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This may sound like a silly question at first, but I honestly can't decide for myself. I've always assumed that where the text says "And there was evening, and there was morning—the *n*th day" that this is the same day in which the events depicted in the preceding verse take place. E.g., God's actions in Gen.1:1-4 occurred on the 'first day' referred to in Gen.1:5.

But it occurred to me that Hebrew days begin at dusk. Therefore, might not the correct reading be that the events of Gen.1:1-4 take place, then Day One begins with evening and morning in line Gen.1:5? In this scenario the events of Day One are actually Gen.1:6-7 where God separates the waters above from the waters below.

So where precisely does the first day begin? The more times I read the verses, the more reasons I think of how either way might be justified, so I'm curios what the experts have to say.

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5 Answers 5

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If we translate the phrase וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר (vayhi erev vayhi boker) as:

  • "then there was evening; then there was morning"
  • "and there was evening; and there was morning"

then it reasons that 1) there was a time before the evening, and 2) Gen. 1:1-4 occur at that time before the evening.

The repeated refrain, "and evening came, and morning came," on each creative day suggests to some that the author is stating the order of the day. A few considerations should lay this argument to rest.

.....(1) The combination ערב ("evening") and בקר ("morning") is not equivalent to לילה ("nighttime") and יום ("daytime"), and in fact does not add up to a complete day, but amounts only to two lesser parts of one day. We cannot, therefore, understand the two-fold refrain as constituting some kind of summation of two parts of an entire day of creation.

.....(2) The appearance of the consecutive waw before the refrain suggests that the evening and morning are part of a sequence of events. We should not therefore understand them in isolation from the rest of the events mentioned on any given creative day. The sequence is as follows: (1) act or acts of creation; (2) evening; (3) morning. The evening clearly follows the creative activity that occurs during the day.

.....(3) If the evening follows God's creative acts on any given day, the evening cannot be the beginning of the day, but rather would be the concluding part of it. It is the morning that would signal the transition from one day to the next.

(Special thanks to an En Hakkore for bringing this to my attention.)


References

David Miano, Shadow on the Steps: Time Measurement in Ancient Israel (Society of Biblical Literature Resources for Biblical Study 64; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010), pp. 11-12.

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The "and" only re-iterates the "then". There was Evening (Darkness) before there was light. How long that first darkness was is debatable but those thereafter were certain periods of darkness as we know.! Yes there was time, but to restrict the first period of darkness to the length of the proceeding nights would be fallacious to the extent that God is not restricted by our assumptions. It is also possible that the period of time from the when the Spirit of God began to hover over the water, was only the same as the length of the nights proceeding. What difference does it make? –  John Unsworth Nov 12 '13 at 10:02
    
@JohnUnsworth: Please see the citation in my edit. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Nov 12 '13 at 17:31

The creation account in Genesis is describing cosmic events in terms that ordinary men and women could understand. It is best taken as a straightforward historical account of the events of creation.

If this is the case, then the first day began at the start, the beginning. It couldn't start at the end of the day because this was the beginning of time.

The 'evening, morning, the nth day' is describing a normal conclusion of one day and the move to the next in the same way that we would say 'he slept on it, then the next day...' - the point of this phrase being to indicate a sequence of days over which the creation events took place, not to give a 'point in time'.

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You have a very interesting question, David. I am not an expert but only a continuing student of the scripture. My answer is solely based on the light of my understanding of other clear verses of scripture.

Ge 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. NKJV

Ex 20:11

11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. NKJV

The above verses, scripture covers the breadth of creation in the beginning: the heavens and the earth. To me, these clearly declare the whole act of creation happened in six days as we know them. This understanding is confirmed by other verses in scripture, e.g., Ex 24:16, 31:15, 35:2; Jo 6:3.

Creation started without light; then God gave light. To me, this perfectly fits the declaration that there was evening; then there was morning.

We might think how could God work when there was no light? We must remember that God himself is light (1 Jh 1:5). He created the light that humans need to work in his service; and, to see and enjoy the beauty of his creation.

That also perfectly fits the human condition: from darkness; and God's saving grace: to light:

1 Pe 2:9 that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; NKJV

So, to me, the first day began when scripture declared it in three simple words: in the beginning, i.e., Ge 1:1.

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Evening and morning, that is, beginning and ending, is the beginning and ending of whatever "Yom" means. Genesis, chapter one, records six creative "yoms".

One step in determining the meaning of a word, such as "yom", is to see how Scripture uses the word in other places. I understand that Hebrew has only about 8600 words available. English has about half a million words available. Therefore Hebrew has to use the same word for more than one meaning even more often than English does.

So the question is, "How is 'Yom' used in other parts of the Pentateuch, all of which are the writings of Moses, and are inspired by God?"

As it turns out, "Yom" is used in several ways by Moses and by the other Old Testament writers. It is used for daytime, that is for 12 hours, it is also used as a 24 hour period, it is used for a prophetic year, it is used for an age, it is used for a period of time, and it is used for an eternity. So which of these periods of time does God mean?

From this at least we know that "Yom", in Genesis chapter one, stands for "a period of time", but for WHICH period of time is unclear.

Notice also that the six "Yoms" of creation all begin with the words "And God said", "And God said" , "And God said". It doesn't say, "And God wrote", "And God wrote", "And God wrote". God SAID things. Man WROTE them down. Sometimes fallible man misinterpreted what God said when he or she wrote them down or translated them. For example, in the King James Version, in the famous "love" chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, the key word in the chapter is translated "charity" rather than "love". But now we all know now that the word "love" is a far better translation than the word, "charity". Let's be careful that we do not translate the word, "yom" in a way that does not accurately reflect what God "said".

Please note also, that the first "Yom" of creation "And God said", doesn't begin until Genesis 1, verse 3. That leaves Genesis 1:1-2 to describe what happened "In the Beginning" and prior to the first "Yom" which starts with the first "And God said" in verse 3.

Then also, let us remember that God gave us TWO declarations of Creation, and they cannot disagree. They must agree since they both are inspired by God. Only OUR understandings of them might disagree. So if there is an apparent disagreement, it is OUR mistake, not God's mistake. We have only misunderstood or misinterpreted what God said or did whenever there is an apparent disagreement.

That is to say, not only does THE SCRIPTURE DECLARE what God said, but Psalms 19:1-2 says that "THE HEAVENS DECLARE the glory of God; THE SKIES proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge." NIV

A good example of progress over the years in this area can be found in the March 2014 issue of the National Geographic. The article, called "The Truth About Black Holes" illustrates that though there is much progress in the understanding of the heavens, they are still a long way from being complete. What may thought to be understood about the heavens now, may change drastically in the near future. So it is not surprising that there are currently still apparent contradictions between the interpretations of "The Scriptures" and the interpretations of "The Heavens".

Also, what may be unclear from ONE of the declarations of God may be clarified by the OTHER declaration of God. These two declarations cannot contradict each other. Again, only OUR interpretations and understandings of the two can contradict each other. When they disagree, we need to reassess our interpretations and understandings of these two inspired declarations of God, "The Scriptures", and "The Heavens".

Hopefully these thoughts will help to get us on the right track in our understanding and interpretation of what God says in Genesis, chapter one.

What God said, as recorded in Scripture, was written down when scientists in those days believed that the universe consisted of four elements, fire, air, water, and earth. Look now how far that the scientists have come! In many ways they are getting closer and closer to what the Scriptures declared thousands of years ago.

And also, with the recent studies on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other scholarly work, the understanding of Scripture is also getting closer and closer to what God actually said, as well.

Some day the two will be completely unified, either before the Lord returns, or more likely, thereafter...

Much love,

Alton Olson

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4  
>'But now we all know now that the word "love" is a far better translation than the word, "charity".' This is an example of lingual shift (see also how the word "suffer" has changed since 1611). The word charity as used in the time prior to and after 1611 accurately reflected agape. That subsequent use of "charity" in English changed does not mean that the KJV got that word wrong. –  Frank Luke Jul 7 at 16:29
    
You are ignoring polysemy. The word yom may have multiple meanings, but that doesn't mean the meanings cannot be distinguished based on context. –  curiousdannii Jul 8 at 1:58

If light equals day, then a day is the period light. A day begins when light begins. A day ends when light ends. Evening and morning are part of a Day. Evening ends a day and morning begins a day. Darkness is the absence of light and is therefore not part of a day. It is stated that God "separated" the light from the darkness, calling the light "day", and calling the darkness "night". Where does it say that God "combined" the light and the darkness and called this combination a day? Yet this is the combination that we have been taught to accept.

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