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How Long Was A Day In Genesis 1?

Updated: Mar 7

And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Genesis 1:5


Sadly, when asked how long each of the six days of creation in Genesis 1 was, many professing Christians will give an answer other than twenty-four hours. Some will quote a day is like a thousand years with the Lord. Others will say that the length of a creation day is millions of years. Many will either not know or say something like this: a creation day could have been as long as God wanted it to be, after all, God can do anything He wants. No wonder why the unbelieving world sees Christians as unintelligent Bible thumpers!


Is each day of creation one-thousand years long?

The quote, a day is like a thousand years with the Lord, comes from 2 Peter 3:7-9:

But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.


This passage does not define the length of a creation day in Genesis 1 as one thousand years. The context of this scripture is the Lord's patience with sinners, especially ungodly men who are destined for destruction by fire on the day of judgment.


How do we reconcile each day of creation with evolution?

There is this popular thought that evolution is science. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines evolution as a cumulative inherited change in a population of organisms through time leading to the appearance of new forms: the process by which new species or populations of living things develop from preexisting forms through successive generations. [1] The National Geographic Society states that the age of the earth is estimated to be 4.54 billion years old, plus or minus about 50 million years. [2] Thus, all life on earth evolved from a population of organisms over a period of 4.54 billion years, plus or minus 50 million years.


Is evolution science? I earned a four year Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering. The study of engineering requires that the student be well grounded in advanced mathematics and science. Science is defined as the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation, experimentation, and the testing of theories against obtained evidence. Based on this definition, the theory of evolution has never been fully tested using the scientific method: observation, experimentation, and testing.


The disturbing issue is not evolution, but the attempt by a number of theologians over the years to reconcile the Biblical account of creation in Genesis with evolution in order to avoid conflict between religion and science; religious beliefs and scientific theories do not need to contradict each other. They would argue that God directed the process of evolution and made use of it in bringing man into existence. Physically, man would have an animal ancestry according to Theistic Evolution. He would have become man when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul. [3]


Theistic Evolution is clearly incompatible and irreconcilable with the creation account of the first man and woman in Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 2. God created the first man directly from dust on the sixth day - Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). God formed the first woman from a rib taken from the man - The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man (Genesis 2:22). Land-dwelling animals (beasts, cattle, and creeping creatures such as snakes) and the first man and woman were created on the sixth-day of creation (Genesis 1:24-31). If applying evolution to this day, then the sixth-day of creation must have been billions of years in length (not one thousand years)!


How does the Bible define the length of each creation day in Genesis?

Day in the Hebrew is yôm. How this word is defined depends on the context of the passage it is used in. For instance, day refers to an unspecified length of time such as the day of the LORD.

Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty… Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it (Isaiah 13:6, 9).


Day also refers to daytime, as opposed to nighttime, when part of the earth is illuminated by the sun.

God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:16-18).


Day is also used in the context of a lifetime.

You know, for you were born then, And the number of your days is great (Job 38:21)!


Day, when preceded by a numerical adjective as shown in Genesis 1:5 (one day), Genesis 1:8 (second day), Genesis 1:13 (third day), Genesis 1:19 (fourth day), Genesis 1:23 (fifth day), and Genesis 1:31 (sixth day), limits the length of each day. Based on the phrase, there was evening and there was morning, it is reasonable to define the length of each day as twenty-four hours. A similar phrase is used in Daniels’ vision of the ram and goat (Daniel 8) - For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored (Daniel 8:14).


God, who created the first man, knew how long men and women could labor and do all of their work before they needed rest. He gave the following commandment to Moses:

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy" (Exodus 20:9-11).


Did God intend humans to work six thousand or billions of years before they needed rest? It is apparently clear that each work week consisted of six twenty-four hour days. If each creation day was a thousand years, or billions of years, then where in Exodus 20:9-11 did God redefine the length of a work day?


Additionally, God created two heavenly bodies on the fourth day (Genesis 1:14-19) – the greater light (the sun) to govern the day, and the lesser light (the moon) to govern the night. Along with the lights in the expanse of the heavens (the stars), the sun and the moon serve for seasons and for days and for years. This is further evidence that the length of each day of creation is twenty-four hours.


The author of Genesis (more than likely Moses) understood how long each day of creation was. In fact, we see several verses where days and months are mentioned together.

  • Genesis 8:4-5 - In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. The water decreased steadily until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains became visible.

  • Genesis 8:14 - In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.

  • Exodus 12:18 - In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.

  • Exodus 13:4 - On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth.


Exodus 13:4 refers to the month of Abib. This month is also called Nisan (Nehemiah 2:1; Esther 3:7), the first month of the year on the Hebrew calendar. The Jewish Passover is celebrated on the fourteenth day of this month at evening (Exodus 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:1). The Hebrew calendar consists of twelve lunar months. Each month begins with a new moon, cycles through each lunar phase, then ends with the start of the next new moon. The average length of a lunar month is 29-1/2 days. Each day begins at sunset (evening). This is why the author of Genesis, who also wrote Exodus, preceded the mention of each day (one day, second day, etc.) with the phrase, there was evening and there was morning. From his perspective and what God revealed to him, each day of creation was twenty-four hours long. There is no scriptural reason to believe otherwise.


Closing Remarks

What it comes down to is this: can we take the creation account in Genesis literally? My God and Savior participated in the creation of the heavens and the earth. All of His word is truth (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17). Why would God confuse us by teaching each day of creation was twenty-four hours (though not explicitly stated) when He really meant thousands or billions of years? If we cannot take this account literally, then can we take literally the foundation of sin's origin, the condemnation of sin, and the gospel of salvation that is in Genesis 3? Picking and choosing what we can or cannot take literally from the scriptures opens the door to deception. After all, it was the serpent (Satan) who deceived the first woman (Eve) into believing that, by eating the forbidden fruit, she will not die. She will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:1-5). It is also Satan who is deceiving professing Christians into believing that the length of each day of creation must be something other than twenty-four hours in order to reconcile creation with evolution.


References

[1] Evolution, (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2023), https://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/evolution

[2] Age Of Earth Collection, (Washington, DC: National Geographic), https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/resource-library-age-earth/

[3] F. Leroy Forlines, Biblical Systematics: A Study of the Christian System of Life and Thought, (Nashville, TN: Randall House Publications, 1975), 87.



Unless otherwise noted, all scripture cited in this post is taken from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.

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