Genesis 1:14-18: “And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.”
At the end of each dayof the creation, we read the phrase “evening and morning, the first/second/third/fourth/fifth/or sixth day.” Today we think of day as being the full rotation of the earth. We measure it by the rising and setting of the sun. We know, of course, that the sun does not rise or set, but it appears to be doing so based on our view here from the earth. If there was no sun, we would still have the earth’s rotation. Rotation, not daylight, is the measure of a day. Moreover, before the sun was created on the 4th day, there was still a source of light. In Genesis 1:3, God said “Let there be light.” This was a physical light, not something metaphorical. We do not fully know where this source of light came from, but we do know light was there. Some say the source of light was from God himself because God is light (1 John 1:5). We do not need light to define the length of a day; we only need the earth’s rotation.
Genesis Chapter 1 is a chronological order of events, starting with the first day of creation and ending on the seventh day of creation. Each creative event is recorded for each of the days. Genesis Chapter 2 is a summary of Genesis Chapter 1, and although it mentions what was created, the goal of that chapter is not to show the specific order of creation, but to instead give a summary of the creation, and then spend the rest of the chapter focusing on the creation of Adam and Eve. The two chapters are not contradictory but complementary.
Before we begin, please read the article about the word “yom”.This is one of the Hebrew words for “day,” and it was the word used during the Creation week in Genesis Chapter 1. If you read through each day of the creation week, you will see that there are qualifying words to help determine the meaning of “yom.” For example, on the second day of creation, the text reads: “And there was evening and there was morning, the second day” (Gen 1:8). So when you have the word “day” accompanied by “evening,” “morning,” and an ordinal number (second), then this commands that the word mean a literal 24-hour period, just like we have today.
The word “day” occurs 2,031 times in the Old Testament, but why is it only questioned in Genesis? Was Jonah in the great fish for 3 days or 3 thousand years? Did Joshua march around Jericho for 7 days or 7,000 years?
There are twelve words in Hebrew that can mean “day,” but the word that was used when referring to the days in the Creation weekwas “yom.”
Ten of those twelve available words mean longer periods of time, but “yom,” when used in the context of Genesis, always means a literal 24-hour day. You can learn more about this word in the Strong’s Concordance (#3117). For more information, see the article “How long were the days in Genesis?”
The age of the Earth is important to know, and we can calculate the age by using the Bible. Generally speaking, from Adam to Abraham, there was a time span of about 2,000 years. From Abraham to Jesus, there was another 2,000 years. Finally, from Jesus’ birth to the present, we have another 2,000 years. Adding all of these times together equals to 6,000 years of Earth history (granted, this is not the exact age).
We know that there were 7 literal daysduring the week of Creation. If we count the genealogies in Genesis Chapters 5 and 11 along with other historical events from the Old Testament, we can calculate the age of the Earth to be between 6,000 and 10,000 years old. There are some discrepancies with ages based on different manuscripts, thus there is a 4,000 year range between the estimated age of the earth, but none of these discrepancies would ever allow for the age to be hundreds of thousands or millions of years old. Please see the following article for more information: “What are the problems with believing in millions of years?”
This question can be answered by going back to the original language that Genesis was written in: Hebrew. The Hebrew word for “day” in Genesis Chapter 1 is “yom” (Strong’s #3117). We know that in English, day can have multiple meanings even in the same sentence. For example “Back in my father’s day, it took 12 days to cross the country in a day.” Each “day” means a different time frame that we can understand from the context. So let’s apply that to Genesis using the Strong’s concordance. When “yom” is used in Genesis to describe each day, it is used along with the phrase “evening and morning” along with an ordinal number (1, 2, 3, etc.). Adding these three qualifiers to the word “yom” insists that it means a literal, 24-hour day. This is what we find in Genesis chapter 1. So we can conclude that God created the world and everything in it in six 24 hours days, and rested on the seventh. God could have done it in six minutes, six years, or in one second, but what we have written is six literal days.
The word “yom” is used 2301 times in the Old Testament. Outside of Genesis, “yom” is used with an ordinal number 410 times. The phrase “evening and morning” is used with “yom” 38 times. “Yom” plus either “evening” or “morning” is used 23 times. “Yom” plus the word “night” is used 52 times. Every time “yom” is used as mentioned above, it always implies a literal, 24-hour day.
Why is it that Genesis is questioned so much about the length of a day? Why not question how long Jonah was in the great fish? Was he in there for 3 days or 3 thousand years? How many days did Joshua march around Jericho? Seven days or seven thousand years? It doesn’t make sense any other way. Some in the church try to interpret the “day” as a long period of time, and by doing so allowing time for evolution to take place and thus agree with secular science that claims the world is billions of years old. This simply cannot be done when you apply the word to the context. Context is very important when interpreting Scripture, a child’s book, or the newspaper.
Take this time to thank God for clearly telling us in His Word how this world and everything in it came to be. It all starts with Genesis.
Restoring the Authority of the Bible, Starting with the very first Book