The earth takes shape like clay under a seal
Job 38 contains the famous verse “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4). The whole chapter revolves around God’s creation and that Job has no reason to question or criticize any of that since he is created unlike God. Job is also a book that contains many poetic expressions and analogies, but they all have meanings which the author would like to provide to the readers. We are not supposed to ignore such descriptions and comparisons under the excuse that “it’s only poetry and means nothing, so we are free to interpret it as we like”.
Here is the beginning of Job 38, in NKJV to make the language more up to date:
Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone,7 When the morning stars sang together,And all the sons of God shouted for joy?8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors,When it burst forth and issued from the womb;9 When I made the clouds its garment, And thick darkness its swaddling band;10 When I fixed My limit for it, And set bars and doors;11 When I said,‘This far you may come, but no farther, And here your proud waves must stop!’12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, And caused the dawn to know its place,13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it?
Notice that it is all about God’s creation and how everything came about/took form. We can read about God stretching out a line on and over the earth (easiest on a flat level), foundations being fastened, a corner stone, the sea being shut in with doors likened with a womb which will stop the water and the waves to go no further, a fixed limit for the whole construction with bars and doors (sounds like the restrictions of Antarctic), the earth having ends which you could take hold of to shake people off, etc.
Then comes our verse Job 38:14 which describes in which way the earth took form:
Job 38:14 It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment. KJV
Job 38:14 It takes on form like clay under a seal, And stands out like a garment. NKJV
We already know from Genesis that the earth after coming into existence was “without form and void”, and this could absolutely be likened to a piece of clay (empty and void of anything else but the clay itself).
Gen. 1:2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Job 38:14 tells us how the earth originally got its form. The procedure to form the earth is likened to clay under a seal. “Seal” is a translation from the Hebrew word “chotham” (Strong’s 2368) and apart from seal it can mean a signet-ring. From Blueletterbible we learn that the Hebrews were used to carry with them a signet ring in a string.
A signet ring could be used to seal and sign a piece of correspondence through applying soft clay on it which is pressed down by this uniquely made ring. If placed right in the opening, this seal would reduce the risk of an unauthorized person reading the material since it would be obvious on the broken seal. At the same time as a distinctly made signet ring can be used to seal a document it is also used to prove identification and authenticity.
Here are some other verses containing the same word:
Gen. 38:18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.
Ex. 28:11 With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, shalt thou engrave the two stones with the names of the children of Israel: thou shalt make them to be set in ouches of gold.
1 King 21:8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.
Jer. 22:24 As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence
Job 41:15 His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.16 One is so near to another, that no air can come between them. (likely describing the scales of a dinosaur)
Sng. 8:6 Set me as a seal upon thine heart,as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.
Hag. 2:23 In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.
When a signet ring is pressed down on soft clay, the area in contact with the ring will get engraved according to the ring’s pattern and the excess clay will be pressed out and collected in a ring around the area, slightly elevated. This happened to be exactly the way a flat earth map looks like (the Antarctic being the outer ring)! At the same time this analogy is very difficult to understand when applied to a ball. How could a spinning ball be the end result of a signet ring pressed into clay? Things get more flattened out if pressed down, rather than getting shaped as a ball. (Other Bible verses suggesting the earth is flat here.)
The “features” (the continents of the earth, including the hills) stand out like those of a garment. It is difficult to get the picture of garments and clothes appearing as a ball.
This is no proof of a flat earth, but on the other hand it is not a sin to trust the information in the Bible. God will never be mad at us for accepting his words as they stand – in context and without trying to reinterpret them. He knows our hearts and if our aim is to simply stand corrected by his Word. Sometimes we can get help from other Christians who point out misunderstandings for us, and vice versa. We should also always be ready to modify our understanding if the Bible requires it – in the immediate context and also in a wider Biblical perspective. Just like the Bereans.
2 Tim. 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.