 The second command is given.
Again, we see the “Let there be” expression suggesting that this change in visibility was to exist. Billions of years after God commanded (God the CEO) that this change was to be allowed, he showed the change to Moses in a replay.
Note that God did not say that the new atmosphere was good; although it was transitioning into something good, it would not be “good” until “day 4.” It was not yet complete.
This, the second day of creation, is about ongoing changes in the atmosphere that had begun after first sunlight. The ongoing changes have now cleared the dense fog from the low-level atmosphere. The change had become visible from an earthly perspective. Moses was shown (and so witnessed) this changed state of the atmosphere and then he described it in writing, but within the limitations of his language.
8.2 Location of the “firmament” or expanse.
The firmament (expanse), later called Heaven in Genesis 1:8, is clearly about changes in Earth’s atmosphere. It is about the low-level fog lifting. The divided waters were the seawater and atmospheric water. We know that the firmament (Heaven) was above ground level because of Genesis 1:9 (below). Then, Genesis 1:10 (below), clearly states that the waters under the firmament are seas. The firmament, or expanse, is the clear low-level atmosphere. The upper limit of visibility in the atmosphere had become high-level cloud cover or densely overcast sky. The overcast sky was the water above the firmament, yet substantially more of Heaven had become visible from Earth.
Anyone who has been at sea or on a beach and watched an approaching thunderstorm can appreciate why the dense cloud cover was called water above the firmament. Such a storm looks exactly like a sea of water or even a sky-high wave approaching and is indistinguishable from the water in the sea. Clouds are in fact, liquid water. The language of that ancient time did not have descriptive words and expressions that are now in common use. It is clear what Moses was describing but in ancient, less technical wording. The low-level atmosphere had been an extremely foggy low-level body of water, in cloud form. However, in this, the second scene, the low-level fog had lifted and there was an obvious sea of water in the sky.
There was no oxygen in the early atmosphere and other gases, including water vapor, were still very dense. Moses was not experiencing the actual deadly atmosphere since he only saw a replay of past events. This is still “day 2” but even later, during “day 3,” the appearance of the sky was still unlike any ever seen by Moses.
8.3 Events that have lifted the fog.
The fog lifted above the sea because the Earth System had become more stable. Boiling due to dropping pressure at the sea’s surface had ended and evaporation was all that was occurring. Earth was cooler and Earth’s rate of cooling had declined. Although atmospheric pressure was still very high, the rate of atmospheric pressure drop had declined. There were increasing quantities of heavy dry gas compounds in the atmosphere from volcanic activity.
Water vapor (a gas) is one of the lightest known gases and exists at the highest elevations in the atmosphere. Cloud cover (water droplets) formed and existed only at modest atmospheric elevations. The sky was overcast. Please see Figure 2b, which shows in a simple fashion the state of the atmosphere spoken of in Genesis 1:6.
Gen 1:7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
Gen 1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
Timing is everything where life is concerned! Although it may seem trivial or it may have been taken for granted, the creation of the atmosphere involved many factors making it unique to Earth. Had atmospheric events occurred differently, life as it exists on Earth may never have developed. The balance of pressures, percentage of gases, and the temperature of Earth, were all in delicate and fragile balance. The creation of the atmosphere and the manner in which it evolved was critical to all life to come.
Moreover, given that the creation story is primarily about things important to people, why would the creation story exclude the air that we breathe? Clearly, in rank of importance to people, air or atmosphere is most important. Air is more immediately important than water, food, and the land that we stand on. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was not yet entirely complete in “day 2’s” scene. “Day 2” was only a milestone in the atmosphere’s development.
Note: there is still perfect agreement between science and the biblical creation story. After first sunlight, it is completely reasonable to expect the lifting of the cloud cover as described in the creation story.