Does Yom Convey a 24 Hour Day in the Creation Account?

 

In the Bible, the Hebrew word for day is Yom. By looking up the word yom in a concordance you will see that it can have a variety of meanings:  a period of light as contrasted to night, a 24-hour period, time, a specific point of time, or a year.1

As I shared in my last blog (Compromising the Word of God) the meaning of the word yom or “day” is understood by its context. In the Genesis account of creation, God gave us parameters by defining the word day with ‘evening and morning.’  “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Gen. 1:5) [Emphasis added]. Every day of creation thereafter – ending with, “And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (v. 31) – always use the term “evening and morning.”  Also note that the Genesis creation account always uses a number with the word “day.” (Genesis 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31)

Outside Genesis 1, yom is used with a number 359 times, and each time it means an ordinary day.

Outside Genesis 1, yom is used with the word “evening” or “morning” 23 times, and each time it means an ordinary day.

“Evening” and “morning” appear in association, but without yom, 38 times, and each time it means an ordinary day.

Outside of Genesis 1, “night” is used with yom 53 times, and each time it means an ordinary day. Even the usage of the word “light” with yom in this passage determines the meaning as ordinary day.2

The plural of yom can be used to communicate a longer time period, such as “… all the days of Noah.” (Gen. 9:29) However, the plural of yom does not appear in the Genesis 1 creation account. Also, there are words in biblical Hebrew (such as olam or qedem) that could have been used to convey long periods of time, or indefinite time3 … however; none of these words are used in the creation account.

Dr. James Barr (Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University), a skeptic on the historicity of Genesis, had this to say: “So far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience …” 4

When we look at how the word yom is used in the creation account and its use outside of Genesis 1, it seems clear to me that the days God was describing were literal 24 hour days.

 

Lanny Johnson

1.  Online Bible Edition, Version 4.08.04, Mar. 20, 2011, 10.13, Copyright ©1987-2011, Larry Pierce, 11 Holmwood St., Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada, NOB2VO, Archaeology, Creationism and Science Archaeology, Creation, The New Answers Book, Could God Really Have Created Everything in Six Days?, Ken Ham.

2.  Ibid.

3.  Ibid.

4.  Ibid.

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