7 Illustrations of How People in the Old Testament Viewed the Universe

Listers, the concept of ancient Hebrew cosmology is fascinating. In general, the world was a flat disc covered by a firm dome. Beneath the disc was Sheol – the place of the dead – and the deep waters. Above the dome, there was more water and finally the high heavens where God dwells. “The notion that the sky was a vast solid dome seems to have been common among the ancient peoples… According to the notion prevalent among the Greeks and Romans, the sky was a great vault of crystal to which the fixed stars were attached, though by some it was held to be of iron or brass. That the Hebrews entertained similar ideas appears from numerous biblical passages.” For example, Job 37:18 reads, “And was it with help of thine God fashioned the heavens, firm as cast bronze?.”1 The firmament acted as the separation between the higher waters of the heavens and the lower waters of the deep.2 The dome of the earth sat upon pillars and upon the foundations of the world.3 In the dome there are windows or doors from which the rain falls – the most famous example being Noah’s flood in Genesis.4 Finally, deep within the earth was Sheol. Sheol “is generally supposed to come from the Hebrew root meaning, ‘to be sunk in, to be hollow:’ accordingly it denotes a cave or a place under the earth. In the Old Testament (Septuagint hades; Vulgate infernus) sheol is used quite in general to designate the kingdom of the dead, of the good (Genesis 37:35) as well as of the bad (Numbers 16:30); it means hell in the strict sense of the term, as well as the limbo of the Fathers. But, as the limbo of the Fathers ended at the time of Christ’s Ascension, hades (Vulgate infernus) in the New Testament always designates the hell of the damned. Since Christ’s Ascension the just no longer go down to the lower world, but they dwell in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1).”5 As with most concepts, there are debates on how literal to take certain passages.

 

Ancient Hebrew Cosmology

 

 

Hebrew Cosmology 1

Hebrew Cosmology 2

Ancient Hebrew Cosmology

Hebrew Cosmology 4

Hebrew Cosmology 5

Hebrew Cosmology 6

Hebrew Cosmology 7

  1. Quote from Catholic Encyclopedia, Firmament. []
  2. See Job 26:11; 37:18; the dome is blue due to separation of the waters, Gen. 1:7; the earth is surrounded by water, Gen. 1:6,7; cf. Psalms 24:2; 148:4, Deut. 5:8. []
  3. Job 26:11; II Sam. 22:8. []
  4. Gen. 7:11-12; 8:2; for verses on the lumenaries of heaven, see Gen. 1:14-19; Ps. 19:4,6; for verses on the dome and birds, see Gen. 1:20; Deut. 4:17. []
  5. Catholic Encyclopedia, Hell. []

In Dust and Ashes: 21 Images from the Book of Job

Listers, the following is the entire gallery of William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job. The gallery displayed is known as the Linell Set (AD 1821) and contains 21 watercolor pieces. There is also an earlier watercolor gallery known as the Butts set (1806). Later, Blake went on to recreate the images on engraved plates (1826), which is widely consider his greatest work in that medium.

“Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.”

– Job 42:6

Blake never titled the pieces, so each title and respective verse was added later by scholars.1

 

 

Thus did Job continually.
Job 1:5

Job and His Family.
1. Job and His Family.

 

When the Almighty was yet with me, When my Children were about me.
Job 29:5

Satan Before the Throne of God.
2. Satan Before the Throne of God.

 

Thy Sons & thy Daughters were eating & drinking Wine in their eldest Brothers house & behold there came a great wind from the Wilderness & smote upon the four faces of the house & it fell upon the young Men & they are Dead.
Job 1:18–1:19

Job's Sons and Daughters Overwhelmed by Satan.
3. Job’s Sons and Daughters Overwhelmed by Satan.

 

And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Job 1:15

The Messengers Tell Job of His Misfortunes.
4. The Messengers Tell Job of His Misfortunes.

 

Then went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord.
Job 2:7

Satan Going Forth from the Presence of the Lord and Job's Charity.
5. Satan Going Forth from the Presence of the Lord and Job’s Charity.

 

And smote Job with sore Boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
Job 2:7

Satan Smiting Job with Boils.
6. Satan Smiting Job with Boils.

 

And when they lifted up their eyes afar off & knew him not they lifted up their voice & wept, and rent every Man his mantle & sprinkled dust upon their heads towards heaven.
Job 2:12

Job's Comforters.
7. Job’s Comforters.

 

Let the Day perish wherin I was Born.
Job 3:3

Job's Despair.
8. Job’s Despair.

 

Then a Spirit passed before my face the hair of my flesh stood up.
Job 4:14

The Vision of Eliphaz.
9. The Vision of Eliphaz.

 

The Just Upright Man is laughed to scorn.
Job 12:4

Job Rebuked by His Friends.
10. Job Rebuked by His Friends.

 

With Dreams upon my bed thou scarest me & affrightest me with Visions.
Job 7:14

Job's Evil Dreams.
11. Job’s Evil Dreams.

 

I am Young & ye are very Old wherefore I was afraid.
Job 32:6

The Wrath of Elihu.
12. The Wrath of Elihu.

 

Then the Lord answered Job out of the Whirlwind.
Job 38:1

The Lord Answering Job out of the Whirlwind.
13. The Lord Answering Job out of the Whirlwind.

 

When the morning Stars sang together, & all the Sons of God shouted for joy.
Job 38:7

When the Morning Stars Sang Together.
14. When the Morning Stars Sang Together.

 

Behold now Behemoth which I made with thee.
Job 40:15

Behemoth and Leviathan.
15. Behemoth and Leviathan.

 

Thou hast fulfilled the Judgment of the Wicked.
Job 36:17

The Fall of Satan.
16. The Fall of Satan.

 

I have heard thee with the hearing of the Ear but now my Eye seeth thee.
Job 42:5

The Vision of Christ.
17. The Vision of Christ.

 

And my Servant Job shall pray for you.
Job 42:8

Job's Sacrifice.
18. Job’s Sacrifice.

 

Every one also gave him a piece of Money.
Job 42:11

Every one also gave him a piece of Money.
19. Every one also gave him a piece of Money.

 

There were not found Women as fair as the Daughters of Job in all the Land & their Father gave them Inheritance among their Brethren.
Job 42:15

Job and His Daughters.
20. Job and His Daughters.

 

So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.
Job 42:12

Job and His Family Restored to Prosperity.
21. Job and His Family Restored to Prosperity.

  1. William Blake: All images and information was taken from William Blake’s Illustrations on the Book of Job. []