Why isn’t the sun mentioned until the fourth day of creation week, especially since God said, “Let there be light” on the first day? Is this a contradiction?
Comparing what happened on the first day of creation (“let there be light”) and the fourth day of creation (“let there be lights”) leads some people to conclude that the Bible must be wrong. How could there be day and night on the earth before God “made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night” (Genesis 1:16)?
Of course, this concern fails to take into account God’s power. God could certainly have provided the light for the first three days of creation just as He will in the distant future when there will be “no need of the sun or of the moon” (Revelation 21:23).
Another look at what happened on Day 4
However, other biblical evidence suggests a different explanation for the light on the earth between Day 1 and Day 4 of the creation week: God could have created the sun and other heavenly bodies before Day 4, but “set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth” (Genesis 1:17) on Day 4 itself.
Proverbs 8 provides hints to this effect. This section of Scripture gives a parallel account of creation from a different viewpoint—that of Wisdom personified. After explaining in verse 23 that she was with God “from the beginning, before there was ever an earth,” Wisdom describes the establishment of clouds and fountains and limits for the sea in verses 28-29:
“When He established the clouds above, when He strengthened the fountains of the deep, when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth.”
When compared with Genesis 1:6-10, this is a clear depiction of Days 2 and 3 of creation.
Given this chronological order, we would expect the preceding verse to align with Day 1, when light appeared.
In fact, Proverbs 8:27 says, “When He prepared the heavens, I was there, when He drew a circle on the face of the deep.” What is this circle and what does it have to do with the creation week?
Job 26:10 gives a possible answer: “He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness.” In other words, the circle here is the line between light and darkness—day and night—that circumnavigates the globe. When God “drew a circle on the face of the deep,” half of the earth’s surface was illuminated.
God “prepared the heavens”
The first part of Proverbs 8:27 gives more detail about Day 1 than is evident in Genesis. Before light shone on the water, God “prepared the heavens.” “Heavens” could refer to outer space or the atmosphere, and here the atmosphere seems more likely.
But if the command “let there be light” involved God “preparing” the atmosphere, why doesn’t Genesis mention this? Consider that Genesis 1 describes what we would have seen from earth’s surface, where God’s Spirit was hovering over the “face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The use of the terms “evening and morning” (clear time markers only on earth) confirms this frame of reference. From earth, the visible effect of preparing the atmosphere would be light.
The sun, moon and stars were clearly not visible from earth’s surface until Day 4. Why is this?In contrast, Proverbs 8 conveys a vaster, higher perspective, showing the reader both earth’s light and dark hemispheres at once. The scriptures harmonize in the idea that God prepared the atmosphere on the first day to allow light through.
Both Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8 show that the light that shone on the water on Day 1 was directional (it illuminated half of the planet) and earth rotated relative to its source (there were cycles of day and night). These patterns are consistent with light from the sun. Therefore it seems likely that God made the sun before Day 1.
Covering and uncovering the heavens
However, the sun, moon and stars were clearly not visible from earth’s surface until Day 4. Why is this?
Several scriptures demonstrate that the light of these heavenly bodies can be hidden from observers’ view.
For example, in Ezekiel 32:7-8, God describes “covering the heavens” in a process that sounds like the reverse of His actions during the creation week: “When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, and bring darkness upon your land” (see also Isaiah 13:10; Joel 3:15; Amos 5:8; Matthew 24:29; Revelation 8:12).
The Bible shows that God can make the heavenly bodies appear and disappear by supernaturally altering the atmosphere.
Putting the sun “in the sky”
In the description of Day 4, God tells us He “set [the sun, moon and stars] in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth” (Genesis 1:17). The word “firmament” is mentioned three times in the description of the fourth day. “The firmament” clearly had something to do with earth’s atmosphere, since it involves water (verse 6) and it is called “heaven” (verse 8).
In modern terms, we could say God “put the sun in the sky.” This paraphrase makes the earth-bound frame of reference clear. Of course, our local star is not technically in the blue sky (or firmament). However, an observer on earth rarely refers to “the sun” in the sense of the huge star millions of miles away. Usually we mean the small, bright circle we see “in the sky” in daytime. On the other hand, we say there is “no sun in the sky” if the sky is overcast, even though the sun and its effects are actually present.
Similarly, the repeated use of “the firmament” in Genesis 1:14-19 shows that the visible sun is what is meant here. Making the sun, moon and stars apparent in the firmament is consistent with God’s stated purpose, that they should be “for signs and seasons, and for days and years” (verse 14). One reason God wanted humans to note what was going on in the solar system is so we could develop a calendar, by which we can properly observe His annual festivals.
The fact that an observer on earth could see stars right away also strongly suggests that God created them long before the creation week. Besides our sun, the nearest star to earth is just over four light-years away, and most are much farther. This means that it would take years for the light of the closest stars to reach earth.
Of course, God could have suspended the laws of physics during creation, but the weight of scriptural and physical evidence indicates that God made light, the sun, the moon and the stars before Day 1 of creation. During the creation week He made them visible from earth.
For more information on what happened between God’s creation of “the heavens and the earth” in Genesis 1:1 and the creation week, see our articles on “The Gap Theory” and “How Long Were the ‘Days’ in Genesis 1?”