Genesis 1:14 MEANING

Genesis 1:14
(14) Let there be lights (luminaries) in the firmament (or expanse) of the heaven.--In Hebrew the word for light is or, and for luminary, ma-or, 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 signs--i.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.

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.

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.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.

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