What does Genesis 1:6 mean?
ESV: And God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."
NIV: And God said, "Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water."
NASB: Then God said, 'Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.'
CSB: Then God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters, separating water from water."
NLT: Then God said, 'Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.'
KJV: And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
NKJV: Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”
Verse Commentary:
Genesis chapter 1 follows a rigid structure, according to a very specific pattern. God will create something through His words, observe it, declare it good, and then Scripture will indicate the number of that creative day. The first half of these moments—days one, two, and three—prepare creation for some future component. The corresponding days in the second half—days four, five, and six—show the creation of that new thing.

In the prior verses, God completed the first day of creation, making light, day, and night. Here, God turns to the waters. Verse 2 indicated that the earth was formless, void, and covered by deep waters. Now God issues a command about those waters: separate them.

More specifically, God calls for something to be placed between the waters: a space or firmament or vault or sky or heaven (depending on the translation). The Hebrew term is rā'qi'a, which implies something solid and supportive. The word-picture offered here seems to be of raising up the top part of the waters and inserting an open area: what we would usually think of as the "air" above the sea or land.

But what about the top layer, the "waters" above the sky? Some scholars suggest those are the clouds of the upper atmosphere or simply the atmosphere itself. Others have speculated that a water "canopy" once existed in the upper atmosphere that is no longer there in our day. In any case, the larger point of the verse is that God's power includes the ability to order even the oceans to do His bidding and breathable air to come into existence on the earth. Once again, God and God alone is credited with creating the world as we know it.
Verse Context:
Genesis 1:1–13 describes the first three days of creation. These follow a common pattern. First, God speaks, then He creates, then names His creation, then declares that creation ''good.'' Finally, the day is numbered. Each of these first three days prepares creation for what God will create in the second three days. Day one creates light, night and day, preparing for the sun and moon on day four. Day two creates the oceans, preparing for sea creatures on day five. Day three creates land and plants, preparing for animals and humans on day six.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 1 is nothing less than a bare-bones claim that God created the universe. Setting all of the debates on models and interpretations aside, the chapter undeniably insists on one thing: God means to be known as the Creator of all things. Written in the original Hebrew language according to a rigid, poetic structure, the chapter unfolds in a series of patterns and revelations. For those who believe these words, our response should be nothing less than to worship our Maker.
Chapter Context:
Genesis 1 is the first chapter of what came to be known as the Pentateuch: the first five books of the Bible. Likely written by Moses, Genesis 1 begins the story of God and His relationship with His people Israel. The role of God as Creator is not only important for setting up His work in later chapters, but also in His supremacy and authority for all of the other words of the Scriptures. God intends first to be known to all peoples as the Creator of all things—from sun, moon, and stars, to human life itself. And as the Creator, He is owed worship by all He has made, including and especially human beings
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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