Were the days of creation 24 hours long?
Were they really 6 literal days?
THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE BIBLE SAYS GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH (AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM) IN SIX DAYS.
Some people have suggested that the “days” of Creation Week were probably long periods of time, maybe millions or billions of years. The reasoning behind this is usually to harmonize the six days of creation in the Book of Genesis with the theory of evolution.
But the Bible has its own amazing way of showing that the “long ages” idea is wrong. We believe the days were real, ordinary, literal days of around 24 hours each. Not billions, millions, or even thousands of years.
Here is why:
Reasons why the days were 24 hours
- Whenever the word day in the Bible is limited by a number (such as the first day, the third day, the sixth day) it always means a 24-hour day. (For example, “he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” — 1 Corinthians 15:4.)
- Whenever the word day is used with the phrase “evening and morning,” it always means an ordinary night-day cycle. (But see special note below on Psalm 90:6.)
- Genesis 1:14 says God created the lights to divide day from night, and to be for signs, for seasons, for days, and for years. If the days are indefinitely long ages, then what are the years?
- If a day is an age, then what is a night? The concept becomes ludicrous when you try to stretch the length of a day.
- Among the Ten Commandments that God gave to Israel,
recorded in Exodus 20, God said that His creation in six
days, followed by a day of rest, was to be the pattern
for the Israelites' working week: six days of labor
followed by a day of rest. “Six days shalt thou
labour, and do all thy work …,” God said,
“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that in them is.”
This would not make sense if the Israelites had to work for six million years followed by a million years of rest.
Note: Some critics have said that Psalm 90:6 is an example of morning and evening being used in a general sense, and that this means Genesis days are not literal 24-hour days.
In the morning it [the grass] flourishes, and grows up; in the evening it is cut down, and withers.
Critics say this refers to the life cycle of grass, growing up in the morning and dying weeks or months later, not the same day.
But note that this reference is nothing like Genesis 1, which says, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” The word day is not even used in Psalm 90:6, and neither is the phrase “evening and morning”, or first, second, third, etc. So it is either naive or deceptive to imply that this is an exception to the rule.
If God and the Bible writers had wanted to tell us that the six days were something other than six literal days, there are many other words they could have used.
Days that are long
There are instances of the word day being used in a longer sense than 24 hours. Just as we might say, “The Flood happened in Noah's day”, meaning in Noah's lifetime, so some versions of the Bible refer to “the day of the Lord” and other phrases meaning a longer period of time than 24 hours.
But none of these other instances have the specifiers that Genesis 1 has in “And the evening and the morning were the first day”, (e.g. first, second, third, fourth, etc., or “evening and morning”).
Sometimes opponents of 24-hour creation days bring up the verse in Hebrews 4 that says “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”, noting that the seventh day isn't mentioned as finishing, therefore it could be thousands of years long. This is often used by Jehovah's Witnesses.
But note that it says God rested on the seventh day, not God is resting. The creative acts of the six days had finished, so we are simply told that God rested from that work.
Does a day equal a thousand years?
Some people think that a day may mean a thousand years, because the Apostle Peter said that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
But Peter did not say a day is a thousand years. He said it is as a thousand years. He is saying that God is not bound by time; that a thousand years are no more significant than a day in God's eternal scheme of things.
A similar thought appears in Psalm 90:4 — “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”
People who say Peter meant that a day is a thousand years are ignoring the second part of Peter's statement, which says a thousand years are as one day. How could we count how many days are in a thousand years if a day means a thousand years? It becomes silly when you try to force a meaning that wasn't intended.
Not an indefinite period either
The passage about a day being as a thousand years has also been said to mean that a day is simply a long period of time. But that makes nonsense of Peter's statement. It would mean that Peter was saying that “a long period of time is a thousand years.” See how ridiculous things get when you stray from the straight meaning of Scripture?
Eroding the Gospel
An important point that Christians need to remember is that if the days of creation were long ages, then there are inconsistencies with the Gospel that don't exist if the days were literal, 24-hour days.
- Adam, the first man, was created on Day 6.
- If there had been millions or billions of years before Day 6 it would seem to accommodate the billions of fossils found in the ground. But …
- this would mean there had been death and suffering before Adam's sin, because fossils are the remains of dead things. Yet we are told in the New Testament that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Romans 5:12).
- Therefore, the doctrines of sin and death that Christians adhere to have no basis in the “long day” theory.
Rather than believing the evolutionists' idea that fossils took long ages to form, it is wiser for Christians to question whether fossils really need millions of years to form. They don't!
From all this, we believe the clear meaning of the days of creation in the Bible is the obvious one: They were literal, ordinary, 24-hour days. Nothing more and nothing less.
- How old is the earth according to the Bible?
- How to tell time from the position of the sun
- How did Adam and ancient people in the Bible live hundreds of years?
- Did dinosaurs ever really exist?
- Were there people living on earth before Adam and Eve?
- Who invented the seven-day week?
- How could light exist before the sun was created?
- What was the date of Noah's Flood?
- What day of the week was I born on?