Why six days in Genesis?


In Genesis it says that the world was created in six days then God rested on the seventh, I was wondering to my self why is it six days instead of say five or ten? Is there a underlying meaning for there being six days in the symbolic sense or is it just that it was six days and that’s it.

I was just interested to the reason why and would appreciate it if someone could tell me. Thank you.


Creation and Genesis


I would not ascribe the numbering as a literal 6 days events rather we can see them as a progression of cause and effect.
Before there was nothing, then there was light, etc.

We need to understand that the Genesis narrative was an oral tradition passed from generation to generation and as such had to be understandable by the recipients of the tale.

For people who lived day to day and died quite young, stretching any story over hundreds of years or millennia would not make much sense.
7 days was more manageable in their limited imagination.
The important fact is that the underlying truth is there.


I understand that the six days are not actual days, im not a biblical literalist if i came across as one i was just interested to see if there was a meaning to the six days but what your saying is that it was put as six days so people could understand the story better and thats the reason for it being six days?


As far as the seven day week goes, that most likely comes from the Assyrian/Babylonian tradition and was borrowed by other Semitic cultures, including the Hebrews. The seven day Hebrew creation epic is probably based on the Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish which was recorded on seven tablets. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the storm lasts for seven days.

Babylonian months started on the new moon – a holy day was celebrated every seven days starting from the new moon. The number of days in the final ‘week’ of each month was adjusted such that the next month began on the new moon.

Why seven? That answer is probably lost to history though probably has to do with numerology and the ‘magick’ significance of the number to the Babylonian and Assyrians. They in turn may have gotten it from the Egyptians; seven is the sacred number of Osiris.

The Egyptians, by the way, had a ten day week, each month consisting of three weeks, so 30 days. The year contained 13 months, the 13th month consisting of only 5 days to make the full year of 365 days. The tradition and name of the “small month” still exists on the Coptic Christian calendar (the ‘month’ of Nisi).

Many cultures (including Native American), do not have such a thing as weeks; just months/moons. The dividing of one full moon to the next into ‘weeks’ is totally arbitrary, or perhaps I should say determining how many days you want your week to comprise of is more or less arbitrary; it really depends on where in the world you are.


If I understand what you have written then Genesis has been either influenced or inspired by the Assyrians and Babylonians through there own creation stories or something equivalent. Thanks for your post it was very informative and is a good answer to the question i asked. Thanks.


There is no evidence that the men who wrote the Bible borrowed anything regarding the six day creation described in Genesis. The ‘limited understanding’ or limited imaginations of the listeners of the time is a guess. The writer was quite specific about the term “days” in Genesis, adding (depending on which Bible you are referencing) “And the evening and the morning were the second day” I doubt the hearers of these words, who were of limited understanding or imagination, would have not understood these words as they knew them, a literal day. The reference to evening or morning could have been left out entirely but they were purposely placed in the story.

The people would have understood a phrase like, “and after a great stretch of time,” God did this and God did that, each time, separating the events by the same phrase. “And after a sixth great stretch of time, God completed His work” and so on.

The Holy Bible is called Holy not for appearances but because the writers were guided to write what they wrote by the Holy Spirit. Though certain events were recorded by others as true at the time, the writers of the Bible knew truth from error, and right interpretation from the flawed interpretation of others.

“Genesis does not contain purified myths.” (Pontifical Biblical Commission 1909)



Whether you ascribe to a literal reading of Genesis or not, I’ve always felt that the author was inspired to break the period of time into six days because seven is a perfect number, especially when you look at underlying mathematical principles that govern our universe. Seven is the perfect number, and on the seventh day He rested, which is what He desired for us. Remember, He created us to live in peace and comfort, not to toil as we have to due to sin.


Right, but where in Catholic teaching does it name 7 as a “perfect” number?



Does God need a reason? God did it in six literal days. The word for day in the Hebrew is “yom” and the understanding of it is one day as we understand one day. The word for create in Genesis 1:1 is “yatzar” meaning without preexistent material. Exnihilo in the Latin, “out of nothing,” He spoke and it was. All other uses of the word create are “bara” meaning with preexistant material. This would be the case of man from the dust of the earth or Eve from the rib of the man. When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, then seek no other sense. Take each word at its primary, ordinary literal meaning unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. There is no need to overspiritualize or alllegorize so much of God’s word. If God is God and He is, making the universe in six literal days is not a challenge for Him! You are not less of a Catholic to understand this literally and there is no need to embrace the psuedoscience of Darwinism. Can I get an Amen?:smiley:


The number six was symbolic for something that is incomplete. Seven represents completeness. We see this all through the Bible.

***Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. *(John 2:6-7)

The six jars of water represent the Jewish rituals which are incomplete without the work of Christ who performs a miracle. The number six here is no accident.

God creates all things good in five days. On the sixth day he creates man very good but creation is incomplete. On the seventh day God completes his work by taking up his rest within man who alone is very good.

Of Benjamin he said, "The beloved of the LORD,
he dwells in safety by him;
he encompasses him all the day long,
and makes his dwelling between his shoulders
(Deuteronomy 33:12)



Seven was considered to be a number of perfection in the Hebrew culture.


I don’t know about an official Church teaching, but I thought that the Hebrew culture viewed it as the perfect number.

Either way, I was speaking more from a mathematical sense. Seven is one of the base numbers of pie (~22/7), and I thought it had something to do with the Fibonacci sequence as well, though I may be mistaken.


The importance of 7 in scripture

Seven Sacraments : God’s Oaths to Us - Defending the Bride

The Hebrew word for “seven” is “sheba.” (Strong’s # 7651) The word “sheba” is built on the Hebrew verb “shaba - to swear an oath.” (Strong’s # 7650) Because of the close connection of the Hebrew words for “oath” and “seven” it could be said that when God established a covenant with His people by His oaths that He “seventhed” Himself to them. In fact, when the Jews broke the laws of the Old Covenant they did not remove themselves from the Covenant, but rather brought upon themselves the sevenfold curses of the Covenant. Deuteronomy 28:16-20.


The word for seven and oath/covenant are practically the same in Hebrew. In fact, to take an oath in Hebrew is “to seven oneself.” As such, the number seven is representative of covenants, and most particularly with God’s first covenant with mankind.

Jesus tells us that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. The earliest practice was to honor one’s covenant with God every seventh day. This was perhaps the earliest way of honoring the covenant. And Genesis presents this schedule as something ingrained in the cosmsos, as part of the fabric of the cosmos’ own making. I don’t take it literally stating the universe came to its current form in seven days, but that’s how I see the emphasis and reason it was described this way. God blessed and hallowed the seventh day, something he didn’t do to the others.

It’s also practical. God knew we needed to rest physically from work every seventh day. He also knew we needed to be reminded to let go of our pride and remember that he is ultimately in control, which is why we stop working for ourselves and put our lives into God’s hands on that day especially. It also is a reminder that we need to set some time aside for God.


It is not meant to be taken in a literal fashion-the earth is about 5 billion years old-the Universe 3 times that -it is just a metaphor-Maybe day 1 was the Big Bang and then the other days are measured in billions and millions of years-it was written by the ancients - a creation myth


I understand that. It is an interesting note. 7 is indeed viewed as a perfect number but other numbers also have a meaning in Hebrew culture.



Then how is God, God if He can create everything from nothing? Or do other things, like raise the dead?



There’s nothing less miraculous or impressive about a 14 billion year old universe and evolution than a six day creation. Anyway, the Church allows both, and the forums forbid debate. Perhaps we shouldn’t get into this.


To the OP the focus is not the number six but the number seven as explained by some really great post.

Cmodrmac, How do you know it is not to taken literal? If you believe that God could create out of nothing then why could not create the universe aged in day one, or if God create the stars why could he not be powerful enough to create the the light from the stars to Earth at that very moment. As a Catholic you are free to believe that God created the world in six literal days or that it is a Hebraic construction that reveals God created the world in an orderly way and established a covenant with Adam and extension us from the moment of creation. In other words that we have a special and personal relationship with God that other creatures do not enjoy.

I personally do not believe in six literal days, but comments like “it is not to be taken literal” have no weight.

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