The original Question was:
Since the Bible never mentions the seventh day ending, surely that makes it possible that the days in Genesis were not 24 hours? Can you help me?”
Answer by John Mackay
To answer this one you need to notice the text says “seventh day” and not “day seven”. What is the significance? Consider what Genesis says about the creation of that thing called day, mentioned first in verse 5. The English text reads: And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:5) The end of the next day’s work (v 6 -8) is likewise finished: the evening and the morning were the second day. (Gen 1:8)
When you look up a Hebrew copy of Genesis you find ‘first day’ is a translation of the Hebrew words yom echad, and ‘second day’ is from the Hebrew yom sheni. Yom is the Hebrew word translated by the English ‘day’, and the terms echad and sheni help define which day is being described. But to see the significance we need to look further at ‘how the second day is labeled. The Hebrew word sheni, next appears in Genesis 2:13 where a ‘second’ river named ‘Gihon’ is described as one of the four rivers that split from the single river that flowed out of Eden. Here second or sheni means a second one of the thing that had already been identified or named, i.e. another river or a second one of the same type.
Now the word ‘second’ and the word ‘two’ are related, but they are not the same. Number descriptions such as ‘second’ are called ‘ordinal,’ meaning they occur in an order or a sequence. Most people use a few ordinals such as first, second, third, etc. But numbers such as 1, 2 or 3 are cardinal. They don’t have to appear in an order – you can have three apples or one apple – regardless of the order you have them in. But if you have a second apple – it had to come after the first.
Defining the Day
Now let’s go back to the first day: yom echad. This definitely was the first day ever made so ‘first’ fits the way English speakers think, but echad is not an ordinal – it is a cardinal number. It literally says ‘one day,’’and English speakers find it much harder to say or think “the evening and the morning one day”. Why ‘one day’? The reason is simple: it was the only day ever created. It was the ‘standard’ it was the defining moment! Before it there was no day and after it, all other days have been a second one of the same, a third one of the same, right down to today which is now the multi millionth day of the same.
In other words, the adjective seventh tells you it is a repeat of the very same thing God made when He invented yom on the one and only day the Lord had made. The definition of a ‘day’ or ‘yom’ was reinforced with the terms “evening and morning”, “day and night” and “darkness and light”. As such, the seventh day doesn’t actually need these extra descriptors, but then neither did the second to the sixth days, so something extra is being communicated here – but what?
Seventh Day Rest
The remaining factor that needs to be understood comes from the New Testament book of Hebrews, so named because it was written by a Hebrew author specifically for Hebrew speakers. He throws an interesting light on why the seventh day does not end with “evening and morning”. The difference between the first six days and the seventh day was that the Creator God stopped doing the one thing He had done on all previous days, and he would never take it up again. He had ceased in perpetuity His labors – from His work of creation.
Here’s what the Hebrew writer said: “There remains therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, has also ceased from his own works, as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10) God’s creation rest became the pattern for man’s salvation. God didn’t need to create a new evening and morning or darkness and light or day and night for the seventh day any more than he needs to make a new evening or morning for today. He completed that task on the ‘first day.’ The evening and morning were already in place and would continue until the end of time.
But there is one work which the Creator did not cease from – His sustaining work without which all things made from day one would collapse. He could take no rest from this! Jesus refers to this continuing labor when he was criticized for healing on the Sabbath when He replied to his antagonists: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17) However the seventh day lack of ‘evening and morning’ in Genesis was not about the work of sustenance – it was about the end of creating, which did not go one instant past the end of the sixth day.
Modern Hebrew Days
In modern Hebrew Yom Sheni is the name for Monday, the second day of their week, and the seventh day of the week is Yom Shabbat. Sunday, the first day of the week to the modern Israelite, is now Yom Rishon from the word for head of the week. Those of you who have read the first passage in Genesis I in Hebrew know it begins Beresheth where you may recognize a similar ‘resh’ relating to the head or beginning.
For further explanation of Genesis days read the article How long are Genesis Days? by Simon Turpin. PDF here.
See our previous question on Creation Days here.
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