While it is true that the Hebrews had a rough understanding of the circulation of water vapour and the source of rain in the clouds (Job 36:27, 28), they also conceived of mechanisms in heaven whereby God could directly induce great atmospheric catastrophes. Obviously the clouds themselves could not have held enough water for the Great Flood, so “all the foundations of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” (Gen. 7:11; Mal. 3:10). This is also further proof that the earth was surrounded by watery chaos. The Old Testament talks about divine “chambers” in heaven and this notion seems to have been borrowed from Canaanite mythology. Marvin Pope has discovered a direct parallel to the Ugaritic God ‘El who “answers from the seven chambers,” usually through the media of the seven winds.(38)
Significantly, we find that Yahweh “brings forth the wind from his storehouses” (Ps. 135:7); and “from the chamber comes the tempest, from the scatter-winds the cold” (Job 37:9, AB). From Amos we learn that God “builds his upper chambers in the heavens” (9:6), and the psalmists speak of God storing “his upper chambers” with water so that he can water the mountains (Ps. 104:3, 13; cf. Ps. 33:7). Job gives us the most detailed account of God’s chambers: “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?” (38:22). We must not forget that “Yahweh is a warrior” (Ex. 15:3) and it is he, for example, who caused the violent storm which destroyed the Canaanite army of Sisera (Jdgs. 5). In the noncanonical Ecclesiasticus we discover that Yahweh has more than storms in his chambers: “In his storehouses, kept for proper time, are fire, famine, disease” (39:29). Dillow argues convincingly that Yahweh’s storehouses of rain are not just clouds or ocean basins; rather, they most definitely have a celestial location.(39)
In the diagram at the head of the chapter, the area above the “ocean of heaven” is labelled the “heaven of fire.” I have not been able to verify this, and it seems that it must be labelled “heaven of heavens” instead. Again various levels of heaven are not unique to the Hebrews for we can read that the Vedic seer conceived of at least “three superior realms of heaven” (Rig-veda 8.41.9). One psalmist clearly distinguishes between the two levels: “You highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens” (Ps. 148:4). This area is exclusively Yahweh’s domain: “The heaven of heavens belongs to Yahweh…” (Ps. 115:16, AB); “To the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens…” (Deut. 10:14); and “heaven and highest heaven cannot contain thee” (1 Kgs. 8:27). These passages have led to endless speculation about the various levels of heaven. Creationist Henry D. Morris claims that there are three heavens: (1) atmospheric heaven (Jer. 4:25); (2) sidereal heaven (Is. 13:10); (3) and the heaven of God’s throne (Heb. 9:24).(40) The heaven of heavens mentioned above is probably not Morris’ third heaven, because it was created (Ps. 148:4) and it seems that God does not dwell there (1 Kgs. 8:27). Commentators will probably never be able to sort out many of these obscure passages.
In closing this chapter, something must be said about the process of “demythologizing.” This word, made popular by Rudolph Bultmann, has become a dirty word among conservative Christians. It is clear, however, that demythologizing happened with the writing of the Old Testament, and it is occurring at another level within evangelical hermeneutics itself. Recall that James Barr’s theory is that fundamentalists take the Bible literally only when it fits the doctrine of inerrancy. They do not hesitate to naturalize biblical events when they must be harmonized with historical or scientific facts. When Dillow claims, and rightly so, that Moses wrote of a sovereign Yahweh completely in charge of a depersonalized nature, he is conceding that the Hebrew writers, as with our example of the Sumerian chronologies, were historicizing myth. But Dillow and other evangelicals are also demythologizers in disguise, for they want us to believe that a heavenly ocean and the flood it caused are facts and not myths. This is demythologizing at its worst and the evangelical rationalists are its champions.