Exodus and Creation
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.