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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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φως , is used in a physical sense, Matthew 17:2; Acts 9:3; Acts 12:7; 2 Corinthians 4:6; for a fire giving light, Mark 14:54; Luke 22:56; for a torch, candle, or lamp, Acts 16:29; and for the material light of heaven, as the sun, moon, or stars, Psalms 136:7; James 1:17 . Figuratively taken, it signifies a manifest or open state of things, Matthew 10:27; Luke 12:3; also prosperity, truth, and joy.

God is said to dwell in light inaccessible, 1 Timothy 6:16 . This seems to contain a reference to the glory and splendour which shone in the holy of holies, where Jehovah appeared in the luminous cloud above the mercy seat, and which none but the high priest, and he only once a year, was permitted to approach unto, Leviticus 16:2; Ezekiel 1:22; Ezekiel 1:26; Ezekiel 1:28; but this was typical of the glory of the celestial world. It signifies, also, instruction, both by doctrine and example, Matthew 5:16; John 5:35; or persons considered as giving such light, Matthew 5:14; Romans 2:19 . It is applied figuratively to Christ, the true Light, the Sun of Righteousness, who is that in the spiritual, which the material light is in the natural, world; who is the great Author, not only of illumination and knowledge, but of spiritual life, health, and joy to the souls of men.

The images of light and darkness, says Bishop Lowth, are commonly made use of in all languages to imply or denote prosperity and adversity, agreeably to the common sense and perception which all men have of the objects themselves. But the Hebrews employ those metaphors more frequently and with less variation than other people: indeed, they seldom refrain from them whenever the subject requires or will even admit of their introduction. These expressions, therefore, may be accounted among those forms of speech, which in the parabolic style are established and defined; since they exhibit the most noted and familiar images, and the application of them on this occasion is justified by an acknowledged analogy, and approved by constant and unvarying custom. In the use of images, so conspicuous and so familiar among the Hebrews, a degree of boldness is excusable. The Latins introduce them more sparingly, and therefore are more cautious in the application of them. But the Hebrews, upon a subject more sublime indeed, in itself, and illustrating it by an idea which was more habitual to them, more daringly exalt their strains, and give a loose rein to the spirit of poetry. They display, for instance, not the image of the spring, of Aurora, of the dreary night, but the sun and stars as rising with increased splendour in a new creation, or again involved in chaos and primeval darkness. Does the sacred bard promise to his people a renewal of the divine favour, and a recommencement of universal prosperity? In what magnificent colours does he depict it! Such, indeed, as no translation can illustrate, but such as none can obscure:—

"The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, And the light of the sun shall be sevenfold."

Isaiah 30:26 .

But even this is not sufficient:—

"No longer shalt thou have the sun for thy light by day; Nor by night shall the brightness of the moon enlighten thee:

For Jehovah shall be to thee an everlasting light, And thy God shall be thy glory.

Thy sun shall no more decline; Neither shall thy moon wane;

For Jehovah shall be thine everlasting light; And the days of thy mourning shall cease."

Isaiah 60:19-20 .

In another place he has admirably diversified the same sentiment:—

"And the moon shall be confounded, And the sun shall be ashamed;

For Jehovah, God of Hosts, shall reign

On Mount Sion, and in Jerusalem:

And before his ancients shall he be glorified."

Isaiah 24:25.

On the other hand, denouncing ruin against the proud king of Egypt:—

"And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heavens.

And the stars thereof will I make dark: I will involve the sun in a cloud,

Nor shall the moon give out her light.

All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, And I will set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord Jehovah."

Ezekiel 27:7-8 .

These expressions are bold and daring; but the imagery is well known, the use of it is common, the signification definite: they are therefore perspicuous, clear, and truly magnificent.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Light'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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