The Great Deep is a phrase in the Bible that has two distinct meaning: oceans and subterranean waters. It is best known in reference to the flood of Noah in Genesis 7:11 where it describes the the waters that burst forth as the "springs of the great deep". In this context the great deep describes subterranean waters that flooded the Earth.
The phrase great deep is found in four places in the Bible. It is translated from two Hebrew words, רב, rab (an adjective meaning, much, many, great) and תהום, tĕhōm (a noun meaning, water making noise and translated as deep, depths, deep places, abyss, the deep, sea). Tĕhōm is derived from the root verb הום, hūm meaning to make an uproar or agitate greatly. In the Hebrew language, the phrase תהום רבה, tĕhōm râbâh became a stereotyped compound noun and therefore always used without the definite article, thus there was not this or that great deep but rather an all encompassing great deep. Franz Delitzsch translated it as unfathomable ocean.
The phrase is of great interest to creationists and flood catastrophists because of its use in Genesis 7:11 where the fountains or springs of the great deep are in someway associated with the onset of the global flood.
"In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened." — Genesis 7:11
Creation scientists and Bible scholars conclude that, in this passage, the "great deep" refers to the splitting open of springs of subterranean waters, which along with a torrential downpour caused the worldwide flood to come about. This conclusion can be made from the comparative philology and the Hebrew terminology used in Genesis 7:11 and Genesis 8:2 as well as consideration of the literary structure of 7:11.
Seas and oceans
"Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over?" — Isaiah 51:10
Clearly the sea in this passage is "the waters of the great deep". Since the Red Sea is but a part of the all encompassing great deep, i.e. all the seas and oceans, then here is the Bible definition of great deep.
In the two other places where the phrase is also used the same definition is fully satisfactory.
"This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: The Sovereign LORD was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land." — Amos 7:4
In other words, a judgment by fire will evaporate all the oceans and destroy the land.
"Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast." — Psalms 36:6
In other words, God’s righteousness is as high as the mountains; His justice is as low as the deepest ocean.
- The Fountains of the Great Deep by Gerhard F. Hasel. Origins 1(2):67-72 (1974)
- Strong's Exhaustive Hebrew Dictionary -- word 1949
- Roy, Allen, 1996, Fountains of the Great Deep: The Primary Cause of the Flood, CRSQ, vol.33, no. 1, p. 19
- Rehwinkel, Alfred, 1951, The Flood, in the Light of the Bible, Geology and Archaeology, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, MO. p. 100.