Yesterday, a facebook acquaintance asked me for help understanding a common misconception about the Bible. He said that one of his friends wanted to know how anyone could believe the Bible when it contains such outrageous claims like the claim that the earth is resting on pillars instead of being a globe suspended in space. Here is the answer that I gave:
The Bible does not say that the earth rests on pillars. There are only three verses which speak of the pillars of the earth, and all three are using figurative language to refer to leaders among men. This is the same figure of speech that Paul used in Galatians 2:9 where he spoke of Peter, James and John being pillars in the church.
The first verse that mentions the pillars of the earth is I Samuel 2:8.
"He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them."
The first part of this verse tells us that it is God who lifts people into positions of leadership. This is a familiar theme that is repeated all throughout Scripture. The second part of the verse explains why it is God who makes this determination. God determines who will be in leadership because the positions of leadership all belong to Him. He is the One who created those roles, and He is the One who determines who will fill those roles. The positions of leadership in the earth, the pillars of the earth, are the Lord's.
The second reference to the pillars of the earth is a little more difficult to understand. It is found in Job 9:6, but let's add verses 4 and 5 to our consideration as well.
"He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger. Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble."
To understand the reference to the pillars of the earth in verse 6, we have to first ask who verse 5 is speaking of when it says "they know not." Obviously, this verse is not talking about the mountains because mountains cannot know anything in the first place. This verse can only be speaking of the people mentioned in verse 4 who had hardened themselves against God. These people will never prosper. God moves entire mountains, and these people know not what to do. God shakes the earth and the leaders thereof tremble in fear. The book of Job is a revelation of the character of God in opposition to the mischaracterizations that Job's friends had of God, and Job understanding the pillars of 9:6 to be leaders fits perfectly with the purpose of the book.
The final reference to the pillars of the earth is found in Psalm 75:3, but let's include verses 2 and 4 to get the sense of the context.
"When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly. The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah. I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn:"
This passage is obviously referring to a judgement of people. The judge here promises to judge uprightly, and he says that before his judgement all the inhabitants of the earth will be dissolved. He will tell the fools to stop being foolish, and he will tell the wicked to stop bragging about themselves. And in the middle of this passage we see that the judge can do this because he is the one who bears up the pillars of the earth. This should cause us to think back to I Samuel 2:8 where we noticed that God is the One who both creates and fills the roles of leadership in the earth. Here in Psalm 75, we find that He is also the One who holds those leaders in their position, and when He decides to remove them from leadership, their societies are dissolved away. There is nothing that anyone can do to prevent His judgement.
These are the only three verses that mention the pillars of the earth, and when we take the time to understand them, we can see that all three are using the term "pillars" as a figure of speech for human leaders.
2/6/2018 08:28:20 am
Thanks for a thoughtful and sound discussion of the matter. Kudos!!
1/2/2019 05:40:31 pm
You conveniently left out Genesis 1:9 which says that the Earth sits on the pillars
6/24/2020 08:01:44 am
In what translation? Because my bible doesn’t say that. Gen. 1:9 says
7/9/2020 03:03:11 pm
In what Bible/version does it say in Genesis 1:9 that the Earth sits on oillers
4/16/2021 03:02:52 am
Great find James. They would seem to know exactly what to leave out to blind the masses👏👏👏
8/8/2021 06:10:27 am
Genesis 1:9 says no such thing
1/10/2022 02:03:37 am
Lying about peoples religion isn’t nice. It’s easily researched Genesis 1:9 doesn’t say that.
12/4/2019 12:51:44 pm
There are different meanings in all scriptures you mentioned
12/4/2019 12:53:10 pm
There are different words in Hebrew and Greek for the world pillar you mentioned
2/6/2018 12:55:38 pm
2/13/2018 11:39:59 pm
Well done exegesis Bro. Fortenberry!
9/25/2018 08:41:53 am
really hepled to understand the verses and what the pillars are.
12/1/2018 04:22:41 pm
Explained quite well. What are the 4 corners of the earth about?
12/23/2018 06:07:22 am
Pillars are used the same a trees. Kings in the ancient world were associated with trees and pillars. Thrones sometimes had trees as their backdrop. The usage of both can also be found in Scripture. The association can be attributed to the Tree of Knowledge, but is often mistaken for the Tree of Life (and even called that in places), where what we think bears life actually bears the law and death.
1/11/2019 07:39:12 am
I can't thank you enough for shedding light on these verses! You never once mentioned Flat Earth and yet this is the Biblcial answer to their silly assumptions. Blessings!
9/1/2021 06:56:11 am
You mentioned about the brother didn't mentioned the flat. How do you explain round surface holding water...
6/27/2019 04:50:26 pm
So you're saying that God speaks figuratively? Not a chance buddy God speaks facts not figuratively you need to believe everything he says as fact not figurative. You probably believe in The Big Bang Theory too don't you?
7/27/2022 05:38:34 am
Amen ... Truth!
6/27/2019 04:52:03 pm
I'm sorry but you can't believe in science and in God the two don't mix it's either one or the other
8/5/2019 01:08:23 am
There are 29 verses about the pillars. NOT 3. What Bible is everyone reading?
12/4/2019 12:54:49 pm
For word pillar there are different words in Hebrew and Greek
12/4/2019 12:57:00 pm
Job 9:6. H5975
3/5/2020 12:04:12 pm
The creation account in Genesis was not meant to be a scientific account of the world being brought to physical existence. The biblical authors had a different conception of the structure of the world. Which included pillars supporting the earth, among other things. Trying to bring our modern conceptions and expectations into these texts is a disservice to what the biblical authors where trying to express.
8/16/2020 11:30:21 pm
And where did you get this information ? Have you darkened Gods counsel door ? Did he tell you job was written for poetic value ? Of course you haven’t. Do you not remember the second paragraph of the last of the Bible ? Do not add to or take away from these words of this book . Do not do not do not . You get that ? Or shall I repeat it again ? I assure you , this world is flat . I garantee it . Because god himself showed me . The stars came down from thier place in the heavens and danced before me . And showed unto me these things . And I can raise my hand and the stars will respond to me . I have hundreds of witnesses that have watched me do this . And I have a thousand dollars for anyone who can debate me on it scriptural or scientific . And beat me ... you think god would show me and not give me knowledge to prove this . ? I can destroy any price of the globe you have in 30 seconds. For the pillars of the world are the lords and them up . And he established the world that shall not be moved . The Bible is literal in every word unless he tell you it is likened unto a parable , the it is not a parable . He likened the those men to pillars of the church he did not liken the any one to the pillars of the earth . Because that not what he said . Foolish ! Lift not up your horn ! Brag not about your wisdom of the world for it is foolishness to the lord . And because you love not the truth and recieve not the love of the truth he will send strong delusion . This article is blasphemy.heiracy and you had to add words to make the globe fit into it . I am open for depart and reproof if you can . But I warn you , I will chew you up and have no mercy on you . And I have a thousand dollars for you if you can prove even one thing to prove the globe that I can’t destroy . I suggest you remove this article or recant because it could cause you to have your name stricken from the book of life and the plagues visited upon you . That’s scriptural . Rev . I suggest you read it . I have extended public challenge to dabate to bill bye and Neil de grasses Tyson . Funny thing... they declined ...
7/27/2020 09:58:35 am
Wow! What a wonderful explanation! This should surely reach our Muslim friends all over the earth. The Bible is the word of God and it is the light for us to walk. It is without any *blemish*. The Lord can never be wrong and the Bible is the Lord Himself when we are in one spirit with the Lord. Everything said in the Bible is absolutely true and if it's vague, there is a definite reason which would prove that it is absolutely correct.
2/26/2021 09:11:18 am
There are a couple more references to "pillars" in the bible (not only 3) and I find it very convenient that you can claim figurative language when a detail cannot be literally true because of what we now know.
5/7/2022 09:32:39 am
5/14/2022 04:36:59 am
Check out this article for my explanation of why the Apocrypha is not part of the Bible: http://www.increasinglearning.com/blog/tobit
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
Contact Us if you would like to schedule Bill to speak to your church, group, or club.
"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)