וַיַּ֧רְא(And saw) – This Hebrew verb ראה(saw) implies a comprehensive and evaluative act of seeing by God. It is not mere passive observation but involves discernment and judgment. In this context, God’s seeing is followed by a declaration that the light is טוֹב(good), suggesting that God’s creation meets His own divine standards.
- 1 Samuel 16:7, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
אֱלֹהִ֛ים(God) – The name for God used here, “ אֱלֹהִים” (Elohim), is particularly significant. It’s a plural form, which has raised much discussion. Some interpret it as a majestic plural, reflecting the supreme power and dignity of God; others see hints of the Trinity in it, while still others consider it a remnant from early polytheistic contexts.
- Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
אֶת־הָא֖וֹר(the light) – The Hebrew article אֶתpreceding הָא֖וֹר(the light) signifies the object of the verb “saw,” highlighting the importance of the light in the creative process. The light here symbolizes God’s good and perfect creation, dispelling the primordial chaos.
- Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
כִּי־ט֑וֹב(that was good) – The Hebrew word טוֹבindicates something that is good both in form and function. Here it confirms God’s approval of His own creative work. This notion of “goodness” is foundational to the biblical worldview and has significant ethical and theological implications.
- James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”
וַיַּבְדֵּ֣ל אֱלֹהִ֔ים(And God separated) – This Hebrew verb suggests that God is not only the Creator but also the One who brings order. God’s separation of light from darkness is a divine act of ordering and categorizing His creation, establishing the day-night cycle that governs earthly life.
- 1 Kings 8:53, “For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth, to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O LORD God.”
בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֥ין הַחֹֽשֶׁךְ(between the light and between the darkness) – This phrase underlines the distinctiveness between the two entities. In a broader theological context, light and darkness often symbolize good and evil, order and chaos, respectively. The separation serves as a physical representation of a greater metaphysical reality.
- 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
John Calvin: “Here God is introduced by Moses as surveying his work, that he might take pleasure in it. But he does it for our sake, to teach us that God has made nothing without a certain reason and design. And we ought not so to understand the words of Moses as if God did not know that his work was good, till it was finished. But the meaning of the passage is, that the work, such as we now see it, was approved by God. Therefore nothing remains for us, but to acquiesce in this judgment of God. And this admonition is very useful. For whereas man ought to apply all his senses to the admiring contemplation of the works of God, we see what license he really allows himself in detracting from them.” (Commentary excerpt)
- God as Evaluator: Genesis 1:4 shows that God doesn’t simply create and move on, but actively evaluates His work as “good.” This highlights His wisdom and perfection, ensuring that what He creates aligns with His divine plan and purpose.
- God as Separator: The act of God separating the light from the darkness in this verse indicates His role in establishing order out of chaos. This underscores His sovereignty and divine authority to set boundaries in creation.
- God as Light: By creating light first and declaring it good, this verse allegorically points to God Himself as the ultimate Light. This sets the stage for the later revelation of Jesus Christ as the “Light of the World,” emphasizing God’s role in dispelling spiritual darkness.
- The Goodness of God: The declaration that the light was “good” reflects God’s inherent goodness. Everything He creates is not only functional but also morally good and beneficial, affirming His benevolent nature.
- The Omnipotence of God: The fact that God could create light, an essential element for life and order, demonstrates His unlimited power. It shows that God has the ability to bring forth essential elements of creation by simply willing them into existence.
Matthew Henry: “What God commands he will approve and graciously accept; he will be well pleased with the work of his own hands. That is good indeed which is so in the sight of God, for he sees not as man sees.” (Commentary excerpt)
- 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
- This verse directly cites the creation of light in Genesis 1:4, drawing a parallel between the creation of physical light and the spiritual light that God shines in our hearts.
- Isaiah 45:7, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”
- Isaiah 45:7 emphasizes the LORD’s sovereign power in creating both light and darkness, echoing the creation account in Genesis 1:4 where God sees the light and separates it from darkness.
- 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
- 1 John 1:5 relates to Genesis 1:4 by presenting God as the ultimate source of light, without any darkness, highlighting His purity and goodness.
- Psalm 104:2, “Covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.”
- This Psalm reflects the language of Genesis 1:4 by depicting God as clothed in light, signifying His divine nature and majesty.
- John 8:12, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’
- This New Testament reference connects to Genesis 1:4 by identifying Jesus as the ‘light of the world,’ expanding the concept of light from physical to spiritual realms.
Understanding that God created and evaluated light as “good” (Genesis 1:4) provides a foundational perspective that can guide our moral and ethical choices. Christians are called to be “the light of the world,” mirroring God’s light through good deeds and godly living (Matthew 5:14-16). The act of God separating light from darkness underscores His sovereign ability to bring order out of chaos (1 Corinthians 14:33), offering us hope and direction amid life’s complexities. By seeking to align our will with God’s, we become co-workers in His creation, fulfilling the purpose He has set for us (Ephesians 2:10). Finally, recognizing God as the ultimate source of Light should lead us to deepen our relationship with Him through prayer and Bible study, as David reflects in saying, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells His followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). The language here is declarative; it is not a call to become something in the future but a statement about what His followers already are. The implication is that by virtue of being His disciples, they are the light of the world. The text continues to discuss not hiding that light but letting it shine before others so that they may see the good works and give glory to God in heaven (Matthew 5:16). So, in that sense, there is also a “calling” aspect to actively live out this identity, but the identity of being “the light” is already conferred upon believers by Christ Himself.