“Then God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’” (Genesis 1:6)
On the second day of creation God begins His work on the earth. The water covered the entire earth (verse 9). The Almighty One now separates it into two sections. Between the two He creates an expanse.
There has been much speculation on what is contained within the expanse. There are two options. The first is that the expanse includes “heaven” (verse 8 ), meaning all of created existence is surrounded by a water-layer. The second is that “heaven” only refers to the atmosphere. Due to verse 14 we know that the lights God creates are created in the “heavens”. The word for “heaven” and “heavens” are the same word. The word means visibly up or lofty. That is pretty much it.
What can we conclude then? We can conclude several things. First, in writing this God was not terribly concerned about telling us exactly where the water was compared to where the sun, moon, stars were.
Second, God would have been explaining basically unimportant information to Moses if He explained about the atmosphere, the sun, the planets, the stars and solar systems. This has very little bearing on God’s point – His own glorification through the revelation, at this point, of His awesome power in creating all that we see. As Matthew Henry’s commentary says, God is not trying to gratify our curiosity.
Third, science has revealed the difference between “up” and “way up”. Once we know God’s point, we can further glorify Him for a creation that is beyond even our sight.
Forth, this may not be the current situation of creation. Since creation there have been at least two catastrophic changes. The first was the fall of mankind when Adam and Eve sinned against God. The second was the global flood in the time of Noah. These two events caused great changes in God’s creation. We may not be able to properly determine the information “between the lines” after such catastrophes.
Lastly, this is a very important principle of interpretation – observational language. The Bible is not a science book. Do not expect it be one. The Bible is never wrong, expect that. The Bible frequently uses observation in its teaching. The weather man uses the same observational language when he says the sun will “rise” tomorrow at 7:14 a.m., though he knows the sun does not move around the earth. Someone once pointed out to me that Moses would not have known that. Moses may have believed that the water went beyond the sun. How do we know what Moses knew? Also, who cares what Moses knew? God wrote the Bible, He knew where the atmosphere and sun where and how they were related. When people observe their surroundings they say that the sun is in the sky. Sure, it would be more specific to say it is in space but not necessary unless you were teaching the location of the heavenly bodies. God created the sky and created the sun that is in the sky.
I conclude that God was using observational language to convey creation as it appears to us, not teaching us where the sun is in relation to every part of creation. For “heaven” in verse 8 and the “heavens” in verse 14, both are up, and it is good