Earth or World?

before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.

(Proverbs 8:26) ESV

The planet Earth is usually referred to using the Hebrew word erets. It’s modified in many ways and gives a lot of detail about the Earth’s structure.

Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.

(Proverbs 8:31) KJV

Another phrase which occurs quite often is the world. This is a different Hebrew word tebel, and it has a different sense. Whereas the Earth refers to the planet beneath our feet, the world frequently refers to us – the people of the Earth. The world then is the habitable portion of the Earth and the people in it.

In the passage above the Hebrew tebel is rendered as habitable. The world is part of the earth, but it’s not all of it. Hence tebel, the world, is context dependent. It’s important to know what the passage you’re looking at is about in order to know what the world refers to in each instance.

That’s Hebrew. When we get into the Greek we find another context. We can deduce three specific contexts from the way that the phrase the foundation(s) of the Earth/world is used.

Foundation(s) of the Earth/World in context

  1. the foundation of the world (Greek, singular)
    • first cause, conception
      • before God said let there be light,
      • the act of conception which begat God the Son.
  2. the foundation(s) of the earth (Hebrew)
    • gravitational singularity
      • the creative act of the 2nd day,
      • the inception of the core accretion model.
  3. the foundations of the world (Hebrew, plural)
    • the earth’s crust and mantle,
      • synonyms:
        • bottoms of the mountains
        • foundations of the hills
        • foundations of the mountains

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