|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:14-19 In the fourth day's work, the creation of the sun, moon, and stars is accounted for. All these are the works of God. The stars are spoken of as they appear to our eyes, without telling their number, nature, place, size, or motions; for the Scriptures were written, not to gratify curiosity, or make us astronomers, but to lead us to God, and make us saints. The lights of heaven are made to serve him; they do it faithfully, and shine in their season without fail. We are set as lights in this world to serve God; but do we in like manner answer the end of our creation? We do not: our light does not shine before God, as his lights shine before us. We burn our Master's candles, but do not mind our Master's work.
Verse 16. - And God made two great lights. Perhaps no part of the material universe more irresistibly demands a supreme Intelligence as its only proper origin and cause. "Elegantissima haecce solis, planetarum et cometarum compages non nisi consilio et domino entis intelligentis et potentis oriri potuit" (Newton, 'Principia,' lib. 3. sub fin. Ed. of Le Seur and Jacquier, vol. 2. p. 199). The greater light to rule (literally, to make like; hence to judge; then to rule. Mashal; cf. βασιλεύω ( Γεσενινσ<ΒΤΤ·Ξομμενταρψ Ωορδ>) the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. The greater light is obviously the sun, which is sometimes denominated chammah, "the warm" (Psalm 19:7; Isaiah 30:26); sometimes there, "the glistering" (Job 9:7); but usually shemesh, "the minister (Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 33:14). Here it is described by its bulk or magnitude, which is larger than that of the moon, the second of the two luminaries, which is also spoken of as great relatively to the stars, which, though in reality immensely exceeding it in size, yet appear like little bails of light (kokhavim) bestudding the blue canopy of night, and are so depicted - the Biblical narrative being geocentric and phenomenal, not heliocentric or scientific. How the work of this day was effected does not fall within the writer's scope to declare, the precise object of revelation being to teach not astronomy, or any other merely human gnosis, but religion. Accepting, however, the guidance of physical astronomy, we may imagine that the cosmical light of day one, which had up to this point continued either encompassing our globe like a luminous atmosphere, or existing at a distance from it, but in the plane of the earth's orbit, was now, if in the first of these positions, gradually broken up, doubtless through the shrinking of the earth's mass and the consequent lessening of its power Of attraction, and slowly drawn off towards, and finally concentrated, as a photosphere round the sun, which was thereby constituted chief luminary or "light-holder" the system, the moon and planets becoming, as a necessary consequence, "light-holders" in the secondary sense of "light-reflectors." It is interesting to note that some such explanation as this appears to have suggested itself to Willet, who wrote before the birth of Newton, and at a time when solar physics and spectrum analysis were things of the remote future. It m not unlike, says he, "but that this light (of the first day), after the creation of the celestial bodies, might be drawn upward and have his reflection upon the beame of the sunne and of other starres" And again, "Whereas the light created the first day is called or, but the starres (meaning the heavenly bodies) are called meoroth, as of the light, hence it may appear that these lightsome (i.e. luminous) bodies were made the receptacles of that light thou created, which was now increased and united to these lights" ('Hexapla,' vers. 3, 14, London, 1632); an explanation which, though certainly hypothetical, must be regarded as much more in accordance with the requirements of the sacred text than that which discovers in the making of the lights only a further dissipation of terrestrial mists so as to admit not the light-bringing beams of the celestial bodies alone, but the forms of those shining orbs themselves ('Speaker's Commentary'). He made the stars also. Though the stars are introduced solely because of their relation to the earth as dispensers of light, and no account is taken of their constitution as suns and planets, it is admissible to entertain the opinion that, in their case, as in that of the chief luminary of our tellurian heavens, the process of "sun" making reached its culmination on the fourth day. Perhaps the chief reason for their parenthetical introduction in this place was to guard against the notion that there were any luminaries which were not the work of Elohim, and in particular to prevent the Hebrews, for whom the work was written, from yielding to the heathen practices of star-gazing and star-worship. "The superstition of reading the destiny of man in the stars never took root among the Israelites; astrology is excluded by the first principle of Mosaism - the belief in one all-ruling God, who is subject to no necessity, no fate, no other will. Jeremiah warns the Hebrews not to be afraid of the 'signs of heaven,' before which the heathen tremble in vain terror (Jeremiah 10:2); and Isaiah speaks with taunting irony against the astrologers, star-gazers, and monthly prognosticators, in whose counsel it is folly and wickedness to rely (Isaiah 47:13). But the Israelites had not moral strength enough to resist the example of star-worship in general; they could not keep aloof from an aberration which formed the very focus of the principal Eastern religions; they yielded to that tempting influence, and ignominious incense rose profusely in honor of the sun and the hosts of heaven - Jeremiah 19:13; Ezekiel 8:16; Zephaniah 1:5; Wisd. 13:2" (Kalisch).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And God made two great lights,.... This was his own work which he himself did, and not by another; and may be particularly observed to express the folly of idolaters in worshipping these luminaries which were the creations of God, and were placed by him in the heaven to serve some purposes on earth beneficial to men, but not to be worshipped. These two "great lights" are the sun and the moon; and they may well be called great, especially the former, for the diameter of the sun is reckoned to be about eight hundred thousand miles. According to Mr. Derham (i) its apparent diameter is computed at 822,145 English miles, its ambit at 2,582,873 miles, and its solid contents at 290,971,000,000,000,000: the lowest account makes the sun a hundred thousand times bigger than the earth; and according to Sir Isaac Newton it is 900,000 bigger. The moon's diameter is to that of the earth is about twenty seven per cent, or 2175 miles, its surface contains fourteen hundred thousand square miles (k): it is called great, not on account of its corporeal quantity, for it is the least of all the planets excepting Mercury, but because of its quality, as a light, it reflecting more light upon the earth than any besides the sun,
The greater light to rule the day: not to rule men, though the heathens have worshipped it under the names of Molech and Baal, which signify king and lord, as if it was their lord and king to whom they were to pay homage; but to rule the day, to preside over it, to make it, give light in it, and continue it to its proper length; and in which it rules alone, the moon, nor any of the other planets then appearing: this is called the "greater" light, in comparison of the moon, not only with respect to its body or substance, but on account of its light, which is far greater and stronger than that of the moon; and which indeed receives its light from it, the moon being, as is generally said, an opaque body:
and the lesser light to rule the night; to give light then, though in a fainter, dimmer way, by reflecting it from the sun; and it rules alone, the sun being absent from the earth, and is of great use to travellers and sailors; it is called the lesser light, in comparison of the sun. Astronomers are of opinion, as Calmet (l) observes, that it is about fifty two times smaller than the earth, and four thousand one hundred and fifty times smaller than the sun; but these proportions are otherwise determined by the generality of modern astronomers: however, they all agree that the moon is abundantly less than the sun; and that it is as a light, we all know,
He made the stars also; to rule by night, Psalm 136:9 not only the planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Venus, but the vast numbers of stars with which the heavens are bespangled, and which reflect some degree of light upon the earth; with the several constellations, some of which the Scriptures speak of, as Arcturus, Orion, Pleiades, and the chambers of the south, Job 9:9, Job 38:31 though some restrain this to the five planets only. Ed. Contrast the foolishness of modern cosmology with the writings of the early church father, Theophilus when he states (j):
On the fourth day the luminaries came into existence. Since God has foreknowledge, he understood the nonsense of the foolish philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on earth came from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In order therefore that the truth might be demonstrated, plants and seeds came into existence before stars. For what comes into existence later cannot cause what is prior to it.''
(i) Astro-Theology, B. 1. c. 2. & B. 6. c. 2.((j) Cited from Impact 251. ICR "Acts and Facts" (May 1994); Theophilus, "To Autolycus" 2. 4, Oxford Early Christian Texts, as cited in Louis Lavalle, "The Early Church Defended Creation Science" Impact 160. ICR "Acts and Facts" (October 1986): ii.((k) Chambers's Dictionary in the word "Moon". (l) Dictionary in the word "Moon".
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
16. two great lights—In consequence of the day being reckoned as commencing at sunset—the moon, which would be seen first in the horizon, would appear "a great light," compared with the little twinkling stars; while its pale benign radiance would be eclipsed by the dazzling splendor of the sun; when his resplendent orb rose in the morning and gradually attained its meridian blaze of glory, it would appear "the greater light" that ruled the day. Both these lights may be said to be "made" on the fourth day—not created, indeed, for it is a different word that is here used, but constituted, appointed to the important and necessary office of serving as luminaries to the world, and regulating by their motions and their influence the progress and divisions of time.
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