Did God Name the Sun?

  • Brian Overholtzer
Sun rays shining through the clouds

In Genesis 1, God creates, and He names. God names the light, day, sky, the earth, and the seas but not the sun or the moon. Why does God delay? Is He contemplating the right name for His creation? God did not name the sun or the moon because He knew people would worship them instead of Him. In Genesis 1:14 – 19, instead of giving names to the sun and the moon, God brings attention to His own name by highlighting His complete sovereignty, superiority, and Satisfaction over His creation. 

When Moses penned Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy), he wrote to an audience whose history was filled with a certain tragedy: misunderstanding God. The nation of Israel was enslaved under Egypt and was subject to their cultural influences. During this time, Israel’s understanding of God became tainted. One of Israel’s blunders was an erroneous understanding of the God of creation. Since the Egyptians worshiped the sun, believing it to be synonymous with it, Israel blended their understanding of creation with that of the surrounding culture. Inevitably, the nation lost sight of who God was, what He had done, and the implications it had for their relationship with God. The anti-God culture had successfully reverted truth into a lie. For this reason, God raises up Moses to proclaim His Word to explain a proper understanding of God.  

God’s Complete Sovereignty 

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth” (Gen 1:14-15).  

Three times God says some form of, “let there be.” Each of these “let there be” statements are commands. First, He commands that certain “lights” come into existence. Throughout chapter 1, God speaks creation into existence. God’s total sovereignty resonates with each command as He creates things of nothing (ex nihilo) by His mere words. Evolutionary theories interjected into Genesis have at a minimum two grave impacts on God’s reputation. For one, they undermine that God’s Word clearly says He spoke creation into existence. Second, they conceal the purpose for which God was describing the creation account in the first place. God was using Moses to teach Israel how He is the only God of the universe and that only He is to be worshiped. Moses wasn’t giving Israel a history lesson for the sake of history; he was giving them a history lesson for the sake of worship! Genesis 1 is about worship. If you don’t understand who the God of creation is, who can’t worship Him properly. God’s sovereignty over the heavenlies continues to be seen as the second “let there be” command designates the function of these luminaries and the third “let there be command” defines their purpose.            

Complete Superiority

And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness (Gen 1:16-17)

Central in the passage of Scripture stands God’s purpose to declare Himself preeminent over all creation. God is not on the same level as His creation. He is transcendent. Nothing or person compares to Him. He is categorically other. So, when He created the sun and moon, two brilliant luminaries providing light on the Earth and for the people of the Earth, God did not give them names so that people would not get the two confused. The big, brilliant ball of light in the sky is nothing in comparison to the creator God of the universe who speaks creation into existence. The sun did not get a name.  

Note how God simply describes the sun and the moon as “two great lights” and describes what He has designed them to do, “the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night.” The sun is only great in that it is a greater light than the moon. When we think of the terms “sun” and “moon”, we are thinking of names that mankind gave to these luminaries. God didn’t give them names, because He wants us to know that He has complete superiority over everything. The sun and the moon are impressive. For this reason, man has been tempted to be more impressed with them than with the creator or to be as impressed with them as with God. Both are idolatry. God’s Word establishes His utter supremacy over creation from Genesis to Revelation and from creation to new creation. Consider how God especially draws attention to His superlative self-sufficiency in the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the lamb” (Rev 21:23). 

Complete Satisfaction

And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day (1:18). 

Everything about creation was perfect and complete. Our exposure to the word “good,” to the trivial matters of life waters down the significance of God’s creative work here. Here, “good” refers to God’s complete satisfaction with His work of creation. Note that I am including not only His satisfaction in what He created but also His satisfaction How He created them. God is satisfied with what He has created and how He has created them. In creating the luminaries by His Word, He is displayed as completely sovereign. This satisfies God completely. In not giving the sun or the moon a name to bring attention to Himself, He is displayed as completely superior to everything. God is satisfied by this completely. 

You might be thinking, “So God did not give the sun a name, how can that possibly be applicable in 2021?” Great question. First, let’s consider the mission field, and second the culture. One of the many difficulties faced by missionaries is the deep roots of syncretism between Christianity and various elements of religion originating from the history embedded in local culture. As someone with a heart for the souls in the Alaskan villages, this is a problem that pains my heart. Like a root planted deep into the earth underneath a massive tree, how can an errant world view as deep as this be plucked out of from their minds? We can’t answer this question unless we first realize that we are not trying to solve anything novel. The problem faced in the mission field is the same problem that threatens our understanding of God in our very own culture, and it is the same problem that Moses addressed when he penned Genesis 1. The problem is that human culture naturally gets God wrong because it cannot know Him, this is why we need God’s authoritative, inerrant and sufficient Word. 

Note how we live in a culture similar to that of Israel when they heard Genesis 1 read to them by Moses. While they came out of a background of bondage to Egypt and needed having their worldview corrected by Scripture, we too come out of bondage from the sin that continually distorts the truth of who God is. Scripture was given to completely tear down what man thinks about God because what man thinks about God is corrupted by a heart that deceitful and wicked above all things (Jer 17:9). Whenever people try to understand God, either on their own or as a joint effort with God, idolatry, and syncretism are not far away. Indigenous peoples located in villages are more prone to be influenced by a world view that worships the elements because people have no hope of understanding God without Scripture. This is why villages need biblical churches with qualified pastors who feed their sheep with the regular preaching of God’s Word. As Israel needed a preacher to correct their understanding of God from a satanic culture, so we need preachers to proclaim to us who God is from His Word. We do not need and must be wary of the culture that tries to define who God is and how He is relevant. American politics are trying to redefine God. From BLM, social justice, CRT on one side to boogaloo’s and the like on the other side wanting to take the nation back in the name of the Bible, the culture around us wants to redefine who God is and what He is about.  

How do we answer back to such an overwhelming force? Just remember that God did not name the sun. He didn’t name the sun because he was correcting what the culture that about Him. This true knowledge of God only comes from His Word. Every culture needs preachers to explain to them what God’s Word says. While there are many cultures, there is only one name by which men can be saved, that is Christ the Lord.