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Thursday, August 21, 2008

K-D: Genesis Commentary Part 4

Genesis 1:14-19

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:
The Fourth Day. - After the earth had been clothed with vegetation, and fitted to be the abode of living beings, there were created on the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars, heavenly bodies in which the elementary light was concentrated, in order that its influence upon the earthly globe might be sufficiently modified and regulated for living beings to exist and thrive beneath its rays, in the water, in the air, and upon the dry land. At the creative word of God the bodies of light came into existence in the firmament, as lamps. On yªhiy (OT:1961), the singular of the predicate before the plural of the subject, in v. 14; Ge 5:23; 9:29, etc., vid., Gesenius, Heb. Gr. §147. mª'owrot (OT:2974), bodies of light, light-bearers, then lamps. These bodies of light received a threefold appointment:

(1) They were "to divide between the day and the night," of, according to v. 18, between the light and the darkness, in other words, to regulate from that time forward the difference, which had existed ever since the creation of light, between the night and the day.

(2) They were to be (or serve: wªhaayuw (OT:1961) after an imperative has the force of a command) - (a) for signs (sc., for the earth), partly as portents of extraordinary events (Mt 2:2; Lk 21:25) and divine judgments (Joel 2:30; Jer 10:2; Mt 24:29), partly as showing the different quarters of the heavens, and as prognosticating the changes in the weather;-(b) for seasons, or for fixed, definite times (mow`adiym, from y`d to fix, establish) - not for festal seasons merely, but "to regulate definite points and periods of time, by virtue of their periodical influence upon agriculture, navigation, and other human occupations, as well as upon the course of human, animal, and vegetable life (e.g., the breeding time of animals, and the migrations of birds, Jer 8:7, etc.);-(c) for days and years, i.e., for the division and calculation of days and years. The grammatical construction will not allow the clause to be rendered as a Hendiadys, viz., "as signs for definite times and for days and years," or as signs both for the times and also for days and years.

(3) They were to serve as lamps upon the earth, i.e., to pour out their light, which is indispensable to the growth and health of every creature. That this, the primary object of the lights, should be mentioned last, is correctly explained by Delitzsch: "From the astrological and chronological utility of the heavenly bodies, the record ascends to their universal utility which arises from the necessity of light for the growth and continuance of everything earthly." This applies especially to the two great lights which were created by God and placed in the firmament; the greater to rule the day, the lesser to rule the night. "The great" and "the small" in correlative clauses are to be understood as used comparatively (cf. Gesenius, §119, 1). That the sun and moon were intended, was too obvious to need to be specially mentioned. It might appear strange, however, that these lights should not receive names from God, like the works of the first three days.

This cannot be attributed to forgetfulness on the part of the author, as Tuch supposes. As a rule, the names were given by God only to the greater sections into which the universe was divided, and not to individual bodies (either plants or animals). The man and the woman are the only exceptions (Ge 5:2). The sun and moon are called great, not in comparison with the earth, but in contrast with the stars, according to the amount of light which shines from them upon the earth and determines their rule over the day and night; not so much with reference to the fact, that the stronger light of the sun produces the daylight, and the weaker light of the moon illumines the night, as to the influence which their light exerts by day and night upon all nature, both organic and inorganic-an influence generally admitted, but by no means fully understood. In this respect the sun and moon are the two great lights, the stars small bodies of light; the former exerting great, the latter but little, influence upon the earth and its inhabitants.

This truth, which arises from the relative magnitude of the heavenly bodies, or rather their apparent size as seen from the earth, is not affected by the fact that from the standpoint of natural science many of the stars far surpass both sun and moon in magnitude. Nor does the fact, that in our account, which was written for inhabitants of the earth and for religious purposes, it is only the utility of the sun, moon, and stars to the inhabitants of the earth that is mentioned, preclude the possibility of each by itself, and all combined, fulfilling other purposes in the universe of God. And not only is our record silent, but God Himself made no direct revelation to man on this subject; because astronomy and physical science, generally, neither lead to godliness, nor promise peace and salvation to the soul. Belief in the truth of this account as a divine revelation could only be shaken, if the facts which science has discovered as indisputably true, with regard to the number, size, and movements of the heavenly bodies, were irreconcilable with the biblical account of the creation.

But neither the innumerable host nor the immeasurable size of many of the heavenly bodies, nor the almost infinite distance of the fixed stars from our earth and the solar system, warrants any such assumption. Who can set bounds to the divine omnipotence, and determine what and how much it can create in a moment? The objection, that the creation of the innumerable and immeasurably great and distant heavenly bodies in one day, is so disproportioned to the creation of this one little globe in six days, as to be irreconcilable with our notions of divine omnipotence and wisdom, does not affect the Bible, but shows that the account of the creation has been misunderstood. We are not taught here that on one day, viz., the fourth, God created all the heavenly bodies out of nothing, and in a perfect condition; on the contrary, we are told that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and on the fourth day that He made the sun, the moon, and the stars (planets, comets, and fixed stars) in the firmament, to be lights for the earth.

According to these distinct words, the primary material, not only of the earth, but also of the heaven and the heavenly bodies, was created in the beginning. If, therefore, the heavenly bodies were first made or created on the fourth day, as lights for the earth, in the firmament of heaven; the words can have no other meaning than that their creation was completed on the fourth day, just as the creative formation of our globe was finished on the third; that the creation of the heavenly bodies therefore proceeded side by side, and probably by similar stages, with that of the earth, so that the heaven with its stars was completed on the fourth day. Is this representation of the work of creation, which follows in the simplest way from the word of God, at variance with correct ideas of the omnipotence and wisdom of God? Could not the Almighty create the innumerable host of heaven at the same time as the earthly globe?

Or would Omnipotence require more time for the creation of the moon, the planets, and the sun, or of Orion, Sirius, the Pleiades, and other heavenly bodies whose magnitude has not yet been ascertained, than for the creation of the earth itself? Let us beware of measuring the works of Divine Omnipotence by the standard of human power. The fact, that in our account the gradual formation of the heavenly bodies is not described with the same minuteness as that of the earth; but that, after the general statement in v. 1 as to the creation of the heavens, all that is mentioned is their completion on the fourth day, when for the first time they assumed, or were placed in, such a position with regard to the earth as to influence its development; may be explained on the simple ground that it was the intention of the sacred historian to describe the work of creation from the standpoint of the globe: in other words, as it would have appeared to an observer from the earth, if there had been one in existence at the time. For only from such a standpoint could this work of God be made intelligible to all men, uneducated as well as learned, and the account of it be made subservient to the religious wants of all.

(Note: Most of the objections to the historical character of our account, which have been founded upon the work of the fourth day, rest upon a misconception of the proper point of view from which it should be studied. And, in addition to that, the conjectures of astronomers as to the immeasurable distance of most of the fixed stars, and the time which a ray of light would require to reach the earth, are accepted as indisputable mathematical proof; whereas these approximative estimates of distance rest upon the unsubstantiated supposition, that everything which has been ascertained with regard to the nature and motion of light in our solar system, must be equally true of the light of the fixed stars.)