Bible Time and Days of Creation
by Dudley Ross Spears
May 28, 2000
How did the first inhabitants on this planet tell time? Did they have methods of knowing how to plan for a tomorrow, next month, later in the day, or next year? While we do not read of minutes and seconds in scripture, hours that make up days, days that make up weeks, weeks that make up months and months that make up years are abundantly mentioned in the Bible. Even the day had specific time elements such as the third or ninth hour of the day (Acts 2:15; 10:3).
The natural inference that minutes made up hours can be extracted from 2 Kings 20. Hezekiah asked Isaiah, "What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me?" Isaiah replied that, as a sign, God would make the shadow go forward or backward ten steps and gave Hezekiah the choice. Notice that Hezekiah recognized the natural movement of the shadow. "It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps," he replied (II Kings 20:8-10). He knew the natural movement of a shadow was forward because of the relation of the earth to the sun. He opted for the shadow to go backward. This would convince him God would heal his disease. He chose the supernatural over the natural. Only the power of God is supernatural.
As they watched the gnomon on the sun dial of Ahaz (verse 11), the shadow moved backward ten steps. A sun dial is a simple apparatus that projects the movement of the earth around the sun. Sun dials are the most ancient instruments of time measurement known to man. The sun dial was then, and remains today, an accurate measurement of minutes and hours. The precision with which planets move in orbit around the sun gives the sun dial its accuracy. When the shadow of the dial moved backwards, something supernatural happened. Every known law of physics regarding planetary movement was suspended and violated. The laws of gravity, magnetism, space, time, mass, energy - all were set aside until the shadow from the sun moved backward ten steps. With no evident cataclysmic results, after God demonstrated his control over nature, everything returned smoothly to normal. How do theistic scientists explain this?
If Bible students find it difficult to accept solar days of creation this incident in 2 Kings 20 must be insurmountable to them. The only way that shadow could go back ten steps is for God to move the earth back a specific amount of degrees in its normal orbit around the sun. The sun is the center of all the orbiting planets in our universe. Think of how that would have affected the entire universe! Natural science could not possibly accept this, but it was no problem for Jehovah. It was just as easy for God to reverse the rotational path of the earth as it was for him to accomplish creation in six solar days. If not, why not?
With but few exceptions Old Testament people were able to accurately know the time of the week to observe the Sabbath Day unto the Lord and keep it holy. As Moses led the wandering Jews through the desert of Sinai, he told them, "Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy Sabbath unto Jehovah . . ." (Exodus 16:23). Had they not know the meaning of a day, such information would be nonsense. Moses told them what would happen "tomorrow." Tomorrow is always the day following the present. When they were to "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8) they had an accurate way to know when the Sabbath began and ended (Mark 15:42; Matthew 28:1). The Bible even mentions a portion of a day as "the cool of the day" (Genesis 3:8). What part of the alleged several billion years of an imaginary geological day was this?
No matter in what way ancient calendars was formatted, from creation the people of God have known precisely when certain festivals and holy seasons were to be observed. They had to know the precise meaning of each division of time. For example, they had to know the sequence of days to know precisely which "evening and morning" was the Sabbath Day. Had they not had an accurate method of determining the Sabbath Day, they could not have observed other great festivals such as Pentecost. Knowledge of when to observe Pentecost required counting seven Sabbaths plus one day (Leviticus 23:2-17). They had to know the precise duration of a day. They did.
Normally what the Bible calls a day, a week, month and year are definite and specific periods of time. There are instances in the Bible where year means more than 365 days.* (See note at end). Jesus said, he came to proclaim "the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19). This is obviously more than a solar year, including the current period of time and the last days for planet earth. However, this is a unique usage, not the normal use of the word year.
"Day" is sometimes used of a period of time longer than 24 hours. When Jesus said to the Jews, "Your father Abraham rejoice to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56), the word "day" here is not limited to a solar day of 24 hours. Let it be clearly understood, however, that this is a unique, not a normal, application of the biblical term for a day.
The first chapter of Genesis uses the term day as the composite of "an evening and morning" (Genesis 1:5-31). Had Moses intended to convey the idea of a solar day of 24 hours duration, he could not have expressed it more definitely. Later he used the word day in the unique way. He spoke of "the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven" (Genesis 2:4). In this passage Moses meant at least seven days. The seven periods of "evenings and mornings" made up the week of creation. Moses called that week "the day God created earth and heaven." Moses was led by God to know the difference in a solar day made up of an evening and a morning (creation days individually) and a day (collective creation day) that figuratively means a week. The day of Genesis 1 is not the day of Genesis 2:4.
On the first day of creation God divided light and darkness. God called light day and darkness night (Genesis 1:4-5). Darkness existed before light was spoken into existence. "And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2). In the beginning, darkness was - light was not. The Genesis record affirms that non-reality and disorganized matter became reality and systematically organized simply by God's command, "Let there be light." We have no information as to when or how the unreal and unorganized earth was created. Moses simply says it was without form and void ("empty darkness," NIV). The duration of these conditions cannot be measured by any known unit of time.
The most natural understanding of "evening and morning is that of solar days. Had the Lord intended to say each "day" of creation was an extended period of time, would he not have used the same language he did in places where intended that? No where in scripture do we find the expression "evening and morning" in regard to a day where it embraces an extended period of time. If so, where is the passage?
Consider the angelic statement to Daniel. His vision of a "little horn" (Antiochus Epiphanes) foretold of a horrible impending oppression. In that vision an angel told Daniel exactly how long the sanctuary would be trodden down (Daniel 8:11). "And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" (Daniel 8:14, ASV). The King James and New King James translate the Hebrew for "evening and morning" by the term day. Even so, the translators of the KJV and the NKJV surely understood "evening and morning" to mean a solar day. The American Standard is more accurate.
It is exegetically and historically impossible to make the "evenings and mornings" of Daniel 8:14 into extended periods of time. The consistent use of morning and evening as a solar day, and the historical account of Antiochus' evil activities prove the 2300 days to be solar days. The same is true of that use of morning and evening in Genesis 1. This was God's precise way of telling his people exactly how long they would suffer -- 2300 days would pass before the oppression ended. The historical fact is that around 6 years later, that oppression did end. Even with the apocalyptic nature of the vision, there is no indication Daniel was to understand this as other than 2300 literal days.
John C. Whitcomb correctly wrote on this verse, "Based upon the very strong precedent of Genesis 1, where each of the creation days bears a similar formula ('there was evening and there was morning'), we must understand the 2,300 evenings and mornings to mean 2,300 literal days." (Daniel, Everyman's Bible Commentary, Moody Press, Chicago, 1977, page 113).
Consider how the Lord refers to an indefinite period of tribulation. The suffering saints at Smyrna were told their tribulation would last "ten days" (Revelation 2:10). Please notice the contrast. "Ten" has symbolic significance. 2300 "evenings and mornings" do not. The indefinite duration is called "ten days" - not ten evenings and mornings. Where in scripture does the expression "evening and morning" refer to anything other than a solar day of 24 hours duration? The question has been asked several times but it bears repeating.
The days of creation involve both the supernatural and miraculous which lay beyond the ability of limited human minds to comprehend and explain. Such things can only be accepted by faith. "By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear" (Hebrews 11:3). Neither natural nor Theistic science has never provided an adequate answer to creation. Yet many cut what the Bible says about creation days to fit the patch work pattern of science, so-called. Who, with absolute and complete confidence, can take the geological arguments of natural science as irrefutable fact? The discrepancies between geological models and devices for time measurement is so great that changes in dating methods deny scientific credibility.
Those who think it difficult to accept the solar days of creation should consider the difficulties natural science poses. On the third day of creation, grass, plants and trees were created. Bible believers who attempt to hold to natural science must believe this vegetation existed for a geological age of no telling how many million or billion years without the benefit of sunlight. Is this scientific? Franz Delitzsch noted, "If the events of the third day are ascribed to the supernatural nothing need prevent the belief that twenty-four hours were sufficient for this accomplishment."
The geological findings of fossil life tend to influence some Bible believers more than plain statements of biblical authority. An examination of the fossils and so-called scientific dating schemes shows much more confusion than fact. It matters very little what the testimony of geology posits. The matter from which this planetary system was composed existed long before time began. When God set the solar system in motion, time began, and not before. Before, time was not. Therefore, there is no way to measure duration prior to the fourth day of creation. The material out of which God organized this planetary system antedated all the methods of dating rocks and fossils. Devout people hold to the holy fiat of God that in six consecutive days, God spoke all things into existence. Creation happened because God spoke.
In this article, I have tried to say what Keil and Delitzsch succinctly summarized.
"Exegesis must insist upon this, and not allow itself to alter the plain sense of the words of the Bible, from irrelevant and untimely regard to the so-called certain inductions of natural science. Irrelevant we call such considerations, as make interpretation dependent upon natural science, because the creation lies outside the limits of empirical and speculative research, and, as an act of the omnipotent God, belongs rather to the sphere of miracles and mysteries, which can only be received by faith (Hebrews 11:3); and untimely, because natural science has supplied no certain conclusions as to the origin of the earth, and geology especially, even at the present time, is in a chaotic state of fermentation, the issue of which it is impossible to foresee." (Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, Genesis 1:2-5 PP10).
* Day is used of a limited extension of time that is considerably longer than 365 days, as in the case of the "day of his (a leper's) cleansing" (Leviticus 14:2). Other examples include: Psalm 20:1; II Corinthians 6:2; Philippians 1:6.
** Natural science does not understand the properties and actions of plain old water today. They call it the "unusual" liquid. How then could they be accurate about what they allege happened in a puddle of water billions of years ago?
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