The original question was:
Were the six days of creation, as described in Genesis 1, real 24 hour days? Theologians state the Hebrew word for ‘day’ used in Genesis can mean many things.
Answer by Allen Hall and John Mackay
People who claim the Hebrew word yom, translated as day in Genesis Chapter 1, can have many meanings usually hope there is one thing yom cannot mean: 24 hours! To check the claim about many meanings, let us start with the rather famous war between Egypt and Israel in 1973 which began on ‘yom kippur’, the Day of Atonement. The Jewish nation celebrates the Day of Atonement each year because of God’s instruction in Leviticus 16:29-31 to set aside the tenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar (the west’s October) as a special Sabbath Rest. The name of this celebration; ‘Yom Kippur’, uses the same word for ‘day’ as Genesis 1 does for each of the six days of creation. Undoubtedly the Egyptian army thought it would catch the Jews at a disadvantage when they attacked Israel at that time, because ‘Yom Kippur’ is a specific 24 hour period of rest because the Jews still use the word yomto mean a 24 hour day, and have provably done so for thousands of years.
Did you notice how the meaning of the term Yom is qualified in Yom Kippur? The word Kippur (meaning covering or atonement) is an adjectival qualifier for the word Yom so you know which yom or day is being referred to. In any language, the more you qualify a word, the more precise your knowledge of its intended meaning becomes. When we use the word ‘sports day’ in English, we don’t necessarily mean 24 hours, even though we never mean more than 24 hours. If we say ‘during the day’ then we usually mean at most 12 hours. If, however, we increase our qualification terms and say Wednesday 26 August, then we mean a very specific 24 hours – nothing more and nothing less.
So how qualified is the first use of the Hebrew word yom in Genesis Chapter 1? In verses 1-5, we discover yom is first defined when God calls the light day (yom) and labels the dark as night’ ( layil ). Both dark and light are then lumped together and given the name of only the light part, or day (yom), which is then further qualified by a statement that ‘the evening and morning were the first day (yom). But it doesn’t stop there. The word yom is even more qualified by the use of numeric terms, e.g. first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Note it is not day one followed by day two then three up to day six, but one then a second one then a third up to a sixth one. All of which tells us there are six yoms or days which are the same, and they are consecutive.
This means we can now rule out any claim about the yom in Genesis being vague. There is no language on earth where you can have six undefined things one after the other, since this would only be one vague undefined event. This is why Exodus 20:9-11 recounts God giving Moses the creation based law that man will work for six yom (days) and rest for one yom. The reason given is ‘because that’s what God did’. In this case the meaning of the days man will work or rest is beyond doubt. Moses’ working week law was about a 24hr yom and a week of seven twenty-four hour days.
Those who think the six days of Creation could not have been earth days because ‘to the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day’ (2 Peter 3:8), need to remember that God is no older today that he was yesterday. The Creator Lord doesn’t have days. Peter is making a statement about how the Lord God is outside of time. He is quoting from Psalm 90:4 by Moses whose prayer is “teach us oh Lord to number our days for there are so few of them.” Can you imagine the same Hebrew speaking Moses, whom Peter quotes, asking God on Mt Sinai did he mean six days of 1,000 years each followed by a millennium of rest? It would have made nonsense of God’s commandment. Besides that, this was the first official rest day the newly freed Jewish slaves had had in hundreds of years. They knew what a day meant.
It is time to realise the only place the creation days or yoms exist is on the earth where the Lord God made them. The creation account in Genesis refers to six of these earth days. It is also helpful to ask how long the creator would need to make the universe. The New Testament is emphatic that God the Father brought all things into existence through God the Son, i.e., Christ is the Creator (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-2). His creative ability showed when He spoke and water (H20) turned into wine (C2H5OH plus many other molecules) (John 2:1-11). The result of His word was the instantaneous creation of carbon (C). Anyone who can change water into wine by words alone, does not actually need six 24 hours time periods to make a universe.
Those 21st century religious leaders who claim that ‘insisting on six literal days’ prevents sincere ‘seeking’ scientists putting their faith in God, miss the mark badly. Such seeking scientists have no trouble understanding that Genesis 1 states the world was made in six days. Their problem is they prefer to put their faith in academic colleagues’ opinions about millions of years, and to trust their scientific evolutionist associates, who weren’t there when things began, rather than place their faith in the Creator Christ, who was the God of “In the beginning”. It’s a decision which will hinder any relationship they want to have with Jesus who stated to the same religious leaders of his day: “How can you believe, who receive honour from one another, and do not seek the honour that comes from God alone? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you — Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:44-47)
NOTE: Dr Allen Hall (1919-2004) was one of the original men asked by John Mackay to be a part of the original Creation Science Advisory board. He passed on after this article was written.
Related question: Why six days? Why did God create the world in six days? Surely God could have used any time he wanted? Answer here
Outstanding resource book on Genesis: The Genesis Record A verse by verse commentary on the whole book of Genesis by Henry Morris Available at the Creation Research webshop
Image: 24 hour clock at Greenwich Observatory, London, © Copyright Creation Research, 2011
Were you helped by this answer? If so, consider making a donation so we can keep adding more answers. For USA tax deductible donations click here. For UK tax deductible donations click here. For Australia and rest of world click here.