Quick Compelling Bible Study Vol. 48: The Meaning of Light in the Hebrew Bible

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Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here.

Today we begin a two-part study exploring the Meaning of Light in the Old Testament, and next week the New Testament.

First, a quick story. Back in the 1990s, a friend was into “New Age,” and angels — but I was unsure of what she really believed. However, she shared a “light blessing” with me that I cherish and have used ever since. When a loved one departs for a trip (or any reason), you imagine them being surrounded by glowing white light. The blessing only takes two seconds but is very powerful and comforting.

Why would you want to envelop someone you love in imaginary glowing light? What is the meaning of light? What is the basis for the blessing? Our search for answers starts “in the beginning.” 

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). As we studied in Vol. 46, this was God’s first direct quote. Its greater meaning is explained in my NIV Study Bible’s footnote and is worth quoting, “Light is necessary for making God’s creative works visible and life possible. In the Old Testament, it is also symbolic of life and blessing.” 

As the Old Testament progresses, the light He created comes to symbolize God’s Glory — all holiness, goodness, and the presence of God is associated with light. HE is light.  His being is light. Therefore, in the “light blessing,” when you envelop someone in light, you are asking God to bless and protect them through your belief in His power. A double blessing happens because you are also blessed by acknowledging His awesome power.

The following is a familiar prayer invoking God’s light often recited in Jewish synagogues. It is called “The Priestly Blessing” and scripture directly quotes God’s words. The prayer is recorded in Numbers, the fourth of the Five Books of Moses, also known in the Hebrew Bible as the Torah: 

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “ ‘ “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” ’ Numbers 6:22-26.

God’s words would have resonated with Moses and his brother Aaron (the first Jewish High Priest) because they witnessed how the Lord can “make his face shine on you.”

Here is what happened: After Moses was in God’s presence, the light reflected on his face was so intense that Moses was forced to wear a veil when speaking to the Israelites. Take a minute and read Exodus (34:29-35), but here are the highlights:

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him (Exodus 34: 29-30).

When Moses finished speaking to them, [Israelites] he put a veil over his face. 

But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. (Exodus 34:33-34)

Now let’s examine more Old Testament scriptures that shed light on the Divine meaning and power of light — especially when the Lord speaks, as he does in Isaiah Chapter 45:

I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things (Isaiah 45:6-7).

Earlier in the Book of Isaiah, the Lord speaks to the prophet about God’s redeeming glory through His light. Chapter 9 is subtitled: “To Us a Child is Born.” Perhaps that subtitle/verse sounds familiar? In 1741, George Frederick Handel wrote a classical music composition — a “smash hit” with numerous songs lifting lyrics from Isaiah Chapter 9 (and other Isaiah verses.) Here is an example of those “lyrics”:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2)  — and the “song” with those lyrics.

The theme “God as light” continues throughout Isaiah, as in Chapter 60 subtitled “The Glory of Zion.” Do you think the previous verse and the one that follows could be interpreted as Messianic prophecies heralding the coming of Jesus Christ? Hint: Handel named his musical composition the “Messiah,” but decide for yourself:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn (Isaiah 60:1-3).

Next, we read a verse from Psalm 18 that actively describes God’s light as a form of Divine energy combating despair:

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light (Psalm 18:28).

Followed by a familiar verse from Psalm 27 that personally associates light with the Lord’s being:  

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27-1).  (Note the link is to all of Psalm 27.) This entire Psalm provides comfort to anyone who needs uplifting, and the reason why today I write about the meaning of light. So many are suffering, and if that includes you — seek His Light in your heart, mind, and soul. He is the source of all power and love. Unleash His power by trusting in Him, and remember this passage, for it bears repeating: 

I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things (Isaiah 45:6-7).

Amen! And cue the famous chorus that won 1741’s “song of the year” — Hallelujah!

Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.