-In Biblical Literature The earth is portrayed in the Bible as a flat strip (Isa. 42:5; 44:24) suspended across the cosmic ocean (Ps. 24:2; 136:6). It is supported on pillars (Ps. 75:4; Job 9:6) or props (Isa. 24:18; Prov. 8:29) and is evidently surrounded by a mountain range like the qār of Arabic folklore, to keep it from being flooded (Prov. 8:29; Job 26:10). The ultimate bounds of the earth known to the ancient Hebrews were India and Nubia (Esth. 1:1; cf. Zeph. 3:10). A similar conception of the earth was held by Herodotus (3:114) and is found in the Persian inscriptions of Darius. Sometimes, too, its furthermost inhabitants were thought to be the peoples who resided in remote lands north of Palestine – gog and Magog – a concept which finds a parallel among the Greeks. It was believed that the fertility of the earth could be affected by the misconduct of men. It was then said to be "polluted" (Heb. ḥanefah; Isa. 24:5). As a result of Adam's sin, the earth yields grain only when man puts heavy labor into it (Gen. 3:17–19), and for receiving the blood of Abel it was forbidden to "yield its strength" to Cain under any circumstances (Gen. 4:11–13). The idea that the land could be rendered infertile by having innocent blood shed upon it is widespread in other cultures, and probably stems from the notion that "the blood is the life" and, therefore, represents the outraged spirit of the murdered man who exacts vengeance until the crime is redressed or expiated. Bloodshed could likewise cause lack of rainfall (II Sam. 1:21). Since it is usually a particular land, especially the Land of Israel, that is affected by misdeeds committed in it, such misconduct includes not only moral turpitude but also disobedience to divine commandments. For example, a famine ensued for several years as a result of David's taking a census, against the orders of God. According to Exodus 23:10–12, the land of Israel had to lie fallow every seventh year; according to Leviticus 25, every 50th year as well. This may be explained as a survival of the ancient belief that life is vouchsafed in seven-year cycles. Deuteronomy, which speaks of the seventh year only as one of debt remission (Deut. 15) and enjoins a public reading of the Torah to the pilgrims assembled in Jerusalem on the festival of Tabernacles of that year (Deut. 31:10–13), is believed to represent a late development. Among the gentiles particular lands were regarded as the estates, or inheritances, of their tutelary gods; in the Bible YHWH is the Lord of what would later be known as the universe, yet the land of Israel is the object of His special care (Deut. 11:12; 32:8–9; II Sam. 20:19; Jer. 2:7; Ps. 79:1). In the apocryphal book of Ben Sira (17:17), the Lord parcels out the earth among "rulers," i.e., celestial princes, as an emperor might apportion his dominion among satraps. Conversely, waste places were deemed the natural habitat of demons (Isa. 34:13–14), and the winds which sweep the wilderness were depicted as howling monsters, just as in Arabic folklore the desert is called "howl-place" (yabāb; cf. Deut. 32:10). Earth, like sky, was sometimes called to serve as a witness in prophetic denunciations of the people (Deut. 4:26; 30:19; 31:28). This reflects a common ancient Near Eastern practice of invoking the earth and sky, along with the national and local gods, to witness covenants and treaties. There is no clear evidence in the Bible of any worship of the earth, even by apostate Israelites. However, a goddess named Arṣay, i.e., Ms. Earth, is mentioned in the Canaanite texts from Ras Shamra (Ugarit) as one of the brides of Baal, and the Phoenician mythographer Sanchuniathon (second quarter of the sixth cent. B.C.E.) speaks of a primordial woman, called Omorka, who was cut asunder by Belus (Baal) to make earth and heaven respectively. In the six-day scheme of creation described in the first chapter of Genesis, earth is said to have emerged on the third day (Gen. 1:9–11). It was originally watered not by rain but by a subterranean upsurge (Heb. ed; Gen. 2:5–6). It is not impossible that this picture was inspired by conditions that actually obtain in parts of Palestine where, before the onset of the early rains and the beginning of the agricultural cycle in autumn, the soil is moistened only by springs which burst forth at the foot of the hills. It is possible – though this must be received with caution-that the Hebrews shared with the Babylonians the notion that the geography of the earth had its counterpart aloft and that the portions of the heavens corresponded to terrestrial domains, for it is in terms of such a view that it may perhaps be possible to interpret the words of Balaam (Num. 24:17) about the star which is stepping out of Jacob (i.e., the region of the sky answering to the Land of Israel) and which is destined to smite the borders of Moab. It was held that at the end of the present era of the world, when a new dispensation was to be ushered in, the soil of the Land of Israel would undergo a miraculous renewal of fertility. A stream, like that which flowed through Eden, would issue forth (Zech. 14:8), and there would be a prodigious increase in vegetation and livestock. -Post-Biblical Literature Ideas about the earth are elaborated in post-biblical literature. The earth is represented as resting on a primal foundation stone, which also forms the bedrock of the Temple. The navel, or center, of the earth is located at Zion, just as among the Samaritans it is located at the sacred Mt. Gerizim, and among the Greeks, at Delphi. Earth, like heaven, consists of seven layers superimposed upon one another. Its extent is reckoned in one passage of the Talmud (Ta'an. 10a) as equivalent to (roughly) 190 million square miles, and it is 1,000 cubits thick. In IV Ezra 6:42 it is said that six parts of it are habitable, and the seventh is covered by water. According to post-biblical sources, the earth is sheltered from the blasts of the south wind by the gigantic bird ziz, and, as in the Bible, it will become miraculously fertile in the messianic age (Ginzberg, Legends, S.V.). Earth's pristine fertility, it is said, was diminished through the sin of Adam, and its smooth surface was made rugged by mountains as a punishment for its having received the blood of Abel. When the new age dawns, it will again become level. Just as in the Greek myth the earth opened to rescue Amphiaraus, so in Jewish legend it hid the tender babes of Israel hunted by Pharaoh.   It likewise swallowed up the vessels of the Temple, to conceal them when that edifice was destroyed. On the other hand, it engulfed the four generations of the offspring of Cain as an act of punishment; it also swallowed up the army massed against Jacob, the unfinished part of the Tower of Babel, and the city of Nineveh. However, it refused to receive the body of Jephthah who, as the result of a rash vow, had sacrificed his own daughter (ibid., S.V.). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A.J. Wensinck, Ideas of the Western Semites Concerning Navel of the Earth (1916); R. Patai, Adam ve-Adamah (1943); T.H. Gaster, Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament (1969), 5, 6, 98(d), 103(c), 144, 188, 294. (Theodor H. Gaster)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Earth — ([ e]rth), n. [AS. eor[eth]e; akin to OS. ertha, OFries. irthe, D. aarde, OHG. erda, G. erde, Icel. j[ o]r[eth], Sw. & Dan. jord, Goth. a[=i]r[thorn]a, OHG. ero, Gr. ?, adv., to earth, and perh. to E. ear to plow.] 1. The globe or planet which we …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Earth — Earth, Wind Fire Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Earth, Wind Fire Información personal Origen Chicago, Illinois Información artística Género …   Wikipedia Español

  • earth — n Earth, world, universe, cosmos, macrocosm are comparable when they mean the entire area or extent of space in which man thinks of himself and of his fellow men as living and acting. Earth applies, however, only to part of what he knows by sight …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • earth — [ʉrth] n. [ME erthe < OE eorthe, akin to Ger erde < IE base * er > Gr era, earth, Welsh erw, field] 1. [often E ] the planet that we live on; terrestrial globe: it is the fifth largest planet of the solar system and the third in distance …   English World dictionary

  • Earth-X — Éditeur Marvel Comics Format Série limitée Date(s) de publication 1997 2000 Numéros 15 + sketchbook 4 tomes pour l édition française Scénariste(s) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Earth X — Éditeur Marvel Comics Format série limitée Date(s) de publication 1997 2000 Numéros …   Wikipédia en Français

  • earth — ► NOUN 1) (also Earth) the planet on which we live. 2) the substance of the land surface; soil. 3) Brit. electrical connection to the ground, regarded as having zero electrical potential. 4) the underground lair of a badger or fox. 5) one of the… …   English terms dictionary

  • Earth — (engl. ‚Erde‘) bezeichnet: Earth (Band), eine Musikgruppe aus einem Subgenre des Metal einen früheren Namen der Band Black Sabbath Earth (Computerspiel), eine Computerspiel Reihe aus dem Genre der Echtzeitstrategiespiele Filme: Earth (1986),… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Earth 2 — may refer to:* Earth Two, a parallel world in the DC Multiverse; the home of DC s Golden Age heroes and Earth 2 the current version. * Earth 2 (TV series), a science fiction TV series that aired in 1994 ndash;1995 * Earth 2 (album), an album by… …   Wikipedia

  • Earth — Основная информация …   Википедия

  • earth|y — «UR thee», adjective, earth|i|er, earth|i|est. 1. of earth or soil: »Potatoes have an earthy smell. 2. like earth or soil (in texture …   Useful english dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.