Q I have recently been told that the Bible teaches the earth is flat. Am I missing something? Are there any Bible verses addressing the shape of the earth?
by Pastor Matt Ritchey, Managing Editor
Estimated Time to Read: 5 Minutes
ANSWER: As with any question, we should search the Scriptures to see what they have to say. Though the Bible is not a science textbook, it is also not absent of scientific facts.
Some of the verses pertaining to this subject are:
Isaiah 11:12 – “He will set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel; and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (See also Rev. 7:1.) The thought here is that the mention of “corners” must mean that the earth is flat, as corners refers to a square or rectangle. Yet, technically, the Hebrew word can also mean quarter. A quarter is a fourth of a whole, and you can divide an orange into quarters just as well as a piece of paper. Regardless, this verse is saying that the Lord is going to regather Israel and Judah from every place on earth; it is more directional (north, south, east, west) in nature and has nothing to do with the shape of the earth. We still use a similar idiom today (The Olympians came from the four corners of the world to compete in the games) to refer to all the different parts of the world, including the farthest reaches.
Job 28:24 – “For He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heavens.” (See also Job 37:3; Ps. 48:10; Prov. 30:4.) Here, it is thought that the word “ends” demands that the earth has an edge to it, like the edge of a table. Again, the point of this verse is not to state the shape of the earth, but that there is nowhere that God cannot see. He can see the top and the bottom, the Americas and Asia. Deuteronomy 13:7 also refers to “the end of the earth unto the other end of the earth.” However, the verse itself specifically describes what is meant by this phrase when it begins “the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth, even unto the other.” Once again, the terminology refers to near and far and everywhere in between, not that the earth has edges to it.
Psalm 104:5 – “He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed forever.” Also, Psalm 75:3 – “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up all the pillars of it.” (See also Ps. 75: 9 93:1.) The Bible refers to “foundations” and “pillars,” but it does not mean the earth is literally held up by stone or steel. The verses refer to the sustaining power of God. Even when the world comes crashing down, God’s foundations are immovable and His pillars are firm.
Matthew 4:8 – “Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” I don’t know of one mountain where you can go to the top and see everywhere on every continent. So, to use this verse to declare the shape of the earth is, to be blunt, grasping at straws. There are mountains from which you can see a great distance to get the aspects of the vastness of the surrounding land. The emphasis in this passage isn’t: Could Christ see every kingdom of the world, and if so, the earth is flat. The emphasis in the verse is that Satan, the god of this world, tempted Christ by offering Him an easier way to gain authority and power.
There are many other things to consider when determining what the Scriptures say on the shape of the earth, and our consideration cannot come from having our minds already made up. For instance, we most often use the term “earth” to refer to the entirety of the planet. The Bible often uses the term “earth” to refer to land masses on this planet in contrast to the water on this planet (e.g., Gen. 1:10). This is true of Deuteronomy 13:7 used previously.
Regarding those “foundations” and “pillars” holding up the earth, Job 26:7 declares God “stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.” If I contracted you to put a basement in a house I was building and I came to check out the work and there was nothing there, I’m not paying you. Therefore, these “pillars” and “foundations” of the earth must be something other than material elements. Indeed, it is referring to the sustaining work of God, the earth itself rests on immaterial. Unlike the supposed proof-texts listed above, this verse IS talking about how our planet hangs in place – It is “hanging” in space on nothing solid.
Isaiah 40:22 speaks of God “sitting on the circle of the earth.” Instead of prooftexting to gather evidence to seemingly support our preconceived beliefs on the shape of the earth, we should look for a verse directly talking about the shape of the earth; that verse is Isaiah 40:22. Notice what is the noun (“sphere”) and what is the prepositional phrase describing the noun (“of the earth”). In other words, God sits on the circle earth.
Despite what some say, there is nothing ungodly about a circular earth. If our unwavering authority, the Bible, says it, we should expect unbiased science to confirm it.
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