14 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, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 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. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. – Genesis 1:14-23 ESV
At this point in his creation account, Moses describes God’s making of the sun, moon, and stars. This appears to be a summary statement that would include the entire solar system. But out of all the innumerable celestial bodies, Moses places special emphasis on the three that would be the most familiar to his Hebrew audience. While the average Israelite would have had no scientific knowledge of the vast source of energy emanating from the sun, he would have understood and appreciated its role in producing crops, providing warmth, and sustaining life. The moon, while considered a “lesser light,” would have been equally vital in Jewish thought, playing a special role in daily life. According to JewishEncylcopedia.com:
Like the other celestial bodies, the moon was believed to have an influence on the universe. Its injurious influence on man is referred to in Ps. cxxi. 6, which passage probably refers to the blindness which, according to Eastern belief, results from sleeping in the moonlight with uncovered face (Carne, “Letters from the East,” p. 77). It was also believed that the moon caused epilepsy (comp. the Greek σεληυιαζόμευος and the Latin “lunaticus”; Matt. iv. 24). On the other hand, there are “precious things put forth by the moon” (Deut. xxxiii. 14); that is to say, the growth of certain plants is influenced by it.
According to verse 14, God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.” This Hebrew word for “lights” is different than the one used in verse 3 where God said, “Let there be light.” On the first day of creation, God made light – אוֹר (‘ôr). But now, on the fourth day, He made the lights – מָאוֹר (mā’ôr). The “light of day” was created three days before any physical sources of light even existed. This order of events establishes God as the source of all light and life, and explains why the worship of the sun or moon was to be off-limits to God’s people. Worship of the sun and moon was common among the ancients, but it was forbidden for the Jews.
“…when you look up into the sky and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the forces of heaven—don’t be seduced into worshiping them. The LORD your God gave them to all the peoples of the earth.” – Deuteronomy 4:19 NLT
When the people of Israel were preparing to enter the land of Canaan, God had warned them again about the worship of the sun, moon, and stars.
“When you begin living in the towns the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman among you might do evil in the sight of the LORD your God and violate the covenant. For instance, they might serve other gods or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars—the forces of heaven—which I have strictly forbidden. When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5then the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death.” – Deuteronomy 17:2-5 NLT
God provided the sun and moon as visible and tangible sources of light. Their regular appearance in the sky would help to determine the length of a day and the various seasons of the year. They would be regular reminders of God’s faithfulness and life-sustaining power. The wording of the original text seems to stress that the sun, moon, and stars were to be viewed as created entities to be appreciated, and not deities to be worshiped.
“The narrative stresses their function as servants, subordinate to the interests of the earth. . . . This differs significantly from the superstitious belief within pagan religion that the earth’s destiny is dictated by the course of the stars.” – Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1—11:26
God gave these greater and lesser lights specific roles to play. They were to separate day from night, provide divinely ordained signs, distinguish the seasons, and illuminate the earth. This brief synopsis of creation should have reminded Moses’ Hebrew audience that their God had created the so-called “gods” their pagan neighbors bowed down before and worshiped. He was the ultimate source of light and life, not the sun, moon, and stars. And yet, as the apostle Paul would later reveal, humanity has regularly mistaken the created order as the source of power, light, and life. Rather than recognizing the hand of God in all that has been made, they worshiped the creation instead.
They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! – Romans 1:19-23, 25 NLT
Once again, Moses points out how God separated one thing from another. He used the sun and moon to separate the light from the darkness. There is a distinct differentiation established. From that point forward, there would be evening and morning, two diametrically opposite but integrally interwoven periods of time that, together, would form a single day. God had made land and sea. He had created earth and sky. Now He had formed day and night. Everything God created was to exist in a well-balanced and divinely ordered system that functioned according to His perfectly designed plan.
And it is at this point in the process that God begins to create new forms of life to populate the new environments He has made for them. First, He creates the fish and the birds.
“Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” – Genesis 1:20 ESV
Then God gave these creatures a mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth” (Genesis 1:21 ESV). They were made to procreate and populate the planet and, in doing so, they would constantly demonstrate the ongoing nature of God’s life-giving power. God could have created a distinct number of each species and filled the earth with them. But He chose to give them the ability to mate and make more of their own kind. And with each new birth, they would illustrate the amazing nature of God’s power through His ongoing creation of life.
One of the primary ways in which God bestows His blessings on His creative order is through the birth process. Even the ability of plants to propagate more of their own is a reminder of God’s goodness and grace. Birth is a blessing and not a curse. Fruitfulness is a gift from God. It is, as God deemed it: Good.
God has given His creation the ability to procreate, to beget, to generate life. Every plant that sprouts from a seed, every oak that grows from an acorn, every chick that hatches from an egg, and every child that comes forth from a womb, is intended to shout the glory and goodness of God. His life-giving power is on display each and every day throughout His creation. And mankind, as the apex of His creative order, are to marvel in it and rejoice over it because it provides with undeniable proof of His power and presence.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.