וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים(And God called) – This action reveals God’s sovereign authority in naming elements of the created world. By naming them, He defines their nature and purpose. This serves as a theological affirmation of God’s dominion over creation.
- Isaiah 40:26, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.”
- Genesis 2:19, “Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”
לָאוֹר֙(to light) – In the context of Genesis, light is the first of God’s creations, separating from darkness. Light typically symbolizes goodness, truth, revelation, or illumination. Theologically, light is a tangible expression of God’s nature, showing His ability to bring about order, illumination, and life.
- 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.”
- 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.”
י֔וֹם(Day) – This term, besides its literal meaning, often signifies a period of time in theological contexts. The ‘Day’ God names here is not just a natural phenomenon but also symbolizes God’s established order and regulation of time.
- Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.”
וְלַחֹ֖שֶׁךְ(and to darkness) – In contrast to light, darkness in the Bible often symbolizes absence, chaos, or evil. In Genesis, it represents the primordial state before God’s creative act. Theologically, it emphasizes the transformative power of God, who can turn darkness into light and chaos into order.
- John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
לָ֑יְלָה(Night) – “Night” here doesn’t merely mean the absence of daylight but signifies a time frame under the governance of God. It helps to establish the divine institution of time and the rhythm of life on earth.
- Psalm 104:20, “You make (or appoint) darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about.”
עֶ֥רֶב(evening) – ‘Evening’ in this context signifies the beginning of the day in the Hebrew calendar. Theologically, it reveals the God-ordained structure of time, which begins with evening and ends with morning, unlike the modern, solar-based concept of time.
- Leviticus 23:32, “It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”
- John Calvin criticizes two extreme viewpoints: one that insists that the Hebrew way of timekeeping is the only correct one and another that regards the Hebrew way as completely wrong or “preposterous” (commentary).
בֹ֖קֶר(morning) – The Hebrew day ends with morning, closing the first day of creation. It highlights the completion and goodness of God’s creative work, as well as His established order in the universe.
- Exodus 18:13, “The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.”
י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד(day first) – The Hebrew phrase literally means “day one”; the word י֥וֹם(yom) means “day,” and אֶחָֽד(echad) means “one”; typically translated as “one day.” In some contexts as Genesis 1:5, it doesn’t just mean a unit of time but also carries the weight of being “first.” Theologically, this underscores the concept of new beginnings and divine order in creation; it sets the stage for the concept of a week and thereby indirectly for the Sabbath.
- Jonah 3:4, “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!'”
- Nehemiah 8:2, “So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.”
- Zechariah 14:7, “And there shall be a unique day (Lit. day one), which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.”
- Naming by God: God calls the light “Day,” and the darkness He calls “Night.” The act of naming reflects His authority and sovereignty, indicating that things are what they are because He declares them to be so.
- Creator of Time: The “evening and the morning” phrase in the verse marks the first day, laying the foundation of time measurement on Earth. This establishes God as the Creator of not just physical entities, but also temporal units.
- Divine Order: God’s act of creating day and night establishes a divine order in the universe, setting a pattern for life cycles, like the day-night cycle that governs human life. By establishing the day and the night, God sets up the laws of nature, indicating His role as the ultimate Lawgiver.
- Initiator of Salvation: The act of separating light from darkness can be seen as a metaphorical precursor to the concept of separation between good and evil, foreshadowing God’s ultimate plan for redemption.
- Naming of Day and Night: “That God divided them from each other by distinguishing names: He called the light day, and the darkness he called night. He gave them names, as the Lord of both; ‘for the day is his, the night also is his’ (Psalm 74:16).”
- “He is the Lord of time, and will be so, till day and night shall come to an end, and the stream of time be swallowed up in the ocean of eternity. Let us acknowledge God in the constant succession of day and night, and consecrate both to his honour, by working for him every day and resting in him every night, and meditating in his law day and night.”
- The First Day: “That this was the first day’s work, and a good day’s work it was. The evening and the morning were the first day. The darkness of the evening was before the light of the morning, that it might serve for a foil to it, to set it off, and make it shine the brighter. This was not only the first day of the world, but the first day of the week.”
Matthew Henry: “I observe it to the honour of that day, because the new world began on the first day of the week likewise, in the resurrection of Christ, as the light of the world, early in the morning. In him the day-spring from on high has visited the world; and happy are we, for ever happy, if that day-star arise in our hearts.” (Commentary excerpt)
- Job 38:12-13, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?”
- In Job 38:12-13, God questions Job about his ability to command the morning and dawn. This suggests that from the very act of creation, God had in mind not only the establishment of physical laws and natural beauty but also the institution of moral order.
- Colossians 1:16-17, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
- Like Genesis 1:5, this passage highlights that everything, including the divisions of time like day and night, were created purposefully through Christ, who holds all things together.
- Psalm 65:8, “so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.”
- Genesis 1:5 shows God as the Creator who imposes order on the cosmos, but Psalm 65:8 shows that this order is not just mechanical; it elicits joy and awe “at the ends of the earth.” This suggests that God’s act of separating day from night in Genesis 1:5 is not just a demonstration of power, but also an invitation to a relationship characterized by wonder and joy.
- Psalm 74:16, “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established wthe heavenly lights and the sun.”
- Psalm 74:16 reinforces the theme established in Genesis 1:5 by stating that both day and night are God’s domain. It echoes the sentiment that God’s sovereign authority encompasses not just the creation but also the ongoing governance of day and night.
Spurgeon: “What, then, my soul, is it best for thee to do? Learn first to be content with this divine order, and be willing, with Job, to receive evil from the hand of the Lord as well as good. Study next, to make the outgoings of the morning and the evening to rejoice. Praise the Lord for the sun of joy when it rises, and for the gloom of evening as it falls. There is beauty both in sunrise and sunset, sing of it, and glorify the Lord. Like the nightingale, pour forth thy notes at all hours. Believe that the night is as useful as the day. The dews of grace fall heavily in the night of sorrow. The stars of promise shine forth gloriously amid the darkness of grief. Continue thy service under all changes. If in the day thy watchword be labour, at night exchange it for watch. Every hour has its duty, do thou continue in thy calling as the Lord’s servant until He shall suddenly appear in His glory. My soul, thine evening of old age and death is drawing near, dread it not, for it is part of the day; and the Lord has said, ‘I will cover him all the day long’.” (Morning and Evening, June 1, Morning, Genesis 1:5)