Genesis (Part 7)

The fourth day of creation.

Genesis 1: 14-19

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

Let’s take a minute to translate a few of theses words using Strong’s via the Blue Letter Bible.

From verse 14, “let there be lights” is translated as follows:

מָאוֹר mâʼôwr, maw-ore’; or מָאֹר mâʼôr; also (in plural) feminine מְאוֹרָה mᵉʼôwrâh; or מְאֹרָה mᵉʼôrâh; from H215; properly, a luminous body or luminary, i.e. (abstractly) light (as an element); figuratively, brightness, i.e.cheerfulness; specifically, a chandelier:—bright, light.

By contrast, “let there be light” in verse 3 is as follows:

אוֹר ʼôwr, ore; from H215; illumination or (concrete) luminary (in every sense, including lightning, happiness, etc.):—bright, clear, day, light (-ning), morning, sun.

The difference between verse 3 and verse 14 is that verse 14 uses a plural form of light.

Later in verse, “let them be for signs” is:

אוֹת ʼôwth, oth; probably from H225 (in the sense of appearing); a signal (literally or figuratively), as a flag, beacon, monument, omen, prodigy, evidence, etc.:—mark, miracle, (en-) sign, token.

… “and for seasons”

מוֹעֵד môwʻêd, mo-ade’; or מֹעֵד môʻêd; or (feminine) מוֹעָדָה môwʻâdâh; (2 Chronicles 8:13), from H3259; properly, an appointment, i.e. a fixed time or season; specifically, a festival; conventionally a year; by implication, an assembly (as convened for a definite purpose); technically the congregation; by extension, the place of meeting; also a signal (as appointed beforehand):—appointed (sign, time), (place of, solemn) assembly, congregation, (set, solemn) feast, (appointed, due) season, solemn(-ity), synogogue, (set) time (appointed).

… “and for days”

יוֹם yôwm, yome; from an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literal (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figurative (a space of time defined by an associated term), (often used adverb):—age, always, chronicals, continually(-ance), daily, ((birth-), each, to) day, (now a, two) days (agone), elder, × end, evening, (for) ever(-lasting, -more), × full, life, as (so) long as (… live), (even) now, old, outlived, perpetually, presently, remaineth, × required, season, × since, space, then, (process of) time, as at other times, in trouble, weather, (as) when, (a, the, within a) while (that), × whole ( age), (full) year(-ly), younger.

… “and years”

שָׁנֶה shâneh, shaw-neh’; (in plural or (feminine) שָׁנָה shânâh; from H8138; a year (as a revolution of time):— whole age, × long, old, year(× -ly).

Jumping ahead to verse 16, I want to look at the word “rule.”

מֶמְשָׁלָה memshâlâh, mem-shaw-law’; feminine of H4474; rule; also (concretely in plural) a realm or a ruler:—dominion, government, power, to rule.


A few things jump out:

  • Why did the verses say “greater light” and “lesser light” instead of the more explicit “sun” and “moon”?

It is possible that Genesis is explicitly downplaying “the sun” and “the moon” intentionally because of their place as deities in other religions. Many pagan religions worship sun and moon gods and goddesses. Their divine power comes from being the source of light in the world. In Genesis, though, there was “light” that preceded the creation of the sun and the moon. In the same vein, God in these verses does not give them a specific name that people could worship. They are not “the sun” or “the moon.” They are merely described as a “greater light” and “lesser light.”

  • What does it mean that God let these luminous bodies be “for signs”?

Using the sun, moon, and stars to interpret the days, years, and seasons is not controversial. Human beings have been doing this for thousands of years. But God also said that the lights would be “for signs.”

In the Christian Bible, two of the most famous events in the life of Jesus were 1) a star over Bethlehem signaling His birth, and 2) the sun going dark at the moment of his death on the cross.

Where else in the Bible do we see “signs” in the sky?

  • The rainbow after the Great Flood
  • Joshua 10:13: And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
  • 2 Kings 20: 9-11: And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” 10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” 11 And Isaiah the prophet called to the Lord, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz.

Does “signs” also refer to astrology?

  • There are mixed (and strong) opinions. Since the discussion would take thousands of words, I will provide a starting point link for your own research – Jewish Views on Astrology Wiki

Does the Bible teach that the earth was created before the sun, moon, and stars? On the surface of the text, the answer seems to be yes. However, this is also not without debate.

Neither here nor in verses 14-18 is an original creative act implied. A different word is used. The sense is, made to appear; made visible. The sun and the moon were created in the beginning. The light of course came from the sun, but the vapour diffused the light. Later the sun appeared in an unclouded sky (The Scofield Reference Bible, edited by C.I. Scofield, New York, Oxford University Press, 1909, p. 3, note 4).

The verses end in the same pattern as the other days of creation, with evening, morning, and the the end of the 4th day.

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