Length of Creation Days
Are you confused by Genesis? Many people are, but hopefully this article will make Genesis clearer for you.
Many people reject the Bible altogether because they say it begins with a primitive creation story that’s superfluous now that science can explain how things began.
To add to the confusion, Christians disagree with each other when interpreting Genesis. Christians brought up to believe the old idea that the Bible teaches everything was made in 6 days of 24 hours frequently lose their faith when confronted with hard science at school or university.
However, consider the following:
- Genesis is written in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew word for “day” is “Yom”. Yom can also mean a longer period than 24 hours. The Hebrew words for “evening” and “morning” can also mean the beginning and ending of a longer period.
- We’re still in the “seventh day” of Genesis (Genesis 2:2) because the expression “Evening and morning” that closes each of the first six days, is not used to close the seventh day. Also, in Hebrews 4:4-11 we’re told that God rested from His work of creation – and those who believe will enter that rest. That means that the seventh day has already lasted thousands of years.
- In the fifth day it would take more than 24 hours for the birds to grow enough to fly, and for the sea creatures “to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas.”
- The first man had to do a huge number of things on the sixth day (Gen. 2:15-25). He wouldn’t have had enough time if it was only a 24 hour day.
- As God created time when He created the Universe – and is totally independent of time (Psa.90:4, 2 Pet.3:8, Heb.1:1-2) – there’s no way His creative acts can be limited to 24 hour days.
- For more in-depth studies of this topic – and additional reasons to believe that the Bible teaches long creation days – see the Further Reading section at the end of this article.
Long day creationists and short day creationists both believe the Bible is true, and they both believe that contemporary theories of evolution are inadequate as an explanation of life on earth.
Science and Scripture
If the Universe and the Bible have the same Author – and the Bible teaches that they do – we’d expect them to agree with each other, and this is exactly what we find.
Here’s a possible interpretation of Genesis chapters 1 and 2:
|Bible passage - Genesis 1||Explanation|
|1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.||This is the “Big Bang” about 13.8 billion years ago, when our Universe including time, space, radiation including light, and visible/dark matter were created. The earth appeared as a separate entity about 4.5 billion years ago.|
|2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.||The reference point from now on is the face of the deep – and the face of the waters.|
The darkness at the reference point is due to thick clouds over the water. This is the first evening.
DAY 13 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
The clouds become thinner, light filters through for the first time and is visible at the reference point. This is the first morning.
The light level varies due to planetary rotation – day and night.
6 Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters."
7 Thus God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
The clouds rise above the oceans forming the firmament (troposphere).
The water-cycle (rain) is established, making future plant life possible.
9 Then God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so.
10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth"; and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.
Plate tectonics and volcanic activity cause the wrinkling of the planet’s surface, allowing land to rise above the water level separating earth and sea.
Grass, herbs and fruit trees commence to grow.
The enormous complexity of even the “simplest” lifeforms argues against natural self-assembly.
Read: The First Living Cell
14 Then 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;
15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so.
16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.
17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth,
18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
The sun, moon and stars become visible from the reference point on the surface of the ocean as the clouds continue to become thinner and separate.
The structure of verse 16 indicates that it’s parenthetical – It tells us why God had created the sun and moon. The word “asa” Hebrew for “made” indicates completed action – but not when it occurred. The text does not demand the creation of the sun and moon on the fourth day.
20 Then God said, "Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens."
21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
22 And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth."
23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
It would take more than 24 hours for the birds to grow enough to fly, and for the sea creatures “to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas.”
24 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind"; and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
29 And God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.
30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food"; and it was so.
31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
The use of the plural form in verse 26 is an early indication of the tri-unity of God.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.
2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
The end of the seventh day, God’s day of rest, is not defined and has not yet occurred.
We are still in the seventh day and can enter that rest, see Hebrews 4:3-4.
This day is already thousands of years long.
In The Case for a Creator Lee Strobel, the author of the outstanding "The Case For ....." series of books, interviews a series of experts as he investigates scientific evidence that points towards God. You can visit his website at www.leestrobel.com
This in-depth study, Navigating Genesis by Christian astronomer Hugh Ross, is available from www.reasons.org along with other excellent material. It is a constructive and detailed integration of Genesis 1-11 with current scientific knowledge.
Lindsay Smith, October 2018