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But this state could not endure. The outer coating or crust of the earth having become comparatively cool, (and at the same time preventing to a large extent the escape of heat from the interior), the dense, watery vapour surrounding the earth cooled also and precipitated itself in sheets of dew or rain upon the earth, gradually covering it with water and converting its surface into one vast ocean.
The earth was in this condition when “the Spirit of God moved (or brooded] upon the face of the waters.” Instead of the “Spirit of God," some translate "the Wind of God," that is, a violent wind. So far as the Hebrew word ('
717 rûăck) is concerned, either translation will do, but how, before the existence of an atmosphere and in the then condition of the earth, a violent wind could blow, it is hard to conceive. The translation in our English Bible is therefore preferable, though our present knowledge does not enable us to explain the action intended in this brooding of the Divine Spirit. Doubtless it was some preparatory process fitting our earth for its next stage.
The description of the earth given in this second verse is therefore in general accord with the theories of modern science. Unfortunately as yet science has only theories to give us regarding that far off past. But those theories are something more than mere guesses; they are based on observed facts such as these :
1st. The orbits of the planets are nearly circular.
3rd. They revolve round the sun in one direction which is also the direction of the sun's rotation.
4th. They rotate on their axes also, so far as is known, in the same direction.
5th. Their satellites, except those of Uranus and Neptune, revolve in the same direction.
To these may be added the spheroidal shape of the earth (and the other planets), the increasing heat as we penetrate downwards, the present condition of the sun, and the existence of the nebulous masses in space. All these consideratious point to a history for our earth such as we have sketched.
Thus far our narrative only gives the first stages of the earth's progress and states these in very general terms; but its subsequent story is told with greater detail and precision. The Sacred Record now introduces us to distinct periods in the earth's history.
“And God said, Let there be light and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness; and God called the light Day; and the darkness He called Night, And the evening and the morning was the first day” (or lit. and evening was and morning was-Day one).
This does not mean the first and absolute creation of light. It refers to the introduction of solar and sidereal light upon our earth. The creation of the heavenly bodies and consequently of light, is included in the statement of the first verse that “God created the heavens and the earth.” But neither sun, nor star-light had as yet reached the earth. Utter darkness brooded over it. It was as black as though neither sun nor star existed. The thick vapours that enveloped it shut out every ray of light and wrapped it in primeval darkness. One who has seen or rather felt a London fog knows how completely a thick vapour can shut out the brightest sunshine. Indeed an ordinary dull day sufficiently shows the obscuring effect of
a little vapour.
But the earth having cooled and the black heated vapour which had hung in dense masses over it, having largely precipitated itself in water on the surface of the earth, light at last breaks through ; feeble doubtless at first, but in constantly increasing quantity and radiance. But whence that light came, no inhabitant of our world, had there been such at that time, could have told; for the steamy vapours that still enveloped it were then, and for a long period afterwards, sufficiently dense to hide the heavens from view. That sunlight is possible while the sun is entirely hidden is a fact with which fogs and dull days have familiarized us all.
It is probable also that at the period we are now considering, the huge vaporous mass composing the sun, had become so concentrated as to glow with vastly increased intensity and flash forth light with awful brilliancy. The concurrence of these two causes and the consequent illumination of the earth is the great fact so briefly and grandly expressed in the words : “And God said, Let light be and light was.”
That the light was solar not cosmical is clear, I think, from the words that follow : “And God divided the light from the darkness; and God called the light Day; and the darkness He called Night.” This shows that the earth was rotating on its axis then as now, causing alternating periods of light and darkness, day in that half towards the sun and night in the other half. But how except on the supposition that the light was solar could this happen?
“And erening ecas and morning was—Day one."
The word day is variously used in the Bible. (1.) It denotes the period of light, the time from sun-rise till sun-set or a natural day. (2.) It means also the day and night or a period of 24 hours, that is, a civil or astronomical day. (3.) It is further used in the sense of
time, season, or period. Such expressions as the following are common in the Bible: “At his day” “in that day," " in the day of calamity,"
day of distress," "day of God's power,” and so forth. In all these cases day means a more or less extended period of time, a very long period in some of the instances given. We use the word day in the same indefinite way in English. We say “I shall not see the like in my day,” meaning my life-time ; "he was the most noted man of his day,” meaning his age or time. (4.) In the second chapter of Genesis and the fourth verse we read, “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, &c.," where the word day covers the whole period of creation. (5.) In Micah v. 2, occurs the expression
days of eternity” (marginal reading) where days manifestly mean ages; so also in the expression “days of heaven." Deut. xi. 21: Psls. 89, 29.
So far therefore as the word day is concerned we may understand it as denoting an ordinary day of 24 hours or as meaning an indefinite period. It is constantly used in both senses in the Bible. Which does it mean in this account of creation? In which sense did Moses use it? I have no hesitation in saying in the latter or indefinite sense, and in support of this view I urge the following considerations :
1. As already stated, in the briefly summarized account of the creation given in Gen. chapter 11., Moses uses the word day to cover the whole period of creation (see 4th verse), thus indicating that he employs it in a wide and indefinite sense.
2. The work of creation is a frequent topic of wonder and praise in the Old Testament. In the 104th Psalm, in the xxxvIII. chapter of Job, in the viii. chapter of Proverbs and in numerous other places the work of creation is made the subject of adoring praise, but in no instance in the Old Testament or in the New is the brevity of creation referred to. The sacred writers allude to various aspects of God's wonderful creative work and celebrate His power, wisdom and goodness as shown therein; but there is no allusion anywhere to its having been accomplished in a few days. On the contrary that work is constantly spoken of as having been of vast duration, as belonging to an unknown antiquity, and as illustrating the eternity of God.
We will give two examples. The first is from the 90th Psalm and the second from the viii. chapter of Proverbs.
“Before the mountains were brought forth,
Psl. xc. 2-1.
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way,--before His works of old.
Prov. VIII. 22-25. Could these words have been written, or if written, would they have any meaning, on the supposition that creation only dated back a few thousand years and had only occupied six ordinary days ? Looking at such language as the above, and it is the constant language of the Bible, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the sacred writers regarded the work of creation as covering countless æons and as reaching back to a time vastly anterior to man. Yet if creation occupied only six ordinary days, the foundations of the earth were laid and the everlasting hills were reared only three days (i.e. 72 hours) before man was created! They and he are alike but of yesterday. Is this at all in harmony with the sentiments expressed by the sacred writers? Does it not reduce their sublime language to meaningless bombast?
3. In the New Testament we find references to what may be called time-worlds. Thus in Heb. 1. 2, we read, “ His Son by whom He made the worlds or æons;" and in Heb. xi. 3, it is said "Through faith we understand that the worlds or æons (Tous alwvas) were framed by the word of God.” Such language brings before us very vividly the vast periods covered by God's creative energy, but seems quite meaningless if the world was made in six brief solar days and has only existed six or seven thousand years. Expressions such as “ beginning of the ages,” “end of the ages” are also common in the New Testament.
The idea then that creation occupied only six solar days derives no support from the writers of the Old and New Testaments. It is the Talmudists and subsequent commentators who invented this unfortunate interpretation.
4. While it is unhappily true that the majority of commentators have understwod the creative day to mean an ordinary day of 24 hours, two at least of the ancient Fathers, and those two the greatest, viz. Augustine and Origen, understood it as meaning an indefinite period. St. Augustine in his work De Genesi ad Literam (Lib. 11. chap. 14) argues the question at length and concludes that these days of creation are naturae (natures, births or growths), morae (delays or pauses in the divine work) or dies ineffabiles -days whose true nature cannot be told. He also understands “the evening and the morning" as meaning the obscure beginning and the bright culmination of each creative
He gives expression to the same ideas in his works, Contre
* If a creative day means an ordinary day, then the first day commenced at the close
of thu first period of light, or on the evening of the first natural day!
Manichaeos and De Civitate Dei. Such, too, seems to have been the opinion of Origen, the greatest of the Fathers. I mention these authorities mainly as showing that long before the birth of geology, there were those who from a study of the Mosaic account itself felt compelled to understand the creative day as denoting an indefinite period.
5. Another and very powerful argument in favour of the great length of the creative days is furnished by the seventh day and the institution of the Sabbath. The Jews were enjoined to keep the seventh day because "in six days the Lord created the heavens and the earth." Superficially looked at this language seems to point to six ordinary days, but a deeper consideration shows that such is not the case. "The argument is not, 'God worked on six natural days and rested the seventh; do you therefore the same.' Such an argument could have no moral and religious force as it cannot be affirmed that God habitually works and rests in this way. The argument reaches far deeper and higher. It is this: God created the world in six of His days and rested on the seventh and invited man in Eden to enter on His rest as a perpetual Sabbath of happiness. But man fell and lost God's Sabbath. Therefore a weekly Sabbath was prescribed to him as a memorial of what he had lost and a pledge of what God has promised in the renewal of life and happiness through our Saviour.* * * The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews takes this view in arguing as to the rest or sabbatism which remains for the people of God. His argument may be stated thus: God finished His work and entered into His rest. Man, in consequence of the fall, failed to do so. He has made several attempts since but unsuccessfully. Now Christ has finished His work and enters into His Sabbath and through Him we may enter into that rest of God which otherwise. we cannot attain to."* God's Sabbath still continues, and if we may judge from prophecy will continue for long ages yet. But if God's seventh day is of such vast duration, were not the six days of His creative energy proportionately long?
6. We may reasonably suppose that Moses was more or less acquainted with Persian cosmogony (some have maintained that he derived his account from the Persian) and perhaps also with the Hindoo. In both these systems day is used in the sense of age or epoch.† Are not therefore the probabilities many and strong that Moses employed the word in the same indefinite way?
7. I will only add that it would be passing strange if a record
"The Origin of the World," by Prof. Dawson, page 130. See also "Footprints of the Creator," by Hugh Miller.
† A day of the gods equals a year. A day of Brahma the Creator equals a period of over four million years.