May 17, 2013
Commentary on the Book of Genesis
By: Tom Lowe


Topic #A: An Account of Creation. Gen. 1:1-2:7.


Lesson I.A.5: The Heavenly Bodies Made to Give Light and to Serve as Signs.                    


Gen. 1:14-19. (KJV)

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:
15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.


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:

And God said,
This is the history of the fourth day's work; the creati0n of the sun, moon, and stars to serve as lights. God created these bodies in the sky, and assigned them several functions to benefit mankind: to make the distinction between day and night, to serve as indicators that would enable them to distinguish between the two divisions of the twenty-four hour day; to serve as signs for men to use in navigation, to create and regulate the oceans tides; and to be the means of measuring time in hours, days, months and years and creating the calendar of the world in general. This should be enough to fill us with praise and thanksgiving. Ancient Job mentions this as a demonstration of the glorious power of God—“that by the Spirit he hath garnished the heavens…” (Job 26:13; KJV)—and here we have an account of that garnishing which is not only the beauty of the upper world, but also the great blessing of this lower world.

Day four begins the second half of the creative week, whose works have a striking likeness to the labors of the first day. The Creator having eliminated the original chaos and perfected the four fundamental elements of light, air, water, and land, begins a second series of operations, in which He places light permanently in the sun, and fills the water with fish and the air with birds and the land with animals, and then in His final creative act, he makes a man and a woman.

Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night;
Since the atmosphere has been 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 they appear to be to the eye, although we know they are really a great distances from it. They are actually in the upper part of it, which we have designated the starry heavens. Some commentators, both Jewish and Christian, and even modern astronomers, believe that they appeared at this time, but had been formed on the first day. They presume they did not shine out as clearly and visibly as they do now, on the fourth day: this theory assumes that the body of fire and light produced on the first day was now distributed and formed into the sun, moon, and an infinite number of stars. The firmament itself is spoken of as having a brightness of its own—“And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan 12:3; KJV)—but this was not sufficient to give light to the earth and perhaps for this reason it is not expressly said of the second day's work, in which the firmament was made, that it was good, because, until it was adorned with these lights on the fourth day, it had not become helpful to man.

God had created the light on day one, but now He establishes a new order in nature by making the sun the dispenser of cyclic daylight, and the moon and stars shinning by night, so there would be alternating periods of day and night. He teaches us by this arrangement that all creation is subject to his will; because Moses reports nothing else than that God created these heavenly bodies by merely speaking; “And God said, Let there be lights.”

“Let there be lights,” are lights that are more magnificent than that created on the first day, having by now been condensed and reduced into these lights; which are higher in the heavens, more illustrious for light, and more powerful and influential, than that which was at first. It is important to note that herbs and trees were created before the sun, but now the sun is necessary for their life and production of fruit and leaves, and this shows that God does not depend upon help from any part of His creation.

There should not be any objections arise from the moon being a reflective body; since Moses does not say it is a luminous one; any more than a lamp or chandelier is luminous in itself, though it is the instrument of holding or diffusing light.

“To divide the day from the night” refers to the artificial day, which begins at the rising of the sun and ends at its setting. This is different from the natural day, which lasts twenty-four hours and includes the night in itself. Hence, the implication is that the interchange of days and nights will be repeated continually: because the God, who determined that the days should be distinct from the nights, directs the action of the sun and the earth until time ceases to exist.

and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
That is, for "signs" of good and bad weather; for the times of ploughing, sowing, reaping; for the "seasons" of summer and winter, spring and autumn; for hours and days by the rotation of the earth on its axis for the space of twenty four hours; and for "years" by movement of the earth around the sun for the space of three hundred sixty five days and some odd hours.

The child of God must bear in mind, that Moses does not speak philosophically of occult mysteries, but relates those things which are readily observable and well known today. These things are taught to children, and have been proven by science.

The question may be asked, “Why does Moses call them signs?” Perhaps, it was because certain people abused this passage, such as the ancient Egyptians did in order to give emphasis to their frivolous predictions. I call those who pretend to deduce everything from the position of the stars fakes and fortunetellers who hate God, and want to take credit for things only God can know. Because Moses declares that the sun and moon were designated by God to be used as signs, they think they are entitled to elicit from them anything they please. But this is easy to refute, because they are called signs of certain things, not signs to represent whatever it is that suits their fancy. Moses asserts that the only things to be signified by them are those things belonging to the order of nature? The same God who decrees here that they are for signs testifies through Isaiah that he “frustrates the signs of the babblers, and drives diviners mad” (Isaiah 44:25; NKJV); and forbids us to be “dismayed at the signs of heaven. (Jer 10:2; NKJV).

The lights of heaven are made to serve us, and they do it faithfully, but we are set as lights in this world to serve God, but are we faithful to the purpose of our creation? No, we are not, our light does not shine before God as His lights shine before us—“You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14; NKJV).

15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

It is good, I think, to repeat what I have said before, that Moses did not intend to kick off a philosophical discussion on how great the sun is, and how great, or how little the moon is, or even how much light comes to us from them; rather, Moses here speaks to our senses, so that we do not lose the knowledge of the gifts of God which we now enjoy. Therefore, in order to understand the meaning of Moses, it is not necessary to soar above the heavens; we only need to open our eyes to behold this light which God ignites for us who live on the earth.

It is the function of the heavenly light-producing-bodies, to send us light, either their own or that reflected by them; to be light-bearers for the earth. No sooner had God spoken than it was done; because it was not an ordinary work that He did, but an act of creation.

16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

And God made two great lights;
This was His work which He did Himself; and it shows the foolishness of idolaters who worship these luminaries which were the creations of God, and were placed by him in the heavens 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 rightly be called great, especially the former, because the diameter of the sun is calculated to be about eight hundred thousand miles. The moon's diameter is 2175 miles, and its surface contains fourteen hundred thousand square miles. The moon has been called great, not on account of its size, since it is the least of all the planets except Mercury, but because of its superiority as a light; it reflects more light upon the earth than any heavenly body besides the sun,

Since Moses considered the day beginning at sunset, the moon, which would be seen first in the horizon, would appear “a great light,” when compared with the little twinkling stars; while its pale feeble radiance would be eclipsed by the dazzling splendor of the sun. When this brilliant sphere rose in the morning and gradually followed its course through the heavens in a 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, because a different word is used here, which indicates they were composed, and assigned to the important and necessary mission of serving as luminaries to the world, and regulating the divisions of time by their movement.

the greater light to rule the day,
The sun was never meant to rule over mankind, although the heathens have worshipped it under the names of Molech and Baal; names which signify king and lord, as if it was their lord and king to whom they were to pay homage; but by the decision of God it would preside over our world, give it light, and continue to do so until God and Christ are the light in the New Jerusalem. And it rules alone; it is greater than the moon and all the other planets. It is called the "greater light,” in comparison to the moon, not only with respect to its size or substance, but on account of its light, which is far greater and stronger than that of the moon; which in fact receives its light from the sun, since the moon cannot make light, and is, in actual fact, a reflecting body. 

Let us learn from Psalm 19:1-6 how to give unto God the glory due unto his name, as the Maker of the sun.
Psalms 9:1-6 (KJV)
I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.
When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.
For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right.
Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.
O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.

and the lesser light to rule the night:
The moon was designed by God to give light, although it is a fainter, dimmer light produced by reflecting it from the sun; and it rules alone, since the sun is on the other side of the earth at night. The moon is of great use to travelers and sailors (though not as useful as it used to be). It is called the “lesser light,” in comparison with the sun. Astronomers have determined that the moon is about fifty-two times smaller than the earth, and four thousand one hundred and fifty times smaller than the sun. It is greater than any of the stars, not really, but it appears greater to the eye. Although it borrows its light from the sun it is said to “rule the night” because of the service it does for the benefit of man.

he made the stars also.
“He made the stars also,” in vast numbers and scattered them across the heavens, and they gave light to earth in some lesser degree than the sun and moon. There are several constellations which the Scriptures speak of, such as:
1. Job 9:9 (KJV) “Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south…”
2. Job 38:31 (KJV) “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?”
God made the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day since He has foreknowledge and realized 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. Therefore, in order to demonstrate the truth, plants and seeds came into existence before the stars. Because, that which comes into existence later cannot cause what comes before it.

The moon is said to “rule the night”, but the stars share in that administration, since they add their light to what the moon provides—“Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night” (Jer 31:35; KJV).

The ancients worshipped the sun, moon, and stars; this was foolish idolatry; but what we have learned plainly shows that they are both God's creation and man's servants and therefore it is both a great insult to God and a great criticism of ourselves to make deities of them and attribute to them what only God can do—“And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them” Deut 4:19; KJV). The worship of the heavenly bodies was the oldest species of idolatry. Those who did not have the knowledge of the true God were led to consider the sun, moon, planets, and stars, as not only self-existing, but the authors of all the blessings possessed by mankind. The knowledge of a rational system of astronomy served to destroy this superstition; and very little of it remains in the world.

Perhaps the chief reason for introducing the luminaries 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 creation record 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 belief in one all-powerful God. Jeremiah warns the Hebrews not to be afraid of the “signs of heaven,” before which the heathen tremble in vain terror (See Jeremiah 10:2); and Isaiah speaks with taunting irony against the astrologers, star-gazers, and monthly prognosticators, saying it is foolish and wicked to rely on their council—“Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee” (Isaiah 47:13; KJV). But the Israelites did not have enough moral strength to resist the example of star-worship in general; they could not keep aloof from an aberration which formed the focus of the principal Eastern religions; they yielded to that tempting influence, and paid honor to the sun and the hosts of heaven—“And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods” (Jer 19:13; KJV). (Also see Ezekiel 8:16; Zephaniah 1:5.).

17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

And God set them in the firmament of the heaven
He not only ordered precisely where they should be placed in the heavens, and made them stay there, but he placed them there with his own hands; He paid particular attention to the sun, and put it precisely at the distance where it would be the most beneficial: had it been set nearer to the earth, its heat would have been intolerable; and had it been further off it would have been useless; in the one case we would have been scorched by its heat, and in the other we would have been frozen. The various expressions used by Moses seem to be designed to guard against and expose the foolishness of worshipping the sun and moon; which, since they were visible, useful, and had a great influence on the earth, were the first things the Heathens worshipped as early as the times of Job—“If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness” (Job 31:26; KJV)—and yet these were lifeless things made by God. They were His servants and agents under him, and therefore, those who worship them, served the creature rather than the Creator.

to give light upon the earth,
“To give light upon the earth” is repeated from Genesis 1:15 to show the reason for which they were made, and how they were to be useful to the earth; being hung up like so many lamps or chandeliers, to provide light for the inhabitants of earth, so that they may see to walk and work, and do all the activities of life, as well as providing warmth and comfort. It is amazing that light emitted from the sun, when it is at such a great distance from the earth, can reach it in so short a span of time. A modern astronomer has said that a bullet discharged from a gun would require nearly twenty five years to reach the earth: and yet the rays of light travel from the sun to earth in seven minutes and thirty seconds, and are said to travel 186,000 miles through space every second.

18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

And to rule over the day and over the night,
The one, namely the sun, or greater light, to rule over the day, and the moon and stars, the lesser lights, to rule over the night: this is repeated from Genesis 1:16 to give us confidence in the reality of this creative act, and so that the proper uses of these lights might be indicated, and that the proper value might be placed upon them.

God's almighty, creative act is the premise; He put the light-bodies in their proper place, and their functions are given in the order in which they usually impress men: they give light upon the earth; their influence controls day and night, respectively; their rising and setting governs the division of light and darkness.

and to divide the light from the darkness:
“And to divide the light from the darkness;” or rather, the day from the night, which is done by the sun (See Genesis 1:14), whose rays dissolve and scatter the darkness of the night, as the earth rotates on its axis. The moon and stars give some degree of light, to the hemisphere in darkness, though it is in a feebler manner. 

and God saw that it was good.
God looked into the future and knew it would be “good;” that such lights in the heavens would be extremely beneficial to the inhabitants of the earth, which they would discover from their experiencing its benefits, and therefore they would have a great many reasons to be thankful, and to adore the wisdom and goodness of God’s creations.

This clause was omitted from the first day’s work because the light was a glimmer and imperfect, but on the fourth day it was made clearer and complete.

19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

“The fourth day,” like the other three was made by the rotation of the earth on its own axis, in the space of twenty four hours.

The Scripture references to this day's work are both numerous and instructive, but the Hebrew writers do not supply any information relative to the astronomical theories which were prevalent in their time; however, we have facts from other sources that would lead one to believe that even in the time of Moses there was noteworthy astronomy in the East, and some good theories. The Chaldeans at a very early period had determined the rotation of the earth, the position of the poles, and the nature of the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies as the result of revolutions on an inclined axis. The Egyptian astronomers, whom we know through Thales, 640 B.C; taught the true nature of the moon's light; that the earth was a sphere, and the position of its five zones. Pythagoras, 580 B.C; knew of the tilt of the earth, the identity of the evening and morning star, and the earth's revolution round the sun. Modern astronomy, although it claims to have highly probable theories as to the formation of the universe, is still unable to speak with absolute precision with regard to this fourth day's work, even though there are plenty of indirect corroborations of the truth of the Mosaic narrative from both it and geology. According to the sacred writer, the presently existing atmosphere, the distribution of land and water, the succession of day and night, and the regular alternation of the seasons, were established prior to the introduction of animal life upon the earth;  and these must have been created by God to support animal and human life.