And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.Genesis 1:14-19 ESV
Day four of creation is probably one of the most confusing and often misunderstood passages of the creation narrative. The argument goes that it would be impossible for vegetation to grow without the presence of the sun that was not “created” until this day. However, the very first thing that God created on day one was light. The sun itself is not necessarily required for vegetation to grow, but light is a scientific requirement. However, a closer examination of the original text in the Hebrew, along with some historical cultural context, will demonstrate that the sun was the light created on day one.
It is commonly accepted by most believing biblical scholars that Moses himself composed the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible), possibly with an editor coming along in later years to offer clarification and updating for the sake of understanding for new generations, without material changes to the core message. Moses would be intimately familiar with the pagan deities of the Egyptians of his day that would be associated with the sun and moon (Ra for the sun and Thoth for the moon). Moses went to great lengths to distance the creation account from the paganism of the Egyptians by declaring that the sun and moon were not gods, but in fact created entities by Elohim. This is why he used terms that we translate as “greater light” (the sun) and “lesser light” (the moon), to avoid giving them deified names.
Additionally, it is at this point that God “created” the stars, or rather they appeared in the night sky. The word used here for the appearance of the sun, moon, and stars is the same word used in verse 11 and 12 for “yielding” – “asah”. The connotation of this word carries with it the concept of bringing forth that which is already present. Just as seed was present in the earth to sprout forth vegetation, so were the sun and moon and stars already present, but their light wasn’t readily obvious and distinguishable until the fourth day, as God began to clear away the mist obscuring the light from fully reaching the earth.
In “Fundamentals of Our Faith”, Herschel Hobbs makes this observation: “The word asah, according to one authority, also means to release from restraint. Thus God created the luminaries, as in verse 1. The sun was released from restraint on the fourth day in that its rays pierced the heavy mist surrounding the earth. But its unseen life-giving rays had been bombarding the planet from the first. It has also been noted that the planet Jupiter is still enveloped in such a mist so that the direct rays of the sun do not penetrate to the face of this planet, and so far as science knows, they never have. Jupiter, therefore, is called the “fourth-day planet.””
As such, the fourth day of the creation is primarily God providing reference for time and seasons. The solar cycle to mark days and the four seasons, and the lunar cycle to mark the months and the year as it breaks up the year into 12 neat 30 day months, for a total of 360 days, the same number of degrees in a perfect circle. By implication, in the original design of the planetary movement of earth, the revolution of earth around the sun would travel one degree of revolution per day. However, what scientists have shown today is that the earth’s revolution and rotation have adjusted as a result of gravitational forces from the sun. The year itself has sped up to be a little more than four days shorter, and the day has lengthened, by only a few seconds. The prevailing theory is that this slowing down of the day due to solar gravity slowing down the earth’s rotation until eventually the planet will be similar to Mercury, existing in a 1:1 rotation to revolution ratio with one day equal to one year, as the Earth will eventually have the same side facing the sun at all times. As a result of this slowing of the rotation, this in turn speeds up the orbital revolution due to less friction in movement.
In application, God is piercing the mist of the young Earth and is beginning the process of clearing away that which obscures the light’s greatest effect and providing clarity and understanding of the seasons of life. Just as creation is going through a methodical period of defined growth, when we come to faith in Him, He also brings us through seasons of change and allows us the vision to see from where we have come and where we are going. We have a greater clarity of what is to come. We recognize that the gods and idols we have chased after in the past are nothing more than tools that were fashioned in the hands of men, gods created in the minds of men. As such we see the true God for who He really is, continually shining His light into our lives and providing wisdom and purpose as He continues His work of reshaping our lives, ultimately culminating in our being recreated into the image of Christ as a part of His Bride.