What is the meaning of the 6 days

Yes, the word yom can mean many things, but when it has a number before it( first second, etc), it usually means 24 hours. So when it says that he created the universe in 6 days, does that mean 24 hour periods? It seems so because in this case the word day has a number before it. Please help me better understand this

I have heard this brought up by young-earth apologists at times, but I’m not aware of any Hebrew rule about “yom with a number.” The fact that it “usually means” something in a few biblical texts doesn’t make it a Hebrew rule. On the other hand, it may very well mean 24-hour days. There is the complication about the sun not even existing until day 4, which is usually how we measure days to begin with. Still, even if the days are 24-hour periods, it doesn’t mean that all of God’s material creation was confined to those days – they may have had more to do with assigning purpose and function to the different areas and inhabitants of creation.

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The meaning of the word depends on context, as you have just specified. There are later uses of the word where it may be associated with a solar day if numbered, but this is the very first time it is used and the context is unique (the very creation of the universe!), so arguing backwards from a later use is not legitimate. And the first time it is used is before the sun is even created, according to young earth creationism, so it can hardly refer to a solar day!

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In the story 6 days means 6 days. What’s to understand?

@Klax is correct. The first six days are just days, followed but an unending period of rest. It would be completely silly to not understand the six days of Genesis as six days since the end of the chapter is about establishing the sabbath. I say that fully aware that the seventh day didn’t end and clearly was not 24 hours. But providing us a chronology and sequence of creation in the modern sense was not the purpose of Genesis. It is telling us God is responsible for the order and function of the world, we were created in his image as the climax of creation and that his creation is good. It was more about establishing function (events on days 1-3 correspond to events on days 4-6) and the sovereignty and primacy of God. It is a sharp statement of monotheism and it uses the model of a week with a sabbath at the end to accomplish this. Aside from that, most of what Genesis 1:1-2:3 says is found elsewhere. Recall that Gen. 2 speaks of “the day” the Lord made the heavens and the earth. The authors never really intended to answer the question we ask it. We want to read Genesis like a science text when in fact, we should be reading it more like an ancient poem.



There are some very good reasons to believe that the “yom with a number” argument is a YEC fabrication. No Hebrew scholar outside of young Earth circles acknowledges its validity; there is no record of it being cited anywhere before it first appeared in young Earth literature in the 1970s; and it is only ever cited by YECs when attacking old-earth interpretations (day-age, gap theory, framework interpretation etc) of Genesis 1.

In terms of grammar, the way that yom is combined with a number in Genesis 1 is unique to Genesis 1. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, it always appears with the definite article (hayyom harison or hayyom hasseni) whereas in Genesis 1 it appears without it (yom ehad). Furthermore, the context of Genesis 1 (large scale, cosmic events) is different from the context in which the word yom is used elsewhere (the day to day dealings of human beings). Besides, even elsewhere in the Old Testament, there are exceptions to the rule, such as Hosea 6:1-2 and Zechariah 14:7.

Normal human languages do not work on the basis of made-up “rules” whose only purpose is to serve as a basis for dogmas that denounce hard facts and evidence-based reality as heresy. Context and subject matter are important. Take the word “class” for example – it means one thing in biology, another thing in education, a third thing in computer programming, and a fourth thing in discussions about social and political hierarchies. You really can’t generalise from one to the other at all.

Unless their is a significant difference in the way the NIV is translated and the original Hebrew, the argument that “yom” doesn’t mean day is rather weak.
The text is writen as “let their be *, God saw that is was good, And there was evening, and there was morning—the * day”
So arguing that “yom” in this context doesn’t mean day is hard to defend.

What isn’t hard to defend is the parabolic nature of the text and this is something that was suggested long before evolution or the age of the universe was known. Using day to express periods of time is something we do today. For example to illustrate events on earth we sometime represent them as period within a 24 hour day even thought it represents almost 5 billion year.
This is further defended by the fact that their are significant similarities between genesis one and the Babylonian creation myth. Babylon being a major power at the time, a lot of people would have been influenced by its culture in particular it’s creation myth.
And this is were I think the lesson is. The Babylonian myth had multiple gods that governed various objects and things. sometimes the things where gods. In genesis all things are created and governed by god and all things have a purpose.

This would lead to the conclusion that the 6 days probably don’t have any significant purpose other than to draw parallel with the Babylonian creation myth and that the lesson is in those parallels. The only day I can see having significant meaning is the 7th day, if God rested then probably so should we.

Although the NIV is reasonable as a translation for the general purpose of understanding the text, it’s not a great match for the exact words. As jammycakes pointed out, the actual grammar is not the usual way of referring to a specific day, as the definite article is missing for most of the days in Genesis 1 - “day one”, “a second day”, etc. would be a more literal translation, not to mention the “day” of 2:4 that doesn’t match the days of ch. 1. The grammar most closely matches other ancient near eastern sources that use a seven-day period as a figurative picture of perfect completion.

Figurative language is not characterized by a more restricted vocabulary than literal. The actual ways to determine if something is figurative or not are examining the context and comparing the statement with known physical reality.

Ironically, the “yom with and ordinal has to be a literal day” argument is extremely similar to the “Paul couldn’t have written all the letters ascribed to him because this word is used a bit differently” sort of argument.

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“on the third day”, an idiom meaning “soon” is one relatively common non-literal use of yom. The year of Jubilee follows a “yom” of 49 years. There are a number of places where the NIV uses “years” where the Hebrew has yom, but those are often phrases of the “many years” sort where one could argue that 24 hour days could not be absolutely ruled out.

My point has little to do with the use of the word yom, my understanding of hebrew is to limited to debate that detail.

It has to do with the fact that the verses systematically refers to evening and morning. This would indicate that yom really means day in this context or rather would translate to day. Of course if we apply a parabolic interpretation, then even in English day wouldn’t mean a literal day in which case the number 6 is probably more important since it point toward the, probably at the time, fairly well know Babylonian creation myth.

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My super educated opinion is the author (s)
simply meant 6 days as we now know them.

Same as animals created, poof, just as they are now, flood killing all not on the boat.

FTM, i expect a few hundred million Christians
in todays info - access world think that too.

I wrote an article about this from a cognitive linguistics perspective, because “the meaning of yom” comes up so often here. The meaning of figurative passages is not determined by the semantics of individual words. “What does yom mean?” is not the question you should be asking to answer the question “what does the creation account in Genesis 1 mean?”


Oooo… looking forward to reading this. Thanks.

A day has NEVER been defined as 24 hours. NEVER. It is defined by sunrise to sunrise which varies over the year and gradually decreases over time as well. Though the wording in Genesis is peculiar calling it an evening and morning which would suggest a day goes from noon to noon.

It would be completely silly to understand the six days of Genesis as six such periods between sunrise to sunrise since the sun and moon (which it says is to specifically separate day from night) are not even created until the fourth day. And then there is 2 Peter 3:8 “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” which suggests this need have no relationship at all with how we measure time on the earth.

It is as nonsensical to say that making this the basis of the sabbath means days have to refer to 24 hour periods as it would be to take any practice of Jewish custom as dictating the nature of God or the universe. It is the mentality of the circumcizers all over again.

For what possible reason can someone have to insist that the meaning of a text must be that according to which the text is inconsistent? What other reason can there be except they want the text to considered meaningless?

Michael LeFebvre’s The Liturgy of Creation is really helpful on the days of Genesis 1. Whenever we find partial dates in the Bible, we should ask what they’re there for.

In Genesis 1, we only have day numbers. Without a year, they’re useless for placing the events in history, so that can’t be their purpose. What we can do is locate the events within a weekly calendar. When does God create light? Sunday! Plants? Tuesday. People? Friday. And when does God rest? Saturday.

If we missed how Genesis 1 gives us just enough information to fit God’s work and rest into a weekly template, Exodus underlines it twice for us: rest on the seventh day because God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. The purpose isn’t to let us chart the past or calculate the age of the earth, but to show how we are to remember God’s creative work and rest. That’s why the days are numbered.

We’re also given incomplete dates for events during the flood and the exodus. Those dates have month and day, but still no year. Again, they don’t give enough to place an event in history, but they do place it on the calendar. Those calendar dates coincide with feast days. Special events are remembered on specific feast days, and even linked with other events by being remembered at the same feast.

This would be like a Christmas pageant that stated, “And on December 25, the time came for Mary to give birth to her firstborn, a son.” It’s not about pinning an event to an actual time in history (for that some indication of the year, perhaps through listing current rulers, would be helpful), but pinning it to a holy day on our calendar. It’s teaching us how to remember, not when it happened.

Read this way, it’s easier to see why the days of Genesis 1 are indeed normal days. The whole purpose is to take God’s indescribable and ongoing works and fit them into a pattern we can follow, working and resting as a reflection of our Creator. The seven-day account isn’t just meant to be pondered, but lived.


It must be noted that in the Exodus version of the Decalogue used 6 days of Creation to justify the Sabbath, which put Jesus into conflict with the Jewish leaders The Deuteronomy verson does not mention 6 days of Creation. It could be that the Priestly editor of Genesis used Genesis to introduce the Sabbath into the Decalogue.

Evening and morning aren’t mentioned too often together; as an argument from comparative grammatical usage the young-earth claim is not so great. They do show up in the days of Daniel’s visions, and it doesn’t take much examination of literature on the apocalyptic to see that many do not think those are 24 hour days. My rough impression is that taking them as years may be the most popular. This is unsurprising - in reality, when talking about an ordinary day, one generally doesn’t add stuff like “evening and morning”.

Evening and morning is a merismus. They don’t indicate “only evening and morning, not midday or midnight”, just as someone advertising “Fun for young and old” isn’t trying to warn the middle-aged that it’s not for us. Rather, it emphasizes completion- everything for that “day” is complete, beginning to end. The items listed for the days form a more extended catalog to emphasize completion: God made the heavens, the sea and sky, and the land. He made the stuff in/on the heavens, the sea and sky, and the land. Instead of “formless and void”, each part of the universe now its proper form and filling. Everything is a part of God’s creation; there are no rival gods or uncontrolled monsters to worry about, nor is it sensible to worship mere created stuff instead of the Creator. Everything has meaning and purpose; humanity has special responsibility and privilege.

“Day” is not an unreasonable translation, except for the way it gets misused from the young-earth end. If we remember that “Scripture principally teaches what man is to believe concerning God and what duties He requires of us” [Westminster Catechism] instead of addressing our curiosity about science, then we should get the focus of Genesis 1 correct.


Why? What does Genesis 1 teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duties He requires of us?

That God created everything, that there are no chaos monsters opposing him, probably some others, but those are what immediately come to mind.

No duties then?

“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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