Genesis 1:16 (KJV): And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

The sun obviously has its own permeating light. Well so do stars. In the creation story, neither the sun nor the moon were mentioned by name but the stars were. Scientific fact is that the moon does not have light by itself, it is only a reflector of light. We also know that there are times every month that the moon cannot be seen due to its phases. So that means, it is isn't giving light even as a reflector during those times. However, the stars have yet to cease their light, same as the sun. So could it be that the stars are specifically mentioned to bring our attention to them instead of thinking that the second and lesser light is the moon?

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    I am struggling to understand precisely what you are asking.
    – Dottard
    Dec 9 '20 at 19:48
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    I edited to quote Genesis 1:16 which, I think, answers the question. I do agree that the wording points to a spiritual view of Genesis chapter one (that it is not a 'technical manual' about the details of creation, but a spiritual view of God's purpose in all creation - which includes the New Creation). But I cannot see that you can evade the obvious conclusion that there is a 'light' which is neither sun nor ' the stars also'. It is a 'lesser' light and does not always shine and only reflects, yes indeed. (+1 for a thoughtful question . . . keep 'em coming.)
    – Nigel J
    Dec 9 '20 at 20:28
  • Selective editing of the comment section. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/26939/… Here is the link once more to a similar question Dec 12 '20 at 6:46
  • The greater light, lesser light, and the two "stars" were the four moons of earth: the moon, theia, ceres, and 16 psyche. Only the lesser light remains.
    – R. Emery
    Feb 21 at 22:20

Genesis 1:16 New International Version

God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.

And [He made]
וְאֵ֖ת (wə·’êṯ)
Conjunctive waw | Direct object marker
Strong's Hebrew 853: Untranslatable mark of the accusative case

the stars {as well}.
הַכּוֹכָבִֽים׃ (hak·kō·w·ḵā·ḇîm)
Article | Noun - masculine plural
Strong's Hebrew 3556: A star, a prince

The Hebrew word for stars is a noun in the accusative. It is a direct object. It is not the subject.

So could it be that the stars are specifically mentioned to bring our attention to them instead of thinking that the second and lesser light is the moon?

No, not according to the Hebrew grammar. Basically, Genesis 1:16 says that God made the greater light, the lesser light, and the stars too.


In reading the creation record of Gen 1 we must remember several things:

  1. It is written from a phenomenological point of view - what an observer would simply see. It is NOT a scientific nor astronomical record. This is reinforced with passages like Eccl 1:5 about the sun and moon rising and setting and hurrying back again.
  2. It concerns events on and around the earth only including the "firmament" of the sky. Nothing more.
  3. Hebrew has perfectly good words for "sun" (שֶׁמֶשׁ shemesh) and "moon" (יָרֵחַ yareach) that the author obviously goes to some trouble to avoid using.
  4. The fact that the sun produces its own light and the moon is a reflector of light is quite irrelevant to the record of Gen 1 because all that matters is that they are both sources of light. The stars are also sources of light as also recorded elsewhere, such as Eze 32:7, Jer 31:35, etc.
  5. One of the several functions of the Gen 1 record is as type of salvation. God takes a world that (Gen 1:2) "tohu and bohu and hosek" = formless and void and dark; and by the end of the record we have, (v31) "And God looked upon all that He had made, and indeed, it was very good." That is we have the opposite - form, value and brightness!
  6. It is not necessary for the author of a bible passage to fully understand what is being revealed. We see this spectacularly in passages like Dan 8:27 and others. Thus, it is possible that the author was inspired to write the passage in the style and vocabulary they did to avoid misconceptions and unfounded claims.
  7. The "vault" or "firmament" (רָקִיעַ raqia) is called heavens (שָׁמַיִם shamayim) Gen 1:8 and represents the space between the waters below and water above.
  8. The Bible writers of Gen 1 makes no attempt to distinguish between what we now call the atmosphere and outer space beyond the atmosphere - they had no language nor understanding of these things and it did not matter to them. Heaven was anything above the earth or soil (where crops were grown). Birds flew in the heaven (Gen 1:20, 26, 28, 30, 2:19, 20, 6:7, etc); water came from above the heavens (Gen 1:6, 7, 7:11, 8:2, etc); the sun, moon and stars existed in the heavens (Gen 1:14), etc.
  9. Similarly, there is no concept of "planet earth" in Gen 1 - it is entirely foreign to the entire Bible. "earth" (אֶרֶץ erits) is simply dry, arable land (Gen 1:10).
  10. It is very significant that in the creation record of Gen 1 -
  • The heavens are created on day #2 (Gen 1:8)
  • The earth is created in day #3 (Gen 1:10)

Now, finally to the question at hand - it has been said that because many of the ancients worshiped the sun and moon, that the author of Gen 1 did not want to dignify the sun and moon by explicitly naming them but obliquely refers to them as "lights in the heavens"; and even more significantly that YHWH is the one responsible for their existence, and creation.

Thus, YHWH is greater than all the false gods of the heathen, especially the sun and moon. There are more complex theological reasons for all this but they do not matter here. The fact remains that God is responsible for all things.

It is also useful to recall that during the creation of the earth, other existing life-forms observed and cheered what was happening (Job 38:4-7).

  • I'd suggest the earth - as it already was v1, it is rather 're arranged v10 than created (#10) useful answer +1 ("The heavens are created on day #2 (Gen 1:8)" what about v1? V8 is a rearranging of the heavens that already were - in the beginning)
    – steveowen
    Dec 9 '20 at 23:01
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    @user48152 - yes and no. "The earth as it already was" is not in the text and more importantly, before v10 there was no earth, namely arable land. That is the point, the arable land ("erets" here) was only created when the waters were separated from the dry ground. There is a similar situation in v8.
    – Dottard
    Dec 9 '20 at 23:05
  • v1&2 describe an 'earth' - your specific 'arable' concept doesn't fit with this. The earth was already made, but was not suitable for man until God fixed it v9, 10, 11 etc
    – steveowen
    Dec 9 '20 at 23:12
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    exactly, so you saying, The earth is created in day #3 (Gen 1:10) is non sensical
    – steveowen
    Dec 9 '20 at 23:28
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    @user48152 - correct - the "earth" is defined and created on day #3 when the dry ground appears. Here and elsewhere, "earth" is NOT plant earth but the dry ground as explicitly stated in v10.
    – Dottard
    Dec 9 '20 at 23:54

It is (scientifically) true that the moon only reflects light, but it is still a source of light (not a direct source). Without this reflector the sun's light would not get to us at night.

Nigel J. Points out that my answer should be elaborated. I agree with him. I therefore am expanding this posting.

The important issue here is the Biblical view of the sun and moon. How did the biblical reader perceive the sun and moon?

There are numerous verses which suggest that rulers/leaders in general were symbolized in a variety of ways

  1. They are compared to animals (e.g. Judah is a lion Gen. 49:9)

  2. They are compared to plants (e.g. 2King 14:9 "The thorn (weak leader) sent to the Cedar (mighty leader)..."

  3. They are compared to astral bodies (e.g. Nu24-17 A star shoots from Jacob, a leader arises from Israel, or Ps89-36:38 (David is compared to the sun and moon)

There are many more illustrative verses. It would follow that the Biblical reader saw the sun, moon, and stars, as sources of light and symbolic of power.

To return to the original question "But the sun is a source of light while the moon only reflects light," there are several points to be made.

i) My original point is that since the moon reflects light it is legitimately considered the source of the light it redirects

ii) A more important point is made by Frymer-Kensky

Gone are the days when we speak about an objective interpretation of the text. We now perceive all interpretation as an interaction between an observer and the text.

Modern man (you and I) care that the moon is not a made of fire; for example, we are able to travel to it. Modern man is also concerned about orbits of the planets and stars. There is no reason to impose these ideas on biblical man. Biblical man simply perceived the moon as a source of light and this in turn justified making it a symbol.

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    I agree I am adding to the post Feb 25 at 1:59
  • I cannot think of sun moon and stars without thinking of 1) The Sun of Righteousness, risen with healing in his beams 2) the lesser light of law which is a schoolmaster to bring to Christ and 3) the second heavens of angelic powers now ruled from the throne where humanity sits, Deified, to reign over all.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 25 at 7:08
  • I was just concerned with responding to the astronomical inquiry and to point out that the symbolism justifies interpretation of sun, moon, stars as leaders. The details of which leaders will then depend on other things. Context is a strong driver (for example, the Midrash Rabbah interprets Sun, Moon as referring to the Jacob-Esauv fight. I think (not sure) that Jacob-Rachel is another possibility. The focusing on details of symbols is a separate topic of course and I just wished to establish guidelines. Feb 26 at 18:36

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