The Days of Genesis Second Article -- By: Edward J. Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 25:2 (May 1963)
Article: The Days of Genesis Second Article
Author: Edward J. Young


The Days of Genesis
Second Article

Edward J. Young

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered 72–120, but in this electronic edition are numbered 1–49 respectively.}

IV. The Fourth Commandment and the Scheme Six Plus One

The fourth commandment actually refutes the non-chronological interpretation of Genesis one. It is to the credit of Professor Ridderbos that he recognizes the difficulty and endeavors to provide an explanation.1 He candidly states that we do not know what led the Israelite to work six days and to rest a seventh, other than the influence of God’s providence. Hence, the author of Genesis one could present his material in such a way as to give the impression that God worked six days and rested one day.

The “rest” of God, argues Ridderbos correctly, is to be regarded as creation’s climax, and this rest was expressed by mentioning the seventh day. Man, according to the fourth commandment, is to work as God worked. He is not, however, to be a slave to his work, but, as God rested, so man at the proper time is to lay aside his work for rest. His work, like that of God, is to have the glory of God as its goal. The numbers of Genesis one, therefore, it is reasoned, have symbolic values.2

In accordance with his decree—for Ridderbos rightly desires to retain the idea that the Sabbath ordinance is rooted in creation—God designated the seventh day as a day of rest, and so the number seven became a sacred number, “the number of the completed cycle”, and this pattern is presupposed in the ten commandments.

There are, however, serious difficulties in any attempt to square a non-chronological scheme of the days of Genesis with the fourth commandment. One must agree, whatever position he is defending, that, irrespective of their length, the periods mentioned in Genesis one may legitimately be designated by the Hebrew word יוֹם (day). The fundamental question is whether or not Genesis one presents a succession of six days followed by a seventh. According to Exodus 20 such is the case. “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work”, is the divine command, and the reason given for obedience thereto is rooted in God’s creative work, “for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth”. Man, therefore, according to the Ten Commandments, is to work for six consecutive days, inasmuch as God worked for six consecutive days.

The whole structure of the week is rooted and grounded in the fact that ...

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