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 let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 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 set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 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 the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
Day 4 marks the creation of the heavenly bodies – the sun, moon, and stars. We have seen already that God created light on Day 1. The presence of light clearly demarcated day and night so that the passage of days could be measured until now. Here, God creates the permanent lights to replace the temporary one He had created earlier.
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 let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
Interestingly, the Bible reveals the motive for creating these heavenly bodies. In this passage, I can identify at least 4 purposes:
1) And let them be for signs: Exactly what is meant by “signs” is not made clear in this passage. I've heard some pastors talk about the gospel message being present in the signs of the zodiac but I'm very skeptical of the claim. I've heard all the details and feel they're simply a stretch. It reminds me a little of Nostradamus, where his quatrains are just vague enough that they can seem to explain some future event.
Still others talk about signs like the star of Bethlehem which announced the birth of Jesus. I've written before how that “star,” as described in the Bible, did not behave in a way any astronomical body would. I suspect that was more likely an angel.
I suspect it most likely means God will use the heavens to reveal His power. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Simply put, the vastness of space and number of stars gives us a glimpse of the power of God. Also, there are the miracles like Joshua's Long Day (Joshua 10:11-13) and the turning back of the sun (Isaiah 38:8). In both cases, we see the authority of God is above the movement of the planets.
2) And for seasons: We see that God purposefully created the seasons. We know that He gave the plants and tree to Adam for food. We see perhaps too that God intended Adam to farm. Of course, it was not initially the burden that it would become after the curse. When God cursed Adam, He warned him that he would plow but now the ground would produce thorns and He would have to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow.
Because there are seasons, we know that by this time, the earth was certainly in motion, making its elliptical orbit around the sun; the earth must also have already been tilted on its axis. Both of these factors determine the seasons.
3) and for days, and years: Many of our denominations of time are derived from natural phenomenon. One rotation of the earth on its axis is a day; one orbit of the sun is a year; one orbit around the earth by the moon is a month. Even the start of each season is clearly identified by a solstice or equinox. We see from these passages that it is God who ordained how long a day would be or how long makes a year.
By the way, there is no natural phenomenon that accounts for a seven day week. Many believe the seven day week – which is recognized by so many cultures – is a legacy of the original seven day week established by God during the creation.
4) And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: One obvious blessing from the sun is that it not only gives us heat but it also gives light. God could have created us to live and see in the darkness but He ordained it to be otherwise and so gave us the sun and moon to give light upon the earth.
In the Bible, light is often used metaphorically to represent knowledge or enlightenment. The Bible is a lamp for our feet (Psalm 119:105). Jesus also said that believers walk in the light while the lost love darkness because their deeds are evil (John 3).
One criticism often made of the Bible is that it seems to say in this passage that the moon “gives” light. First, it doesn't say exactly that. It does refer to the moon as the “lesser light” that rules the night but does not describe a method by which the moon gives light. But moreover, it is an acceptable and common use of the language to say the moon gives light. I remind you of the well known poem, “'Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
“The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below.”
gave the lustre of midday to objects below.”
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night:
So, after having given us the purpose of the sun and moon, the Bible then says God creates them with very little description as to how. There is no description like the plants seeming to come forth from the ground or the land rising out of the sea as with earlier creative acts. It only says that God wanted there to be these lights and so He made them.
An interesting fact about the sun and moon is their difference in size. The sun's diameter is about 400 times larger than the moon's but the sun is also 400 times further away. The result is that both objects appear to be almost exactly the same size when viewed from earth. It is incredible to think this is just an accidental coincidence; Such a coincidence is far more likely to be a product of design.
he made the stars also.
The earth is not some insignificant speck in the vast cosmos; rather, God created the universe with the earth in mind. The enormity of the universe and the innumerable number of stars gives us a glimpse of God's omnipotence. However, the earth is the indisputable center of God's attention. The sun and moon, which affect the earth most directly, are given the most description in this passage. The stars receive barely a mention.
I can't let this pass without mentioning the distant starlight problem. Out of our ignorance, we question how the light from millions of lights years away (in distance) can reach us in a single day or even a few thousand years (of time). The fact that we haven't yet found a completely satisfactory answer to the question is not necessarily evidence that it didn't happen. We see the light from the stars so we know it has had time to reach us. Therefore, we can continue seeking answers to understand how.
And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness:
Critics of the Bible will often pounce on this verse as an excuse to ridicule the Bible. Some ancient philosophers (it would be a stretch to call any person of antiquity a “scientist”) believed there was a dome over the earth and the heavenly bodies were literally lights inside the dome. This just wasn't Christian or Jewish philosophers but many other cultures this as well. This passage in one sense could understood to support that idea. However, it doesn't literally say it. There are at least two other ways we might understand this passage.
First, we ordinarily refer to the sun, moon, and/or stars as being “in the sky.” It would be odd to describe them otherwise. I have used similar wording on this very blog many times and no one has ever accused me of believing in a dome around the earth. For the Bible to say that God that put them “in the sky” need not mean anything more than we mean by the same term.
Secondly, the word “firmament” in the KJV is a little esoteric. Other translations have “heavens.” The Bible attests there are three, distinct heavens: the first heaven is the sky/atmosphere around the earth. The second heaven is outer space. The third heaven is the abode of God. The word “firmament” in the KJV could include either the 1st or 2nd heavens. The same passage in the NASB can be read and understood without the ambiguity or controversy we find in the KJV.
and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
Prior to now, days were marked by the temporary light created on Day 1. Now, God has created the sun and the meaning of a “day” is clearly defined as one passing of evening and morning. Once again, we see that the days of the creation week are ordinary days.