God Stretched Out the Heavens, like Tent Curtains
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
It is He Who sits upon the circle [i.e., choreographed circuit] of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; — He Who stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)
God spread out the heavens, stretching them out like a curtain. (See, e.g., Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22 & 42:5 & 45:12.) The Bible teaches that God made (and organized) the cosmos in an orderly and logical way (including how He organized the cosmos to be ruled by the laws of mathematics), so the created cosmos is neither chaotic nor produced by “accidents” — such as is imagined by the “big bang” myth-makers. (See Genesis 1:14; Judges 5:20; Psalm 19:6 & 93:1 & 104:19.)
Many secular astronomers tell us that the universe is “receding” from us, i.e., moving away from Earth, as if the cosmos itself was (and is) “expanding”, growing larger in volume, every day! There are many problems with that speculative notion, most of which are beyond the scope of this philological study. However, to understand the underlying controversy, consider this quick quote from creation astrophysicist Jake Hebert, which helps to set the stage for examining this cosmological question:
“Light from distant galaxies contains clues that most astronomers interpret to mean that the galaxies are receding away from us. Furthermore, most astronomers interpret this to mean, not that the galaxies are moving through space away from us, but that space itself is expanding, carrying these galaxies ‘along for the ride.’ But what about creation astronomers? What do they think? Some have suggested that the numerous references to “stretching out” the heavens in Scripture (Job 9:8, Psalm 104:2, Isaiah 40:22, 42:5, and 45:12) refer to this ongoing expansion of space itself — as if the universe is continuing to expand, every moment, consistent with the idea of a ‘big bang’ explosion eons ago, long before any scientific observations were possible.” [Quoting Jake Hebert, with James J. S. Johnson, “God Spread out the Heavens, Stretching them out like a Curtain”, ICR-DC Universe Room, TS-A-2/Q-3 (AD2018-08-16).]
However, this appeal to Scripture – to promote Big bang “expanding universe” notions — is not only a “stretch”, it is flat-out wrong, because the usual Hebrew word for “stretch” (naṭaḥ) does not denote elasticity (much less ongoing/unlimited elasticity!), as one would expect if these verses were referring to some kind of ongoing and unlimited “stretching out” of space itself, as Big Bang advocates imagine. Rather, these passages are simply referring to God’s initial structuring of the stars, in their respective (and choreographed) circuit arrangements.
In fact, the qualifying phrase “like a [tent] curtain” really refutes the idea of unlimited elasticity, because when Old Testament Hebrews constructed a tent (as Bedouin Arabs frequently do, to this day), they arranged the structural positioning of the tent curtains, upon the rod-assembly scaffolding – but the curtains did not stretch and stretch and stretch forever! Rather, once the curtain is positioned into the desired structure it is maintained by the pole-assembly scaffolding.
Furthermore, the same Hebrew verb (naṭaḥ) used for “stretching out” the heavens [in the 1st paragraph above] is repeatedly used of Moses “stretching out” his arm to hold his staff up in the air (e.g., Exodus 7:19; 8:5; 8:6; 8:16; 9:22; 9:23; etc.), such as when Moses did so at the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. That word “stretched” did not mean that Moses’ arm (or hand, in some contexts) got longer and longer and longer, like a huge anaconda or an unbreakable rubber-band! Rather, Moses repositioned (i.e., unfolded) his arm so that it was fully stretched out from his torso.
In short, when God “stretched out the heavens” He was positioning the stars (and their respective galaxy formations) into the structural arrangement that He intended for them – and it takes God’s continuing maintenance for those stars to “stay in place” due to the otherwise-disintegrating influence of cosmic entropy (see Colossians 1:17). In fact, if God did not maintain the structure of the universe (and its innumerable parts, in their choreographed circuits), the universe’s order would disintegrate due to unrestrained entropy ( Colossians 1:17).