Whilst many Christians reject the days of creation as six consecutive 24-hour days, they often forget that Genesis 1 is not the only place that mentions the specific length of these days. For example, both Exodus 20:8–11 and 31:16–19 are expository comments from a divine commentator on the days of creation in Genesis 1 and are key in shedding light on their length.
In Exodus 20, the people of Israel had come to Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the 10 Commandments. At the beginning of the commandments, we are told that God spoke all these words (Exodus 20:1). In fact God spoke all these words directly to the nation of Israel, not just to Moses (Exodus 20:18–19; Deuteronomy 4:10–14). In the fourth commandment God specifically states:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 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.
The reason the people of Israel were to work six days and rest on the seventh is given in verse 11: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” The Israelites were to pattern their workweek after God’s workweek in creation, which was a literal week made up of 24-hour days. Notice, the Hebrew word for day, yom, is used six times (8, 9, 10, 11 ×3) and clearly identifies the specific length of the creation week.
Nevertheless, some argue that the days of Genesis 1 are just “God’s workdays,” whereby they are an analogy, and their length is neither specified nor important and need not to be taken as historical. Yet, if the days are only about “God’s time” and not earthly time, then He could have easily explained His creation work in general times without mentioning “evening and morning,” the “first day,” “second day,” and so on. Moreover, if what God has revealed to us in the Bible has a different meaning for Him than for us, then surely the meaning of Scripture is incomprehensible. The Bible itself would not be a reliable source of truth.
Understanding Exodus 20:8–11 as describing God’s “work days” also oversimplifies and misrepresents the correlation between theses verses in Exodus and Genesis 1:1–2:3. Exodus 20:8–11 has a number of connections with the Creation Week: a “six-plus-one” pattern, “the heavens and the earth,” “the seventh day,” “rested,” “blessed,” and “made it holy.” All of this suggests, at the very least, that one of God’s purposes in creating the heavens and the earth within six successive 24-hour days followed by a literal day of rest was to set up a pattern for his people to follow.
Exodus 20:11 also uses an adverbial accusative of time (“in six days”), which indicates the duration of God’s creative activity. Therefore, the fact that God made everything “in six days” means that He did not make anything prior to the first day. As the verse says, He made the earth during those six days, so Day One begins in Genesis 1:1 and not 1:3 (i.e., Gap/reconstruction theories).
The pattern of the creation week is also mentioned in Exodus 31:16–18 as Israel’s observance of the Sabbath was a sign of the Mosaic covenant:
“Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.” And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
Not only did God speak the words of the commandments to Israel, but He also wrote them upon tablets of stone (Exodus 32:16). This is significant since it is the only part of Scripture that is said to be written directly by the hand of God (Deuteronomy 9:10). Even though the words “finger of God” are figurative language, this should not take away from the fact that something extremely unique took place when God gave these commandments to Moses.
Both Exodus 20:8–11 and 31:16–18 make it clear that the events of Genesis 1:1–2:3 occurred in six 24-hour days and affirm that the creation week was a literal, historical week.