Examining Supposed Creation Passages in Proverbs to Isaiah

Listed from A Matter of Days by Hugh Ross, Part 4

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Introduction

In a series of articles, I have been examining a list of biblical passages about creation compiled by Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe (RTB) in his book A Matter of Days. Ross contends that when these other passages about creation are considered with the creation account of Genesis 1–2, one reaches the conclusion that the world is billions of years old. However, proper study reveals that they do not lead to such a conclusion. There is nothing in these passages that warrant overriding the clear teaching of Genesis 1–2 that the creation was over six normal days. In my first article, I gave an overview and listed six types of errors that Ross committed when assembling his list, as well as a discussion of those passages elsewhere in Genesis. In subsequent articles, I discussed those passages from Joshua through Job (second article) and the Psalms (third article). Here I discuss passages on the RTB list from the book of Proverbs through the book of Isaiah.

Proverbs 3:19–20

Like Psalm 136:5 concerning the heavens, Proverbs 3:19 credits God with wisdom and understanding when he created the earth. Verse 20 states that by knowledge the depths are broken up and clouds drop dew. This mention of the depths being broken up is similar to the description of one source of the flood waters in Genesis 7:11, suggesting to some that it is referring to the Flood. Again, nothing here would undermine the young-earth view.

Proverbs 6:6–8

Like Proverbs 30:25, this passage instructs us to consider the ant and learn wisdom. This explains the provision that God has made for animals in the world today, not how they came into existence.

Proverbs 1:33

This verse is out of order on the book’s list and has nothing to do with creation. It is not clear what verse was intended, because Proverbs 6:33 does not discuss creation, and there is no Proverbs 7:33.

Proverbs 8:22–33

Proverbs 8 and 9 famously personify wisdom as one who was with the Lord “at the beginning.” Reminiscent of Psalm 136:5 and Proverbs 3:19, these verses relate wisdom to creation, which can be inferred from Genesis 1, but adds nothing to support Ross’ day-age view. That old-age view implies a foolish and wicked god who created the sun, moon, and stars (some of the latter exploded) billions of years before they could serve their purpose of telling time to man. And that god assigned man the task of ruling over sea, air and land creatures, most of which lived and died (and some kinds even became extinct) for millions of years before man existed to rule over them. Only the young-earth view is consistent with the wisdom, goodness, and power of God.

Proverbs 24:30–34

This passage deals with slothfulness, and so has nothing to do with creation.

Proverbs 30:24–28

Proverbs 30:24–28 draws spiritual lessons for man in the instinctive behavior of four animals, the ants, conies (or rock badgers), locusts, and spiders. Verses 29–31 mention three other animals: lions, greyhounds,1 and goats. The passage has nothing to do with when and how God created in Genesis 1.

Ecclesiastes 1; 3; 8–12

These are illustrations of how the world now operates, not how it was created.

It is not clear why, in his list, Ross claims seven of the twelve chapters of Ecclesiastes as creation passages. These chapters contain allusions to certain aspects of creation as it now exists. These include the abiding of the earth for generations (Ecclesiastes 1:4), the sun’s daily rising and setting (Ecclesiastes 1:5), the circulation of winds (Ecclesiastes 1:6), the hydrologic cycle (Ecclesiastes 1:7), a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8), and the admonishment to remember our “Creator” in our youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1–2). These are illustrations of how the world now operates, not how it was created. These chapters do not qualify as creation accounts and shed no light on the age of the creation.

Isaiah 11:4–9

This passage contains the very familiar prophetic passage of the wolf and lamb living together, the leopard and kid lying down together, the calf and young lion being led by a child, the cow and bear feeding together, the lion eating straw like an ox, and very young children playing around venomous snakes. This passage obviously does not describe the world as it now exists. It describes a future time and reflects the state of the world as it was originally created. But Ross claims that carnivorous activity existed from the beginning (Hugh Ross 1994, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress), 62–64; Hugh Ross 2004, A Matter of Days (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress), 100–102; Hugh Ross 2006, Creation as Science (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress), 165–168). Thus, it is a mystery as to why Ross included these verses in his list of creation passages. They militate against his view.

Isaiah 34:2–5

Isaiah 34:2–5 uses apocalyptic language to describe God’s future judgment on the earth. Perhaps the pinnacle of this passage is verse 4, which states that the host of heaven will be dissolved, the heavens shall be rolled together like a scroll, and the host will fall like leaves from a vine or figs from a fig tree. There are allusions to this passage elsewhere in Scripture, such as in Isaiah 51:6 and Revelation 6:13–14. These verses obviously refer to a future event, so there is no reason to include them in a list of creation passages. If anything, they speak of an “un-creation.”

Isaiah 38:7–8

As with 2 Kings 20:8–11, these verses give the account of Hezekiah’s sundial retreating ten steps. Since this was an eighth century BC miracle, 2 Kings 20:8–11 is not a reference to the creation event.

Isaiah 40:12

This verse describes poetically things that God made, but that hardly qualifies it as a passage about creation. There is nothing in this verse that suggests that the creation days were longer than ordinary days, or that the creation occurred billions of years ago.

Isaiah 40:21–22

Isaiah 40:21 asks the rhetorical question, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” (NASB). The parallel phrases “from the beginning” and “the foundations of the earth,” indicate that man has known from the beginning of his creation that God is the Creator, Sovereign Ruler, and Sustainer of his creation. This fact fits beautifully with Adam being created on the sixth day of history but is inconsistent with Adam being created billions of years after the beginning and foundation of the earth. Isaiah 40:22 is the well-known verse that speaks of God sitting on the “circle” of the earth. Many creationists believe that this may refer to the earth’s sphericity, though others argue on solid lexical grounds that it is nothing more than a reference to the horizon (Harris 1962, 13; Harrison 1981, 201). The earth’s shape is not addressed anywhere else in Scripture,2 so in this sense, this passage may give us additional information not found elsewhere, including the Genesis creation account.

This verse goes on to tell us that God stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads the heavens out like a tent. While other Old Testament passages refer to God stretching the heavens, this verse alone employs this simile so this could amount to new information as well. Many people today view the Old Testament references to God stretching the heavens, implying something elastic and conclude that this refers to the expansion of the universe. However, neither curtains nor tents in the ancient world were elastic, and the stretching or spreading was a process of unrolling or unfolding of a curtain or tent before use. That is, the spreading or stretching could apply to a past process of creation and not to universal expansion at all. The future rolling up of the heavens like a scroll (Isaiah 34:4) is striking in that it could imply the reverse process of creation. Just as this future process will be supernatural, so would have been the original creation. At any rate, this passage does not compel belief in the big bang or billions of years.

Isaiah 40:25–28

Stars are not explicitly mentioned in this passage. However, it is clear that Isaiah 40:26 parallels Psalm 147:4 and refers to the stars. “Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing” (verse 26; NASB, italicized words not reflected in Hebrew).3 Verse 28 assures us that the Creator of the ends of the earth does not grow weary or tired, nor can we probe the depths of His understanding. This passage praises God for the creation of the world and for His sustaining of the world today. However, no revision of the young-earth view of Genesis 1–2 is required.

Isaiah 42:5

Isaiah 42:5 credits God with creating and stretching the heavens, but it makes a parallel statement about the spreading out of the earth. The spreading out of the earth is found in only two other places in the Bible: in Isaiah 44:24, where the parallelism between the stretching of the heavens and the spreading of the earth likewise exists, and Psalm 136:6, where it does not. Isaiah 42:5 continues with the acknowledgment that God gives breath and spirit to the people of the earth. This is vaguely reminiscent of the Genesis 2 account of the creation of man, but it is inappropriate to draw upon an allusion to an earlier passage to overrule the intended meaning of the original passage.

Isaiah 44:2

This verse acknowledges God’s control over our development in our mothers’ wombs. This describes God’s work in the world as it now exists, but sheds no light on how Adam and Eve were created.

Isaiah 44:24–28

It further declares that the Lord is our Redeemer, and quotes the Lord as stating that He is the Maker of all things.

Like Isaiah 44:2, verse 24 declares that the Lord formed us in our mothers’ wombs. It further declares that the Lord is our Redeemer, and quotes the Lord as stating that He is the Maker of all things. The Lord’s quotation continues with the parallel statements about the stretching of the heavens and the spreading out of the earth. Verse 24 is the only verse in this passage that directly relates to creation but sheds no light on the when and how of creation in Genesis 1. The additional verses, 26–28, probably were included because they are the remainder of the Lord’s quote.

Isaiah 45:7

This verse is the final part of a statement of God addressed to Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1–7). In verses 5–6, God explains that He would raise up Cyrus to do His bidding so that all men will know that there is no god besides the Lord. The reference to forming the light and creating the darkness illustrates that everything, whether positive or negative from our perspective, exists because of the creative will of God. The allusion to creation, thus, does not serve to make known anything that could not be inferred from Genesis 1.

Isaiah 45:12

Isaiah continues with an address from God directed to Israel. God declares that He made the earth, created man, stretched out the heavens, and commanded their host, which certainly refers back to the Genesis 1 creation account. But once again, nothing here contradicts the young-earth view of Genesis 1.

Isaiah 45:18

Again Isaiah describes the Lord as the God who created the heavens, and who formed, made, and established the earth. Furthermore, the Lord did not create the earth in vain but made it to be inhabited. This confirms the Genesis 1 account of God forming and filling initially formless and empty earth with plants, animals and the first two humans. But it also implies that God did not make the earth billions of years before but rather just a few literal days before he made the creatures to inhabit it.4

Isaiah 48:13

Isaiah 48:1–11 is a lament over Israel’s stubbornness, but God’s promise of deliverance begins in verse 12. The Lord speaks in Isaiah 48:13 and says that surely His hand founded the earth and His right hand spread out the heavens. Furthermore, when God called to them, the heavens and earth stood together. If anything, this last phrase suggests rapid creation, not billions of years. Nothing in this passage gives license for rethinking the plain meaning of the Genesis account.

Isaiah 49:5

It is not clear why Isaiah 49:5 is included in the RTB list of creation passages. It reads similarly to Psalm 139:13–15 and Isaiah 44:12 in that it speaks of a man being formed by God in the womb. However, Isaiah 49:5 is very different because Isaiah 49:1–7 is a Messianic prophecy. (This is why the personal pronouns in these seven verses are capitalized in some versions, such as the NASB). In short, this is not a creation passage.

Isaiah 51:6

The contrast set forth in Isaiah 51:6 is similar to that which is outlined in Psalm 102:25–27. In both cases, the heavens and earth are said to pass away, but in Psalm 102 the Lord remains, and in Isaiah 51 God’s salvation and righteousness is forever. Isaiah 51:6 is thus about creation only in the sense of describing the present created world as temporary; it is hardly a creation passage in the same sense as in Genesis 1–2.

Isaiah 51:13–16

In this passage, God again promises restoration for Israel. To demonstrate His ability to do this, God again emphasizes His power as the Creator, the One who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth (verse 13), and who established the heavens and founded the earth (verse 16). Once again, this passage is about the power of the Creator, not about the creation event.

Isaiah 55:10

Like Ecclesiastes 1:7, Isaiah 55:10 mentions the hydrological cycle. Here it is mentioned in the context of illustrating God’s mercy. Since this is an illustration and refers to the maintenance of the world today, this is not a creation passage.

Isaiah 60:18–21

The theme of Isaiah 60 is restoration.

The theme of Isaiah 60 is restoration. Verse 19 promises that there will be no more need of the sun for light during the day or the moon for light by night, because the Lord will be for an everlasting light, and His glory will prevail. Verse 20 is in parallel to verse 19, for it states that the sun will no longer set and the moon will no longer wane because the Lord will be for an everlasting light. Isaiah previously had identified light with God (Isaiah 2:5; 9:2). Matthew 4:12–16 later identified Jesus with that light, quoting directly from Isaiah 9:1–2. The apostle John clearly alluded to Isaiah 60:19–20 in Revelation 21:23 and Revelation 22:5, describing the New Jerusalem and the fact that there is no need of the light of the sun and moon there. The creation of the New Jerusalem is a future event, so Isaiah 60:18–21 is not about the original creation event.

Isaiah 50:2

This verse is out of order on the book list, suggesting that it probably is a typographical error. The only remote connection to creation in Isaiah 50:2 is God’s declaration that He can dry up the sea with a rebuke and dry up rivers. It thus shows His power over the created world, which naturally derives from the fact that He made all things.

Isaiah 64:4

Perhaps the key phrase that triggered this verse’s inclusion on Ross’ list is “since the beginning of the world” (the NASB renders this as “from days of old”). In isolation, one might conclude that this refers to creation. However, the context of Isaiah 64:1–5 is a plea for God to manifest Himself in judgment as he had at Sinai, with the quaking of the mountains (Exodus 19:18). Isaiah 64:4 states that since the days of old, no one has heard, perceived by ear, or seen by eye what God has prepared for those who wait for (depend upon) Him. Of course, while under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul employed a quote of this verse in 1 Corinthians 2:9. In any case, Isaiah 64:4 is not about creation.

Isaiah 65:17–25

In Isaiah 65:17 God declares that He will create a new heaven and a new earth. The apostles Peter and John quoted this verse directly (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1), and Isaiah himself referred to the new heaven and new earth again (Isaiah 66:22). The description of the new earth surpasses what exists today. For instance, Isaiah 65:25 repeats Isaiah’s previous mention of the wolf and lamb grazing together and the lion eating straw like an ox (cf. Isaiah 11:6–7). Obviously, this passage refers to the future. In Hugh Ross’ own understanding, the lion did not eat straw in the original creation. Hence, Isaiah 65:17–25 does not describe the original creation and is not a creation passage.

Isaiah 66:22

As just mentioned, Isaiah 66:22 refers to the future new creation, so it does not qualify as an account of the original creation.

Conclusion

In this fourth article in a series examining Hugh Ross’ list of biblical creation passages, I discussed those passages from the book of Proverbs through the book of Isaiah. In the next installment, I will discuss passages from the Matter of Days list from Jeremiah through the end of the Old Testament.

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Footnotes

  1. Many translations have “strutting rooster” here. Admittedly, the meaning of the Hebrew underlying this translation is uncertain.
  2. Many skeptics claim that the term “four corners of the earth” found in Isaiah 11:12 and Revelation 7:1 indicates that the Bible teaches a flat earth. However, this is an idiomatic expression referring to the four directions or perhaps to the earth as a whole (Young 1965, 96). This idiomatic expression is in use today.
  3. Notably, the Hebrew צְבָא (host) often is used in conjunction with הַשָּׁמַיִם (heavens), meaning “host of heaven” (cf. Deuteronomy 4:19; 17:3; 2Kings 17:16; 21:3; 23:4f.; 2 Chronicles 33:3–5; Isaiah 34:4; Jeremiah 8:2; 119:13; 33:22; Zephaniah 1:5 Daniel 8:10; Nehemiah 9:6).
  4. NASB translates the Hebrew word tohu as “waste place” in this verse in the phrase “did not create it a waste place.” NKJV and KJV translate it as “in vain.” NIV and HCSB render it “to be empty,” and ESV has simply “empty.” Tohu does not imply judgment here or in Genesis 1:2. For a thorough discussion of all the uses of this Word in the Old Testament, see Weston Fields’ thorough refutation of the gap theory in his Unformed and Unfilled (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2005), 113–130.
  5. C. John Collins remarks in his notes on Psalm 104 in the ESV Study Bible, “The hymn of praise celebrates the way the created order reveals God’s glory by providing so abundantly for all living things. Although it does not use many specific words from Gen. 1:1–2:3, it is generally agreed that the creation account’s ideas lie behind the psalm. Some have even suggested that the psalm is structured around the six workdays of God. . . . This structure, however, should not be pressed, since the land animals and man (Ps. 104:21–24) here precede the sea creatures (vv. 25–26), while the Genesis account has them in the opposite order. Even more, this is not a straight retelling of the Genesis account as an event: rather, it celebrates the way in which the creation order still continues in human experience” (Collins 2008, ESV Study Bible [Wheaton, IL: Crossway], 1069).

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