Sun, Light, and the Son
During the closing days of a long, cold winter the warmth of the sun brings hope for a “bright tomorrow.” The worldwide presence of the sun has occasioned many symbolic values in different cultures such as warmth, brightness, and equity as well as outright worship. Indeed, sun worship was a well-attested practice in many parts of the ancient world. As Scott points out, “Evidences of such worship are seen in many cultures including India, Greece, the Mayas and Incas of Central and South America.1 In Greek mythology the sun god Helios was viewed as driving a horse drawn solar chariot across the sky each day. In later times Helios became associated with Apollo who was considered, among many other things, to be a god of light, justice, order, beauty, and the arts. Apollo was often consulted as a god of oracles at Delphi, which is still a popular tourist attraction. Although he was a god of justice, Apollo was also one who could bring cleansing and healing to the guilty person.
In ancient Egypt the sun god was even more crucial to life. The sun god was worshiped under different names in various places such as Atum, Horus or Amun, but especially as Re with whom other solar deities became amalgamated. The ancient sun god Re was considered to be the author, creator, and sustainer of life as well as being the god of the royal afterlife and a god of justice. As legend has it, having risen in the east Re sailed across the sky during the day in his barque and then boarding another barque was towed though the underworld until arising the next day. It was he who was viewed as the head of the all-powerful Ennead or nine great gods, which represented the elemental forces of life. Perhaps the most well-known writing commemorating one of Egypt’s sun gods is the Great Hymn to the Aten (or Aton), which many have (erroneously) linked to Psalm 104. Note, for example, the following:
O living Aten, creator of life!
. . . . . . .
You are beauteous, great, radiant,
High over every land;
Your rays embrace the lands,
To the limit of all that you made,
Being Re, you reach the limits,
You bend them <for> the son whom you love;
Though you are far, your rays are on earth,
Though one sees you,
Your strides are unseen.
How many are your deeds,
Though hidden from sight,
O sole God beside whom there is none!
You made the earth as you wished.2
The sun was also worshiped in the ancient Semitic world. In Mesopotamia the sun was viewed as the judge of heaven and earth, the protector of all (especially the poor and disadvantaged) and guide for living. The great law giver, traditionally known as Hammurabi (or perhaps better, Hammurapi) claimed that the supreme god, “Called me by name, Hammurabi, the reverent God-fearing prince, to make justice to appear in the land, to destroy the evil and the wicked that the strong might not oppress the weak, to rise indeed like Shamash over the dark-haired folk to give light to the land.”3 In west Semitic Ugarit the sun was named Shapash, a female deity. Among the non-Semitic Hittites, a male sun god was considered to be the god of right and justice, and the supreme god, while a sun goddess at Arinna, “was exalted as ‘Queen of the Land of Hatti, Queen of Heaven and Earth, mistress of the kings and queens of the Land of Hatti, directing the government of the King and Queen of Hatti.’”4
Although sun worship was strictly forbidden in ancient Israel (cf. Deut. 4:19; 17:3), imagery associated with the sun is instructive for the life of faith. In what follows we shall examine various facets of this imagery and contrast it with the worship of God as the sun’s creator as well as the themes of sun and light in relation to God’s Son, Jesus Christ.5
Biblical Imagery Associated with Life under the Sun
In the Scriptures the sun was often mentioned in connection with the common cycle of life and/or routines and activities of life (cf. Eccl. 1:3-5; 6:5; 12:2). In his praise of God the psalmist points out that the sun “sets according a regular schedule” (Ps. 104:19) so that when the sun rises the lions “sleep in their dens” (v. 22) and “men then go out to their work, and labor away until evening” (v. 23).6 Accordingly, Seow first points out the similarity of Qoheleth’s recurring phrase “under the sun” to the phrase “under the heavens” that “refers to the universality of human experiences everywhere in the world,” the distinction being that the former has to do with “the temporal universe of the living” while the latter has to do with a more spatial outlook.7 Of added importance is the fact that the sun is a key life giving and sustaining source. Therefore, seeing the sun” could indicate the fact of being alive (cf. Job 3:16; Ps. 58:8). More importantly, the sun could serve as a metaphor for God. Thus the psalmist declares that “The LORD God is a sun and shield. The LORD gives grace and glory; he does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity” (Ps. 84:11, HCSB). Just as living beings and things are energized by the sun (Eccl. 11:7), in a far greater way God is portrayed as the ultimate source and sustainer of life.8
The metaphor of the sun can be seen in both a positive and a negative fashion. On the one hand, it is a source of blessing. As applied to plant growth, the sun is a source that stimulates growth for a well watered plant (Job 8:16-17). As Clines observes, “Being well watered allows it to flourish in the sun and take advantage of its warmth rather than be withered by it;” Clines goes on to suggest that the full imagery of the well watered, sun blessed plant is here applied to the short lived success of the wicked.9 For our purposes, however, it is sufficient to note the sun is a source of blessing. This focus is thus in harmony with Jesus’ words that God “causes the sun to rise on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). Jeremiah (Jer. 31:35) likewise points out that the sunlight, which is so necessary for human life, owes its origin to God. It is one of God’s natural blessings for mankind.
The sun also appears in contexts carrying a negative force. In most cases it is the absence of sunshine that is described in connection with God’s judgment. Thus Joel prophesies that in connection with the coming Day of the Lord, “I will display wonders in the heavens and on earth; blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and inspiring Day of the LORD comes” (Joel 2:31, HCSB). In addition to the socio-political turmoil of that time, which will occasion God’s judgment, the Lord’s presence will be felt in the upheaval of the natural world. “It will be a time of great upheaval with turmoil and unprecedented warfare among the human populace (cf. 3:15; Ezek 38-39; Zeph 1:14-18; Zech 14:1-5) and cataclysmic (e.g., a solar eclipse, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes) in nature (cf. Rev 6:12-17).”10 Such phenomena reinforce the imagery of blood and smoke that so often speak of the awesome power of a holy God. So terrible will that day be that unless God were to intervene it is unlikely that any could survive.
Such texts indicate that he who created the sun (cf. Gen. 1:14-19 with Pss. 136:7-8; 148:5) and controls its course of action (Pss. 19:4-6; 74:16) can and at times does employ it in association with his will and purposes. Never to be forgotten is the miraculous ninth plague against Pharaoh and the Egyptians when “Moses extended his hand toward heaven, and there was absolute darkness throughout the land of Egypt for three days. No one could see another person, and no one could rise from his place for three days. But the Israelites had light in the places where they lived” (Exod. 10:22-23). I n describing conditions commensurate with Israel’s subsequent exodus from Egypt, Habakkuk says, “The sun and moon stand still in their courses” (Hab. 3:11). Not only in the future Day of the Lord, but in other cases God so ordered the heavens that the sun was darkened. In warning Israel of a coming judgment Joel describes the situation by warning, “The earth quakes before them, the sky reverberates. The sun and moon grow dark; the stars refuse to shine” (Joel 2:10). In an extraordinary case the Lord caused the sun and moon to stand still in accordance with Joshua’s command: “O sun, stand still over Gibeon! O moon, over the valley of Aijalon! The sun stood still and the moon stood motionless while the nation took vengeance on its enemies” (Josh. 10:12-13).11
It should be noted in passing that the absence of sunshine or darkness forms a common theme that is found throughout the Scriptures. It is used both literally and metaphorically.12 As such when darkness appears together with light, its opposite, the effect is to form a vivid contrast—one which becomes a familiar literary motif not only in the Scriptures, but in many places in the literature of the ancient Near East. It was especially prominent in the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls where humanity was perceived as being either sons of light or sons of darkness. This motif often depicts the alternatives in man’s condition before God: “Now this is the basis for judging; that the light has come into the world and people loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).
Granted the literary expressions concerning the sun in the ancient Near East, it is understandable that similar imagery with regard to the sun is found in the Old Testament in contexts dealing with ethical relations associated with justice. Thus when a just god-fearing ruler governs his people with honesty and equity, life can be compared to the pure enjoyment of to light at the dawning of day as well as to the life giving benefits of the sun or to the light that follows the clouds on a rainy day: “The one who rules fairly, the one who rules in the fear of God, is like to the light when the sun comes up, a morning in which there are no clouds. He is like the brightness after rain that produces grass from the earth” (2 Sam 23:3-4).13 “Such a ruler, says the Lord, is to be compared to three lovely experiences common to mankind everywhere: the early morning when light dawns, the warmth of the sun on a cloudless morning, and rain that enables grass to sprout even after a long drought (cf. Ps. 72:6).”14 Whenever such a king or ruler is found, his subjects likely will also fear God and keep his high standards; “People will fear you as long as the sun and moon remain in the sky, for generation after generation. He will descend like rain on the mown grass, like showers that drench the earth. During his days the godly will flourish; peace will prevail as long as the moon remains in the sky” (Ps. 72:5-7).
A companion thought relative to the benefits of the sun in relation to the ethical standards of justice, honesty, and equity is that of the twin themes of beauty and purity. Accordingly, it is said of the beloved Shulamith maiden, “Who is this who appears like the dawn? Beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awe-inspiring as the stars in procession?” (Song of Songs 6:10). The Hebrew word rendered “bright” in the NET (see text note) is also translated in the same way in several other English Bible editions (e.g., ESV, HCSB, NIV, NLT, NRSV). Those that compare the luminosity of the maiden’s appearance to the sun include the CEV (“blinding”) and the KJV and NKJV (“clear”). This Hebrew adjective can also be understood as “unique” or “chosen” (cf. LXX and the German Die Heilige Schrift), a rendering similar to that as the verbal root bārar rendered “favorite” in verse the previous verse in the NET.
The Hebrew adjective in question (bar, bārar) is most properly usually translated “pure.” Hamp unhesitatingly writes, “The Heb. adj. bār always means ‘pure’” and demonstrates his decision by testing it in several Old Testament examples.15 Hamps’ view seems to be a proper understanding in most cases in the Old Testament (e.g., Job 11:4; Pss.19:8. 24:4; 73:1). Accordingly, several Bible translations render this adjective as “pure” in Song of Solomon 6:10 (e.g., God’s Word, The French, La Sainte Bible, and the Italian La Sacra Bibbia). Nevertheless, some contexts appear to stress a more derived or complementary meaning.16 Thus in Proverbs 13:4 “clean” would appear to be suited to the context (so NET).17
I would suggest that perhaps the most suitable translation of the adjective in question in Song of Solomon 6:10 is “radiant” as found in the Revised English Bible (so also the Spanish Dios Habla Hoy, “radiante”) Such an understanding is multifunctional. On the one hand, it preserves the essential meaning “pure,” while on the other hand, it yields the sense that the maiden’s inner personal moral purity radiates outwardly through her external appearance. It further forms an interesting contextual play on words. Shulamith is a lovely and quite unique maiden whose character properly radiates not only in her outward beauty but in her conduct. It is thus scarcely surprising that she is very special to her mother (v. 9), for she is a genuine person.18
We have noted earlier the connection of the imagery of the sun as reflective of the normal course of life. In Ecclesiastes 12:2 the phase of life intended has to do with its closing period. As Longman points out, the darkening sun and the heavenly luminaries present “images evoking dread and sorrow in the light of encroaching old age and impending death.”19 The significance of the sun in Psalm 72:5 (see the earlier discussion on Psalm 72:5-7), however, points to the bright prospect of an unceasing continuance of life under the rule of a righteous king conditioned upon unreserved trust in God.20 As Leupold remarks, “We are here not dealing with terms that mark time with mathematical precision, but rather with the equivalent of eternity.”21 Indeed, God’s desire is that “all may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is no one but Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things” (Isa. 45:6-7, HCSB). Such will ultimately be a reality when in accordance with God’s eternal plan the Messiah, God’s righteous Son, will reign over a believing mankind on a refreshed and glorified earth (Rev. 11:15; 21:1-22:20).
The Sun and the Son
Metaphoric uses of the sun would be incomplete without seeing the epitome of its imagery in the coming of the Messiah, God’s Son. A key text for this understanding is found in Malachi 4:1-3). Having warned of the coming Day of the Lord when the wicked will face the fiery judgment of God (v. 1), God’s prophet goes on to good news. Malachi reports that for those who revere God’s name, “The sun of vindication will rise with healing in its wings” (v.2). The imagery here draws upon the sun as a source of life. As do other prophets, Malachi records God’s promise that here is truly a time coming when God’s righteousness and justice will hold sway. Similar predictions of judgment, justice, and hope had often been sounded in the earlier prophets. Many examples can be found such as in ninth century prophets Hosea (14:4-7) and Joel (3:9-21), the eighth century prophets Isaiah (e.g., Isa. 2:1-5; 24-27; 65:18-25) and Micah (4:1-5), the seventh century prophets Jeremiah (e.g., Jer. 31:31-40; 33:14-22) and Zephaniah (1:14-18; 3:9-20), the sixth century prophets Ezekiel (34: 20-31; 36:33-37:28, Daniel (12:1-3), and Zechariah (14:1-20).22
Many of these prophecies tell of the coming of Israel’s divine Messiah. Thus Isaiah foresees that in God’s eschatological future He will send his servant, “My chosen one in whom I take pleasure. I have placed my spirit on him; he will make just decrees for the nations (Isa. 42:1; cf. vv.2-9). Likewise Jeremiah reports God’s promise that,” a new time will certainly come when I will raise up for them a righteous branch, a descendant of David. He will rule over them with wisdom and understanding and will do what is just and right. Under his rule Judah will enjoy safety and Israel will live in security. This is the name he will go by:’ The LORD has provided us with justice’” (Jer. 23:5-6). Isaiah prophecies of the birth of this One (Isa. 9:20 and his eventual just rule:” He will rule on David’s throne and over David’s kingdom, establishing it and strengthening it by promoting justice and fairness from this time forward and forevermore” (v.7; cf. 11:1-5).
Indeed, it is through the Messiah that Malachi’s prophecy concerning the blessing for God’s people will ultimately be realized. To be sure, Malachi’s metaphoric language concerning the sun has primary reference to the righteousness that will prevail in that coming time. As Verhoef remarks, “On the Day of the Lord righteousness will become apparent just like the shining sun in all its brightness and blessedness.”23 Nevertheless, with that said, our study of the imagery associated with the sun metaphor is a reminder that the use of the sun to signify such things as justice, righteousness, and purity find their deeper source in God himself. It is he who controls the light and the sun and in whose person and character true holiness and righteousness exist. Moreover, as was pointed out earlier in our discussion, the psalmist, declares, “The Lord God is a sun and shield” (Ps. 84:11). Martin observes a possible parallel to the thought of God as the sun in the blessing given in Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord make his face to shine upon you.”24 Clendenen also admits the possibility of a veiled reference to Christ in Malachi 4:2. Although he finds the primary reference here to be to the righteousness, which will shine forth in the future, he says, “In the broader canonical context this text is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.”25
Kaiser adds further scholarly weight to the understanding that Malachi 4:2 refers to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, declaring unreservedly that the “sun of righteousness” refers to him as cited by the priest Zecharias, “who blended Malachi 4:2 and Isaiah 9:2 in the messianic situation of Luke 1:76-79.”26 Similar opinions were expressed by some of the early church fathers. Thus Ambrose wrote concerning the sun of righteousness in Malachi 4:2:
“Do not, therefore, without due consideration put your trust in the sun. . . . When you admire it, give consideration to its creator. . . . If the sun which the succession of the seasons advances or recedes is mighty, how mighty must he be also who ‘when he emptied himself’ that now that we might be able to see him who ‘was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world’” and Theodoret of Cyr wrote:
“This applies to the first coming of our Savior and the second: in the first he rose like a kind of sun for us who were seated in darkness and shadow, freed us from sin, gave us a share in righteousness, covered us with spiritual gifts like wings, and provided healing for our souls. In the second coming for those worn out in the present life he will appear either in accordance with their will or against it, and as a just judge will judge justly and provide the promised good things.”27
Commenting on the force of Zechariah’s song in Luke 1:78-79 Allison Trites says, “All of this divine activity was ultimately attributable to ‘God’s tender mercy’ (1:78) and the climax was to be the rising sun, ‘the light from heaven,’ a beautiful figure of the coming Messiah (cf. similar images of a star, light or sun in the OT: Num 24:17; Isa 9:2; 60:1; Mal 4:2).”28
Indeed, Luke 1:78-79 is filled with allusions to Old Testament texts relative to the coming Messiah, Christ Jesus. Particularly important is the presence of the Greek word anatelē (NET, “dawn”; see text note). Although this noun is used in Matthew 2:2 of the star that guided the magi, its most natural reference is to the sun, especially at its rising (e.g., Rev. 7:2; 16:12). Like its verbal root anatellō, it can be used when referring to the dawn or sunrise (Matt. 4:16). But in the Greek language both can also be used to designate the sprouting of a plant and was so employed in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX). Particularly relevant are those contexts in which the Messiah is called the Branch (Jer. 23:5-6; Zech. 3:8; 6:12). Such is the case in the well-known Messianic passage in Isaiah 11:1-9. Here Isaiah prophesies that, “A shoot will grow out of Jesse’s root stock, a bud will sprout from his roots” (v. 1). So also Kaiser suggests that the Greek word commonly translated “dawn” in Luke 1:78 is to be rendered “sunrise.” He goes on to add, “It would appear that the Hebrew verb ‘to sprout, or spring forth’ may have been simultaneously encompassed in this same Greek word.”29
The image of sunrise likewise forms a messianic theme. Thus Strauss writes, “The Messiah is called the ‘shoot’ from David’s line but is also identified as a light shining on those in darkness. The reference to shining here confirms that the latter sense is primary. In Isaiah 9:1-7 the light that shines on those in darkness heralds the birth of the child who will reign forever on the throne of David.”30 The importance of light imagery in relation to the Messiah should not be overlooked. Light imagery is frequently attested in Isaiah in connection with the eschatological scene (e.g., Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 60:1). Of particular interest is Isaiah 60:19-20: “The sun will no longer supply light for you by day, nor the moon’s brightness shine on you; the LORD will be your permanent source of light—the splendor of your God will shine upon you. Your sun will no longer set; your moon will not disappear; the LORD will be your permanent source of light; your time of sorrow will be over.” Oswalt comments on the implications of these verses, saying, “Vv. 1-3 represented the light of God, his glory, dawning in Jerusalem. Now the obvious conclusion, poetical speaking of these verses is drawn. . . . The Gospel of Luke makes clear that Jews of the lst century A.D. associated this light with the Messiah, who is the Sun of God’s righteousness (Luke 1:76-79; 2:32; cf. Mal. 3:19 [Eng. 4:2]), in John’s Gospel demonstrates the association of Jesus Christ with these promises (John 1:5, 9; 3:19; 8:12; 12:35-36).”31
It may be concluded that both images are relevant and to be kept in balance even though light may be the primary emphasis in Luke 1:78-79. Thus Pao and Schnabel observe, “Although this ‘light’ imagery may be prominent behind the word anatolē, in light of the strong Davidic messianic reference in the probable connections between ‘light/star’ and ‘branch’ imageries in early Christian traditions . . . one cannot rule out a secondary reference in the use of this word.”32
It is of particular significance that Jesus Christ is called the Light of the world (e.g., John 1:1-9; 3:19-20). Christ himself proclaimed, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12; cf. 9:5). It is important that mankind should revere him and follow him (John 12:46, 48). In so doing they will enjoy that which shall be the blessed state of life in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24).It should be noted as well that Malachi (4:2) speaks of the effect of the rising sun as having “healing wings.” This draws on the imagery of the sun as a source of life.
Looking at the full impact of Malachi 4:2 in light of all the above discussion with regard to Christ as the light, one may safely conclude with Kaiser, “As the sun sends forth its rays, . . . the long winter of suffering for the righteous will end with the refreshing, invigorating, and delivering appearance of the Son of God.”33 The Day of the Lord that will bring God’s judgment to bear against the wicked will emanate in his blessing and vindication of the righteous. So great will be the effect in those days that both sun and the moon will be darkened and the stellar luminaries, “will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven and all the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:29-31). The physical sun will give way to the Sun of Righteousness through whom judgment and eternal righteousness will be ushered in and in the course of events, a new heaven and earth will be established as well as a new Jerusalem. As to that blessed future John reports that, “Night will be no more,” and God’s redeemed servants will not “need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).
Walking in Son Light
We have noted that in the Scriptures the sun and light are usually differentiated. In essence, light is the more comprehensive term for many sources of its visibility (Ps. 136:6-8) including the sun (Gen. 1:16; Eccl. 11:7) and the refracting rays of the sun at dawn before the sun itself is visible (Prov. 4:18; Joel 2:2). Both the sun and light become symbolic of the righteous life. As noted above, the sun itself served as a symbol of justice, honesty, and purity (cf. Ps. 19:4-11). Therefore, it is not surprising that Jesus speaks of the sun in promising that one day “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father” (Matt. 13:43; cf. Dan. 12:3). Yet even during their earthly journey the righteous may experience the blessing of him who is likened to the sun (Ps. 84:11).
Sun and light become especially intertwined in God’s Son, the Messiah who is the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2) and the light of the world (John 1:4-9; 9:5) through whom all men may find salvation (Matt. 4:16; Luke 2:32) and live a righteous life (John 8:12; 12:36). Paul the apostle rightly declares, “For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Indeed, “Here is the link between creation and the new creation, between OT and NT, between the physical reality and the spiritual symbol.”34
In the New Testament light becomes a prominent symbol of the believer’s spiritual walk. Believers have been called out of spiritual darkness and have the high privilege and enjoyment of being children of light: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). In declaring this truth Peter alludes to God’s promise to obedient and faithful believers under the old covenant (Exod. 19:5-6). Peter then affirms that with the fulfillment of the old covenant in the new covenant all people may now enjoy this rich relationship with God (cf. 1 Pet. 2:10). No less than the Israelites, Christian believers are to reflect God’s attributes by living pure and holy lives (1 John 1:5-10).
Believers are thus so to live as to reflect the virtues associated with light, such as goodness, righteousness, and truth. They are to live so as to be pleasing to the Lord in whom (as we have seen) these very attributes are to be found (Eph. 5:8-10). These also include such matters as a concern for justice and the needs of the poor as well as love of fellow believers (cf. Isa. 58:7-9; 1 John 2:8-10). As believers live out their lives in a loving relationship with their Lord, they are to have the same concern for the salvation of all people as does the Lord and therefore, live so as to be a source of light for those in spiritual darkness (Acts 13:47). As Jesus proclaimed, “You are the light of the world; a city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp stand and it gives light to all in the house. So in the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).35 When all of the above is true, believers will enjoy a loving, intimate fellowship with the Lord.
Believers, therefore, should conduct themselves in such a manner as to “live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light” (Col. 1:10-12). As they live their lives as children of the light they know that whatever lies ahead, one day the Sun of Righteousness, the Light of the World, will come again. Because we are “sons of the light and sons of the day,” let us live in anticipation of that glorious day (1 Thess. 5:4-11).
May the words of the hymn writer continue to challenge each of us in our earthly walk in the Son light:
Son of my soul! Thy Savior dear,
It is not night if thou be near.
Oh, may no earth-born cloud arise
To hide Thee from thy servant’s eyes!
. . . . . . .
Be near to bless me when I wake,
Ere thro’ the world my way I take.
Abide with me till in Thy love
I lose myself in heaven above.36
1 J. B. Scott, “Sun Worship, in “The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible,” eds. Merrill C. Tenney and Steven Barabas; 5. Vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975) 5:242.
2 Miriam Lichtheim, “The Great Hymn to the Aten,” in The Context of Scripture, eds. W. W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, Jr; 3 vols. (Leiden: Brill,1997), 41,402). For proposed relations to Psalm 104, see John A. Wilson, “The Hymn to the Aton,” in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. James A Pritchard (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955), 369-71 and especially, R. J. Williams, “The Hymn to Aten, “ in Documents From Olde Testament Times, ed. D. Winton Thom0as (New York: Harper and Row, 1961), 142-50 who says, “The striking parallelism between this hymn and Ps.civ in the O.T. has frequently been pointed out” (148).
3 G. R. Driver and John C. Miles, The Bab0ylonian Laws; 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1960) 2:7.
4 O. R. Gurney, The Hittites (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1962), 139.
5 It is my hope that this study, like others that have appeared at on this site (e.g., articles relating to mountains, valleys, dew and rain, and various sources of water, as well as those published elsewhere such as ”The Imagery of Clouds in the Scriptures, Bibliotheca Sacra , 165 (2008): 13-27) will challenge us to be more conscious of the scriptural truths relative to the spiritual dimension in God’s blessings resident in the physical world around about us, which we too often ignore or take for granted.
6 Unless otherwise noted, all scriptural citations are taken from the NET.
7 Choon-Leong Seow, Ecclesiastes, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 105. Seow demonstrates his distinction of terms according to the usage of the phrase “under the sun” in several Semitic inscriptions across a wide spectrum of the ancient Near East.
8 For God as a shield, see the discussion in Richard D. Patterson, “The Believer’s Sure Hope: The Solid Rock,” (Bible.org, 2011).
9 David J. A. Clines, Job 1-20, Word Biblical Commentary, eds. David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker, and John D. W. Watts (Dallas: Word Books, 1989), 209. It should be noted that other interpretations suggests that Job 8:16-19 refers to the righteous rather than the wicked. For details see John E. Hartley, The Book of Job, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 162.
10 Richard D. Patterson and Andrew E. Hill, Minor Prophets, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2008), 134.
11 The absence of sunshine or the darkening of the sun is especially noteworthy in connection with God’s actions during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Luke 23:45), for there Jesus endured the judicial wrath of God as man’s vicarious substitute (Isa. 53:5; 2 Cor. 5:21).
12 See further Richard D. Patterson, “Deliverance from Darkness,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 8 (2004): 74-88. It should be recalled that when the crucifixion was completed, light returned. By way of spiritual application we may suggest that “because of Christ’s victory at the cross and his subsequent resurrection from the tomb, believers have been delivered from the ‘kingdom of darkness’ and its evil ruler and have been brought into ‘the kingdom of his dear Son’ (Col. 1:13)” (p. 81).
13 Although sun and light are linked together here and appear to speak of the benefits of sunlight, it should be pointed out that sun and light may not always exactly coterminous in the Bible. As Seow (353) suggests, “ The distinction between ‘light’ and ‘ sun’ is made in Genesis 1, where light is called ‘day’ and (Gen 1:4) and it existed before the luminaries of the sky were made ( Gen. 1:14-18.).” Seow is of the opinion that in 2 Sam 23:3-4, “The terms do not refer to the same thing.”
14 Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 & 2 Samuel, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, ed., D. J. Wiseman (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), 291. Robert D. Bergen (1, 2 Samuel, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996] , 466) remarks that when there is a king who rules righteously and in the fear of God, the text in 2 Samuel 23:3-4 “suggests that a ruler who rules according the Lord’s guidelines ushers in a new period of opportunity, growth, and blessing for his people.” In many ways the words concerning a righteous ruler and his blessed reign are reminiscent of texts prophesying the coming Messiah King promised in the Davidic Covenant (cf. Isa. 11:3-5). So true is this that Franz Delitzsch (Biblical Commentary on the Books of Samuel, eds. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, trans. James Martin [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956], 487) takes the words of 2 Samuel 23:3-4 to their extreme limit, declaring that the reference in verse four is to be separated from the message of verse three and must refer to the Messiah: “The ruler over men whom David sees in spirit, is not any one who rules righteously over men; nor is the seed of David to be regarded as a collective expression indicating a merely ideal personality, but according to the Chaldee rendering, the Messiah himself, the righteous Shoot whom the Lord would raise up to David (Jer xxiii, 5), and who would execute righteousness and judgment upon earth (Jer xxxiii, 15).”
15 Vinzenz Hamp,”bārar,” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, eds. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, trans. John T. Willis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 2:309.
16 See the Discussion in R. Averbeck, “bārar,” in New International Dictionary of Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren; 5 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 1:772-74.
17 See the discussion in Bruce K.. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs Chapters 15-31, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 576-77.
18 Such a twofold understanding of the imagery associated with the sun may well be applicable also to Daniel’s words concerning the future blessing of the wise/righteous person: “But the wise will shine like the brightness of the heavenly expanse. And those bringing many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3). See further, Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 319-20.
19 Tremper Longman III, The Book of Ecclesiastes, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 2:69.
20 See the discussion in Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, trans., Francis Bolten; 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 2:301-302.
21 H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), 518-19.
22 When predictions of judgment and hope are bound together and refer to the eschatological era, such prophecies may be termed, “kingdom oracles.” See further Richard D. Patterson, “Old Testament Prophecy,” in A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible, eds. Leland Ryken and Tremper Longman III (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 302-03.
23 Peter A. Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 328.
24 Ralph A. Smith, Micah-Malachi, Word Biblical Commentary, eds. David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker, and John D. W. Watts (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 329. Smith also adds, “Although the word ‘ sun’ does not appear in Ps. 139:9 and Isa. 60:1, the thought of Yahweh being like the sun is there.”
25 E. Ray Clendenen in Richard A. Taylor and E. Ray Clendenen, Haggtai, Malachi The New American Commentary, eds, E. Ray Clendenen and Kenneth A. Matthews (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2004), 451 n.
26 Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Malachi: God’s Unchanging Love (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 105.
27 The Twelve Prophets in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, eds. Alberto Ferreiro and Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 309, 311.
28 Allison A. Trites, “The Gospel of Luke, “in Allison A. Trites and William J. Larkin, The Gospel of Luke, Acts, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2006) , 51.
30 Mark L. Strauss, “Luke,” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, ed. Clinton E. Arnold; 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:337.
31 John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, ed. Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 557.
32 David W. Poe and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “ Luke,” in Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007, 265.
33 Kaiser, Malachi, p. 106.
34 “Light,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, eds. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1998), 512.-4.
35 For imagery associated with this light source, see John A. Beck, “Lamp,” Zondervan Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 152-54.
36 John Keble, “Sun of my Soul.”
Related Topics: Terms & Definitions