YOM / DAY......WHAT IS THE SCRIPTURAL USAGE OF THE WORD?
What is the meaning of the Hebrew word “yohm or yom” and what is it’s significance in the biblical account of creation?
There are things that are meant to be literal and those that are representative. The creative days are just such an example. Looking at Genesis 1:1 It says:” In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Well, what does that mean? The heavens include every star galaxy, planet, it means the entire universe. Then the earth is mentioned specifically, but that is part of the heavens too– is it not? By the specific mention of the one planet would indicate that God had something different that he purposed for this planet ha’erets (earth).
In verse two the scripture says: ”Now the earth was formless and desolate, and there was darkness upon the surface of the watery deep, and God’s active force was moving about over the surface of the waters.” Notice that the creative DAYS had not begun as yet. Genesis 1:1-2 relates to a yohm [day] which is un-numbered, a time before the six creative periods began, a time period when the shamayim [heavens – and all things mentioned prior including the sun.]
Jehovah proclaims at the start of the first creative period of time, "Let light come to be", the reader is reminded of the conditions existing on earth prior and previously described. The six creative periods reflect a perspective from the surface of the earth - The Scripture indicates that each of the first six “days” ends with the saying, ‘and there came to be evening and morning, a first, second, third day,’ and so on. Where does the text indicate the same for the seventh “day?”
What can we come to understand in regard to the seventh day? According to scripture, 4,000 years later, Paul states that day seven, God’s rest, was still continuing. (Hebrews 4:4-6) According to the apostle Paul, “day” seven was a period spanning thousands of years. Would it not be logical to conclude that the six previous days would be of equal length?
Young earth advocates will insist that [yohm] has but one meaning, a 24 hour period of time. But when faced with the question of how a period from evening to morning can constitute a 24 hour period presents quite a problem. The large problem also exists of the dating of rocks, meteorites etc.
Genesis 1:1,2 is a period of time not included in the counting of yohm [days]. The creative period of time designated as days began in the third verse so between verses 1&2 [the creation of the entire universe] and verse 3 [counting of the days] were eons of time. This is in agreement with sicence.
Genesis Chapter One reflects creation over six yom.
Genesis Chapter Two expresses these same six periods in a single expression “yom”.
This is a significant problem for those who comprehend a stated yohm as a single 24 hour period of time [e.g., which was it, six 24 hour periods, or one 24 hour period].
Now, either the writer of the immediate text was completely ignorant of the apparent and obvious immediate contextual contradiction, and has allowed the apparent contradiction to remain over thousands of years, or the immediate contextual text read just fine if one understands the application of yohm intended by the writer.
This concept of a 24 hour time period is relatively new [i.e., Philo spoke specifically of the creative yohm as unknown, non-specific, periods of time].
The cosmic background radiation, the fossil record, the spectroscopy of the sun, among many others all disprove a young earth interpretation of Genesis and an unsupported tradition regarding the Hebrew word yohm.
It is interesting to note that the Aramaic word used is “Yuma ," which means "eon," an immeasurable period or age, “Day”
What did Moses, a Hebrew preserving a record for Hebrews, understand the usage to be? Moses was not writing for himself, but for the historical record and understanding of a people. Here are just a few examples:
1. Genesis 4:3 "And in process of time [ yohm ] it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord." In this instance, Yohm refers to a growing season, probably several months.
2. Genesis 43:9 "...then let me bear the blame forever." [ yohm ] Here, Moses uses Yohm to represent eternity
3. Genesis 44:32 "...then I shall bear the blame to my father forever." [ yohm ] Again, Moses uses Yohm to represent eternity
4. Deuteronomy 4:40 "...that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth the, forever." [ yom ] Here Yohm represents a physical lifetime
5. Deuteronomy 10:10, "Now I stayed on the mountain forty days and nights, as I did the first time, [ yom ]..." Here, Yohm is a "time" equal to forty days.
6. Deuteronomy 18:5 "...to stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever." [ yohm ] Again, Yohm is translated as eternity
7. Deuteronomy 19:9 "...to love the Lord thy God, and to walk ever [ yohm ] in His ways..." Here, Yohm represents a lifetime. As long as we live we are to walk in his ways
It can be seen by these examples that Moses used the word Yohm to represent 12-hours, 24 hours, the creative week, forty days, several months, a lifetime, and eternity.
C. John Collins – in his book “Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary and Theological Commentary”: How could anyone say that a “yom” of twenty-four hours is the only interpretation, when throughout the Bible itself that has been proven not to be true. Take the instance of Adam [ the day “yom” you eat from it, you will positively die]. Did Adam die within a twenty four hour period? No, Genesis the fifth chapter gives his life span as [930 yrs.] What does “yom” indicate in this instance? According to 2 Peter 3:8 – the time period noted as “day”, in Genesis 2:17, was actually one thousand years long. Thus, Adam died within the day/yom [period], God had stated.
In the text of Genesis 2:4, the six time periods [as a whole] are noted as a history of creation and spoken of as [in the day/yom]. Obviously, this is not a twenty-four hour time period.
In agreement with Collins, in this instance, Gleason L. Archer states it in this way: “ There were six major stages in this work of formation, and these stages are represented by successive days
of a week. In this connection it is important to observe that none of the six creative days bears a definite
article in the Hebrew text; the translations “the first day,” “ the second day,” etc., are in error. The Hebrew
says, “And the evening took place, and the morning took place, day one” (1:5). Hebrew expresses “the first
day” by hayyom harison, but this text says simply yom ehad (day one). Again, in v.8 we read not hayyom
hasseni (“the second day”) but yom seni (“a second day”). In Hebrew prose of this genre, the definite
article was generally used where the noun was intended to be definite; only in poetic style could it be
omitted. The same is true with the rest of the six days; they all lack the definite article. Thus they are well
adapted to a sequential pattern, rather than to strictly delimited units of time.”
Gleason Archer was Associate Editor of the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. In the quote above,
the first two italicized letters ha of words like harison indicate the Hebrew prefix h “heh” meaning “the.” Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pages 60-61, Baker 1982:
Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, page 271, Zondervan 1999:
“Numbered days need not be solar. Neither is there a rule of Hebrew language demanding that all numbered
days in a series refer to twenty-four-hour days. Even if there were no exceptions in the Old Testament, it
would not mean that “day” in Genesis 1 could not refer to more than one twenty-four-hour period. But there
is another example in the Old Testament. Hosea 6:1-2 . . . . . . Clearly the prophet is not speaking of solar
“days” but of longer periods in the future. Yet he numbers the days in series.”
Genesis 1: 1 & 2 – When yhwh created “bara” the heavens and the earth, that was a completed action. These planets etc., were put in their orbits at the time of their creation. In the case of planet earth, its orbit was and still is, around the sun. Therefore, the sun was included in Genesis 1:1 “ in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It was not, as stated by young earth proponents, created on day four. In verse 16 [day four] ” bara” was not used, but “asah” [made] was the word of choice. Why was it this way? It is because the luminaries had all been “created,” as stated in verse 1 of Chapter 1 “In the beginning God created “bara” the heavens and the earth” [“created” in Hebrew is a verb in the perfect state, showing that the action of creating the heavens and the earth was completed.]
What then would be indicated by the usage of “proceeded to make” in vs. 16 of chapter 1 ? In Hebrew this is a verb in the imperfect state, indicating an incomplete or continuous action, or action in progress. The imperfect state of the Hebrew verb could be rendered in English by using auxiliary words such as “proceeded,” ,” went on,” “continued,” etc.
Here is a sample of the James Washington Watts’ translation of Genesis 1:1-8 (1968)
Vs. 3 Afterwards God proceeded to say, “Let there be light”; and gradually light came into existence.
Vs. 4 also God proceeded to observe the light, (seeing) that it was good; so he proceeded to divide the light and the darkness. he called Night.
Vs. 5 Then God began to call the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. Thus there came to be an evening and a morning, even one day.
Vs. 6 Then God continued, saying, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, also let there be a separation between the waters.”
Vs. 7 Accordingly, God proceeded to divide the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and gradually it came to be so.
Vs. 8 Thereafter God began to call the expanse Heavens. Thus there came to be an evening and a morning, a second day.
Benjamin Willis Newton’s translation contains all of the Hebrew verbs in the imperfect state. He even marks them with brackets, as a continuing action – something that is incomplete, an action in progress.
Genesis 1: 3 And God proceeded to say [future], Let light become to be, and Light proceeded to become to be [future].
Vs. 4 and God proceeded to view [future] the Light, that it [was] good; and God proceeded to divide [future] between the Light and the darkness;
Vs. 5 and God proceeded to call ]future the light Day, and the darkness He called [not “proceeded to call”; the past tense is used] Night; and evening proceeded to be [future], and morning proceeded to be [future] day one.
Vs. 6 And god proceeded to say [future] Let there become a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it become divisive between waters and waters.
Vs. 7 And God proceeded to make [future] the firmament and proceeded to divide [future] between the waters which [are] below in relation to the firmament and the waters which [are] above in relation to the firmament;
Vs. 8 and God proceeded to call [future] the firmament Heavens; and evening proceeded to become [future] and morning proceeded to become [future] Day second.
All of the things listed below are what occurred on day/yom six – between an evening and a morning [not even twenty four hours]. The words used for progressive, continuous action do not allow for such an understanding of a 24 hour time frame
God makes the land-dwelling nephesh chayyah from the ground such as livestock and wild beasts (Gen. 1:24-25; 2:19)
God makes man [nephesh chayyah] in His own image and breathes into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7)
God warns Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17)
God brings all of the land-dwelling nephesh chayyah to Adam so he can name them (Gen. 2:18-20)
God causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep and from his side, He creates a woman, Eve (Gen. 1:27b; 2:21-25)
God blesses Adam and Eve and tells them to multiply and to take dominion over the creatures of the earth (Gen. 1:28-30)
God declares His Creation “very good” thus pronouncing its completion (Gen. 1:31)
The text in Genesis 2: 2 includes another Hebrew verb in the imperfect state. This is in relation to God’s rest. It states: “And by the seventh day God came to the completion of his work that he had made, and he” proceeded to rest” on the seventh day from all his work that he had made.” Again, continuous action, which when considering the apostle Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, this is consistent with the rest day being thousands of years old. Hebrews 4:4-11.
If God’s rest is thousands of years duration, the creative days would, in order to be consistent with day seven, be thousands of years duration. Again, the creative days, beginning in vs. 3 do not include vss. 1&2. These vss. are indeterminate periods amounting to perhaps billions of years.