And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for isigns and for jseasons,6 and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God kmade the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to lrule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
i Jer. 10:2; Ezek. 32:7, 8; Joel 2:30, 31; 3:15; Matt. 24:29; Luke 21:25
j Ps. 104:19
6 Or appointed times
k Deut. 4:19; Ps. 136:7–9
l Jer. 31:35
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 1:14–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Rhetorical Question: if YHWH created the sun and moon to rule day and night (in addition to what seems to indicate planetary cycles) AFTER He created light, water vaults, skies, seas, land and vegetation; then how can we rationally assert that the phrase, “the evening and the morning” used in “days 1-3” indicate a literal 24 hour day, notwithstanding 6 literal, 24 hour days to account for the entire Creation?
The formula best translated…
“and there is an evening, and there is a morning — day ______.” (YLT)
“And there was evening and there was morning, the _____ day.” (LEX, KJV, NKJV, 1899 DRA, DARBY, NRSV)
… is written to pose a memorandum (for religious observance reasons) to the ancient Israelite mind: being that, for the ancient Hebrew nation, each of the 24 hr. days of a 7 day week are to serve as periods of commemoration toward YHWH’s successive creative acts.
Genre of Genesis: Not a Scientific Document but a Theocratic Document
The reader must remember that the setting of Genesis (and all the books of Moses) is the inauguration (or reinstatement, in Deut.) of ancient Israel as a nation. This first chapter of the first book did not serve—for them—as a modern scientific treatise for oceanology, meteorology, geology, zoology or biology. Rather, it served as a basis for their theocratic tables— particularly the 10 Commandments. Genesis is not altogether historical literature, though it contains history. Rather, it is history with perspective. Genesis 1-2 are texts written down by Moses, under Divine inspiration, to set forward rudimentary principles in the minds of Hebrews, so that the rest of the Pentateuch (essentially the Israeli national constitution) coheres. The “Genesis account of Creation” is, thus, not an account of how creation happened, but it is an effective instruction for the Hebrew nation on how and why to commemorate the fact that YHWH created all things and did it in a particular order for His own reasons—which also the Hebrew nation would keep sacred. Certainly, the ancient Hebrews would have understood from the text that all things were created in progress and order, that they themselves were created last of all for the purposes God describes…. And in culmination, God rested (completed) the work of creation, to be celebrated on 7th day of the Hebrew week, the Sabbath. However, they would not have looked to the text as a scientific document. Rather, Genesis 1 is foundational for YHWH’s command in the Decalog (10 Commandments) to observe the Sabbath. Every week of the Hebrew calendar was to culminate in a rest-day reminder to the Hebrew people, not only a reminder that YHWH is the Creator, but also, His work among creation progressed and is completely finished.
A Descriptive and Prescriptive Commemoration
In the Covenant handed to them by Moses, each day of the week should serve to remind the Hebrew people of their origin (as humans and a nation), the meaning of life, the purpose of humankind, and that, they can rest in YHWH, instead of working themselves and the land to ruination or seeking the aid of other gods in the region.
–The 1st day (evening and morning) of the Hebrew week would represent the creation of light by YHWH, separated from darkness over the waters.
–The 2nd day (evening and morning) of the Hebrew week would represent YHWH’s creation of the water vaults, below and above.
–The 3rd day (evening and morning) of the Hebrew week would represent YHWH’s creation of skies and the dry land, as separate from the seas, and vegetation.
–The 4th day (evening and morning) of the Hebrew week is when the ancient Hebrew (Israelite) would have known to commemorate YHWH’s creation of time, His appointed times and planetary rotations (seasons), as we know them. Time (as counted by planetary rotations and evening/morning cycles) was not created as a first act of YHWH. Before YHWH’s creation of the means for humankind to account for 24 hour days in time [let alone the creation of humans themselves within time], who knows—but YHWH—how “long” the elements of the cosmos (i.e. waters, light, vaults, skies, seas, land, vegetation) were in existence. Even the strictest literalist must concede this exegetical point.
The above also implies there may be no proper way of determining from the Bible a length of time for the animal kingdom’s existence. In sequence, the creation of animal kingdom precedes that of humanity. So, the rest of the Hebrew week (days 5 & 6) would serve as commemoration periods of those creative acts. Finally, just as God “rested” at the end of creation, even so the Hebrew must commemorate that rest, according to YHWH’s command.
Moreover, the only proper way of determining the length of human existence is the recorded history presented in Genesis, as it correlates with other histories in ancient civilization. The student of the Bible must determine for herself/himself whether the record of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2-3) are indicative of the first (numerical) humans to exist, or of a special creative act on the part of YHWH to establish a federal, priestly representative of mankind to Himself—a first couple (rank). Whatever the case, or if both, it is more than safe to observe from the text that the animal kingdom was to be seen by the ancient Hebrew as having preceded mankind in existence. That fact has implications toward humankind’s being the pinnacle of earthly creation, and therefore, responsible (as an image-bearing regent) between all other earthly creation and YHWH.
Understanding the text of Genesis 1, according to its original setting and purpose, reveals that holding to literal 6 (24 hour) days for the creation account is not only incorrect but irresponsible to good exegesis of the data in the text. Such poor exegesis also does not duly consider the genre and biblical theology of Genesis, being one of a set of foundational documents (summarized by the Decalogue) for the inauguration (and reinstatement) of a once-holy nation among other nations.