Understand Genesis Chapter 1 and 2

Genesis chapters 1 and 2

Genesis chapter one gives us a brief chronological order of the creation week. Genesis chapter two is a more detailed look into the sixth day. It is not two separate creation accounts.

Genesis like the rest of the Old testament was originally written in biblical Hebrew. Therefore we are going to look at this as a piece of Hebrew literacy. Like any form of communication we need to look at what the original author intended.

There are some Christians that say this is poetry and figurative and therefore not literal history. Recently I have heard teaching that Genesis chapter one is a Hebrew hymn. However when we look at the Hebrew language and the Hebrew verbs used, it is more inline with Hebrew historic narrative rather than poetry. In Genesis 1 the first verb bara (create) is perfect while the following verbs are imperfect.

Hebrew poetry uses what is called parallelisms which we can see many examples of in poetry books of the bible such as Psalms. This is where the lines of two or more verses are directly related to each other. An example of this is Psalm 19 : 1 – 2, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge”. The second line repeats the first having the same meaning but in different words. However this is rarely found in Genesis 1 – 11. Meaning that the book of Genesis was written as historic narrative and not as poetry.

Genesis Chapter one starts of saying “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

If you look at the chapter as a whole, it is clear that we are talking about six literal days. That’s six 24 hour days. We are told that the first day God created the heavens, earth. That it was created in darkness and god created the light. God divided the darkness and the light. He called the light day and the darkness night. The first day is concluded with evening and morning, the first day. This is repeated for the remaining six days.

The Hebrew word for day is “Yom”. Just like the english word day, Yom has many meanings. For example where going on holiday in 7 days times. This means 7 24 hour days. But if I said back in my day we didn’t have computers. In this context the word day doesn’t mean a literal 24 hour day. Context defines meaning. So let’s look at the hebrew word Yom in its context and see if we can define its meaning.

The word Yom appears in the old testament about 2303 times.

Outside of Genesis chapter one the word yom appears with a number 359 times and always means a literal day. It appears 23 times with evening or morning and always means a literal day. It appears with the word night 53 times and always means a literal day. So when does the word yom mean a literal 24 hours? When it appears with a number, evening, morning or night.

Now let’s look at Genesis chapter one:

  • Genesis 1 : 5 evening, morning, number day.

  • Genesis 1 : 8, evening, morning, number day.

  • Genesis 1 : 13 evening, morning, number day.

  • Genesis 1 : 19 evening, morning, number day.

  • Genesis 1 : 23 evening, morning, number day.

  • Genesis 1 : 31 evening, morning, number day.

“By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.” (Hebrew 11: 30,NIV)

We wouldn’t try to argue that the army marched around the wall for thousands of years because it is obviously it is referring to seven 24 hour days.

When we read the Genesis account naturally with the separation of morning and evening and numbered days it is always obvious it is referring to 6 literal 24 hour days.

Some people say how can you have a day if the sun wasn’t made until day four. Scientifical a day is based upon the rotation of the earth. So to have a day we need a rotating earth and a light source to give us morning and evening. Genesis 1 : 3 Then God said. “let there be light” and there was light”. So God created a light before the Sun. Revelation 21:23 says “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it for the glory of God illuminated it. The lamb is its light”. This verse tells us that when the new heaven and new earth is created the sun will not be needed.

The only reason to not take Genesis literally is to fit the evolutionary worldview of billions of years into the bible. However I would challenges us not to bring outside ideas into the bible but shape our worldview from the bible.