Copyright © 1963 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS
EDWARD J. YOUNG
IV. The Fourth Commandment and the Scheme
Six Plus One
The fourth commandment actually refutes the non-chron-
ological interpretation of Genesis one. It is to the credit
of Professor Ridderbos that he recognizes the difficulty
and endeavors to provide an explanation.72 He candidly
states that we do not know what led the Israelite to work
six days and to rest a seventh, other than the influence of
God's providence. Hence, the author of Genesis one could
present his material in such a way as to give the impression
that God worked six days and rested one day.
The "rest" of God, argues Ridderbos correctly, is to be
regarded as creation's climax, and this rest was expressed by
mentioning the seventh day. Man, according to the fourth
commandment, is to work as God worked. He is not, however,
to be a slave to his work, but, as God rested, so man at the
proper time is to lay aside his work for rest. His work, like
that of God, is to have the glory of God as its goal. The
numbers of Genesis one, therefore, it is reasoned, have sym-
72 Quarterly, p. 227.
73 Conflict, p. 41. H. J. Nieboer (Lucerna, p. 645), in speaking of the
problem, remarks, "het ligt echter voor de hand aan to nemen, dat voor
ons als westerse mensen--met lineaal, weegschaal en chronometer--
zich hier een probleem voordoet, dat voor de gelovige Israeliet, wiens
cultus vol was van symbolische transposities, helemaal niet bestond".
A position that requires this type of defense must be weak indeed. Ezekiel
had a measuring rod (Ezekiel 40:3); Amos knew what a plumbline was
(Amos 7:7); the ark was constructed according to certain measurements,
so also were the tabernacle and temple. And as for the matter of weights
we may note Deuteronomy 25:13-16. Nor should we forget Ahaz' sundial
It should be noted that the seventh day is to be interpreted as similar
In accordance with his decree--for Ridderbos rightly de-
sires to retain the idea that the Sabbath ordinance is rooted
in creation--God designated the seventh day as a day of
rest, and so the number seven became a sacred number, "the
number of the completed cycle", and this pattern is pre-
supposed in the ten commandments.
There are, however, serious difficulties in any attempt to
square a non-chronological scheme of the days of Genesis with
the fourth commandment. One must agree, whatever position
he is defending, that, irrespective of their length, the periods
mentioned in Genesis one may legitimately be designated by
the Hebrew word MOy (day). The fundamental question is
whether or not Genesis one presents a succession of six days
followed by a seventh. According to Exodus 20 such is the
case. "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work", is the
divine command, and the reason given for obedience thereto
is rooted in God's creative work, "for in six days the Lord
made heaven and earth". Man, therefore, according to the
Ten Commandments, is to work for six consecutive days,
inasmuch as God worked for six consecutive days.
The whole structure of the week is rooted and grounded in
the fact that God worked for six consecutive days and rested
a seventh. For this reason we are commanded to remember
(rOkzA) the Sabbath day. Man is to "remember" the Sabbath
day, for God has instituted it. There would be no point in
the command, "Remember the Sabbath day", if God had not
instituted the day. The human week derives validity and
significance from the creative week. Indeed, the very Hebrew
word for week (faUbwA) means "that which is divided into
seven", "a besevened thing".74 The fourth commandment
in nature to the preceding six days. There is no Scriptural warrant what-
ever (certainly not Hebrews 4:3-5) for the idea that this seventh day is
eternal. Visee (op. cit., p. 640) is on good ground when he writes "En al
evenmin laat zich als tegenargument (i. e., against the position that the
days were solar days) aanvoeren, dat de zevende dag, nog zou voortduren.
De Zevende dag van Genesis 2:2 en 3 is kennelijk een dag in de bekende
zin geweest, de dag, die God de HEERE als de dag, waarop Hij zelf gerust
heeft (perfectum), voor zijn schepsel gezegend heeft."
74 faUbwA -- lit., a heptad. The form appears to be a Qal passive participle,
at least in passages such as Gen. 29:27, 28; Lev. 12:5; Jer. 5:24. On the
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 145
constitutes a decisive argument against any non-chronological
scheme of the six days of Genesis one. And a non-chronological
scheme destroys the reason for observance of a six-day week
followed by a seventh day of rest.
The scheme of six days followed by a seventh is also deeply
embedded in the literature of the ancient near east.
In Tablet XI of the Gilgamesh Epic, for example, we read
Six days and six (nights)
Did the wind blow, the rain, the tempest and the flood
overwhelmed the land.
When the seventh day came, the tempest, the flood
Which had battled like an army, subsided in its on-
The reference is to the six days of the downpour of the flood,
days which are followed by a seventh. The meaning of course
is that for a space of six days the winds blew and the rain fell.
Certainly there would be no warrant for interpreting the
phrase "six days" otherwise. Yet, inasmuch as it is used in
precisely the same manner, if in the Gilgamesh epic the phrase
"six days" means six consecutive days, why does it not have
the same meaning in Exodus 20?
Again, in Tablet XI (lines 142-146) we read,
One day, a second day did the
A third day, a fourth day did the
other hand, in certain instances the word is written with a naturally long
a, e. g., Dan. 9:24; Num. 28:26; Dan. 10:2, 3; Ex. 34:22.
75 The text is found in R. Campbell Thompson: The Epic of Gilgamesh,
een week (aanmerkelijk eerder dan volgens het bijbelse verhaal) houdt de
vloed op." How else can the words of the text be understood? "Na een
week" is the natural understanding that one would receive from the
When the seventh day came,
I sent forth a dove and dismissed her.76
Here the idea of succession is made very clear. The pattern
is six successive days followed by a seventh. A similar pattern
is given in the description of the loaves which the wife of
Utnapishtim bakes for him.
His first loaf of bread was completely dried,
the second --- the third --- moist; the fourth white ---
the fifth moldy; the sixth just baked ---
the seventh - - - the man awoke (tablet XI, lines
Here six distinct loaves are mentioned, and at the mention of
the seventh, after the six have been described, Utnapishtim
touches the man, and he awakes. It is difficult to avoid the
conclusion that in the order of the description of the loaves
chronology is present.
In the Babylonian Creation Account (Enuma Elish) we
read in the fifth tablet (lines 16, 17),
Thou shalt shine with horns to make known six days;
On the seventh day with (hal)f a tiara 78
Here the shining forth is to occupy the space of six days, and
the seventh day which follows is climactic.
The same scheme of six days followed by a seventh is also
found in the literature of Ugarit.79 The following examples
Go a day, and a second, a third, a fourth day,
a fifth, a sixth day, with the sun,
On the seventh day, then thou shalt arrive at Udm.
(Keret I iii, lines 2-4).
76 Note the emphasis that is placed on the seventh day. "VII-a uma
(ma) i-na ka-sa-a-di" (tablet XI, line 145). The same phrase i-na ka-sa-
a-di is also used in line 129.
77 Here again the seventh day is climactic.
78 The text is given in L. King: The Seven Tablets of Creation, 2 vols.,
1902. Cf. also A. Heidel: The Babylonian Genesis, Chicago, 1951, which
gives an excellent translation and commentary.
79 The texts will be found in Cyrus H. Gordon: Ugaritic Handbook,
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 147
- - - - - -remain quiet a day, and a second,
a third, a fourth day, a fifth,
a sixth day, thine arrow do not send
to the town, the stones of thy hand
in succession cast. And behold, the sun
On the seventh day, etc.
(Keret I iii, lines 10-15).
Behold! a day and a second he fed
the Kathirat, and gave drink to the shining daughters
of the moon; a third, a fourth day, - - -
- - - - a fifth
a sixth day - - - -
Behold! on the seventh day - - - .
(Aqhat II ii, lines 32-39).
Behold! - - - - - day, and a second, did devour
the fire - - - in the houses, the flames
in the palace, a third, a fourth day,
did the fire devour in the houses
a fifth, a sixth day did devour
fire in the houses, flames
in the midst of the palaces. Behold!
on the seventh day there was extinguished the fire.
(Baal II vi, lines 24-32).
From the evidence just adduced it is clear that in the
ancient near eastern world there was recognized a scheme of
six successive days or items followed by a climactic seventh.
In its best known form this scheme appears in the ordinary
week. That man thus began to distinguish the days did not
derive from chance. It was rooted in the very creation. Men
are to remember the Sabbath day for that was the day on
which God rested from his labors. In adopting a six-day week
climaxed by a seventh day of rest, mankind was obedient to
its Creator, who also had worked for six days and rested on
V. The Nature and Structure of Genesis One
Genesis one is a document sui generis; its like or equal is
not to be found anywhere in the literature of antiquity.80
And the reason for this is obvious. Genesis one is a divine
revelation to man concerning the creation of heaven and
earth. It does not contain the cosmology of the Hebrews or
of Moses. Whatever that cosmology may have been, we do
not know. Had they not been the recipients of special revela-
tion their cosmology probably would have been somewhat
similar to that of the Babylonians. There is no reason to
believe that their ideas as to the origin of the heavens and
earth would have been more "advanced" than those of their
gave to her a revelation concerning the creation of heaven
and earth,81 and Genesis one is that revelation.
Genesis one is written in exalted, semi-poetical language;
nevertheless, it is not poetry. For one thing the characteristics
80 For this reason we cannot properly speak of the literary genre of
Genesis one. It is not a cosmogony, as though it were simply one among
many. In the nature of the case a true cosmogony must be a divine revela-
tion. The so-called "cosmogonies" of the various peoples of antiquity are
in reality deformations of the originally revealed truth of creation. There
is only one genuine cosmogony, namely, Genesis one, and this account
alone gives reliable information as to the origin of the earth. Nor is Genesis
one an epic of creation, for an epic is actually a narrative poem that centers
about the exploits of some hero. Whether in writing Genesis one Moses
by divine inspiration was led to express the truth in a literary form, which
by its use of recurring phrases and small compact units, was similar to
literary forms of
(The Legacy of Canaan, Leiden, 1957, p. 213), remarks that there are no
exact replicas of the Canaanite literary types in the Old Testament al-
though he does think that some of the main features and much of the
imagery familiar in the Canaanite myth are found in the myth of the
conflict of Cosmos and Chaos which, according to Gray, was adopted by
the Hebrews. With this latter thought we cannot agree, for we do not
believe that there is evidence extant to support the view that the Hebrews
ever adopted any myth of the conflict of Cosmos and Chaos. The basic
reason why Moses used the device of six days was that creation occurred
in six days.
81 This conclusion follows inasmuch as Genesis one is a part of the holy
Scriptures. In Thy Word Is Truth (Grand Rapids, 1957) I have set forth
the reasons why I believe the Bible to be the Word of God.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 149
of Hebrew poetry are lacking, and in particular there is an
absence of parallelism. It is true that there is a division into
paragraphs, but to label these strophes does not render the
account poetic. The Bible does contain poetic statements of
creation, namely, Job 38:8-11 and Psalm 104:5-9. Ridderbos
aptly points out that if one will read Genesis 1:6-8; Job
38:8-11 and Psalm 104:5-9 in succession he will feel the
difference between the Genesis account and the poetic ac-
counts.82 The latter two passages are poetic for they contain
parallelism, and it is this feature which is lacking in the first
chapter of the Bible.
Genesis one is the prelude to a severely historical book, a
book so strongly historical that it may be labeled genealogical.
Indeed, the first chapter stands in an intimate relationship
with what follows. By its usage of the phrase Cr,xAhAv; Myimaw.Aha
Genesis 2:4a connects the prelude (Gen. 1:1-2:3) with the
genealogical section of the book. It is an intimate relation-
ship, for chapters two and three clearly presuppose the con-
tents of chapter one. This is seen among other things in the
usage of the phrase Myhilox< hvhy which is intended to identify
hvhy, with the Myhilox< of chapter one.83 Furthermore, chapter
two assumes the creation of the earth, the heaven and the
sea, the account of which is given in chapter one.
The chapter is thus seen to constitute an integral part of
the entire book and is to be regarded as sober history. By
this we mean that it recounts what actually transpired. It is
reliable and trustworthy, for it is the special revelation of God.
If this involves conflicts with what scientists assert, we cannot
escape difficulties by denying the historical character of
82 Conflict, p. 36. The following quotation from Visee (op. cit., p. 636)
makes an interesting point. "In Genesis 2 komt wel een dichterlijk gedeelte
voor. Reeds B. Wielenga heeft er op gewezen dat we
gomslied to doen hebben met het eerste lied. Maar juist dit om z'n poetische
vorm in deze prozaische omgeving terstond opvallende lied accentueert
destemeer het niet-poetisch karakter der eerste hoofdstukken." The refer-
ence is to Wielenga's book, De Bijbel als boek van schoonheid, Kampen,
1925, pp. 237, 238, a work which I have not seen.
83 For examples of double names of deity in the ancient near east see
the informative article of K. A. Kitchen: "
Recent Advances", in Faith and Thought, Vol. 91, Nos. 2 and 3 (Winter
1959, Summer 1960), pp. 189, 190.
Genesis. We cannot agree, for example, with Vawter, when
he writes, "It is therefore apparent that we should not be
seeking a concord between the poetry of Genesis and the
scientifically established data on the development of the
universe".84 To dismiss Genesis one as poetry, and it is Genesis
one of which Vawter is speaking, is to refuse to face the facts.
At the same time, although Genesis one is an historical
account, it is clear, as has often been pointed out, that Moses
does employ a certain framework for the presentation of his
material. This may be described by the terms fiat and ful-
fillment,85 and the scheme may be represented as follows:
1. The divine speech "And God said"
2. The fiat "Let there be"
3. The fulfillment "And there was" or
"and it was so"
4. The judgment "And God saw that it was good"
5. Conclusion "And there was evening
and there was morning"
A careful study of Genesis one, however, will show that this
arrangement is not consistently carried through for each of
the days. Indeed, even the mere fiat-fulfillment is not con-
84 A Pathway Through Genesis,
to regard the entire chapter as a figurative scheme and yet hold that it
teaches that God is the creator of all. For if we interpret the greater part
of the chapter as not corresponding to what actually happened (and how
can the non-chronological view escape this?) by what warrant may we
say that Genesis 1:1 corresponds to what did happen? We have not then
derived the doctrine of creation from this chapter by exegesis, but have
simply assumed it in an a priori fashion. For the so-called "framework"
hypothesis demands inconsistency of its adherents. It tells them that they
themselves may choose what in Genesis one corresponds to reality. Surely
such an hypothesis cannot be regarded as exegetically well grounded.
Visee (op. cit., p. 639) is to the point when he writes, "En niets geeft ons
het recht allerlei zakelijke en feitelijke gegevens uit Genesis 1 to elimineren
en het geheel to verschralen tot de hoofdsom, 'dat alles van God is.' "
85 Oswald T. Allis: "Old Testament Emphases and Modern Thought",
points out (op. cit., p. 9) that the fiats of Genesis one have a parallel in
the words of Enki, "Let him bring up the water, etc.". He also calls atten-
tion to the repetitions in lines 42-52 (cf. Gen. 1:11) and lines 53-64 (Gen.
1:12) and to the phrase "and it was indeed so" (hur he-na-nam-ma) as a
correspondence to Nka-yhiy;va.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 151
sistently maintained. Nor can we agree with Deimel that the
writer has consistently employed seven different literary ele-
ments (the sacred number).86 These are said to be (1) God
said; (2) the fiat; (3) the fulfillment; (4) description of the
particular act of creation; (5) God's naming or blessing;
(6) the divine satisfaction and (7) the conclusion. These
seven literary elements are thought to interlock in the follow-
I 7 6 IV
II 6 6 V
III 5 5 VI
But is this arrangement actually found in Genesis? In the
opinion of the writer of this article these literary elements
are more accurately enumerated as follows:
I 7 II 8 III 7, 6 IV 9 V 7 VI 5, 10
Thus, on the second day there is actually a double fiat, "let
there be an expanse ... and let it be dividing". In response
to this there is also a double fulfillment, "and God made ...
and he divided". On the fifth day, to which the literary ele-
ments of the second day are supposed to correspond we find
also a double fiat, "let the waters swarm ... let the birds
fly". Corresponding to this, however, although three objects
of his creative activity are mentioned, there is but one ful-
fillment, "and God created". Here, therefore, there is no
perfect correspondence of form with the description of the
Again, it is very questionable whether a true correspondence
of form can be shown to exist between the third and the sixth
days. With respect to the first work of the third day there
are actually seven elements, for there is a double fiat, "let
86 Anton Deimel: Enuma Elis and Hexaemeron, Rom, 1934, p. 80.
"In dem obigen Schema entsprechen sich das 1. and 8. Werk in bezug
auf die Zahl der Formeln, 2. and 5. in bezug auf Zahl and Reihenfolge der
Formeln, 2. and 6., 3. and 7. in bezug auf die Zahl der Formeln" (p. 81).
the waters be gathered ... and let the dry land be seen".
At this point, however, no fulfillment of these fiats is men-
tioned, but merely the statement, "and it was so". With
respect to the first work of the sixth day, however, there are
but five literary elements. There is but one fiat, "let the earth
send forth", and this is followed by the statement, "and it
was so". Then comes the actual fulfillment in the words,
"And God made, etc.". This is quite different from the
arrangement of the first work of the third day.
As to the second work of the third day there are six ele-
ments; one fiat ("let the earth send forth grass" etc.) fol-
lowed by the words, "and it was so", and then the fulfillment,
"And the earth sent forth grass" etc. Very different in ar-
rangement, however, is the second work of the sixth day.
True enough, there are here six elements, but they include a
double fiat, followed by the fulfillment, "and God created",
and a command of God. This is entirely different in arrange-
ment from the second work of the third day. Furthermore,
there is added to the second work of the sixth day an additional
"and God said", and this is followed by an "and it was so",
and the summary statement, "and God saw everything that
he had made" etc., and then the conclusion in which the
evening and morning are mentioned.
From this brief analysis, it is evident that we cannot find
the exact correspondences which Deimel believes exist in the
first chapter of Genesis. It is perhaps accurate to say that the
account of creation is told in terms of fiat and fulfillment,
although not even this arrangement is carried through con-
sistently. Hence, it would seem that the primary interest of
the writer was not a schematic classification or arrangement
of material. His primary concern was to relate how God
created the heaven and the earth. There is enough in the way
of repetitive statement and schematic arrangement to arrest
the attention, and when it has arrested the attention, it has
fulfilled its function. The arrangement of the material serves
the purpose merely of impressing upon the reader's mind the
significance of the content.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 153
VI. Survey of Genesis One: The First Day
What follows is merely a sketch of the contents of Genesis
one, which seeks to point out the progress and development
that characterize the chapter. It in no sense pretends to
be a full scale commentary. The presence of this chronological
succession of events constitutes one of the strongest arguments
against any non-chronological view of the days.
Although the beginning of the first day is not mentioned in
Genesis one, it would seem from Exodus 20:11 that it began
with the absolute creation, the very beginning. After the
statement of creation in verse one, the first divine act men-
tioned is the command, "let there be light". The conditions
existing at the time when this command was uttered were
those set forth in the second verse of the chapter. Against
the dark background described in verse two the light shone
forth. As a result of God's speaking, the light sprang into
existence. This light is not an emanation from God, nor is
it an attribute, but is the result of God's creative Word.
It must be noted that Genesis one teaches the creation of
light before the sun, nor is this to be regarded as an accident.
Even if the chapter be considered a mere human composition,
we may be sure that its author knew well enough that the
light of the present-day world comes from the sun. This
representation was intentional. And it is well to note that
Enuma Elish has the same order. Here also light comes be-
fore the sun. Not until the fifth tablet do we meet with a
statement of the making of the heavenly bodies. In this
respect therefore, namely, relating the production of the
heavenly bodies after the existence of light, the Enuma Elish
is in agreement with Genesis. When Apsu wishes to revolt,
light is already present, for he says: "Their way has become
grievous to me. By day I cannot rest, by night I cannot
sleep" (1:37, 38). Heidel also points out that there was a
radiance or dazzling aureole about Apsu (1:68), "He carried
off his splendor and put it on himself".87 And Marduk him-
87 Cf. Heidel; op. cit., p. 101. The light, according to Genesis, does not
spring from water, nor is it the result of divine action upon the inert mass
of tehom (Albright: "Contributions to Biblical Archaeology And Philology",
Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 43, p. 368). According to Genesis,
light is the result of the creative Word alone. Nor can we say that in
self was a solar. deity, "Son of the sun-god, the sun god of
the gods" (1:102). In Enuma Elish light is really an attribute
of the gods; in Genesis it is the creation of God. That such
an order should be present in Enuma Elish is what might be
expected, for this document represents the garbled version
of the truth that finally trickled down to the Babylonians.
Is Genesis, however, correct in its teaching that light was
created before the sun? Leupold well remarks, "But it ill
behooves man to speak an apodictic word at this point and
to claim that light apart from the sun is unthinkable. Why
should it be? If scientists now often regard light as merely
enveloping the sun but not as an intrinsic part of it, why
could it not have existed by itself without being localized in
any heavenly body?"88 In an area so filled with mystery and
about which we know so little, who can dare to assert that
Moses is in error in declaring that light was created before the
sun? Can one prove that the presence of light demands a
light-bearer? What about the lightning flash? May there not
have been rays of original light? We do not know; what can
be said with assurance is that at this point Genesis makes no
statement that scientists can disprove.
Perhaps one reason why Genesis mentions light before the
sun is to disabuse our minds of the idea that light is dependent
upon the sun and to cause us to turn our eyes to God as its
creator. "Therefore the Lord", says Calvin, "by the very
order of the creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand
the light, which he is able to impart to us without the sun and
moon".89 There is also a second reason for this order of
statement. The light is necessary for all that follows, and
Moses places emphasis upon, the light, mentioning it as the
specific object of God's approval. Elsewhere we have only
throwing off the mythical point of view and adopting a cosmogony in
which water was the primal element, Thales, founder of the Ionian school
of philosophy, showed that he was influenced by a common milieu which
also had influenced the writer of Genesis one.
88 H. C. Leupold: Exposition of Genesis, Columbus, 1942, p. 52. Cf. also
the interesting remark of U. Cassuto (A Commentary on the Book of Genesis,
.lwml Myqrbh rvx
:tvrvxm ylb Mg rvx wyw fdvy
89 John Calvin: Commentaries on The First Book of Moses Called Genesis,
translated by John King,
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 155
the general phrase without a specific object, "and God saw
that it was good". Only in verse thirty-one is an object again
introduced after the verb "saw." Thus:
verse 4 bOF yKi rOxhA-txe Myhilox< xr;y.ava
verse 31 dxom; bOF hne.hiv; hWAfA rw,xE-lKA-txe Myhilox< xr;y.ava
A contrast is thus shown to be present. The first work is
pronounced good, and the completed creation likewise. Nor
is it accidental that the light is seen to be good. The light is
the necessary condition for the existence of all the works
that follow in so far as these have respect to the earth. For
life on earth light is necessary, and hence the creation of
light is first mentioned.90
The division between light and darkness as well as their
naming is the work of God. When the light was removed by
the appearance of darkness, it was evening, and the coming
of light brought morning, the completion of a day. The days
therefore, are to be reckoned from morning to morning,91 and
the commencement of the first day, we believe, was at the
90 "Endlich ist -list, besonders vor der Trennung von j`wAH die allge-
meinste, den Umfang des gesamten Chaos erfullende Schopfung, die darum
geziemend am Anfang des Schopfungswerks steht" (Procksch; op. cit.,
p. 427). "das Licht ist Grundbedingg. aller Ordng. u. alles Lebens"
(Strack: op. cit., p. 1). "ohne Licht kein Leben and keine Ordnung"
(Gunkel: op. cit., p. 103).
91 "Mit der Reihenfolge Abend-Morgen wird ganz klar gesagt, Bass der
Tag mit dem Morgen beginnt" (Rabast: op. cit., p. 48). When, however,
Rabast goes on to say, "Es heisst ja nicht, es war Abend, sondern es wurde
Abend. Der Abend ist also der Abschluss des Tages" (op. cit., p. 48), he
apparently limits day to the period of light in distinction from the darkness.
But the six days of creation are not thus limited by the text. Procksch is
quite dogmatic (op. cit., p. 427), "Die Anschauung des ersten Tages ist
also vom irdischen, 24 stundigen Tag eines Aquinoktiums hergenommen,
wegen v. 11-13 wohl des Fruhlingsaquinoktiums, am Morgen beginnend,
am Morgen schliessend".
92 Cf. Keil (op. cit., p. 51), "The first evening was not the gloom, which
possibly preceded the full burst of light as it came forth from the primary
darkness, and intervened between the darkness and full, broad daylight.
It was not till after the light had been created, and the separation of the
light from the darkness had taken place, that evening came, and after the
evening the morning; and this coming of evening (lit., the obscure) and
morning (the breaking) formed one, or the first, day. It follows from this
The Second Day
In the work of day one the emphasis falls upon the light,
but in day two the earth is the center of attention.93 Indeed,
the purpose of the second day's work is to separate the earth
from all that is beyond it. This is done by means of the
firmament which divides the waters above it, i. e., beyond it,
from those which are beneath it, i. e., those which adhere
to the earth.94
The order of Genesis, namely, the creation of the firmament
after the light, is also paralleled in Enuma Elish. When
Ti'amat is slain, Marduk split her open, and half of her he
used to form the sky or firmament. Then he fixed the crossbar
and posted guards that the waters in that part of her body
which was used to form the sky should not escape. Crass
as is this mythology it nevertheless reflects, albeit in a greatly
mutilated form, the originally revealed truth that the firma-
ment was made after the light and before the appearance of
From this point on, the chapter concerns itself with the
that the days of creation are not reckoned from evening to evening, but
from morning to morning."
93 "Eigentlich beginnt die Erschaffung der Welt erst mit der Feste
(Vers 6); die Erschaffung des Lichts ist vielmehr Vorbedingung des Er-
schaffens der Welt" (Claus Westermann: Der Schopfungsbericht vom Anfang
than that of Gunkel (op. cit., p. 104) who labels the work of the second
day "Schopfung des Himmels".
94 fayqirA, i. e., that which is hammered, beaten out. Cf. Isa. 42:5; Ps.
136:6 and the Phoenician y-1)-in "plating" (Cooke: North Semitic Inscrip-
firmamentum, which are satisfactory renderings. I am unable to accept
the opinion that the waters above the expanse refer to the clouds, for this
position does not do justice to the language of the text which states that
these waters are above the expanse.
95 The account of the making of the "firmament" is found on Tablet IV,
lines 137-139, which may be rendered,
He split her open like an oyster? (nu-nu mas-di-e)
into two parts,
Half of her he set up, and the sky (sa-ma-ma)
he made as a covering,
He made fast the par-ku (crossbar? bolt?)
and watchmen he stationed.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 157
waters under the expanse. In the nature of the case the crea-
tion of the firmament must have preceded the division be-
tween land and earthbound waters; it could not possibly have
followed it. The work of day two, therefore, has to be chrono-
logically previous to that of day three.
The Third Day
Light has been created in order that the dry land may be
adorned with verdure, and the firmament has been made that
the waters underneath it may be gathered into one place.
A twofold fiat introduces the work. First, the water under
heaven is to be gathered into one place, and secondly, the
dry land is to appear, and the fulfillment is simply stated by
the words "and it was so". The magnitude of the work to
be accomplished baffles the imagination and yet, in the simple
words, "and it was so", the accomplishment is recorded.
Nothing is said about means or method of accomplishment
that we may concentrate in wonder and adoration upon him
who alone can perform such a marvel. "Me will ye not fear,
saith the LORD, or from before me will ye not writhe, I
who have placed the sand as a boundary to the sea, an eternal
statute, nor will it pass over it" (Jer. 5:22a).
If process is here involved, Scripture does not mention
that fact; the entire stress appears to be upon the directness
with which the task was accomplished. At the same time, it
could well be that in this work of division there were tre-
mendous upheavals, so that the mountains were formed and
the processes of erosion set in motion.
The land is named, and from this point on the word in-
dicates the dry land in distinction from the ocean. Likewise,
the collection of the waters God called "seas", the word being
plural in order to indicate the extensive and vast surface
covered by water.
All has been preparatory for the second work of the third
day, the covering of the land with foliage. With his word God
empowers the earth to bring forth plants, and with this fact a
certain progress in the order of statement may be noted. Up
to this point all had been produced by God's creative word,
and all that was produced was inorganic; light, firmament,
gathering of waters, dry land. With God's command to the
earth, however, there comes into existence objects that are
organic, and yet do not move about.
The language of verse eleven is closely guarded, for it
precludes the idea that life can originate apart from God
or that the earth of itself can produce life. The earth upon
which man is to live is one that is hospitable to him, providing
him with seed-bearing plants and fruit-bearing trees, but it is
only the creative command of God which makes this possible.
In vegetation there is distinction, as in the entire creation,
so that all man's needs will be met. This distinction together
with the idea of propagation according to its kind,96 supports
the idea of order in the entire creation and yet at the same
time emphasizes the individuality of each plant.97
Lastly, it must be stressed that the plants and trees did
96 The word Nymi in verse eleven, whatever its etymology, is a general
term and is not the equivalent of our "species", as this word is technically
employed. It does not rule out the production of freaks or the possibility
of hybrids. It means merely that the producer will beget what is essentially
the same as itself. Hence, this term clearly rules out the possibility of
one "kind" reproducing anything that is essentially different from itself.
It is perhaps impossible to state precisely what range is included by the
term Nymi. For that reason, it is wiser to speak in broad terms. The term
would exclude the idea that man could have evolved from lower forms of
life, from that which was not man. It would also exclude the idea that
animal life came from plant life or that a fish might ever change into
something essentially different from itself. Hence, caution must be exer-
cised by those who classify animal and plant life. The following statement,
appearing in Bezinning, loc. cit., p. 19, by J. Veldkamp, is untenable as
well as incautious, "Evolutie is een vaststaand feit. Niet alleen de evolutie
in de soorten (sprekende voorbeelden zijn de ontwikkelingsreeken van
zoogdieren, zoals paard, neushoorn en olifant), maar ook tussen de soorten
(overgangen van vis naar amfibie, van amfibie naar reptiel, van reptiel
naar vogel en zoogdier)". For one thing to describe the ontwikkelingsreeken
in the kinds, the term evolution is inaccurate. Nothing has developed in a
manner that was not essentially according to its kind. Great caution must
be exercised in describing the so-called changes within kinds. The last
part of Veldkamp's statement cannot be defended.
97 "Es handelt sich hier lediglich um eine Einteilung der Pflanzen, die
schon die praktische Verwertbarkeit fur Mensch and Tier anzeigt; and
these praktische Einteilung hat zu jeder Zeit ihre Bedeutung" (Rabast,
op. cit., p. 51). It should be noted also that the difference among the
"kinds" of plants was original; they did not all "descend" from a common
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 159
not have nor did they need the light of the sun. That this is a
scientifically accurate description cannot be questioned,98 but
Calvin's beautiful statement probably brings out the basic
reason, "in order that we might learn to refer all things to
him, he did not then make use of the sun or moon" (op. cit.,
in loc.). That the earth constantly produces for the benefit
of man is not to be ascribed to "nature" but goes back to the
creative Word of God.99
The Fourth Day
If it be raised as an objection to the accuracy of the Genesis
narrative that it is geocentric, the answer must be that it is
geocentric only in so far as the earth is made the center of
the writer's attention.100 Even though we are dealing with a
divine revelation, nevertheless the human author was a holy
man who spake from God (II Pet. 1:21), and he wrote from
the standpoint of an earth dweller. The most advanced
astronomer of our day will speak of the sunrise and the sun-
set and of sending up a rocket. Such language is geocentric,
but it is not in error. Genesis one also speaks from the stand-
point of the earth dweller, and in that respect may be labeled
geocentric, but none of its statements is contrary to fact. It
does not claim that the earth is the physical center of the
By means of the work of the third day the earth was pre-
pared to receive its inhabitants. Before they are placed upon
the earth, however, the present arrangement of the universe
must be constituted. For the regulation of earth's days and
98 "Durch bestimmte Experimente weiss man ferner, dass sogar die
Pflanzen nicht vom Sonnenlicht abhangig sein mussen, so sehr sie es auch
heute sind" (Rabast, op. cit., p. 69).
99 There is no evidence to support the contention of von Rad (op. cit.,
p. 53) that the earth is called to maternal participation in the act of crea-
tion, or that ancient thoughts about a "mother earth" are prominent
here. Nor is Gunkel (op. cit., p. 104) correct in saying, "Zu Grunde liegt
die Naturbeobachtung von der Fruchtbarkeit des Bodens, wenn er im
Fruhling soeben austrocknet".
100 "It is not reflection on the Genesis account to say that it is geocentric.
It is geocentric, because the earth is the abode of man and the scene of
his redemption, the story of which is told in the Bible" (Allis: God Spake
seasons, there must now be light from a specific source which
will rule the day and the night.
Hence, the sun and moon are made, a truth which is re-
flected even in Enuma Elish. In the Babylonian document,
however, the order is reversed, namely, stars, moon and sun.
In the ancient oriental religions, the stars were considered to
be divinities, and possibly for that reason appear first in
Enuma Elish. In Genesis, however, mention of the stars
appears almost as an afterthought. This is intentional, for
while it brings the stars into the picture, it does so in such a
way that they are not made prominent.101 Emphasis is placed,
not upon the stars, but upon God, their maker.
Marduk, in the epic, entrusts night to the moon, and what
is said of the moon calls to mind the more beautiful biblical
statement, "the lesser light to rule the night" (Gen. 1:16).
The existence of the sun, however, is assumed in the Baby-
lonian document, and there is no express mention of its
101 Von Rad's comment (op. cit., p. 43) is quite penetrating. "Vielleicht
hangt mit dieser Betonung ihrer Kreaturlichkeit die merkwurdige Trennung
von Lichtschopfung and Erschaffung der Gestirne zusammen. Die Gestirne
sind in keiner Weise lichtschopferisch, sondern durchaus nur Zwischentrager
eines Lichtes, das auch ohne sie and vor ihnen da war."
102 "Im babylonischen Schopfungsbericht ist die Erschaffung der Gestirne
das erste Werk Marduks nach dem Drachenkampf." "Aber die Ahnlichkeit
des Wortlauts der beiden Satze (i. e., Gen. 1:16 and Enuma Elish V. 12)
macht hier den tiefen Abstand nur noch deutlicher. Der Mondgott Sin
in ganz friiher and dann wieder in ganz spater Zeit; aber von ihm kann
gesagt werden; dass er von einem anderen Gott geschaffen and in sein
Herrschaftsamt eingesetzt ist!" (Westermann: op. cit., p. 20). We may
render Tablet V:1-4 as follows:
He erected stations for the great gcds
The stars (kakkabani) their likenesses, the signs of the zodiac
(lu-ma-si) he set up
He fixed the year (satta), the signs he designed
For twelve months (arhe) he set three stars each.
The creation of the moon is related in V:12 ff.:
The moon (il Nannar-ru) he caused to shine forth, the night he
entrusted (to her)
He set her as an ornament (su-uk-nat) of the night unto the setting
(i. e., the determining) of the days (a-na ud-du-u u-me).
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 161
Very different, however, is the narrative of Genesis. Here
the sun is first mentioned, for the sun rules the day upon
earth, and man, who is to rule the earth, needs the sunlight
first and foremost. For the night time the lesser light-bearer
is to rule. Of yet less importance for man are the stars, and
hence they are mentioned last.
That the heavenly bodies are made on the fourth day and
that the earth had received light from a source other than
the sun is not a naive conception, but is a plain and sober
statement of the truth.103 It should be noted, however, that
the work of, the fourth day is not a creatio ex nihilo, but
simply a making of the heavenly bodies. The material from
which the sun, moon and stars were made was created, i. e.,
brought into existence, at the absolute beginning. On the
fourth day God made of this primary material the sun and
moon and stars, so that we may correctly assert that the
creation of these heavenly bodies was completed on this day.
In similar vein we may also say that on the third day the
creation of our globe was completed, although the primal
material of the globe was first brought into existence at the
absolute beginning. If we were to employ the language of
day four with respect to the first work of day three we might
then say that although the earth (i. e., in its original form)
was created in the beginning, nevertheless, on day three God
made the earth. Inasmuch as this is so, the formation of the
heavenly bodies may be presumed to have proceeded side by
Monthly without ceasing with a tiara go forth (u-sir)
At the beginning of the month, (the time of) shining forth over
With horns shalt thou shine for the determining of six days
On the seventh day (i-na um 7-kam) with half a crown.
103 "Nun ist daruber schon genug gespottet worden, dass hier das Licht
vor den Himmelskorpern geschaffen wird. Naturwissenschaftlich ist dies
heute kein Problem mehr, denn der Begriff Urstrahlung’ besagt genau
dasselbe." "Auch wird uns hier keine kindlich naive Auffassung vorgefuhrt,
denn zur Zeit der Aufzeichnung der Genesis wusste wohl auch der Dummste
schon, dass das Tageslicht mit der Sonne zusammenhangt" (Rabast:
op. cit., pp. 47, 48). And again, "Das Lachen daruber, dass es schon Licht
vor der Erschaffung der Sonne gegeben haben muss, gehort einer ver-
gangenen Zeit an, and eine solche Tatsache ist der modernen kosmischen
Physik mit ihrer Urstrahlung` kein Problem mehr" (idem, p. 69).
side with that of the earth, and on day four their formation
as sun, moon and stars was completed. The reason why
Genesis says nothing about the step by step development of
the heavenly bodies is that its purpose is to concentrate upon
the formation of this earth.
The origin of heaven and earth, however, was simultaneous,
but the present arrangement of the universe was not con-
stituted until the fourth day. The establishment of this
arrangement is expressed by the verb NTeyi.va, but we are not
told how God "gave" or "set" these light-bearers in the firma-
ment. What is of importance is to note that the universe is
not an accidental arrangement, but was constituted in orderly
fashion by God.
Day four and day one do not present two aspects of the
same subject. Indeed, the differences between the two days
are quite radical. On day one light is created ( yhiy;va ) on
day four God makes light-bearers. No function is assigned
to the light of day one, but several functions to the light-
bearers. God himself divides the light which he has created
from the darkness;104 the light-bearers are to divide between
the light and the darkness. It is important to note this func-
tion. The light and the darkness between which the light-
bearers are to make a division are already present. They have
manifested themselves in the evening and morning which
closed each day. How a division was hitherto made between
them we are not told; it is merely stated that God divided
between them (1:4). From the fourth day on, however, the
division between them is to be made by light-bearers.105 This
104 "The creation of light, however, was no annihilation of darkness,
no transformation of the dark material of the world into pure light, but a
separation of the light from the primary matter, a separation which estab-
lished and determined that interchange of light and darkness, which pro-
duces the distinction between day and night" (Keil: op. cit., p. 50). "Die
Scheidung (i. e., between light and darkness) ist raumlich, indem die
Lichtmasse and die Finsternismasse je eine Halfte des Chaos einnehmen,
zugleich aber zeitlich indem Tag and Nacht entsteht" (Procksch: op. cit.,
105 rOxmA luminary. Von Rad (op. cit., p. 42) thinks that the expression
is intended to be prosaic and degrading (prosaisch and degradierend), and
that these objects purposely are not named "sun" and "moon" in order
to remove every tempting connection (in Umgehung jeder Versuchlichkeit).
The words Shemesh and Yareach were of course names of divinities.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 163
one consideration in itself is sufficient to refute the idea that
days one and four present two aspects of the same subject.
The light-bearers are made for the purpose of dividing be-
tween already existing light and darkness. Day four, we may
assert with all confidence, presupposes the existence of the
light which was created in day one and the darkness which
was mentioned in verse two.
The Fifth Day
With the fifth day progress in the writer's mode of state-
ment is apparent. There are now to be produced those crea-
tures which are animate and which move about. Moses uses
the verb xrABA to designate the creation of three varieties of
creatures, namely, the great sea monsters, every living thing
that moves about and every winged fowl.106 Upon all of
these a blessing is pronounced, and the content of that blessing
is given. By means of the work of the first four days the earth
is now prepared to receive life.
It goes without saying that day five does not form an
adequate parallel to day two. The sea creatures of day five
belong, not to the waters of day two but to the seas of the
first work of day three. The seas were formed in day three;
the primal waters, however, are mentioned as existing in
verse two. Furthermore, the realm in which the birds are to
rule is not the firmament but the earth, which also was made
in day three.
106 “Mit Nachdruck wird der Begriff xrABA v. 21 (cf. v. 27) dafur gebraucht
wie v. 1, weil das Leben gegenuber der leblosen Schopfung etwas spezifisch
Neues ist, aus ihren Stoffen and Kraften unableitbar" (Procksch: op. cit.,
p. 430). There is no evidence to support Procksch's statement, "der
Begriff xraB entspricht der Theologie von P, der Begriff wsm einer alter-
tumlichen, von P wohl ubernommenen Naturphilosophie, nach der,Mutter
Erde' alles Lebendige auf ihr gebiert (cf. y 139, 15)" (op. cit., p. 431).
Aalders is in accord with the total scriptural emphasis when he writes,
"Het spreekt vanzelf dat we hier evenmin als bij de plantenwereld to
denken hebben aan een vermogen dat in de aarde zelf gelegen was ...
door den Goddelijke wil kwamen de dieren uit de aarde voort" (op. cit.,
The Sixth Day
As on the third so on the sixth day two works are men-
tioned. On the third day the earth had brought forth plants
and on the sixth it is to bring forth the animals. Instead,
however, of a statement that the earth did bring forth the
animals, we are told that God made them (verse 25). It may
be that this manner of statement is deliberately chosen to
refute the concept of a mother earth, for in many of the
cosmogonies of antiquity it is the earth which of herself
produces the animals. Here the emphasis is upon the fact
that God made the animals.
At the same time at this point (verse 25) Moses uses hWAfA
and not xrABA. With xrABA (in verse 21) there had followed an
accompanying blessing (verse 22), and likewise in the second
work of the sixth day a blessing accompanies xrABA. Here
there is no blessing, and hence; hWAfA is used. The blessing of
the sixth day is not appended to each individual work but
only to the second, the creation of man who is to rule over
the animals. Hence, it may not Le amiss to claim that in-
directly, at least, the animals are blessed, even though no
express blessing is pronounced over them.
That the creation of man is the crowning work of the
narrative and presupposes what has previously been narrated,
hardly needs to be mentioned. The second work of the sixth
day presupposes the first, and both presuppose the work of
the fifth day. Were this not so, the command to rule over
the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air (verse 28) would be
That man is not merely one of the animals is also empha-
sized by the fact that God engages in deliberation with himself
concerning the creation of man.107 Furthermore, man is
created in the image of God, and upon him a divine blessing is
pronounced in which his position as ruler over all things is set
forth. The chapter then closes with a pronouncement as to
107 "Aber ebenso klar ist auch, dass der Mensch grundsatzlich von alien
Tieren verschieden ist. Das wird sogar schon rein formal deutlich gemacht:
Einerseits wechselt noch einmal das Metrum in den Gottesspruchen."
"Anderseits findet sich bei der Erschaffung des Menschen eine besondere
feierliche Einleitung" (Rabast: op. cit., pp. 57, 58).
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 165
the nature of all that God had made, namely, that it was
It is this remarkable fact of progression, both in method of
statement and in actual content, which proves that the days
of Genesis are to be understood as following one another
chronologically.108 When to this there is added the plain
chronological indications, day one, day two, etc., climaxing
in the sixth day (note that the definite article appears only with
the sixth day) all support for a non-chronological view is
In this connection the question must be raised, "If a non-
chronological view of the days be admitted, what is the pur-
pose of mentioning six days?" For, once we reject the chrono-
logical sequence which Genesis gives, we are brought to the
point where we can really say very little about the content
of Genesis one. It is impossible to hold that there are two
trios of days, each paralleling the other. Day four, as has
already been pointed out, speaks of God's placing the light-
bearers in the firmament. The firmament, however, had been
made on the second day. If the fourth and the first days are
two aspects of the same thing, then the second day also
(which speaks of the firmament) must precede days one and
four. If this procedure be allowed, with its wholesale disregard
of grammar, why may we not be consistent and equate all
four of these days with the first verse of Genesis? There is
no defense against such a procedure, if once we abandon the
clear language of the text. In all seriousness it must be asked,
Can we believe that the first chapter of Genesis intends to
teach that day two preceded days one and four? To ask that
question is to answer it.109
There is, of course, a purpose in the mention of the six
days. It is to emphasize the great contrast between the un-
formed universe of verse two and the completed world of
108 Cf. Young: "Genesis One And Natural Science", in Torch and Trumpet,
Vol. VII, No. 4 (September 1957), pp. 16 f.
109 It should be noted that if the "framework" hypothesis were applied
to the narratives of the virgin birth or the resurrection or Romans 5:12 ff.,
it could as effectively serve to minimize the importance of the content
of those passages as it now does the content of the first chapter of
verse thirty-one.110 Step by step in majestic grandeur God
worked to transform the unformed earth into a world upon
which man might dwell and which man might rule for God's
glory. How noble and beautiful is this purpose, a purpose
which is obscured and even obliterated when once we deny
that the six days are to be taken in sequence. If Moses had
intended to teach a non-chronological view of the days, it is
indeed strange that he went out of his way, as it were, to
emphasize chronology and sequence. We may recall the
thought of Aalders that in the first chapter of Genesis there
is not a hint that the days are to be taken as a mere form or
manner of representation. In other words, if Moses intended
to teach something like the so-called "framework theory" of
the days, why did he not give at least some indication that
such was his intention? This question demands an answer.
VII. The Real Problem in Genesis One
It is questionable whether serious exegesis of Genesis one
would in itself lead anyone to adopt a non-chronological view
of the days for the simple reason that everything in the text
militates against it. Other considerations, it would seem,
really wield a controlling influence. As it stands Genesis
might be thought to conflict with "science". Can Genesis
therefore be taken at face value?111 This type of approach,
however, as we have been seeking to point out, must be
rejected. One who reads the Gospels will receive the impression
that the body of the Lord Jesus Christ actually emerged from
the tomb and that he rose from the dead. But will not this
first-hand impression cause needless stumbling-blocks in the
path of faith? If we wish to rescue thoughtful people from a
materialistic conception of life will not our purpose be harmed
by an insistence upon miracle? As a recent writer has said,
"The school of opinion that insists upon a physical resurrec-
tion will not satisfy a scientifically penetrating mind".112
110 At least in a formal sense von Rad acknowledges this. "Wir sehen
hier, das theologische Denken von 1. Mos. 1 bewegt sich nicht so zwischen
der Polaritat: Nichts-Geschaffenes als vielmehr zwischen der Polaritat:
Chaos-Kosmos" (op. cit., p. 39).
111 Conflict, p. 29.
112 Cf. the letter of Robert Ericson in Christianity Today, Vol. VI, No. 1,
(Oct. 13, 1961), p. 44.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 167
Dare we reason in this way? If we do, we shall soon abandon
Christianity entirely, for Christianity is a supernatural reli-
gion of redemption, one of its chief glories being its miracles.
And this brings us to the heart of the matter. In the study of
Genesis one our chief concern must not be to adopt an inter-
pretation that is necessarily satisfying to the "scientifically
penetrating mind". Nor is our principal purpose to endeavor
to make the chapter harmonize with what "science" teaches.
Our principal task, in so far as we are able, is to get at the
meaning which the writer sought to convey.
Why is it so difficult to do this with the first chapter of the
Bible? The answer, we believe, is that although men pay lip
service to the doctrine of creation, in reality they find it a
very difficult doctrine to accept. It is easy to behold the
wonders of the present universe and to come to the conclusion
that things have always been as they are now. To take but
one example, the light of the stars, we are told, travelling at
the rate of about 186,000 miles per second, in some instances
takes years to reach this earth. Hence, men conclude it would
have been impossible for the days of Genesis to have been
ordinary days of twenty-four hours each.113
In other words in employing an argument such as this, we
are measuring creation by what we now know, and whether
we wish or not, are limiting the power of God. Why could not
God in the twinkling of an eye have formed the stars so that
their light could be seen from earth? We cannot limit the
creative power of God by what we today have learned from
his providential working.
Those catechisms and creeds which have made a distinction
between God's work of creation and his work of providence
have exhibited a deep and correct insight into the teaching of
Scripture.114 Creation and providence are to be distinguished,
113 Allis goes to the heart of the matter when he says "We need to re-
member, however, that limitless time is a poor substitute for that Omni-
potence which can dispense with time. The reason the account of creation
given here is so simple and so impressive is that it speaks in terms of the
creative acts of an omnipotent God, and not in terms of limitless space
and infinite time and endless process" (God Spake By Moses, p. 11). Cf.
also Allis' excellent article, "The Time Element in Genesis 1 and 2" in
Torch and Trumpet, Vol. VIII, No. 3 (July-August, 1958), pp. 16-19.
114 Thus, the Westminster Confession of Faith devotes a chapter to the
and it is not our prerogative, in the name of science, to place
limits upon God's creative power. In a helpful article on "The
Old Testament and Archaeology", William F. Albright wisely
comments respecting the first chapter of Genesis, "In fact,
modern scientific cosmogonies show such a disconcerting tend-
ency to be short lived that it may be seriously doubted whether
science has yet caught up with the Biblical story".115
If the church fathers had insisted that Genesis one conform
to the "science" of their day, how tragic the result would
have been. Had Luther done the same thing, the result would
have been no better. And we must be cautious not to reject
Scripture merely because at some points it may appear not
to harmonize with what some modern scientists teach. Of
one thing we may be sure; the statements of Genesis and the
facts of nature are in perfect harmony.
The Bible does not state how old the earth is, and the
question of the age of the earth is not the heart of the issue.116
What is the heart of the issue is whether God truly created
or whether we, merely upon the basis of our observations of
the universe, can place limits upon the manner in which God
Although the Bible does not state the age of the earth, it
does clearly teach that the world was created by the Word of
God. The fiat was followed by the repetitive fulfillment.
God spake, and his Word accomplished his will. It was a
work of creation (chapter IV) and one to that of providence (chapter V).
The same distinction appears in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
Questions 15-17 of the Larger Catechism deal with creation and questions
18-20 with providence. The Shorter Catechism devotes two questions
(9, 10) to the work of creation and two (11, 12) to that of providence.
115 ed. Alleman and Flack: Old Testament Commentary,
1948, p. 135.
116 "Scientists, who speak in terms of light years, and add cipher to
cipher in estimating the time of the beginning of things, ridicule the idea
of twenty-four-hour days. But when they multiply thousands to millions
and millions to billions and billions to trillions, figures practically cease
to have any meaning, and they expose their own ignorance. From the
standpoint of those who believe in a God who is omnipotent, and who
recognize that time and space are finite and created `things', this adding
on of ciphers is absurd. It is a distinct feature of the miracles of the Bible
that they are limited neither by time nor space" (Allis: God Spake By
Moses, pp. 10 f.).
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 169
powerful word that brought his desires to pass. "For he spake,
and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast" (Ps. 33:9);
"by the word of God the heavens were of old" (II Pet. 3:5) ;
"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed
by the word of God" (Heb. 11:3).117
Before the majestic declarations of Scripture we can but
bow in humble reverence. How meager is our knowledge;
how great our ignorance! Dare we therefore assert that only
in such and such a manner the Creator could have worked?
Are we really in possession of such knowledge that we can
thus circumscribe him? Of course there is much in the first
chapter of Genesis that we cannot understand. There is,
however, one thing that, by the grace of the Creator, we
may do. We may earnestly seek to think the thoughts of
God after him as they are revealed in the mighty first chapter
of the Bible. We can cease being rationalists and become
believers. In the face of all the strident claims to the contrary
we can believe, and we need never be ashamed to believe that
"in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all
that in them is" (Ex. 20:11a).
From the preceding examination of Genesis one there are
certain conclusions which may be drawn.
1. The pattern laid down in Genesis 1:1-2:3 is that of six
days followed by a seventh.
2. The six days are to be understood in a chronological
sense, that is, one day following another in succession. This
fact is emphasized in that the days are designated, one, two,
117 It must be noted, however, that process is not necessarily ruled out
by the fiats. In the second work of the third day, for example, there
could very well have been process. We cannot state to what extent process
may have been present. Cf. Allis in Torch and Trumpet, vol. VIII, No. 3,
118 There is no exegetical warrant to support the position (Lucerna,
p. 645) expressed by H. Nieboer; "Gods scheppingsdagen (werkdagen of
ook dagwerken) zijn steeds present en actueel (aldus dr. J. H. Diemer).
De dagen-van-God zijn aspecten van zijn werkzaamheid, voorheen en
3. The length of the days is not stated. What is important
is that each of the days is a period of time which may legiti-
mately be denominated MOy ("day").
4. The first three days were not solar days such as we now
have, inasmuch as the sun, moon and stars had not yet been
5. The beginning of the first day is not indicated, although,
from Exodus 20:11, we may warrantably assume that it began
at the absolute beginning, Genesis 1:1.
6. The Hebrew word MOy is used in two different senses in
Genesis 1:5. In the one instance it denotes the light in dis-
tinction from the darkness; in the other it includes both eve-
ning and morning. In Genesis 2:4b the word is employed in
yet another sense, "in the day of the LORD God's making".
7. If the word "day" is employed figuratively, i. e., to
denote a period of time longer than twenty-four hours, so
also may the terms "evening" and "morning", inasmuch as
they are component elements of the day, be employed figura-
tively.119 It goes without saying that an historical narrative
may contain figurative elements. Their presence, however,
can only be determined by means of exegesis.
8. Although the account of creation is told in terms of
fiat and fulfillment, this does not necessarily exclude all
process. In the second work of the third day, for example,
thans. Deze dagen zijn niet met menselijke tijdsmaatstaf to meten,
evenmin als bijvoorbeeld bet duizendjarig rijk.' Wie dus vraagt naar de
tijdsduur van bijvoorbeeld de scheppingsdagen voor de vierde dag en
daarna, maakt vanuit dit standpunt gezien dezelfde fout als degene die
na een uiteenzetting, in de eerste plaats dit, in de tweede plaats dat,
vraagt naar de geografische bepaling en de afmetingen van die plaatsen;
of na een betoog in verschillende stappen, naar de lengte in centimeters
van die stappen."
119 "Man hat dafdr auf des rqb yhyv brf yhyv berufen (vgl. rqb brf
Dan. 8, 14 Abend=Morgen=Tag), aber verlieren denn these Tage die
Wahrheit ihres Wesens, wenn der Wechsel von Licht and Dunkel, nach
welchem sich ihr Anfang and Ende bestimmt, nach anderen als irdischen
zeitlangen gemessen ist and nach andern Gesetzen, als den nun innerhalb
unseres Sonnensystems naturgemassen, erfolgt?" (Delitzsch: Commentar
uber die Genesis,
evening and morning must likewise be" (John D. Davis: Genesis and Semitic
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 171
the language suggests that the vegetation came forth from the
earth as it does today. This point, however, cannot be pressed.
9. The purpose of the six days is to show how God, step by
step, changed the uninhabitable and unformed earth of verse
two into the well ordered world of verse thirty-one.120
10. The purpose of the first section of Genesis (1:1-2:3)
is to exalt the eternal God as the alone Creator of heaven and
earth, who in infinite wisdom and by the Word of his power
brought the earth into existence and adorned and prepared it
for man's habitancy. The section also prepares for the second
portion of Genesis, the Generations, which deals with man's
habitancy of God's world.
11. Genesis one is not poetry or saga or myth, but straight-
forward, trustworthy history, and, inasmuch as it is a divine
revelation, accurately records those matters of which it speaks.
That Genesis one is historical may be seen from these con-
siderations. 1) It sustains an intimate relationship with the
remainder of the book. The remainder of the book (i. e.,
The Generations) presupposes the Creation Account, and the
Creation Account prepares for what follows. The two por-
tions of Genesis are integral parts of the book and complement
one another. 2) The characteristics of Hebrew poetry are
lacking. There are poetic accounts of the creation and these
form a striking contrast to Genesis one. 3) The New Testa-
ment regards certain events mentioned in Genesis one as
actually having taken place. We may safely allow the New
Testament to be our interpreter of this mighty first chapter
of the Bible.
120 One fact which Visee insists must be maintained in the study of Genesis
one is "dat er ook een bepaalde volgorde was in dat werk Gods van ,lager'
tot ,hoger', van minder' tot meer' samengesteld, waarbij elk volgend
geschapene het eerder geschapene vooronderstelde" (Lucerna, p. 639).
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