Genesis Clearly Teaches that the Days Were Not 24 Hours
by Rich Deem


"The day-age (progressive) creation account is non-literal and contradicts the clear teaching of Genesis." I hear or see this complaint quite often, although the statement is incorrect regarding both accusations. I take all of the biblical creation accounts literally. Nothing is symbolic. The Hebrew word yom1 has three literal meanings - a 12-hour period of time (sunrise to sunset), a 24-hour period of time from sunset to sunset (the Hebrew day), and an indefinite period of time. The day-age interpretation of Genesis does not require the use of symbolism to explain the creation account.

The proper interpretation - from Genesis

Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding CreationA simple way to determine if the days are 12 hours, 24 hours or an indefinite period of time is to examine each of the days and see what the Bible says about the time it took for those days to happen. We will examine each day and see if Genesis indicates which interpretation is correct. In this page, we will consider the text of Genesis only and not rely upon any scientific information, about which we can not be absolutely sure of its accuracy.

12-hour days?

Let's look at the first definition of yom - the 12-hour period (from sunrise to sunset). A very casual glance at the text shows that yom could not be referring to daylight only. On the first day, Genesis 1:5 states that there was both daylight and night.2 We can eliminate the "daylight" definition of yom as being consistent with the Genesis text. The days of Genesis must have been longer than 12 hours.

24-hours days - Day 1

Next, let's examine the Genesis days to see if they fit the 24-hour interpretation. Many things happen n the first day. God created the entire universe, including the earth. God also began the period of daylight and night on the earth. Although science tells us that these events took much more than 24 hours, there is nothing in the biblical text that would clearly indicate that the day could not be 24 hours long.3 The 24-hour interpretation passes the test for the first day.

24-hours days - Day 2

On the second day, God separated the waters above the earth from those on the surface of the earth.4 Since there is no timetable listed for this period of time, it could be 24 hours in length. The 24-hour interpretation passes the test for the second day.

24-hours days - Day 3

On the third day, God formed the land out of the seas. There is no time frame given for the formation of the land and seas. Some time after the land was formed, God created the plants:

Then God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth"; and it was so. (Genesis 1:11)
And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:12)

The text clearly states that the earth "sprouted" the plants (the Hebrew word deshe,5 Strong's #H1877, usually refers to grasses). The Hebrew word dasha,6 (Strong's #H1876) indicates that the plants grew from either seeds or small seedlings in order to have "sprouted." In addition, these plants produced seeds. The Hebrew word here is zera (Strong's #H2233), which is most often translated "descendants." This makes matters very difficult for the 24-hour interpretation. Not only do the plants sprout and grow to maturity, but produce seed or descendants. There are no plants capable of doing this within a 24-hour period of time. Things actually get worse for this interpretation. Genesis 1:12 clearly states that God allowed the earth to bring forth trees that bore fruit. The process by which the earth brings forth trees to the point of bearing fruit takes several years, at minimum. God did not create the trees already bearing fruit. The text states clearly that He allowed the earth to accomplish the process of fruit bearing through natural means. Because the process of the third day requires a minimum period of time of more than  24 hours, the Genesis text for the third day clearly falsifies the interpretation that the days of Genesis one are 24-hour periods of time.

24-hours days - Day 6

Day 6 is also a problem for the 24-hour interpretation. During this day, God planted a garden in Eden, and caused the garden to sprout and grow. Then God brought all the birds, cattle and wild animals to Adam to name. God put Adam to sleep, took a part of him and formed Eve (Genesis 2:21-22). Adam's response to Eve's creation was "at last," indicating that he thought the day was very long indeed. More information...

Conclusion Top of page

We are left with only one interpretation for the days of Genesis one. The literal, clearly indicated, meaning of yom for Genesis one must be an unspecified, long period of time. This is why I believe that the day-age Genesis one interpretation is the only biblically sound interpretation for the creation of the world and life on it.

El Génesis Claramente Enseña que los Días No Fueron de 24 Horas

Other Resources Top of page

A Matter of Days by Hugh RossA Matter of Days by Hugh Ross

Dr. Ross looks the creation date controversy from a biblical, historical, and scientific perspective. Most of the book deals with what the Bible has to say about the days of creation. Ross concludes that biblical models of creation should be tested through the whole of scripture and the revelations of nature.

Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Eartha> by Mark S. Whorton, Ph.D.

This book, written for Christians, examines creation paradigms on the basis of what scripture says. Many Christians assume that the young earth "perfect paradise" paradigm is based upon what the Bible says. In reality, the "perfect paradise" paradigm fails in its lack of biblical support and also in its underlying assumptions that it forces upon a "Christian" worldview. Under the "perfect paradise" paradigm, God is relegated to the position of a poor designer, whose plans for the perfect creation are ruined by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. God is forced to come up with "plan B," in which He vindictively creates weeds, disease, carnivorous animals, and death to get back at humanity for their sin. Young earth creationists inadvertently buy into the atheistic worldview that suffering could not have been the original intent of God, stating that the earth was created "for our pleasure." However, the Bible says that God created carnivores, and that the death of animals and plants was part of God's original design for the earth.

References Top of page

  1. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    yôm yom (Strong's H3117) (Strong's H3117)
    1. day, time, year
      1. day (as opposed to night)
      2. day (24 hour period)
        1. as defined by evening and morning in Genesis 1
        2. as a division of time
          1. a working day, a day’s journey
      3. days, lifetime (plural)
      4. time, period (general)
      5. year
      6. temporal references
        1. today
        2. yesterday
        3. tomorrow
    Part of Speech: noun masculine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from an unused root meaning to be hot
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 852
  2. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day. (Genesis 1:5)
  3. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
    Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:2)
    And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)
    God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:4)
    God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day. (Genesis 1:5)
  4. And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." (Genesis 1:6)
    So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. (Genesis 1:7)
    God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day. (Genesis 1:8)
  5. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    deshe deshe (Strong's H1877)
    1. grass, new grass, green herb, vegetation, young
    Part of Speech: noun masculine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H1876
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 456a
  6. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    dasha dasha (Strong's H1876)
    1. to sprout, shoot, grow green
      1. (Qal) to sprout, grow green
      2. (Hiphil) to cause to sprout, cause to shoot forth
    Part of Speech: verb
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: a primitive root
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 456
Last Modified December 30, 2005


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