How do you guys interpret Exodus 31:17? God commands Moses to tell the Israelites to observe the sabbath because in 6 days he worked and on the 7th day he rested. He commanded them to work on 6 24 hour days and rest on 1 day. It seems like God instructed to do this so that they would follow him. So doesn’t this mean god created the universe in 6 24 hour days?
I think it means what it says. But I like John Walton’s view of the creation, which is that the story in Genesis 1 is primarily God assigning functions and purpose to everything, not the material creation itself.
They are analogous days in the Commandments.
I view them as being days in God’s time, not ours. 2 Peter 3:8 and Psalm 90:4 tell us that God’s preception of time is completely different from our own perception of time. Furthermore, the reference to six days of creation in these verses is to serve primarily as a schematic for the working week.
Even on a purely natural level, viewing days as being strictly 24 hours long is to take a very geocentric view of things that simply doesn’t make sense on a cosmic scale (and creation happened on a cosmic scale after all). Once you leave the Earth’s atmosphere, the concept of a 24 hour day breaks down completely. Days on different planets in the Solar System all have different lengths – it’s 28 days on the moon, 10½ hours on Saturn, and 243 Earth days on Venus for instance. In fact, astronomically there are two different definitions of a day – synodic days (relative to the sun) and sidereal days (relative to the rest of the universe), which, in the case of Mercury and Venus, are wildly different from each other. Even on the Earth, you have time zones, the Arctic and the Antarctic that mess with the concept of “then there was evening, and then there was morning.” And don’t get me started on relativity…
There’s a blog post that someone wrote a few years back that’s quite well known in the software development community titled “Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Time.” Time is complicated and messy, and those of us who work in computer programming often have to face the full force of that complexity. But I always chuckle when I read the first item in the list: “There are always 24 hours in a day.”
I interpret it as the Jewish Exilic priestly class justifying themselves in a story set a thousand years before in the dawn mists of their ancestral Amorite-Canaanite monotheism. The seven day week is an artefact of basic, naked eye, planetary astronomy. Whether God grounds the 13.8 ga universe among infinite from eternity or not can have nothing whatsoever to do with it. That would be looking down the wrong end of a very old telescope.
But then He says, Deuteronomy 5:12-15 ESV
So which is it? A commemoration of God’s creation or God giving the former slaves one day out of seven of rest?
And then there is this.
Walton drops the ball big time with Adam and Eve though. I just read part of one of his works today where he said, “Adam and Eve are the first significant humans.” [emphasis his] I think I even read somewhere where he said their names weren’t Adam and Eve either. I couldn’t imagine exegesis any more haphazard or bizarre. His work on Genesis goes from excellent to academic embarrassment in a nano-second.
This image is from one of his books. He clearly knows a million time more about the historical backdrop of Genesis than I do. He must really be convinced by the necessity of a historical Adam from genealogies and arguments made in the NT.
God’s creative week is told in a functional pattern and technically the seventh day never ended. It’s not 24 hours. Jesus referred to the ongoing rest in John. The earth is the Lord’s temple.
Also I just made this thread:
On that page in section three I have the following in regards to your passage:
 If we must take the days of creation as completely literal what are we then to make of Exod. 31:16–17: “ 16 Therefore the Israelites shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed .” Does god really need to rest? Must we literally believe that our omnipotent creator grew tired after creating things? Miller and Soden write:
“The verb “refreshed” is used three times in the Scriptures, including Exodus 23:12 (“Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed”) and 2 Samuel 16:14 (“And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself”). The latter verse makes it clear that it is weariness that requires refreshment. But was God literally weary? Had he become spent during the week of creation? No, but he was describing his figurative workweek in a way that corresponded with human experience, so that mankind would also rest even as God had “rested.” God is drawing an analogy here rather than an equation. If we do not understand God’s “rest” and “refreshment” to be the same as man’s, should we expect God’s “days” to be the same?”
The framing of the creation week appears theological as it partly establishes the reasoning for the Sabbath. Caution is warranted by this in how literally we take some of the details of creation.
I mean, would you say our omnipotent creator literally needed to be refreshed? The Bible says it so it must be so?
And then there is Jesus talking in Mark when his disciples were accused of breaking the law by gleaning a few heads of grain on the Sabboth, “ Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Note that there is also a sabbatical year and the Jubilee that is a sabbath of sabbath years. If the weekly sabbath requires the days of creation to have been 24 hour days, shouldn’t the sabbath year imply that the days of Genesis 1 were years? Or “days” of 49 years, to translate the description of the Jubilee timing literally. The celebration of Passover did not last as long as the actual exodus from Egypt did.
Ohhhhh yes it did. The week of the Days of Unleavened Bread following Passover is also known as Passover, culminating in the Last Day commemorating the crossing of the Red Sea.
Each day is slightly longer than the day before
But was it written by its authors 3000 years ago on a cosmic scale embracing modern ideology? Presuming the authors of Genesis had the sense of the cosmos we do is surely not proper. They thought there was a solid dome in the sky. It was written from the perspective of humans 3000 years ago.
Thinking about literal days, I mean if we want to be super literal, the earth would have to have been rotating at its current angular velocity as soon as God made it for there to be 24 hour days and this is all before we even get a sun one day four which is how we define a day in the modern context of what we now know is one earth rotation. Was the earth titled yet? Were the evening and morning the same amount ofttimes like on the equinoxes? Yet many parts of the Bible clearly think the earth does not move. Cleary none of this is a concern of Genesis. I think for some the point of early Genesis 1 in its context is more about God creating time than space. Time, weather and fertility are the first three days thenthe next three day’s event correspond to those in order.
“It is evident, then, that Genesis reflects the same way of thinking as in the rest of the ancient world when it considers separating and naming to be primary creative acts. But why are these activities restricted to the first three days of Genesis 1? The examination of the events of the first three days pre- sented here has shown that on these days the establishment of the basis for time, weather, and food production occurred. These three principal func- tions are also grouped together in other ancient Near Eastern texts.” Walton: Genesis as Ancient Cosmology
According to time as we measure it? Obviously not. According to our measure, the universe is 13.8 billion years old, the earth more than 4.5 billion years old, and life on the earth more than 3.5 billion years.
But as God measures time (2 Peter 3:8)? Quite possibly. After all there isn’t much evidence of divine intervention and design in the universe when it comes to the details. All the evidence tells us that things are as they are because things followed a set of space-time mathematical laws and not because an artist was simply putting things and details into the universe by creative imagination. Thus what we see in the universe is primarily one of automation rather than divine whim.
I mean I certainly don’t buy into the Deist notion of God as the great watchmaker who winded it all up and just sat back to watch it all go. I believe in the theist notion of God as the shepherd who created for an interactive relationship. But that would suggests a connection between God’s participation and the ability of things to respond. A pet rock is certainly very different than a pet dog or cat, and that is very different than a child with whom you can converse.
So a couple days of involvement for the inanimate parts of creation seem reasonable even if that was 10 billion years in our time. And a couple days for the beginning of life and setting up the environment even if that was three billion years our time. Then a day for all the diversity of animal life even if that was 700 million years our time. Then a day for hominids and homo sapiens even if that was 6 million years our time. But that was only the beginning of God’s involvement with the earth… merely a preface. He may have hoped His work was done, but He was disappointed because raising up children with free will and ideas of their own required a great deal more attention than those 6 days of creation.
P.S. And if that seems a little too centered upon the earth, I should say that I don’t buy into notions that the universe has had billions of years for life and civilizations to develop elsewhere before us. 13.8 billion years doesn’t look like a lot of extra time when you really consider what went into producing all the elements we find on the earth. So while I have little doubt that there is life elsewhere in the universe, I am much more skeptical that life could have developed elsewhere at an earlier time in the history of the universe.
By what clock?
Time for nucleosynthesis rules this out in the early universe unless we want to classify hydrogen atoms as life. I can’t say that no type of primitive life couldn’t have existed but as for today, I am drawn to the “rare earth” hypothesis. I am not opposed to primitive life elsewhere in the universe today but I think the issue of advanced life that is self-aware is not certain by any means. A lot needs to happen for that to occur and just as much needs to not happen for it to evolve and develop!
I like this by a Christian physicist (and researcher into elementary particles):
Excellent read: “If you start with a big bang, the shortest time it will take to make a planet that can support life like us and to have that planet develop an environment hospitable to advanced life is nearly 14 billion years, the age of our universe.”
Pretty much spot on. Space is comparable to life on earth it seems. Evolution to the max in all spheres and domains.
Fusion synthesis in stars get you up to iron in the periodic table. But the elements needed for life on the earth go up to iodine and if you look up how iodine was formed in the universe, the predominant theory is that it came from neutron star collisions. If these events were as rare as we first thought then life like ours wouldn’t be very common at all. But since we discovered the necessity of these events, estimates of the frequency of these events have been increasing.
A awful lot of planets out there
If we included heavier elements required for modern technology (think 235U for nuclear fission and DU for other uses), said ‘advanced civilization’ instead of ‘advanced life’, and that the sun is considered a second or third generation star, what would it look like?