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ORIGIN 1.2.1

Meaning of Bible 'day'

God's time frame
is not our time frame
Seeking answer to this question
Did God create everything in six 24-hour calendar days?
(No - much more magnificent!)

Creation 'day' was longer than 24 hours

The Bible is its own best interpreter. As much as possible, other portions of the Bible – and particularly surrounding portions – should interpret the meaning of any word that is ambiguous.
This study examines how the Hebrew word 'yom' (translated 'day' in English) is used in the Bible creation story.
Genesis Chapters 1 and 2
It's all about 'yom'

The Hebrew word for 'day' in the Genesis account is 'yom,' which like the english word 'day,' usually means a 24 hour period but can also mean a long indefinite period, like we say this is the day of social media.

GENESIS 1: 11-12. At beginning of Day 3, God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And god saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.'
It takes more than 24 hours for land to produce and reproduce vegetation and bear fruit.
GENESIS 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23 and 31. The phrase 'And there was evening, and there was morning – the [number] day' is the closing statement for each of the six days of creation but not for the seventh day of rest (pause in new creations).
Therefore, the seventh day is still open, and since the closing statement is not used, the word day obviously means more than 24 hours because more than 24 hours has passed.
GENESIS 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23 and 31. The phrase 'And there was evening, and there was morning – the [number] day' is the closing statement for Days 1, 2 and 3. But the sun didn't come until Day 4, for purpose of 'signs and seasons, and for days and years.'
The concept of a 24-hour day came AFTER yom was already in use to specify beginning of something and end of something.
GENESIS 2.4*. This verse says, 'This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day the Lord God made earth and heaven.' The previous chapter says God made earth and heaven in six separate days.
Therefore, this use of the word day (singular) is more than 24 hours because it is the sum of six days (plural).
GENESIS 2:16*. God said Adam must not eat the fruit from a particular tree, 'for in the day you eat from it you will surely die.' He ate the fruit but did not die within 24 hours.
Therefore the use of the word day here must mean a future period of time.
GENESIS 2:18-20. This passage says that God gave Adam the assignment of naming every living creature ... that 'It is not good that the man should be alone' ... and that 'there was not found a a helper as his partner.'  
It is unlikely that completion of this assignment and Adam's loneliness would all occur within the first 24 hours of his life. The word day here seems to mean a longer period of time.
Other than the way 'yom' in Hebrew was translated 'day' in English – a translation problem – there is nothing in these verses that even suggests that each of God's creative processes was limited to 24 hours.
* The New International Version (NIV) is the only major translation that, erroneously and for no apparent reason, omits the word day in these two passages as it is written in the original Hebrew text.
Scholarly definitions
See Ancient Hebrew Research Center: 'The Hebrew word yom means a 'day,' but not specifically a twenty-four hour period, but instead more generically like in 'a day that something occurs.' This is the summary statement for research detailed in the Ancient Hebrew Dictionary, which contains the one thousand most frequent verbs and nouns found within the ancient Hebrew Bible. Each word is translated and defined from original ancient usage.
See Strong's Exhaustive Concordance / Hebrew #3117 for yom: '1) day, time, year 1a) day (as opposed to night) 1b) day (24 hour period) 1b1) as defined by evening and morning in Genesis 1 1b2) as a division of time 1b2a) a working day, a day's journey 1c) days, lifetime (pl.) 1d) time, period (general) 1e) year 1f) temporal references 1f1) today 1f2) yesterday 1f3) tomorrow'
Based on a careful reading and study of the above passages from the Genesis creation account, it appears that the Hebrew word 'yom'  – translated as 'day' in English versions – means a long indefinite period of time, not 24 hours.
  • Historically, most Christians have believed that the entire universe was created in six days in approximately 4000 BC, but only because 'yom' has been translated as 'day' in English versions of the Bible. This is not an incorrect translation, but yom, like day, its English equivalent, can have two meanings: (1) 24 hours or (2) long indefinite period of time.
  • A rule of translation is that if a word has two or more meanings, select the one that is most in accord with surrounding passages and common knowledge.
  • Most Christians have never carefully studied Genesis 1 and 2. They just say without question what has been said by rote for centuries – since the King James version in 1611 or before – that the whole universe was created in six 'days' (presumably calendar days only because that is most common use of the word).
  • By reading and studying all of the above passages together, it becomes obvious that the writer was referring to a creative process that spanned more than six calendar days.
SCIENCE. Interpreting the Hebrew word 'yom' as 24 hours would cause serious and irreconcilable conflicts with the discoveries of modern science, but interpreting 'yom' as a long indefinite period is compatible with abundant astronomical, geological, biological and archaeological findings. There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that God's creative processes occurred over a very long period of time.
IMPORTANCE. Whether a person believes – or doesn't believe – in the Big Bang and an old earth doesn't have anything to do with Christianity. With regard to sin, salvation and eternal life, it really doesn't matter when God created the universe. The primary reason why getting it right is important is because it reflects on credibility of the Bible in conversation with well-educated people. They will think that if the Bible is wrong about age of earth, then the Bible is probably wrong about other things, too.