From the revised Oxford edition, Genesis 1.3:

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

It does sound more like God is commanding that something be done, not that he himself is doing anything.

  • 1
    Young's Literal has and God saith, `Let light be;' and light is.. If that Light already existed then the wording could be rendered as 'Let Light be (here) . . . . . (as well as elsewhere)'. That is to say, if the Light is God himself, then 'Let the Light within God be also expressed in creation'. Which happened. For Light is come into the world. He is the True Light which shineth. (Yes, it is spiritual. Genesis is not a technical manual.) Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 8 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


The original Hebrew uses several different creation verbs in Genesis 1.

The verb [ H1254 בָּרָא bara' ] means "to create the essence from nothing":

  • 1:1 tells us that "God created the heavens and the earth".
  • 1:21 tells us that "God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves".
  • 1:27 tells us that "God created man in his own image".

In each case, something came into existence from nothing. Until each act of creation, the physical universe, living creatures, and intelligent humans didn't exist.

  • The entire physical universe was created from nothing.
  • Creatures were fashioned from that material, but they became alive by receiving the spirit of life.
  • Humans were also formed from the same materials from the soil and given the same spirit of life, but they also received a human spirit that gave them understanding (Job 32:8).

These two kinds of spirits are not part of the physical universe; they appeared from "nowhere" to create life and intelligence, which cannot exist in a purely physical universe.

A more commonly used verb [ H1961 הָיְתָ֥ה hayah ] means "to transform or to have become":

  • 1.2 "The earth was without form and void" (or "waste and empty").
  • 1:3 God says "Let there be light".
  • 1.4 God says "Let there be a firmament".
  • 1.8 "the evening and the morning were the second day".
  • 1.14 "God says Let there be lights in the firmament".
  • etc.

Another verb [ H6213 וַיַּעַשׂ `asah ] means "to complete":

  • 1:16 "God made two great lights: … He made the stars also".
  • 1:25 "God made the beast of the earth according to its kind".
  • 1:26 "Let us make man in Our image".
  • etc.

Notice that 1:3's "Let there be light" is not an act of creation from nothing. The verb used here indicates a transformation.

Similarly 1:16's "God made two great lights" and "he made the stars" is not an act of creation from nothing. The verb used here indicates a completion, something being put into its final form.

So we see that:

  • 1.1 the Sun, stars, etc. were created from nothing "in the beginning" (creation from nothing).
  • 1.2 the surface of the earth became a ruin (transformation).
  • 1.3 Then God ordered that the Sun's light be allowed to reach the surface of the Earth (transformation).
  • 1.16 Then God made the night sky completely visible from the Earth's surface (completion into final form).

One can visualize:

  • The Earth has become a world shrouded in clouds.
  • God thins the clouds, allowing the Sun's light to illuminate the surface (day 1).
  • God removes the clouds, allowing a clear view of the sky (day 4).

When God says in Genesis 1.3,"Let there be light," is he creating light? or commanding that light be created?

Neither. This act is a transformation, not a creation, that allows the existing sunlight to penetrate the earth's clouds and reach the surface of the earth.

It does sound more like God is commanding that something be done, not that he himself is doing anything.

Yes it does.

God is directing what needs to be done, while the actual work is performed by other spirit beings (e.g. angels).

Job 38:7 describes the reaction of the heavenly host, "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?", at the beginning of creation.

Christianity describes it much more explicitly, with God (the Father) directing what needs to be done, while God (the Son) performs the work:

John 1:3
All things were made by [Jesus]; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Ephesians 3:9
… God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

Colossians 1:16
For by [Jesus] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

  • 3
    +1. I added relevant links to the Strong's for each word.
    – Jason_
    Commented Apr 8 at 1:08
  • Comment only: I was interested to see what you chose to render Colossians 1:16. Some versions replace 'by him' with 'through him' . It's far outside my bailiwick but I understand that the translation is liable to depend more on one's understanding of Christ than optimum choice. || "by him" is, of course, correct :-) . Commented Apr 8 at 10:09
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica, thanks, I've now made this switch in perspective more obvious. Commented Apr 8 at 14:47
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    +1 But if bara' means "create the essence from nothing," than why doesn't Genesis 2 state that God created (bara') Adam? In Genesis, I perceive a succession of binary separations, including Adam from dust and Eve from Adam, from the elemental to the sublime. I'd also note that binary separations are the essence of information.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 8 at 16:15
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    @Ray Butterworth, Yes, exactly. But in Genesis 1:27, God created (bara') Adam, male and female, in His own image. This leads me to believe that bara' means created, but not necessarily "out of nothing." What do you think?
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 8 at 16:52

According to Troy Lacey and Bodie Hodge:

In Genesis 1:3–5, we are greeted with light. According to most commentators, the light was either created by God or manifested by himself.

Genesis 1:3 NKJV

3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Here's what we know:

  1. God's command for light to "be" results in light.
  2. God Himself is the ultimate source and agent of creation. (Colossians 1:16)

The act of light "being" occurs through His authoritative command.

I quote:

Augustine of Hippo, in his City of God, sees the verse as indicating "not only that God had made the world, but also that He had made it by the word." The words "let there be light" are the first divine words in the Bible. The Latin for "let there be light" is "fiat lux," and this description of creation by command has led to the theological phrase "creation by fiat." In the words of Peter Kreeft, God "simply spoke... and it came to be."

  • 1
    The Latin, Post tenebras lux = after the darkness, light. That is what happened in Genesis 1:3 due to the fact that God is light, would you say, to deal with the darkness that was upon the face of the deep (1:2)? Light already existed, then God's light was applied to "the face of the deep", and now arises the significance of spiritual darkness and spiritual light perhaps?
    – Anne
    Commented Apr 9 at 11:04

Since it can't matter which, 'Both.'

If 'all there is to it' is that God created light, so be it.

If God himself created some indeterminate stuff… perhaps another form of manna from Heaven… and told someone else 'Take this stuff and from it build/construct/develop light', so be it but which 'someone else'?

If angels or demons, genies or anyone else have power of creation, how are they themselves not gods?

I suggest the actual Question could never be Answered without first explaining who had the power of creation, in what circumstances and within what constraints?

I further suggest anyone seriously interested in theology will see that last as ludicrous or heretical, if not both.

I don't know how much this is discussed in the Old Testament and I know nothing of the Torah but I do know the main point of the Koran is to insist there never has been, is not and never could be anything created but by God.

In any book, how could God be commanding that light - or anything - 'be created' except by someone other than himself?

Some might pretend it seems patronising to say this yet in all seriousness, are we to see creation as somehow similar to the way the gnomes help Father Christmas, or his apprentice the magician?

  • I don't see that this answers (or even attempts to answer) the question. If one disagrees with a question then that should be, succinctly, addressed in a comment. (Which you did and I have flagged it for Moderator attention.)
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 8 at 22:15
  • Sorry, Nigel. I thought I was addressing the basic idea in theology - at least, the monotheism Gerry seems to address - that nothing can be created but by God. (Assuming the idea that light which already existed, be turned on, is risible.) To the extent the Question is valid, the Answer is either 'God created light' or 'God commanded that light be created, at the same time creating the means and the creator'. Either the first option contains the second, or there ain't no option two… so again, one or both. Commented Apr 9 at 12:34
  • . . . . . . or the light is God himself. Uncreated.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 9 at 12:54
  • @NigelJ You might like to explain that in Chat or a detailed Answer but here, how would that not mean God said 'Let there be Me', or perhaps 'Let there be more of Me!'? Commented Apr 9 at 13:04
  • ο θεος φως εστιν [1 John 1:5.] God is light. Or, to be more grammatically precise, expressing John's equivalence . . . . God light is.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 9 at 13:11

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