Flat Earth in the Bible?

Joseph Francis Alward
March 21, 2003

The Bible contains a variety of verses which show that the writers thought the  earth was flat:

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Shake the Earth by Its Edges

"take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it (Job 38:12-13)

How could the earth be held by its "edges"? A sphere has no edges. Would the Job author have spoken of "edges" of the earth if he had known the earth was a sphere?  Which makes more sense?  The author imagined grabbing and shaking by the edges a flat earth, or the author imagined grabbing the ball of the earth by "edges" which don't exist?  Before you answer, consider what else the same author had to say about how the earth is formed:  

Stamp Out the Earth Like Clay under A Seal

Clay when stamped with a seal is not rounded into a ball, but flattened, like the clay seal (ca. 3300-3000 BCE) below found in Israel in 1994.1  In the verse below, readers will see that the Job author believes that the earth was stamped out in the manner of clay flattened with a seal:



   "The earth takes shape like clay under a seal." (Job 38:14)

This is the same author who spoke of grabbing the earth by its "edges."  If the Job author had known the earth was round, would he have referred to edges which don't exist, and would he have compared it to clay seals, which are pressed flat?

Whole Earth Can Be Seen from A Tall Mountain

Other evidence that the Bible teaches that the earth is flat is found in the following passages. The first is in Matthew:

"[T]he devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them"
(Matthew 4:1-12)

Certainly, if the earth were flat, standing atop "an exceedingly high mountain" would allow Jesus to see the whole earth, but there is no mountain tall enough to allow him to see the other side of a spherical earth. At most, one hemisphere would be seen, but not the other.

Or a Tall-Enough Tree

The other passage is in Daniel:

The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth; and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. (Daniel 4:10-11)

The "whole" earth?  No matter how tall the tree was, even if it was only a dream, it would not have been visible from the other side of the earth.

Hopeful believers in the scientific wisdom found in the Bible ignore the verse above and point to a verse in Isaiah which they think shows that the Bible writers knew the earth was a sphere.  They believe that the word "circle" could actually mean "sphere," since both are round, but they ignore Isaiah's use of a different word in another verse where he speaks of a "ball."  Here are the two verses:

To whom then will ye liken God? ....It is he that sitteth upon the circle (chuwg) of the earth (Isaiah 40:18-23

He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a BALL (duwr) into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord's house.  (Isaiah 22:18)


The Hebrew word used in scripture for "circle" in the verse above is chuwg.  If the Bible writer had meant for us to believe that "circle of the earth" meant that the earth was round, the writer would have used the Hebrew word for "ball," which is duwr.  The fact that Isaiah didn't use duwr shows that he wasn't trying to tell us the earth was like a ball.  

Furthermore, there exists a simple interpretation of "circle of the earth" which does not imply a spherical earth. On a hill overlooking a wide expanse free of tall trees and other hills the horizon appears as a perfect circle, 360 degrees of blue sky.  If Isaiah meant to tell us the earth was a globe, he would have used another word. A circle is not a ball, nor is a ball a circle. Everyone knew what a "circle" was in those times; it meant the same then as it means today.


1.  Seal shows a face and two flagpoles.  For more information, see:

Levy, T.E., Alon, D., van den Brink, E.C.M., Kansa, E., and Yekuteli, Y.
in press The Protodynastic/Dynasty 1 Egyptian Presence in Southern Canaan: A Preliminary Report on the 1994 Excavations at Nahal Tillah, Israel. In S. Wolf (ed) The Douglas Esse Memorial Volume.

For a far more in-depth discussion of the Bible's teachings on the shape of the earth and its relationship to the sun, moon, and stars, the reader should consult The Shape of the Earth, which contains a comprehensive listing of all of the verses which show that the writers believed the earth was flat, unmoving, and the center of the universe.