Why Did God Take Six Days?
When one takes up a Bible, reads Genesis, Chapter 1 (Gen 1:1-31), at face value, it seems to say that God created the world, the universe, and everything in them in six ordinary (approximately 24-hour) days. However, there is a view in our churches that has become prevalent over the years, that these days could have been thousands, millions, or even billions of years in duration. Does it really matter what length these days were, anyway? Is it possible to determine whether or not they were ordinary days, or in fact long periods of time?
Why "Long Days"?
The main reason why many try to make the Genesis days into long periods is to find a way to harmonize the creation account with the idea that there was a succession of vast geological ages before man appeared. But if one accepts these ages as being real, then one is accepting that interpretation of the fossil record which (1) denies a world-wide Flood (since such a Flood would have wiped out all traces of such preceding ages), and (2) insists that there were many creatures which lived, struggled, and died out long before man appeared on the scene. This, of course, seriously undermines the whole New Testament/Gospel emphasis relating to sin, death, bloodshed, Redemption, and the Curse.
Put simply, any attempt to harmonize long geological ages with Genesis (gap theory, day-age theory, progressive creation, etc.) inevitably means accepting death before man, rather than the New Testament insistence that the struggle, suffering, and bloodshed of the present world came about AFTER Adam sinned. That these attempts to compromise are artificial, and not true to the text, can be seen by the following quotation from Dr. James Barr (Regius Professor of Hebrew, at Oxford University):
"So far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1:1-11:32 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience, (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story, (c) Noah's flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguished all human and animal life except for those in the ark."
Note that the experts are not saying they BELIEVE the account; they are just dealing honestly with what it actually says, with the realities of the language.
What is a "Day"?
The word for day in Gen 1:1-31 is the Hebrew word yom. It can mean either a day (in the ordinary 24-hour sense), the daylight portion (say about 12 hours) of an ordinary 24-hour day (i.e., day as distinct from night), or, occasionally, an indefinite period of time (e.g. "In the time of the Judges" or "In the day of the Lord"). Without exception, in the Hebrew Old Testament the word yom is never used to refer to a definite long period of time with specific beginning and end points. Furthermore, it is important to note that even when the word yom is used in the indefinite sense, it is clearly indicated by the context that the literal meaning of the word day is not intended.
Ptolemy of Alexandria (AD 85-165) believed that sun, moon, planets, and stars revolved around a stationary earth in a series of inter-layered spheres.)
Some people say that the word day in Genesis may have been used symbolically, and so we are not meant to take it literally. However, an important point that many fail to consider is that a word can never be used symbolically the first time it is used! In fact, a word can be used symbolically only when it first has a literal meaning. In the New Testament we are told that Jesus is the "door". We know what this means, because we know that the word door means an entrance. Because we understand its literal meaning, it is able to be applied in a symbolic sense to Jesus Christ. The word door could not be used in this way unless it first had the literal meaning we understand it to have. Thus, the word day cannot be used symbolically the first time it is used in the book of Genesis. Indeed, this is why the author of Genesis has gone to great lengths to carefully define the word day the first time it appears. In Gen 1:4, we read that God separated the light from the darkness. Then in Gen 1:5 we read, God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. In other words, the terms were being very carefully defined. The first time the word day is used, it is defined as the light to distinguish it from the darkness called night. Gen. 1:5 then finishes off with, "And the evening and the morning were the first day." This is the same phrase used for each of the other five days, and shows that there was a clearly established cycle of days and nights (i.e., periods of light and periods of darkness). The periods of light on each of the six days were when God did His work, and the periods of darkness were when God did no creative work.
A Day and the Sun
But how could there be day and night if the sun weren't in existence? After all, it is clear from Gen 1:1-31 that the sun was not created until the fourth day. Gen. 1:3 tells us that God created light on the first day, and the phrase "evening and morning" shows there were alternating periods of light and darkness. Therefore, light was in existence, being directed from one stationary source upon a rotating earth, resulting in the day and night cycle. However, we are not told exactly where this light came from. The word for light in Gen. 1:3 means that the substance of light was created. Then, in Gen. 1:14-19, we are told of the creation on the fourth day of the sun which was to be the source of light from that time onwards.
The sun was created to rule the day that already existed. The day stayed the same. It merely had a new light source. The first three days of creation (before the sun) were the same type of days as the three days with the sun.
One of the possible reasons God deliberately left the creation of the sun until the fourth day is because He knew that, down through the ages, cultures would try to worship the sun as the source of life. Not only this, but modern-day theories tell us that the sun came before the earth. God is showing us He made the earth and light to start with, that He can sustain it with its day and night cycle, and that the sun was created on the fourth day as a tool of His to be the bearer of light from that time.
Probably one of the major reasons people have tended not to take the days of Genesis as ordinary days, is because they have believed scientists have proved the earth to be billions of years old. But this is not true. There is no absolute age-dating method to determine exactly how old the earth is. Besides, there is a lot of evidence consistent with a belief in a young age for the earth, perhaps only thousands of years.
Why Six Days?
God is an infinite being. This means He has infinite power, infinite knowledge, infinite wisdom, etc. obviously, God could make anything He wanted to in no time at all. He could have created the whole universe, the earth, and all it contains in no time at all. Perhaps the question we should be asking is why did God take as long as six days, anyway? After all, six days is a long time for an infinite being to take to make anything! The answer can be found in Ex. 20:11. Ex. 20:1-2 6 contains the Ten Commandments. It should be remembered that these commandments were written on stone by the very "finger of God", for in Exodus we read, "And when he had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, he gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God" (Ex. 31:18). The fourth commandment in Ex. 20:9 tells us that we are to work six days and rest for one. The justification for this is given in Ex. 20:11, "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." This is a direct reference to God's creation week in Gen. 1:1-31. To be consistent (and we must be), whatever is used as the meaning of the word day in Gen. 1:1-31 must also be used here. If you are going to say the word day means a long period of time in Genesis, then it has been already shown that the only way this can be is in the sense that the day is an indefinite or indeterminate period of time-not a definite period of time. Thus, the sense of Ex. 20:9-11 would have to be "six indefinite periods shall thou labour, and rest a seventh indefinite period"! This, however, makes no sense at all. By accepting the days as ordinary days, we understand that God is telling us that He worked for six ordinary days and rested for one ordinary day to set a pattern for man - the pattern of our seven-day week, which we still have today! In other words, here in Ex. 20:1-26 we learn the reason why God took as long as six days to make everything - He was setting a pattern for us to follow, a pattern we still follow today.