Genesis 1:14
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
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(14) Let there be lights (luminaries) in the firmament (or expanse) of the heaven.—In Hebrew the word for light is ôr, and for luminary, ma-ôr, a light-bearer. The light was created on the first day, and its concentration into great centres must at once have commenced; but the great luminaries did not appear in the open sky until the fourth day. With this begins the second triad of the creative days. Up to this time there had been arrangement chiefly; heat and water had had their periods of excessive activity, but with the introduction of vegetation there came also the promise of things higher and nobler than mechanical laws. Now, this fourth day seems to mark two things: first, the surface of the earth has become so cool as to need heat given it from without and secondly, there was now a long pause in creation. No new law in it is promulgated, no new factor introduced; only the atmosphere grows clearer, the earth more dry; vegetation does its part in absorbing gases; and day by day the sun shines with more unclouded brilliancy, followed by the mild radiance of the moon, and finally, by the faint gleamings of the stars. But besides this, as the condensation of luminous matter into the sun was the last act in the shaping of our solar system, it is quite possible that during this long fourth day the sun finally assumed as nearly as possible its present dimensions and form. No doubt it is still changing and slowly drawing nearer to that period when, God’s seventh day of rest being over, the knell of this our creation will sound, and the sun, with its attendant planets, and among them our earth, become what God shall then will. But during this seventh day, in which we are now living, God works only in maintaining laws already given, and no outburst either of creative or of destructive energy can take place.

Let them be for signsi.e., marks, means of knowing. This may be taken as qualifying what follows, and would then mean, Let them be means for distinguishing seasons, days, and years; but more probably it refers to the signs of the zodiac, which anciently played so important a part, not merely in astronomy, but in matters of daily life.

Seasons.—Not spring, summer, and the like, but regularly recurring periods, like the three great festivals of the Jews. In old time men depended, both in agriculture, navigation, and daily life, upon their own observation of the setting and rising of the constellations. This work is now done for us by others, and put into a convenient form in almanacks; but equally now as of old, days, years, and seasons depend upon the motion of the heavenly orbs.

Genesis 1:14-15. Let there be lights, &c. — God had said, Genesis 1:3, Let there be light; but that was, as it were a chaos of light, scattered and confused: now it was called and formed into several luminaries, and so rendered more glorious, and more serviceable. Let them be for signs,

“An horologe machinery divine!”

to mark and distinguish periods of time, longer or shorter; epochas, ages, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes. For seasons — By their motions and influences, to produce and distinguish the different seasons of the year, mentioned Genesis 8:22. To give light upon the earth — That man, and other creatures, might perform their offices by its help, as the duty of each day required; as well as to call forth the moisture and genial virtue of the earth, in order to the production of trees, plants, fruits, and flowers, for the profit and pleasure of both man and beast.

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. - VI. The Fourth Day

14. מאור mā'ôr, "a light, a luminary, a center of radiant light."

מועה mô‛ēd, "set time, season."

Words beginning with a formative מ musually signify that in which the simple quality resides or is realized. Hence, they often denote place.

17. נתן nāthan "give, hold out, show, stretch, hold out." Latin: tendo, teneo; τείνω teinō.

The darkness has been removed from the face of the deep, its waters have been distributed in due proportions above and below the expanse; the lower waters have retired and given place to the emerging land, and the wasteness of the land thus exposed to view has begun to be adorned with the living forms of a new vegetation. It only remains to remove the "void" by peopling this now fair and fertile world with the animal kingdom. For this purpose the Great Designer begins a new cycle of supernatural operations.

Genesis 1:14, Genesis 1:15

Lights. - The work of the fourth day has much in common with that of the first day, which, indeed it continues and completes. Both deal with light, and with dividing between light and darkness, or day and night. "Let there be." They agree also in choosing the word "be," to express the nature of the operation which is here performed. But the fourth day advances on the first day. It brings into view the luminaries, the light radiators, the source, while the first only indicated the stream. It contemplates the far expanse, while the first regards only the near.

For signs and for seasons, and for days and years. - While the first day refers only to the day and its twofold division, the fourth refers to signs, seasons, days, and years. These lights are for "signs." They are to serve as the great natural chronometer of man, having its three units, - the day, the month, and the year - and marking the divisions of time, not only for agricultural and social purposes, but also for meeting out the eras of human history and the cycles of natural science. They are signs of place as well as of time - topometers, if we may use the term. By them the mariner has learned to mark the latitude and longitude of his ship, and the astronomer to determine with any assignable degree of precision the place as well as the time of the planetary orbs of heaven. The "seasons" are the natural seasons of the year, and the set times for civil and sacred purposes which man has attached to special days and years in the revolution of time.

Since the word "day" is a key to the explanation of the first day's work, so is the word "year" to the interpretation of that of the fourth. Since the cause of the distinction of day and night is the diurnal rotation of the earth on its axis in conjunction with a fixed source of light, which streamed in on the scene of creation as soon as the natural hinderance was removed, so the vicissitudes of the year are owing, along with these two conditions, to the annual revolution of the earth in its orbit round the sun, together with the obliquity of the ecliptic. To the phenomena so occasioned are to be added incidental variations arising from the revolution of the moon round the earth, and the small modifications caused by the various other bodies of the solar system. All these celestial phenomena come out from the artless simplicity of the sacred narrative as observable facts on the fourth day of that new creation. From the beginning of the solar system the earth must, from the nature of things, have revolved around the sun. But whether the rate of velocity was ever changed, or the obliquity of the ecliptic was now commenced or altered, we do not learn from this record.

Ge 1:14-19. Fourth Day.

14. let there be lights in the firmament—The atmosphere being completely purified, the sun, moon, and stars were for the first time unveiled in all their glory in the cloudless sky; and they are described as "in the firmament" which to the eye they appear to be, though we know they are really at vast distances from it.

Let there be lights; to wit, more glorious lights than that created the first day, which probably was now condensed and reduced into these lights; which are higher for place, more illustrious for light, and more powerful for influence, than that was. Note here, that herbs and trees were created before the sun, whose influence now is necessary for their production, to show that God doth not depend upon the means or upon the help of the creatures in his operations.

The day, i.e. the artificial day, reaching from sun-rising to sunsetting.

Let them be for signs; for the designation and distincton of times, as months, weeks, &c.; as also for the signification of the quality of the weather or season, by the manner of their rising and setting, Mat 16:2; by their eclipses, conjunctions, &c. And for the discovery of supernatural and miraculous effects; of which see Jos 10:13 Isa 38:8 Luk 21:25-26 Act 2:19-20.

And for seasons, and for days, and years:

1. By their motions and influences to produce and distinguish the four seasons of the year, mentioned Gen 8:22. And to show as well the fit times and seasons for sowing, planting, reaping, navigation, &c., as for the observation of set and solemn feasts, or other times for the ordering of ecclesiastical or civil affairs.

2. By their diurnal and swift motion to make the days, and by their nearer approaches to us, or further distances from us, to make the days or nights either longer, or shorter, or equal. He speaks here of natural days, consisting of twenty-four hours.

3. By their annual and slower motion to make years.

And God said, let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven,.... In the upper part of it, commonly called the starry heaven: some writers, both Jewish and Christian, and even modern astronomers, understand this only of the appearance of them, and not of the formation of them; they suppose they were made on the first day, but did not appear or shine out so clearly and visibly as now on the fourth day: but it seems rather, that the body of fire and light produced on the first day was now distributed and formed into several luminous bodies of sun, moon, and stars, for these were "from light"; lights produced from that light, or made out of it; or were instruments of communicating and letting down that light upon the earth (h), which was collected and put together in them, especially in the sun: and the uses of them wero divide the day from the night; which is the peculiar use of the sun, which by its appearance and continuance makes the day, and by withdrawing itself, or not appearing for a certain time, makes the night; as the light by its circular motion did for the first three days, or the diurnal motion of the earth on its axis, then and now:

and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years; for "signs" of good and bad weather; for the times of ploughing, sowing, reaping, &c. and for the "seasons" of summer and winter, spring and autumn; for "days" by a circular motion for the space of twenty four hours; and for "years" by annual motion for the space of three hundred sixty five days and odd hours. The Targum of Jonathan is,

and let them be for signs and the times of the feasts, and to reckon with them the number of days, and, sanctify the beginnings of the months, and the beginnings of the years, and the intercalations of months and years, the revolutions of the sun, and the new moons, and cycles. And so Jarchi interprets "seasons" of the solemn festivals, that would hereafter be commanded the children of Israel; but those uses were not for a certain people, and for a certain time, but for all mankind, as long as the world should stand.

(h) "significat lucem illam primam per sese lucentem"; "vero corpus per quod lux illa prima splendorem suum demittit". Nachmanides, apud Fagium in loc.

And God said, Let there be {k} lights in the firmament of the heaven to {l} divide the day from the night; and let them be for {m} signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

(k) By the lights be means the sun, the moon, and the stars.

(l) Which is the artificial day, from the sun rising, to the going down.

(m) Of things belonging to natural and political orders and seasons.

14. Let there be lights] The word rendered “lights” (LXX φωστῆρες: Lat. luminaria) denotes a thing, or body, carrying light; cf. Psalm 74:16, “The day is thine, the night also is thine: Thou hast prepared the light (Heb. luminary) and the sun”; Ezekiel 32:8, “All the bright lights of heaven.”

It has seemed strange to some that the creation of the heavenly bodies should follow after that of the vegetable world, whose life, according to our notions, is dependent on the light of the sun. But, beside the artificial arrangement (according to which the creation of “the lights” of the sky on the fourth day corresponds to the creation of “the light” on the first day), it is probable that, in the ascending scale from vegetable organisms to animal life, the “lights,” i.e. the sun, moon, and stars, with their mysterious movements and changing, yet ordered, paths in the sky, seemed to be endowed with a vital activity, which, if inferior to that of the animals, yet was far surpassing that of the plants.

Described in terms of astronomy, the account here given of the origin and functions of the heavenly bodies is, what is called, “geocentric,” that is, it supposes the earth to be the centre of the system. It conceives the sun, moon and stars to be much smaller bodies of varied light-giving capacity, formed for purposes of use to the dwellers upon earth, and attached to the roof of heaven at no very great altitude above the flat earth.

Primitive and childlike will this Hebrew view seem now to us who inherit the privilege of the continually advancing discoveries of astronomical science since the days of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. But we shall do well to recollect, that the statement in these verses respecting the origin, nature, and function of the heavenly bodies, stands on an immensely higher level of reasonable and dignified intelligence, than the notions of other peoples in the ancient world, who identified the heavenly bodies with gods, or semi-divine beings, exercising a benevolent or malevolent potency over the affairs of men and women, countries, and nations. The Hebrew account is simple almost to baldness, but it is an account which harmonizes with the fear and worship of the one God of Israel. There is neither idolatry nor superstition in it. It gives no loophole for the follies or fears of astrology, which even down to modern times has been known to enslave the reason of Christian minds.

God is described as calling into existence the heavenly bodies for three distinct purposes: (1) to divide between day and night; (2) to determine periods of time, days, months, years, seasons, festivals, &c.; (3) to give light upon earth, providing by day for the growth, health, and strength of living organisms, and by night for the guidance of the wayfarer and the mariner.

for signs, and for seasons] Literally, “for signs and for fixed times.”

The seasons of the year were indicated by the position of the sun, moon, and stars; the “signs” probably have special reference to the constellations, and especially to what are called “the constellations of the Zodiac”—a knowledge of which was from a very early time possessed by the Babylonians. Comets, eclipses, shooting-stars, &c. would also be included among the “signs” of the sky.

The “fixed times” probably denote the periods of the year for agricultural and rural occupations, together with their festivals. Days of festivals were determined by particular moons, or by the rising of particular stars. Cf. Job 38:32, “Canst thou lead forth the Mazzaroth (signs of the Zodiac) in their season?”

14–19. Fourth Day. The Creation of the Heavenly Bodies

Observe that the creation of the “lights” in the heaven on the fourth day corresponds to the creation of “light” on the first day. If we divide the six days into two groups of three, there are in each group four creative acts, and at the head of each group is the creation of light in two different forms, (1) elemental, (2) sidereal.

Verses 14, 15. - Day four. With this day begins the second half of the creative week, whose works have a striking correspondence with the labors of the first. Having perfected the main structural arrangements of the globe by the elimination from primeval chaos of the four fundamental elements of light, air, water, and land, the formative energy of the Divine word reverts to its initial point of departure, and, in a second series of operations, carries each of these forward to completion - the light by permanently settling it in the sun, the air and water by filling therewith fowl and fish, and the land by making animals and man. The first of these engaged the Divine Artificer's attention on the fourth creative day. And God said, Let there be lights (literally, places where light is, light-holders, Psalm 64:16; φωστῆρες, LXX.; luminaria, Vulgate; spoken of lamps and candlesticks, Exodus 25:6: Numbers 4:9, 16) in the firmament (literally the expanse) of the heaven. יִהִי in the singular with מְאֹרֹת in the plural is explained by Gesenius on the ground that the predicate precedes the subject (vid. 'Gram.,' §147). The scientific accuracy of the language here used to describe the celestial luminaries relieves the Mosaic cosmogony of at least one supposed irreconcilable contradiction, that of representing light as having an existence independent of the sun. Equally does it dispense exegesis from the necessity of accounting for what appears a threefold creation of the heavenly bodies - in the beginning (ver. 1), on the first day (ver. 3), and again on the fourth (ver. 14). The reference in the last of these verses is not to the original creation of the matter of the supra mundane spheres (Gerlach), which was performed in the beginning, nor to the first production of light, which was the specific work of day one; but to the permanent appointment of the former to be the place, or center of radiation, for the latter. The purpose for which this arrangement was designed, so far, at least, as the earth was concerned, was threefold: -

1. To divide the day from the night. Literally, between the day and the night; or, as in ver. 18, to divide the light from the darkness to continue and render permanent the separation and distinction which was effected on the first day.

2. And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years. The celestial lights were to serve -

(1) For signs. Othoth, from oth, anything engraved, hence a mark (Genesis 4:15; 2 Kings 20:8), is employed to designate a portent, or sign of wanting or instruction (Psalm 61:8; Isaiah 8:18; Isaiah 20. g; LXX., σημεῖον; cf. Luke 21:25; Acts if. 19), and here probably refers to the subsequent employment of the heavenly bodies "as marks or signs of important changes and occurrences in the kingdom of Providence" (Macdonald). "That they may have been designed also to subserve important purposes in the -various economy of human life, as in affording signs to the mariner and husbandman, is not improbable, though this is not so strictly the import of the original" (Bush). Still less, of course, does the word refer to mediaeval astrology or to modern meteorology.

(2) For seasons. Moradhim, set times, from ya'ad, to indicate, define, fix, is used of yearly returning periods (Genesis 17:21; Genesis 18:14) - the time of the migration of birds (Jeremiah 8:7), the time of festivals (Psalm 104:19; Zechariah 8:19).

(3) For days and years, i.e. for the calculation of time. Luther, Calvin, Mercer, Piscator, Delitzsch, Murphy, Macdonald, et alii regard the three phrases as co-ordinate; Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Do Wette, Baumgarten take the first two as a hendiadys for "signs of the seasons;" Kalisch considers the second to be in opposition to the first; Tuch translates, "for signs, as well for the times as also for the days and years." The first, which accords with the English version, is the simplest, and, most probably, the correct interpretation.

3. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. Not to introduce light for the first time to this lower world, but to serve as a new and permanent arrangement for the distribution of the light already called into existence. And it was so. Like every other command which Elohim issued, this was in due time followed by complete realization. Genesis 1:14The Fourth Day. - After the earth had been clothed with vegetation, and fitted to be the abode of living beings, there were created on the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars, heavenly bodies in which the elementary light was concentrated, in order that its influence upon the earthly globe might be sufficiently modified and regulated for living beings to exist and thrive beneath its rays, in the water, in the air, and upon the dry land. At the creative word of God the bodies of light came into existence in the firmament, as lamps. On יהי, the singular of the predicate before the plural of the subject, in Genesis 1:14; Genesis 5:23; Genesis 9:29, etc., vid., Gesenius, Heb. Gr. 147. מאורת, bodies of light, light-bearers, then lamps. These bodies of light received a threefold appointment: (1) They were "to divide between the day and the night," of, according to Genesis 1:18, between the light and the darkness, in other words, to regulate from that time forward the difference, which had existed ever since the creation of light, between the night and the day. (2) They were to be (or serve: והיוּ after an imperative has the force of a command) - (a) for signs (sc., for the earth), partly as portents of extraordinary events (Matthew 2:2; Luke 21:25) and divine judgments (Joel 2:30; Jeremiah 10:2; Matthew 24:29), partly as showing the different quarters of the heavens, and as prognosticating the changes in the weather; - (b) for seasons, or for fixed, definite times (מועדים, from יעד to fix, establish), - not for festal seasons merely, but "to regulate definite points and periods of time, by virtue of their periodical influence upon agriculture, navigation, and other human occupations, as well as upon the course of human, animal, and vegetable life (e.g., the breeding time of animals, and the migrations of birds, Jeremiah 8:7, etc.); - (c) for days and years, i.e., for the division and calculation of days and years. The grammatical construction will not allow the clause to be rendered as a Hendiadys, viz., "as signs for definite times and for days and years," or as signs both for the times and also for days and years. (3) They were to serve as lamps upon the earth, i.e., to pour out their light, which is indispensable to the growth and health of every creature. That this, the primary object of the lights, should be mentioned last, is correctly explained by Delitzsch: "From the astrological and chronological utility of the heavenly bodies, the record ascends to their universal utility which arises from the necessity of light for the growth and continuance of everything earthly." This applies especially to the two great lights which were created by God and placed in the firmament; the greater to rule the day, the lesser to rule the night. "The great" and "the small" in correlative clauses are to be understood as used comparatively (cf. Gesenius, 119, 1). That the sun and moon were intended, was too obvious to need to be specially mentioned. It might appear strange, however, that these lights should not receive names from God, like the works of the first three days. This cannot be attributed to forgetfulness on the part of the author, as Tuch supposes. As a rule, the names were given by God only to the greater sections into which the universe was divided, and not to individual bodies (either plants or animals). The man and the woman are the only exceptions (Genesis 5:2). The sun and moon are called great, not in comparison with the earth, but in contrast with the stars, according to the amount of light which shines from them upon the earth and determines their rule over the day and night; not so much with reference to the fact, that the stronger light of the sun produces the daylight, and the weaker light of the moon illumines the night, as to the influence which their light exerts by day and night upon all nature, both organic and inorganic-an influence generally admitted, but by no means fully understood. In this respect the sun and moon are the two great lights, the stars small bodies of light; the former exerting great, the latter but little, influence upon the earth and its inhabitants.

This truth, which arises from the relative magnitude of the heavenly bodies, or rather their apparent size as seen from the earth, is not affected by the fact that from the standpoint of natural science many of the stars far surpass both sun and moon in magnitude. Nor does the fact, that in our account, which was written for inhabitants of the earth and for religious purposes, it is only the utility of the sun, moon, and stars to the inhabitants of the earth that is mentioned, preclude the possibility of each by itself, and all combined, fulfilling other purposes in the universe of God. And not only is our record silent, but God Himself made no direct revelation to man on this subject; because astronomy and physical science, generally, neither lead to godliness, nor promise peace and salvation to the soul. Belief in the truth of this account as a divine revelation could only be shaken, if the facts which science has discovered as indisputably true, with regard to the number, size, and movements of the heavenly bodies, were irreconcilable with the biblical account of the creation. But neither the innumerable host nor the immeasurable size of many of the heavenly bodies, nor the almost infinite distance of the fixed stars from our earth and the solar system, warrants any such assumption. Who can set bounds to the divine omnipotence, and determine what and how much it can create in a moment? The objection, that the creation of the innumerable and immeasurably great and distant heavenly bodies in one day, is so disproportioned to the creation of this one little globe in six days, as to be irreconcilable with our notions of divine omnipotence and wisdom, does not affect the Bible, but shows that the account of the creation has been misunderstood. We are not taught here that on one day, viz., the fourth, God created all the heavenly bodies out of nothing, and in a perfect condition; on the contrary, we are told that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and on the fourth day that He made the sun, the moon, and the stars (planets, comets, and fixed stars) in the firmament, to be lights for the earth. According to these distinct words, the primary material, not only of the earth, but also of the heaven and the heavenly bodies, was created in the beginning. If, therefore, the heavenly bodies were first made or created on the fourth day, as lights for the earth, in the firmament of heaven; the words can have no other meaning than that their creation was completed on the fourth day, just as the creative formation of our globe was finished on the third; that the creation of the heavenly bodies therefore proceeded side by side, and probably by similar stages, with that of the earth, so that the heaven with its stars was completed on the fourth day. Is this representation of the work of creation, which follows in the simplest way from the word of God, at variance with correct ideas of the omnipotence and wisdom of God? Could not the Almighty create the innumerable host of heaven at the same time as the earthly globe? Or would Omnipotence require more time for the creation of the moon, the planets, and the sun, or of Orion, Sirius, the Pleiades, and other heavenly bodies whose magnitude has not yet been ascertained, than for the creation of the earth itself? Let us beware of measuring the works of Divine Omnipotence by the standard of human power. The fact, that in our account the gradual formation of the heavenly bodies is not described with the same minuteness as that of the earth; but that, after the general statement in Genesis 1:1 as to the creation of the heavens, all that is mentioned is their completion on the fourth day, when for the first time they assumed, or were placed in, such a position with regard to the earth as to influence its development; may be explained on the simple ground that it was the intention of the sacred historian to describe the work of creation from the standpoint of the globe: in other words, as it would have appeared to an observer from the earth, if there had been one in existence at the time. For only from such a standpoint could this work of God be made intelligible to all men, uneducated as well as learned, and the account of it be made subservient to the religious wants of all.

(Note: Most of the objections to the historical character of our account, which have been founded upon the work of the fourth day, rest upon a misconception of the proper point of view from which it should be studied. And, in addition to that, the conjectures of astronomers as to the immeasurable distance of most of the fixed stars, and the time which a ray of light would require to reach the earth, are accepted as indisputable mathematical proof; whereas these approximative estimates of distance rest upon the unsubstantiated supposition, that everything which has been ascertained with regard to the nature and motion of light in our solar system, must be equally true of the light of the fixed stars.)

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