“Yôm” and The Creation Account of Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:4
The purpose of this article is solely to elucidate in more depth the reasons the author found for coming to an understanding that a creative day was a solar earth-day of 24 hours as described in the ongoing series “The Bible Book of Genesis – Geology, Archaeology and Theology”. It will also examine a number of questions that are raised regarding this understanding.
It should not be construed as anything more or anything less. As always, readers are free to come to their own conclusions. Indeed, all readers are actively encouraged to reason on the matters presented with their Bibles and then draw their own conclusions based on knowledge and evidence.
The author’s aim has only been in looking for the truth of what the Bible teaches and has no pre-set agenda. Rather the Bible account alone determines the understanding, not any existing understanding or common understanding held by others. This was also the case when starting the research and commentary contained in the series of articles about the Bible book of Genesis. The research was done using the NWT, other English Bible Translations, an Interlinear Hebrew Translation, Interlinear Greek Translations, Biblical Hebrew-English Dictionaries and Concordances, and Biblical Greek-English Dictionaries and Concordances.
This was stated clearly in the “Background” section from the beginning of part 2 of that series, which reads:
The following is a closer examination of the Bible text of the Creation account of Genesis Chapter 1:1 through to Genesis 2:4 for reasons that will become apparent in part 4. The author was brought up to believe that the creative days were 7,000 years each in length and that between the end of Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 there was an undeterminable gap of time. That belief was later changed to having indeterminate periods of time for each creation day to accommodate the current scientific opinion on the age of the earth [bold added here] .The age of the earth according to the widespread scientific thought, being of course based on the time required for evolution to take place and the current dating methods relied upon by the scientists which are fundamentally flawed in their very basis. 1
What follows is the exegetical understanding the author has now arrived at, by careful study of the Bible account. Looking at the Bible account without preconceptions has resulted in a change of understanding for some events recorded in the Creation account [bold added here]. Some, indeed, may find it difficult to accept these findings as presented. However, while the author is not being dogmatic, he nonetheless finds it difficult to argue against what is presented, especially taking in to account the information obtained from many discussions over the years with people holding all sorts of different views. In many instances, there is further evidence and information that backs up a particular understanding given here, but for the sake of brevity is omitted from this series. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon us all to be careful not to put into the scriptures any preconceived ideas, because many times they are later found to be inaccurate.
Readers are encouraged to check all the references for themselves so that they may see the weight of evidence, and the context and basis of conclusions in this series of articles, for themselves. Readers should also feel free to contact the author on particular points if they wish a more in-depth explanation and backup for the points made here.”
This article will now examine a number of common questions that arise from that understanding.
1) Question: Surely Science has proved the earth and universe are billions of years old, therefore the Creation “days” must be perhaps thousands or millions of years each.
Answer: Are the Earth and the Universe really billions of years old?
Contrary to popular opinion, radioactive isotope dating methods are not accurate and instead are based on many assumptions. These assumptions are:
- When the rock forms (hardens) there should only be parent radioactive atoms in the rock and daughter radiogenic atoms (derived by radioactive decay of another element).
- After hardening, the rock must remain a closed system, that is, no parent or daughter atoms should be added to or removed from the rock by external influences such as percolating groundwaters.
- The radioactive decay rate must remain constant.
If any one or more of these assumptions are violated, then the dating technique fails, and any “dates” derived from this testing are false.
For instance, one dating method commonly used for rocks considered old is the potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating method. With this method the assumption would be that there would only be Potassium present at the beginning and no 40Argon Present.
In 1996 samples from lava flows at Mount Ngauruhoe in New Zealand were sent to one of the top laboratories for dating rock samples.
These were the results:
- 2 samples of rocks which came from an andesite flow in 1949. The ages returned were < 270,000 years, and 1 million years +/-0.2m.
- 2 samples of rock from a flow of 4 June 1954 returned < 270,000 years and 1.5 million years +/- 0.1m.
- Samples from a 30th June 1954 flow returned < 270k years, 1.3 million years +/- 0.3m, 3.5 million +/-0.2m, 0.8 million +/-0.2m and 1.2 million +/-0.2.
- Other samples from a flow of July 1954 and February 1975 returned similar dates to the 1949 samples. For a full report see this paper.2
This is a whole topic on its own which will be discussed at further length in another article, but here is just one example where scientists honestly report the problems the radioactive isotope dating methods that they have found. 3
Indeed, it is an area of ongoing research and dispute as to how to account for the variances. One of the most recent papers states “A closer analysis of the correlation of our measured data with cosmophysical factors were performed by one of the authors (F.S.) and two initial report were publish by our group about this investigations. It was found that the measured decay and capacitance data were, in some instances, significantly correlated with geomagnetic activity (Dcx index), and/or with the activity of cosmic-ray induced neutrons. In the present paper we show the rest of the measured results presented in our initial publication along with the space weather data.” 4
There is not a dispute that the decay rate varies, the research and dispute is centred on finding the cause.
Indeed, if we interpret the length of the Creative days on the basis of scientific dating, we start from a flawed premise. Evolutionists require millions and billions of years dating of the earth to allow for their evolution to occur. Then, on the basis of uniformity (things have always been the same) for such things as erosion, and radioactive decay they then make judgements on dating methods and dates that fit their desired conclusion (known as eisegesis). The big, glaring flaw is that no one can state with any certainty that radio-active decay has always been at the same rate.
The situation is much like gravity. We tend to think of it as a constant value, but in different conditions, such as on the Moon’s surface or in orbit around the earth, the gravitational pull strength is very different.
Finally, we should not forget that in fact, the principle of being able to vary artificially radioactive decay is used in the construction and operation of nuclear power stations. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists “In nuclear power plants, neutrons collide with uranium atoms, splitting them. This split releases neutrons from the uranium that in turn collide with other atoms, causing a chain reaction. This chain reaction is controlled with “control rods” that absorb neutrons.” 5
Conclusion: There are serious flaws in the dating methods used for the age of the earth.
However, in this discussion what the Bible says takes precedence, so let us start an examination of the Biblical evidence.
2) Question: Surely the Hebrew word “yôm” does not always mean a solar earth-day in the Creation account, for example Genesis 2:4.
Answer: How is “yôm” used in the Bible and in particular in Genesis 1 and 2?
The basis of any investigation must start with the word in question itself. How is yôm used in the Bible? Is the semantic range [list of all meanings] of the Hebrew word ‘yôm’ different to the semantic range of the English word “day”?
No, it is very similar. Day can mean a period or era in some contexts in both English and Hebrew. We might say for instance ‘in my great-grandfathers day’ or ‘in Jesus day’. Notice that we qualify it with ‘in’ and the name of a person. Let us examine those usages with scriptural examples:
[The following information can be verified and gleaned from Strong’s Concordance and the like, available in book form or free of charge on Biblehub.com]
Semantic meanings of the Hebrew word “‘yôm”
- Day as opposed to Night – (Genesis 1:5)
- FACT: Outside of Genesis 1 “yôm” is used with “night” 53 times. Every time it means an ordinary day.
- EXAMPLE: Jeremiah 33:19-21 which says “19 And the word of Jehovah came further to Jeremiah, saying: 20 “This is what Jehovah has said, ‘If YOU people could break my covenant of the day and my covenant of the night, even in order for day and night not to occur in their time, 21 likewise could my own covenant be broken with David my servant so that he should not come to have a son ruling as king upon his throne; also with the Levites, the priests, my ministers.” This is clearly understood to be using ‘day’ as daylight hours as opposed to the hours of the darkness of night.
- FOOD For THOUGHT: Why should Genesis 1 be an exception to the rule and on what basis?
- Day as a division of time – (Genesis 30:36, Exodus 3:18)
- Evening and Morning
- FACT: Outside of Genesis 1 “yôm” is used with “evening” or “morning” 23 times. Every time the text refers to an ordinary day.
- FACT: In Genesis 1 each of the 6 creative days is mentioned with “evening” and “morning”
- FACT: Outside of Genesis 1 “evening” and “morning” appear in association together but without “yôm” a total of 38 times. Every occurrence refers to an ordinary day.
- FOOD For THOUGHT: Why should Genesis 1 be an exception to the rule and on what basis?
- With a number
- FACT: Outside of Genesis 1 the Hebrew text uses “yôm” with a number 359 times. Every time it means an ordinary day.
- FACT: In Genesis 1 each of the six creative days has a number with “yôm”, as does the seventh day.
- FOOD For THOUGHT: Why should Genesis 1 be an exception to the rule and on what basis?
- Multiple Days (Plural of “yôm” – “yamim”)
- In Genesis 1:14 as multiple ordinary days as a division of time.
- In Exodus 31:12 – “6 days may work be done, but the seventh is the sabbath of rest”
- With qualification of such words as “labor” for working day (Exodus 20:9)
- A day’s journey (Numbers 11:31)
- N’th day of the month (Genesis 7:11)
- Evening and Morning
- Days (plural – “yamim”) as an indefinite period of time (Genesis 27:44, Genesis 29:20)
- “Some days, a few days”
- “these days or these years”
- Day of Jehovah – chiefly as the time of God coming in judgment (Amos 5:18)
- “for the Day of Jehovah is at hand” (Zephaniah 1:7)
- Days as in the life or age of someone (Genesis 6:3, Deuteronomy 22:19)
- “his [man’s] days shall be [limited to] 120 years” (Genesis 6:3).
- “All his days” – all his remaining lifetime (Deuteronomy 22:19).
- Day to indicate an indeterminate but limited time period such as “the day of the harvest” (Proverbs 25:13, Genesis 30:14, Joshua 3:15)
- Genesis 35:3 says “and let us rise and go up to Bethʹel. And there I shall make an altar to the [true] God who answered me in the day of my distress in that he proved to be with me in the way that I have gone.” This example has ‘be.yowm’ translated ‘in the day’ which is a Hebrew idiom, and means ‘when’ as in ‘when I had distress’.
- Day used to compare a long period of time with a short period of time.
- Psalm 90:4 qualifies “yôm” or “day” saying “For a thousand years in your sight are like the day before (yesterday) when it is past and like a watch in the night” (BibleHub Westminster Leningrad Codex Hebrew text). 6
- This clearly is a comparison, saying that although it might be a thousand years for man (a very long time), in God’s view the time passes like yesterday is in our memory when it has gone by (it always seems very short), and like a watch in the night (4 hours in Bible times, see Lamentations 2:19, Jude 7:19, Exodus 14:24), again a short time.7
This clearly is a comparison, saying that although it might be a thousand years for man (a very long time), in God’s view the time passes like yesterday is in our memory when it has gone by (it always seems very short), and like a watch in the night (4 hours in Bible times, see Lamentations 2:19, Jude 7:19, Exodus 14:24), again a short time. 7
What do Leading Hebrew Scholars say?
Finally, what do Hebrew scholars say about the understanding of the word “yôm” in Genesis 1?
James Barr of Oxford University, wrote in a letter twenty years ago 8, “So far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 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 later stages in the biblical story.”
[Note: James Barr, Oriel Professor of the interpretation of the Holy Scripture, Oxford University, England, in a letter to David C.C. Watson, 23 April 1984. Barr, consistent with his neo-orthodox views, does not believe Genesis; he is simply affirming the intent of the author in Genesis 1 and 2 according to the Hebrew Text].
Dr John R. Howitt asked appropriate professors in nine leading universities the following question “Do you consider that the Hebrew word yôm (day) used in Genesis 1, accompanied by a numeral should properly be translated as:
- A day as commonly understood,
- An age,
- Either a day or an age without preference?”
Oxford and Cambridge did not reply, but the professors at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Toronto, London, McGill, and Manitoba replied unanimously that it should be translated as a day as commonly understood. Professor Robert H. Pfeiffer of Harvard added, “of twenty-four hours” to his reply.’ 9
Conclusion: There is no basis in the Hebrew text in Genesis 1 to understand “yôm” as anything other than a normal earth-day.
3) Question: Is not Context more than just the immediate surrounding text.
Answer: Yes, it is, there is the immediate context which includes the Author’s intention and the wider context of the whole Bible.
Immediate Context: What was the Author’s Intention?
It goes without saying that we should also understand an author’s intentions when trying to understand the meaning of any part of an author’s book.
As God is the ultimate author of the Bible, we should therefore endeavour to try to understand what his intentions in writing the Creation account were.
Most Christians would accept that it was written as a historical account, an account to give an outline of the major events that happened during the creation of the earth. This account would enable the readers, both men and women of any century, when reading the account, to understand how they came to be, and also how everything they can see and also what they cannot see, came into existence.
In writing this account did God give any hint of it being allegorical poetry, parable, fantasy, or myth? There is Biblical evidence either in Genesis 1 itself or elsewhere that he did. Genesis 1 is not written as poetry, especially allegorical poetry. There is no evidence that it is a parable, or fictitious or a fantasy or a myth. It reads as a straightforward history.
Would it not be true to say that if we find it difficult to see how it was possible for the creation to occur as described, we also need to bear in mind what God said himself in Isaiah 55:8-11 “For the thoughts of YOU people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways YOUR ways,” is the utterance of Jehovah. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than YOUR ways, and my thoughts than YOUR thoughts. 10 For just as the pouring rain descends, and the snow, from the heavens and does not return to that place, unless it actually saturates the earth and makes it produce and sprout, and seed is actually given to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.”
In these days of scepticism and higher criticism, and teaching of evolution, naturalistic explanations are sought for events in the Bible which are difficult for humans to comprehend based on current scientific knowledge. Examples include:
- the global flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 6 and Genesis 7, Matthew 24:37-39, 2 Peter 3:5-7)
- the ten plagues (Genesis 10 and Genesis 11),
- the crossing of the ”Yam Suph” (Red Sea) (Genesis 14:1-32, Genesis 15:4-5, Psalm 106:7-11, Acts 7:35-36)
- destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 13:10, Genesis 19:23-25, Deuteronomy 29:23, Psalm 11:6, Isaiah 1:9, Amos 4:11, Luke 17:29, 2 Peter 2:6)
- the day the sun stood still for Joshua (Joshua 10:12, Habakkuk 3:11)
Yet these events were what we would call “miracles”, and no purely naturalistic explanation can explain them satisfactorily. The same is true of the Bible account of Creation. Even though we might be able to explain or suggest the mechanism by which some things were made, it remains a miracle, whether we think the events occurred in an earth-week or over thousands of years. We should not forget that some things are beyond our complete understanding. More importantly we should also be very careful not to put limits on God’s power and ability.
Immediate Context: The language used to describe the Creation account
God-fearing Christians believe that Moses wrote the account of creation in Genesis under the inspiration of God.
Moses wrote the account with the following construction:
- He used the Hebrew word “yôm” 10 for “day”.
- He combined yôm with numbers to make “first day”, “second day”, “third day”, etc. up to “seventh day”.
- When he first used this combination of numbers with yôm in Genesis 1:5 he also used the words “evening and morning” with this first usage of yôm thereby defining the meaning intended to be understood by the word yôm.
- This pattern was repeated for days 2-6 in Genesis 1:8,13,19,23,31.
- Only on the seventh day was “evening and morning” omitted (Genesis 2:2). Does this mean the 7th day was a different length, and if not, then why the omission of “evening and morning”? The earlier creation days had a number of events that occurred on each day. The “evening and morning” confirmed this passage of time. As God was resting on the 7th day, rather than creating, there was therefore no need to indicate the passage of time and work. The whole day was a day of rest.
What words were available to Moses to indicate a long period of time?
The Hebrew language has a number of words that refer to a long period of time. They include:
- Qedem 11– ‘ancient’, or ‘of old’ or ‘east’. (Genesis 2:8, Deuteronomy 33;15)
- Olam 12 – ‘everlasting’, ‘for ever’, ‘perpetual’, ‘of old’. (Genesis 3:22)
- Dor 13 – ‘a revolution of time’, ‘an age’, or ‘generations’. (Genesis 6:9)
- Tamid 14 – ‘continually’ or ‘for ever’. (Exodus 28:29,30)
- Ad 15 – ‘unlimited time’ or ‘for ever’. (Even today we have the Latin phrase ‘Ad-infinitum’ – indefinitely. (Exodus 15:18)
- Orek 16 – used with yôm is translated ‘length of days’. (Genesis 6:15)
- Shanah 17 – means ‘a year’ or ‘revolution of time’ (from the change of seasons). (Genesis 1:14)
- Netsach 18 – ‘for ever’. (Job 4:20)
- Eth 19 – ‘time’. (Genesis 8:11, Genesis 18:10)
- Moed 20 – ‘seasons’ or ‘festivals’. (Genesis 1:14)
- yā·mîm, yə·mê – plural of yôm ‘days’ (Genesis 8:10), (Genesis 3:14)
As you can see from the examples of scriptures where those words are used, Moses had each one of these words available when he wrote the creation account of Genesis 1 as he used each one of those words in his other writings, often many times.
Conclusion: Hebrew words existed for longer, indeterminate periods of time, but were not used.
Would it not therefore be reasonable to say that if God, the author of the Creation account, had wanted to clearly convey that the days of his creation were anything other than 1 earth-day, then he would have ensured that Moses had written the account differently to clearly convey this. For example:
- If he wanted to imply the Creation was an event of long ago, he could have done the following:
- He could have used “yamim” meaning “days”, instead of “yôm”. (Compare with an actual use of “yamim” in Genesis 1:14, “for signs and seasons for days and years”)
- He could have omitted “evening and morning”.
- He could have added “olam” 21 meaning “of old, long duration, antiquity” to give “from days of old”.
- He could have had “qedem” 22 meaning “of old” instead of “yôm”.
- He could have used “Dor” instead, meaning an age or generation.
But he chose none of those options.
- Did God the author intend to convey an ambiguous time?
- If he had written “ yôm” 23 with light and darkness it would have meant “and it was a day of light and darkness”. Now that is ambiguous. But he did not.
- He could also have written “eth” 24 meaning “time”, with “day” and “night” which would also have been ambiguous. (See Jeremiah 33:20, Zechariah 14:7, compare with Genesis 1:16). But he did not.
However, “evening and morning” with “yôm” / “day”, especially with a number preceding the day, such as in the passage “there came to be evening and there came to be morning, a sixth day” is not ambiguous (See Genesis 1:31). It describes the events in a normal day, evening and morning, and numbers it as a certain day, in this case the sixth. That is the normal understanding. It is adding interpretation to suggest otherwise.
Conclusion: The Hebrew text is not using “yôm” in an ambiguous way, but in a specific way.
Immediate Context: The description of time in Genesis 1:14
This verse is very relevant to the understanding of the meaning of “yôm” in Genesis 1. It contains other time periods.It reads, “And God went on to say: “Let luminaries come to be in the expanse of the heavens to make a division between the day and the night; and they must serve as signs and for seasons and for days and years”.
Between the day “hay.yowm” and between the night “halla.yelah” and let them be for signs for days “ule.yamim” (plural of “yôm”) and seasons “ule.mowadim” (plural of “moed”) and years “we.sanim” (plural of “shanah”).
The context of “the day” is that it is in association with “the night” after discussing light sources and therefore, obviously “yôm” is qualified to mean daylight hours only. “For days” is plural and clearly contrasted with “seasons”, a longer period of time, and “years”, an even longer period of time. Therefore, in context “yôm” with both night and day it must refer to an earth-day of 24 hours (including both day(light) and night) as opposed to a longer period.
Conclusion: Genesis 1:14, in the midst of the creation account itself, clearly shows that Moses had other time related words at his disposal. He differentiated time here between a day of daylight, a day of 24 hours, and longer periods of time, namely seasons and years.
Wider Context: The View of the Creation account held by Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul
Jesus viewed the creation account as fact. In Mark 10:6-7 he said “However, from [the] beginning of creation ‘He made them male and female. 7 On this account a man will leave his father and mother, 8 and the two will be one flesh’; so that they are no longer two, but one flesh.”
In Mark 10:6 we find Jesus’ words which are his description of the last phrase of Genesis 1:27 which says, “male and female he created them”. Jesus words in Mark 10:7 are clearly a reference in his own words to Genesis 2:24 which says “That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.”
The Apostle Paul also accepted the Creation account as a fact, not an allegory. In 1 Timothy 2:13-14 he wrote “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Also, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived … “.
If you were to read the Creation account to a child, and then ask him or her these questions, how would they reply? Would they not understand what it said, because it is so simply put? Is this not a clear message from a loving God?
We therefore need to ask ourselves, is it not true that, as adults, we often have the habit of unnecessarily complicating things that are simple? It is also good to pause for thought and reflect on the following: Why would the Creator hide the real truth of what happened at creation by having an account written that would be understood literally, when in reality he meant something very different? Why not have written exactly what happened? This raises the question, Could the Creation account have been written any differently?
Conclusion: A child, without preconceptions, would understand the creation days to be the normal 24-hour day they experience.
4. Question: As there is no evening and morning stated for the 7th day, is not God’s day of rest continuing?
Answer: God is still resting from his creative works, but is the 7th Day still ongoing?
An Examination of Genesis 2:2-4
Genesis 2:2b reads “… And he rested on the day seventh from all his work which he had done.” 25
You will note from the notes of this Hebrew Interlinear Bible (see link) that the phrase translated “And he rested” is
- Conjuctive-waw = “And”,
- Verb – Qal-ConsecutiveImperfect-3ms = “he rested”.
The Hebrew text identifies this action (resting from Creation) as Imperfect and hence uncompleted.
The grammar of the Greek LXX (Septuagint) 26 in Genesis 2:2 used the aorist active indicative verb which gives a primary sense of ceasing one’s work or activity or cease, stop working. The aorist tense in the indicative mood usually indicates past time.
It is also important to note that Hebrews 4:4, quoting from Genesis 2:2, contains the same aorist active indicative verb in the same tense and mood. This indicates therefore, that as the seventh day is the object in the sentence, it is also in the past. While the verb allows for God’s resting to be ongoing, (i.e. he still is not creating), it does not allow the seventh day to be ongoing but rather the seventh day is in the past.
Confirming this understanding, according to a “Basics of Biblical Hebrew” article “A past tense narrative sequence may begin with the temporal modifier) (Qal Imperfect 3ms from הָיָה with Waw Consecutive) followed by Imperfect verbs with Waw Consecutive. “And after the death of Abraham God blessed Isaac his son (Genesis 25:11).”” 27 [Note: Hebrew letters omitted here due to Font issues. Please compare the Hebrew in this quoted article with the Hebrew Interlinear text].
Genesis 2:3, part of the context for Genesis 2:2, also tells us that “And God blessed the seventh day and he set it apart (sanctified it) because in it he rested from all the work which God had created and accomplished.”
The phrase in verse 3, “he rested”, is in the perfect tense and hence a completed action. This verse also clearly alludes to how God views the seventh day, and why he later instituted the sabbath for his people the Israelites. He has set it apart, by implication from the other six days, because that was the day he rested (in the past tense). The term “he rested” is “sabat” 28 in Hebrew, from the verb “shabath”. The noun of which is “shabbath”. 29
God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, setting it apart. If then the seventh day was continuing to this day, how could the fall into sin by Adam and Eve and all that followed take place on a day blessed by God? In fact, the ground, and the serpent were cursed by God (Genesis 3:14-17). How could we possibly reconcile that with a blessed 7th day. It would invalidate the six-day working week and one-day sabbath rest on the 7th day, that God later instituted for Israel in Exodus 20:9-11.
Conclusion: The 7th day has finished, completed, it is not ongoing.
Exodus 20:9-11 and the Sabbath Day
““Remembering the sabbath day to hold it sacred, 9 you are to render service and you must do all your work six days. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God. You must not do any work, you nor your son nor your daughter, your slave man nor your slave girl nor your domestic animal nor your alien resident who is inside your gates. 11 For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and he proceeded to rest on the seventh day. That is why Jehovah blessed the sabbath day and proceeded to make it sacred”.
Genesis 2:2 tells us that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he rested. Exodus 20:8 continues by reminding the Israelites of this statement in Genesis 2. God is telling the Israelites to remember the day of rest, to keep it holy. The Hebrew word translated as “remember” means “to call to mind past experiences, (Not know what is currently happening, as in ongoing)”
They had to fit their work in on six days. The seventh day was to be the day of rest of “Jehovah your God”. No-one, not even slaves or alien residents could work on the Sabbath. Why was this command being given? To remember or follow the pattern that God set when he created the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them (working six days) and rested on the seventh day.
This was emphasised a number of times in the books written by Moses (See also Exodus 16:22-30, Exodus 34:21, Exodus 35:1-3, Leviticus 23:3, 26-32, Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
Also, to disobey the Sabbath was a capital offense according to Exodus 31:15-17 which says “15 Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest. It is something holy to Jehovah. Anyone doing work on the sabbath day will positively be put to death. 16 And the sons of Israel must keep the sabbath, so as to carry out the sabbath during their generations. It is a covenant to time indefinite. 17 Between me and the sons of Israel it is a sign to time indefinite, because in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day he rested 30 and proceeded to refresh himself.” (see also Numbers 13:30-36, where the death sentence was carried out).
Conclusion: Exodus 31 refers to God’s rest on the seventh day as a completed action, as the word “rested” is in the perfect tense and hence completed, not ongoing.
A Contextual Examination of Hebrews 4:1-11: Entering into God’s rest.
The Apostle Paul quoted from Genesis 2:2-3 in Hebrews 4:1-11, with the key verses being Hebrews 4:3-4.
“Therefore, since a promise is left of entering into his rest, let us fear that sometime someone of YOU may seem to have fallen short of it. 2 For we have had the good news declared to us also, even as they also had; but the word which was heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who did hear.
3 For we who have exercised faith do enter into the rest, just as he has said: “So I swore in my anger, ‘They shall not enter into my rest,’” although his works were finished from the founding of the world. 4 For in one place he has said of the seventh day as follows: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works,” 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter into my rest.”
6 Since, therefore, it remains for some to enter into it, and those to whom the good news was first declared did not enter in because of disobedience, 7 he again marks off a certain day by saying after so long a time in David’s [psalm] “Today”; just as it has been said above: “Today if YOU people listen to his own voice, do not harden YOUR hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had led them into a place of rest, [God] would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 So there remains a sabbath resting for the people of God. 10 For the man that has entered into [God’s] rest has also himself rested from his own works, just as God did from his own.”
11 Let us therefore do our utmost to enter into that rest, for fear anyone should fall in the same pattern of disobedience.”
We, therefore, need to examine what rest was being referred to. Was it referring to God’s day of rest on the seventh day, recorded in Genesis 2?
Faith and Lack of Faith
Why did the Israelites fail to enter into the rest? If we read the immediate context of Hebrews 4:1-11, particularly Hebrews 3:7-19, note what the Apostle Paul said. “12Beware brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of YOU a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.”
Talking about the Israelites he goes on to say, “19So we see that they could not enter in because of lack of faith”. Simply put, a lack of faith was counted as wicked works, while faith was desisting from wicked works.
Rest or Resting-Place?
The Apostle Paul was quoting from Psalm 95:11, which says “Concerning whom I swore in my anger: “They shall not enter into my resting-place.””. The whole of Psalm 95 is a Psalm about the actions of the Israelites in the 40 years they were wandering in the Wilderness before being allowed into the Promised Land.
What event is being referred to in Psalm 95:11? Where did God swear that the Israelites would not enter his resting place? In Numbers 14:22-30 we find the aftermath of the return of the 12 spies sent into Canaan and the negative report by 10 of them. This resulted in the nation of Israel refusing to obey Jehovah and go ahead to take the promised land. The account states “And Jehovah went on to speak to Moses and Aaron, saying: 27 “How long will this evil assembly have this murmuring that they are carrying on against me? I have heard the murmurings of the sons of Israel that they are murmuring against me. 28 Say to them, ‘“As I live,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “if I shall not do to YOU just that way as YOU have spoken in my ears! 29 In this wilderness YOUR carcasses will fall, yes, all YOUR registered ones of all YOUR number from twenty years old upward, YOU who have murmured against me. 30 As for YOU, YOU will not enter into the land in which I lifted up my hand [in oath] to reside with YOU, except Caʹleb the son of Je·phunʹneh and Joshua the son of Nun.”
Where was the resting-place God was speaking of? In this instance it was the Promised Land (See also Genesis 49:14 of Jacob’s prophecy about the offspring of Issachar. Deuteronomy 12:8-14, 1 Kings 8:56, Psalm 132:8, 13-14, Isaiah 11:10). The murmuring Israelites were told unequivocally that they would not enter into the Promised Land, God’s resting-place for them. They all died in the Wilderness before a new generation was able to enter the Promised Land.
God would not afterward have spoken of Another Day
Hebrews 4:8 examines this topic further, saying, “8 For if Joshua had led them into a place of rest, [God] would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 So there remains a sabbath resting for the people of God.”. Also, notice the phrase “God would not afterward have spoken of another day”. Neither this “another day”, nor God’s resting-place for the Israelites, could be the same as the seventh day of rest spoken of in Genesis 2:2-4.
Faith and Resting Place
Furthermore, in Hebrews 4:4 the Greek word commonly translated “rest” [and should be ‘resting-place’] when quoting from Psalm 95:11 is “katapausis” 31 which means “resting”, “resting-place”, “dwelling”, “habitation”. As such it has nothing to do with God resting on the 7th day in Genesis 2. In the Greek Septuagint (LXX) it is used in Psalm 95:11 and clearly is referring to rest that would be attained by the Israelites by settling in the Promised Land. Rest from wandering and enslavement.
What did Jesus say to his troubled disciples after his resurrection and before his ascension? John 14:1-3 records him saying “Do not let YOUR hearts be troubled. Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me. 2 In the house of my Father there are many abodes [or dwelling places or mansions]. Otherwise, I would have told YOU, because I am going my way to prepare a place for YOU. 3 Also, if I go my way and prepare a place for YOU, I am coming again and will receive YOU to myself, that where I am YOU also may be.”
The Apostle Paul was therefore warning the early Christians to heed the warning example of the unfaithful Israelites who had now been rejected completely by God, and not “… fall in the same pattern of disobedience …”
Conclusion: Hebrews 4 is discussing two resting places, one for the Israelites and one for the Christians in the future. It does not state that God’s 7th day of rest was still taking place.
God’s resting place
What was the “another day”? A clue is found in Isaiah 11:10. After discussing the twig out of the stump of Jesse, which we understand to refer to Jesus, the Messiah, of the line of David and hence the sprout of the root of Jesse, Isaiah prophesied that, “And it must occur in that day [a future day, another day] that there will be the root of Jesʹse [Jesus Christ] that will be standing up as a signal for the peoples. To him even the nations will turn inquiringly, and his resting-place must become glorious”.
Furthermore, in Psalm 132:8, 13-14 the Psalmist writes “Do arise, O Jehovah, to your resting-place,
You and the ark of your strength.” And “For Jehovah has chosen Zion; He has longed for it as a dwelling for himself: 14 “This is my resting-place forever; Here I shall dwell, for I have longed for it.””.
Following up on this theme, notice what the Apostle John recorded in Revelation 3:12. Jesus said to write to the congregation in Philadelphia, “The one that conquers—I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will by no means go out [from it] anymore, and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God, and that new name of mine”.
Revelation 21:1-4 gives further information about new Jerusalem when it says “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more. 2 I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent [or dwelling place] of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. 4 And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
The Greek word here translated as “tent” 32 means “a tent or booth or abode, or dwelling, or mansion or habitation”. The word Jerusalem means “City of Peace” or “Abode of Peace”. It therefore makes sense to identify New Jerusalem with God’s resting place for those who accept Christ and put faith in him, as God’s Chief Agent of life (Acts 3:15).
Conclusion: The scriptures support the concept is of a symbolic dwelling place or tent, called New Jerusalem that all Christians could become residents of.
5) Other Questions
A Contextual Examination of 2 Peter 3:8 and its use of “one day”
The context of the passage surrounding 2 Peter 3:8 is clearly talking about the Lord’s day.
“8 However, let this one fact not be escaping YOUR notice, beloved ones, that one day alongside [para] the Lord is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with YOU because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance. 10 Yet the Lord’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered.”
The verse is a comparison of how one could view time when in the presence of the Lord. One could view one day like it was a thousand years, because it passed slowly and every minute was enjoyable and memorable, or a thousand years could pass by so quickly, serving Jesus that it would seem to have only been a day since the time period started. Once again, the context makes it clear what is being spoken off, a literal day and a time period of a thousand years, but it does not say that one day equals a thousand years.
Furthermore, it does not assist us with any different understanding of the length of the creation days, as no-one disputes that based on the Biblical accounts, around some 6,000 years (whether slightly more or slightly less) have passed since Adam was created, not 1,000 years.
Conclusion: This passage is a simile, comparing two unlike things, a day is a day, not one thousand years, it cannot be understood as a definition of the length of a day in God’s eyes.
Could Adam have named all the animals on the sixth day?
This question is based on the account of Genesis 2:19-20 which states “Now Jehovah God was forming from the ground every wild beast of the field and every flying creature of the heavens, and he began bringing them to the man to see what he would call each one; and whatever the man would call it, each living soul, that was its name. 20 So the man was calling the names of all the domestic animals and of the flying creatures of the heavens and of every wild beast of the field,”.
The simple answer is: No-one knows for sure. However, there is no reason to believe that Adam had to name the vast amount of species that we see on earth today. There is no evidence that a bible “kind” is the equivalent of a specie in today’s scientific classification.
We need to remember that Jehovah created animals and vegetation, etc. according to their kinds (Genesis 1:21, 24). The number of Kinds would be much less, and hence it would be possible, e.g. the horse kind, the antelope kind, the cattle kind. For example, the horse kind could be the family Equidae, instead of Grevy’s Zebras, Plains Zebras, Mountain Zebras, Shire horses, Shetland Ponies, Przewalskii’s horse, Racehorses, Wild Asses, etc. It is important to note that animals according to their kinds were taken into Noah’s Ark, rather than their species (Genesis 6:20).
Keeping in this context, as part of one continuous event that is why in Genesis 2:23 after the animals and flying creatures were bought to Adam by God, then a partner, another human kind, was brought to Adam by Godin the same way as the animals were, and like the animals Adam named his female counterpart. He called her “Woman”. The only time break in the naming process, was when Adam was put into the sleep for removal of one of his ribs to use as a basis for creating Eve.
Conclusion: It was entirely possible for kinds to be named in a few hours, especially as they were brought to Adam by God, just like the animals for the Ark were also brought to Noah.
In this article we have investigated a number of common questions. In doing so we have found the following information:
- Question: Surely Science has proved the earth and universe are billions of years old, therefore the Creation “days” must be perhaps thousands or millions of years each.
Answer: Science has not proven that the earth and the universe are billions of years old. That age is based on the principle of uniformity, which is unprovable. We should not interpret the Bible based on unproven facts.
- Question: Surely the Hebrew word “yôm” does not always mean a solar earth-day in the Creation account, for example Genesis 2:4.
Answer: “Yôm” qualified with “evening” and “morning” only ever means a solar earth-day of 24 hours in the entire Bible record.
- Question: Is not Context more than just the immediate surrounding text?
Answer: Yes, it is. Both the immediate context and the wider context of the Bible confirm the understanding that a Creation “Yôm” is referring a solar earth-day.
- Question: As there is no evening and morning stated for the 7th day, is not God’s day of rest continuing?
Answer: Genesis 2:2-3 when referring to the 7th day, while not having “evening and morning” is nonetheless completed, and in the past based on context, and tense both in Hebrew and Greek.
Genesis 2:4 qualifies “yôm” with “in” clearly making “yôm” refer to the complete period (of 7 days).
Hebrews 4:1-11 does not state that the 7th day is continuing, nor does the context indicate that.
- Other Questions:
- Does 2 Peter 3:8 indicate a longer creation day?
Answer: 2 Peter 3:8 has a figure of speech, a comparison, not a definitive statement on God’s view of time.
- In Genesis 2:19-20 could Adam have named the kinds of wild beasts, domestic animals and flying creatures in hours?
Answer: Yes, and it included the naming of Eve as “woman” was part of one event.
Overall Conclusion: All the evidence points to the fact that God did indeed create everything in 144 hours (6 x 24-hour days).
- Showing the flaws in the scientific dating methods is a whole article in itself and outside the scope of this series. Suffice to say that beyond approximately 4,000 years before the present the potential for error begins to grow exponentially. An article on this subject is intended in the future to complement this series.
- https://www.icr.org/article/potassium-argon-andesite-mt-ngauruhoe/ Download the PDF paper just under the icons.
- letter to David C.C. Watson, 23 April 1984.
- Dr Bolton Davidheiser, A Statement Concerning the Ministry of Dr Hugh Ross
- The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Pre-Christian Scriptures completed around 250 BC. It was in widespread use by Jews in the 1st Century.
- See http://hebrew.billmounce.com/BasicsBiblicalHebrew-17.pdf Chapter 17e (page 5)
- https://biblehub.com/interlinear/exodus/31-17.htm “sabat” in V-Qal-Perfect-3ms tense, action completed.