What is the meaning of the 6 days in exodus 31:17 and 20:11?

Hi, here is a question. In Exodus 31:17( and 20:11) it states that in 6 days God created the Heavens and Earth. I’m aware that many of you guys believe that the universe was created before day 1, or in the beginning. However, those verses state that God created the universe in 6 days, contrary to the view that the creation started on day 1. Also, why did the author use creation as a reason to keep the sabbath? It seems like he is saying that the 6 days are 24 hours. Do you guys have a response to this?

Good question, and one I suspect has been discussed, but will take a stab at it. Of course, understand that we as moderators are really just offering our personal takes on it. We volunteer primarily to act as bouncers to keep things civil and on the rails, and do not determine the content on the forum, or the views of Biologos.

That said, I think the human author of Exodus probably did believe in a 6 day creation, but that the Sabboth was the topic of discussion, not the length of creation, so making it about the length God took for creation up to the time of Adam is to make it something it is not. Certainly, God could have created at once in one instant or one word, but he did not. He related 6 days of work and a day of rest for our benefit and to set aside a special time and space to honor and worship Him.
Also, it actually does not say 24 hours anywhere. I’m sure the human author would not even know what an hour was. It speaks of mornings and evenings in Genesis, even before the sun was around, by which we now define morning and evening, as well as how we define the length of days, being one rotation of the planet in relation to the sun.
I hope that helps. What do you think of that? Any questions that that brings up, or problems that we should further consider with that approach?

It helped me understand the sabbath. But why would the author say that he created the heavens and the earth in 6 days, when the creation in fact begun before day 1

Im sorry for the late response, just had some dinner

If Genesis chapter 1 is about assigning purposes and roles, then that could be what is meant when it says in Exodus that God created the world in 6 days. It doesn’t have to mean material creation.

Good point.

What purposes? What roles? Apart from God as creator? Humanity as the pinnacle of creation?

The ones mentioned in Genesis chapter 1 for the different things that God has created.

Ok, then why does it say that God " made" the Earth? Is there really an alternative defintion?

Is there an alternative definition for the word " made?’’ Is there evidence for that?

“Made” can be used in different ways. John Walton uses the example of a school – a school isn’t really a building, it’s a collection of people all working together in specific roles. So when you “make” a school, what you’re mostly doing is assigning roles and functions for students, teachers, and everyone else involved, and it has nothing to do with raw materials. Another point John Walton makes is that some ancient creation stories begin with material creation already present. In those cases, the role of the creator is not to “poof” things out of nowhere – it’s to give meaning and purpose to what is already there, to bring order out of chaos. Kind of like God “hovering over the waters” in Genesis 1. If you’re interested in reading more, John Walton’s “The Lost World of Genesis One” would be a good book to read about this viewpoint.


True. However, if we interpret it that way, wouldn’t that still include the beginning, before day 1?

Maybe. I do think God is responsible for material creation too – just that that’s not the specific story that’s being told in Genesis 1.

Can you elaborate on that? Just because that’s not what’s being told doesn’t change the definition of the word “made”.

It’s possible that Genesis 1:1 (“God created the heavens and the earth”) is referring to material creation while the rest of the chapter is using “made” or “created” in a functional sense instead. Or maybe the word is being used in a functional sense in both places. Either way, God has made the world in both the physical and the functional sense, but Genesis 1 is focusing more on “making” in the sense of establishing functions.

Ok, now lets go back to exodus 31:17. " It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor , and was refreshed.” In 6 days he made the universe. From what I understand, you believe that the universe was created before the 6 days. But this verse said that he did it in the 6 days. Do you think the " made" includes Genesis 1:1-2?

And this Exodus passage also uses the word “made,” so if it’s used in a functional sense in Genesis 1, then I have no reason to believe it’s not used the same way in Exodus. I’m sure assigning functions to everything in the universe was no easy feat.

As for Genesis 1:1-2, I don’t know whether that is talking about material creation or not. It could just be a summary of what is to come. But it may also be about a material creation that’s outside of the six days of assigning functions that comes in the later verses.

is the word made used that way in genesis? Verses?

do you have any verses to support your claim?

The word is used all through Genesis 1. If you want to read more about John Walton’s views on material vs. functional, you could read this article on BioLogos: Material or Function in Genesis 1? John Walton Responds - Articles - BioLogos

And here’s a list of some other articles about his book about Genesis 1:

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