There are quite a bit of theories out there as to how to reckon time according to the Scriptures. Many of which can be tossed out if we just focus first on what Genesis 1 teaches.
We learn that “day” was what God/Elohim called “the light” after He separated it from “the darkness” in verses 3-5. Notice, there is no reference to the earth or sun.
There is a reference to “evening” and “morning” in verse 5 and many folks “see” in their mind’s eye those words to mean “night” and “day”, but they are distinctly different from “night” and “day”. “Night” is what God/Elohim called “the darkness” and “evening” is a period of growing dark. “Day” is what He called “the light” and “morning” is the break of day.
Then we move on in the text to see in verses 14-19 that God/Elohim put “luminaries” in the expanse of the heaven to rule the “day” and the “night”.
Our culture teaches a 24-hour “day”, which is one full rotation of the earth on its axis. But this is not what Genesis says. There is no mention of “hours” or the number “24”, and there is nothing in all of Scripture that claims the earth is rotating.
We need to approach Scripture as a little child, knowing nothing, eager to learn from the words on the page. We need to not approach Scripture like one who has been indoctrinated with the understandings of men. I understand this is very hard to do.
According to Genesis there are two separate domains: “day” and “night”. And God/Elohim made two great lights to rule them. The greater light is to rule the day with the lesser light to rule the night.
A very popular teaching in the Hebraic community is that the moon plays a prominent role in the reckoning of “months”, but notice there is nothing in Genesis 1 that says this. “Months” are not even mentioned in the first chapter.
Verses 14-15 say the luminaries are to be for signs, for seasons, for days and years. It does not indicate precisely which luminary performs which task or how the tasks put forth are achieved, except to say there are two great lights: the greater for the “day” and the lesser for the “night”.
It is generally understood that the “greater light” is referencing the sun, while there is some debate on what in particular is the “lesser light”. Some believe it is the moon, some believe it is the stars, and some believe it is both. For the sake of this post, I’d like to focus on the sun.
Since we are plainly told that the sun is for the rule of the day, it seems pretty straightforward how the sun would be “for days”. The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. These are what I would consider the bookends of the “day”.
As for how the sun is “for days and years”, it’s important that we understand what a “year” is. According to the Hebrew, “year” (“shaneh”) comes from a word that means “to repeat”. Given how this word is used in Genesis 5, it seems to me that a “year” is more specifically a repeat of “days”.
Unlike what we’ve been taught regarding a “day” being a “24-hour period”, Scripture identifies a “day” as being “the light” that was separated from “the darkness” by God/Elohim. Observation demonstrates that each “day” that starts with the sun rise and ends with the sun setting is different from one day to the next. They vary in length.
Over their course, we can see days gradually getting longer until they reach their peak in length. Then the days gradually get shorter until they reach their shortest limit. And then, they grow longer again. When the pattern of days begin to repeat itself, then a solar “year” of days has transpired. This is all identifiable by observing the path the sun takes across the sky each day. The earth’s response to the sun’s activity is found in the four distinct seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter.
When we can grasp that the “day” is separate from the “night”, and how the sun is “for days and years”, I believe we are better able to discern between truth and error as it relates to Biblical timekeeping.
Last revised 1/31/17