In his pamphlet Scientific Facts in the Bible, Ray Comfort extracts a select assortment of seemingly hard-hitting truths from his Evidence Bible that illustrate, in my opinion, poor exegesis of the underlying text. More correctly, his efforts to impose 21st century scientific thought onto a text produced thousands of years ago isn’t simply poor exegesis, it’s eisegesis—that is, he’s attempting to assert truth claims that the text itself does not make. I take specific issue with this, because asserting that the Bible makes a claim it does not is intellectual dishonesty.

I’m going to address his first claim in this post. Ray Comfort writes:

Earth’s Free Float in Space

Job 26:7 (written 3500 years ago): “He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing.”

The Bible proclaims that the earth freely floats in space. Some in ancient times thought that the earth sat on a large animal. We now know that the earth has a free float in space.

Biblical cosmology is quite similar to the cosmology of its surrounding cultures (no magical beast of burden required, despite Comfort’s assessment). Namely, it operates on the assumption of a three-tiered cosmology: Heaven, earth, and sheol (the grave, underworld, etc). Throughout much of the biblical text, the earth is assumed to be disc suspended within the cosmic waters of Genesis 1 atop cosmic pillars. Job 26:7 may be something of an outlier—if you ignore the context of the rest of the chapter and the rest of Job—in that the earth is no longer seen by the time of Job’s writing as suspended upon these mystical pillars.

Specifically, I mean that verse 11 reads “The pillars of heaven tremble […]” where we once again receive this imagery that things are suspended in the cosmic domain by such pillars.

I don’t wish to get too distracted by the emphasis on pillars (more on that in a moment), however, so let’s examine the question Comfort is presenting as fact: Does Job 26:7 present evidence that the Bible explained the force of gravity before its discovery?

No. It does not.

The clue may come from the first half of the passage “He stretches out the north (tsaphon) over the void (tohu).”

In Hebrew, “tsaphon” means north, but it’s also the name for Mount Zaphon which was considered in Ugarit as the “‘sacred mountain’ […], the high heavens where the gods meet in assembly and, in Ugaritic literature, where Baal’s house is.”1 In Psalm 48:1-2, we see Mount Zion compared to this location2 suggesting some polemic quality may be at play.

Thus, if Yahweh is able to “stretch out” the high places of pagan religious thought over the “void,” and demonstrate his power over all creation, what then IS this void (tohu)?

To answer this question, we have to return to Genesis 1:2:

“The earth was without form (tohu; formless, wasteland) and void (bohu; empty).”

Is this a veiled reference to space? Almost certainly no! In the IVP Bible Background Commentary, the authors write:

“It is the vast trackless waste of primordial waters that is described as the “nothing” on which the earth sits. Evidence for this is that the word describing what the north is spread out on (niv: “empty space”) is the same word that describes the watery cosmic chaos of Genesis 1:2 (niv: “formless”). In Babylonian literature, Shamash is praised as the one who suspends from the heavens the circle of the lands. This was part of ancient perception of the cosmos rather than a covert allusion to modern scientific understanding.”3

Dr. Robert Alter, in his Hebrew Bible: A Translation and Commentary concurs:

“The Hebrew tohu wabohu occurs only here and in two later biblical texts that are clearly alluding to this one. The second word of the pair looks like a nonce term coined to rhyme with the first and to reinforce it, an effect I have tried to approximate in English by alliteration. Tohu by itself means ’emptiness’ or ‘futility,’ and in some contexts is associated with the trackless vacancy of the desert.”

Combined with the imagery of the cosmic waters in Genesis 1:6-7, we can surmise that the writer of Job most probably had this view in mind: The north was stretched out over these waters, upon which the earth itself was suspended “on nothing” because it was perceived as floating in the cosmic waters of the creation.

We can further support this claim later in Job 26 by the verbiage selected for in verses 12 and 13:

By his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he shattered Rahab. By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.

Rahab, though often used as an epithet for Egypt, is described in a manner identical to Leviathan in many parts of the OT; in fact, in verse 13, we find a description (“fleeing serpent”) similar to the one that appears in the Ugaritic tablets for Tiamat/Litanu—the latter’s equivalent for this particular sea monster. Given that northwest Semitic cultures all shared this concept of a serpent-like chaos deity that lay in opposition to their respective champions, it is no surprise then that this same entity would appear in Hebrew writings—except that in Israelite culture, Leviathan is itself created (and destroyed) by Yahweh4.

If Yahweh crushes Rahab later in Job and calms the sea it makes little sense to surmise that Job 26:7 is describing a modern cosmology when the author does little to stray from his ancient Near Eastern contemporaries.

Comfort has also apparently made some effort here to ignore phrasing earlier in Job that would appear to be at odds with his assertion that this describes a modern understanding of gravity. In Job 9:6, we read “…who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble.”


In my opinion, the strongest evidence against this claim is in verse 10 which reads “He has inscribed a circle (khoq-khûg) on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.” I’ll touch on “khûg” in a future post where Comfort asserts a spherical earth cosmology present in the Bible (also incorrect), but for the sake of this particular topic, Israelite cosmology saw that the boundaries of the earth were inscribed (khûg; literally “to inscribe with a compass”) upon the face of the cosmic waters. In the ancient Near East, pillars were often used as boundary markers, and given the euphemistic quality of darkness (“khosek“) in this passage, likely for evil or opposition to good (e.g. Isaiah 5:20), it is possible that the “cosmic boundaries of the earth would be those between the living and the dead.”5

When Job is read in the context of what an ancient Near Eastern reader would expect, it is difficult to extract a modern cosmological understanding from the text. I would argue that, to do so, requires a degree of mental gymnastics that do more to diminish the supernatural qualities of the Bible and reduce the impact of biblical eschatology simply to gratify a 21st century reader’s expectation. I have difficulty with Ray Comfort’s work for this reason—it may make for interesting talking points, but scientific concordism is perhaps more harmful to understanding the Bible in the long term than it is to simply read the word of God as its writers intended.

Think like a first century Jew, not like a 21st century Western reader.

  1. Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Job 26:7. ↩︎
  2. ESV and most others render this as “in the far north;” NET’s translators argue that Zaphon was most likely in view in this passage given the parallel of “peaks” in the text. ↩︎
  3. Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Job 26:7. ↩︎
  4. Although Leviathan is never described as having seven heads, Litanu and Tiamat are. The closest we get is Psalm 74:14 “You crushed the heads of Leviathan,” and it is almost certainly this imagery John draws upon in Revelation with the beast rising out of the sea—with seven heads and ten horns. The chaotic evil that lay in opposition to Yahweh throughout history rises up, one last time, only to finally be slain (Isaiah 27:1). ↩︎
  5. Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Job 9:6. ↩︎