Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Genesis 1:14

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 14-19

- 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 m usually 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 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.

Genesis 1:15

To shine upon the earth. - The first day spreads the shaded gleam of light over the face of the deep. The fourth day unfolds to the eye the lamps of heaven, hanging in the expanse of the skies, and assigns to them the office of “shining upon the earth.” A threefold function is thus attributed to the celestial orbs - to divide day from night, to define time and place, and to shine on the earth. The word of command is here very full, running over two verses, with the exception of the little clause, “and it was so,” stating the result.

Genesis 1:16-19

This result is fully particularized in the next three verses. This word, “made,” corresponds to the word “be” in the command, and indicates the disposition and adjustment to a special purpose of things previously existing.

Genesis 1:16

The two great lights. - The well-known ones, great in relation to the stars, as seen from the earth.

The great light, - in comparison with the little light. The stars, from man‘s point of view, are insignificant, except in regard to number Genesis 15:5.

Genesis 1:17

God gave them. - The absolute giving of the heavenly bodies in their places was performed at the time of their actual creation. The relative giving here spoken of is what would appear to an earthly spectator, when the intervening veil of clouds would be dissolved by the divine agency, and the celestial luminaries would stand forth in all their dazzling splendor.

Genesis 1:18

To rule. - From their lofty eminence they regulate the duration and the business of each period. The whole is inspected and approved as before.

Now let it be remembered that the heavens were created at the absolute beginning of things recorded in the first verse, and that they included all other things except the earth. Hence, according to this document, the sun, moon, and stars were in existence simultaneously with our planet. This gives simplicity and order to the whole narrative. Light comes before us on the first and on the fourth day. Now, as two distinct causes of a common effect would be unphilosophical and unnecessary, we must hold the one cause to have been in existence on these two days. But we have seen that the one cause of the day and of the year is a fixed source of radiating light in the sky, combined with the diurnal and annual motions of the earth. Thus, the recorded preexistence of the celestial orbs is consonant with the presumptions of reason. The making or reconstitution of the atmosphere admits their light so far that the alternations of day and night can be discerned. The making of the lights of heaven, or the display of them in a serene sky by the withdrawal of that opaque canopy of clouds that still enveloped the dome above, is then the work of the fourth day.

All is now plain and intelligible. The heavenly bodies become the lights of the earth, and the distinguishers not only of day and night, but of seasons and years, of times and places. They shed forth their unveiled glories and salutary potencies on the budding, waiting land. How the higher grade of transparency in the aerial region was effected, we cannot tell; and, therefore, we are not prepared to explain why it is accomplished on the fourth day, and not sooner. But from its very position in time, we are led to conclude that the constitution of the expanse, the elevation of a portion of the waters of the deep in the form of vapor, the collection of the sub-aerial water into seas, and the creation of plants out of the reeking soil, must all have had an essential part, both in retarding until the fourth day, and in then bringing about the dispersion of the clouds and the clearing of the atmosphere. Whatever remained of hinderance to the outshining of the sun, moon, and stars on the land in all their native splendor, was on this day removed by the word of divine power.

Now is the approximate cause of day and night made palpable to the observation. Now are the heavenly bodies made to be signs of time and place to the intelligent spectator on the earth, to regulate seasons, days, months, and years, and to be the luminaries of the world. Now, manifestly, the greater light rules the day, as the lesser does the night. The Creator has withdrawn the curtain, and set forth the hitherto undistinguishable brilliants of space for the illumination of the land and the regulation of the changes which diversify its surface. This bright display, even if it could have been effected on the first day with due regard to the forces of nature already in operation, was unnecessary to the unseeing and unmoving world of vegetation, while it was plainly requisite for the seeing, choosing, and moving world of animated nature which was about to be called into existence on the following days.

The terms employed for the objects here brought forward - “lights, the great light, the little light, the stars;” for the mode of their manifestation, “be, make, give;” and for the offices they discharge, “divide, rule, shine, be for signs, seasons, days, years” - exemplify the admirable simplicity of Scripture, and the exact adaptation of its style to the unsophisticated mind of primeval man. We have no longer, indeed, the naming of the various objects, as on the former days; probably because it would no longer be an important source of information for the elucidation of the narrative. But we have more than an equivalent for this in variety of phrase. The several words have been already noticed: it only remains to make some general remarks.

(1) The sacred writer notes only obvious results, such as come before the eye of the observer, and leaves the secondary causes, their modes of operation, and their less obtrusive effects, to scientific inquiry. The progress of observation is from the foreground to the background of nature, from the physical to the metaphysical, and from the objective to the subjective. Among the senses, too, the eye is the most prominent observer in the scenes of the six days. Hence, the “lights,” they “shine,” they are for “signs” and “days,” which are in the first instance objects of vision. They are “given,” held or shown forth in the heavens. Even “rule” has probably the primitive meaning to be over. Starting thus with the visible and the tangible, the Scripture in its successive communications advance with us to the inferential, the intuitive, the moral, the spiritual, the divine.

(2) The sacred writer also touches merely the heads of things in these scenes of creation, without condescending to minute particulars or intending to be exhaustive. Hence, many actual incidents and intricacies of these days are left to the well-regulated imagination and sober judgment of the reader. To instance such omissions, the moon is as much of her time above the horizon during the day as during the night. But she is not then the conspicuous object in the scene, or the full-orbed reflector of the solar beams, as she is during the night. Here the better part is used to mark the whole. The tidal influence of the great lights, in which the moon plays the chief part, is also unnoticed. Hence, we are to expect very many phenomena to be altogether omitted, though interesting and important in themselves, because they do not come within the present scope of the narrative.

(3) The point from which the writer views the scene is never to be forgotten, if we would understand these ancient records. He stands on earth. He uses his eyes as the organ of observation. He knows nothing of the visual angle, of visible as distinguishable from tangible magnitude, of relative in comparison with absolute motion on the grand scale: he speaks the simple language of the eye. Hence, his earth is the meet counterpart of the heavens. His sun and moon are great, and all the stars are a very little thing. Light comes to be, to him, when it reaches the eye. The luminaries are held forth in the heavens, when the mist between them and the eye is dissolved.

(4) Yet, though not trained to scientific thought or speech, this author has the eye of reason open as well as that of sense. It is not with him the science of the tangible, but the philosophy of the intuitive, that reduces things to their proper dimensions. He traces not the secondary cause, but ascends at one glance to the great first cause, the manifest act and audible behest of the Eternal Spirit. This imparts a sacred dignity to his style, and a transcendent grandeur to his conceptions. In the presence of the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, all things terrestrial and celestial are reduced to a common level. Man in intelligent relation with God comes forth as the chief figure on the scene of terrestrial creation. The narrative takes its commanding position as the history of the ways of God with man. The commonest primary facts of ordinary observation, when recorded in this book, assume a supreme interest as the monuments of eternal wisdom and the heralds of the finest and broadest generalizations of a consecrated science. The very words are instinct with a germinant philosophy, and prove themselves adequate to the expression of the loftiest speculations of the eloquent mind.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And God said, Let there be lights, etc. - One principal office of these was to divide between day and night. When night is considered a state of comparative darkness, how can lights divide or distinguish it? The answer is easy: The sun is the monarch of the day, which is the state of light; the moon, of the night, the state of darkness. The rays of the sun, falling on the atmosphere, are refracted and diffused over the whole of that hemisphere of the earth immediately under his orb; while those rays of that vast luminary which, because of the earth's smallness in comparison of the sun, are diffused on all sides beyond the earth, falling on the opaque disc of the moon, are reflected back upon what may be called the lower hemisphere, or that part of the earth which is opposite to the part which is illuminated by the sun: and as the earth completes a revolution on its own axis in about twenty-four hours, consequently each hemisphere has alternate day and night. But as the solar light reflected from the face of the moon is computed to be 50,000 times less in intensity and effect than the light of the sun as it comes directly from himself to our earth, (for light decreases in its intensity as the distance it travels from the sun increases), therefore a sufficient distinction is made between day and night, or light and darkness, notwithstanding each is ruled and determined by one of these two great lights; the moon ruling the night, i.e., reflecting from her own surface back on the earth the rays of light which she receives from the sun. Thus both hemispheres are to a certain degree illuminated: the one, on which the sun shines, completely so; this is day: the other, on which the sun's light is reflected by the moon, partially; this is night. It is true that both the planets and fixed stars afford a considerable portion of light during the night, yet they cannot be said to rule or to predominate by their light, because their rays arc quite lost in the superior splendor of the moon's light.

And let them be for signs - לאתת leothoth . Let them ever be considered as continual tokens of God's tender care for man, and as standing proofs of his continual miraculous interference; for so the word את oth is often used. And is it not the almighty energy of God that upholds them in being? The sun and moon also serve as signs of the different changes which take place in the atmosphere, and which are so essential for all purposes of agriculture, commerce, etc.

For seasons - מועדים moadim ; For the determination of the times on which the sacred festivals should be held. In this sense the word frequently occurs; and it was right that at the very opening of his revelation God should inform man that there were certain festivals which should be annually celebrated to his glory. Some think we should understand the original word as signifying months, for which purpose we know the moon essentially serves through all the revolutions of time.

For days - Both the hours of the day and night, as well as the different lengths of the days and nights, are distinguished by the longer and shorter spaces of time the sun is above or below the horizon.

And years - That is, those grand divisions of time by which all succession in the vast lapse of duration is distinguished. This refers principally to a complete revolution of the earth round the sun, which is accomplished in 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 48 seconds; for though the revolution is that of the earth, yet it cannot be determined but by the heavenly bodies.

Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 41

December 16, 1848, the Lord gave me a view of the shaking of the powers of the heavens. I saw that when the Lord said “heaven,” in giving the signs recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, He meant heaven, and when He said “earth” He meant earth. The powers of heaven are the sun, moon, and stars. They rule in the heavens. The powers of earth are those that rule on the earth. The powers of heaven will be shaken at the voice of God. Then the sun, moon, and stars will be moved out of their places. They will not pass away, but be shaken by the voice of God. EW 41.1

Dark, heavy clouds came up and clashed against each other. The atmosphere parted and rolled back; then we could look up through the open space in Orion, whence came the voice of God. The Holy City will come down through that open space. I saw that the powers of earth are now being shaken and that events come in order. War, and rumors of war, sword, famine, and pestilence are first to shake the powers of earth, then the voice of God will shake the sun, moon, and stars, and this earth also. I saw that the shaking of the powers in Europe is not, as some teach, the shaking of the powers of heaven, but it is the shaking of the angry nations. EW 41.2

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 338

Scoffers pointed to the things of nature,—to the unvarying succession of the seasons, to the blue skies that had never poured out rain, to the green fields refreshed by the soft dews of night,—and they cried out: “Doth he not speak parables?” In contempt they declared the preacher of righteousness to be a wild enthusiast; and they went on, more eager in their pursuit of pleasure, more intent upon their evil ways, than before. But their unbelief did not hinder the predicted event. God bore long with their wickedness, giving them ample opportunity for repentance; but at the appointed time His judgments were visited upon the rejecters of His mercy. GC 338.1

Christ declares that there will exist similar unbelief concerning His second coming. As the people of Noah's day “knew not until the Flood came, and took them all away; so,” in the words of our Saviour, “shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matthew 24:39. When the professed people of God are uniting with the world, living as they live, and joining with them in forbidden pleasures; when the luxury of the world becomes the luxury of the church; when the marriage bells are chiming, and all are looking forward to many years of worldly prosperity—then, suddenly as the lightning flashes from the heavens, will come the end of their bright visions and delusive hopes. GC 338.2

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 312

How wonderfully, with what marvelous beauty, has everything in nature been fashioned. Everywhere we see the perfect works of the great Master Artist. The heavens declare His glory, and the earth, which is formed for the happiness of man, speaks to us of His matchless love. Its surface is not a monotonous plain, but grand old mountains rise to diversify the landscape. There are sparkling streams and fertile valleys, beautiful lakes, broad rivers, and the boundless ocean. God sends the dew and the rain to refresh the thirsty earth. The breezes, that promote health by purifying and cooling the atmosphere, are controlled by His wisdom. He has placed the sun in the heavens to mark the periods of day and night, and by its genial beams give light and warmth to the earth, causing vegetation to flourish. 5T 312.1

I call your attention to these blessings from the bounteous hand of God. Let the fresh glories of each new morning awaken praise in your hearts for these tokens of His loving care. But while our kind heavenly Father has given us so many things to promote our happiness, He has given us also blessings in disguise. He understands the necessities of fallen man; and while He has given us advantages on the one hand, on the other there are inconveniences which are designed to stimulate us to use the ability He has given us. These develop patient industry, perseverance, and courage. 5T 312.2

There are evils which man may lessen but can never remove. He is to overcome obstacles and make his surroundings instead of being molded by them. He has room to exercise his talents in bringing order and harmony out of confusion. In this work he may have divine aid if he will claim it. He is not left to battle with temptations and trials in his own strength. Help has been laid upon One who is mighty. Jesus left the royal courts of heaven and suffered and died in a world degraded by sin, that He might teach man how to pass through the trials of life and overcome its temptations. Here is a pattern for us. 5T 312.3

As the benefits conferred upon His creatures by our heavenly Father are recounted, do you not feel reproved for your ungrateful repinings? For a number of years He lent you a daughter and sister, until you began to regard her as yours and felt that you had a right to this good gift. God heard your murmurings. If there was a cloud in sight, you seemed to forget that the sun ever shone; and clouds and darkness were ever about you. God sent you affliction; He removed your treasure from you that you might discern between prosperity and real sorrow. But you did not subdue your hearts before Him and repent of the great sin of ingratitude which had separated you from His love. Like Job, you felt that you had cause for grief, and would not be comforted. Was this reasonable? You know that death is a power that none can resist; but you have made your lives nearly useless by your unavailing grief. Your feelings have been little less than rebellion against God. I saw you all dwelling upon your bereavement, and giving way to your excitable feelings, until your noisy demonstrations of grief caused angels to hide their faces and withdraw from the scene. 5T 312.4

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
The Ministry of Healing, 449

Our Saviour did not encourage any to attend the rabbinical schools of His day, for the reason that their minds would be corrupted with the continually repeated, “They say,” or, “It has been said.” Why, then, should we accept the unstable words of men as exalted wisdom, when a greater, a certain, wisdom is at our command? MH 449.1

That which I have seen of eternal things, and that which I have seen of the weakness of humanity, has deeply impressed my mind and influenced my lifework. I see nothing wherein man should be praised or glorified. I see no reason why the opinions of worldly-wise men and so-called great men should be trusted in and exalted. How can those who are destitute of divine enlightenment have correct ideas of God's plans and ways? They either deny Him altogether and ignore His existence, or they circumscribe His power by their own finite conceptions. MH 449.2

Let us choose to be taught by Him who created the heavens and the earth, by Him who set the stars in their order in the firmament and appointed the sun and the moon to do their work. MH 449.3

It is right for the youth to feel that they must reach the highest development of their mental powers. We would not restrict the education to which God has set no limit. But our attainments avail nothing if not put to use for the honor of God and the good of humanity. MH 449.4

It is not well to crowd the mind with studies that require intense application, but that are not brought into use in practical life. Such education will be a loss to the student. For these studies lessen his desire and inclination for the studies that would fit him for usefulness and enable him to fulfill his responsibilities. A practical training is worth far more than any amount of mere theorizing. It is not enough even to have knowledge. We must have ability to use the knowledge aright. MH 449.5

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 310-11

Christ imparted only that knowledge which could be utilized. His instruction of the people was confined to the needs of their own condition in practical life. The curiosity that led them to come to Him with prying questions, He did not gratify. All such questionings He made the occasion for solemn, earnest, vital appeals. To those who were so eager to pluck from the tree of knowledge, He offered the fruit of the tree of life. They found every avenue closed, except the narrow way that leads to God. Every fountain was sealed, save the fountain of eternal life. 8T 310.1

Our Saviour did not encourage any to attend the rabbinical schools of His day for the reason that their minds would be corrupted with the continually repeated, “They say,” or, “It has been said.” Why, then, should we accept the unstable words of men as exalted wisdom, when a greater, a certain wisdom is at our command? 8T 310.2

That which I have seen of eternal things, and that which I have seen of the weakness of men, as God has presented it before me, has deeply impressed my mind and influenced my life and character. I see nothing wherein man should be exalted or praised or glorified. I see no reason why the opinions of worldly-wise men should be trusted in and exalted. How can those who are destitute of divine enlightenment have correct ideas of God's plans and ways? 8T 310.3

I am willing to be taught by Him who created the heavens and the earth, by Him who set the stars in their order in the firmament and appointed the sun and the moon to do their work. I need not go to infidel authors. I choose to be taught of God. 8T 310.4

Read in context »
More Comments