The Waters Above


From James B. Jordan’s Trees and Thorns: [1]

The land and garden of Eden were watered by a spring. Why call attention to the fact that God did not send rain? Why not just mention the spring and leave off the statement about rain? The reason, I believe, is to call our minds back to Genesis 1:2-9. We find in Genesis 1:2 that there was an ocean over the original earth. Then God created the firmament, and separated the waters above from the waters below. On the third day God gathered the waters below into areas below the surface of the land.

Now we have a clear distinction between waters above the firmament, the source of rain, and waters below, which would have to come up from under the earth. Both Genesis 1:2-9 and 2:5-6 set up the distinction eschatologically; ground water comes first, and then heavenly water.

With this distinction in mind, we can begin to see rather clear associations between ground water and the first creation, which is earthy and Adamic, and heavenly water with the second creation, which is heavenly and Last Adamic: “The Spiritual [world order] is not first, but the natural [world order]; then the Spiritual [world order]. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second Man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:46-48).

Ground water is associated with the first world, the world defiled by sin. Originally the land of promise centered on the “circle of the Jordan,” which “was well watered everywhere—before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of Yahweh, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar” (Gen. 13:10). This Edenic spot was chosen by Lot, who went for the obvious blessing of ground water—so much more reliable than rain, which must be prayed for. Notice that Gen. 13:10 interjects the statement that God would soon destroy this area. Why is this stuck in here? I believe it is to point to the fact that ground water is not going to be the place of salvation. The waters below, the original garden of Eden, cannot be recovered. We shall have to move forward to the eschatological waters above and the heavenly Jerusalem.

Just so, Moses contrasts the old land of Egypt, watered from the ground, with the promised land, which is watered by rain: “For the land, into which you are entering to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden. But the land … drinks water from heaven’s rain” (Dt. 11:10-11). Moses quotes God’s promise, “I will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain” (Dt. 11:14).

[1] James B. Jordan, Trees and Thorns: A Commentary on Genesis 2-4. Available from
Art: Firmament by
Lebbeus Woods, architect
Kiki Smith, artist
Henry Urbach Architecture Gallery
New York, New York

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