Taken at face value, the instances in which the Heavens and Earth are mentioned in the Torah, it is the Heavens above and Earth below. From what I gather, many secular scholars take from this that the author speaks of a flat earth beneath a heaven.

We of course know that the Earth is a spherical celestial body in space revolving around the sun. That's why I ask, the Torah being the ultimate truth Judaism is based on, whether there is in fact something within it that could allude to the true physical nature of Earth in relation to the Heavens?

Something I came across during the parasha "Va'etchanan", is a moment in chapter 4 verse 32. Moses asks rhetorically whether there has been such an event to occur "from one end of the Heavens to the other". He is speaking about all that has occurred to the nation of Israel and what truths they have been gifted with.

I wonder if perhaps the fact that rather than saying "from one end of the Earth to the other", the Heavens are mentioned instead, it could be surmised through this that the Heavens (or, the Universe) encompass the Earth.

  • 3
    – eliavs
    Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 7:44
  • 3
    I dont see how heavans above and earth below implies anything. The Torah was written for inhabitants of the Earth, and to inhabitants of the Earth, earth is down and sky is up
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 16:54
  • A) That was not the focal point of my question, just part of the preamble. B) I don't think anything in the Torah is supposed to be taken only at face value. Otherwise we wouldn't have such a rich variety of texts interpreting its contents. I would think this would be especially true for a section of the Torah that describes cosmic events in a few paragraphs. Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 21:35
  • The fact that Chazzal most definitely refer to the world as a flat surface, well not completely flat, higher in the middle, it seems very unlikely there will be psukim they were contradicting. As far as your insight in Vi'eschanan, the way Chazzal explain it, the dome of the sky touches the edges of the world, like an upside down bowl placed on top of an upside down plate. So the ends of the earth are the ends of the sky. In fact that meeting point is where, according to one opinion, the clouds bring water up from the ocean into the sky to rain down upon earth.
    – user6591
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 12:15
  • Re your last paragraph - it does imply that the Torah thought of the earth as being flat. Even in our tefillah we talk about G-d gathering people from the "four corners of the earth", which may imply a thought that the earth is flat.
    – DanF
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 13:39

2 Answers 2


I'm not aware of any references in the Chumash itself, but the only two passages in the entire Tana'kh that may be relevant to your question, to my knowledge, are (JPS):

  • Yeshayahu 40:22 "It is He that sitteth above the circle of the earth." (Rashi links this verse to 44:13, which speaks of a carpenter using a "compass")

  • Iyov 26:7 "He stretcheth out the north over the empty space, and hangeth the earth over nothing." (Rashi: "There is nothing in the foundation because they stand in the air on the strength of the arms of the Holy One")

Now bear in mind that the issue of whether these passages are actually consistent with modern cosmology of a spherical earth in space, is highly contentious. There is an entire literature on how science and Torah interact (for example this book).

  • The circle of the earth could be referring to the horizon, not that the Earth is spherical.
    – bondonk
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 8:27

Quoting Natan Slifkin's essay "The Sun's Path at Night":

...from both general history as well as the interpretations of the Geonim and Rishonim, the view of the Sages of Israel was that of ancient Babylonian cosmology. They believed that the earth is a roughly flat disc, and the rest of the universe is a hemispherical solid dome fixed above it.

The article contains quite an extensive reference of many of the opinions throughout history on this topic - not direct references to the Torah/Tanach (since its hard to find a place in Tanach that discusses this, as pointed out by @Meir Illuination's answer), but the understanding of Rabbanim from the times of the mishna and onwards. Furthermore, although the article is primarily about the sun, it indirectly (and understandably) touches upon the shape of the earth as well.

  • Reason for downvote please?
    – bondonk
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 11:30
  • If I remember correctly, the author of the essay ignores or misrepresents several of the sources cited here: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/68113/8775.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 19:04

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