Then God said, “Let Us make human beings in our image, to be like Us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27
It is often asked, "Why did God take six days to create the heavens and the earth and everything in them?" Some quoting 2 Peter 3:8, "that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day", point to it as evidence that it could have been long ages between each "day of creation" and God was allowing for the evolution of His creation through "natural" processes. Of course this stance is absolutely preposterous to good Biblical interpretation. First, those who advocate such are taking the 2 Peter passage out of context. The context being why the Lord Jesus seems to be so slow in coming back to the world. The 2 Peter reference goes on to state the reason the Lord seems slow in keeping His promise of His return is because He "is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." He is allowing as much time as possible for His created people to accept His gift of salvation. To take this verse about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and apply it to the creation account is not logical. Second, the Genesis 1 narrative makes it clear that it is referring to literal days (rotations of the earth). It does so by referring to the day and night cycle.
vs. 5 "God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day."
vs. 8 "So the evening and the morning were the second day."
vs. 13 "So the evening and the morning were the third day."
vs. 17 "God set them [the sun and moon] in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day." vs. 23 "So the evening and the morning were the fifth day."
vs. 31 "So the evening and the morning were the sixth day."
Just as in the English language, the word for day in the Hebrew language (יוֹם - "yôm") can refer to a period of time longer than an approximate 24-hour earth rotational period. Such as the following sentence:
In the day of the steam locomotive, transportation was more challenging.
But, just as with English, in Hebrew, you would not couple the words "morning" and "evening" and a number to refer to a long period of time. For example, it would be nonsensical to make the following statement:
In the morning and evening of the sixth day of the steam locomotive, transportation was more challenging.
The above statement would leave us wondering what was happening on that sixth day making transportation so challenging? (Perhaps it was another BART malfunction! - for those of you from the Bay Area). Everywhere else in scripture where the word yôm is used with a number or associated with the words "morning" or "evening" it is translated and interpreted as a literal day. You should ask yourself why Genesis Chapter 1 is the one place scholars make an exception to this rule. Is it because they are factoring into their interpretations information from outside of scripture such as scientific theories? If so, this method of Biblical interpretation is called eisegesis. Eisegetical preaching is when the preacher reads their own ideas into the text, thus ensuring that they find what they are looking for in a passage of Scripture. This is clearly a dangerous practice. On the other hand, exegesis is interpreting scripture solely in the light of scripture. (For more information about these two methods of Biblical interpretation, click here.)
So a more valid question rather than "Why did God take six days to create the heavens and the earth?" is "Why did He not create it immediately?" After all, if we serve an all resourceful, all powerful God, He didn't need 144 hours to create everything. He could have spoken it all immediately into existence! He certainly could have done it! I actually think this is a very important theological point we so often miss because we are distracted by fighting off the millions and billions of years perspective. Is it because God's power was actually somewhat limited and that He needed 144 hours? Of course not! Then why six days?
Anticipation and Culmination
God was building up to something! Something truly great! Something beyond the wonders He had already created! Imagine! What could be greater than the marvels of the universe, or the beauty of the newly created, unscarred, uncorrupted flora and fauna on an untouched planet Earth?
So God created human beings in His own image. Genesis 1:27
If the Holy Trinity had created everything in an instant, we would not have known that He was building up to something truly great. If everything just showed up in an instant, we would not know God's perspective on the relative importance of the various things He created. The last thing God brings into His created cosmos is His pièce de résistance. It is the culmination of His creative work. It is the reason for all of the previous days of creation.
It is humans – you and me!
So, what did God think about His pièce de résistance?
Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. Genesis 1:31
God's commentary about the other days of creation was they were "good" (vs. 10, 12, 18, and 21). But on this day when God culminates His creative work, it is very good. Why is that? Well, it is like when you are dining at a fine restaurant and the Michelin-star chef brings out the main course after building up to it with the appetizers, salad, and soup de jour (all of which were good). Now it is time for His main creative course - his signature dish - and it is very good! You and I and all of humanity were God's signature creation - made in the image of God Himself. Very good!