on Genesis 1 :10
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas - These two constitute what is called the terraqueous globe, in which the earth and the water exist in a most judicious proportion to each other. Dr. Long took the papers which cover the surface of a seventeen inch terrestrial globe, and having carefully separated the land from the sea, be weighed the two collections of papers accurately, and found that the sea papers weighed three hundred and forty-nine grains, and the land papers only one hundred and twenty-four; by which experiment it appears that nearly three-fourths of the surface of our globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic polar circles, are covered with water. The doctor did not weigh the parts within the polar circles, because there is no certain measurement of the proportion of land and water which they contain. This proportion of three-fourths water may be considered as too great, if not useless; but Mr. Ray, by most accurate experiments made on evaporation, has proved that it requires so much aqueous surface to yield a sufficiency of vapors for the purpose of cooling the atmosphere, and watering the earth. See Ray's Physico-theological Discourses.
An eminent chemist and philosopher, Dr. Priestley, has very properly observed that it seems plain that Moses considered the whole terraqueous globe as being created in a fluid state, the earthy and other particles of matter being mingled with the water. The present form of the earth demonstrates the truth of the Mosaic account; for it is well known that if a soft or elastic globular body be rapidly whirled round on its axis, the parts at the poles will be flattened, and the parts on the equator, midway between the north and south poles, will be raised up. This is precisely the shape of our earth; it has the figure of an oblate spheroid, a figure pretty much resembling the shape of an orange. It has been demonstrated by admeasurement that the earth is flatted at the poles and raised at the equator. This was first conjectured by Sir Isaac Newton, and afterwards confirmed by M. Cassini and others, who measured several degrees of latitude at the equator and near the north pole, and found that the difference perfectly justified Sir Isaac Newton's conjecture, and consequently confirmed the Mosaic account. The result of the experiments instituted to determine this point, proved that the diameter of the earth at the equator is greater by more than twenty-three and a half miles than it is at the poles, allowing the polar diameter to be 1/334th part shorter than the equatorial, according to the recent admeasurements of several degrees of latitude made by Messrs. Mechain and Delambre - L'Histoire des Mathem. par M. de la Lande, tom. iv., part v., liv. 6.
And God saw that it was good - This is the judgment which God pronounced on his own works. They were beautiful and perfect in their kind, for such is the import of the word טוב tob. They were in weight and measure perfect and entire, lacking nothing. But the reader will think it strange that this approbation should be expressed once on the first, fourth, fifth, and sixth days; twice on the third, and not at all on the second! I suppose that the words, And God saw that it was good, have been either lost from the conclusion of the eighth verse, or that the clause in the tenth verse originally belonged to the eighth. It appears, from the Septuagint translation, that the words in question existed originally at the close of the eighth verse, in the copies which they used; for in that version we still find, Και ειδεν ὁ Θεος ὁτι καλον· And God saw that it was good. This reading, however, is not acknowledged by any of Kennicott's or De Rossi's MSS., nor by any of the other versions. If the account of the second day stood originally as it does now, no satisfactory reason can be given for the omission of this expression of the Divine approbation of the work wrought by his wisdom and power on that day.
on Genesis 1 :10
Then called God to the ground, land. - We use the word "ground" to denote the dry surface left after the retreat of the waters. To this the Creator applies the term ארץ 'erets, "land, earth." Hence, we find that the primitive meaning of this term was land, the dry solid surface of matter on which we stand. This meaning it still retains in all its various applications (see note on Genesis 1:2). As it was soon learned by experience that the solid ground was continuous at the bottom of the water-masses, and that these were a mere superficial deposit gathering into the hollows, the term was, by an easy extension of its meaning, applied to the whole surface, as it was diversified by land and water. Our word "earth" is the term to express it in this more extended sense. In this sense it was the meet counterpart of the heavens in that complex phrase by which the universe of things is expressed.
And to the gathering of the waters called he seas. - In contradistinction to the land, the gathered waters are called seas; a term applied in Scripture to any large collection of water, even though seen to be surrounded by land; as, the salt sea, the sea of Kinnereth, the sea of the plain or valley, the fore sea, the hinder sea Genesis 14:3; Numbers 34:11; Deuteronomy 4:49; Joel 2:20; Deuteronomy 11:24. The plural form "seas" shows that the "one place" consists of several basins, all of which taken together are called the place of the waters.
The Scripture, according to its manner, notices only the palpable result; namely, a diversified scene of "land" and "seas." The sacred singer possibly hints at the process in Psalm 104:6-8 : "The deep as a garment thou didst spread over it; above the mountains stood the waters. At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. They go up the mountains; they go down the valleys; unto the place that thou hast founded for them." This description is highly poetical, and therefore true to nature. The hills are to rise out of the waters above them. The agitated waters dash up the stirring mountains, but, as these ascend, at length sink into the valleys, and take the place allotted for them. Plainly the result was accomplished by lowering some and elevating other parts of the solid ground. Over this inequality of surface, the waters, which before overspread the whole ground, flowed into the hollows, and the elevated regions became dry land. This is a kind of geological change which has been long known to the students of nature. Such changes have often been sudden and violent. Alterations of level, of a gradual character, are known to be going on at all times.
This disposition of land and water prepares for the second step, which is the main work of this day; namely, the creation of plants. We are now come to the removal of another defect in the state of the earth, mentioned in the second verse, - its deformity, or rude and uncouth appearance.
on Genesis 1 :10