Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Yom" in Genesis Chapter 1

     Yom occurs  about  2302  times  in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the scholarly
critical text of the Hebrew scriptures. It is used 11 times by Moses in Genesis chapter 1
as he was guided to write under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God. (2 Pet. 1:20-21)

     Yom has a range of meaning in various contexts throughout the holy scriptures. It
can mean day or daylight (Gen. 8:22; Jer. 33:25); a day of twenty-four hours (Josh.
10:13; 1 Sam. 18:10); special days (Prov. 25:20; Ezek. 1:18); the day of Yahweh,
that is, a time of judgment (Isa. 2:12; Mal. 3:2); lifetime (Gen. 47:8; Job 38:12); a
period of time (Gen. 24:55; Judges. 19:2), etc.

     There  is  divergence  of   judgment   among   Hebrew   scholars,   exegetes,   and
commentators as to the meaning of yom in Genesis 1. Some scholars conclude that the
word indicates epochs, or long periods of time that includes millions or billions of years.
It is my studied conviction that yom means a day of 24 hours in Genesis 1. I  believe
the  contextual and lexical evidence decisively proves that Moses used the term to
indicate a day of 24 hours.

     The latter part of the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:5 reads, "wayahi ereb wayahi 
boker yom ehad." (and there was evening and there was morning day one.) The  
Septuaginta edited  by Alfred  Rahlfs  reads, "kai egeneto hespera kai egeneto proi 
hemera mia." (and  there  came  evening  and there came morning day one.) With the
exception of the numeral the phrase is repeated in verses 8, 13, 19, 23, and 31.  

     First, the phrase  "evening and morning"  not  only precedes the days of creation,
but  the expression  shows  that  in the mind of Moses parameters are set for the
days of the creation week. In  other  words,  the days were constituted  of  a
period  identified  as  "evening and morning." (...ereb...boker) Moses uses the same
order of terms elsewhere in the Pentateuch. In  Exodus 27:21  we  read,  "In  the  tent
of  meeting,  outside the veil  that  is  before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall
tend it from  evening to morning before Yahweh. It shall be a statute forever
throughout your generations by the people of Israel." In Leviticus 24:3 Moses  wrote,
"Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from
evening to morning before Yahweh regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout
your generations." The phrase is used in the text to indicate the daily tasks of the
priests. In Numbers 9:21, "from evening until morning" refers to the time of Yahweh's
presence covering the tabernacle all night. The  phrase is not used merely  as  a  poetic
device  to  describe an indefinite period of time, but  it  is  descriptive  of a definite
period of time.

     Second, elsewhere in the Pentateuch Moses compares the days of the creation
week to the days of the Jewish work week. By doing so, he indicates  that  since
God ceased labor on the seventh day, the Israelites are to do the same. He says,
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six  days  you  shall  labor,  and  do
all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God...For in six days
Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the
seventh day. Therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day  and   made   it  holy."
(Exodus 20:8-11)   The  same  information  is   repeated   in  Exodus 31:15-17.
Notice the points of comparison: Yahweh worked six days, the Israelites are to work
six days; Yahweh "rested" (ceased labor) on the seventh day, the people are to cease
labor on the seventh day. If  the   days   of   the creation week were aeons, periods
consisting of thousands, millions, or  billions  of  years,  it  would be a non sequitur
when compared to the days of the Israelite work week! None of the Israelites would
have lived through the first "day" of their work week! The  Israelites  days  of work
were the same as God's days of creation, otherwise the comparison that Moses made
would make no sense, and it would set the Israelites into a state of confusion.

     Third,  Moses  makes  a  clear  distinction  between  "days  and  years" (uleyomim 
weshonim)in Genesis 1:14. If, as some allege, the days in verses 5,8,13,19, 23, 31
and  2:1 are aeons consisting of billions of years, please tell us the length of the "years"
found within the same chapter! If the term "years" is to be understood in the literal
sense, why isn't the word "day" to be understood the same way?

     Fourth, the  scholarly  Hebrew  and  Aramaic lexicons that are sensitive to word
usage, acknowledge that yom is used in Genesis 1 to refer to a day of 24 hours. (Cf.
Lexicon In  Veteris  Testimenti  Libros,  A  Dictionary  of  The Hebrew Old 
Testament  in  English  and  German,  page  372;   A   Concise   Hebrew  and  
Aramaic  Lexicon  of  the  Old Testament, page 130;  Theological  Lexicon  of  
the  Old Testament, volume 2, page 528; The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of 
the Old Testament, The New Koehler-Baumgartner in English, Volume 2, page
399; The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, volume 4, page 166. Brown-Driver-Briggs
Hebrew English Lexicon makes the following observation about yom, "day as defined
by evening and morning Gen. 1:5,8,13,19,23,31." Hebrew and English Lexicon of 
the Old Testament, page 398).

     It seems that some professors, preachers, and commentators are trying to adapt
the Bible's account of creation to pseudo-science  and  the  theories  of  theistic  and
atheistic evolution. We must remember that God is the author of all true science, and
all efforts to make God fit a human mold are futile!
                                                                                                                    R. Daly

Copyright 2011


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