|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:3-5 God said, Let there be light; he willed it, and at once there was light. Oh, the power of the word of God! And in the new creation, the first thing that is wrought in the soul is light: the blessed Spirit works upon the will and affections by enlightening the understanding. Those who by sin were darkness, by grace become light in the Lord. Darkness would have been always upon fallen man, if the Son of God had not come and given us understanding, 1Jo 5:20. The light which God willed, he approved of. God divided the light from the darkness; for what fellowship has light with darkness? In heaven there is perfect light, and no darkness at all; in hell, utter darkness, and no gleam of light. The day and the night are the Lord's; let us use both to his honour, by working for him every day, and resting in him every night, meditating in his law both day and night.
Verses 3-5. - The evolution of the cosmos was accomplished by a series of Divine formative works which extended over a period of six successive days. In the character of those cosmic labors a progression is distinctly visible, though not continuous throughout Unless, with Aristotle, the celestial luminaries are regarded as ζῶα λογικά, and so classed in the category of organized and living beings, it is impossible to find in their production an advance upon the preceding vegetation. Arbitrary transpositions of the days, as of the third and fourth, in order to make the first half of the creative week an inorganic, and the second half an organic, era, are inadmissible. The arrangement of the days that accords most exactly with the requirements of the case, and most successfully preserves the order and connection of the record, is that which divides them into two triads (Lange, Kalisch, Dana, &c.), as exhibited underneath: -
2. Air, Water.
3. Dry Land and Plants.
5. Fowl, Fish.
6. Animals and Man = - each triad Beginning with the Making of Light, and ending with a double creation, and the works performed On the Second having each a definite Relation to the labors executed On the First On the First creative Day the formative energy of the Divine Word, eliminates the light from the dark chaotic mass of earth, on the second uplifts the atmosphere above the waters, and on the third distinguishes the dry land from the sea - at a later period in this same day clothing the dry land with vegetation, as if to prophesy some correspondingly higher advance in the creation work at the close of the second series. At this stage, instead of pressing forward with its operations, the demiurgic potency of the invisible Artificer appears to pause, and, reverting to the point from which it started, enters on its second course of labors. On the fourth day the light developed on the first is concentrated and permanently fixed in the celestial luminaries; on the fifth the air and waters, which were separated on the second, are filled with fowl and fish, their respective inhabitants; and on the sixth the dry land of the third day is occupied by animals, the mute prediction of the third day's vegetation being fulfilled by the creation of man. Verse 3. - Day one. And God said. This phrase, which is ten times repeated in the narrative of the six days' work, is commonly regarded as an instance of anthropomorphism, a peculiarity of revelation, and of this chapter in particular, at which rationalism affects to be offended. But any other mode of representing the Deity would have failed to convey to finite minds an intelligent idea of his nature. "Touching the Almighty, who can find him out?" The most that God himself could do in communicating to his creature man a conception of his ineffable and unapproachable Godhead was to supply him with an anthropomorphic image of himself - "the Word made flesh." Deeper insight, however, into this sublime statement discerns that "anthropomorphism" does not exhaust its significance. God spoke; but to whom? "This was an omnipotent word," says Luther, "spoken in the Divine essence. No one heard this word uttered but God himself... The Father spoke within." It is observable too that every time the word goes forth from Elohim it is followed by instantaneous movement in the chaos, as if the word itself were inherently creative. Remembering, then, that the doctrine of a personal Logos was not unknown to the later theology of the Old Testament (cf. Psalm 33:6; Psalm 148:5), and is clearly revealed in the New (John 1:1; Hebrews 11:3), it is difficult to resist the inference that here we have its roots, and that a correct exegesis should find in the creative word of Elohim an adumbration of the Devar Jehovah of the Hebrew Psalter, the Logos of John's Gospel, and the Rema Theou of the writer to the Hebrews. Let there be light: and there was light. The sublimity of these words, which arrested the attention of the heathen Longinus ('De Sublimitate,' 9.), and which Milton ('Paradise Lost,' 7.) and Du Bartas, an elder poet (viz. Kitto in loco), have tried to reproduce, is in great measure lost in our English version. Γενηθήτω φῶς καὶ ἐγένετω φῶς (LXX.) and sit lux et fuit lux (Vulg.) are superior translations of יְהִי־אור וַיְהִי־אוד which might be rendered, "Light be, and light was."' With reference to their import, the least satisfactory explanation, notwithstanding the eminent names that have lent it their support (Bush, Kitto, Murphy, Wordsworth), is that which understands the sun to have been created a perfectly finished luminous body from the first, though hitherto its light had been intercepted by the earth's vapors, which were now dispersed by Divine command. But the language of Elohim is too exalted to be applied to so familiar a phenomenon as the dissipation of terrestrial mists, and, besides, expressly negatives the hypothesis in question by affirming that the light was summoned into being, and not simply into appearance. The historian, too, explicitly asserts that the light was, i.e. began to be, and not merely to be visible. A modification of this view, viz., that the sun and moon were now created, but did not become visible until the fourth day (Inglis), must likewise be rejected, as according neither with ver. 1, which says that the heavenly bodies were created in the beginning, nor with vers. 16, 17, which declare that not until the fourth day were they constituted sources of light for the earth. The exigencies of the text, as well as the ascertained facts of physical science, require the first day's work to be the original production of light throughout the universe, and in particular throughout our planetary system (Kalisch, Lange, Delitzsch, Dawson). Calvin, though much more deeply concerned about the refutation of Servetus, who maintained that the Word only began to be with the creation of light, was able to perceive that this light was independent of the sun and moon; in this agreeing with Augustine, who, however, conjectured it to be not material, but spiritual in its nature ('De Genesi ad Literam,' lib. 1, 100. 3). Nor does it in the slightest conflict with ver. 1 to suppose that light was now for the first time produced, light being a mode or condition of matter, and not a distinct element or substance, as was at one time believed. Luminosity is simply the result of incandescence, although what specific change is effected on the constitutions or adjustments of the molecules of a body by the process of heating which renders it luminous science is unable to explain. Any solid body can be rendered incandescent by being heated up to between 700° and 800° Fahrenheit. Any liquid that can absorb as great a quantity of heat likewise emits light. Gases do not appear to be capable of incandescence, though the phenomena attending their sudden condensation discover light-producing properties in their composition. As to how the light of incandescent bodies is transmitted to the eye, the Pythagorean and Newtonian theory of small, impalpable particles of luminous matter being constantly emitted from their surfaces towards the eye may be said to have been successfully displaced by that of Descartes, Huygens, and Euler, which accounts for the phenomena of vision by the existence throughout space, and in the interstitial spaces of bodies, of an infinitely attenuated ether, which is thrown into undulations by luminous bodies precisely as the atmosphere is made to vibrate by bodies which are sonorous. But whichever theory be adopted to solve the mystery of its transmission, that of emanation or of undulation, it is impossible to resist the conclusion that the creation of light, which formed the opus operatum of the first day, was in reality the evolution from the dark-robed, seething mass of our condensing planet (and probably from the other bodies in our solar system) of that luminous matter which supplies the light. It seems unnecessary to add that it could not have been either the subterranean fire which produced the igneous rocks of geology (Tayler) or caloric (Clarke); though, as aor is used in Scripture for heat (Isaiah 44:16), fire (Isaiah 31:9; Ezekiel 5:2), the sun (Job 31:26), lightning (Job 37:3), and there is every reason to believe that light, heat, and electricity are only modifications of the same force, we may be warranted in embracing all the three in its significance.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And God said,.... This phrase is used, nine times in this account of the creation; it is admired by Longinus the Heathen in his treatise "of the Sublime", as a noble instance of it; and it is most beautifully paraphrased and explained in Psalm 33:6 as expressive of the will, power, authority, and efficacy of the divine Being; whose word is clothed with power, and who can do, and does whatever he will, and as soon as he pleases; his orders are always obeyed. Perhaps the divine Person speaking here is the Logos or Word of God, which was in the beginning with God, and was God, and who himself is the light that lightens every creature. The words spoke were,
let there be light, and there was light: it at once appeared; "God commanded light to shine out of darkness"; as the apostle says, 2 Corinthians 4:6 this was the first thing made out of the dark chaos; as in the new creation, or work of grace in the heart, light is the first thing produced there: what this light was is not easy to say. Some of the Jewish Rabbins, and also some Christian writers, think the angels are designed by it, which is not at all probable, as the ends and use of this light show: others of them are of opinion, that it is the same with the sun, of which a repetition is made on the fourth day, because of its use and efficacy to the earth, and its plants; but others more rightly take it to be different from the sun, and a more glimmering light, which afterwards was gathered into and perfected in the body of the sun (f). It is the opinion of Zanchius (g), and which is approved of by our countryman, Mr. Fuller (h), that it was a lucid body, or a small lucid cloud, which by its circular motion from east to west made day and night (i); perhaps somewhat like the cloudy pillar of fire that guided the Israelites in the wilderness, and had no doubt heat as well as light; and which two indeed, more or less, go together; and of such fiery particles this body may well be thought to consist. The word "Ur" signifies both fire and light.
(f) Vid. Menasseh ben Israel conciliator in Gen. qu. 2.((g) De Operibus Dei, par. 3. l. 1. c. 2. col. 239. and l. 2. c. 1.((h) Miscell. Sacr. l. 1. c. 12. (i) Milton seems to be of the same mind:----- -----and forthwith light. Ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure, Sprung from the deep, and from her native east To journey thro' the airy gloom began, Sphered in a radiant cloud, for yet the sun Was not; she in a cloudy tabernacle Sojourned the while.----- Paradise Lost, B. 7. l. 243, &c.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ge 1:3-5. The First Day.
3. God said—This phrase, which occurs so repeatedly in the account means: willed, decreed, appointed; and the determining will of God was followed in every instance by an immediate result. Whether the sun was created at the same time with, or long before, the earth, the dense accumulation of fogs and vapors which enveloped the chaos had covered the globe with a settled gloom. But by the command of God, light was rendered visible; the thick murky clouds were dispersed, broken, or rarefied, and light diffused over the expanse of waters. The effect is described in the name "day," which in Hebrew signifies "warmth," "heat"; while the name "night" signifies a "rolling up," as night wraps all things in a shady mantle.
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