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By: David Deschesne
Editor/Publisher, Fort Fairfield Journal, May 6, 2009
The word we know as “Heaven” comes from the Hebrew,שׁמים (shamayim). Shamayim appears to be a compound word comprised of שׁמ (sham, “there”) and מים (mayim, “waters”). Interestingly enough, mayim is comprised of the letter ’mem’ (מ), which in Hebrew, ‘ma,’ means water, and the “im” (ים) suffix that makes Hebrew words plural - “waters.” Shamayim, therefore, can loosely mean "the waters are there" or “there the waters are.”
Heaven appears 577 times in the KJV Bible. In nearly all cases it is translated either fromשׁמים (shamayim) or from the Greek ούρανός (ouranos).1 In the majority of its usage in both languages, heaven is defined as “sky,” “expanse,” or simply “the universe.”
On the first day of creation, the ruach (the wind, breath or Spirit of God) swept over the surface of the waters, then light was created. On the second day of creation, God created the raqîa (KJV, “expanse”) and used it to separate the waters that were below it from the waters that were above it.2
The usage of shamayim falls into two broad categories, 1.) the physical heavens, and 2.) the heavens as the abode of God. Under the first category, heaven includes all that is above the earth, and any given passage may include all or merely a constitute universe. Heaven is, secondly, the abode of God, and it is from there that the heavens are infinitely high above the Earth, so are God's thoughts and ways infinitely above man's ability to comprehend.3
In Dr. D. Russell Humphreys’ book, Starlight and Time he theorized the universe started as a sphere of water approximately two trillion light years in diameter with what is now the Earth somewhere near the center. The sphere of water behaved as a “white hole” (opposite a black hole). As the Lord's spirit swept over the surface of the deep waters, it began to expand causing its gravitational field to change. Humphrey theorizes this expanding “white hole” caused a form of gravitational time dilation where a day on earth (Earth Standard Time) inside the white hole would have been equal to millions or billions of years zipping by in deep space (Starlight Standard Time) outside the white hole’s event horizon during the same period. He uses this theory to explain a relatively young Earth within a really old universe.4
Humphreys goes on to theorize the expanse - or shamayim - that separates the waters that are below it (the Earth and its water) from the water that is above it (the outer shell from the original sphere of water at the beginning of the universe) is what we perceive as the sky, our atmosphere and further out, the entire universe.
Water is a very important element in Creation. It makes up approximately 70 percent of the Earth's surface; on average, 70 percent of a human body is water; and the word water makes up around 70 percent of the word shamayim. In Biblical typology, the number 7 stands for spiritual perfection, the number 10 stands for fullness of law and responsibility and the number 70 (7 x 10) stands for restoration of all things.
Water is truly an integral part of all creation and it isn’t surprising that it is the word used to describe Heaven and the Heavens; where all humans saved from their sin will spend an eternity with their Creator.
1. Ref. Strong’s Hebrew words #8064, #8065; Greek words #3772, 3321
2. see commentary on raqîa, Fort Fairfield Journal, March 25, 2009, p. 9
3. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 2 ©1980 Moody Bible Institute, p. 935
4. Starlight and Time, Dr. D. Russell Humphreys, ©1994 Master Books, Inc.