The phrase “windows of heaven” appears in Genesis 7:11 in reference to the great flood during the time of Noah. This verse states that “the windows of the heavens were opened” when the flood began. The mention of “windows of heaven” is a symbolic or metaphorical way of describing the event, not a literal statement about actual windows in the sky. Here is an explanation of what this phrase means in context:
1. It refers to the opening up of the heavenly waters above the earth. In the ancient Near Eastern worldview, the heavens were seen as a huge vault or dome over the earth. Above this celestial dome were the “heavenly waters” – the source of rain, dew, snow etc. Opening up the “windows of heaven” meant unleashing these heavenly waters onto the earth, bringing a massive, cataclysmic flood. So Genesis 7:11 is describing the beginning of the worldwide flood in vivid poetic language.
2. It emphasizes the divine action behind this event. The flood was not just a random natural disaster – it came about because God directly intervened in the natural order. The language of opening up “windows” highlights God’s sovereignty in sending the flood. He personally opened up the floodgates and poured out the waters from heaven.
3. It signals a reversal of creation. In Genesis 1, God separated the waters above from the waters below and created an expanse or “dome” of the sky (Genesis 1:6-8). Now in Genesis 7, God undoes this separation by opening up the windows above this dome and merging the waters again. The flood represents a undoing of the ordered world God had made.
4. It highlights the catastrophic scale of the flood. Opening all the “windows of heaven” unleashed a worldwide deluge that was unlike any ordinary rainstorm. This was a unique, divinely directed event that flooded the entire globe.
5. It adds dramatic flair to the narrative. The visual imagery of floodgates in the sky swinging open makes for an unforgettable scene. Using vivid poetic language sets the stage for the epic account of the flood that follows.
So in summary, the reference to God opening the “windows of heaven” in Genesis 7:11 is a descriptive way of saying that a colossal heavenly flood was initiated by divine intervention. This reversed the ordered creation, demonstrating God’s sovereignty over the earth. This dramatic image reinforces the catastrophic scale of the flood and sets the tone for the cataclysmic events being narrated. The phrase encapsulates the significance of this pivotal moment at the dawn of the great flood.
While “windows of heaven” is not meant to be taken literally, this vivid expression conveys theological truths about God’s power over the elements of nature. He has ordained natural laws, but at times intervenes directly in miraculous ways for His purposes. The unleashing of the floodwaters illustrate God’s judgments against human sin and corruption, while also foreshadowing the later outpouring of spiritual blessings described as flowing from the opened “windows of heaven” (Malachi 3:10).
Ultimately, the flood account highlights God’s authority over life and death, judgment and salvation. By opening the “windows of heaven” at this critical juncture in human history, God powerfully steered the destiny of humanity and revealed glimpses of His divine character – His justice and mercy, His wrath and grace. The poetic image of the floodgates swinging open captures the theological significance of this epic, world-altering event that impacted all subsequent generations.
Some key points in summary:
- The phrase “windows of heaven” is a symbolic description, not a literal reference to actual windows or floodgates in the sky.
- It conveys the idea of God sovereignly unleashing the heavenly waters to flood the earth.
- This reversed the separation of waters at creation, demonstrating God’s supremacy over the natural order.
- It highlights the global scale and divine origins of this cataclysmic flood.
- It adds vividness and drama to the narrative.
- It encapsulates key theological implications regarding God’s judgment and mercy.
While this image of heavenly floodgates is poetic and symbolic, it points to vital truths concerning God’s character and purposes demonstrated in the worldwide flood during Noah’s time. The “opening of the windows of heaven” marked a divinely ordained disruption of the natural order that vividly showed God’s supremacy over creation and humankind.
The concept of “windows of heaven” also appears in a few other parts of Scripture, where it takes on additional theological significance:
Malachi 3:10 –
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Here, the phrase refers metaphorically to God abundantly pouring out spiritual blessings on His faithful people, just as the floodwaters poured out through the opened windows long ago. It is used as part of Malachi’s prophecy promising that God will richly provide for those who honor Him.
He who flees at the sound of the terror shall fall into the pit, and he who climbs out of the pit shall be caught in the snare. For the windows of heaven are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble.
In this prophetic text warning of coming judgment on the earth, the opened windows of heaven again signal cataclysmic flooding as a manifestation of God’s wrath.
2 Kings 7:2,19
Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”
And the captain had answered the man of God, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?” And he had said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”
Here the phrase is used mockingly by an unbelieving captain who did not accept that God could provide food miraculously for the besieged city of Samaria. The man of God rebuked his unbelief, asserting that God indeed could open the windows of heaven even when circumstances seemed impossible.
Examining how this symbolic phrase is used in other biblical texts provides deeper insight into its theological significance in Genesis 7. It paints a picture of God reaching down from heaven to act on earth – unleashing floodwaters of destruction in Noah’s time, outpouring blessings on the faithful like Malachi describes, or working miracles that defy human expectations as in 2 Kings 7. The opened windows represent God’s direct divine intervention in human affairs to accomplish His purposes.
While Genesis 7:11 should not be taken as a literal, scientific description of physical events, the vivid image of the floodgates of heaven opening captures the dawning of a new epoch in sacred history. The worldwide deluge dramatically changed the landscape of creation and humankind. It powerfully demonstrates that God is not aloof or uninvolved with earthly matters. He engages actively with His creation, steering the course of events toward His sovereign plan. The windows of heaven represent this divine-human interaction, in both judgment and mercy.
In the New Testament, the symbolic phrase “opening heaven” continues to reflect God reaching down to carry out His redemptive plan on earth:
And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens open as God the Father affirms His beloved Son and the Holy Spirit empowers Him for ministry, inaugurating a new era of salvation.
And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Jesus alludes to Genesis 28:12 and promises Nathanael that he will witness heaven opened and God’s power at work through the mediation of the Son of Man (Jesus). This opening represents God coming to earth to make salvation possible.
And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
As Stephen is martyred, he sees the heavens opened in a vision of Christ the Son of Man exalted to God’s right hand, representing how Jesus’ sacrifice opened access to God.
After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
John’s vision of an open door in heaven ushers in apocalyptic prophecies and God’s final triumph. The open door represents God inviting John into His divine plan.
As we can see, this symbolic phrase accrues more significance as Scripture develops. The opened windows of heaven ultimately point forward to how Jesus’ death tore open access to God, opening the way for salvation through the work of the Holy Spirit. Yet it remains rooted in the historic opening of the floodgates in Genesis 7 which profoundly shaped the biblical drama of creation, judgment, redemption and restoration.
The “windows of heaven” shouldn’t be mythologized – the Bible isn’t teaching a literal theology of heavenly floodgates. But this vivid poetic image distills key truths about God’s dealings with humanity. From Noah to Pentecost and beyond, it encapsulates how God “opens heaven” to pour out both judgment and blessing, steering history toward His sovereign purposes.