|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.
Verse 5. - And God called (literally, called to) the light Day, and (literally, to) the darkness he called Night. "None but superficial thinkers," says Delitzsch, "can take offence at the idea of created things receiving names from God. The name of a thing is the expression of its nature. If the name be given by man, it fixes in a word the impression which it makes upon the human mind; but, when given by God, it expresses the reality, what the thing is in God's creation, and the place assigned it there by the side of other things." The things named were the light and the darkness; not the durations, but the phenomena. The names called were day, yore, and night, layela, which, again, were not time-measures, but character-descriptions. Ainsworth suggests that yore was intended to express "the tumult, stir, and business of the day," in all probability connecting it with yam, which depicts the foaming or the boiling of the sea; and that layela, in which he seems to detect the Latin ululare, is indicative of "the yelling or the howling of wild beasts at night." Gesenius derives the former from the unused root yore, which signifies to glow with heat, while the latter he associates with lul, also unused, to roll up, the idea being that the night wraps all things in obscurity. Macdonald sees in the naming of the creatures an expression of sovereignty and lordship, as when Adam named the beasts of the field. And the evening and the morning were the first day. Literally, And evening was and morning was, day one. Considerable diversity of sentiment prevails with regard to the exact interpretation of these words. On the one hand, it is assumed that the first creative period is here described as an ordinary astronomical or sidereal day of twenty-four hours' duration, its constituent parts being characterized in the usual way, as an evening and a morning. In the judgment of Kalisch and others the peculiar phrase, "Evening was, and morning was," is simply equivalent to the later Hebrew compound "evening-morning" (Daniel 8:14), and the Greek νηχθήμερον (2 Corinthians 11:25), both of which denote a natural or civil day, though this is challenged, in the case of the Hebrew compound, by Macdonald. The language of the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:11) is also appealed to as removing, it beyond the sphere of doubt that the evening and the morning referred to are-the component sections of an earthly day. As to the proper terminus a quo of this initial day, however, the advocates of this interpretation are at variance among themselves; Delitzsch taking the terms ereb (literally, "the setting," from arab,
(1) to mix;
(2) to set, to depart, like the sun)
and boker (literally, "the breaking forth," from bakar, to cleave, to open) in an active sense, and applying the former to the first fading of the light, and the latter to the breaking of the dawn after the first interval of darkness has passed, thus reckoning the creative days from daybreak to daybreak; while Murphy and Kalisch, who agree with him in regarding the days as ordinary solar days, declare they must be reckoned, Hebraico more, from sunset to sunset. But if the first day commenced with an evening or obscure period (Has ereb no connection with arab, to mix? May it not describe the condition of things when light and darkness were commingled?), that can be discovered only in the chaotic darkness out of which the light sprang. Hence, on the other hand, as it seems improbable that this was of no more than twelve hours' duration, and as the presumption is that the light-period would be commensurate in length, it has been argued that day one was not a sun-measured day, but a period of indefinite extent. Of course the length of day one practically determines the length of all the six. If it was a solar day, then they must be considered such. But as the present sidereal arrangements for the measurement of time were not then established, it is clearly gratuitous to proceed on the assumption that it was Hence, neither is it to be accepted without-demonstration that they were not likewise periods of prolonged duration. It is obvious they were if it was; and that it was appears to be suggested by the terms in which it is described. This conclusion, that the creation days were long periods, and not simply solar days, is confirmed by a variety of considerations.
1. In the creation record itself (Genesis 2:4) the term is employed with an obvious latitude of meaning; standing for light as opposed to darkness (ver. 5); day as distinguished from night; and for a period of twenty-four hours, as in the phrase "for days and years" (ver. 14); and again for the whole creation period of six days, or, as is more probable, for the second and third days (Genesis 2:4).
2. General Scripture usage sanctions this interpretation of the word day as a period of indefinite duration; g. g. Zechariah 14:6, 7, which speaks of the time of our Lord s coming, and-indeed of the entire gospel dispensation, as יום אֶחָד unus dies, i.e. a day together unique, the only day of its kind (Delitzsch); and characterizes it as one of God's days, "known to the Lord," as if to distinguish it from one of man's ordinary civil days (cf. Deuteronomy 9:1; Psalm 90:4; Psalm 95:8; Isaiah 49:8; John 9:4; Hebrews 13:8; 2 Peter 3:8).
3. The works ascribed to the different days can with difficulty be compressed within the limits of a solar day. Taking the third day, e.g., if the events assigned to it belong exclusively to the region of the supernatural, nothing need prevent the belief that twenty-four hours were sufficient for their accomplishment; but if the Divine modus operandi during the first half of the creative week was through "existing causes" (even vastly accelerated), as geology affirms that it was during the second half, and as we know that it has been ever since its termination, then a considerably larger space of time than twice twelve hours must have been consumed in their execution. And the same conclusion forces itself upon the judgment from a consideration of the works allotted to the sixth day, in which not only were the animals produced and Adam made, but the former, being collected in Eden, were passed in review before the latter to be named, after which he was cast into a sleep by Jehovah Elohim, a rib extracted from his side and fashioned into a woman, and the woman presented to him as a partner.
4. The duration of the seventh day of necessity determines the length of the other six. Without anticipating the exposition of Genesis 2:1-4 (q.v.), it may be said that God's sabbatic rest is understood by the best interpreters of Scripture to have continued from creation's close until the present hour; so that consistency demands the previous six days to be considered as not of short, but of indefinite, duration.
5. The language of the fourth commandment, when interpreted in accordance with the present theory, confirms the probability of its truth, If the six days in Exodus 20:11 are simply natural days, then the seventh day, in which God is represented as having rested from his creative labors, must likewise be a natural or solar day; and if so, it is proper to observe what follows. It follows
(1) that the events recorded in the first five verses of Genesis must be compressed into a single day of twenty-four hours, so that no gap will remain into which the short-day advocates may thrust the geologic ages, which is for them an imperative necessity;
(2) that the world is only 144 hours older than man, which is contrary to both science and revelation;
(3) that the statement is incorrect that God finished all his work at the close of the sixth day; and
(4) that the fossiliferous remains which have been discovered in the earth's crust have either been deposited there since man's creation, or were created there at the first, both of which suppositions are untenable. But now, if, on the contrary, the language signifies that God labored in the fashioning of his cosmos through six successive periods of indefinite duration (olamim, aeons), and entered on the seventh day into a correspondingly long period of sabbatic rest, we can hold the opposite of every one of these conclusions, and find a convincing argument besides for the observance of the sabbath in the beautiful analogy which subsists between God s great week of olamim and man's little week of sun-measured days,
6. Geology declares that the earth must have been brought to its present condition through a series of labors extending over indefinitely long epochs; and, notwithstanding the confident assertion of Kalisch and others that it is hopeless to harmonize science and revelation, the correspondence between the contents of these geologic ages and those of the Mosaic days is so surprising as to induce the belief that the latter were, like the former, extended periods. First, according to geology, traveling backward, comes the Cainozoic era, with the remains of animals, but not of man next is the Mezozoic era, with the remains of fish and fowl, but not of animals; and underneath that is the Palaeozoic era, with its carboniferous formations, but still with traces of aquatic life at its beginning and its end. Now, whether the vegetation of the third day is to be sought for in the carboniferous formations of the Palaeozoic age (Hugh Miller), or, as is more probable, in the age which saw the formation of the metamorphic rocks (Dawson), the order disclosed is precisely that which the Mosaic narrative affirms was observed first plants, then fish and fowl, and finally animals and man; so that if the testimony of the rocks be admissible at all upon the subject, it is unmistakably in favor of the long-period day.
7. The opinion of neither Jewish nor Christian antiquity was entirely on the side of the natural-day theory. Josephus and Philo lent their sanction to the other view. Origen perceived the difficulty of having a firs. t, second, and third day, each with an evening and a morning, without the sun, moon, and stars, and resolved it by saying that these celestial luminaries were appointed "οὔκετι εἴς ἄρχας τῆς ἠμέρας καὶ τὴς νυκτὸς ἀλλ εἴς τὴν ἄρχην τῆς ἡμέρας καὶ τῆς νυκτός ('Com. in Genesin,' 1:16). Augustine similarly writes, "Qui dies cujusmodi sint, ant perdifficile nobis, ant etiam impossibile est cogitare, quanto magis dicere Illorum autem priores tres sine sole peracti sunt, qui quarto die factus refertur" ('De Civitate Dei,' lib. 11:6, 7). Bode likewise remarks, "Fortassis hic diet nomen totius temporis nomen est, et omnia volumina seculorum hoc vocabulo includit."
8. Heathen cosmogonies may also be appealed to as an indirect confirmation of the preceding evidence. Egyptian, Persian, Indian, and Etruscan legends represent the elaboration of the world as having been accomplished in a series of ages of prolonged duration. "God created in the first thousand years heaven and earth; in the second the vault of heaven; in the third the sea and the other waters of the earth; in the fourth the sun, moon, and stars; in the fifth the inhabitants of the air, of the water, and of the land; and in the sixth man," is the creation story of Etruria; and although in itself it has no validity, yet, as a traditional reflection of the Mosaic narrative it is not entirely destitute of weight.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night,.... Either by the circulating motion of the above body of light, or by the rotation of the chaos on its own axis towards it, in the space of twenty four hours there was a vicissitude of light and darkness; just as there is now by the like motion either of the sun, or of the earth; and which after this appellation God has given, we call the one, day, and the other, night:
and the evening and the morning were the first day: the evening, the first part of the night, or darkness, put for the whole night, which might be about the space of twelve hours; and the morning, which was the first part of the day, or light, put also for the whole, which made the same space, and both together one natural day, consisting of twenty four hours; what Daniel calls an "evening morning", Daniel 8:26 and the apostle a "night day", 2 Corinthians 11:25. Thales being asked which was first made, the night or the day, answered, the night was before one day (m). The Jews begin their day from the preceding evening; so many other nations: the Athenians used to reckon their day from sun setting to sun setting (n); the Romans from the middle of the night, to the middle of the night following, as Gellius (o) relates; and Tacitus (p) reports of the ancient Germans, that they used to compute not the number of days, but of nights, reckoning that the night led the day. Caesar (q) observes of the ancient Druids in Britain, that they counted time not by the number of days, but nights; and observed birthdays, and the beginnings of months and years, so as that the day followed the night; and we have some traces of this still among us, as when we say this day se'nnight, or this day fortnight. This first day of the creation, according to James Capellus, was the eighteenth of April; but, according to Bishop Usher, the twenty third of October; the one beginning the creation in the spring, the other in autumn. It is a notion of Mr. Whiston's, that the six days of the creation were equal to six years, a day and a year being one and the same thing before the fall of man, when the diurnal rotation of the earth about its axis, as he thinks, began; and in agreement with this, very remarkable is the doctrine Empedocles taught, that when mankind sprung originally from the earth, the length of the day, by reason of the slowness of the sun's motion, was equal to ten of our present months (r). The Hebrew word "Ereb", rendered "evening", is retained by some of the Greek poets, as by Hesiod (s), who says, out of the "chaos" came "Erebus", and black night, and out of the night ether and the day; and Aristophanes (t), whose words are,
chaos, night, and black "Erebus" were first, and wide Tartarus, but there were neither earth, air, nor heaven, but in the infinite bosom of Erebus, black winged night first brought forth a windy egg, &c. And Orpheus (u) makes night to be the beginning of all things. (Hugh Miller (1802-1856) was the first person to popularise the "Day-Age" theory. In his book, "Testimony of the Rocks", that was published in the year after his untimely death, he speculated that that the days were really long ages. He held that Noah's flood was a local flood and the rock layers were laid down long periods of time. (v) This theory has been popularised by the New Scofield Bible first published in 1967.
(m) Laert. in Vita Thaletis. p. 24. (n) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 2. c. 77. (o) Noct. Attic. l. 3. c. 2.((p) De Mor. German. c. 11. (q) Commentar. l. 6. p. 141. (r) Vid. Universal History, vol. 1. p. 79. (s) ', &c. Hesiod. Theogonia. (t) &c. Aristophanes in Avibus. (u) Hymn. 2. ver. 2.((v) Ian Taylor, p. 360-362, "In the Minds of Men", 1984, TEV Publishing, P.O. Box 5015, Stn. F, Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 2T1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. first day—a natural day, as the mention of its two parts clearly determines; and Moses reckons, according to Oriental usage, from sunset to sunset, saying not day and night as we do, but evening and morning.
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