on Genesis 1 :3
And God said, Let there be light - הי אור ויהי אור Yehi or, vaihi or. Nothing can be conceived more dignified than this form of expression. It argues at once uncontrollable authority, and omnific power; and in human language it is scarcely possible to conceive that God can speak more like himself. This passage, in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, fell in the way of Dionysius Longinus, one of the most judicious Greek critics that ever lived, and who is highly celebrated over the civilized world for a treatise he wrote, entitled Περι Ὑψους, Concerning the Sublime, both in prose and poetry; of this passage, though a heathen, he speaks in the following terms: - Ταυτῃ και ὁ των Ιουδαιων θεσμοθετης(ουχ ὁ τυχων ανηρ,) επειδη την του θειου δυναμιν κατα την αξιαν εχωρησε, καξεφηνεν· ευθυς εν τῃ εισβολη γραψας των νομων, ΕΙΠΕΝ Ὁ ΘΕΟΣ, φησι, τι; ΓΕΝΕΣΘΩ ΦΩΣ· και εγενετο. ΓΕΝΕΣΘΩ ΓΗ· και εγενετο."So likewise the Jewish lawgiver (who was no ordinary man) having conceived a just idea of the Divine power, he expressed it in a dignified manner; for at the beginning of his laws he thus speaks: God Said - What? Let There Be Light! and there was light. Let There Be Earth! and there was earth." - Longinus, sect. ix. edit. Pearce.
Many have asked, "How could light be produced on the first day, and the sun, the fountain of it, not created till the fourth day?" With the various and often unphilosophical answers which have been given to this question I will not meddle, but shall observe that the original word אור signifies not only light but fire, see Isaiah 31:9 Ezekiel 5:2. It is used for the Sun, Job 31:26. And for the electric fluid or Lightning, Job 37:3. And it is worthy of remark that It is used in Isaiah 44:16, for the heat, derived from אש esh, the fire. He burneth part thereof in the fire (במו אש bemo esh): yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha! I have seen the fire, ראיתי אור raithi ur, which a modern philosopher who understood the language would not scruple to translate, I have received caloric, or an additional portion of the matter of heat. I therefore conclude, that as God has diffused the matter of caloric or latent heat through every part of nature, without which there could be neither vegetation nor animal life, that it is caloric or latent heat which is principally intended by the original word.
That there is latent light, which is probably the same with latent heat, may be easily demonstrated: take two pieces of smooth rock crystal, agate, cornelian or flint, and rub them together briskly in the dark, and the latent light or matter of caloric will be immediately produced and become visible. The light or caloric thus disengaged does not operate in the same powerful manner as the heat or fire which is produced by striking with flint and steel, or that produced by electric friction. The existence of this caloric-latent or primitive light, may be ascertained in various other bodies; it can be produced by the flint and steel, by rubbing two hard sticks together, by hammering cold iron, which in a short time becomes red hot, and by the strong and sudden compression of atmospheric air in a tube. Friction in general produces both fire and light. God therefore created this universal agent on the first day, because without It no operation of nature could be carried on or perfected.
Light is one of the most astonishing productions of the creative skill and power of God. It is the grand medium by which all his other works are discovered, examined, and understood, so far as they can be known. Its immense diffusion and extreme velocity are alone sufficient to demonstrate the being and wisdom of God. Light has been proved by many experiments to travel at the astonishing rate of 194,188 miles in one second of time! and comes from the sun to the earth in eight minutes 11 43/50 seconds, a distance of 95,513,794 English miles.
on Genesis 1 :3
- III. The First Day
3. אמר 'āmar, "say, bid." After this verb comes the thing said in the words of the speaker, or an equivalent expression. In this respect it corresponds with our English "say."
אור 'ôr, "light." Light is simply what makes a sensible impression on the organs of vision. It belongs to a class of things which occasionally produce the same effect.
ויאמר vayo'mer "then said." Here we have come to the narrative or the record of a series of events. The conjunction is prefixed to the verb, to indicate the connection of the event it records with what precedes. There is here, therefore, a sequence in the order of time. In a chain of events, the narrative follows the order of occurrence. Collateral chains of events must of necessity be recorded in successive paragraphs. The first paragraph carries on one line of incidents to a fit resting-place. The next may go back to take up the record of another line. Hence, a new paragraph beginning with a conjoined verb is to be connected in time, not with the last sentence of the preceding one, but with some sentence in the preceding narrative more or less distant from its terminating point (see on Genesis 1:5, and Genesis 2:3). Even a single verse may be a paragraph in itself referring to a point of time antecedent to the preceding sentence.
A verb so conjoined in narrative is in Hebrew put in the incipient or imperfect form, as the narrator conceives the events to grow each out of that already past. He himself follows the incidents step by step down the pathway of time, and hence the initial aspect of each event is toward him, as it actually comes upon the stage of existence.
Since the event now before us belongs to past time, this verb is well enough rendered by the past tense of our English verb. This tense in English is at present indefinite, as it does not determine the state of the event as either beginning, continuing, or concluded. It is not improbable, however, that it originally designated the first of these states, and came by degrees to be indefinite. The English present also may have denoted an incipient, and then an imperfect or indefinite.
3. ראה rā'âh, "see" ὁράω horaō, אור 'ôr, "emit light," ראה rā'âh, "see by light."
טיב ṭôb, "good." Opposite is: רע rā‛.
4. קרא qārā', "cry, call."
ערב ‛ereb, "evening, sunset." A space of time before and after sunset. ערבים ‛arebayı̂m, "two evenings," a certain time before sunset, and the time between sunset and the end of twilight. הערבים בין bēyn hā‛arbayı̂m "the interval between the two evenings, from sunset to the end of twilight," according to the Karaites and Samaritans; "from sun declining to sunset," according to the Pharisees and Rabbinists. It might be the time from the beginning of the one to the beginning of the other, from the end of the one to the end of the other, or from the beginning of the one to the end of the other. The last is the most suitable for all the passages in which it occurs. These are ten in number, all in the law Exodus 12:6; Exodus 16:12; Exodus 29:31, Exodus 29:41; Exodus 30:8; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 9:3, Numbers 9:5,Numbers 9:8; Numbers 28:4. The slaying of the evening lamb and of the passover lamb, the eating of the latter and the lighting of the lamps, took place in the interval so designated.
At the end of this portion of the sacred text we have the first פ (p). This is explained in the Introduction, Section VII.
The first day's work is the calling of light into being. Here the design is evidently to remove one of the defects mentioned in the preceding verse, - "and darkness was upon the face of the deep." The scene of this creative act is therefore coincident with that of the darkness it is intended to displace. The interference of supernatural power to cause the presence of light in this region, intimates that the powers of nature were inadequate to this effect. But it does not determine whether or not light had already existed elsewhere, and had even at one time penetrated into this now darkened region, and was still prevailing in the other realms of space beyond the face of the deep. Nor does it determine whether by a change of the polar axis, by the rarefaction of the gaseous medium above, or by what other means, light was made to visit this region of the globe with its agreeable and quickening influences. We only read that it did not then illuminate the deep of waters, and that by the potent word of God it was then summoned into being. This is an act of creative power, for it is a calling into existence what had previously no existence in that place, and was not owing to the mere development of nature. Hence, the act of omnipotence here recorded is not at variance with the existence of light among the elements of that universe of nature, the absolute creation of which is affirmed in the first verse.
Then said God. - In Genesis 1:3, God speaks. From this we learn that He not only is, but is such that He can express His will and commune with His intelligent creatures. He is manifest not only by His creation, but by Himself. If light had come into existence without a perceptible cause, we should still have inferred a first Causer by an intuitive principle which demands an adequate cause for anything making its appearance which was not before. But when God says, "Be light," in the audience of His intelligent creatures, and light forthwith comes into view, they perceive God commanding, as well as light appearing.
on Genesis 1 :3