Creation begins by God speaking:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3) [ESV]

ויאמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי-אור

The ESV translation shows God's spoken words are only the first part of the phrase "Let there be light..." and what follows is a narrative statement: ...and there was light.

Based on what follows "And God saw that the light was good..." (1:4) the narrative is correct. In other words, God spoke light into existence, saw the light, so, obviously, there was light.

However, it seems as if one had been listening they would have heard the word light repeated and the spoken words would be something like: "Be light become light." The overall meaning is the same since God saw the light; what changes are the words spoken to begin creation:

Said God, יהי אור ויהי-אור

Did God begin creation by speaking the word light twice?

  • 1
    First you have to answer, "What language did God speak?" In other words, what does "God said" mean? I think you are asking a question we cannot answer.
    – Perry Webb
    Apr 5, 2018 at 20:16
  • I don't see what you gain by breaking the verse up like this. Could you clarify?
    – user2672
    Apr 6, 2018 at 8:11
  • Young's Literal has " "Let light be" and light is." The natural reading of the verse is that God spoke certain words and the narrative (divinely revealed) comments on the occurrence.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 6, 2018 at 13:52
  • @Keelan You gain the knowledge of what God said. Clearly the light is not light emitted from stars which were created later. I see this a the creation of light. That is God is speaking light into existence. Did He say "Be light become light"? Or did He say "Be light."? Apr 6, 2018 at 15:13
  • I meant, why do you want to read it as "And God said, 'let there be light and there was light'" and not as the traditional translation? Should this be more in line with the Hebrew? Does it help to resolve some theological issue? Why should we read it differently? The question says, "it seems as if ...", so what is the reason that it seems like that and not like the traditional reading?
    – user2672
    Apr 6, 2018 at 15:24

2 Answers 2


No, the Hebrew simply reads, as you quoted:

ויאמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי-אור

And literally means:

And God said, 'Be light!' And light was.

He isn't accredited as saying anything more than 'Be light!' here.

Also, this is almost certainly not a case of literal words being spoken (poetic language notwithstanding), but the narrative form of His will for His creation, broken down into the major parts of creation, the categories we usually use, and man in general has always used: land and sea, earth and sky, sun and moon, man and beast etc.

  • Why do you translate "be light"? It is not an imperative; see hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/32527/2672. Other than that, this is correct, +1.
    – user2672
    Apr 6, 2018 at 7:01
  • Interesting; and my Hebrew is more than 'limited' and wholly informal; however, doesn't the author here use this form because God isn't 'commanding' anyone to perform it, but "calling the things that are not as though they are" (Rom 4:17) that is, expressing wishes to the things that are to be created, which sort of has to be "יהי אור"? Also, can you recommend any grammars (Gesenius can be hard to chew on). Apr 6, 2018 at 13:10
  • Yes, God isn't commanding anybody, he just says "there should be light" (and by his authority, there then is light). With the translation "Be light!" it sounds to me as though God is commanding light to be, which is not the case (then it would have to be an imperative) - but perhaps that's just me. A good up-to-date reference grammar is Joüon and Muraoka 2006, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (in the back is an index of biblical references which can often help)
    – user2672
    Apr 6, 2018 at 15:27
  • Thanks for the recommendation, I had heard about it before as useful when used alongside Gesenius'. Apr 6, 2018 at 15:29

The text does not indicate that God spoke more than once concerning light. Two of the ways to interpret this passage include:

  • God spoke, God's descriptive enunciation spontaneously manifested itself into existence, and God contemplated his act.

  • God spoke a command, God's command was carried out, God evaluated the work performed.

It's mildly humorous to consider that in some translations, the second day project team apparently received an "Incomplete" grade . . .



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