In Noah’s day, when God brought the promised destruction of the earth by water, the floodwaters came from two sources: “All the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11, NKJV). When the rain stopped 40 days later, “The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed,” and “the rain from the heavens was restrained” (Genesis 8:2, ESV). After that, the floodwaters prevailed over the earth for another 110 days (Genesis 7:24).
The “fountains of the great deep” and “windows of heaven” are metaphors for underground springs gushing up with water and sudden torrential rains falling from above as if floodgates in the sky had opened. The phrase windows of heaven depicts the earth as surrounded and enclosed by a solid vaulted, dome or tent-like structure with openings in it. If the modern-day canopy theory is correct, the floodgates in the sky were more literal than figurative.
Elsewhere in the Bible, “windows of heaven” symbolize God’s way of communicating from heaven and interacting with people on earth. God’s avenue of deliverance for the people of Samaria is pictured as the Lord making windows in heaven (see 2 Kings 7:2, 19). In Psalm 78:23 God references opening “the doors of heaven” to rain down manna in the desert to provide food for the people of Israel (cf. Exodus 16:4).
In Malachi 3:10, God promises to open the windows of heaven and pour out abundant blessings on those who honor and obey Him: “‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’” (NLT). By contrast, the prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s judgment coming down through the opened windows of heaven (Isaiah 24:18).
At times, the heavens opened, and people saw or heard visions from God (Ezekiel 1:1; Revelation 4:1; 19:11). “After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy’” (Matthew 3:16–17, NLT; cp. Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21; John 1:51). Just before Stephen was stoned to death, “the heavens opened,” and he saw Jesus standing at the right of God (Acts 7:56). The heavens also opened to reveal a vision to Peter (Acts 10:9–16).
The Hebrew imagery of the “windows of heaven” opening always seems to convey a sense of abundant outpouring, whether in torrents of rain, extreme judgment, plenty of food, or a profusion of blessings. In every instance, God is the One responsible for opening and closing the windows of heaven.