Does the Bible Teach a Still Earth that Never Moves?
One of the more favorite arguments from atheists are those verses which say how the earth shall not be moved. This expression in modern English carries the opposite meaning that it originally meant in Hebrew. So in order to understand this ancient expression it is necessary to seek out an ancient scholar to define what it means.
How Do We Properly Interpret verses that say how the earth shall not be moved? St.Ambrose, a prominent 4th century church father, explains what those passages mean:
“How the disposition of the earth therefore depends upon the power of God, you may learn also where it is written: ‘He looketh upon the earth and maketh it tremble,’ and elsewhere: ‘One again I move the earth.’ Therefore, the earth remains immovable not by its balances, but is moved frequently by the nod and free will of God, as Job, too, says: ‘The Lord shaketh it from its foundations, and the pillars thereof tremble.’ And elsewhere: ‘Hell is naked before him and there is no covering for death. He stretched out the north over the empty space and hangeth the earth upon nothing. He bindeth up the waters in his clouds. The pillars of heaven fled away and are in dread at his rebuke. By his power the seas are calmed, by his wisdom is struck down the sea-monster, and the gates of heaven fear him.’
By the will of God, therefore, the earth remains immovable. ‘The earth standeth for ever,’ according to Ecclesiastes, yet is moved and nods according to the will of God. It does not therefore continue to exist because based on its own foundation. It does not stay stable because based on its own props. The Lord established it by the support of His will, because ‘in his hand are all the ends of the earth.’ The simplicity of this faith is worth all the proffered proofs.
Let others hold approvingly that the earth never will fall, because it keeps its position in the midst of the world in accordance with nature. They maintain that it is from necessity that the earth remains in its place and is not inclined in another direction, as long as it does not move contrary to nature but in accordance with it. Let them take occasion to magnify the excellence of their divine Artist and eternal Craftsman. What artist is not indebted to Him? ‘Who gave to women the knowledge of weaving or the understanding of embroidery?’ However, I who am unable to comprehend the excellence of His majesty and His art do not entrust myself to theoretical weights and measures. Rather, I believe that all things depend on His will, which is the foundation of the universe and because of which the world endures up to the present” (St.Ambrose, "Hexameron" The Fathers Of The Church series translated by John J. Savage, pp.22-23).
So the immovable earth is an expression that means how the earth, which is suspended in space over nothing, will not fall or drift away from the laws God ordained for it; that the earth maintains its position in the solar system without corruption, as the laws ordained are fixed laws and will not change. It could also refer to a massive earthquake.
Origen (185-254 A.D.)
Origen is a Ante-Nicene church father who wrote On First Principles, which is the very first book on Theology ever written by a Christian. The following quotation is taken from the John C. Cavadini edition.
“Certainly what some say of this world, that it is corruptible because it was made, and yet does not go to corruption because the will of God, who made it and preserves it from being mastered by corruption, is stronger and more powerful than corruption, may more rightly be believed of that world which we have above called a “fixed” sphere, because by the will of God it is in no way “subject to corruption” (cf.Rom 8:20, 21), for the reason that it has not admitted the causes of corruption."
Notice how Origen calls this earth a "fixed sphere" which means the laws ordained by God for this earth will not go into corruption. When God created this earth and all that there is therein, He called it "very good" which means God did not create this earth to fall down from its position in the solar system or float away into space etc. That is what the immovable earth verses mean.
Flat earthers and atheists alike often quote Psalm 104:5 in attempts to point out scientific errors in the Bible,
"Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever."
However, we can find this expression used for people as well.
"He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity" (Psalm 10:6).
"Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved" (Psalm 13:6).
"He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved" (Psalm 15:5).
"I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved" (Psalm 16:
"For the king trusteth in the Lord, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved" (Psalm 21:7).
This verse says that the king (referring to king David) will not fall into corruption.
"The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted" (Psalm 46:6).
I can say: I am a Christian and will not be moved.
This would be to say how I will not be moved by any attempt of persuasion,
"Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved" (Psalm 66:9).
Is this saying if our feet start moving we suffer? Flat earthers try their hardest to force an overly literal meaning to every verse.
"He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved" (Psalm 62:2).
I shall not be greatly moved by the persuasion of atheists.
"A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved" (Proverbs 12:3).
"he hath made the rounde worlde so sure, that it can not be moued" (Psalm 93:2 - 1539 Great Bible).
So if we read it literally like a science textbook written in modern English, we would have to assume that people do not move and their feet never walk. But the expression is better understood as not being moved toward corruption. Its the same expression as me saying I will not be moved by atheism.
Hebrew Lexicon for Strong's H4131 - מוֹט môwṭ
The New Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible:
"H4131. מוֹט môwṭ, mote; a primitive root; to waver; by implication, to slip, shake, fall:—be carried, cast, be out of course, be fallen in decay, × exceedingly, fall(-ing down), be (re-) moved, be ready, shake, slide, slip."
This definition is consistent with the words of Origen and Ambrose. It means that the earth will not go into corruption by deviating from the natural laws God ordained for the earth.
Here is a verse that gives us the other view,
"The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly" (Isaiah 24:19).
In context, this verse speaks of an earth that is falling into corruption and its inhabitants are burned. Here is the entire chapter.
It describes an earth that is no longer habitable.
"The Lorde is kyng, and hath put on glorious apparell, the Lorde hath put on his apparell, & gyrded him selfe with strengthe: he hath made the rounde world so sure, that it can not be moued" (1537 Matthew's Bible).
God made the world and it will not fall into corruption. Scripture says the earth remains forever (God restores the earth). The earth does see corruption to some degree during the last days. But Christ restores the earth so that it will become habitable for an eternity.
The phrase "round world" comes from the Hebrew word tebel. Here are 4 Hebrew lexicons defining tebel as globe.
These same lexicons also prove that the "round-world" renderings are correct.
"Tell it out amonge the Heathen, that the Lorde is kynge: and that it is he, which hath made the rounde worlde so faste, that it can not be moued, and howe that he shall iudge the people righteously" (1537 Matthew's Bible).
This is another tebel verse which says the earth is a globe.
1 Chronicles 16:30
"Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved."
This verse truly defines the expression well. The earth is stable, that it will not fall into corruption. Its not about the rotation of the earth at all. The verse also tells us that God is in control.
"Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever."
I was very impressed when my 75 year old mom read this verse and was so very impressed with it she had to tell me about it. I was shocked that she knew how to interpret it!! My mother isn't into creationism like I am. She's no theologian either. Yet she knew this verse was about the stability of the earth and how God won't allow the earth to deviate from its fixed laws. My mom does not know any of these flat earth verse round earth arguments. Yet she still understood this verse. I found that amazing
God made the earth's foundation very good so we don't have to worry about the core of the earth just suddenly dying on us or exploding on us. Our earth was made very well. God knew what He was doing.
If you have read this entire post then you now know that the expression "earth shall not be moved" means something entirely different from what atheists say it means. The expression has nothing to do with the earth's rotation. It does have a strong connection to Job 26:7 as all the ancients knew what the verse meant but questioned the earth's stability to remain suspended like that. St.Ambrose gave his listeners a meaningful answer from Scripture. It wasn't hard to see that he was including Job 26:7 in his explanation. That verse has simply never lost popularity. Job 26:7 was as popular by the ancients as it is for us modern creationists. For us the verse is like "yeah, way back in 2000 B.C. Job knew the earth was suspended in space over nothing." To the ancients its a mind blowing verse none of them could comprehend but they trusted it anyway. And back in ancient times it took a lot of faith to believe the earth was suspended in space over nothing. But the faith of the Jews and Christians did not question the validity of the verse's claim.
The LORD assured us that our earth, though suspended in space over nothing, will never fall from its suspended position in space nor in any way just suddenly become corrupt in its ways. So this expression has a figurative meaning and the flerfs couldn't figure it out because they read everything absolutely literal to 21st century terminologies. And that is not how you understand the Bible,
"The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved" (Ps.99:1).