I'm trying to read Genesis 1 very closely and I'm noticing a thing about Genesis 1:3. God says יהי אור. Then it just says "and there was light." The form of "to be" (היה) here is "Qal Imperfect Jussive 3ms."

The jussive mood is distinct from the imperative. It can be used "to indicate a command, permission or agreement with a request" and is distinct from imperative which expresses a command. There is an imperative form in 1:22 and 1:28, "be fruitful and multiply..."

The other places this form (יהי) is used I can understand it as a "letting it be" as in Gen 30:34 and 33:9 where there is a kind of non-action associated with it (as in no interference). Then after the light verse (1:3) in the rest of Genesis 1, there is a distinctly different pattern. God speaks of creation and then acts to make the thing God describes. Here in Gen 1:3, God just seems to say "let light be" and then it is the case that "light was." There is no explicit step where it says that God made light as it says with all the other steps of creation.

Is he acknowledging the light? What is going on here? I'm trying to approach it as best I can without a bunch of preconceived notions of creation (e.g. ex nihilo). I'm wanting to let the text speak for itself. It seems like the earth is emptiness and void, and the darkness over the face of the deep, and the spirit of God hovering over the waters. These all seem to be things that "are" in the perfect tense (הָיְתָ֥ה). In that they are somehow complete, done. This, הָיְתָ֥ה, in Genesis 1:2 is the only instance of explicit "to be" in the perfect tense in Genesis 1. Is the text acknowledging that the light, though there with the stuff of creation, is somehow incomplete in nature and acknowledged as such (it is in the imperfect jussive here).

It seems like God creates distinct from the statements about creation. Is this unique phrasing on the first day somehow speaking of light in motion and part of the creative impulse coming and going in the days? It seems like night/darkness is the basic state of things and with which light is originally co-mingled.

Or was the world originally dark until light was brought into being with this statement? But it doesn't say "God made light" or "God formed light" or anything like that. Like on day 2, God says "let there be a firmament..." and then it says "God MADE (וַיַּ֣עַשׂ) a firmament..." The formula later is not "let there be a firmament..." and then "there was a firmament..."

So can we infer from Genesis 1 that God is separately acknowledging light, acquiescing to its existence, present with darkness and the earth and the deep and the waters (from 1:2), or is there some other meaning to this formula?

  • 1
    YLT : and God saith, `Let light be;' and light is.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 22:18
  • God used four work processes in the creation week. He created, made, formed, and established. The latter describes laws that He decreed, including the law of energy. This has the same context as the "Let there be a firmament" in verse 3. This firmament was also simply a decree setting boundaries. There was no sky or atmosphere created here because there was no "inspection or approval of a sky or atmosphere. The "movement" on the face of the waters did the "forming" work that was inspected. He only named Heaven after to outer-and-above portion of waters--one of only two bodies of waters. Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 0:32
  • Technically light and time are not independent of matter, but Genesis isn't a physics book and there are theories about what it means that God created light on the third day. God did create matter, light and time.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 1:37
  • @PerryWebb Again, you, as others, claim that light was created, which it was not. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that light was created. Please search for proof that it was, and verify your statement. The LORD did not put up a disclaimer saying that "since this was the Bible, He shouldn't have said anything that agrees with reality science of the 21st century" in Isaiah 45:17, neither did Isaiah. Genesis said that darkness was upon the face of the deep--that deep that was filled with dark waters. Light was formed--not created--by the movement of the Spirit upon those dark waters. Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 3:36
  • @GusL. Perhaps, an extended study might help of the primitive root, kûwn (Isaiah 45:18, KJV) as to things of the Day-One creation that are not material, such as decrees, oaths, laws, covenants, ruling principles, etc. This appears to reveal exactly what you have discovered with the text of your question. You can "make" a decree, oath, or law by declaration, but the decree, oath, or law is not yet a physical thing (such as light), even though the Law of Light has already been made of full force and effect. The Law of Light likely also required the Spirit's movement upon the waters. Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 16:18

9 Answers 9


It might help to compare the creation verbs used in Genesis 1:

Strong's # Hebrew Transliteration Meaning Verses
H1254 בָּרָא bara' to create the essence from nothing 1, 21, 27
H1961 הָיְתָ֥ה hayah to transform or to have become 2, 3, 5, 6–9, 11, 13–15, 19, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31
H335 יָצַר yatsar to form or shape 2:7
H6213 וַיַּעַשׂ `asah to complete 7, 11, 16, 25, 26, 31
H1288 בָּרַךְ barak to bless 22, 28

— (See discussion in Definitions of Creative Words - Mi Yodeya Stack Exchange.)

Notice that creation from nothing happens only 3 times:

  • the physical universe
  • animal life
  • humans with God's spiritual image

In Genesis 3:3, the verb commonly translated as a form of "to be" has the sense, not of creation from nothing, but of something transforming or becoming. I'd translate it as "Then God said 'become light', and it became light". This more closely matches the "permission or agreement with a request" mentioned in the question.

But it wasn't until verse 16 that the light sources became visible from the surface of the Earth. The verb usually translated as "made two great lights" and "made the stars" isn't one of creation from nothing, nor of transformation, but of putting into a final state.

I interpret the first four days as:

  • The Earth had a shroud of thick cloud.
  • On the first day, the cloud became transformed to be thin enough that light could shine through.
  • On the second day, God completed the separation, lifting the cloud layer from the surface leaving a layer of clear air, with the cloud above and sea below.
  • On the third day the land and seas became transformed into distinct areas.
  • On the fourth day the cloud layer became transformed into individual clouds so that the universe was visible from the surface of the Earth. This completed the appearance of the Sun, Moon, and stars.

To answer the original "Genesis 1:3, Did God Make Light?" question: No. God created light in Genesis 1:1; transformed the waters-above to allow the light ito reach the Earth's surface in Genesis 1:3; and completed the process allowing light to be directly seen in Genesis 1:16.

  • 2
    bara' is used 3 times in 1.27, and Adam was not made from nothing, but from dust and God's breath, whereas Eve was made from Adam's rib. There appears to be significant semantic overlap between ‘asah and bara', and I would argue the same issues arise for the other verbs.
    – Robert
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 5:17
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    That's an interesting point @Robert. bara is also used in Joshua 17 to speak of humans clearing a forest. I'm getting the feeling that "ex nihilo" is a doctrine back projected to justify other theological positions. I feel like bara was used here in Gen 1 for poetic repetition within "barasheet bara" in verse 1. It is clearly used for Adam who is made from dust. It seems to be a synonym with "asah" (to make), but just less frequently used.
    – Gus L.
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 12:10
  • Also, the Septuagint's author (well before the christian period) used the greek verb "εποίησεν" for bara. That's a pretty standard "made" as in something that people and God does. That verb is used almost 600 times in the NT.
    – Gus L.
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 12:43

May I share my thought on Gen 1:3

The first spoken words of God recorded in the Bible in ancient Hebrew is יְהִי אוֹר pronounce as yehi or and translated into English as “Let there be light.”

Two questions come to mind:

  1. What is this light אוֹר?
  2. Why God said so?

1. What is this אוֹר (‘or)?

The word ‘light’ in Gen 1:3 is translated from the Hebrew verb אור ( pronounce as 'or).
אוֹר is a verb, not a noun. It means to illuminate, to see, to perceive, to comprehend, to be enlightened by acquiring knowledge, have understanding and gaining wisdom. It is also used as metaphors in the biblical writings.

2. Why the light אוֹר (‘or)? The phrase יְהִי אוֹר (yəhî ’ôr) is made of two words. יְהִי‎ (yəhî) is the third-person masculine singular jussive form of "to exist" and אוֹר‎ (’ôr) means "light to illuminate." ‘To exist illumination’ because:

a) God want to show us b) He want us to see c) To see what?

When God said, “Let there be light”: a) God want us to see something (His purpose) b) God intentionally show us something (His intent) c) What is that ‘something’? (His plan and goal)

For he spoke, and it came to be

2.1 Where this light from? Our natural light is never from Planet Earth. It comes from the Sun. God is light (1 John 1:5). He is the source of all illuminances. He give natural light for us to see the natural world and He shine spiritual light into our heart for revelation knowledge(2 Cor 4:6).

There are two kinds of illumination: natural light and divine light (2 Cor 2:10-16, 4:6). We see the natural world and there is also the ‘unseen’ spiritual world, giving us also two kinds of knowledge: cognitive knowledge and revelation knowledge. Our cognitive knowledge comes from our physical world through our five physical senses (sight, smell, taste, hear, and touch) whereas revelation knowledge is spiritually received through our ‘inner man’ or spirit (Eph 3:16-19).

I don't know Hebrew or Greek and find this website helpful in learning from all of you. Thank you.

  • Hi Danny B, welcome to Stack Exchange, we're glad you are here! This is a really good first post, upvoted +1. Please be sure to take the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. Thanks! Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 1:34
  • Thank you for the site tour link. Noted the 'little different'...still learning.
    – Danny B
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 1:57

Excellent question that we can only understand in rather limited human terms.

I agree that Gen 1:3 does NOT demand that God created light on the first day - the text does not say that. Now, while gen 1 and 1 John are quite different contexts, (1 John is more theological and sometimes metaphorical) they cannot be divorced because Gen 1 is so clearly salvific in theme.

I get stuck on 1 John 1:5 where we read that "And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." This is clearly somewhat metaphorical BUT I struggle to understand God existing in eternity past without light.

Since Gen 1 is written from the perspective of a terrestrial observer, the landscape (covered in water) was obviously dark as Gen 1:2 states. Now, Gen 1:2 is important because it sets up the chiastic structure for what follows. The earth is described with three words (as the OP states):

  • formless
  • empty
  • darkness

The creation account then proceeds to undo this state of affairs by

  • V3 (day 1) - light is shed on the earth
  • V6-13 (days 2 & 3) - form and shape is given to the earth
  • V14-31 (day 4-6) - the earth is filled with creatures

Thus, I do not believe it is necessary for God to have created light in day 1 - but simply to have "shown up" on the scene and that light appeared on the earth. The perceptive comments about the jussive mood illustrate this well.

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    Thanks Dottard. I get the feeling that there is a big gap in mythological symbolism between Genesis 1 and John 1. I think that light and dark in the time of Jesus where highly influenced by the time as a Persian Vassal state where these were associated then with good and bad (For Zoroastrians, the world was pure light before the fall). I think in the time of writing Genesis 1, these motifs mapped onto transcendent (light) and immanence (darkness) which were both aspects of God. This is where you get something like Isaiah 45:7 from Babylon with Cyrus on the horizon.
    – Gus L.
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 22:34
  • 1
    That is, in this mythic understanding, darkness would be Jesus and light would be "the father" which animates in and through Jesus. This is NOT how John would have understood light, but how the same mythic principle would have been expressed in both times using different metaphors. I get the feeling like there was no moral dimension to the light and dark here in Genesis 1. For John light and dark are more like awareness and ignorance. That is not what I read in Genesis 1.
    – Gus L.
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 22:35
  • 1
    @GusL. John understood the waters that were created on Day-One as a type of of the Word of God. How then could John not also consider the inherent energy--"light"--proven by science to be part of the waters--as being the Word--latent until revealed by the Spirit's movement? We must cease this nonsense of refusing the reality of science as to Biblical Hermeneutics merely because some did not understand. Clearly, God, the one who "established" the universe upon the particulate/molecular concept understood. First century Jewish, and before, fathers understood. (Hebrews 11:3) Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 0:50
  • 1
    @Dottard You just think you are creating something. No elementary student would even thing of saying such a thing. Moreover, you understate that law, even as you understate the knowledge and power of God to tell us like it is, not like we have stumbled across. Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 1:20
  • 1
    @Dottard Discussing the creation of the universe, together with the processes used to physically bring about the worlds, is not allowed? Yet you can't even agree upon which day that God said that He formed light. So daydreams, pipe dreams, imaginations, god-chaser flat-earth imaginations are allowed here, why? Is thought now placed in a straight jacket. Is understanding now muzzled here? Yet you can make up your own laws of physics? Simply put, No waters on day-one = no light. No light on Day-One = no Day-One. No Day-One on Day-One = No Day-Two, and on and on. Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 2:53

The jussive mood is distinct from the imperative. It can be used "to indicate a command, permission or agreement with a request" and is distinct from imperative which expresses a command. There is an imperative form in 1:22 and 1:28, "be fruitful and multiply..."

Correct. The imperative form would be less adequate because, like in English, it is commonly used to command somebody (or something) to do something. As God did not command the light to do something, the jussive form is more adequate. As there is no comparable verb form in English, "Let there be Light" is a good translation; "may be shining" is the closest to the grammar form but it is not really English.

God did not "make" light, because making is a process of transformation from one existing form to another; in modern terms e.g. transform electrical energy into light. God created light; in modern terms, He established the phenomenon of electromagnetic waves.

  • According to quantum mechanics, the act of measurement/observation collapses the wavefunction of a photon (a probability wave), determining whether light appears as a particle or a wave. This bizarre behavior has also been convincingly demonstrated with electrons and other small particles. According to Vlatko Vedral professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, "The most fundamental definition of reality is not matter or energy, but information–and it is the processing of information that lies at the root of all physical, biological, economic, and social phenomena." Very curious indeed!
    – Dieter
    Commented Feb 22 at 23:08

Then God said, "Let there be light and then was light" (NKJV)

  1. Light functions to illuminate so that we can see
  2. God is wanting to show us
  3. God is wanting us to see
  4. To see what?

Two Questions: 5. What is this light? 6. Why do God said it?

The study of Biblical Theology on the Big Picture of Historical Progressive Redemption Acts of God that produce the cohesion and coherent Storyline of the Bible.

Hope some of my powerpoint videos can help:https://www.facebook.com/LTBLBT/videos/?ref=page_internal

  • While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. - From Review
    – agarza
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 0:42

Jesus is the light (John 8:12) and Jesus was already in existence (John 1:1-13) So light was not created because it already existed in Jesus. Everything in the Bible points to Jesus. The Hebrew meaning help here a lot. The earth was formless and void which means chaos and in ruin. The darkness covered the deep waters, which means misery and wickedness was surging in the mass of waters. And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep, which means God's spirit or breath moved gently and confronted the waters at the seam. Personally, I think that Isaiah 14:12 speaks of this time, when Lucifer was cast out of heaven to the earth, causing chaos and ruin, misery and wickedness. To create order, Jesus had to be there, the light. Wickedness has always been on the earth and waiting to cause sin to enter the world in the garden with Adam and Eve. God plan for redemption was before the story of creation.

  • Where does it say that Jesus was eternal? The Light of Genesis 1:3 is the beginning of the Word, the creation of Jesus Christ by God the Father as the "first of his works of old"!
    – Joshua B
    Commented Feb 23 at 0:24
  • There are many places in the Bible, but here is one, in 1 John 1:2, it says, This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. This is speaking of Jesus. John 1:1 tells us that he was with God and IS God, and in the beginning he already existed. It does not say he was created anywhere.
    – Rocky
    Commented Feb 23 at 0:44
  • John 1:2 is saying that the Son was with the Father at first, and then he was revealed to us in his personal incarnation into flesh as the man Jesus Christ. John 1:1 actually says in Greek: "In the beginning (created on Day 1) was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." You see, the Word was himself a god in that he was a divine entity as the only-begotten Son of God the Father from his bosom.
    – Joshua B
    Commented Feb 23 at 1:00
  • First of all, I just want to say, I appreciate this conversation, but the Bibles that I read from, including the Greek/Hebrew Bible, says the Word is God, not a god.
    – Rocky
    Commented Feb 23 at 1:19
  • 1
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    – Community Bot
    Commented Feb 23 at 3:59

The Light of Genesis 1:3 was created on Day 1, before the sunlight on Day 4.

What is this Light? It is the "first of his works of old" (Prov.8:22), which is the Light of the world, the only-begotten Son of God Jesus Christ, who is the firstborn of creation.

In the BEGINNING was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

The divine Word was the presence of the Son of God, who is first in all things.

Conclusion: The Light of Genesis 1:3 is the Son of God, the first of God's creation!

  • Cannot be “created” in Trinity theology. That’s that whole point of pre-existent Christ.
    – user64483
    Commented May 12 at 16:48
  • @Roamer - Not at all! For in the Unitarian position, Christ is pre-existent as the Chief Angel of God. That is, Christ was not eternally pre-existent as another avatar of God, but pre-existent in the sense that He was created first, before all things.
    – Joshua B
    Commented May 14 at 0:05
  • Well excuse me. I just assumed you were a Trinitarian and so I was pointing out the contradiction in your post.
    – user64483
    Commented May 14 at 0:27
  • @Roamer, are you Trinitarian or Unitarian?
    – Joshua B
    Commented May 14 at 2:44

Genesis 1:3 is interpreted as being the host of angels given the job of Angels as sons of light and sons of darkness. Darkness existed before the light because without light the here can only be darkness; and explains why the prince of the world, prince of darkness rules the Earth. John 12:31. The earth is darkness, Isaiah 60:2.

Jesus as God the Son forms into the sons of light as being the light (John 8:12) Again Jesus spoke to them, saying,“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”.

I don’t know or care who else interprets the meaning of the poems this way, probably just me. There is obviously supposed to be something distinct about Genesis 1:3 than verses 14-19 about the lights. God needed the separation of light and darkness in verse 3 so that God could see that it, the light was good, but all being as sons of God. That is the Logos, the host of angels as the sons of God. Before the light existed darkness. Darkness as the action of nothing. Without any actions occurring there can be no distinction between good and the other.

Genesis 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

A physics interpretation would suggest that light creates the underside of time. We measure time with light and gravity. Examples are obviously the Sun dial and a hourglass with sand. Therefore light must be created to measure time and so the separation of light and darkness created time in the sense of the first day for the heaven and earth. Now we have light to measure time and gravity to give a workable form to the earth.


Gen 1 is about the formation of our solar system and its hosts. The phrase “the heavens and the earth” in Gen 1:1 stands for the planets of our solar system.

A huge flux/cloud of wandering material is floating somewhere in the dark space extremely far from the Sun. When God utters ‘Let there be light’, the power of the Spirit pushes the cloud toward the Sun… And when God utters ‘Let there be an expanse...” the power of the Spirit splits the cloud into two parts: one part for the formation of the planet earth and the other part for the formation of other planets of the solar system.

I would argue that the phrase bereshit should be rendered: ‘First and foremost’. You first make a house (here planet earth which is integrated in the solar system) and will then furnish it!

I would also argue that the following texts are later insertions because the redactors were not able to grasp how the process works. In order to cause an 'expanse' you don't need to make something to push it into the cloud (v7):

-Gen 1:7a (So God made the expanse and separated the waters beneath it from the waters above), and

-Gen 1:16.

You may read it this way and SEE if it makes sense!

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
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    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 20:08
  • There's no evidence beyond your opinion that Genesis 1 was redacted. Before cosmologists concluded that light appeared before the stars and the sun, people assumed that the description in Genesis was laughably wrong. But the current scientific consensus is that light indeed appeared before the sun and the stars, According to a study published in Nature (2014) up to 50% of the water on earth is older than the sun! This is what Genesis seems to indicate. Maybe Genesis wasn't redacted after all.
    – Dieter
    Commented Feb 22 at 22:54

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