Westminster Theological Journal 25 (1962-3) 143-71.

        Copyright © 1963 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.   

 

 

                     THE DAYS OF GENESIS

                          SECOND ARTICLE

 

                                           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-

bolic values.73

 

   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

(Isaiah 38:8).

It should be noted that the seventh day is to be interpreted as similar

143



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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

(lines 127-130),

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-

slaught.75

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,

 

Mount Nisir held fast the ship and did not allow it to

move,

One day, a second day did the Mount Nisir hold the

ship firm.

A third day, a fourth day did the Mount Nisir hold the

ship firm.

 

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,

Oxford, 1930. The comment of Bohl (Het Gilgamesj-Epos Nationaal

Heldendicht van Babylonie, 1952, Amsterdam, p. 81) is interesting. "Na

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

cuneiform text.



146                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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

215-218).77

 

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

will suffice:

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,

Rome, 1955, and in G. R. Driver: Canaanite Myths and Legends, Edin-

burgh, 1956.



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

the seventh.



148                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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

neighbors. Israel, however, was favored of God in that he

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 Canaan is difficult to determine. Gray, for example

(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 in Adams bruide-

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: "Egypt and the Bible: Some

Recent Advances", in Faith and Thought, Vol. 91, Nos. 2 and 3 (Winter

1959, Summer 1960), pp. 189, 190.



150                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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, New York, 1956, p. 48. Nor is it consistent

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",

in Princeton Theological Review, Vol. XXIII (July 1925), p. 443. Kramer

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-

ing fashion.

I           7                      6                      IV

II          6                      6                      V

III        5                      5                      VI

                                    6                      7

 

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

second day.

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).



152                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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



154                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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,

Part I, Jerusalem, 1953, p. 14), Nbvmk Nyx tvrvxmh trycy ynpl Mh rvxh tvxycmb

.lwml Myqrbh rvx :tvrvxm ylb Mg rvx wyw fdvy Mdx Nb lk yrhw, ywvq Mvw

    89 John Calvin: Commentaries on The First Book of Moses Called Genesis,

translated by John King, Edinburgh, M.DCCC.XLVII, Vol. I, p. 76.



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

very beginning.92

 

    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



156                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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

dry land.95

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

der Bibel, Stuttgart, 1960, p. 17). This emphasis seems to be more accurate

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-

tions, Oxford, 1903, p. 75). Note also the LXX stere>w,a and Vulgate

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,



158                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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

ancestor.



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

universe.

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

By Moses, Philadelphia, 1951, p. 12).



160                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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

formation.102

 

   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

ist in Babylon einer der Hauptgotter; er war von uberragender Bedeutung

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

the lands

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).



162                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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.,

p. 427).

  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.,

p. 93).



164                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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

meaningless.

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

very good.

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

removed.

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

Genesis.



166                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

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



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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

worked.

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, Philadelphia,

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).

 

VIII. Conclusion

 

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,

three, etc.118

 

   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,

p. 18.

    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



170                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

            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

made.

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, Leipzig, 1860, p. 101). "but if day is used figuratively,

evening and morning must likewise be" (John D. Davis: Genesis and Semitic

Tradition, London, 1894, p. 17).



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.

 

Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

 

 

     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).

 

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Westminster Theological Seminary

            2960 W. Church Rd.

            Glenside, PA  19038

www.wts.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu