Like English the Hebrews word for earth ‘eretz can mean the planet or just land, or a particular piece of land, usually Israel. The Hebrew for dirt or dust is ‘adamah, from which the Hebrew for human, adam is derived. [See Also: Four Kinds of Men] When you think about it, it is an odd thing to call our planet Earth when it is 71% water. But we humans don’t live on the water, we live on the earth. So earth it is.
There is also a need when looking into the use of this word to separate poetry from historical narrative.
Sometime the Text appears to mean that the earth is flat, some kind of pancake floating in water.
6 And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. Gen. 1:6-8
There was a time when continental drift was just a theory. I remember spending many hours with my school mates contemplating whether this could be true or not. From our childlike perception the only real evidence was that South American looks like a perfect fit for the arm pit of Africa, but nothing else look like a fit to us. Then there was a map of the Atlantic Ocean floor made from many sonar soundings. There was a zipper down the middle, right were the continents had broken apart. There was the proof for a long argued theory. The continents had one time been one giant continent that the scientist call Pangea. (See Also: Wikipedia’s post on Pangea, just ignore the time scale)
Well, it turns out this Pangea was pretty much what the first three chapters of Genesis described. A largely flat surface surrounded by water. This was the way our planet was until-
To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan. Gen. 10:25
The Four Corners
As a largely spherical object the earth does not have corners. However every language, culture, or people group have four cardinal directions. In English that is north, south, east and west. The use of this phrase in the Bible is to include everywhere, and not meant as a geography lesson.
He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Is. 11:12
Ezekiel speaks of both the land and the earth. In this next verse the land of Israel is ‘adamah Israel, a phrase that is meant to remind one of our creation from the dust or ‘adamah of the earth.
“And you, O son of man, thus says the Lord GOD to the land of Israel: An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land.” Ezek. 7:2
For some reason the translators have it here as the four corner of the land but in Hebrew it is ‘eretz.
The writers of the Bible, as with most ancient cultures, knew the Earth was round. Only the Pope ever thought it wasn’t, and since he put those who disagreed with him into the INQUISITION, most people kept their mouths shut.
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; Is. 40:22
When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, Prov. 8:27
The Hebrew word here is chug and means circle or horizon.