Six Solar Days, or Why God Took His Time


I’ve recently been posed a very cogent question, one that I get a lot actually:

“How can you say that God created in six solar days when the sun is clearly created on the 4th day???”

I do often use the term “solar day” when I’m refering to Genesis. When some people read Genesis, they impose man’s fallible ideas about millions of years upon the Text and try to fit those long aeons into the days of Genesis. I recognize of course that the sun and the heavenly bodies weren’t formed until Day 4, but I use the term solar day because everyone generally understands that it means a regular 24-hour day.

But where did I get that idea from?

Well, from the context of the passage. Context is very important. I often get commentators who object that a word, usually the word “day” actually, can have many different meanings, so the Genesis days could have been any amount of time – except 6 actual days of course!

In the case of the word “day” we cheerfully admit that it has several meaning depending upon the context. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis uses the phrase “In my father’s day, it took 10 days to drive across the Australian outback during the day” to illustrate the point that it can mean a period of time, a 24-hour day or even just the daylight portion of the day/night cycle.

But it’s meaning is derived from context. It’s meaning is not determined by all possible meanings or the wishes of the audience, but by the intended meaning of the author.

Interestingly, “yom” the Hebrew word for “day” is used 2301 times throughout the Old Testament. It’s only in Genesis 1 that we question what it really means. Outside of Genesis, it’s meaning is consistent and the rules of context are well-established: Anytime we see the word “day”  and a number [410 times], it means a regular 24-hour [aka solar] day. Anytime we see the words “morning” and “evening” together withOUT the word “day” [38 times], it means a regular solar day. Any time we see either the word “morning” or “evening” with the word “day” [23 times], again, a normal solar day. And whenever we see the word “night” with “day” anywhere else in the Olt Testament [52 times], you guessed it — a 24-hour solar day. But people seem to have trouble applying a consistent rule of application to Genesis because of they suppose science has proven millions of years.

I’ll not address old earth dating methods, except to note that when radiometric dating methods date rocks [formed in volcanic eruptions] we know to be less than a hundred years old at rediculously old age, how can we trust these methods on rocks of unknown ages?

In any case, if you look at Genesis 1, you note almost instantly that it contains an overkill of numbers and the words “evening,” “morning” and “night,” as if God didn’t want us to miss the point that, yes, He meant six solar days, even if He didn’t create the sun for man to measure such a day by until Day 4 [and didn’t make the man who would measure said solar day by the sun until Day 6!]

Now if we’re consistent with our application, we should take the Genesis days as regular solar days, according to the  context and to the rules of application we’ve just discussed. So it matters not that the actualsun wasn’t created until Day 4, since we’re speaking of a period of time only. A period of time we now associate with the sun as a light source and the earth’s rotation. 

It would be a fair question to ask what was the source of light causing the Day/Night of the first 3 Genesis days. The answer is, well, I don’t know, but I can make a guess. So far as I know, no one else has bothered to speculate on this, but I think the Bible gives us a clue in Revelation. [btw, I know a fellow Creation speaker, Hamilton Duncan, who gives an excellent presentation on Genesis and Revelation: Bookends of the Bible].

Revelation 21:23:

“And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”

I realize of course that the context of the verse is the City of New Jerusalem of which God is the Light, but the idea of God as Lightsource, alluded to in several Scriptures, made me wonder if God Himself was not the Lightsource for the Day/Night cycles of the first 3 Genesis days. It’s certainly not farfetched from the Biblical Christian POV.

Irregardless of the source of the light for the Day/Night cycle, the absence of the Sun does not negate the probability that the time span for the Genesis days were that which we now acknowledge the time span of a day to be now that the sun is in existence. The word, context and rule of application is consistent both with the rest of Old Testament usage, as noted; the context, word [“yom”] and rule of application is also consistent for the days before the sun’s creation and the Genesis days which enjoyed the sun’s light. Are we to admit Days 4 through 6 as literal solar days but quibble on the timespan of the three previous Day/night cycles that the Bible identifies as days?

I’ve given our patient readers as much overkill on this subject, I daresay, as God put into Genesis 1 itself on this day issue, but I’d like to add one further thought:

The fact that the Genesis days are literal 24-hour solar days is also backed up by the 4th Commandment:

“For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

Rather than  letting 21st century science intepret Scripture, it’s usually best to let Scripture interpret Scripture. And as Martin Luther noted:

“When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.

The question that most interests me here is not whether God created in 6 days, for the Text lends itself naturally to no other interpretation. All other interpretations of the length of the Genesis days are impositions upon the Text – attempts to show how it could be made to say something other than what it obviously says if we weren’t looking for it to say what we want it to say.   ;]

Having established the intended meaning of the Author on this matter, a more interesting question becomes: Well, why did God take 6 days? In Martin Luther’s time, some theologians thought 6 days was entirely too long. They thought such an amount of time seemed to put limits on God’s omnipotence. Why should it take God any time to do anything at all? It was to this outcry that Luther addressed his admonition. But they have a point; why did God take so long? All orthodox Christains are, after all, of a mind that God could create instantly, at a thought, at a word, by fiat.

Ah, theologians are ever thinking and philosophizing too much!

“Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12.

They ought to paint, sculpt and draw more! To the point, if these theologians [professional or armchair, respectively] wish to consider the Creator, they need to spend a bit of time creating something. I know. What a novel thought, eh? When I paint or draw, it’s a process. To wit, it’s an enjoyably rewarding, dare I say fulfilling process. God didn’t create because He had to. He’s completely self-sufficient. Perfect. No, I suspect He did so because He likes to.

Now things we have to do, we hurry through – and this is what separates work from play, craftsmanship or hobby really. We take our time when we enjoy something. And a true craftsman takes the time to do a thing right. And to admire his handiwork afterwards. And the Bible does note that He, as it were, sat back apace on the porch of Heaven and declared, “It is good” six times and then “Very good” upon completion of the whole. Many folks think of this declaration as something of a seal of approval, as if the Creation had passed the Creator’s inspection, but I think it was simple pleasure in His craft. An acknowledgement of His matchless craftmanship. If God does a thing, it is always good, even if it is sometimes terrible and awesome. 

I suspect there’s something about God that compells Him to create. The late songwriter Rich Mullins once wrote, “It is the sea that shapes the sailor, and the land that shapes the sea/And I do not know yet what I am made of or all I may one day be/ It is the wood that shapes the carpenter. It’s the very tools of his trade/ It is love that makes a lover, and the cross that makes us saved.” There’s a lot of truth in his lyrical ruminations, but I want to look at one particular thought:

“It is love that makes a lover.” The Bible says that God is love. And also that He loves us so much that He died for us while we were yet sinners. I suspect that He had man in mind all along as He created. The strong anthropic principle is obviously imprinted upon the cosmos as if God had signed His Name. And that means that man was not an afterthought, though he was the last to be made. God made everything else by fiat, by spoken command. And I believe that it joyfully sprang into existence in but a moment, impatient to have God look upon it with approval and pride. But He took the time to form man from the very dust of the earth, and woman from man’s side. And the moment that man appeared upon the canvas, everything else God had painted, though anyone would have said each individual detail was a magnum opus in its own right, became a mere backdrop for the focal point God had in mind all along. Like any artist, God put a little of Himself into everything he wrought, but so much the more into His truest masterpiece, a thing made in the image of Perfection itself. This is art that the masters have all sought to capture, to imitate, but never with the skill of the Master Himself; the secret is that they try to make images of Man, but Man was made in the image of God: they all have a poorer model than God Himself in Heaven’s studio!

And before he fell, what an unparralleled example of craftsmanship Adam must have been! Even tarnished and soiled by the Curse, we see glimpses of man’s former glory. God’s craft is simply that great, that even marred His magnum opus is still undeniably the pinnacle of artistic achievement and craftsmanship. Leonardo and all the rest have simply explored the depths of nuance God put into His imagebearer.

And God is not content to let His masterpiece rust and languish. He sent His Son to redeem us.

And as for the Christian, we have this promise from the Author and Finisher of our faith [Heb. 12:2], that we, as though beholding His face in a mirror, are being changed from glory to glory into the same image [2 Cor 3:18], so that one day, we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is [1 John 3:2]. And I believe that will be a greater masterpiece than the first.

I digress, but I can excuse myself this time. We are, after all, commanded to meditate on God’s Word.

So that’s why the Text says 6 solar days, whether 21st century science would have it so or not, and why I believe God took His time to create everything when He could have done so in the blink of an eye. I may write further on modern dating methods at some later date, but I believe this covers the subject from the Biblical exegetical angle.

How beautiful Heaven must be if such a Creator has truly saved the best for last!

-Sirius Knott

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. thefourwinds says:

    Good post. Like your thoroughness. I’m not sure I agree that God was “compelled” in Himself to create, because God was complete in Himself (in the Trinity) from eternity past. But the Lord certainly accomplished many other things through creating, including ultimately providing a bride for the Son, in a people who love and serve Him with all their heart, byHis grace.

    1. Sirius says:

      @thefourwinds:

      Thank you.

      I chose the word compelled not suggest any need or lack on God’s part. I simply suggest that like love, life is so much a part of His nature that it would be unnatural for Him not to create. I realize that I gave the impression that He has to. That wasn’t what i intended. It’s just the natural flow of who He is.

      -Sirius Knott

  2. Neil says:

    Thanks for the background. How do you respond to the question about the seemingly inordinate amount of things that happened on one day in Genesis 2?

    1. Sirius says:

      @Neil:

      Well, again, it comes down to context. There is one single exception to the literal use of the word “yom” as a 24-hour solar day in Genesis 1 & 2: Genesis 2:4:

      “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens…”

      Here, the word “day” means “time,” but since God already made the overkill point that those days were normal solar days, we know that this “time” refered to is the 6-day Creation week.

      Remember: Chapter divisions aren’t inspired, merely useful for looking up verses or memorization. The first three verses of chapter 2 rightly belong with the thought of Chapter 1.

      Verse 4 begins one of the “generations” of Genesis. The next one, the generations of Adam begins in Chapter 5. This section begins the generations of heaven and earth when they were created, which is a fancy way of saying, “Here’s where the first people came from.” The setting is contained in verses 4 thru 6, noting that when God created everything, there was no rain but instead a mist that watered the earth and there was no man to till the ground. Our original job was husbandry.

      Verse 7 again picks up the creation of Adam, letting us know the events we’re reading now occured on Day 6. Day 6 was a very busy day, comparable to Day 4 where “He made the stars also,” almost as an afterthought. On Day 6, he created land animals, man from the dust of ther earth and planted the Garden of Eden.

      Here’s a big, but oft overlooked point. Eden was a garden. God planted it. He made trees to spring up, both pretty ones and ones with good food to eat – and two special trees which form the backdrop for Chapter 3.

      Verses 10-14 simply let us know the landscape and riverways.

      Verses 15-17 relates how God told Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and told him the consequences of disobeying the One Rule.

      Verses 18 onward describe the creation of Eve. It’s noteworthy that God here [and in Genesis 2:7] adds detail to Genesis 1:27’s understatement: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

      What gets a few people is this business of Adam naming the animals, particularly verse 19: “And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air.” God had already created all of the land animals [creeping things, cattle and beasts of the earth – Gen 1:24-25]. Now he forms the beasts of the field [a sub-set of beasts of the earth], birds and cattle from the dust of the earth and brings them before Adam to see what he’ll name them. Were these real live creatures? or simply clay images of the real McCoy? I have this sort of sci-fi fantasy image in my head of God sculpting each creature with a wave of his hand and sending them hovering in front of Adam. In my mind’s eye, each clay creature is moving as it would in real life. Maybe it even becomes real, live flesh as Adam gives it a name. Ah, they need to make a decent movie about Creation and the Flood… sigh.

      Anyway, it’s important to note that God didn’t bring every creature to Adam, just birds, cattle and beasts of the field. One assumes that since he’d created them each according to their kind [again, Gen 1:24-25] and there hadn’t been enough time for variations to occur within the kinds that he simply had to name the original archo-kinds.

      In any case, Adam’s first day at school set the precedent for all school days: he fell asleep in class.

      Putting together the events of Genesis 1 and 2 for Day 6, we find that:

      1. God creates all land animals by fiat.
      2. God forms Adam from the dust of the earth.
      3. God plants a garden and puts Adam in it.
      4. God prohibits Adam from eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
      5. God forms cattle, birds and beasts of the field out of the ground for Adam to name.
      6. God creates Eve from Adam’s side.
      7. God gives away the first bride.

      Some folks seem to find a contradiction between God creating birds on Day 5 by fiat and forming birds from the ground on Day 6 [or land animals being created by fiat of Day 6 and formed from the ground in the naming passage], but they do not consider that these were simply specific representatives for Adam to name. As a separate event, the use of separate means of creation [fiat verses sculpted] and the acknowledgement that the events [for birds] took place on two separate days offers no honest contradiction.

      Is that what you meant?

      -Sirius Knott

  3. Neil says:

    Yes, thanks for the background!

  4. Chris says:

    Thanks a lot for the effort and the response.

    Some comments: I did not say anything about modern science, because the problem is NOT with science (in my interpretation), but with the text itself.

    You say that for you the CONTEXT is very important, but it is the CONTEXT that you ignore. Because from the CONTEXT, you cannot argue for 24 hr days since the context tells us that the sun was created in the fourth day.

    I see your point about the light (some light that God decided to create before the sun). That is certainly possible (or perhaps God was the light).

    HOWEVER – if that is true, you MUST redefine what MORNING and EVENING means.

    It seems to me that you refuse to redefine DAY (it must always mean 24 hrs, at least with a number), but you have no problem redefining MORNING and EVENING.

    For most people (and perhaps ALWAYS in the OT), morning = when the SUN RISES. And evening = when the SUN SETS. However – that cannot be what morning and evening means in the first 3 days, because there is no SUN!

    Now – even if DAY means 24 hrs thousands of times in the OT, that does not mean that it cannot mean something else elsewhere, if the CONTEXT requires that (as it seems to be the case in Genesis 1). Just as MORNING and EVENING must be redefined in Genesis 1 (because of the CONTEXT, there is no sun), why can’t DAY be understood differently?

    These are just some thoughts to which I am looking for some answers. My comments are in no way intended to annoy you! I just think that your explanation about the light and your paying attention to the CONTEXT is inadequate.

    What do you think?

  5. Sirius says:

    @Chris:

    What do I think?

    I think you’ve missed the point entirely.

    Maybe we can clarify it a bit for you.

    What is the basis of a day?

    Answer: The Earth’s rotation.

    When is it Day?

    Answer: When light breaches your relative horizon. We call this moment sunrise now because the sun is our CURRENT source of light. God called this period of light DAY.

    When is it Night?

    Answer: When the light passes our relative horizon, leaving us in darkness. We call this moment sunset because the sun is our CURRENT source of light. God called this period of darkness Night.

    Does Genesis 1 ever use the terms sunrise or sunset?

    Answer: No. It uses morning and evening. This is importnat because the sun was not in existence for the first 3 days.

    BUT A LIGHTSOURCE WAS. It was the very first thing God created.

    And now we get to our most importnat question:

    Is the sun necessary for the Earth’s day/night cycle?

    Answer: No. While the sun currently provided that light and has done so since Day 4, the sun is not necessary. All that is required is a light source coming from a direction parralel with Earth’s axis. Any light source. A giant flashlight. A blob of glowing energy. God Himself. Just a light source.

    The Bible does not say what that light source was. It only states that God created light on Day 1 and that the Day/Night cycle began then, ie. the Earth was rotating relative to that light source.

    God replaced that non-specified light source with a more specific one on Day 4 when He filled the heavens.

    Your statement that evening and morning must be redefined because the sun was created on Day 4 ignores the actual context [ie. ACTUAL CONTEXT] of Genesis 1. As previously stated, it’s like God goes overkill to let us know these were 6 literal 24-hour days. He presents a pattern of day/light cycles that remains unchanged even after the creation of the sun on Day 4. The word usage in context is wholly consistent with the usage of the word “yom” elsewhere. Furthermore, as I have further noted the only thing required for a day/night cycle is the earth’s rotation and a lightsource relative to the axis. God did mention that there was light on the first day and the light/dark or day/night or evening/morning cycles which continue throught the Creation Week [before and after day 4] indicate the earth’s rotation and that there was in fact a lightsource as indicated.

    So the “but the sun wasn’t made until day 4 so these days have all gotta be millions of years” objection falls really, really short. Honestly, it is one of the more tired arguments for an old universe and it ought to be re-tired.

    Sorry to go overkill on you, Chris, but that seems to be the tack God has taken in Genesis to hammer this point home and I see no reason to change His chosen tactic.

    If you persist to believe this nonsense, you do so in willful ignorance, mate. I don’t mean to say that with any cruelty but only as a cautionary advisory. We are all capable of deceiving ourselves. Only the Holy Ghost can guide us into all truth. And I say this as someone who once told my wife [over a decade ago], “Well, I suppose God could have used evolution.”

    And now look where the journey has taken me!

    Keep searching, Chris!
    Sirius Knott

  6. Chris says:

    Sirius,

    First of all – let’s notice that I never told you what I believe (you say that I believe nonsense…?) and I never said that I believe that the days are millions of years etc…I was just posing some important questions that exist concerning Genesis 1 and I find hard to answer many times! These questions do not necessarily come because of today’s science, they come from the text. Let’s not forget that Augustine (and other early interpreters) had problems with the creation being TOO LONG, not too short! (Why did God need such a long time [6 days] to create? )

    Second – when I talked about sunrise and sunset, I was obviously using everyday language. Of course, the sun does not rise etc…it is the earth that rotates. I was thinking about that after I wrote the message.

    In any case – assuming that there was a light source (which must be inferred, because it is NOT in the text, what was created in the first day was LIGHT, NOT a light source!) somewhere in the sky, and that the earth was rotating at the same speed (which is of course a very reasonable assumption) you still have to redefine DAY. Not the length of the day, but the meaning of day. Day is not when the sun is up in the sky, but when some light source (again – which is NEVER mentioned as being created in the Genesis account) is up in the sky. I am sure in ALL of the other instances in OT day is the time when there is light from the SUN, not from some supposed light source never mentioned in the Bible.

    Perhaps this is a insignificant, but it must be admitted that DAY in this context is not a normal DAY (even though it could have the same length of time – 24hrs). It is a day when some light source (that the Bible does NOT mention as being created- I wonder why?) is up in the sky, not the sun!

    The moon is the lesser light (v.16). What does that mean? How do you explain that?

    How is the light separated from the darkness (when darkness does not really exist, it is just the absence of light)?

    My point is: a literal reading of Genesis, raises very many legitimate questions/problems! How do we deal with these HONESTLY? It is not that easy!

    What if we have here ancient cosmology and Walton is right when he says that “Through the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture. No passage offers a scientific perspective that was not common to the Old World science of antiquity.” ?[Isaiah 40:22 is perhaps a disk, not a sphere]

    In my analysis of this text, I found this very useful:

    preachinggenesis.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/notes-on-genesis-1-part-i/

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