Why did God take six "days"
(to create the universe, all life and the earth)
Chapter 5 of the book titled:
The Answers Book
by Ken Ham, Dr. Carl Wieland and Dr. Andrew A. Snelling
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There is a widespread belief, even in many Christian circles, that the "days" of Genesis are not normal 24-hour days. However, a careful study of scriptures using well accepted methods of interpretation leads us to the clear conclusion that God went out of his way to demonstrate to us that he meant for us to interpret the six "days" of creation as actual 24-hour days, with no gaps in between them. Chapter 5 (in the most recent version of this book it's chapter 2) of the book titled The Answers Book does a good job of arguing this from a Bible interpretation perspective. There are other materials that expand on the topic even more. We wish to express our gratitude to Answers in Genesis Ministries Group (AiG) for allowing us to publish the entire chapter on our web site. We encourage all Christians to purchase a copy of the book because we have found it to be a very useful witnessing tool.
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Why did God Take Six Days?
When one takes up a Bible, reads Genesis, Chapter 1, and takes it at face value, it seems to say that God created the world, the universe, and everything in them in six ordinary (approximately 24-hour) days. However, there is a view in our churches that has become prevalent over the years, that these days could have been thousands, millions, or even billions of years in duration. Does it really matter what length these days were, anyway? Is it possible to determine whether or not they were ordinary days, or in fact long periods of time?
Why "Long days"?
The main reason why many try to make the days into long periods is to find a way to harmonize the creation account with the idea that there was a succession of vast geological ages before man appeared.
But if one accepts these ages as being real, then one is accepting that interpretation of the fossil record which (1) denies a world-wide flood (since such a flood would have wiped out all traces of such preceding ages), and (2) insists that there were many creatures which lived, struggled, and held out long before man appeared on the scene. This, of course, seriously undermines the whole New Testament/Gospel emphasis relating to sin, death, bloodshed, redemption, and the curse. (1)
Put simply any attempt to harmonize long geological ages will Genesis (Gap Theory, day-age theory, progressive creation, etc.) inevitably means accepting that before man, rather than the New Testament insistence that the struggle, suffering, and bloodshed of the present world came about after Adam sinned. That these attempts to compromise are artificial, and not true to the text can be seen by the following quotation from Dr. James Barr] (Regius professor of Hebrew, at Oxford University).
So far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew for Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience, (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to latter stages in the biblical story, (c) knows the flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguished all human and animal life except for those in the ark." (2)
Note that experts are not saying they believe the account; they are just dealing honestly with what it actually says, with the realities of the language.
What is a "Day"?
The word for "day" in Genesis one is the Hebrew word yom. It can mean either a day (in the ordinary 24-our sense), the daylight portion (say about 12 hours) of an ordinary 24-hour day (i.e., day as distinct from night), or, occasionally, an indefinite period of time (e.g.. "In the time of the Judges" or "In the day of the Lord"). Without exception, in the Hebrew Old Testament the word yom is never used to refer to a definite long period of time with specific beginning and end points. Furthermore, it is important to note that even when the word yom is used in the indefinite sense, it is clearly indicated by the context that the literal meaning of the word day is not intended.
Some people say that the word day in Genesis may have been used symbolically, and so we are not meant to take it literally. However, an important point that many fail to consider is that a word can never be used symbolically the first time it is used! In fact, a word can be used symbolically only when it first has a literal meaning. In the New Testament we are told that Jesus is the "door." We know what this means, because we know the word door means an entrance. Because we understand its literal meaning, it is able to be applied in a symbolic sense to Jesus Christ. The word door could not be used in this way unless it first had the literal meaning we understand it to have. Thus, the word day cannot be used symbolically the first time it is used in the book of Genesis.
Indeed, this is why the author of Genesis has gone to great lengths to properly define the word day the first time it appears. In Genesis 1:4, we read that God separated the "light from the darkness." Then in Genesis 1:5 we read, God called the light day, and the darkness he called night. In other words, the terms were being very carefully defined. The first time the word day is used, it is defined as the light to distinguish it from the darkness called night. Genesis 1:5 then finishes off with, "And the evening and the morning were the first day." This is the same phrase used for each of the other five days, and shows that there was a clearly established cycle of days and nights (i.e., periods of light and periods of darkness). The periods of light on each of the six days were when God did his work, and the periods of darkness were when God did no creative work.
A day and the sun
But how could there be a day and night if the Sun weren't in existence? After all, it is clear from Genesis 1 that the Sun was not created until the fourth day. Genesis 1:3 tells us that God created light on the first day, and the phrase "evening and morning" shows their were alternating periods of light and darkness. Therefore, light was in existence, being directed from one stationary source upon a rotating Earth, resulting in the day and night cycle. However, we are not told exactly where this light came from. The word for light in Genesis 1:3 means that the substance of light was created. Then, in Genesis 1:14-19, we are told of the creation on the fourth day of the sun which was to be the source of light from that time onwards.
The sun was created to rule the day that already existed. The day stayed the same. It merely had a new light source. The first three days of creation (before the sun) were the same type of days as the three days with the sun.
One of the possible reasons God deliberately left the creation of the sun until the fourth day is because he knew that, down through the ages, cultures would try to worship the sun as the source of life. Not only this, modern-day theories tell us that the sun came before the earth. God is showing us he made the earth and light to start with, that he can sustain it with its day and night cycle, and that the sun was created on the fourth day as a tool of his to be the bearer of light from that time.
Probably one of the major reasons people have tended not to take the days of Genesis as ordinary days, is because they have believed scientists have proved the earth to be billions of years old. But this is not true. There is no absolute age-dating method to determine exactly how old the earth is. Besides, there is a lot of evidence consistent with a belief in a young age for the earth, perhaps only thousands of years. (3)
Why six days?
God is an infinite being. This means he has infinite power, infinite knowledge, infinite wisdom, etc. Obviously, God could make anything he wanted to in no time at all. He could have created the whole universe, the earth, and all it contains in no time at all. Perhaps the question we should be asking is why did God take as long as six days, anyway? After all, six days is a long time for an infinite being to take to make anything! The answer can be found in Exodus 20:11.
Exodus 20 contains the ten commandments. It should be remembered that these commandments were written on stone by the very "Finger of God," for in Exodus we read, "And when he made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, he gave Moses two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God" (Exodus 31:18). The fourth commandment in verse nine of Chapter 20 tells us that we are to work six days and rested for one. The justification for this is given in verse 11, "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested the seven day. Therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and hallowed it." This is a direct reference to God's creation week in Genesis 1. To be consistent (and we must be), whatever is used as the meaning of the word day in Genesis 1 must also be used here. If you are going to say the word day means a long period of time in Genesis, then it has been already shown that the only way this can be is in the sense that the day is an indefinite or indeterminate period of time-not a definite period of time. Thus, the sense of Exodus 20:9-11 would have to be "Six indefinite periods shalt thou labor, and rest a seventh indefinite period"! This, however, makes no sense at all. By accepting the days as ordinary days, we understand that God is telling us that He worked for six ordinary days and rested for one ordinary day to set a pattern for man-the pattern of our 7-day week, which we still have today! In other words, here in Exodus 20 we learn the reason why God took as long as six days to make everything-he was setting a pattern for us to follow, a pattern we still follow today.
There are many inconsistencies for those who accept the days in Genesis as long periods of time. For instance, we are told in Genesis 1:26-28 that God made the first man (Adam) on the six day. Adam lived through the rest of the six day, through the seven day, and then we are told in Genesis 5:5 that he died when he was 930 years old. (We are still not in the seven day now, as some people misconstrue the account, for Genesis 2: to tells us God rested from his work of creation, not that he is resting from his work of creation.) If each day was, for example, a million years, then there are real problems. In fact, if each day was only a thousand years long, this still makes no sense of Adam's age at death, either!
A day is as a thousand years
But some refer to II Peter 3:8 which tells us, "With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
This verse is used by many to teach, by inference at least, that the days in Genesis must each be a thousand years long. This reasoning however, is quite wrong. Turning to Psalm 90:4, we read a very similar verse, "For a thousand years in your site are like yesterday when it is passed, and like a watch in the night."
In both II Peter 3 and Psalm 90, the whole context is that God is limited neither by natural processes or by time. God is outside time, for he also created time. Neither verse refers to the days of creation in Genesis, for they are dealing with God's not being bound by time. In II Peter 3, the context is in relation to Christ's second coming, pointing out the fact that with God a day is just like a thousand years or a thousand years is just like one day-that God is unaffected by time. This has nothing to do with the days of creation in Genesis!
Furthermore, in II Peter 3:8, the word day is being contrasted with a thousand years. The word day thus has a literal meaning which enables it to be contrasted with "a thousand years." It could not be contrasted with a thousand years if it didn't have a literal meaning. That is, the word day is not being defined here, but is being contrasted with the phrase "a thousand years." Thus, the thrust of the Apostles' message is that God can do in a very short time what men or nature would require a very long time (if ever) to accomplish. Evolutionists try to make out that the chance, random processes of nature required millions of years to produce man. Many Christians have accepted these millions of years, added them to the Bible, and then said that God took millions of years to make everything.
However, the point of II Peter3:8 is that God is not limited by time, whereas evolution requires time (and lots of it).
It is also important to note that in the section of II Peter preceding the statement "One day is as a thousand years," we are told that "... Scoffers will, in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, " where is the promise of his coming? For since the father's fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation "" (II Peter3:34).
Thus, in the last days people are going to say that things have just gone on and on-just as the evolutionists say things have gone on and on for millions of years. These people do not believe that God intervenes in history. This statement-"All things continue as they were from the beginning of creation"-could really be defined as the modern-day concept of uniformitarianism. This is the view prevalent in geology today: that "The present is the key to the past" (i.e. this world has gone on and on for millions of years in the same way as we see things happening today). This is really the basis of modern evolutionary geology. Most modern-day geologists don't believe that God created the world thousands of years ago, but that it is a product of processes over millions of years. God told us quite clearly that he created everything in six days, and that he took this long to do it because of the particular purposes explained in Exodus 20.
Days and years
In Genesis 1:14 we read that God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night: and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years."
If the word "day" here is not a literal day, then the word "years" being used in the same verse would be meaningless!
Day and covenant
Turning to Jeremiah 33:25-26 we read, "Thus says the Lord: " if my covenant is not with day and night and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then will I cast away the descendants of Jacob and David my servant so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will cause their captives to return and will have mercy on them. ""
The Lord here is telling Jeremiah that he has a covenant with the day and the right which cannot be broken, because it is related to the promise to the descendants of David-and including the one who was promised to take the throne (Christ). This covenant between God and day and night began in Genesis 1, for God first defined day and night when he spoke them into existence. So if this covenant between the day and the night does not exist when God clearly says it does (i.e. if you don't take Genesis 12 literally means six ordinary days), then this promise given here through Jeremiah is invalid.
Finally, does it really matter whether we accept them as ordinary days or not? The answer is a most definite "Yes"! It is really a principal of how one approaches the Bible. For instance, if we don't accept them as ordinary days, then we have to ask the question, "What are they?" the answer is, "We don't know." If we approach the days in this way, logically it follows that we should then approach other passages of Genesis in the same way (i.e., be consistent). For instance, when it says God took dust and made Adam-what does this mean? If it does not mean what it says, then we don't know what it means! It is therefore important to take Genesis literally. Furthermore, it should be noted that you cannot interpret literally, for a literal interpretation this is a contradiction in terms. You either take it literally or you interpret it! It is important to realize we should take it literally unless it is obviously symbolic, and when it is so, the context will make it quite clear, or we will be told so in the text.
If a person accepts that we don't know what the word day means in Genesis, then can another person who says they are literal days be accused of being wrong? The answer is "No," because the person who accept them as ordinary days does know what they mean. Rather, it is the other person, who doesn't know what the days mean, who cannot accuse anyone of being wrong!
When people accept at face value what Genesis is teaching, and accept the days as ordinary days, they will have no problems in understanding what the rest of Genesis is all about.
"For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seven day. Therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:11).
1. See Ken Ham's book the Lie : Evolution, Master Books, San Diego (1987).
2. Prof. James Barr in a personal letter dated April 23rd, 1984 to David C. C Watson.
3. For a summary of the problems with dating methods and evidence for a young earth, see the publication Bone of Contention by Sylvia Baker, published by Creation Science Foundation Ltd., P. O. Box 302, Sunnybank, QLD. 4109, Australia, or obtainable in the U.S.A. from Institute for Creation Research, PO Box 2667, El Cajon, CA 92021. For a layman's summary of even more evidences, see "It's a young world after all," by Paul Ackerman, obtainable from Creation Science Foundation Ltd.
See also these links: Days of Creation - Technical Journal vol. 5 no. 1 Six days? Honestly! The days of creation: a semantic approach How long were the days of Genesis 1? The necessity for believing in six literal days 2 Peter 3:8 — ‘one day is like a thousand years’ A Summary of Evidence for Literal 24-hr Creation Days in Genesis 1.
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