In this verse of Scripture, we are given the keys to identification of the source of information ordained by our Father above to guide our time-keeping.
Some allege that there is a plot behind the translation to confuse the positive confirmation of which characteristics or entities are rightfully involved. I will herein compare various versions and languages and evaluate some linguistic and grammatical elements to determine what is possible on these points.
First, we note that the King James Authorized Version reads as follows:
“And [Aloahiym] made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.”
In this English text, we see that there are twenty six words, two of which indicate that they were supplied to facilitate the reader’s ease of comprehension, with no corresponding underlying Hebrew words.
But there are more differences. We can see some readily when we use the KJV with Strong’s numbers:
“And [Aloahiym]H430 madeH6213 (H853) twoH8147 greatH1419 lights;H3974 (H853) the greaterH1419 lightH3974 to ruleH4475 the day,H3117 and the lesserH6996 lightH3974 to ruleH4475 the night:H3915 he made the starsH3556 also.”
Here the first and last words also have no underlying Hebrew to validate their inclusion.
And we see that there are apparently two instances of a Hebrew word being combined or omitted from the English translation (H853).
Additionally, we note that the great lights are not named here or anywhere in the larger passage. So the descriptions given are the primary means of positive confirmation of which ones are intended.
The typical assumtion seems to be that the entities involved are the sun, moon, and stars.
But if the Strong’s numbers are more strictly adhered to, the moon seems to disappear, leaving the Hebrew-supported words to read:
“[Aloahiym] made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light, the stars, to rule the night.”
But we cannot conclude either of these possibilities until we look more closely at the actual Hebrew and compare other renderings of it.
“ויעשׂH6213 אלהיםH430 אתH853 שׁניH8147 המארתH3974 הגדליםH1419 אתH853 המאורH3974 הגדלH1419 לממשׁלתH4475 היוםH3117 ואתH853 המאורH3974 הקטןH6996 לממשׁלתH4475 הלילהH3915 ואתH853 הכוכבים׃H3556”
Let it not be lost on us that the Hebrew character “aleph” followed by “tau” happens four times in this short space. This is the Hebrew subtlety from which we get the Greek-derived “alpha-omega” concept, which is appealed to by the Revelator of the Apocalypse to John. Several important passages in the Hebrew Scriptures are bristling with this combination, which may indicate that Genesis 1:16 is also such an important passage.
There are eighteen words in the Hebrew. Twenty-nine in the Greek.
The Greek Septuagint includes “kai” (and) in the last phrase, supporting the reading “[Aloahiym] made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night with the stars.”, making the lesser light a separate entity from the stars, and specifically the stars of the mazzaroth, or “path of life”–the constellations along the route it travels.
This is supported by the following versions:
Brenton: “Gen 1:16 And [Aloahiym] made the two great lights, the greater light for regulating the day and the lesser light for regulating the night, the stars also.”
French Darby: “Gen 1:16 Et [Aloahiym] fit les deux grands luminaires, le grand luminaire pour dominer sur le jour, et le petit luminaire pour dominer sur la nuit; et les étoiles.”
GEB: “Gen 1:16 Und [Aloahiym] machte die zwei großen Lichter: das große Licht zur Beherrschung des Tages, und das kleine Licht zur Beherrschung der Nacht, und die Sterne.”
Geneva: “Gen 1:16 [Aloahiym] then made two great lightes: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesse light to rule the night: he made also the starres.”
Jewish Publication Society Bible: “Gen 1:16 And [Aloahiym] made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars.”
Spanish Reina Valera: “Gen 1:16 E hizoH6213 [Aloahiym]H430 las dosH8147 grandesH1419 lumbrerasH3974; la lumbreraH3974 mayorH1419 para que señoreaseH4475 en el díaH3117, y la lumbreraH3974 menorH6996 para que señoreaseH4475 en la nocheH3915: hizo también las estrellasH3556.”
Latin Vulgate: “Gen 1:16 fecitque [Aloahiym] duo magna luminaria luminare maius ut praeesset diei et luminare minus ut praeesset nocti et stellas.”
Young’s Literal Translation: “Gen 1:16 And [Aloahiym] maketh the two great luminaries, the great luminary for the rule of the day, and the small luminary–and the stars–for the rule of the night;”
There seems to be consistent agreement between all versions, with the KJV among them. This is not to be taken for granted, so where is the problem? Well, the foundation of a thing is the key to the stability and veracity of it.
So either there is a plot—that “and” has been added everywhere, even in the KJV; or there is a mistake—the number for that “and” was omitted from the KJV but the underlying Hebrew supports it. Around these two possibilities hinge the whole question and the identity of the lights given to guide us.
A recheck of the Hebrew shows that while the word H853 occurs four times in the verse, the number appears in the KJV+ ( KJV with Strong’s numbers) only twice.
While H853 is generally not translated “and”, it can be translated, and if it were not rendered as “and”, then the reading should be “[Aloahiym] made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night, namely the stars.”
But caution against this rendering is advised for the following reasons:
If the stars were intended to be the lesser light, why are only they named, and not the greater light?
If the combined stars are one of the “great lights”, then how can the moon’s glow so readily outshine them?
A casual acquaintance with Astronomy will verify that there is a definite pattern of collaboration between the moon and the constellations of the zodiac, or stars in the“path of life”.
It seems faithful to observation, logic, and Scripture to accept the reference to the stars as a qualifier indicating how the lesser of the great lights operates: in conjunction with the constellations of the mazzaroth, or “zodiac”.
Confirmation for this position is supplied by Psalm 136:8-9 “The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever: The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
And seconded by Jeremiah 31:35 “Thus saith [Yahuwah], which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; [Yahuwah] of hosts is his name:”
“Ordinances” in the above passage is translated “commandment” elsewhere and is interchangeable with several similar Hebrew terms. As indicated in Genesis 1:14, these “ordinances” are contributed or shared among all of the lights working together, and govern a wide variety of elements relating to life on earth.
Conclusion: While the translation of Hebrew has some nuances that are more challenging than some other more modern languages, the translation and comprehension of the message of this verse is facilitated by corroborating verses expressing the same idea elsewhere in Scripture.
Clearly the moon is treated as a light in its own regard throughout Scripture, and it is understood as one of the great lights by Moshe, David, Jeremiah, and presumably all believers of Scriptural time-periods.
The broad duties of indicating “signs, seasons, days, and years” falls to the combined functions of the sun, moon, and stars. Why they are not so named in Genesis one is a question we can struggle with until further insight dawns. But they are clearly all meant when we take the whole testimony of Scripture. Which is how we are told to study.