“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”
Although this verse appears to mean that the separation of light and darkness was the same as creating Day and Night, this meaning is not consistent with the appearance of the sun and moon on the fourth day. It is likely that light and darkness in some cosmic sense were divided on the first day.
“And there was evening and there was morning, one day …”
This is generally hailed as requiring that the days of Genesis 1 be understood strictly as twenty-four hour periods of time, answering in every way to our days of the week in an ordinary sense, but tremendous words of caution against such a view are thundered from the pages of inspiration. The very basis for calculating days and nights did not appear in this narrative until the fourth day; and that forbids any dogmatic restriction based upon our methods of calculating days and nights. It certainly did not require any twenty-four hours for God to say, “Let there be light”, and our understanding that God’s creation was by fiat, that He spoke the worlds into existence, and that all things appeared instantly upon the Divine word, forbid any notion that Almighty God required a time budget in any of His creative acts. Certainly, we reject any view that puts God to work for uncounted billions of years in the production of that creation which is now visible to man. We find no fault whatever with the view that the “days” here were indeed very brief periods such as our days. For ages, devout souls have taken exactly that view of them; and no one can prove that they were wrong.
However, “days” are surely mentioned here; and before deciding that we know exactly the duration of them, there is a point of wisdom in remembering that God has revealed some things in the Bible which shed a great deal of light upon this very question:
“But forget not this one thing, beloved, that ONE DAY is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as ONE DAY” (2 Peter 3:8). For a thousand years in thy sight are but as YESTERDAY when it is past, and as a watch in the night (Psalms 90:4). The apostle Paul referred to the entire present dispensation of the grace of God as “the DAY of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
There is also another N.T. passage in Hebrews 4:4-6ff:
“For he hath said somewhere of the seventh day on this wise, God rested on the seventh day … seeing therefore that it remaineth that some should enter thereinto … let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest (Hebrews 4:4,6,11).
Without any doubt whatever, the last of the passage cited above denominates all of the period of time following the sixth day of creation and reaching all the way to the final Judgment as “the seventh day.” When it is considered that the very same day mentioned here in Genesis and called here the “seventh day,” using the very same word for “day” as was used for the other six days, there appears to be imposed upon us the utmost restraints and caution with reference to any dogmatic postulations about exactly HOW LONG any of those days was. The Bishop of Edinburgh’s comment on the above passage from Hebrews is an emphatic statement of what this writer believes the passage means: “From this argument, we must conclude that the seventh day of God’s rest, which followed the six days of His work of creation, is not yet completed.”
Some see it as the Hebrew method of reckoning days from sunset to sunset, concluding therefore that these were ordinary twenty-four hour days.
Cotterill, just quoted, saw their meaning as an implication, that “each day had its beginning and its close.”
Others connect the words with progression from darkness to light, a movement upward to higher and higher forms of life in the cycle of creation.
A number have viewed this as a reference to “the day” the inspired writer, Moses, was given the vision of God’s days of creation, corresponding somewhat to the successive visions of Revelation.
“One day …” Significantly, the entire six days of creation are spoken of as a SINGLE DAY in Genesis 2:4, “In the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven.” There are serious objections to receiving any of the “explanations” mentioned above. Any basis for dogmatic assurance concerning exactly what is meant by the days of this chapter has eluded us; and we therefore leave it as one of the “secret things which belong unto Jehovah our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). There is certainly no impediment to a childlike acceptance of the days of Genesis as ordinary days in exactly the same manner that the first generation to receive this revelation in all probability accepted them, as most of our parents understood them, and as every soul humbled by a consciousness of the phenomenal ignorance of mankind may also find joy in believing and accepting them, fully aware, of course, that there may be, indeed must be, oceans of truth concerning what is revealed here that men shall never know until we see our Savior face to face.