Answer by John Mackay and Diane Eager
The short answer is that we are not specifically told in terms of days, months, or years, however, there are clues, which strongly indicate it wasn’t very long. The most obvious one is that Eve was not pregnant at the time they were sent out of the Garden. Consider the sequence of events.
Adam and Eve were both created on the sixth creation day (Genesis 1:27). Adam was created from raw materials (“dust of the ground”) and Eve was created from tissue taken from Adam’s side (Genesis 2:7, 2:21-22). Both were together in the Garden. God then blessed them, and told them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28).
On that basis we know that male and female were created to conceive, so every part of their biology had a reproductive design feature to enable them to achieve this. However, it is not until after the tragic events described in Genesis 3, i.e. temptation, sin, judgement and expulsion from Eden’s garden, that Eve actually conceives a child (Genesis 4:1)
We know from current day biology that women are not fertile all the time. They produce an ovum (egg cell) ready to be fertilised in the middle of an approximately 28 day cycle. Their menstrual of monthly cycle, so called from the old word mense meaning month, and that word is derived from the old Greek word mene meaning moon, which has a roughly similar cycle, which is an interesting data byte for a trivia game simply because of the old belief that a woman’s periods were determined by the full moon, although statistically today that could be argued for only about 50% of women. But, assuming her cycle began when she was created, the earliest Eve could have conceived was two weeks later.
One other factor which is relevant to how long they were in the Garden, comes from critics of Genesis, who want to prolong human history and the age of the earth, by referring to 2 Peter 3:8 that a day is like a thousand years for the Lord. However, any claims that the sixth creation day was really a thousand years are easily refuted by reading Genesis 5, the genealogy of Adam’s line. Adam died at 930 years, (Genesis 5:4) and since Adam’s age began at creation, there is no way he spent eons of innocence in the garden along with Eve.
So, are there are factors that could have prolonged the first time Eve conceived, even by one or two weeks? Can we argue that Eve’s cycle did not start straight away, or that the cycle was longer in the beginning, as part of the long lifespans in the early generations.
As Eve herself proclaimed when she gave birth to Cain, babies are conceived “with the help of the Lord”, so it takes more than biology to make a human being. Despite the inherent atheistic secularism of modern biology, human beings are actually body, soul and spirit, and only God can provide spirit. Therefore, it is ultimately God who is in control of when babies are born, which is why abortion is a sin against God, not just against the baby whose life has been taken.
For those who argue that God might have prolonged Eve’s cycle, or held it off until after Adam and Eve had been tested before allowing them to have children, never forget that it was God who had instructed them to get pregnant, so we know He was not going to prolong His role at all. It would be a tragic spiritual dilemma if a baby had been conceived before sin and yet evicted with Adam and Eve then born into a fallen world. The immanent justice of God rules that option out totally.
Which brings us to the Satan Time Tempting factor. The Bible indicates that Satan rebelled against God because he was filled with pride and jealousy and desired God’s position (Ezekiel 28:11-19). Therefore, when he saw that human beings were created in the image of God (which no angelic beings had been), and he saw the love, care and special attention given to them, he would have been filled with jealousy and a desire to bring them down. He would have wasted no time tempting them, before they had learnt more about God and the very good world God had placed them in, before they had been built up in their love and knowledge of the Creator which could to make them more resistant to the devil’s temptation. Satan’s actions did not excuse Adam and Eve from what they did – God had provided all they needed from the beginning, and there was no sin barrier to hinder direct communication with God at any time.
So which day they were tempted? The only day for sure we can rule out for sure is the sixth creation day as God pronounced everything He had made as very good, so it was a place without a fallen man or woman. It is also unlikely that the seventh day, the one that God rested, is the day of temptation since He doesn’t tell us His rest was disturbed by any need to do some redemption work, so the earliest likely day is the first day of the next week – a Sunday.
In other words, there are no reasons to suggest Adam and Eve spent vast ages in Eden at all, with the best maximum estimate from the pregnancy cycle being about two weeks, with a minimum time of two days.
There is also another intriguing clue in Eve’s name. For more details see the question TIME IN EDEN: The Bible doesn’t say how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden. Does this allow and old earth? Answer here.
See also the questions:
DAYS: Peter says a day is like a thousand years. How can you insist Genesis days are 24 hours? Answer here.
DAYS: The New Testament says “a day is as a thousand years” to God. Why can’t Genesis days be long times? Answer here.
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