Exodus and Creation

Updated 10-25-08

Creationists often cite Exodus 20, which refers back to Genesis 1 and the six days of Creation, as proof that the days in Genesis 1 are meant to be read literally.  For instance, Eric Kemp states on his blog:

Read the above passage again[referring to Exodus 20], no really I mean it.  God’s entire reason for the Sabbath, and for the literal Jewish work week, was because of a literal creation week.  If God wanted to say that the Jews should work six literal days, and rest a seventh, because He worked in an indefinite period of time, He could have used any of the other three Hebrew words for “a period of time”, but instead He chose what the Jews would interpret as literal days, the word yom

Get ready.  I’m about to shock the heck out of some of you. 

In reality, I don’t think it really matters whether you think Genesis 1 is using such terms as “yom” in a literal manner.  I’m sure some of you are wondering, “Then why go to the trouble of the stuff you have written previously on your blog?”  I do think good arguments can be made for not reading these terms so literally.  Also, things like this are what initially piqued my curiosity, several years ago, that maybe there is more to the creation story than meets the eye.

I actually don’t have much of a problem with this argument of Eric Kemp’s, quoted above.  It is entirely conceivable, in my opinion, that God would have indeed used the words in Genesis in this manner to make the Jewish people treat the work week in such a way.  I agree that one of the interests in Genesis 1 is to correlate the divine work in creation with the six days of work in the Jewish week.  Obviously it would have been inappropriate to depict God’s creative work in eleven days to a society who based many of their rules, celebrations, etc, on the six-and-one schema (six days of work, one day of rest). 

God set a pattern for us in creation, with six “yom” followed by a seventh “yom”.  This is acknowledged by all.  Yet do not mistake me.  To read into these verses that God is making statements about the actual length of the creation is more than what the text supports.  This still does not mean that Genesis is teaching, scientifically, how God created the heavens and the earth. 

The intent of the creation story in Genesis is to set up a monotheistic religion at a time when most people worshipped many gods.  The intent is to smash the beliefs of polytheistic societies to bits while affirming belief in one supreme Creator.  God gave the Jewish people something they could relate to in Genesis by drawing on cosmological imagery familiar to Near Eastern cultures.  It is doubtful that this would have been as effective at helping the Jews establish their identity and religion if God had used scientific principles and terminology to describe exactly how the universe was created.  More on this to come. 

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7 Responses to “Exodus and Creation”

  1. thesoulofthecreator Says:

    Good blog. As a believer I have always struggled with the 6 days whether they are literal or not. I tend to think they are not but it isn’t a deathnail for faith that some make it out to be.

  2. Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  3. airtightnoodle

    “In reality, I don’t think it really matters whether you think Genesis 1 is using such terms as “yom” in a literal manner.”

    Yea, I think this is the crux of the matter. You’ve decided to prefer the evolutionary worldview, and it doesn’t really matter to you what the Bible says on the issue.

    “It is entirely conceivable, in my opinion, that God would have indeed used the words in Genesis in this manner to make the Jewish people treat the work week in such a way.”

    So basically, God tricked the Jews and Moses into thinking He created the Earth in six days just so they’d have a six day work week? If this is the case, why didn’t God trick you into thinking that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is saving you from your sins when in fact it is not? Also, how can you argue that this “tricking” God is not cruel and why would your worship a God who tricks His people?

    “The intent of the creation story in Genesis is to set up a monotheistic religion at a time when most people worshipped many gods.”

    LOL, now you’re telling God His intent in articulating the creation account to Moses the way He did? Again, God is tricking, nay lying, to Moses about how creation went down just so that Moses would set up a monotheistic religion. Wow, I just don’t know what to say to that.

    “It is doubtful that this would have been as effective at helping the Jews establish their identity and religion if God had used scientific principles and terminology to describe exactly how the universe was created”

    Scientific terminology was coined by humans in the 20th century. Why would God use this to describe something to Moses?

    But this is the most important part of all this:

    You have completely ignored the question I posed to you in the conclusion of my article. So I will restate it. Why just Genesis? If the Genesis account is figurative because modern science tells us a six day creation is impossible, why isn’t Jesus’ miracles and Resurrection also figurative because modern science tells us that such things are impossible? I really do want you to think about and tackle this question. Why just Genesis?

  4. “Yea, I think this is the crux of the matter. You’ve decided to prefer the evolutionary worldview, and it doesn’t really matter to you what the Bible says on the issue.”

    Though the two may certainly be related for some people, an evolutionary worldview has little to do with how Genesis 1 is read. There are plenty of Old Earth creationists who would agree with me that certainly do not believe in evolution.

    “So basically, God tricked the Jews and Moses into thinking He created the Earth in six days just so they’d have a six day work week? If this is the case, why didn’t God trick you into thinking that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is saving you from your sins when in fact it is not? Also, how can you argue that this “tricking” God is not cruel and why would your worship a God who tricks His people?”

    Did Jesus trick his followers when telling parables or was he using a literary device to make important points? I don’t consider this “trickery”.

    “LOL, now you’re telling God His intent in articulating the creation account to Moses the way He did? Again, God is tricking, nay lying, to Moses about how creation went down just so that Moses would set up a monotheistic religion. Wow, I just don’t know what to say to that.”

    No, I’m saying what I personally believe the intent of the creation story is. More on this to come in a later blog post.

    “Scientific terminology was coined by humans in the 20th century. Why would God use this to describe something to Moses?”

    Exactly.

    “You have completely ignored the question I posed to you in the conclusion of my article. So I will restate it. Why just Genesis? If the Genesis account is figurative because modern science tells us a six day creation is impossible, why isn’t Jesus’ miracles and Resurrection also figurative because modern science tells us that such things are impossible? I really do want you to think about and tackle this question. Why just Genesis?”

    A good question. More on this to come in a later blog post.

  5. Airtightnoodle

    “Though the two may certainly be related for some people, an evolutionary worldview has little to do with how Genesis 1 is read.”

    It’s almost like you are deliberately ignoring certain points. I’ve shown quite clearly that the two are opposite, if you want to ignore the evidence and arguments, then that’s fine. I’m not going to repeat myself.

    “Did Jesus trick his followers when telling parables or was he using a literary device to make important points? I don’t consider this “trickery”.”

    It’s almost like you are ignoring the entire idea of the world “context”. Every time Jesus told a parable, or gave an analogy, the context was clear. I’ve shown clearly that the context of Genesis 1 is that of a historical account, with literal days and such. Now, what I gathered of your argument was this: Even if the context is that of a historical account, God meant it as allegory. Meaning something as allegory, but giving it as historical fact, is trickery and falsehood. You are accusing God of trickery and falsehood.

    “No, I’m saying what I personally believe the intent of the creation story is.”

    Unfortunately, God is less concerned with what you personally believe, and is more concerned with what His Word says. I honestly pray that you consider the important of this matter. This goes right along with you telling God what intent of the creation story is.

  6. Eric,

    The two are not opposite. You can state over and over again that they are, if you choose, so we’ll have to agree to disagree. There are clearly many people, and not just scientists but theologians and other scholars, that do not feel the two are opposite, for a myriad of reasons. I’ve only gone into a few of these on my blog. The same can of course be said about Genesis not being a literal historial account. This is something I will touch on more soon when I get the time on my blog.

    For the record, I have no problem with you asserting that creationism is true, evolution is false, evolution does not agree with what the bible says, blah blah blah. These sorts of passionate feelings are what lead to spirited debate and learning (hopefully) on both sides of the spectrum.

    Indeed, some of my closest friends are creationists. Yet not once have any of them questioned my beliefs or faith in Christ. They understand that ultimately, most of these issues are of little importance, as fascinating as these issues might be. Certainly such issues as evolution, how God made the earth, the age of the earth, and so on pale in comparison to Jesus’ work on the cross and the Great Commission.

    Sadly, this does not seem to be the road you apparently are choosing to go down. Instead, your arguments both here and at your own blog seem to rely increasingly on arrogance, rudeness, and judgment–implying that those that disagree with you on the above topics certainly cannot be true Christians.

    I pray you take your own words to heart–God is less concerned with what you personally believe, and is more concerned with what His Word says. That same Word does not define a Christian as someone who does or does not believe in creationism. If you think this is a central tenet to Christian faith, then I suggest you go read the gospels again.

    This will most likely be my last comment to you for some time, but I have posted the other recent comments you have made for others to view. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do justice to this continued debate right now due to work (grades are due this week for report cards, I’m traveling to a conference next week, I had a conference today, I have tons of papers to grade, lesson plans to create, labs to set up for classes, parents to call and email, small group to attend, church to attend, an actual life to run, and on top of it all, I’m pregnant…need I say more?)

    Peace be with you in the meantime.

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