What is the Meaning of the Word “Day” in Genesis? Part 3

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Today we continue looking at arguments for a 24-hour view of the “days” in Genesis and arguments for a longer period of time.  Again, we will be using Norm Geisler’s treatment of the issue.

A seemingly persuasive argument for the 24-hour view is the comparison in Exodus 20:11 of the six-day work week to the six “days” of creation.  Here is the argument briefly stated:

According to the law of Moses (Ex. 20:11), the Jewish workweek (Sunday through Friday) was to be followed by a day of rest on Saturday, just as God had done in His “six-day week” of creation.  The Jewish workweek refers to six successive twenty-four-hour-days. This being the case, it seems that the creation week, like the workweek, was only 144 hours long.

Dr. Geisler addresses this argument in the following way:

It is true that the creation week is compared with a workweek (Ex. 20:11); however, it is not uncommon in the Old Testament to make unit-to-unit comparisons rather than minute-for-minute ones. For example, God appointed forty years of wandering for forty days of disobedience (Num. 14:34). And, in Daniel 9, 490 days equals 490 years (cf. 9:24–27). What is more, we know the seventh day is more than twenty-four hours, since according to Hebrews 4 the seventh day is still going on. Genesis says that “on the seventh day [God] rested” (Gen. 2:2), but Hebrews informs us that God is still in that Sabbath rest into which He entered after He created: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his” (Heb. 4:10).

The next argument for 24-hour “days” in Genesis has to do with the creation of light on the fourth day.

Young-earthers claim that according to Genesis 1, light was not made until the fourth day (v. 14), but there was life on the third day (v. 1:11–13). However, life on earth cannot exist for millions (or even thousands) of years without light; thus, the “days” must not have been long periods of time.

As Dr. Geisler points out, there are several possible responses to this argument:

Light was not created on the fourth day, as defenders of the solar day argue; rather, it was made on the very first day when God said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). As to why there was light on the first day when the sun did not appear until the fourth day, there are various possibilities. Some scholars have noted a parallelism between the first three days (light, water, and land—all empty) and the second three days (light, water, and land—all filled with bodies). This may indicate a parallelism in which the first and fourth days cover the same period, in which case the sun existed from the beginning.

Others have pointed out that while the sun was created on the first day, it did not appear until the fourth day. Perhaps this was due to a vapor cloud that allowed light through, but not the distinct shape of the heavenly bodies from which the light emanated.

An additional point can be made about the fourth day.  According to young-earth creationists, the sun was not created until the fourth day, but there could be no 24-hour solar days for the first three “days” of Genesis without the sun.  After all, the sun is what gives the earth a 24-hour cycle.  Without the sun, it seems nonsensical to call the first three “days” solar days.

As we look at each of the arguments for 24-hour “days” in Genesis, they may seem convincing at first.  After reading the responses to these arguments, they are not as persuasive.  As I said in an earlier post, interpreting these verses in Genesis is not easy, but we should still keep trying to find the truth, even if it is difficult.  There are still a few more common arguments made by young-earth creationists that we need to review.  We will do that next.

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  • Rob

    Hi Bill, I see that this is an older post, so perhaps you are not checking for comments on it now.

    I currently hold to a young earth view on creation. Although, even fifteen years ago I held an old earth view. I respect anyone who is seriously considering the issue, no matter what their position. It is so easy for us to be wrong.

    You gave a pretty good summary of the semantic range of “yom.” It’s range is actually quite similar to that of the English “day,” although this may be in part due to Biblical usage in our English texts.

    In fact, if the usage of “yom” is figurative, it could mean any number of things, regardless of its semantic range. This is something that is often ignored by people coming from the young earth perspective.

    Of course, on the other hand, it is easy for people from the old earth perspective to tacitly ignore the fact that God could have done things in just six days of creation. Bias is present on both sides. But, it is not impossible to treat evidences from both sides with respect and thoughtfulness.

    Now, to the reason for which I am writing:

    It is true that it seems non-sensical for a day to be “solar” before the creation of the sun. However, we do not always think of the day being composed of the time when the sun is up and when the sun is down. Rather, we tend to think of a day as being composed of a period of light and a period of dark. This is especially true on days when we cannot see the sun through thick clouds. Granted, the period of light on such days is muted, but because of that very muting we may not even think of the sun. Yet, the day would still be “solar.”

    When a someone from a young earth position speaks of a “solar day,” he is using it in this respect. That is, the period of light and dark which spans roughly twenty-four hours. In this respect, days before the creation of the sun could still have been “solar,” not because of the presence of the sun, but because of the pattern of light and dark and the consistent time frame.

    It is true, because of the semantic range of “yom” and because of the possiblility of figurative usage that these days do not absolutely have to be understood as twenty-four hour days. But please don’t treat this position as if it has no logical basis. It is an internally consistent system and God could have done it this way if He so chose.

    Best Regards,
    A Lesser Son

  • How is it possible that you use a verse (Num. 14:34).where “day means “ordinary day” to prove that “day” does not mean “ordinary” in another verse?

    Bill Pratt “thou art beside thyself;”

    And concerning your “solar day” argument…
    The sun does not establish a “day”. God established “day” from day 1.
    Acts 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

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