(Anglo-Saxon, heofon, from heofen, elevated, vaulted.)
THE THREE HEAVENS. (According to the Jewish system.) The word heaven in the Bible denotes (1) the air, thus we read of “the fowls of heaven,” “the dew of heaven,” and “the clouds of heaven”; (2) the starry firmament, as, “Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven” (Gen. i. 14); (3) the palace of Jehovah; thus we read that “heaven is My throne” (Isa. lxvi. 1, and Matt. v. 34).
Loosely, the word is used in Scripture sometimes simply to express a great height. “The cities are walled up to heaven” (Deut. i. 28). So the builders on Shinar designed to raise a tower whose top should “reach unto heaven” (Gen. xi. 4).
THE FIVE HEAVENS. (According to the Ptolemaic system.) (1) The planetary heaven; (2) the sphere of the fixed stars; (3) the crystalline, which vibrates; (4) the primum mobilë, which communicates motion to the lower spheres; (5) the empyrean or seat of deity and angels. (See above.)
Sometimes she deemed that Mars had from above Left his fifth heaven, the powers of men to prove.
Hoole: Orlando Furioso, book xiii.
THE SEVEN HEAVENS. (According to the Mahometan system.)
The first heaven, says Mahomet, is of pure silver, and here the stars are hung out like lamps on golden chains. Each star has an angel for warder. In this heaven “the prophet” found Adam and Eve.
The second heaven, says Mahomet, is of polished steel and dazzling splendour. Here “the prophet” found Noah.
The third heaven, says Mahomet, is studded with precious stones too brilliant for the eye of man. Here Azrael, the angel of death, is stationed, and is for ever writing in a large book or blotting words out. The former are the names of persons born, the latter those of the newly dead. (See below, Heaven of heavens.)
The fourth heaven, he says, is of the finest silver. Here dwells the Angel of Tears, whose height is “500 days' journey,” and he sheds ceaseless tears for the sins of man.
The fifth heaven is of purest gold, and here dwells the Avenging Angel, who presides over elemental fire. Here “the prophet” met Aaron. (See below.)
The sixth heaven is composed of Hasala, a sort of carbuncle. Here dwells the Guardian Angel of heaven and earth, half-snow and half-fire. It was here that Mahomet saw Moses, who wept with envy.
The seventh heaven, says the same veritable authority, is formed of divine light beyond the power of tongue to describe. Each inhabitant is bigger than the whole earth, and has 70,000 heads, each head 70,000 mouths, each mouth 70,000 tongues, and each tongue speaks 70,000 languages, all for ever employed in chanting the praises of the Most High. Here he met Abraham. (See below).
To be in the seventh heaven. Supremely happy. The Cabbalists maintained that there are seven heavens, each rising in happiness above the other, the seventh being the abode of God and the highest class of angels. (See above.)
THE NINE HEAVENS. The term heaven was used anciently to denote the orb or sphere in which a celestial body was supposed to move, hence the number of heavens varied. According to one system, the first heaven was that of the Moon, the second that of Venus, the third that of Mercury, the fourth that of the Sun, the fifth that of Mars, the sixth that of Jupiter, the seventh that of Saturn, the eighth that of the “fixt” or firmament, and the ninth that of the Crystalline. (See Nine Spheres.)
HEAVEN (in modern phraseology) means: (1) a great but indefinite height, (2) the sky or the vault of the clouds, (3) the special abode of God, (4) the place of supreme felicity, (5) supposed residence of the celestial gods, etc.
The heaven of heavens. A Hebrewism to express the highest of the heavens, the special residence of Jehovah. Similar superlatives are “the Lord of lords,” “the God of gods,” “the Song of songs.” (Compare our Very very much, etc.)
“Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's.” —Deut. x. 14.
Animals admitted into heaven. (See under Paradise.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894