Examining Supposed Creation Passages in Exodus to Job

Listed from A Matter of Days by Hugh Ross, Part 2

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Introduction

In a previous article, I began examination of a lengthy list of biblical passages that Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe (RTB) claims are about the creation. Ross argues that when all these other passages are integrated with the creation account of Genesis 1–2, the conclusion is that the universe is billions of years old. But this argument appears to be an admission that the historical narrative of Genesis 1–2 indicates that the creation is very young. Ross does not expound much on these passages, so Ross’s reasons for including many of these passages on his list are not clear. In that introduction to a series of papers, I identified six types of errors that Ross committed in assembling that list. Those errors are

  1. Inclusion of passages that address some aspects of the world around us, but do not actually address creation;
  2. Inclusion of passages that demonstrate God’s control over the created world and hence are construed as being about the creation;
  3. Inclusion of passages that appeal to the created universe to establish God’s authority;
  4. Inclusion of passages that present aspects of the created world to demonstrate one or more of God’s attributes;
  5. Inclusion of passages that describe the world as it now exists, but not as the creation originally existed;
  6. Inclusion of passages that describe future events as if they describe the creation.

I concluded the previous article with a discussion of passages on Ross’s list from the Book of Genesis. Here I continue with discussion of passages from Ross’s list from the book of Exodus through the book of Job.

Exodus 7:18

This verse is part of God’s instruction to Moses about the first plague on Egypt, in which the Nile River was turned to blood. This verse does not even mention the river turning to blood, but merely lists three consequences: the fish dying, the river stinking, and the Egyptians being loathe to drink its waters. Frankly, I fail to see how this verse could be termed a creation passage. One could argue that it demonstrates God sovereignty over the creation, but many more verses could be enlisted to show this.1 For instance, all ten plagues could be viewed this way, but the RTB list includes passages pertaining only to this plague, along with the second and eighth plagues.

Exodus 8:13

This verse describes the end of the second plague, wherein the frogs sent upon Egypt died in homes, villages, and fields. It is not at all clear how this relates to creation, except perhaps that it illustrates again that God is sovereign over creation. It may be conjectured that the frogs in this plague were a special creation of God—i.e., they did not hatch, grow, and develop as frogs normally do but were made by God specifically for this purpose. Conceivably, such might be argued in order to make a case that God’s creative action is ongoing rather than contained within the creation week of six literal days. However, such an argument is not readily evident in light of the text. Also, if this is the case, it makes precious little sense why Ross would mention the verse pertaining to the end of the plague rather than its beginning. Furthermore, in this case these frogs would have been created supernaturally in a very short time, which would offer no support for Ross’s view of creation happening over millions of years.

Exodus 10:17

This verse records Pharaoh’s plea to Moses to remove the eighth plague (locusts) from Egypt. As with Exodus 8:13 above, it is not clear what this verse has to do with creation. If it was intended to illustrate God’s sovereignty over creation, why not reference the other seven plagues? If it was intended to demonstrate that God’s creative work is ongoing, why not include the verses related to the beginning of the plague?

Exodus 20:8–11

The basis for Sabbath observance is the commemoration of God’s day of rest at the conclusion of the creation week, but this makes no sense if the days of the creation week were not normal days.

Exodus 20:8–11, of course, must be in the list, yet is a most interesting creation passage for RTB to have to list, for it is a strong text in support of creation accomplished over six normal days: “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work . . . . For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” The context is the giving of the Fourth Commandment, to keep the Sabbath. The basis for Sabbath observance is the commemoration of God’s day of rest at the conclusion of the creation week, but this makes no sense if the days of the creation week were not normal days. How could God have expected the Hebrews literally to work for six days and then refrain from work on the Sabbath if the days of the creation week, including the seventh day, were not literal days? The text here does not in any way hint of billions of years or days that were long periods of time and so offers absolutely no support for (but contradict) Ross’s view.

Exodus 31:14–17

Exodus 31:14–17 is a parallel passage to Exodus 20:8–11, in that it repeats the giving of the Fourth Commandment with the same purpose for Sabbath observance, though the precise phraseology differs somewhat. Again, however, the grounding for the Fourth Commandment is a good argument for a normal six-day creation week, but not for the day-age theory and an accompanying belief in billions of years.

Exodus 35:2; Leviticus 23:3

These two verses are brief restatements of the Fourth Commandment, but absent its grounding. Since there is no mention of creation here, it is a mystery why RTB lists these two verses as creation passages. Perhaps they intend to show that the commandment concerning Sabbath rest is not always linked to the creation week (which would, as with Exodus 20:11 and 31:17, imply a correlation between the length of days involved in each instance). However, omission is not contradiction, nor is it any basis for belief in billions of years.

Leviticus 25:3–4

This passage gives instruction for the Sabbath-year rest, though the purpose is not given here. Many commentators argue (rightly, I think) that the Sabbath-year rest was a memorial of the weekly Sabbath, which in turn was a memorial of the creation week. Incidentally, commentators also acknowledge that this passage teaches good farming practice in instructing Israel to let the land lie fallow occasionally.2 There is no mention of creation here, so how this qualifies as a creation passage is not clear. Since this form of Sabbath observance pertains to a period much longer than a day, proponents of the day-age theory could use this in support of their position, except that the Sabbath year was a literal year, not a figurative year, so it offers no support for taking the days of Genesis 1 as figurative of an arbitrary billions of years. Also, there are marked differences between the Sabbath day and Sabbath year. For instance, people were allowed to work during the Sabbath year; it was their fields and vineyards that were given a one-year respite. It is interesting that the RTB list omitted Exodus 23:10–12, a parallel passage which gives instruction on the observance of the Sabbath year and relates it to instruction on Sabbath day observance as well.

Deuteronomy 5:12–15

The omission of a fact in one place does not constitute a contradiction of that fact in another place.

Deuteronomy was the second giving of the Mosaic Law, issued a generation after the original delivery of the Law at Sinai and repeated for the benefit of those who were about to enter the Promised Land. As such, Deuteronomy 5:12–15 is the Fourth Commandment in the context of the retelling of the Ten Commandments. However, unlike Exodus 20:8–11, the creation week is not mentioned, so there is no reason to categorize this as a creation passage. Again, if by this RTB intended to show that the commandment concerning Sabbath rest is not always linked to the creation week (as with Exodus 20:11 and 31:17), the point is poorly made since the omission of a fact in one place does not constitute a contradiction of that fact in another place.

Deuteronomy 11:21

The context of Deuteronomy 11:21 is the exhortation to the Hebrews to keep God’s commandments in their hearts so that they always would be mindful of them and so that they could properly instruct their children. The result would be that their days and their children’s days would be multiplied in the land that God had given them “as the days of heaven upon the earth” (or, more idiomatically, “as long as the heavens remain over the earth”). It is not at all clear that this final phrase from Deuteronomy 11:21 is an allusion to creation, but it certainly does not support RTB’s day-age view of Genesis 1.

Joshua 10:1–15

Joshua 10:1–15 is the famous account of Joshua’s long day. This certainly demonstrates God’s sovereignty over creation, but creation week is not explicitly mentioned or even alluded to here, so this hardly qualifies as a creation passage.3 If by the inclusion of this passage RTB wishes to demonstrate that a day is not always a 24-hour period, the very fact that the passage involves a unique miracle (that still happened on a literal day, not a figurative day) militates strongly against taking this passage as instructive for how to interpret the length of the days of the creation week.

Judges 4–5

Judges 4 records in historical narrative the victory of Deborah and Barak over Sisera, and Judges 5 is their song of praise for their victory. There is no mention of creation in either chapter. The song mentions some aspects of nature, such as the earth trembling and the heavens and clouds dropping water (Judges 5:4), but this refers to events at the time of the battle, not during creation week. Judges 5:20 states that the stars from heaven joined in the battle against Sisera. Being a song, Judges 5 uses poetic devices, so it is a stretch to argue that this passage should be taken literally at all points. Hence, Judges 4–5 do not constitute a creation passage. The verses do not negate a straightforward understanding of Genesis 1–2, namely, creation by miraculous acts over the course of six normal days.

Jeremiah 33:22

No reason is given why Jeremiah 33:22 is out of order on the RTB list. Jeremiah 33 is an assurance that God will honor his covenant with David that his kingdom shall continue. In the midst of this, verse 22 is an allusion to God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17, which is applied to the Davidic line. At best, creation is implied here, but there is no creation information here, so this verse fails to meet Ross criterion for inclusion in his list.

2 Kings 20:8–11

This passage gives the account of the miracle of God moving the sun backward ten steps on Hezekiah’s dial or stairs. As with other similar passages, there is no mention of creation week here, though it does demonstrate God’s control over the created realm, including time. However, the fact that God manipulated a means of reckoning time in this passage has no bearing on the interpretation of time words (e.g., “day,” “evening,” “morning”) employed in Genesis 1.

1 Chronicles 16:30–34

Here is just a portion of the psalm of thanksgiving to the Lord that David delivered when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 16:8–36). Verses 30–34 speak of the earth being unmoved, the heavens being glad, the sea roaring, and the trees singing in the presence of the Lord. The idea of the earth being unmoved ought not to be assumed to be an indication of an outdated cosmological belief; nor is it evidence of the earth’s great antiquity (i.e., on the order of billions of years). Nowhere in this statement is God credited with creation, so this hardly is a creation passage. Interestingly, the RTB list omits verse 26, which compares the true God to the gods of the pagans—their gods are merely idols, but the Lord made the heavens. So the RTB list omits the one nearby verse in this psalm of praise that explicitly mentions creation.

2 Chronicles 6:10

This verse is part of the remarks that Solomon made at the dedication of the Temple. It is an affirmation of the fulfillment of God’s promise to David—Solomon had ascended to David’s throne and had built the Temple for which David had planned. There is not even an oblique reference to creation week here.

Nehemiah 9:6

The immediate context of this verse is the statement made by the priests and Levites after the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles following the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem and the reading of the Law. This verse explicitly mentions creation by stating that the Lord alone made and preserves the heaven, the heaven of heavens and all their host, the earth and all that is in it, and the seas and all that are in them, and that the host of heaven worship God. The structure here echoes that of Exodus 20:11. While this verse does refer to the events of creation week, it does not reveal anything that Genesis 1 hasn’t already revealed, and so cannot be used to reinterpret Genesis 1 to accommodate millions of years.

Job 5:9

This verse comes from the first discourse of Job’s “comforter,” Eliphaz, who credits God with doing great, marvelous, and unsearchable things. Apparently, Dr. Ross assumes that this refers to creation. It could, but it also could refer to God’s continuing intervention in the affairs of men. Eliphaz goes on to clarify in the following verse. Verse 10 mentions rain falling to the earth, but the remainder of the chapter discusses how God affects the lives of men. Accordingly, this fails to qualify as a creation passage that has any relevance to a correct understanding of Genesis 1.

Job 8:16–19

These verses come from the first discourse of Bildad. They speak of a plant growing in harsh conditions. At first reading, one might think that it is referring to God controlling plant growth, but in reality it uses the growth of an unsuccessful plant as an analogy about the frustration of a hypocrite. Again, it is irrelevant to the truth of Genesis 1.

Job 9:3–12

Is there anything here that sheds more light on the creation than Genesis 1 does?

These verses come from Job’s response to Bildad, and they do speak of creation. Job praises God as the One who, if he wanted to, could overturn mountains, shake the earth, and command the sun not to rise and the stars to withhold their light. Job 9:8 is the first mention of the spreading out of the heavens. Verse 9 tells us that God made the constellations of the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades. Verse 10 states that God does great wonders, but that we cannot see Him. Is there anything here that sheds more light on the creation than Genesis 1 does? The spreading of the heavens appears to be new information. However, God made the raqia on day two and equated the raqia with heaven (Genesis 1:8). The word raqia refers to something that was spread out, so even that is at least hinted in Genesis 1. But nothing in Job 9 suggests that this spreading took millions of years rather than happening in one literal day.

Job 12:7–10

Chapters 12–14 of Job are Job’s response to Zophar’s first discourse. Job 12:7–10 contains the memorable words commanding us to ask the animals and speak to the earth, and that they will tell us that God has made them and that he sustains the life of every living thing. This reveals God as both Creator and Upholder of creation. Some who believe the dual-revelation theory take this passage as license to use what the scientific majority says about the world’s history as a basis for asserting that the universe is billions of years old.4 But these verses place constraints on what the creation can tell us—that God has made the world. Anything beyond that likewise goes beyond the explicit statement here.5

Job 14:5, 7–12

This text tells us that the length of a man’s lifetime is determined by God. Verses 7–12 contrast man’s life to that of a tree. If a tree is cut down, it may sprout anew, but a man’s life is finished when he dies. This certainly confirms the truth about the fall in Genesis 3 but has nothing to do with Genesis 1.

Job 22:12

Job 22 is Eliphaz’s third discourse, in which he once again insists that Job had sinned and so incurred God’s judgment. Verse 12 notes that God is high in heaven, and then exclaims how high the stars are. Eliphaz argued that from this vantage, God could not possibly have overlooked Job’s sin, so Job might as well confess it (verse 13ff.). Again, this tells us nothing new about creation week, but merely assumes what we already know from Genesis 1. It asserts the omniscience of God and implies his oversight in the affairs of men.

Job 23:8–10

Job 23 is Job’s response to Eliphaz’s third discourse. Verses 8–10 acknowledge that while God is always near, he is not visible to us. In verse 10 Job once again maintains that God knows that he is blameless. Again, this is irrelevant to the interpretation of the days of Genesis 1. Perhaps Ross thought that the mention of God working in verse 9 is a reference to creation, but this is doubtful.

Job 25:2–3

These six verses are part of Bildad’s third discourse, in which he insists that no man is righteous. Verses 2–3 do not directly address creation, unless one counts the reference to “high places” in verse 2 (though this makes little sense). Verse 5 mentions the moon and stars, but in the context of showing that even they are not pure in God’s sight—so how much less pure is man (verse 6). This does not have any direct bearing on the meaning of Genesis 1.

Job 26:7–14

Chapters 26–31 contain Job’s final response to his three friends. Job 26:7–14 is a creation passage in that it praises God in his omnipotence as revealed through creation. Verse 7 states that God stretches out the north over an empty place and hangs the world upon nothing. It is not clear what this empty place is. Verses 8–10 speaks of water contained in clouds and how God has ordained this. Verse 11 poetically alludes to the “pillars of heaven” trembling, and verse 12 states that God divides the sea. Verse 13 tells us that his Spirit has garnished the heavens and that his hand formed the “crooked serpent.” This may refer to a constellation, though it is not clear which creature is intended. Verse 14 concludes chapter 26 with the summation that these things are just a small part of God’s ways. No reference to the mechanism of creation or the age of the universe appears.

Job 28:1–11

This passage describes the mineral wealth hidden inside the earth until it is dug up. As Creator, God is responsible for these minerals, so this qualifies as a sort of “creation passage,” although it does not shed any new light upon creation that could not be inferred from Genesis.

Job 33:4–6

Job 32–37 contains Elihu’s response to all the forgoing discussion between Job and his three “comforters.” In Job 33:6 Elihu says that he was made of clay, an obvious allusion to God forming Adam from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). In verse 4, Elihu credits God for breathing life into him, likewise echoing Genesis 2:7 as well. These words are in accord with the account of man’s creation in Genesis 2, and so this qualifies as a creation passage by Ross’s criterion. However, this passage reveals nothing new and hence cannot be used to reinterpret the Genesis creation account.

Job 34:10–22

This passage speaks of the omniscience and sovereignty of God with regards to the affairs of man. All men will die and return to dust (verse 5; cf. verse 20), and God will judge them. While there are allusions to creation here, the subject is not creation, and nothing in this passage teaches anything new about the events of Genesis 1.

Job 35:5–13

This passage is part of Elihu’s response to Job pertaining to his misunderstanding of Job’s insistence on his own righteousness. In verse 5, Elihu says that we should look to the heavens and clouds that are higher than we, and verse 10 acknowledges God as our Maker. Verse 11 proclaims that God teaches us more than animals can teach us. However, there is no contradiction here with Job 12:7–10, because while creation proclaims that there is a God (Romans 1:19–20), the information creation conveys about God is limited; special revelation is required in order for us to be instructed in the way of righteousness. Since this passage includes an explicit mention of God as Maker (verse 10), it qualifies as a “creation passage.” However, it offers no new information about creation that is not found in the Genesis creation account, and so cannot be used to reinterpret the creation account.

Job 36:5–16

It is difficult to see how this qualifies as a creation passage. Job 36:3 (which precedes the verses cited by RTB) acknowledges God as Maker, but this passage simply discusses God’s control over the affairs of men, not his work of creation.

Job 36:24–41:34

This lengthy passage includes the conclusion of Elihu’s discourse, as well as God’s response, which is found in Job 38–41. Elihu’s words speak of God making weather in all forms: clouds, rain, snow, and wind. God responds by asking Job a series of questions about creation. In Job 38:4–7, he refers to creation week. But 38:8–11 clearly refer to Noah’s flood as verse 11 echoes God’s promise at the end of the flood (Genesis 9:11, also referred to in Isaiah 54:9 and Psalm 104:9). The rest of chapters 38–41 clearly refer to the creation at the time of Job as the form of God’s questions reveal. Also, these chapters refer to things that did not exist in Genesis 1: death, snow, rain, war, a city, a threshing floor, spears, trumpets, and carnivorous animal behavior. So, this section of Job cannot be used to reinterpret Genesis 1 to argue for an old universe.

Conclusion

In this series of articles, I examine Dr. Hugh Ross’s list of biblical passages outside of the creation account of Genesis 1–2 that supposedly are about creation and hence can be used to interpret the creation account in terms of billions of years. However, I have found that list does not make such a case. In the first article of the series, I discussed passages from the book of Genesis. In this second article, I considered passages from the books of Exodus through Job. I will continue this study in the third article in this series, commencing with the book of Psalms. It is important to realize that the genre of the poetic and prophetic books of the Old Testament are very different from that of the historical books. The historical books are narrative, while the poetic and prophetic books, containing much imagery, are not to be taken nearly so literally as the historical books. Therefore, it is dangerous to use the poetic and prophetic books to reinterpret the historical books. Rather, we ought to interpret the poetic and prophetic books in terms of the historical books.

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Footnotes

  1. More specifically, the plagues on Egypt are all set up as a polemic to make clear in the mind of the original reader that YHWH is supreme over Pharaoh and the impotent gods of Egypt.
  2. E.g., R. Laird Harris, “Leviticus,” in vol. 2 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gæbelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 633.
  3. God’s control exercised over the sun and moon is a conspicuous polemic. It asserts that YHWH is in control over these two entities that were commonly regarded as deities in the ancient Near East.
  4. This says that both nature and Scripture are revelations from God and therefore we should use our knowledge of nature to understand Scripture. On this faulty view, see Richard Mayhue, “Is Nature the 67th Book of the Bible,” in Terry Mortenson and H. Thane Ury, eds., Coming to Grips with Genesis (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008), 105–130.
  5. Although other passages (e.g., Romans 1–2) grant that more information about God—his perfections and holy standard—is discernable from creation, the available information is enough to condemn the sinner, but not enough to save him apart from the work of the Holy Spirit and the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

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