The Days of Creation and Exodus 20:11

Justin Taylor has caused quite a stir with his post on “Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods.”

The decisive factor for me is how earlier biblical statements are interpreted by later ones, so Exodus 20:11 is BeastMode (a.k.a. Marshawn Lynch) on the goal line in this argument.

Re-reading the Van Pelt quote JT gives on Exodus 20:11, I think it misses the point and fails to do the job old-earthers need it to do.

The point Moses is making in Exodus 20:10–11 is a different point from the one being made in Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3–4.

The author of Hebrews cites David as saying something like this in Psalm 95:

  1. God did the creation for six days, then rested on the seventh day.
  2. God did the redemption at the exodus, then offered Israel rest in the land.
  3. Israel rebelled in the wilderness, so God swore they would not enter into his rest–the rest he offered them in the land.

The author of Hebrew sees David in Psalm 95 drawing an analogy between creation and redemption, and between God’s seventh day rest and the rest Israel was to enjoy in the land of promise.

The rest that remains in Hebrews 4:1 would seem to be a rest analogous to the one offered to Israel, along these lines:

  1. 6 days of creation, followed by sabbath day rest;
  2. Exodus from Egypt, followed by an offer of rest in the land;
  3. New Exodus at the Cross, followed by the promise of rest in the fulfillment of the land (new heaven/new earth).

It seems that just as John 17:3 says that eternal life is knowing God and Christ, so also Hebrews 4:2 says that those who believe have an already/not yet experience of the future rest now, even as we pilgrimage through the wilderness toward the city that has foundations (not least because we have rested from our works–which points to salvation by faith not works).

It is not the intention of either David or the author of Hebrews to assert that God’s seventh day rest was something other than a single day that stood at the end of the six days of creation. That David and the author of Hebrews are drawing analogies does not indicate that they are thinking of something other than a normal week.

Then when we go to Exodus 20:10–11, we find Moses drawing an entirely different analogy than the one drawn by David and the author of Hebrews. The analogy Moses draws looks like this:

  1. God created in six days. God rested on the seventh day.
  2. You work for six days. You rest on the seventh day.

The most natural reading of Exodus 20:10–11 seems to be that the six days of creation followed by the sabbath day of rest was a cycle of the same kind of seven day week that was to become the pattern of Israel’s experience.

It’s hard for me to imagine someone coming to some other kind of conclusion unless he seeks to accommodate extra-biblical considerations from philosophy (a la Augustine) or science (a la contemporary old-earthers).

Here are the theses I would offer for discussion:

  1. The most natural reading of the text is that in Genesis 1–2 Moses intends his audience to think of a normal week of seven days, and that reading is confirmed in Exodus 20:11 (cf. also 31:17).
  2. We can hold such a position with epistemological humility and not, as AiG does, suggest that old-earth creationists (such as Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware) are opening the door to abortion on demand and gay marriage.
  3. The real lesson of the Galileo episode is that Christians should not tie their understanding of the Bible to scientific theories.

If God created Adam as an adult male, he has no problem making something that has the appearance of age.

3 Responses to The Days of Creation and Exodus 20:11

  1. Jeff February 20, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    When Hebrews says God’s works “were finished from the foundation of the world,” that would seem to be emphasizing a point of disanalogy between God’s work week and Israel’s work week. You work six days, rest for one, and then you have to get up and go back to work. God worked for six days, rested on the seventh, and he’s still resting because his work is done and his rest is perfect. So seek to enter into that rest.

    So there’s at least one huge point of difference. An unending seventh day may well be another. Given that, it doesn’t seem any less faithful to the text to suggest that Moses *described* creation using the literary device of the seven-day week in order to establish that seven-day pattern for humanity, without Creation necessarily needing to have happened in 144/168 hours.

    • JMH February 20, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

      Then in John 5:17 Jesus told the Jews, “My Father is working, and I am working.”

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    […] The Days of Creation and Exodus 20:11 – We can hold such a position with epistemological humility and not, as AiG does, suggest that old-earth creationists (such as Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware) are opening the door to abortion on demand and gay marriage. – James Hamilton […]

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