Question: “How could there be light on the first day of Creation if the sun was not created until the fourth day?”
Answer: The question of how there could be light on the first day of Creation when the sun was not created until the fourth day is a common one. Genesis 1:3-5 declares, “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 few verses later we are informed, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. 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. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the fourth day” (Genesis 1:14-19). How can this be? How could there be light, mornings and evenings on the first, second, and third days if the sun, moon, and stars were not created until the fourth day?
This is only a problem if we fail to take into account an infinite and omnipotent God. God does not need the sun, moon, and stars to provide light. God is light! First John 1:5 declares, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” God Himself was the light for the first three days of Creation, just as He will be in the new heavens and new earth, “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). Until He created the sun, moon, and stars, God miraculously provided light during the “day” and may have done so during the “night” as well (Genesis 1:14).
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Much more important than the light of day and night is the Light who provides eternal life to all who believe in Him. Those who do not believe in Him will be doomed to “outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12).
Recommended Resource: Biblical Creationism by Henry Morris.
What Was that “Light” before the Sun (Genesis 1:3)?
“In Genesis 1:3, the Old Testament records that God said: ‘Let there be light.’ Since the sun, moon, and stars were not made until the fourth day (1:14-16), what was the nature of the ‘light’ mentioned in verse 3?”
The Bible student must deduce that the “light” of Genesis 1:3 was not that which subsequently (three days later) emanated from the sun, the moon, or the stars. The fiat of verse 14, “Let there be lights,” expresses the same sort of creative activity — out of nothing came something by the command of God — that is affirmed in verse 3.
Nor can it be argued legitimately that the sun, moon, and stars were “created” on the first day of the initial week, and then were simply made to “appear” on the fourth day, as advocates of the Gap Theory have attempted to establish. There is no basis in the Hebrew text for that conclusion.
The fact is, it is not possible to know exactly what the initial light-source was, for we have no information beyond what is affirmed in verse 3, and that is merely stated, not explained. There are, however, a couple of logical conclusions that may be drawn from the sketchy data presented.
- The “light” of Genesis 1:3 obviously radiated from a “fixed” source, in its relationship to the earth, inasmuch as it facilitated the dark-to-light arrangement, as the primitive orb rotated upon its axis.
- This initial “light” was temporary, for the sun was assigned the function of the “greater light” on the fourth day.
There is nothing at all strange about the reality of light existing independent of the heavenly bodies. It is a well-established fact, illustrated in multiple ways, that “light” certainly is not restricted to the sun and the other luminaries of our universe. Just consider that phenomenon known as “lightning,” or ask the friendly “firefly” about the matter.
It is interesting to reflect upon the fact that the science of archaeology has thrown some “light” on this issue as well.
- The ancient Babylonian creation record, known as Enuma Elish — copies of which were discovered as a part of the library of Ashurbanipal (c. 668-626 B.C.) — dates back, it is believed, to perhaps 1800 B.C. In this narrative there are some striking similarities to the Genesis account (though the latter is the original, while the former is a degraded descendant). Significant, in view of this present study, is the fact that in the Babylonian record, “light” existed before the creation of the lightbearers (see Charles Pfeiffer, The Biblical World, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966, pp. 224ff). Again, let us emphasize that though Enuma Elish is highly mythological, it obviously retains a remnant of truth inherited from the sacred record.
- It is also worthy of mention that the discoveries at ancient Ebla, in Northern Syria (excavated from 1964 onward), contain a creation account. In this narrative it is stated, regarding the “Lord of heaven and earth,” that: “The light of day was not; you created it” (see Time, September 21, 1981, p. 76).
Thus, there really is nothing problematic in Genesis 1, with reference to the mention of “light” before the sun, moon, or stars.
According to Genesis 1, the sun was not created until Day 4. How could there be day and night (ordinary days) without the sun for the first three days?
- Again, it is important for us to let the language of God’s Word speak to us. If we come to Genesis 1 without any outside influences, as has been shown, each of the six days of creation appears with the Hebrew word yom qualified by a number and the phrase “evening and morning.” The first three days are written the same way as the next three. So if we let the language speak to us, all six days were ordinary earth days.
- The sun is not needed for day and night. What is needed is light and a rotating earth. On the first day of creation, God made light ( Genesis 1:3 ). The phrase “evening and morning” certainly implies a rotating earth. Thus, if we have light from one direction, and a spinning earth, there can be day and night.
Where did the light come from? We are not told, but Genesis 1:3 certainly indicates it was a created light to provide day and night until God made the sun on Day 4 to rule the day. Revelation 21:23 tells us that one day the sun will not be needed because the glory of God will light the heavenly city.
Perhaps one reason God did it this way was to illustrate that the sun did not have the priority in the creation that people have tended to give it. The sun did not give birth to the earth as evolutionary theories postulate; the sun was God’s created tool to rule the day that God had made ( Genesis 1:16 ).
Down through the ages, people such as the Egyptians have worshiped the sun. God warned the Israelites, in Deuteronomy 4:19 , not to worship the sun as the pagan cultures around them did. They were commanded to worship the God who made the sun—not the sun that was made by God.
Evolutionary theories (the “big bang” hypothesis, for instance) state that the sun came before the earth and that the sun’s energy on the earth eventually gave rise to life. Just as in pagan beliefs, the sun is, in a sense, given credit for the wonder of creation.