The Circle of the Earth

Here are various passages from the Ancient Near East literature, starting with those from the Bible, that regard, or may regard, the “circle of the earth”.

I will comment on them later, as time allows, but for now, let me say that this is the model I currently have in mind:

Yahweh, at the Genesis 1 “creation” created some manner of boundary to cordon off a portion of Planet Earth for a special and extended work.  This is called “the circle of the earth”, for it bounded that “dry land”—which may not be a literal reference, but a figurative one, referring to a place devoid of smothering “waters”.  From this boundary, those “waters” were commanded to keep back.  This “circle of the earth” is the same circle as was drawn “on the face of the deep”  and “on the face of the waters”.  It may also have been called:

  • the “circle of the firmament” (2 Enoch 21:7),
  • the “circle of the seas” (War Scroll),
  • “His appointment circle” (1 Clement 20:3)
  • the “circle of the stars” (Wisdom of Solomon 13:2 and Assumption of Moses 10)

I recognize that “circle of the stars” might also obviously be a reference to the constellations of the Zodiac, and I suspect that there might be a correlation here.  That bears further study, of course—the idea that what was observable in the literal (night) sky might have been connected somehow to this idea of a boundary of limitations between that which was within Yahweh’s “dry land” (or “earth”) and that which was commanded to stay without.

Here are all the passages below—without comment.


Isaiah 40:22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;

Circle–(עַל־חוּג  chuwg)

Proverbs 8:27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

Circle–(עַל־חוּג  chuwg)

Job 26:10 He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters
    at the boundary between light and darkness.

Circle–(עַל־חוּג  chuwg)

2 Esdras 6

  1. He said to me, “At the beginning of the circle of the earth, before {Meaning of Lat uncertain: Compare Syr [The beginning by the hand of humankind, but the end by my own hands. For as before the land of the world existed there, and before]; Ethiop: [At first by the Son of Man, and afterwards I myself. For before the earth and the lands were created, and before]} the portals of the world were in place, and before the assembled winds blew,
  2. and before the rumblings of thunder sounded, and before the flashes of lightning shone, and before the foundations of paradise were laid,
  3. and before the beautiful flowers were seen, and before the powers of movements {Or [earthquakes]} were established, and before the innumerable hosts of angels were gathered together,
  4. and before the heights of the air were lifted up, and before the measures of the firmaments were named, and before the footstool of Zion was established,
  5. and before the present years were reckoned and before the imaginations of those who now sin were estranged, and before those who stored up treasures of faith were sealed–
  6. then I planned these things, and they were made through me alone and not through another; just as the end shall come through me alone and not through another.”

Iraneas–Against Heresies
Chapter 2.

  1. The Father afterwards produces, in his own image, by means of Monogenes, the above-mentioned Horos, without conjunction, masculo-feminine. For they maintain that sometimes the Father acts in conjunction with Sige, but that at other times he shows himself independent both of male and female. They term this Horos both Stauros and Lytrotes, and Carpistes, and Horothetes, and Metagoges. And by this Horos they declare that Sophia was purified and established, while she was also restored to her proper conjunction. For her enthymesis (or inborn idea) having been taken away from her, along with its supervening passion, she herself certainly remained within the Pleroma; but her enthymesis, with its passion, was separated from her by Horos, fenced off, and expelled from that circle. This enthymesis was, no doubt, a spiritual substance, possessing some of the natural tendencies of an Aeon, but at the same time shapeless and without form, because it had received nothing. And on this account they say that it was an imbecile and feminine production.

Secrets of Enoch (2 Enoch) 21:7 And I saw the eighth heaven, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Muzaloth, changer of the seasons, of drought, and of wet, and of the twelve constellations of the circle of the firmament, which are above the seventh heaven.  8 And I saw the ninth heaven, which is called in Hebrew Kuchavim, where are the heavenly homes of the twelve constellations of the circle of the firmament.

War Scroll–The Prayer of the Chief Priest
….He who created the earth and the limits of her divisions into wilderness and plain, and her offspring, with the fruits, the circle of the seas, the sources of the rivets, and the rift of the deeps, wild beasts and winged creatures, the form of man and the generations of his seed, the confusion of language and the separation of peoples, the abode of clans and the inheritance of the lands,

First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians

20:1 The heavens are moved by His direction and obey Him in peace.
20:2 Day and night accomplish the course assigned to them by Him, without hindrance one to another.
20:3 The sun and the moon and the dancing stars according to His appointment circle in harmony within the bounds assigned to them, without any swerving aside.
20:4 The earth, bearing fruit in fulfillment of His will at her proper seasons, putteth forth the food that supplieth abundantly both men and beasts and all living things which are thereupon, making no dissension, neither altering anything which He hath decreed.
20:5 Moreover, the inscrutable depths of the abysses and the unutterable statutes of the nether regions are constrained by the same ordinances.
20:6 The basin of the boundless sea, gathered together by His workmanship into it’s reservoirs, passeth not the barriers wherewith it is surrounded; but even as He ordered it, so it doeth.
20:7 For He said, So far shalt thou come, and thy waves shall be broken within thee.
20:8 The ocean which is impassable for men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Master.

Wisdom of Solomon 13
[1] Surely vain are all men by nature, who are ignorant of God, and could not out of the good things that are seen know him that is: neither by considering the works did they acknowledge the workmaster;
[2] But deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be the gods which govern the world.

The Assumption of Moses
Chapter 10

And then His kingdom shall appear throughout all His creation,
And then Satan shall be no more,
And sorrow shall depart with him.
Then the hands of the angel shall be filled
Who has been appointed chief,
And he shall forthwith avenge them of their enemies.
For the Heavenly One will arise from His royal throne,
And He will go forth from His holy habitation
With indignation and wrath on account of His sons.
And the earth shall tremble: to its confines shall it be shaken:
And the high mountains shall be made low
And the hills shall be shaken and fall.
And the horns of the sun shall be broken and he shall be turned into darkness;
And the moon shall not give her light, and be turned wholly into blood.
And the circle of the stars shall be disturbed.
And the sea shall retire into the abyss,
And the fountains of waters shall fail,
And the rivers shall dry up.
For the Most High will arise, the Eternal God alone,
And He will appear to punish the Gentiles,
And He will destroy all their idols.
Then you, O Israel, shall be happy,
And you shall mount upon the necks and wings of the eagle,
And they shall be ended.
And God will exalt you,
And He will cause you to approach to the heaven of the stars,
In the place of their habitation.
And you will look from on high and see your enemies in Ge(henna)
And you shall recognize them and rejoice,
And you shall give thanks and confess thy Creator…….

 

 

 

 

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