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Light—God’s Redeeming “Or”—Or

December 10, 2007

by: Teri Riddering, Coordinator, BFP Spanish Resource Center

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The Hebrew word for light is אור (pronounced “or”). The light is an essential characteristic of His very nature. There was light inside of Himself, and He exteriorized it in order to share it with His creation. It existed even before God defined the atomic weights of chemical elements and established the law of gravity.

God also created the sun, moon, and stars, yet the Bible distinguishes between or, the primary light, and the created luminaries of heaven. God’s or had all the necessary qualities to provide and sustain the vegetation that He created on the third day. It was later, on the fourth day, that He made the sun, moon, and stars. The Hebrew term מאור (ma’or, “lights”) is used in Genesis 1:14–19, implying that the luminaries of the day and night are secondary lights. Ma’or is also used when referring to the light of the lampstand, or menorah, in the Tabernacle (Exod. 35:14).

God challenged Job with a question about light: “Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?” (Job 38:19–20, NASB). Only God knows where light and darkness reside, since He created them both: “I create both light and darkness; I bring both blessing and disaster. I, the LORD, do all these things” (Isa. 45:7, Good News Bible).

The Scriptures equate God’s Law (Torah) and commandments (mitzvot) with His or: “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching [Torah] is light…” (Prov. 6:23a, NASB). Those who do not walk according to His ways are described as being rebellious to the light: “They are of those who rebel against the light; they know not His ways, nor stay in His paths” (Job 24:13, MKJV).

The Light of Messiah
Furthermore, the primary light has long been associated with the Messiah (Mashiach), connecting the Spirit of Mashiach and the Spirit of the Eternal ever since the beginning of creation. The midrash (rabbinic commentary) Bereshit Rabbah 2:4 says that Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish actually teaches: “And Elohim’s Spirit rested…[Gen. 1:2], referring to Mashiach’s spirit which was moving over the surface of the waters.”

Yalkut Shimoni, a commentary on Isaiah 60, identifies the Mashiach even before the creation: “This is Mashiach’s light…in order to teach you that the Eternal saw Mashiach’s generation and his avodah (service) before creation and hid him away…under his throne of glory. Satan asked him: ‘Lord of the universe: This light that is under your throne of glory, who is it for?’ The Eternal answered: ‘It is reserved for he that will crush you.’”

Two other commentaries, Pesikhta Rabbati 62,1 and Yalkut Shimoni 56, state respectively: “Which is the light that comes down over the congregation of the Eternal? It is Messiah’s light,” and “This light is Messiah, as it is written: ‘In your light we see light’ [Ps. 36:9b].”

We can conclude from these commentaries that God’s light was the Messiah Himself and that a plan of redemption for His people was part of God’s plan from creation.

The Light of Hanukkah
Light, of course, is associated with Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication), which is celebrated this year from December 4 to 12. It is also called the Festival of Lights or Hag HaUrim (urim being the plural of ur, which refers to light from a secondary source, such as a candle). The holiday marks God’s redemption of the Jewish people from the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 BC. On the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Connecting that day to the beginning of light in the creation account, Jewish people note that if you count from Genesis 1:1, the word or is the 25th word in the Torah!

“Or” and the Future Redemption
It is also possible to relate or with the future redemption. The prophet Isaiah predicted that in the future, the sun and the moon will not be needed, because the Lord and the Mashiach will shine upon His people as an everlasting light: “No longer will the sun be your light by day or the moon be your light by night; I, the LORD, will be your eternal light; the light of my glory will shine on you” (Isa. 60:19, Good News Bible). God’s redeeming or is eternal!

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