In a series of articles,1 I have examined the list of biblical creation passages compiled by Hugh Ross at Reasons to Believe (RTB). Ross maintains that when these passages are considered, they reveal that the world is billions of years old, despite the implication of Genesis 1–2 to the contrary. However, in the first four articles in this series, where I have examined most of the passages on the list from the Old Testament, Ross’ conclusion is unjustified. In this fifth article in the series, I conclude consideration of Old Testament passages on the list.
This passage has been used by supporters of the gap theory to support their position. Jeremiah 4:23 (KJV) describes the earth as being “without form and void” (KJV), and gap theorists ask, “When was this ever the case?” The answer is in Genesis 1:2; therefore, gap theorists conclude that this must refer to some cataclysm that overcame the world after Genesis 1:1. However, context is the key to understanding. Jeremiah 4 describes the impending destruction of Judah because of Judah’s disbelief. In verse 23, Jeremiah uses the language of Genesis 1:2 to indicate how complete that destruction will be. The Hebrew word translated earth here is אֶרֶץ (’erets). The same word is translated as land in verses 5, 7, 20, and 27. To Hebrew readers of Jeremiah 4, the context is very clear; they knew that the language here referred to Judah, not the original creation. However, in keeping with the borrowing of the language of Genesis 1:2 in Jeremiah 4:23, most English translations have retained earth in verse 23 rather than land. This is unfortunate in that it leads to confusion. Ross has fallen into the same trap by assuming that the similarity of language between Jeremiah 4:23 and Genesis 1:2 must imply that Jeremiah 4:23–28 must refer to the creation account. Clearly, it does not, so this is not a creation account.
This verse declares that God has established the sand (seashore) as the boundary of the sea. This refers to God’s work of upholding the world today, so it is not at all clear that this verse properly applies to the creation event or that it amounts to any sort of creation account.
Much of Jeremiah 10 addresses the impotence of idols. Idols are fashioned and adorned by men (verse 4). Idols cannot move or speak, nor can they do any harm or good (verse 5). Perhaps the climax of the chapter is verse 11, which is the only portion of Jeremiah written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. That verse commands the people of Judah to say to the pagan nations that worship idols, “The idols that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” This is followed by the contrast of verse 12, which states that it is God who made the earth by his power, established the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. This is followed by verse 13, which states that when God “utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.” These two verses are repeated in Jeremiah 51:15–16. A portion of Jeremiah 10:13 is likewise repeated in Psalm 135:7.2 This is a description of the hydrologic cycle. The hydrologic cycle likely existed from the creation, but this hardly qualifies this passage as a creation account.
Jeremiah 23:9–40 denounces false prophets. Verses 23–24 tell us that false prophets cannot hide their deeds from God’s omniscience and omnipresence. To emphasize his omnipresence, the Lord asked in verse 24, “Do I not fill the heavens and earth?” A similar statement was made in 1 Kings 8:27 and 2 Chronicles 2:6 at the dedication of the Temple. Therefore, this passage is about God’s omnipresence, not creation.
The context of this verse is the object lesson that God instructed Jeremiah to take to the kings of nations surrounding Judah. Jeremiah made a bond and yoke that he put on his neck to illustrate the command that they, along with Judah, were to submit themselves to Babylonian rule. Since God is the maker of earth, men, and beasts, he has the authority to place any part of the world that he wishes under Babylonian control. The foundation for God’s sovereignty over the created realm is that he is the one who created all things; so Jeremiah 27:5 does refer to creation. However, there is no new information about the creation event offered here, and so there is no basis here for reinterpreting the Genesis creation account.
In Jeremiah 32, Jeremiah was imprisoned, and while in prison he purchased a field after God had directed him to do so. In verses 16–25, Jeremiah prays to God and asks why he was instructed to do this, since the land will soon be given to the Babylonians. (The answer lies in that God’s covenant, which included the land grant to Israel, was irrevocable and perpetual in nature, and was not being abrogated because of the exile.) Jeremiah began his prayer in verse 17 with an acknowledgment that God made the heavens and earth by his great power and by his outstretched hand. Therefore, Jeremiah 32:17 directly appeals to the Genesis creation account, qualifying it as a creation passage from Ross’ definition. However, there is no new information that is not found in the Genesis creation account.
Jeremiah 33 is a promise concerning the restoration of Judah brought while Jeremiah was still imprisoned. Verse 2 identifies the Author of the message—it is the Lord “who made it, the Lord who formed it to establish it” (NKJV). The it here is not even stated, but presumably the it refers to creation. Therefore, this verse uses creation as the foundation of the message that is to follow, but other than the acknowledgement of the creation event, nothing else is stated or implied.
We have previously discussed Jeremiah 33:22, noting that it apparently was inadvertently placed out of order on the book’s list of creation passages. It probably ought to be included with Jeremiah 33:25, and perhaps also include verses 14–26, where God reaffirms the Davidic covenant. In Jeremiah 33:25–26, God says that the only way that he would reject the seed of Jacob and his servant David is if his covenant for day and night were to end and the ordinance of heaven and earth were not established. This is a repeat of what God had said in Jeremiah 33:20–21 just a few verses earlier. In between, in verse 22, God reiterates his promise to Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars and applies the promise to the Davidic line. The covenant for day and night appears to be a part of God’s covenant with Noah (cf. Genesis 8:22). The ordinance of the sun by day and the moon by night (Jeremiah 31:35) is part of God’s promised new covenant in Jeremiah 31:27–40. Previously, Psalm 89 had reaffirmed the Davidic covenant, and Psalm 89:36–37 had invoked the sun and moon as faithful witnesses of that covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; 30:19; 31:28). Taken together, all of the verses discussed here give a purpose to the sun and moon as witnesses of God’s promise to David. In this sense, they give more meaning to the creation, but they do not reveal other information about the creation event that is not contained in Genesis 1.
Jeremiah 51:15–16 is contained in a lengthy prophecy against Babylon (Jeremiah 50:1–51:58). The two verses in question here are repetition of Jeremiah 10:12–13, which we discussed earlier. Again, nothing in this passage alters the plain meaning of Genesis 1–2 with its teaching of a recent creation in six normal days.
This passage is controversial. Ezekiel 28:1–19 is addressed to the ruler of Tyre. The language is very similar to Isaiah 14:3–23, which refers to the king of Babylon. In the estimation of many commentators, the similarity links the two. Jesus alluded to Isaiah 14:12 in referring to Satan (Luke 10:18), and possibly the apostle John alluded to it as well (Revelation 12:9). The kings of Tyre and Babylon were condemned for their pride, and pride was the cause of Satan’s fall (1 Timothy 3:6). Lucifer, one of the names commonly applied to Satan, appears in the KJV and comes from a transliteration of the name used in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Scriptures (cf. Isaiah 14:12). The Hebrew הֵילֵל (heileh) used there is better rendered “shining one,” a reference to the morning star (possibly referring to the planet Venus). Much of our knowledge about Satan comes from these passages, causing many people to think that these passages are primarily or even solely about Satan. However, at the times of their writings, the prophecies of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 primarily were addressed to human kings.
The probable reason for the inclusion of Ezekiel 28:12–17 in the Ross list of creation passages is the mention of the Garden of Eden in verse 13. This fact, too, has caused some people to conclude that these passages primarily are about Satan. For instance, Morris wrote:
No one was in Eden, the garden of God, except Adam, Eve, and Satan. We are forced to conclude that this “king of Tyrus” is none other than Satan, personally possessing and controlling the willing body of the proud “prince of Tyrus.” Just as he possessed the body of the “king of Babylon” (see notes on Isaiah 14:12–15) and the body of Judas (Luke 22:3), he was able to possess and control the Tyrian monarch.3
However, when uttered, these prophecies in Isaiah and Ezekiel were directed against human kings. In what sense, then, was the King of Tyre in the Garden of Eden? Remember that prophetic passages often contain imagery. One possibility is that this mention of Eden refers to the splendor that the king of Tyre enjoyed.4 It would not be surprising if the Eden allusion is designed to draw a subtle connection between the king of Tyre and the rebellious, fallen angel whose prideful, destructive behavior he is emulating.5 In any case, it is problematic to view Ezekiel 28:12–17 as a creation passage as it is not at all clear that Ezekiel 28:12–17 gives further information about the creation account of man found in Genesis 2.
Undoubtedly, the reason for including Daniel 12:3 on Ross’ list is the mention of the “expanse” (firmament) and stars—the creation of both being in the Genesis 1 creation account. However, Daniel 12:3 clearly refers to a future event—the resurrection of both the just and unjust (verse 2) and the glorification of the saints. Daniel 12:3 uses similes to compare the brightness of those who instruct and lead others to righteousness to the brightness of the expanse and the stars in the expanse. Obviously, the people here do not literally shine like stars. Being in a prophetic passage that uses simile and imagery, one must be very careful in how one interprets this. An example of improper interpretation is how Henry M. Morris used Daniel 12:3 to conclude that stars are eternal.6 While Daniel 12:3 alludes to some aspects of creation, the verse is not about creation, so this is not a creation passage.
Hosea 3:4–5 obviously is not about creation, so it hardly qualifies as a creation passage. However, it should be noted that another supposed creation passage from the book of Hosea, Hosea 6:1–3 (discussed next), makes mention of the word day. The word day also appears in Hosea 3:4–5, and it appears that this is the suspected connection to the creation event that Ross intended to highlight. In Ross’ view, the days of the Creation Week were not normal days, but rather they were each periods of time lasting many years. By employing the day-age theory, Ross hopes to maintain the authority and integrity of the Bible while at the same time accepting a 4.55-billion-year age for the earth and a 13.8-billion-year age of the universe. It is not at all clear how Hosea 3:4–5 helps to make the case for the day-age theory. In Hosea 3:1, the Lord commanded Hosea to redeem his adulterous wife, and Hosea does so in verse 2. In verse 3, Hosea told his wife that she will remain with him and faithful to him for many days. The application comes in verse 4, which states that the sons of Israel will remain many days without a king and without sacrifices or the trappings of the Temple. Verse 5 concludes Hosea 3 with the prediction that after this, in the last days, the sons of Israel will return to the Lord and David their king and will come trembling to the Lord and his goodness. Given that the Temple’s destruction was more than 1,900 years ago, these many days of verse 4 have continued for a long time. However, Hosea 3:4 speaks of many days, not a day; and nearly 2,000 years do indeed qualify as many days. So this verse does not apply to Genesis 1, and hence these verses have nothing to say about the creation event.
It is ironic that many who want to interpret figuratively what ought clearly to be regarded as straightforward historical narrative (Genesis) decide that they want to interpret literally a poetic expression that is clearly figurative.
Hosea 6:1–3 is more problematic than the preceding passage. In the many places in the Old Testament where ordinal or cardinal numbers are used with days, the clear meaning is that the days are to be taken as literal, normal days. Hosea 6:2 is often offered as the one exception that shows that the numbering of days in the Old Testament does not necessarily imply normal days, for the time that Israel has been waiting for healing is approaching two millennia, greatly exceeded three days. How do we explain this? Some (e.g., Morris in his study Bible notes) have attempted to resolve this by claiming that the three days anticipate Christ’s resurrection. However, the context concerns the healing of Israel, not the resurrection of its Messiah, and there is no New Testament reference to Hosea 6:2 mentioned in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy on this matter. More likely, the key is in the poetic structure found in verse 2. It does not simply say that healing will occur in three days. Rather, it states that God will revive Israel after two days and that God will raise them up on the third day. When this sort of construction appears in poetic passages (cf. Job 5:19; Proverbs 6:16, 30:15 and 18), it emphasizes the surety that it will come to pass. In other words, this is a figurative use of numbers. It is ironic that many who want to interpret figuratively what ought clearly to be regarded as straightforward historical narrative (Genesis) decide that they want to interpret literally a poetic expression that is clearly figurative. At any rate, while one may attempt to use Hosea 6:1–3 to justify the day-age theory, there is no reference or allusion to the creation event in this passage, so it ought not to be on the list of creation passages.
Joel 2:30–31 speaks of wonders in heaven: blood, fire, columns of smoke, the sun turned dark, and the moon turned to blood. This is a predictive passage which has in view future, not past, events. Notably, at Pentecost the apostle Peter quoted from Joel 2:28–32a (Acts 2:17–21). This indicates that there was at least a typical fulfillment of this prophecy with the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Yet Joel 2:18–3:21 as a whole contains a much grander prophecy and addresses the restoration of Israel. Much of this is yet to be fulfilled. Once again, Ross has confused future astronomical phenomena with the original creation. It is dubious to claim that this prophecy somehow illuminates the Genesis creation account.
Like Job 9:9 and Job 38:31, Amos 5:8 credits God with making the Pleiades and Orion. By extension, God made all the stars, but we already knew that from Genesis 1:16. The statement that God made the stars is more poignant here than in Job, because the people of Israel were involved in pagan idolatry, including the worship of astronomical bodies (Amos 5:26). Declaring that God made the stars ought to show the foolishness of worshiping heavenly bodies. Amos 5:8 goes on to credit God, not some pagan deity, with bringing about the cycle of day and night and control over the sea. This verse gives God glory for the creation and acknowledges his control over the world. Since creation is explicitly mentioned, this qualifies as a creation passage according to Ross’ definition, but it tells us nothing new about the creation event that the Genesis creation account did not already reveal.
These two verses ascribe to God complete control over the earth. The only possible connection to creation is in verse 6, where it describes God building his “stories” in the heavens and his “troop” in the earth (KJV) or, alternately, building his “chambers” in the heavens and his “vaulted dome” over the earth (NASB). However, with the uncertainty in usage of the Hebrew term אֲגֻדָּה (agudah), it is not clear how either “troop” or “vaulted dome” pertains to the earth. Oblique as this mention of creation is, this passage qualifies as a creation passage according to Ross’ criterion, but there is no new information about creation provided here that would suggest long ages for days or billions of years.
Micah 6 is essentially a courtroom argument. The mountains are the witnesses, and they hear the case (Micah 6:1–2). Verse 2 refers to mountains and the foundations of the earth hearing the Lord’s indictment against the people of Israel. On the basis of Genesis 1, we know that God made the mountains, but there is nothing in this verse which even alludes to that. Thus, this is not a creation passage.
This verse uses a simile to promise that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as waters cover the sea. This obviously is a future event, and so has nothing to do with the creation event.
This verse describes God coming from Teman and Mount Paran. Both places are to the south of Judah; Teman is a city in Edom, and Mount Paran is in Sinai. In his final blessing on the people of Israel, Moses stated that the Lord came from Sinai and specifically mentioned Mount Paran (Deuteronomy 33:2). In their victory song, Deborah and Barak used similar language (Judges 5:4). Habakkuk 3:3 also states that God’s glory covers the heavens and that the earth is full of his praise. Many commentators think that this may yet be in the future. At any rate, the mention of heaven and earth in tandem in this verse may have triggered its inclusion on the Matter of Days list of creation passages, but this verse hardly qualifies as a creation passage since it does not have in view the creation event.
The third chapter of Habakkuk contains many references to God’s defeat of his enemies and the enemies of Israel. For instance, Habakkuk 3:15 is an allusion to the defeat of Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea, and Habakkuk 3:11 recounts Joshua’s victory at Gibeon. What likely brought about the inclusion of this passage on the list was the mention of “everlasting” (KJV) or “perpetual” (NASB) mountains, which would seem to refer to an old earth. However, the Hebrew עַד (’ad) does not specify any definite time period; it only indicates some measure of antiquity (which would be true of the mountains in Hosea’s day even with an earth that was only thousands of years old). If Ross wished to press the meaning of “everlasting” (which is precisely what the word means in particular contexts; e.g., Isaiah 9:6), the fact remains that even an old-earth view cannot fulfill this sense. From any perspective other than that of one who believes the universe is in fact eternal, the mountains must simply be regarded as “long-lasting” or “age-old” (as it is translated in the TNK). However, this cannot be taken as definitive information about the age of the earth. One would be reduced to arguing over subjective opinions about the meaning of “age-old”! As such, this passage is not intending to make any sort of a statement about the age of the earth and may not be used to overturn the clear sense of Genesis 1.
In a similar manner as the previous passage, Habakkuk 3:8–10 is a recounting of God’s complete victory over his enemies. The language used has in view some of the features of the created world (rivers, mountains), but the passage does not appear to have anything to do with the creation event.
In Haggai 2:21, the prophet delivered the message to Zerubbabel that the Lord would shake the heavens and the earth. This sort of statement is made in other passages (Haggai 2:6; Matthew 24:29), though those passages are not on the list (however, Hebrews 12:26–27, which quotes Haggai 2:6, is on the list). Haggai 2:21–23 speaks of events yet future, and hence, when taken in context, has nothing to do with the creation event.
Zechariah 12:1 identifies the Lord as the One who stretched the heavens, laid the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him. This is an allusion back to the creation event, but like so many other Old Testament passages that mention the stretching of the heavens and the foundations of the earth being laid, there is no hint of any additional information whereby we may reinterpret Genesis 1.
This fifth article in a series examining Hugh Ross’ list of biblical creation passages concludes discussion of the Old Testament passages on the list. In the sixth article in this series, I will turn to the New Testament passages on the list.