In the beginning, God created the shamayim and the earth. This word, shamayim, appears in the first verse of the Scriptures and has much more richness, depth, and significance than we can appreciate in any language other than Hebrew.
There are profound concepts in the creation narrative. Concepts that, even with an understanding of the Hebrew language, are difficult to conceptualize with our limited human minds To begin with, we must note the plural nature of this word. The sound “im” at the end of shamayim is the cause of the translator’s decision to translate this word as heavens, instead of heaven (singular). This has important implications, for as we read the scriptures in context we understand that there is more than one heaven. There are at least:
1 Kings 8:27 tells us about, “the heaven of heavens,” and in 2 Corinthians 12, Shaul (Paul) mentions having met someone who was taken up to the “third heaven.” These provide evidence for a plurality of heavens. Another interesting point has to do with the connection between “the heavens” and “the waters.” In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and immediately afterwards the Word tells us that Elohim’s Ruach “moved over the face of the waters.”
- the heaven where the birds fly,
- a higher heaven where the stars are, and
- a heaven where the angels and the Almighty dwell.
An inquisitive reader will then wonder when did the Creator created the waters – since, there is no indication between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 that water had been created.This is the reason we cannot establish a certain doctrine or a new theology unless we analyze the scriptures in their original language. This is why I’m passionate about Hebrew! The word water in Hebrew, just like the word heaven, occurs, naturally, in the plural form: waters is pronounced mayim and, if you’ve been paying attention, you will notice that this word, mayim, is part of the word shamayim: heavens! That’s right. The “waters” (mayim) were created in Genesis 1:1, when the Creator created the “heavens” (shamayim). Armed with this knowledge, the sixth verse of Genesis 1 now makes sense to the reader. Elohim “separated the waters from the waters” when he creates the “expanse” of the heavens, or the “firmament.”