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
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 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
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 20:28
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    Selective editing of the comment section. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/26939/… Here is the link once more to a similar question Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 6:46
  • The greater light was Theia. The lesser light was Luna. The 2 stars were Ceres and 16-Psyche. At that time they were all moons of Earth.
    – R. Emery
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 15:51

9 Answers 9


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).

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    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)
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 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
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 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
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 23:12
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    exactly, so you saying, The earth is created in day #3 (Gen 1:10) is non sensical
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 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
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 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 Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 1:59
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    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
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 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. Commented Feb 26, 2021 at 18:36

Rather than scientific fact, Genesis 1:16 reflects the truth that God is the source of all light in the world. From this perspective, the scientific distinctions between the sun/stars and the moon lose their relevance. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, the lights of the sun and the stars originate in God and are thus a reflection of the light of God in the world.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their lights. – Ps 33:6

The words of Genesis 1:16 could also be applied to spiritual light. Just as God is the source of all physical light, he is the source of all spiritual light. And just as the sun, moon and stars reflect God’s light each to a different degree, so too the light of God is reflected in each person to a greater or lesser extent (cf 2 Cor 3:18).

For You light my lamp; The Lord my God illumines my darkness. – Ps 18:28

Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. – Mt 5:16


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.


This is a nice video series on the subject of Genesis in general, and the importance of seeing the Genesis narratives through ancient eyes in particular: https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1mr9ZTZb3TUeQHe-lZZF2DTxDHA_LFxi

The video series creator brings together thoughts and ideas from various written sources which could then be further investigated.

Observation-based (i.e. scientific) cosmology is a very different kettle of fish to the mix of spirituality / trans dimensional worlds / knowledge of the heavens that the ancients had. The ancients didn’t connect form to function like we do, they connected function to form, and function simply had to be observed. For us, a lesser light (form) implies a light source (function). For them, the object gives light (function), therefore it is a light (form). For us, this is a cow (form), therefore it gives milk (function). For them, this thing is a milk-giver (function), therefore it is a cow. The video author ties these thoughts into the ancient Hebrew language, and shows how language influences (and is informed by) thought processes and worldviews.

Worth a watch if Biblical cosmology is your bag. You won’t be left knowing that the earth is a big snow paperweight around which the sun revolves. However, your understanding of Biblical mindsets and thought processes will be greatly increased, and you will be left with the freedom to take the best from both ancient and contemporary cosmologies. If that’s what you want, of course.


Has it occurred to anyone that the lesser light was an ignited Jupiter that science says is basically an unlit dwarf star? It may have been burning but burnt enough of its mass and density that it went out like a snuffed candle. It is clear the Bible is not referencing the lesser light as the moon. We must take God literally here and the moon is not a luminary it is simply known as a reflection of the sun given the moon's different positions relative to the angularity or hypotenuse between the sun and moon.

Therefore I submit Jupiter as the prime candidate for the lesser light. The key is "two great lights," but nonetheless a body that gives off its own light. The moon cannot fit here because the moon is not a great light among great lights. Besides, there are times in the lunar cycle when the moon is not seen so the moon cannot be adequately positioned to qualify as ruling over the darkness.

I believe that Jupiter may be our sun's binary partner, only now it is not lit. Jupiter is loaded with planetary bodies/Moons just as we expect to see around all suns. Jupiter is a burnt-out brown dwarf sun star, that once was ignited casting a dim brownish light that would qualify as an inferior great light that rules over the darkness.

Lastly, Jupiter's composition is that of a star but is now out because it did not have the density for sustained nuclear ignition. It simply embered out and we errantly refer to Jupiter as the largest planet in our solar system and is a "gas giant". It just so happens, that Jupiter is composed of the elements necessary to qualify as a sun.

It's not the moon as the lesser light..why? The sun manufactures light and is a great light, the Stars manufacture light as well, but they are distinctly spoken of and are therefore not the second great light. Something else is referred to here and I believe it may have been Jupiter.

  • This seems unlikely. What evidence do you have for any of this?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 3:01
  • The statement, "It is clear..." always need to have an explanation as to why. Perhaps: "[reason why] So, it is clear..."
    – Jesse
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 5:20
  • The suggestion that Jupiter is the lesser light creates an exegesis problem that God creation of two great lights has one ceased to light. Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 13:13
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    – Community Bot
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 22:19

The moon being identified as a “light to rule the night” doesn’t negate its function to do so, nor does it say that the “moon” is a “self emanating light”.

So the fact that the sun is also not said to be a hot ball of gas doesn’t mean it isn’t a “light to rule the day”. Nor does the text rule out the possibility for it being a “hot ball of gas”, which we know it is.

The text doesn’t have to be more specific for it to speak truth about the reality around us.

The moon can have reflected light and still be a “light to rule the night” when it’s in its proper phases.

“God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:16‬


The Sun is a star; and the passage concludes he made the stars also.

It is brilliant statement which discourages commentary around whether the two great lights are astrological in nature.

Instead it reaffirms the spiritual significance of these "greater" and "lesser" lights, respectively.

The lesser light to rule the night. If Night is synonymous to darkness (Gen 1.5) could that mean the "lesser light" is a ruler over darkness? I wonder whether this might be a nod toward lucifer (or the shining one).

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    Commented yesterday

There are only two luminaries, not three. The greater and lesser. The stars being named as one. Original text doesn't have the word and or also. Strongs concordance H3974 maor is listed and defined as source of light. The moon's light is Or/Ar/Ur (strongs H215/216) and is light in general. It isn't a luminary. It reflects the sun's light. The sun is the greater light by which we are to number our days and years. First day of the year is the day after the vernal equinox. Lunar observances come from Babylon. Exodus 34:22 interlinear Hebrew, taqufah (thquphth) shanah. Turn/revolution of the year. Lunar observances come from Babylon while in captivity. https://youtu.be/YHXjCGe1O7g Taqufah is the vernal/autumnal equinox.

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    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 0:59

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