Both Christians and non-believers often have difficulty with timetables in the Bible. In one frequently overlooked passage, could it be talking about literal days or thousands of years? It seems to refer to days by numbers—the first day, second day, third day, etc. Could these perhaps be long periods of time? We need to read the passage carefully to find out.
12 Days or 12,000 Years?
The passage that I am referring to is, of course, Numbers 7. You weren’t thinking of any other passage, were you? Numbers 7 is one of those boring bits of the Bible that so many people like to skip over. As we will see, the boring bits are just as worthy of study as the bits we might find more exciting—it’s all inspired!
In Numbers 7, the leaders of the tribes were bringing their gifts to the LORD, and laying them before Moses. The tribe of Judah came first.
And the one who offered his offering on the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, from the tribe of Judah. (Numbers 7:12)
The other tribes came in strict order:
On the second day Nethanel the son of Zuar, leader of Issachar, presented an offering. (Numbers 7:18)
On the third day Eliab the son of Helon, leader of the children of Zebulun, presented an offering. (Numbers 7:24)
On the fourth day Elizur the son of Shedeur, leader of the children of Reuben, presented an offering. (Numbers 7:30)
This list continues, until all twelve tribes had given their gifts. So the important question is this: Did the tribes take twelve literal days to present their gifts, or did they take twelve very long periods of time—perhaps twelve thousand years. Could Moses have been sitting there for twelve thousand years while the people brought their gifts? I suppose I’m basically a literalist; it seems most logical to suppose from the passage that these days were actually twelve literal, 24-hour days. Most people that I have asked seem to agree with me.
Scripture interprets Scripture
I suppose we could ask another question: Do you think there is another passage in the Bible where days are numbered consecutively where there might also be an argument over whether they are literal days or not? Do you think we should interpret that other passage in a similar way to Numbers 7, especially as it was written in the same style by the same person? A consistent interpretation of Genesis 1 needs to take into account Numbers 7, which has the same structure. Numbers 7 obviously refers to literal 24-hour periods. Therefore, Genesis 1 does as well, as both passages were written by Moses. The only reasons, therefore, for interpreting Genesis 1 differently would come from accepting an authority outside scripture as being higher than scripture. This tongue-in-cheek article has a serious point; if we allow scripture to interpret scripture (as we should) then the only satisfactory conclusion is that Genesis 1 refers to six literal 24-hour days of creation.
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