Genesis one gives us the account of creation. It is general description of the activity of God at the beginning of time. It is our point of view that the days found in Genesis 1 are literal 24 hour days and that this is best defended by the text.
It is also our point of view that this discussion carries significant theological implications. If either the “Gap theory” or some variation of “Theistic Evolution” is used to explain the age of the earth and to marry Scripture to Science, a key theological problem is immediately introduced. Either mechanism requires death as a key ingredient. As organisms die, their bones become fossils buried in layers of sediment. It is the evidence of these fossils that provide a key piece of the Scientific puzzle and argument.
The apostle Paul, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says in Romans 5 that it is because of Adam’s sin that death has come to all men. In Romans 8 we are told that all of creation groans because of Adam’s sin and that one day it will be restored. Death could not be part of the physical world until Adam’s sin. The theological implications here are great and are beyond the scope of this post.
Six literal 24 hour days?
Exodus 20:9-11 is the first mention of the creation after Genesis 2. It is an interesting passage because it clearly defines for us God’s view of the creation week. As he was personally giving Moses the Ten Commandments and all of the Law, the ONLY eye witness to the creation event, gives us the purpose for creating in the time frame described in Genesis.
God says that we should honor the Sabbath day because, “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. . . .” If the days in Genesis 1 were to be understood anyway other than 24 hour days like you and I experience, then the example of a work week and our use of a day to rest is lost. If Genesis 1 describes long periods of time, then Exodus 20 makes no sense.
Literal 24 hour days defended
Here are several key points as to why Genesis 1 is referring to 24 hour days and not long periods of time.
- Yom, the Hebrew word for day, is used over 2000 times in the OT, over 1900 times it is used to refer to a literal 24 hour day.
- When an ordinal, like first, is used with the word Yom, it most frequently refers to a 24 hour day. There are exceptions, but they are few.
- In ancient Hebrew culture, evening marked the beginning of a new day. For example, Sabbath was observed from sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday evening. Therefore, to the ancients, an evening and morning represented one 24 hour day.
Individually, these points do not make a compelling case for days in Genesis being literal 24 hour time periods. However, when combined together, the argument is hard to deny.