Genesis 1:3-1:5 Commentary


Genesis 1:3

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י אֹ֑ור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור׃

way-yō-mer ’ĕ-lō-hîm yə-hî ’ō-wr; way-hî- ’ō-wr.

And God said… Now begins the creation proper. The presence of the conjunction “waw (and)” informs us that God’s speaking occurred in the next step of a linear account. “1:2 The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 1:3 AND God said….” Such a usage of “waw” to attach consecutive events also happens in Genesis 5 and 11, both of which are genealogical accounts. After God had laid down the great waters of the Earth, He now went to work shaping it. He made light first, meaning that it is so important as to be given preference over any other thing.

In the first verse we saw the being of God, in the second verse we saw the Spirit of God, and now in the third verse we hear the Word of God. Those angels which were created at the very beginning of time had now the honor of hearing God speak and seeing His miraculous deed. Now let us not doubt the act which brought about the creation of light. God did indeed speak the words. Critics believe that it is folly to pair so human an act with God, and as such they insist that God thought the words rather than speaking them. But humans are created in God’s image, remember, and there is no sensible reason to believe that speech is below God. Jesus, after all, is the living Word. Compare the verb used for “to speak” in this verse, “וַיֹּ֣אמֶר (way-yo-mer),” with the verb in Genesis 1:29 (And God said…), and you shall see that they are the same word. Whether God was speaking to Adam or speaking in the presence of the angels, it was the same act of speech. When Adam first spoke in Genesis 2:23, the same word was used. God and man employ the same verb to speak because it is the same action either way. Whether God’s words are traveling through the air to meet human ears or traveling through the aether of Heaven to meet angelic ears makes no difference. Simply put, God spoke. And He created by His word (see Psalm 33:6, 33:9). This shows His absolute power. He spoke for all the host of Heaven to hear. The angels saw firsthand God’s creation and His many wonderful works. In addition to the intelligence God granted them when creating them, the angels also witnessed firsthand His creation. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Those angels who chose to rebel against God were without excuse, for they heard Him speak everything into existence and they knew that He was therefore the master of all. It was God’s responsibility to speak and everyone else’s responsibility to listen. These angels are God’s ministering spirits and they, being the first beings created, have heard the most of God’s word. Their faith ought to be greater than any man’s.

… “Let there be light.”… And His word was a command. God’s command, translated literally from Hebrew, is “Light Be:” a most simple command given in a most straightforward way. After God created the heavens and the earth He did not lose or cede control. The Law of Conservation of Energy demands that light cannot be created out of nothing. If God were anything less than omnipotent He would not have been able to override this most basic law of physics. But He first created a foundation of water and then created light. The power of God is so great that nothing can resist it. Light came into being at God’s command because his command is so powerful that the fabric of reality must bend to it. God’s very voice energized the universe. Because God ordered light to be, then we must take this to mean that before such a command there was no light. Light must arise as a result of chemical processes or physical state changes within matter. And up until this point the only matter in the universe was water, which is not the least bit phosphorescent. Many non-metals may emit light when heated but water does not because it does not have a stable excited triple state. On the other hand, water may emit light via a process known as sonoluminescence, wherein bubbles disturbed by a sound wave will emit photons while popping, but the lack of such a phenomenon should hardly come as a surprise. Earth had no atmosphere to make bubbles at this point in time, so it did not meet the conditions necessary for sonoluminescence. The universe could not bring about any change on its own and without divine intervention would have been doomed to eternal chaos. How appropriate it is that such a state applies itself well to the human condition also. We too, no matter how hard we try, cannot become good on our own. We need God’s guidance to transform us.

…and there was light. With only two words from God, light sprang into existence. The word for “was,” way-hi (וַֽיְהִי־), literally means “became” or “came to be.” Light is a great companion to water, since they are both unusual (see the commentary on Gen. 1:2 for an analysis of water’s uniqueness). Light exists simultaneously as a particle and a wave, and as such exhibits the characteristics of both matter and energy. Jesus, who is the Light of the world (see John 8:12), exists as both man and God. Light encompasses a very narrow band of all possible wavelengths, but light is that radiation which is most useful to us. Although sight is only one of several senses, it is responsible for about 70% of our stimulus intake. And remember that there is no sound in a vacuum so the crashing waves were silent–water is also odorless and tasteless, so the introduction of light was important for a good understanding of what was going on; more so than anything else could have been. Matter may emit all sorts of electromagnetic radiation but unless it is the visible type, it will be of no use to us for perceiving our surroundings. And although Christ be only one man among billions, He is the only one who can allow us to see. There is therefore a distinct parallel between the creation account and the life of the Christian. How wonderful it is that the first thing created should be light! As soon as it was the appointed time for light to exist, God spoke His two short words, and it instantly came to be. The plans of God are often gradual and slow, but when the time is right then the plans’ execution is foudroyant and miraculous.


Genesis 1:4

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

וַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הָאֹ֖ור כִּי־טֹ֑וב וַיַּבְדֵּ֣ל אֱלֹהִ֔ים בֵּ֥ין הָאֹ֖ור וּבֵ֥ין הַחֹֽשֶׁךְ׃

way-yar ’ĕ-lō-hîm ’eṯ- hā-’ō-wr kî- ṭō-wḇ; way-yaḇ-dêl ’ĕ-lō-hîm, bênhā-’ō-wr ū-ḇên ha-ḥō-šeḵ.

And God saw the light, that it was good:… God saw the light, which He created. God sees everything, of course, but this light He saw especially. Note that the verse does not read, “God saw that the light was good.” The verse reads, “And God saw the light, that it was good.” There are two separate sights here. God saw the light, and He saw that it was good. The former indicates the presence of eyesight, the ability of God to see photons. The latter indicates the presence of judgment, the ability of God to contemplate and interpret value (these are two results of the cognitive and moral faculties). He gazed upon it, examined it, and judged it. This light was good not only because it solved a shortcoming present in the previous verse (darkness was upon the face of the deep), but also because it provided a positive phenomenon. Light removed the negative of darkness, and replaced it with the positive of illumination. Light is pure and illuminating. Light is ultimately necessary for all life forms. It is useful and pleasing. God exercised the faculty of judgment when considering what He had just created. Any artist knows well the feeling of looking over one’s work when finished; perhaps to admire it, perhaps to study it for error or additional insight. After laying the foundations of the earth, God created the first thing and looked over it with pleasure. He found this creation to be not just neutral, but actually good. That thing which fulfills its intended purpose is to be called good. The preacher J.B.C. Murphy wrote of light,

1. The very birds sing at daybreak their glad welcome to the dawn, and the rising sun. And we all know and feel how cheering is the power of light. In the sunlight rivers flash, and nature rejoices, and our hearts are light, and we take a bright view of things.

2. So, too, light comes to revive and restore us. Darkness is oppressive. In it we are apt to lose heart. We grow anxious, and full of fears. With the first glimmer of light in the distance, hope awakens, and we feel a load lifted off our minds.

3. Again, we have often felt the reassuring power of light. In the darkness, objects that are perfectly harmless take threatening shapes; the imagination distorts them, and our fancy creates dangers. Light shows us that we have been alarmed at shadows: quiets and reassures us.

4. Once again, the light comes to us, often, as nothing less than a deliverer. It reveals dangers hidden and unsuspected; the deadly reptile; the yawning precipice; the lurking foe.

5. And when, over and above all this, we remember that light is absolutely essential, not to health only, but to life in every form, animal and vegetable alike, we shall heartily echo the words of the wise king in Ecclesiastes: “Truly the light is sweet; and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun.”

When the light was created it was the only thing of beauty. Remember that the earth was still tohu wa-bohu–filled with chaos and confusion, swathed in darkness. In your life you may feel that you are also tohu wa-bohu, but if you have asked the Light to be within you, God will see it, even amongst the discomfort and want. God devoted a whole day (the first day!) to the creation of light. The light came from God, who is Light Himself and in whom there is no darkness (see 1 John 1:5). The light is good ultimately because its source is good (see also James 1:17).

…and God divided the light from the darkness. The universe was neither bright nor dark, but suffered through a weary twilight–then God improved it. Here is the first instance of separation. God makes many separations throughout scriptures in order to emphasize the goodness or specialness of that which He loves. The work of God is not to unify, but to divide (see Matthew 10:35). Here He separated the light from the darkness. On the second day He separated the waters from the sky. He separated the children of Israel from the gentiles, He separated the clean from the unclean, He separated nation from nation, and He will separate the lambs from the goats. Separation is a very important concept because everything in the world is ultimately either godly or ungodly. The separation of the Jew, or of the Christian, reminds us that we are meant to be a cut above the rest. In a spiritual sense, light is godly and darkness is ungodly. God therefore divided natural light from natural darkness as a representation of the spiritual separation and as a type of the savior. This does not mean that physical darkness is evil, but that light in this world serves as a representation of goodness. We can judge the physical goodness of light by simply having eyes, and this is good practice for learning to righteously judge the moral goodness of lightness. By light we can judge everything which is visible, and by God’s light all things are made visible.

When light was separated, its absence was darkness, but darkness never did become light. Darkness can only cede its place to light and be taken over by light. Darkness cannot help light to exist or help it to illuminate. Darkness can only be illuminated. And no matter how sad it may seem that darkness has to exist at all, we must realize that the alternative–a hazy twilight–is the worse option. Only some matter is transparent so light cannot be everywhere at once. Trying to make light omnipresent would only diminish it. In short, you need darkness in order to show the light. It may seem hopeless to think of that, but that is why it is a relief to trust the Heavenly Luminary. In Him there is neither darkness nor shadow of turning (1 John 1:5, James 1:17).

The form which this light took is not stated directly in scripture. Since the stars were not created until the fourth day, the light was not concentrated in stars on the first day. God created the light before He created the source of the light. It is most likely that God Himself was the light that illuminated the Earth every morning (see Revelation 21:23, see also John 8:12). Some commentators have suggested that God collected some light into a swirling column of fire as He did later for the children of Israel (Ex. 13:21). Such a source of light would have aided in the existence of mornings and evenings on each successive day, until the Sun and Moon could assume its responsibility; but this is idea contradicts scripture. The word which God used for the Sun and Moon in Genesis 1:16 is מָאוֹר (maor), which means “luminous body” or “light source.” In English the word “light” refers to both light itself and to a light source; in Hebrew the words are differentiated. אוֹר (or) means “light” and מָאוֹר (maor) means “light source.” If God said “Let there be luminous bodies,” on the fourth day, then that means there were no luminous bodies beforehand. Ergo, the vortex of light could not have been used on the first day. In any case, it is enough for us to know that light existed somehow, somewhere near Earth to give it mornings and evenings, and once the stars were created on the fourth day, then more light was produced by their incandescence. How mornings and evenings came about before the fourth day is unimportant for the narrative account.


Genesis 1:5

And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ לָאֹור֙ יֹ֔ום וְלַחֹ֖שֶׁךְ קָ֣רָא לָ֑יְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר יֹ֥ום אֶחָֽד׃ פ

way-yiq-rā ’ĕ-lō-hîm lā-’ō-wr yō-wm, wə-la-ḥō-šeḵ qā-rā lā-yə-lāh;

way-hî- ‘e-reḇ way-hî- ḇō-qer yō-wm ’e-ḥāḏ. 

 And God called… God continued to name His creation. The right to name something belongs to the creator and owner. When God called the things He had created, it demonstrated His continued supremacy, and likewise the subordination of the created things. A name expresses the character of the thing named. Names given by humans express the impression that the thing makes on the human mind, and may be different depending on language or even region. The name that God gives expresses the true nature of the thing, beyond any subjective interpretation of man. The name which God gave Day, יוֹם (yom), is descended from a root verb meaning “to be warm” or “to become hot.” The special character of daytime is the warmth which it bestows upon the earth. The light of day is not meant to be cold, as the light from a fluorescent light bulb, but is meant to give us life-sustaining warmth. And henceforth every name given by God carries a similar significance.

…[|]… Here in the original Hebrew is a character known as paseq. The paseq is mysterious in nature and has not been widely discussed so its exact purpose for being in this verse is not known for sure. The most likely explanation, however, is that the paseq here serves to separate the word “God” from “the light.” This is to prevent confusion, as a reader may think that the verse is saying “God-the-Light called the day,” or something similar. The paseq appears many times in the Old Testament and it serves several different purposes depending on the context. The scholar Lea Himmelfarb wrote in her PhD dissertation that the use of paseq may fall within five categories.

  1. To divide a unit containing two or more conjunctive accents (e.g. Num. 16:7);
  2. To separate a Holy Name from an adjacent word (e.g. Ps 5:7);
  3. To separate identical or similar words (e.g. Gen 22:11);
  4. To separate two words in which the last letter of the first and the first letter of the next are both either lamed, mem, or nun (e.g. 1 Chron 22:5);
  5. Because of issues in understanding and comprehending a verse (i.e. the exegetical use).

When writing about this fifth category, she explained that “the paseq separates the “said” from the actual content of the utterance.” Both the second use and the fifth use may apply in this verse, as well as the first. A string of conjunctive accents also necessitates the use of the paseq here. It is quite doubtful that there is any far-reaching critical importance to the paseq, because it contains no meaning of its own. It does not add any meaning to a verse, but instead serves as a punctuation mark of sorts so as to clarify the meaning that is already contained in the words. Future instances of the paseq will not be pointed out unless it is necessary for the explanation of a verse.

…the light “Day,”… Not all light is day, as the fire from a torch or a beam of light from a flashbulb would not make daytime. But this light was called Day because of its relationship with the Earth that humans would later inhabit. This further shows that Earth is the true focus of this creation account. The Earth is neither the geographical center of the universe, nor the grandest celestial body, but it is the center of God’s focus in creation. The fact that the Earth is, in size and position, only a small blue speck in a larger picture, is not the least bit contrary to the fact that it is also the central focus of all of history. Men judge by appearance, but God does not. The appearance of the Earth as a small dot in a vast universe does not make it in any wise insignificant. In fact, the contrast between size and importance proffers a very important lesson about prejudice. That being said, imagine the picture of the Earth at this time. This one globe was gently illuminated in an otherwise endlessly dark and empty expanse. That, dear reader, is love.

…and the darkness He called “Night.”…  The word for night descended from a root verb meaning “to roll up;” the darkness of night rolls everything up in obscurity; or else from a root verb meaning “to fold back;” the light of day is folded back behind the horizon. Now that the universe is no longer 100% dark, the darkness has a name. Its name draws attention to the stark contrast between night and day. Because light makes things clearly visible and bright, night is now characterized by its obfuscation.

…And the evening and the morning… God created light on the first day, so the Earth experienced darkness first. Note here the order of the words. “The evening and the morning.” The Hebrew day begins in the evening (see Leviticus 23:32) because the very first day began without sunlight, and so in the evening. How long the first evening lasted is neither known nor relevant, but saying it lasted 12 hours would not be far-fetched. The newly-created Earth sat in darkness for half a day (and experienced evening) before God illuminated it with His light (then it experienced morning). Note also that the words “עֶ֥רֶב” (‘e-reḇ, evening) and “בֹ֖קֶר” (ḇō-qer, morning) are here used for the first time. The verse does not say “the night and the day….” Evening and morning both signify transitions from one time of day to the other. The verse–make no mistake–is marking a specific passage of time. Earth did not only experience darkness and illumination, but a full natural day of 24 hours (this concept is to be elucidated in the next section).

Some believe that the first day began not when the heavens and earth were created, but when light was created. Some believe further still that because the word evening means “a transition to night,” then it means that the first morning happened when light was created, then the first evening came after that, then finally the second morning came, and this was the end of the first day. Both must be addressed because they are erroneous. First, time began as soon as there was matter and/or energy. The day must have begun at the very beginning of existence. Saying that the first day didn’t start until light existed shows an embarrassing lack of understanding as to what time is. If it is cloudy on June 15th, do we say that the next day isn’t June 16th? The clock ticks without sunlight, just as it did on the first day (or rather would have, if clocks existed back then). Why do you need light to have time? That’s just foolish.

In order for evening to come about after the creation of light it must mean that the morning came first, then the evening after. But this is not what the scripture says and is indeed contrary to both the grammatical rules of Hebrew and to good sense. The true meaning of “evening” is “a transition to night.” Remember that before the creation, there was neither night nor day. When Heaven and Earth were created, then there was night–the universe transitioned from nonexistence to night-time. Then when God created light, there was a transition from evening to morning. This consideration explains well why God devoted an entire day to just creating light. The Earth is round and takes a whole day to rotate about its axis; in order for morning to visit the entire earth, the mysterious body of light must have been in place for at least twelve hours so that every point on Earth could experience light and darkness. The belief that morning came first, then was followed by evening, fails to consider that the Earth is round; morning on one side would necessitate evening on the other, which means that evening came first no matter what. Also, evening coming first would allow every point to be in evening for at least half a day but no more than a full day. If morning came first, it would mean that evening also came first (on the other side of the globe). So which is it? We must take what is written in the Bible as it is, or else we shall go mad with contradictions.

…were the first day. The word used here for day, י֔וֹם (yōm), is the same word used previously for the light which God called “day.” In the first instance it is used just for the light that illuminates Earth, but in the end of this verse it refers to night and day together–a 24-hour period. There is no reason (other than religion) to believe that the days depicted in the creation account are anything other than natural solar days of approximately 24-hours in length. The word י֔וֹם appears in the Old Testament 2,303 times. Unless explicitly noted otherwise (on two occasions if memory serves), each occurrence refers to an approximate 24-hour period. When the Bible says that Joshua circled around Jericho six times in six days (see Joshua 6:3), critics interpret it as six days, but when the same Bible says that God created the Earth in six days (see Exodus 31:17), then critics interpret it as six “units of indefinitely long time.” There is no excuse for this. The Hebrew word for “day” is י֔וֹם (yōm) and the Hebrew word for “age” or “epoch” is עוֹלָם (olam). When Moses wrote “yom,” what do you suppose he meant by that? It ought to be obvious. If a day means a day, then a day means a day. And if one part of the Bible is true, then it is all true. God is not a liar and Genesis 1 is not a lie. Jesus asked, “If ye believe not [Moses’] writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:47) Anyone who thinks Genesis 1 is a lie but claims to be a follower of Christ, ought to come up with an answer to that question.

As we shall see later in the creation account, a six-day period of creation is the only interpretation that is possible. God created the plants (which require photosynthesis) on the third day, created the Sun (which produces light and UV rays) on the fourth day, and created insects and birds (which pollinate flowers) on the fifth day. Plants may easily survive one day without sunlight, and may just as easily survive two days without pollination. If each day were a billion years, however, what were these plants supposed to do? They surely would all have gone extinct without bees and birds to help them reproduce, never mind the sunlight! 2 Peter 3 tells us that scoffers of the Bible (or parts of it) are willfully ignorant of two major events: the creation and the flood. The widespread belief that Genesis 1 is symbolic (the Gap Theory or Day-Age Theory) is a prime example of such ignorance. It boggles the mind that humans think they can outsmart God. They think that rewriting a word in Genesis makes them smart, when really it shows how foolish they are. God knew all your tricks ahead of time and proved you wrong before you were even born! A day is a day.

The words “first day” tell us that this was a day, and it was followed by more days. We can see, then, that the Earth had been revolving from the very beginning. From at least the first day (or more likely, as soon as it was created), Earth was already rotating about its axis to experience the cycle of day. There is no reason to assume that it was the light which circled around the Earth for the first three days, and then the Earth suddenly started spinning on the fourth day. We must assume that the Earth was spinning from the beginning, and the light hovered above it. Like the numbers of the days which follow, it is without the article, to show that the different days arose from the constant recurrence of evening and morning. It is not till the sixth day that the article is employed (Genesis 1:31), to indicate the termination of the work of creation upon that day. Study of Hebrew customs and law will reveal that the Hebrew day is reckoned from evening to evening. Our day, in contrast, is reckoned from midnight to midnight. How, then, could the evening and the morning be the first day? It is because the second day began at the start of the second evening, so the first evening and first morning together added up to the first day. This is why a full day is sometimes called an “evening and morning,” as in Daniel 8:26, wherein it is stated, “The vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true.”

At the close of this verse, we have seen the first 24 hours of the universe’s existence. In this first day, God has created a universe of water, illuminated one special orb with light, and has set in motion the interchange of night and day.

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