Over the years I have been asked on several occasions to explain why the Sun, Moon, and Stars were created on the 4th day, when one might have expected them to be created at the beginning. This has been worthy of a study on the Hebrew words for “created” and “made” in Genesis chapter 1. This is what I have found.
There are two Hebrew words used in Genesis 1, BARA, which means to create out of nothing. Scholars have used the expression ex nihilo to describe this, and it occurs in the first verse of Genesis. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The other word is ASAH, and this means “to do” something, and because the “doing” must be explained by the context, we find that in the AV, the translators have had to use no less than 59 English words or phrases. The most frequent words are “do” which occurs 1292 times, then “make”, 631 times, and “work” 79 times. But ASAH differs from BARA in this respect, that whereas BARA means to create ex nihilo, ASAH means to make something out of existing materials whenever the word is applied to making, or fashioning something. And this is the word that is used in the section relating to the Sun, Moon, and Stars in Genesis 1:14-19.
Already we have eliminated the concept of God “creating” the heavenly bodies on Day 4,otherwise He would have employed the word BARA. So what does it mean when the Bible uses ASAH, and the translators consistently use the word “made”? We have seen that ASAH has been translated in no less than 59 different ways, so what about investigating other occurrences to see whether they bring light to the subject.
ASAH is translated “prepare” 36 times. For example,
Ezek.46:15. (and many other times in this chapter) “they shall prepare the lamb”.
Numbers 15:8. “You shall prepare a bullock for a burnt offering”
Esther 5:4-5 “invited to the banquet which Esther has prepared.”
Isaiah 64:4. “eye has not seen . . . what God has prepared for those who wait for Him.”
ASAH is translated “bring forth/ brought forth” 10 times. For example,
Gen.41:47. “in the plentiful years the earth brought forth by handfuls.”
Lev.25:21. “it shall bring forth fruit for three years”.
Isaiah 5:2 “it brought forth wild grapes.”
ASAH is once translated “fashioned”, as follows,
Job 10:8. “His hands have made me and fashioned me.” This is interesting because of the connection with “made”.
ASAH is twice translated “appointed”, as follows,
Job 14:5. “You have appointed man his bounds”.
Psalm 104:19. “He appointed the Moon for seasons.”
So did God “prepare” the Sun, Moon, and Stars on Day 4? Or perhaps He “brought them forth” into visibility, or “fashioned them”. But I believe the true answer comes from Psalm 104:19, where the translators have employed the word “appointed”, instead of “made”, as it appears in Genesis 1. Isn’t this the answer? On day 4 God “appointed” the heavenly bodies for the purposes He declared in those verses, for light, seasons, days, years and signs. They had been “created” on Day 1, when we are told that God “created the heavens and the earth.”
Perhaps the dense cloud cover had dispersed by day 4, and then the heavenly bodies became visible for the first time to an observer on earth.
I hope this little study will have shed light on the enigma of Day 4.