Creation Story, Day 2: The Heavens

During the second day of Creation, according to the Genesis account in the Bible, God divided the waters and created the expanse—the heavens.

"God called the expanse Sky" with image of lake, island and rainbow

“God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ God made the expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse ‘sky.’ There was evening and there was morning, a second day.”

Genesis 1:6-8

Apparently, the formless earth was covered with liquid water already, as a few verses earlier it says: “Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.” (verse 2)

(By the way, the Hebrew word we translate God here is Elohim, in case you were wondering.)

It appears this was the time when God separated water vapor from the liquid water. And most likely created the other vapors that make up earth’s atmosphere that are necessary for life.

Turns out this is the only place in the universe (that we know of so far) that has plenty of water, and that has water vapor as well as liquid and solid water.

Why Water is So Special

Because it’s part of our everyday lives, most of us take water for granted (especially where I live: The Land of 10,000 Lakes—Minnesota!). But water is very, very special.

woman stands next to foaming river rapids
Water can be extremely calm or extremely active!

According to the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), its most unique property is that its solid form (ice) floats in its liquid form (water).

Because that’s so much a part of our everyday lives, we don’t give that a second thought. But “water is almost the only substance in the universe for which the solid floats in the liquid!” (AGI)

Why is that important? Because when ice stays at the top of a lake, the water below is insulated from the cold so the living creatures in that water can survive the winters. It’s genius!

Here are a few other things that make water special:

  • The heat capacity (how much heat is needed to change the temperature) of water is more than twice the heat capacity of minerals and rocks. This helps keep temperatures on Earth more even, both daily and seasonally.
  • Water is the best known solvent. More subtances can dissolve in water than in any other liquid.
  • Water has a high surface tension, which is how some insects can walk on it and why plants can pull it up from their roots into their stem system.
leaves float on a calm river
This river’s surface tension allows these leaves to float

Why Our Atmosphere is Special

When God separated the waters and made the expanse, or heavens, that’s likely the time all the gases in our atmosphere were brought into their ratios.

NASA has a great page explaining Earth’s atmosphere for kids—which means we normal people can understand it, too 🙂

Our atmosphere (sky) has six distinct layers, each layer with its own function:

  • Troposphere—”The air here is 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. The last 1% is made of argon, water vapor, and carbon dioxide.” It’s the closest layer to Earth. It’s where our weather happens.
  • Stratosphere—Where the ozone layer is, that absorbs most of the sun’s UV rays. “Life as we know it wouldn’t be possible without this layer of protection.”
  • Mesosphere—This is the layer that burns up meteors that come into our atmosphere before the majority of them can hit the surface. The “shooting stars” we see at night.
  • Thermosphere—Much thicker (not denser, but over 300 miles thick) than the inner three layers, this is the layer where satellites and the International Space Station orbit our earth.
  • Ionosphere—This layer is “a very active part of the atmosphere, and it grows and shrinks depending on the energy it absorbs from the sun.” It’s where the auroras happen—the Northern and Southern Lights.
  • Exosphere—This very outer layer is over 6,000 miles thick! It separates the rest of the layers from outer space with a loose mixture of hydrogen and helium.
towering clouds reflect the sun's light over a lake
God didn’t have to make the sky beautiful—but He did! These clouds are water in gas form.

I think we can safely say we need all these layers in order for Earth to support life.

Compare that to the other planets in our solar system:

  • Mars‘ atmosphere is thin and made up of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and argon. (NASA)
  • Venus has a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide with clouds of sulfuric acid. This inhospitable planet is so hot that metals would turn to puddles. (NASA)
  • Mercury‘s very thin atmosphere is mostly sodium, magnesium and calcium. (
  • Jupiter is one of the gas giants and has a thick atmosphere made up of mostly hydrogen and helium. (NASA)
  • Saturn is the other gas giant. Like Jupiter, it’s mostly hydrogen and helium. (NASA)
  • Uranus is called an ice giant—similar to the gas giants but colder. It’s atmosphere is hydrogen, helium and methane. (NASA)
  • Neptune, the last planet in our system, is another ice giant. Its atmosphere is mainly hydrogen, helium and methane. It’s the methane that produces the beautiful blue color of both Neptune and Uranus (where Earth’s blue color is its surface water). (NASA)

What We Have So Far

By the end of Day 2, when God (Elohim) called it good, we had light and darkness, night and day, water and sky.

What we didn’t have yet was the sun to rise and set, the moon or any other planet in our solar system—nothing else in space. And nothing living on the earth.

In fact, it appears there wasn’t solid ground yet. It seems the earth was liquid water on the surface and gases in the atmosphere.

A blaze orange sunset over a tree-lined lake
Isn’t it amazing how we experience tranquility, joy and wonder when gazing on the skies and water like this?

What the Bible Says about Water and the Heavens

Water and the heavens are both very popular biblical themes. Here are some of my favorite references to them:

Bible References to Water

“He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water, that produces its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither. Whatever he does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:3

“I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and streams on the dry ground. I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” Isaiah 44:3

“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ ” (John 4:10)

“He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2)

Bible References to the Heavens

“The heavens declare the glory of God. The expanse shows His handiwork. Day after day they pour out speech, and night after night they display knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

“You are Yahweh, even You alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their army, the earth and all things that are on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The army of heaven worships You.” Nehemiah 9:6

“He said with a loud voice, ‘Fear the Lord, and give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment has come. Worship Him who made the heaven, the earth, the sea and the springs of waters!’ “ Revelation 14:7

unique clouds are reflected on a lake's surface, with a tree-lined shore
One of nature’s glories: beauty in the sky reflected on the water

There are plenty more—maybe you can do a study on this some day!

(All scriptures from World English Bible, public domain.)

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