The Heavenly Bodies Made to Give Light and to Serve as Signs. Part 3 of 3
by John Lowe
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
And God set them in the firmament of the heaven
He not only ordered precisely where they should be placed in the heavens, and made them stay there, but he placed them there with his own hands; He paid particular attention to the sun, and put it precisely at the distance where it would be the most beneficial: had it been set nearer to the earth, its heat would have been intolerable; and had it been further off it would have been useless; in the one case we would have been scorched by its heat, and in the other we would have been frozen. The various expressions used by Moses seem to be designed to guard against and expose the foolishness of worshipping the sun and moon; which, since they were visible, useful, and had a great influence on the earth, were the first things the Heathens worshipped as early as the times of Job—“If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness” (Job 31:26; KJV)—and yet these were lifeless things made by God. They were His servants and agents under him, and therefore, those who worship them, served the creature rather than the Creator.
to give light upon the earth,
“To give light upon the earth” is repeated from Genesis 1:15 to show the reason for which they were made, and how they were to be useful to the earth; being hung up like so many lamps or chandeliers, to provide light for the inhabitants of earth, so that they may see to walk and work, and do all the activities of life, as well as providing warmth and comfort. It is amazing that light emitted from the sun, when it is at such a great distance from the earth, can reach it in so short a span of time. A modern astronomer has said that a bullet discharged from a gun would require nearly twenty-five years to reach the earth: and yet the rays of light travel from the sun to earth in seven minutes and thirty seconds, and are said to travel 186,000 miles through space every second.
18 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 to rule over the day and over the night,
The one, namely the sun, or greater light, to rule over the day, and the moon and stars, the lesser lights, to rule over the night: this is repeated from Genesis 1:16 to give us confidence in the reality of this creative act, and so that the proper uses of these lights might be indicated, and that the proper value might be placed upon them.
God's almighty, creative act is the premise; He put the light-bodies in their proper place, and their functions are given
in the order in which they usually impress men: they give light upon the earth; their influence controls day and night, respectively; their rising and setting governs the division of light and darkness.
and to divide the light from the darkness:
“And to divide the light from the darkness;” or rather, the day from the night, which is done by the sun (See Genesis 1:14), whose rays dissolve and scatter the darkness of the night, as the earth rotates on its axis. The moon and stars give some degree of light, to the hemisphere in darkness, though it is in a feebler manner.
and God saw that it was good.
God looked into the future and knew it would be “good;” that such lights in the heavens would be extremely beneficial to the inhabitants of the earth, which they would discover from their experiencing its benefits, and therefore they would have a great many reasons to be thankful, and to adore the wisdom and goodness of God’s creations.
This clause was omitted from the first day’s work because the light was a glimmer and imperfect, but on the fourth day, it was made clearer and complete.
19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
“The fourth day,” like the other three was made by the rotation of the earth on its own axis, in the space of twenty-four hours.
The Scripture references to this day's work are both numerous and instructive, but the Hebrew writers do not supply any information relative to the astronomical theories which were prevalent in their time; however, we have facts from other sources that would lead one to believe that even in the time of Moses there was noteworthy astronomy in the East, and some good theories. The Chaldeans at a very early period had determined the rotation of the earth, the position of the poles, and the nature of the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies as the result of revolutions on an inclined axis. The Egyptian astronomers, whom we know through Thales, 640 B.C; taught the true nature of the moon's light; that the earth was a sphere, and the position of its five zones. Pythagoras, 580 B.C; knew of the tilt of the earth, the identity of the evening and morning star, and the earth's revolution around the sun. Modern astronomy, although it claims to have highly probable theories as to the formation of the universe, is still unable to speak with absolute precision with regard to this fourth day's work, even though there are plenty of indirect corroborations of the truth of the Mosaic narrative from both it and geology. According to the sacred writer, the presently existing atmosphere, the distribution of land and water, the succession of day and night, and the regular alternation of the seasons, were established prior to the introduction of animal life upon the earth; and these must have been created by God to support animal and human life.