I have difficulty understanding what is the actual meaning of the Hebrew word "Or". The confusion I have is, since the preceding jussive verb "Yehi" indicates a dynamic condition, when it is used along with "Or" does it mean that the light took a new form to exist? I'm not sure if there is even a view like that. Can you please enlighten me of its meaning grammatically?


6 Answers 6


Robert Young in his 1862 Literal Bible renders the text :

and God saith, `Let light be;' and light is. Genesis 1:3 YLT.

This translation seems to me to allow of an absent word to be understood :

"Let light be (here)."

And if so, then a further understanding may be allowed, that light is already elsewhere. Then let light be here also.

This agrees with what is later revealed in John 1 : 4 of the Word from the beginning.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. John 1:4 KJV.

If Life is in him who is the Word from the beginning, and if that uncreated Life is uncreated Light. Then let light (of a created kind) be within the creation, also.

This demonstrates the profound spirituality of the opening chapter of Genesis, that it is not a technical description of manufacture but a deeply mysterious expression of what creation is, in and of itself.

  • Except apparently your interpretation is taken out of context by some to mean that the sun was already created but the light had not penetrated onto the preexistent earth @NigelJ. This is problematic for many other reasons. I can walk through your explanation but it so easily can be misconstrued especially since you have so many qualifiers, if this, then that, then the other. Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 22:36
  • and it can’t be both? Rather shouldn’t it be both? If it’s spiritual and God in His inspiration touches upon creation, shouldn’t it be true, because by your admission it doesn’t have to be or it’s not? The Bible wasn’t written by men about God, it was God who inspired the Bible for men. And what baffles me is that if the words need to be grossly reinterpreted why use the Bible at all? @NigelJ Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 0:10
  • It doesn’t matter if we have the answer, it was light. Maybe the whole electromagnetic spectrum or something else. We are talking here about days not millions or billions of years because if you noticed the plants were created before the sun and no plant can exist without any light for so many years. The sun, moon and stars (all lights not gaseous or rocky spheres) came on day four and so the moon is not a reflector but a light in and of itself. This according to the Bible. The Bible sure, isn’t a textbook on science but when it touches on science it’s absolutely true. Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 1:20
  • The question is about the grammatical meaning of a Hebrew construction. Your analysis of a 1000 years younger Greek text, and the attached sermon, are entirely out of place.
    – user2672
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 6:56

אור is a simple noun meaning "light." יהי simply means "there is" or "it happened" or "he is." God's declaration "there is light" (properly translated into English "let there be light" or maybe even better, "may there be light") is followed by "ויהי אור" ("and [consequently] light was"—the ו or waw in front of the verb יהי makes it past-tense in this second instance), and simply expresses God's will concerning the existence of light: He wants it to be true that "there is light," and so declares the existence of light to be true: the declaration itself is what brings about the reality. (Analogously, we Catholics believe much the same about Jesus' words at the Last Supper concerning the bread and wine and His body and blood.) The dynamic or contingent aspect is the existence or non-existence of light, the former of which God wills to be true, and which hence becomes true.

  • I’m not sure I follow the relevance nor the importance of the last paragraph. It doesn’t seem relevant. Certainly the first part was very clearly articulated in contrast. Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 22:38
  • There is controversy over the real function of waw. Robert Young deals with this extensively and competently in the prefaces to his Literal Bible.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 23:23
  • @NigelJ Semitic linguistics has progressed since Young.
    – user2672
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 6:52
  • @NigelJ I don't mean the waw makes it past tense as in the form of the word makes it mean something else, but functionally in the sentence: "God said, Let there be light," must followed by past tense if the former is an expression of will for light to be. It's just that Hebrew uses the same verb to express both whereas in English we must differentiate: in Hebrew there is no past or future tense. Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 12:28

The dynamic ‘condition’ (as ‘Theo’ wrote) included in the verbal form IEI depends not from its link with the term AUR (‘light’), but, from the peculiar meaning belonging to the generating conceptual root.

In fact, it hasn’t – like many think – the meaning of ‘to be’, but, instead, ‘to become’, ‘to happens’. Whilst ‘to be’ may bear some static factor (‘I was a doctor’), the verb ‘to become’ bears it not (‘I became a doctor’, ‘I happened to be a doctor’).

This indicates us that the creation of light was a progressive creation, not an immediate one (like – for one analogical example - the punctual leprosy broken out on the Uzziah’s forehead, appeared during his rage against the priests [2 Chr 26:19]).

In every case, we have to remember that the Genesis’ creation sequence describes events as they would have been seen by human observers had they been present. So, from the viewpoint of an conjectural observer of these, the earth light-system reached the optimal condition - that we also today are accustomed to see – only gradually.

A better manner to translate the passage is: “God said: “Let Light happens!” Then, Light happened to be.”


Je pense souvent qu'on pourrait imaginer un metteur en scène disant «Lumière !» et alors le technicien allume les lumières, ou braque le projecteur. De même un chirurgien demande de la lumière à un de ses assistants.

In english with Google : I often think we could imagine a director saying "Light!" and then the technician turns on the lights, or points the projector. Likewise, a surgeon requests light from one of his assistants.


יְהִ֣י - (Yehi) is qal imperfect 3rd person singular jussive with a apocopated ending of the being verb היה (hayah). The jussive gives it the meaning "let there be."

א֑וֹר - (Or) is the noun meaning light.

Here's a lexical definition of Or.

אוֹר (ʾôr): n.masc.; ≡ Str 216; TWOT 52a—1. LN 14.36–14.52 light, i.e., that which is contrasted to darkness (Ge 1:3), note: in some contexts with the associative meaning of guidance, health, life, prosperity, enlightened judgment, and other positive things; 2. LN 1.26–1.33 sun, i.e., the orb in the daytime sky giving bright light and heat (Job 37:21); 3. LN 14.36–14.52 sunshine, light of day, i.e., daylight in contrast to the dark of night (2Ki 7:9); 4. LN 14.15–14.16 lightning, i.e., the bright, destructive spikes that precede thunder (Hos 6:5); 5. LN 67.73–67.77 unit: אוֹר הַ־ בֹּקֶר (ʾôr hǎ- bō·qěr)2 dawn, i.e., the time when light of day first appears (Jdg 16:2), note: Ge 44:3; Jer 31:35; 1Sa 29:10 may be interp as 239, q.v.; 6. LN 58.14–58.18 unit: אוֹר פָּנֶה (ʾôr pā·ně(h)) bright countenance, formally, light of the face, i.e., an appearance of the face that shows positive, happy attitude (Job 29:24; Pr 16:15); 7. LN 22.42–22.47 unit: אוֹר פָּנֶה (ʾôr pā·ně(h)) favor, formally, light of the face, i.e., favorable circumstances, and relief from trouble and danger (Ps 4:7[EB 6]; 44:4[EB 3])

Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.



What is being said here in Genesis 1:3 is that God IS light.

And saying is the Elohim, “He is light”….that is, God is light.

He is not “becoming” light but is unchanging light. It is a statement of His eternal nature to mankind whose foolish heart was darkened. We are the ones to become light (and there was light) as He was, is, and will always be light. Man has changed but God does not.

From Interlinear Scripture Analyzer:

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We know this looking through the lens of 1st John 1:5.

This is the message which we have heard of Him (Jesus who is the Beginning) and declared unto us that God is Light (the statement in Genesis 1:3).

If we walk in the light (and there was light….as we become light), we have fellowship with one another and blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. We walk in light with Him.

1 John 1:5-7 KJV (5) This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (6) If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: (7) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

This statement (that God is light) is in response to the earth becoming without form (that is, without righteousness….there is none righteous) and void of understanding (there is none that understand).

Darkness was upon the face of the deep….darkness upon the heart of mankind. The Beginning….Jesus Christ…the “Face” of the waters…declares that God is light to us who have become “without form and void”. The earth BECAME without form and void as mankind has turned away from his Creator.

Genesis 1:1-5 KJV (1) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (2) And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (3) And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Mankind has become vain in their imaginations (without form = no righteousness) and their foolish heart was darkened (darkness was upon the face of the deep).

Romans 1:18-22 KJV (18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

They have no knowledge of God….

(19) Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

….even though the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen being understood by the things that made (God created the visible heavens and the earth that clearly represent His invisible qualities to mankind).

(20) For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (21) Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (22) Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

But now mankind (the earth has become without form….without righteousness and void of the knowledge of God) needs to receive His knowledge for all have turned away

Romans 3:9-12 KJV (9) What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; (10) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (11) There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (12) They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

When we hear the Son of God giving us the knowledge, the light shines with our very own hearts and shows us this is indeed the Son Jesus Christ whom we are to hear in contrast with the hearing of the words of false prophets who are preaching their son…. “another Jesus” the antichrist (the instead-of the true Christ)…and their private interpretations of the Scriptures.

2 Corinthians 4:6 KJV (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The light shines in a darkened place (the heart) and the day dawns as the bright and morning star arises within our very own hearts when we hear the Voice of the Son from Heaven as He opens up the Scriptures to us. He gives us the knowledge of God.

2 Peter 1:17-21 KJV (17) For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (18) And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. (19) We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (20) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Not so with false prophets who speak their private interpretations of the Scriptures.

They have to rely upon their performance of outward, visible signs as they proclaim He is now within our hearts by them.

False Christs and false prophets (who are preaching their "Jesus" the false Christ) have to show us great signs (performing outward, visible signs of supposed inward realities... "behold, He is in the secret chamber") and wonders (flattery spoken for man’s admiration in mind) to deceive and fascinate us into following them.

Matthew 24:23-27 KJV (23) Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. (24) For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (25) Behold, I have told you before. (26) Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

The Son of man’s presence (“coming” = presence) is much more effective upon the heart. The rays of the morning star/sun comes out of the east and shoots toward the west (in the darkness where the sun had previously gone down). His words are much more enlightening and we know that it is Him speaking to us.

(27) For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

While we have the light with us, we are walk in the light as God is light. Walk in the light, lest darkness come upon us if we continue to walk in darkness: in envy, strife and wrath at what we hear Him saying.

John 12:35-40 KJV (35) Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. (36) While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. (37) But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: (38) That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

If one walks in darkness…rejecting His words of the knowledge of God, then there is the judgment where one cannot then believe and go into understand.

(39) Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, (40) He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

This is what Jesus meant when He said to “take heed” on how we hear. We hear His words...the Word of Truth...which do not align with the words of many preachers.

Those who have (faith in what they hear), it shall be given unto him. More understanding shall be given him. Whosoever does not have, even that which he thought he had will be taken from him. Faith that he thought he had will be taken away: "therefore they could not believe" because they will have rejected the words of the true Christ in order to keep the private interpretations of the Scriptures of fleshly-minded men.

Luke 8:18 KJV (18) Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.

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