The number argument of the Genesis "days"

Hi. After reading many YEC websites’ arguments, one of the arguments I’ve found is that whenever yom is used with a number (eg, first, second, third etc) it ALWAYS means a 24 hour day. Many websites, such as Compellingtruth, AIG, and ICR( institute for creation Research) use this argument. Is this argument true? If so , does it mean the Genesis days are 24 hours?

First, this “rule” was unknown until “discovered” by the YEC folk.

Second, there are other examples where the use doesn’t mean a 24 hour day. So are those the exceptions that prove the rule?

It means a day just like the day we experience.

But as stated by multiple people multiple times that has nothing to do with genre or literary techniques. Every word has a definition(s).

When it says the “ heavens opened up and Jesus was on a white horse” all of those words have literal definitions. Yet none of it makes the story literal.

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Any verses?

They have been mentioned several times around here and I don’t have time to repeat the search.

Hosea 6:1-2
Zechariah 14:7

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Consider this picture.

If we read Song of Solomon literally this is what she looks like.

However, most of us know that’s not realistic. We can tell from the way Song of Solomon is written that it’s not a historical tale. We can tell it’s not a literal description. We can look at the clues right? If I’m setting around a campfire and someone tells me a story of a hook handed man that was a janitor at a school in the 30s that is still lurking around these woods I know it’s a fictional horror story.


My understanding is that this is not a Hebrew rule, just the way things happened to appear in certain biblical texts. So using that happenstance to make it out to be some kind of “rule” is disingenuous.

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that’s true. The thing is I don’t undertsand why they say that yom with a number ALWAYS means 24 hours when that ain’t true

And both a cardinal numbers (one) and ordinal numbers (second, third, fourth, etc.) are used in the first chapter of Genesis.

The word yom means ‘day,’ the normal kind. Insisting it was a “24 hour period of time” is imposing something that was not necessarily in view. Day was the time when it was light and was the opposite of night. But it doesn’t matter because the whole argument about the semantics of one word is irrelevant to whether or not a work week is being used figuratively in Genesis 1. I wrote up a formal article about this once because people bring it up so much. In case you are interested:

You should notice a pattern eventually. YEC websites do not generally rely on actual scholarship.

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Simple answer. They start with the conclusion and work their way backwards from there. Given the conclusion is true, in their mind, then any way they work backwards must be ok.


It could well be that in all the instances they referenced, it DID mean a 24 hour day. That does not entail, however, that poetic language is not free to use the word any way it wishes.

“A mighty fortress is our God”
Setting up the metaphor…

“A bulwark never failing”
…It’s an image, not a dictionary entry. I’m not entirely sure passes for a bulwark, but evidently Luther thought it handy to have one if under attack.

Without standard, everyday usage, there can be no metaphors. God is not a literal bulwark, a fortress is not God, even were a bulwark a defining feature of fortresses. But you would never know this by looking up “fortress” in a dictionary or manual.

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It doesn’t matter if it means 24 hours or not.
I read the creation accounts as theological statements, first spoken and then written down at times when forms of argument, exposition, expression were vastly different than they are today. The two accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and then description of the fall in Genesis 3 give us important theological information, unaware of our current understanding of forms of theological writing, or even that such stories would be written down at all, as these eventually were.

Here are a few things that I believe are explained in these chapters: * What God is like, * God has a spirit, * God brings order to chaos, * God operates in an orderly way, * God is all-powerful, and brings things about by his very word, * God is responsible for what we know exists, including our marking of time, * God exists and operates outside of His creation, * God “owns” and has authority over his creation, * God is really pleased with his work, which we see later in Jesus’s work as well, *God is generous and creative, * God created people differently from the rest of what is, and for a different relationship with them, Etc, Etc.

If we look at Genesis 1-3 as theological treatises, developed long before the academic writing we know today, we see rich and elegantly-expressed very early statements of the nature of God, his work, his relationship to his world and more.

When we read Genesis in such a way, we can understand our own observations of God’s creation through the tools God has allowed us humans to delvelop, as ever-growing evidence of the awesomeness of God’s greatness and power, of the vastness of His mind.


What surprises me, @Rohan, is why you would ask a question about the “argument” used by the websites you name, for interpreting “yom” as “a 24-hour day” here in Are you unaware of the deep, substantial, and seemingly permanent differences between and the websites you named?

I know that yom be translated to many english words, but the tricky bit about this is in genesis they talk about a morning and an evening, so i can’t see how Yom in this case can’t translate day. or is this stylisation in KJV ?

I agree their are very good reason believe it metaphorical. after all the riddle of the sphinx uses morning, afternoon and night to describe phase of human life. So it’s not an unusual metaphor.

It can’t though. The translation is day. But yes days can be used in figurative ways.

However, they have another argument. They claim that the form it’s used in in Genesis, (yowm) it always means a 24 hour day. Is this claim true?

It seems to be, because whenever you read the form of yom that’s used in Genesis 1, it’s always translated as “day”. So…

But why “day”? Translation is never 1 to 1. Yom has a range of meaning and how you translate it depends on context. But the problem is while day, even a 24 hour day, may be a correct translation, is that what the writer was trying to convey or were they just using day in its normal narrative sense since what they are writing is in a narrative style.

I recommend checking biblehub. Go to Genesis 1:5 interlinear, find the word form that is translated as day, and click on it. Then you will find the examples of when it’s used. They believe that it always means a 24 hour day, even though sometimes day in the bible is used figuratively. Do you see any examples of day, outside of Genesis 1, using that form of the word yom, being used figuratively?

Quite familiar with biblehub.

Didn’t I give you a couple of examples above?

Hosea 6:1-2
Zechariah 14:7

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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