on Genesis 1 :14
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.
on Genesis 1 :14
- 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 musually 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.
The 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.
on Genesis 1 :14