The Days of Creation from God’s Viewpoint
GOD’S viewpoint! How far that towers above man’s viewpoint! God is infinite, without limitations. We are finite, very much limited. Well does Jehovah God say: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”—Isa. 55:9.
No wonder the psalmist David asked: “When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have prepared, what is mortal man that you keep him in mind?” Fittingly the prophet Isaiah exclaimed: “Look! The nations are as a drop from a bucket; and as the film of dust on the scales they have been accounted. Look! He lifts the islands themselves as mere fine dust.”—Ps. 8:3, 4; Isa. 40:15.
Unfathomable as is the greatness of Jehovah God, so also is his existence unfathomable. He has always existed. As “the King of eternity” he is God “from time indefinite to time indefinite.” Not without good reason does the prophet Daniel describe Jehovah God as “the Ancient of Days.”—1 Tim. 1:17; Ps. 90:2; Dan. 7:9.
“DAY” IN THE SCRIPTURES
Clearly this ever-living Creator, Jehovah God, would view time differently from the way we mere mortals do, with our lifespan of seventy or eighty years. Does not a young child view time differently from the way a person well along in years views it? To a child twelve months might seem to be a very long time, but to an elderly person the years just seem to fly by. How much differently, then, must the “Ancient of Days” view time from the way we mortals do! Obviously, when Jehovah in his Word speaks of a “day” or “days,” we should not conclude that he always means days of twenty-four hours. He may be referring to such and he may not.
Thus we find that the Hebrew word for “day,” yohm, is used in a variety of ways in the Bible. In the very account of creation we have “day” used to refer to three different periods of time. “Day” is used to refer to the daylight hours, as when we read: “God began calling the light Day, but the darkness he called Night.” It is used to refer to both day and night, as when we read: “There came to be evening and there came to be morning, a first day.” And “day” is also used to refer to the entire time period involved in creation of the heavens and the earth: “This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time of their being created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven.”—Gen. 1:5; 2:4.
Then again, on more than one occasion Jehovah God used a day to represent a year. This he did in connection with the Israelites in the wilderness and with his prophet Ezekiel. His Word says: “A day for a year, a day for a year, you will answer for your errors.” “A day for a year, a day for a year, is what I have given you.” (Num. 14:34; Ezek. 4:6) Likewise in regard to Daniel’s prophecy that foretold the coming of the Messiah at the end of sixty-nine “weeks.” The Messiah came, not at the end of sixty-nine literal weeks, or 483 days, but at the end of 483 years. (See The Watchtower, 1966, p. 379.)
Not only one year, but even a thousand years are at times represented as one day in God’s Word. As the prophet Moses mused: “For a thousand years are in your eyes but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch during the night.” The apostle Peter expresses it even stronger: “Let this one fact not be escaping your notice, beloved ones, that one day [Greek, he·meʹra] is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.”—Ps. 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:8.
Yes, in the Christian Greek Scriptures “day” is also used to refer to other periods of time, not just to twenty-four hours. For example, Jesus on one occasion said: “Abraham your father rejoiced greatly in the prospect of seeing my day, and he saw it and rejoiced.” Likewise we read of such expressions by his followers as “Christ’s day,” “Jehovah’s day,” and “the great day of God the Almighty.” Surely none of these are meant to be limited to just twenty-four hours. (John 8:56; Phil. 2:16; 1 Thess. 5:2; Rev. 16:14) The foregoing makes it clear that a “day” from God’s viewpoint is not necessarily limited to twenty-four hours.
TWENTY-FOUR HOURS IN LENGTH?
However, many in Christendom, in particular the so-called Fundamentalists, insist that the days of creation mentioned in Genesis, chapter one, were just twenty-four hours long. Of course, since Jehovah God, the Creator, is all-wise as well as all-powerful, he could well have created all things mentioned in the account of creation in six twenty-four-hour days. But from such evidence as that found in the rocks of the earth and by astronomers’ telescopes, it does not seem that he did so.
Concerning these days of creation A Religious Encyclopædia by Schaff says: “The days of creation were creative days, stages in the process, but not days of twenty-four hours.” Similarly Delitzsch says in his New Commentary on Genesis: “Days of God are intended, with Him a thousand years are but as a day when that is past, Ps. 90:4 . . . The days of creation are, according to the meaning of Holy Scripture itself, not days of four and twenty hours, but aeons . . . For this earthly and human measurement of time cannot apply to the first three days.”
Some do not even care to consider seriously the length of the days of creation. Typical of such are the editors of Harper’s Bible Dictionary, who state: “It is futile and unnecessary to try to reconcile the Genesis Creation account with modern science.” And The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (1962) speaks of the creation account as mythological.
Jesus Christ, however, credited the Genesis account with being factual, for he quoted that Genesis account as authoritative, saying: “Did you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’?” The apostle Paul was of the same mind, for he said that God “made out of one man every nation of men” and that “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” So it is to our interest, and not at all futile, to concern ourselves with just how long the days of creation were.—Matt. 19:4, 5; Acts 17:26; 1 Tim. 2:13.
But before considering the length of these days of creation it seems well to clear up a common misunderstanding. That misunderstanding is that the earth itself was created during the six “days” of creation. The Bible record indicates that the universe, the starry heavens, as well as this planet earth, were created before the first of earth’s creative days began.
Thus Genesis 1:1 tells of the creation of the starry heavens as well as this planet earth, and says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” When this “beginning” took place, the Bible does not say. It is not until later in the Bible that we read of what God created on the first “day.” The six creative “days,” therefore, involve the creative acts of God in preparing the already-existing earth for human habitation, and not the creation of the earth itself. There is nothing in the Genesis account, then, to contradict the scientific conclusions of modern scientists that the material universe, including the earth, may be many thousands of millions of years old.
Then, how are we to understand the words of the Fourth Commandment, about God making the heavens and the earth during six days? (Ex. 20:11) It helps us when we understand that, just as Bible writers used the term “day” in more than one sense, so they also used the terms “heavens” and “earth” in more than one sense. Thus at times the atmosphere in which the birds fly is referred to as “the heavens.” (Jer. 4:25) This atmospheric expanse or “heavens” was made on the second “day” of the creative week. Also, it was not until the third “day” that dry land appeared. So it can be said that the earth, meaning the dry land, also was made during the creative week, but this not meaning that the earth, the globe or planet itself, was created then.—Gen. 1:6-10, 13.
LENGTH OF THE CREATIVE DAYS
Just how long, then, were these “days” of creation? The Bible gives us a clue as to the length of the seventh day. Since these “days” were all part of one ‘week,’ it would be reasonable to conclude that all these “days” were of the same length.
As regards the length of the seventh day it is indeed of interest that the Bible says nothing about ‘an evening and a morning,’ a beginning and an end to the seventh day as in the case of the other six days. This is a meaningful omission. The record simply states: “God proceeded to bless the seventh day and make it sacred, because on it he has been resting from all his work.”—Gen. 2:3.
The only logical conclusion that we can reach is that the seventh day has continued right on. Does the Bible support this conclusion? Yes, it most certainly does, for it speaks of Jehovah God as still resting thousands of years after creation. Thus at Psalm 95:8-11, we read that Jehovah said to the Israelites in the wilderness that they would not enter into his rest because of the hardness of their hearts. This shows that God had been resting from works of the sort described in Genesis chapters one and two from the creation of Eve to that time, more than 2,500 years.a
The psalmist David, some 400 years later, at Psalm 95:8-11 speaks of entering into God’s rest in his day. And then more than a thousand years after David’s time the writer of Hebrews speaks of Jehovah God as still resting in his day. He counsels Christians not to be like the Israelites in the wilderness who failed to enter into God’s rest, but that they should do their “utmost to enter into that rest,” Jehovah’s rest. In this connection he says that “there remains a sabbath resting for the people of God.” And as the words of the apostle Paul are applicable to Christians today, it follows that Jehovah has been enjoying his sabbath or rest from physical creation almost six thousand years now.—Heb. 4:9, 11.
This accounts for 6,000 years. Is that the length of the seventh day? No, because we read that “God proceeded to bless the seventh day and make it sacred.” Its outcome must be “very good,” and that is not true of present world conditions; so the “day” must still be continuing. Actually these six thousand years have been, as it were, man’s workweek, in which he labored by the sweat of his face. But he will get rest during the coming thousand-year reign of Christ, which Bible chronology and fulfillment of Bible prophecy show is to begin very soon.—Gen. 2:3.
The seventh one thousand years of the seventh “day” will thus in itself be a sabbath. During it Satan and his demons will be bound. Christ and his anointed followers will rule with him as kings and priests. With what result? That all God’s enemies will be put beneath Christ’s feet. By means of this sabbath the seventh day will truly be sacred, for it will cause righteousness to flourish.—1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 20:1-6; Psalm 72.
Thus we find the seventh “day” of the creative week to be seven thousand years long. On the basis of the length of the seventh “day” it is therefore reasonable to conclude that each of the other six “days” also was a period of 7,000 years. This length of time would be ample for all that the Bible tells us took place on each of the six days of creation.
AN EVENTFUL ‘WEEK’
Thus gradually on the first “day” light appeared on the “watery deep” that enveloped the earth. During the second 7,000-year “day” the atmosphere was formed between two layers of water. On the third “day” the dry land gradually appeared, and Jehovah God created all manner of vegetation, grasses, shrubs and trees.
On the fourth “day” the luminaries, the sun and moon and stars, for the first time became visible from the earth’s surface, preparing the earth for the appearance, on the fifth “day,” of marine life and flying creatures. On the sixth “day” God created land animals and, toward its end, man.
There is, as we have seen, good reason to believe that the days of creation were each 7,000 years long. Now the fact that we are living at the end of six thousand years of the seventh “day” is of the greatest interest and importance to us. When Jesus Christ was on earth, he performed many of his miraculous cures on the sabbath. To those who were offended by this he pointed out that he was “Lord of the sabbath.” By this he was pointing forward to the sabbath of a thousand years during which he will bring back mankind to perfection of body and mind. He will do for all mankind what he did for his people Israel back there. This will include even the raising of the dead, for “all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.”—Matt. 12:8; John 5:28, 29.
Thus, our appreciating the days of creation from God’s viewpoint is not only seen to be Scriptural, reasonable and harmonious with such facts as men of science have been able to produce, but also inspires in us the hope of soon enjoying the Lord’s sabbath of God’s rest day, a day when health, life and happiness will be restored to humankind. Truly God’s ways and thoughts are infinitely superior to man’s thoughts and ways.—Rev. 21:3, 4.
a According to Genesis 5:3-29; 7:6, from the creation of Adam to the Flood 1,656 years elapsed. Genesis 11:10-12:4 shows that 427 years elapsed from the deluge until God’s covenant with Abraham. And Galatians 3:17 shows that 430 years elapsed from then to the giving of the Law, making upward of 2,500 years. See “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” pages 284, 285.