Understanding The Creation 03
After the second creative YOM, the whole planet earth was still covered with waters. In order to comprehend the real meaning of the Hebrew word YOM, we will look at another Hebrew word ‘vayhiy‘ which was used to translate into English “and there was” in verses 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, and 31. With this new understanding, we will try to understand the reason why the evenings were put before the mornings. In short, after carefully studying the word ‘vayhiy,’ Bible scholars found that there were probably long periods of time between the YOMs; therefore, the evenings and mornings which were mentioned here were not the evenings or mornings of the ordinary 24-hour-days. They could be understood as the end of a long era and the starting period of another new long era.
One of several mistakes that modern Bible readers often commit is that they think the creative days in Genesis were ordinary days as present time, and God needed to stop His works temporarily to sleep during night time; then He got up and started His new creative works in the morning of a new day. In fact, God’s creative works on the planet earth never stopped until He had completed His creation. With that knowledge in mind, we can be much easier understood God’s works during the following Yoms. On the 3rd Yom (Gen.1:9–10), God wanted all of the waters that covered the face of the earth must be gathered together into one place, and the dry land must appear. Before considering the following verses, we need to review a few details in the previous lessons.
In the creation stories, the Bible did not discribe how water, the land, the air, the cosmic space, and time were created; they had already existed. From then on, God would form the face of the earth according to His plan, setting its environment to sustain life will be created later. The air for breathing in the atmosphere was readily set on the second Yom. At the beginning of the third Yom God did not create any new elements or material things. His works on that Yom were to make the waters become seas and dry land must appear. To do that, God had to make many deep and large seabeds for waters to gather together into one place. In the same manner, for dry land to appear, God had to raise many parts on the face of the earth higher than the sea waters level. All of those acts required physical movements of the waters and land. Surely, those movements did not happen in a blink of an eye, they must take some time to complete. No one knows how long did it take.
And what happened next required longer time or equal the same length of time of the previous acts. We read Gen. 1:11–12. I believe that these 2 verses are proofs of each Yom was not 24-hour day. It must take time for the vegetation and plants to grow, yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed. We can understand that God set precedents for the vegetation and plants to follow His laws of physics. How did He plant all the plants, how many plants of each kind did He create, we can only guess and imagine. Verse 12 wrote “the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.” They did not evolve from nothing. Until today with all advanced knowledge of science, people have failed to mix different kind of plants to make new kinds. God had made them according to their kinds, then each must stays in its kind.
“And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day” (Gen.1:12b–13). Again, we encounter ‘and there was evening and there was morning.‘ I believe that the Bible wants to use this statement to express the end of a long era and the starting period of another new long era. It was not necessarily an ordinary 24-hour day; because no plants can grow and yielding seed or bear fruit in which is their seed in 24 hours. Usually, most of fruit trees need seven years to bear fruit; some a little sooner, some later. And in order for the vegetation and trees to cover the whole continent, it takes very long time; especially when there weren’t any animals to carry or spread the seeds far from their original trees, the expansion of a forest must take much time to form. Of course, God knew how to form the forests to fit His plans on the planet earth.
“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.‘ And it was so.” (Gen.1:14–15). Theologians and Bible scholars all have problems with these verses. When physicist Galileo Galilei used his telescope to discover the solar system and the Milky Way galaxy, people knew that the Sun must be existed before or at the same time with the planet earth; and the moon may exist later. Also, the earth has been orbiting around the sun and receiving its light, not the sun runs around the planet earth. Therefore, these two celestial bodies and many stars, those also are celestial bodies, didn’t wait until the fourth Yom to appear in the sky. So, why did Moses write as follow:
“And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Gen.1:16–18). These verses didn’t say that God ‘bara‘ (created) the Sun and the moon on the fourth Yom, He ‘asah‘ (made) them to rule over the day and over the night; their function were being for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and to give light upon the earth. Many early church theologians had attempted to explain away the illogical meaning of this creative Yom; but those explanation could not satisfactory answering the skeptical minds.
Finally, a few Biblical scholars had a better way to look at this text and find a different way to translate the Hebrew text of Gen. 1:14a as follow: “Let the lights in the expanse be for separating the day and night …” Actually, those scholars think this verse is the way Moses was trying to show the functions of the celestial bodies. They argued that the first verse of Genesis 1 had stated that the cosmos, in which the sun, moon and stars were created. Therefore, v.14 only told the readers of their functions. But for our modern Bible readers, it’s very hard for us to understand and accept that way of explaining the text. Please remember that the matters described in verses 14 to 19 took a whole Yom to finish. Is there any other way to undertand the text properly?
Hugh Ross, a Biblical scholar in our time, provides the following explanation, “for some time after the transformation of the earth atmosphere to an oxidizing one, air temperature and pressure variations and a very humid condition would have prevented any break in the cloud cover; volcanic activity also may have contributed to this cloudy condition. … Through time, changes in these various environmental features – stabilization of air temperature and pressure, consumption of carbon dioxide by plants, and decrease in volcanic activity–probably all contributed to breaking the cloud cover. The result? The appearance of light in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night … to serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years.”
Whatever explanation that people have been trying to make the fourth Yom understandable, we can confirm one thing that most of modern scholars do believe that each creative Yom during God’s creation on the planet earth was long periods of time. In the following lesson, we will learn more of God’s marvelous two last creative Yoms.
Rev. Dr. CTB