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Genesis 1:9-13 DAY 3
Ends of the Earth

Hebrew Texts

The Bible uses the phrase "the ends of the earth" some 28 times, and "end" three times. There are several different Hebrew words for "end," [nk, [ws, spa and hxq. The Hebrew word [nk which BDB lexicon translates as "the extremities of the earth," is used twice in the book of Job (37:3, 38:13; BDB 1980, 489). The root of the word means "winged" from which the word "pinnacle" comes. The LXX translates "ends" as pterugwn which is used in the NT in Matthew 4:5, "the pinnacle of the temple." The Vulgate renders it by terminos, extrema, and quatturo. The KJV translates it by "ends," "quarters," and "corners" of the earth. Isaiah 11:12 mentions the four corners of the earth, and Ezekiel 7:2 says, "the four corners of the land (of Israel). These are two other places where the Hebrew word [nk is used. This does not mean they thought Israel was a square, but referred to the four extreme points North, South, East, and West in Israel.

The Hebrew word [ws also means "end." It is used five times in the book of Daniel. Only twice is it used to refer to the earth. Another Hebrew word hxq is used more often than any of the other words for "end." There are two forms of this root word. One is feminine in form, and the other is masculine.

There is another Hebrew word spa that means "extremities." This is similar to the Ugaritic word aps which also means "top" or "extremities" (Gordon 1965, 364, #309). This probably comes from the Akkadian apsu (Pope 1955, 72). This is the place where Ea dwelt, a subterranean sweet-water ocean (Heidel 1942, 81). Tiamat was killed, and half of her body formed the firmament; the other half he put over the Apsu, the waters of the deep, the subterranean sea (Heidel 1942, 155). So the ends of the earth go the ocean that encircles the earth, and where heaven and earth meet. In Psalm 65:5 the ends of the earth are parallel to the farthest sea.

Another interesting parallel is in Isaiah 41:5 which says, "The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came." Here islands are considered to be synonymous with, or near the ends of the earth. The earth was surrounded by water, but there were islands at the edge of the world where the sky met the sea.

New Testament

In the New Testament in Revelations 7:1 and 20:8 it mentions the four corners of the earth. Thayerís Lexicon says this means "the four extreme limits of the earth" (Thayer 1962, 123). The Greek word gwnia can also mean an angle, corner, cornerstone, and a secret place (A&G 1957, 168). The Vulgate translates this word with angulos. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) says, "The four corners of the earth or land are therefore simply the extremities of land in the four cardinal directions" (Orr 1939, 887). When gwnia refers to a building it means corner, but when it refers to land it means the extremity. For example, in the Catalogue of the Greek Papyri in the John Rylands Library (11 130, 9) it says, "in the area of Euhemeria in the division of Themistes at the corner" (Moulton and Milligan 1976, 134).

In Greek literature Herodotus in Book 3:25,1 writes, which means "the ends of the earth" (Hude 1979, 3:25,1). Cambyses was to take his men to the ends of the earth.

Akkadian Literature

In the Assyrian Royal Inscriptions (Grayson 1972, 105-109) there are many references to the "four quarters" (of the earth). The Royal inscription of Tukulti-Ninurta says:

Tukulti-Ninurta, king of the universe, king of Assyria, strong king, king of the four quarters, chosen of Ashur, vice-regent of Ashur, the king whose deeds are pleasing to the gods of heaven (and) underworld and to whom they allotted the four corners of the earth, (the king whom) they allowed to always exercise rule in the (four) quarters and who conquered all those who did not submit to him (Grayson 1972, 1:105).

The phrase "king of the four quarters" according to Grayson (1972, 1:4) is "the Sumero-Akkadian expression for 'king of the world'." Grayson goes on to say, "The four 'quarters' or 'coasts' are approximately identical with the cardinal points of the compass and are the extremities of the world (which was believed to be a disc) projecting out into the primeval sea (which was believed to surround the world disc)."

The phrase "four corners of the earth" which in Akkadian is kap-pat tu-bu-qa-at erbitti, can literally be translated "the circle of the four corners" (Grayson 1972, 105; CAD K, 397-400). This is a clear reference to the earth being circular. It seems strange that a circle would also have corners, but they meant the extremities in the four cardinal directions.

Egyptian Literature

The "ends" of the earth are the extremities of the land where ultimately sky and earth meet, but some of the time it is used in hyperbole to refer to lands and people who are very far away. For example, in the Asiatic Campaigns of Thut-mose III it says, "But it happened in later times that the garrison which was there was in the town of Sharuhen, while from Iursa to the outer ends of the earth had become rebellious against his majesty" (ANET, 235). In another of Thut-mose IIIís campaign it says, "His southern frontier is to the horns of the earth, to the southern limit of this land" (ANET, 240). In this passage the "horn" of the earth are equal to the "ends" of the earth.

In the Asiatic Campaigning of Amen-hotep II the boasting and hyperbole are clearly seen. It says:

Then the other foe was taken upstream to the land of Nubia and hanged to the wall of Napata, to show his majestyís victories forever and ever in all lands and all countries of the Negro land; inasmuch as he had carried off the southerners and bowed down the northerners, the (very) ends of the entire earth upon which Re shines, (so that) he might set his frontier where he wishes without being opposed, according to the decree of his father Re (ANET, 248).

In Egyptian drawings the "ends" of the earth are represented by lions which symbolize mountains that are at the edge of the world. Several drawings have twin lions with the sun in the middle (Keel 1978, 25-26). These twin mountains represent the horizon and have all ready been discussed earlier.

Ugaritic Literature

In the Keret legend it says, (3) sb lqsm `ars (4) lksm m`iykt, meaning, "they did go around to the edges of the earth, to the limits of the watery region" (Gibson 1978, 98; Herdner 1963, 16:iii,3-4). This may indicate that the earth is surrounded by a river, or is the place where the heavenly ocean meets the earth. This watery region may be the rain of Baal in the next line, which supports the idea that it is the heavenly ocean referred to.

The ends of the earth seems to be the place where the heaven and earth meet. The Hebrew xra yspa means "the extremities of the earth" (BDB 1980, 67). This is similar to Ugaritic aps meaning "top" or "extremity." In CTA 6.1.60-61 it says, rish lymgy apsh which means, "his head did not reach its top" (Gordon 1965, 364, #309). It is used in Ezekiel 47:3 referring to a manís feet. This word probably comes from the Akkadian apsu which is the place where Ea dwells, a subterranean sweet-water ocean (Pope, 1955, 72). Tiamat was killed, and half her body formed the firmament; the other half Marduk put over the Apsu, the waters of the deep, the subterranean sea (Heidel 1942, 155). So the ends of the earth extend beyond the ocean that encircles the earth to where heaven and earth meet at the horizon. In Psalm 65:5 the ends of the earth are parallel to the farthest sea.

Next - Genesis 1:9-13 - Earth Stretched Out