‘Pillars of the Earth’ — Does the Bible teach a mythological cosmology?
Skeptics/deists/atheists often throw up the Earth being set on pillars in 1 Sam 2:8, as supposedly proving that the Bible writers taught an unscientific theory. Here is a brief response to this nonsense:
John Gill’s commentary (On-Line Bible/The Word), originally published 1766:
‘for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them;’
The earth has its foundations on which it is laid, and its pillars by which it is supported; but these are no other than the power and providence of God; otherwise the earth is hung upon nothing, in the open circumambient air: and that God can and does do this may well be thought, and to do all the above things in providence and grace, related in the preceding verses; in the support, and for the proof of which, this is observed. Figuratively, the pillars of the earth may design the princes of the world, the supreme rulers of it, and civil magistrates, who are sometimes called cornerstones, and the shields of the earth (Zech. 10:4, Ps 47:9) and so pillars, because they are the means of cementing, supporting, and protecting the people of the earth, and of preserving their peace and property. Likewise good men may be meant in a figurative sense, who, as they are the salt of the earth, are the pillars of it, for whose sake it was made, and is supported, and continued in being; the church is the pillar and ground of truth; and every good man is a pillar in the house of God, and especially ministers of the Gospel (see Rev. 3:12, 1Tim. 3:15, Gal 2:9, Pr 9:1).
It is clear that, in context, the reference is to the noble ones, princes, not the physical Earth. Immediately before, the context is people, and immediately after the context is also about people. It is quite clear that this is the meaning, as Gill points out (Ryrie’s Study Bible notes also say the same thing).
Compare Job 26:7 ‘He suspends the Earth over nothing’. This is in the context of descriptions of the physical creation and it is difficult to see how this statement could have a figurative meaning of any kind.