SEDER OLAM - Revisited

סדר עולם - חדש



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Index of names


Generations  1-14
(3760 - 2080 BCE)

Generations 15-21
(2080 - 1240 BCE)

Generations 22-28
(1240 - 400 BCE)

Generations 29-35
(400 BCE - 440 CE)

Generations 36-42
(440 - 1280 CE)

Generations 43-49
(1280 - 2120 CE)

Generation 50

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The Six Days of the Creation

Strictly speaking, this section is not and should not be part of this study. Why? Because these "days" only belong to a "time" outside human history. Adam was only created on the sixth day, and this is when the world, as we know it, is measured in terms of human chronology. By Adam, the Bible refers to the first human being who was inspired by God, who created him at His image. This means that, whatever human beings existed before Adam, they were part of the Creation but they were not inspired by a divine soul. In other words, they were closer to the animal kingdom than to the mankind as we know it. They were surely intelligent animals, and indeed every animal has a certain level of intelligence. It would look strange to many but every living creature, such as animals but also trees and plants, has some form of intelligence. This intelligence may be very basic but it includes at least an instinct for life preservation. We can witness this instinct in animals of course, but Science also starts to acknowledge there is such instinct in trees and plants as well. But intelligence is not soul... if we define soul as the part within us which is "divine" in its origin. Jews call it the neshama, which is different from intelligence, spirit, knowledge, instinct, or whatever we may call the other forms of intelligence. The neshama is this part of God inside us, and which makes us utterly different from animals and anything else in the Creation.

The chronology of the world, Seder Olam, only starts from the moment that God made the person called Adam, thus to say when God introduced a human being capable of representing Him in the world that was made before him.  

But what happened before Adam? This is what the Bible refers to the "six days" of the Creation. So let's consider these days for a moment. Needless to say, from an atheist's point of view, there is no creation and there is no creator. So this site is not for those who do not believe in a creation. For the believers in a creator, it is still puzzling to mention "six days" when Science is proving that the Universe is about 13.8 billion years old ! As for the Earth, it is supposed to have been formed some 4 or 5 billion years ago, and is assumed to have been populated by all sorts of animals such as dinosaurs for millions of years, and then by "humanoids" (the prehistorical "men") for about 150,000 years.

How can we reconcile both points of view? Simply put, these pre-Adam "six days" are not "human days" in the sense that they are not days that a human had experienced. How could they be "days" as we know them today when the first man made as "His image" was only made on the 6th "day"? In other words, these 6 days are "godly" days, because the only reference point by which Time was measured before the arrival of Adam was God. And a "godly" day could well correspond to billions or millions of what we now know as "days" or "years". Those who study Physics already know the relativity of time (and space) as a scientific fact, which is surely difficult to grasp by the vast non-scientist world: time is not a constant fixed notion, because it depends on the reference point from which it is measured or observed. This was demonstrated some 100 years ago by Einstein in his Theory of the Relativity. He proved that Energy and Matter are the same thing, and that Time and Space are also another same thing. Time cannot be dissociated from the space or reference point from which it is measured. Let's take a simple example: anyone sitting on his chair reading these lines can state he is not moving. Yet, from an hypothetical observer located anywhere wlese outside the planet Earth, he would see that person travelling in space at the speed of that the Earth on itself and at the speed that the Earth travels around the Sun, and even (if that observer is located outside our galaxy) at the speed that our Solar System is moving inside our galaxy. Who is right? The person sitting on his chair saying he is not moving, or the observer saying that person is moving at very fast speed in space? Both are right, as it is simply a matter of reference point. So, these six days of Creation were indeed days for anyone (only God) who experienced them. But, for us, humans who were outside these six days, we can see them as a very long time (billions of years), the same way the outside observer mentioned before could see a person travelling at very fast speed sitting on his chair.

This simple fact is hinted in the Biblical text itself, in two ways. The first chapter is related to God's work of the Creation. From the second chapter start the Creation to operate as we know it, by human perception. But the timing of the first chapter is entirely related to the divine: the hint is that
it contains 31 verses. The number 31 is 1+ 30. The number 1 is the so-called Day One (not "first" day), as unique starting point: the Creation. The number 31 can thus be written as 1 (letter א) and 30 (letter ל). Together they form the word אל, pronounced El which denotes the divine. But one may say: the first 31 verses also contains the creation of man, and counting of time would have started from this point. That is a valid point. But then the creation of man is narrated in verse 27, which means that the first 26 verses corresponds to the "divine" timing: indeed the number 26 is the number of God's name (the tetragram). So either way, 31 or 26, these are two hints to teach us that the worksof the Creation, before mankind, were not human "days" but were from a different "divine" clock.

So before Adam, there were no "Adam days" (our way of measuring days and time today), but there were only "God days" and God alone experienced them: His "days" are not the same as our days. The Book of Job confirms this point:

Are Your days as the days of a man (אֱנוֹשׁ), and Your years as the days of a strong man (גָבֶר)? 
--- Job 10:5 

If Science is proving to us that the whole Universe started some 13.8 billion years ago, then so be it ![4] It only means, from those who believe in a Creator, that the first godly day of the Creation occurred at that time. And, in fact, we can surely also say that these billion years are only billions years used by a human reference point of today. In other words, we today translate the "six godly days" of Creation into billions of "human days". But the reality is that we have no way to know or measure what a day meant back then during these "six days". The Bible only gives us a hint of what God could have meant by "day" at that time:

And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening (עֶרֶב) and there was morning (בֹקֶר), one day.
--- Genesis 1:5

This simple verse is actually quite straightforward. First the Light of the first day had nothing to do with the light coming from our Sun today, becase the Sun had not been formed as yet in the first day. That Light of the first was the light that enabled the world, as it came to be formed in the subsequent "days" to exist. A separation had been necessary to extract that Light from the chaos of the immediate Creation. And the notion of "godly day"is even defined further in this verse: it is the passage from "evening" to "morning". But again, this evening and morning have nothing in common with our human evenings and mornings. In these godly days, these two words meant a different thing: evening is formed of the Hebrew word
עֶרֶב which means confusion, like the image of a human evening can be today, when daylight and darkness are mixed up during a sunset. And the Hebrew word used for morning is בֹקֶר which means the discernment, in a sense of one can start to see what is happening (the same root is used for the word visit). So these godly six days had nothing to do with our human days: God defined His days as milestones in His Creation, when he could bring and make the world forward from some chaos (symbolized by evening/mixture) into more order (symbolized by morning/discernment), in order to sustain each step of the Creation. The separation of Light and Darkness was necessary in the first day otherwise the world would not have been able to continue its existence. The analogy of this separation may be better understood with the concept of matter and antimatter: matter must be separated from antimatter otherwise, if both are merged, both get annihilated into a burst of energy, in other words they both go back to the primal chaos/void of Creation. It is the separation of matter from antimatter that enables something to exist.   

What is interesting is that Science does not contradict the Bible... Why? Science proves to us that the whole universe started with a Big Bang, meaning one spark when Time and Energy started, then Space and Matter could become formed some time later. Science calls this the Big Bang, but cannot explain why there was such single event, and believers call it the Creation, and believe that God caused it to happen. At some point, some scientists tried to check if the universe was compressing and expanding, in a sort of cyclic motion that would take billions of years to evolve. But this has been proven to be incorrect: there was only one Big Bang, and the universe has been expanding ever since. No way back to the "start" ! So, as of today, the Creation ex-nihilo is confirmed by Science. Then, the normal intellectual process should be to ask oneself about the significance of this now proven scientific fact... And the Bible is here to help it asit starts with these simple three words:

-  בְּרֵאשִׁית  (pronounced Bereshit) which is generally translated as "At the beginning": it refers to time and indicates that some "clock" (in a non-human reference point, whether God or else) started to tick; Time was part of the Big Bang or Creation, so didn’t even exist before that "start"

- בָּרָא  (pronounced Bara) which means "created": so here comes the word that makes the difference between believers and non-believers; the Bible tells us that what happened at that above-mentioned "start" was not the result of some random occurrence from a matter or time or else that didn't even existed, but it was the direct consequence of a Creation; Bara states that there was creation; non-believers have a hard time to explain the unexplainable (how or why it all started in that Big Bang); but believers make their life easier: it was an act of God

 - אֱלֹהִים (pronounced Elohim) which is the name assumed by God in His master plan of Creation: in other words, He was that creator of that start  

The order of these three words (start -> creation -> Elohim) may be viewed as a suggested proofing of God existence, although it is obviously a matter of faith for each individual as there is no proof that God exists, the same way that there is no explanation of the occurrence of that Big Bang start. But the way the Bible opens its narration seems to tell us about a simple 3-step intellectual thought that everyone can have: 

1- everyone can question oneself about the concept of Time, meaning whether time was always there or whether time started at a point and whether there was anything before time; surely Science makes this thought process easier today than before the 20th century, because it has already proven that Time started at one single instant (the Big Bang) and that there was nothing "before" (as everything has expanded ever since, with no cyclic effect as previously assumed); so Science has proven that Time had a start ! This is the message of the first Biblical word Bereshit: there was a start or beginning

2- then, if there was such one beginning then it necessarily means that there was a creation (ex nihilo)... this step is surely contentious with Atheists but is there another explanation to offer? It seems obvious enough that if there is a beginning  before anything ever existed (matter, energy, space, time), then there is no reason for something to start; although Science cannot do such speculation (as it would have to "prove" it), everyone else can ! This is the message behind the second word of the Bible, Bara

3- then... if there is a creation, there is a Creator ! And this is the third word that becomes obvious, Elohim

Why would God have chosen this sequence of words to open the most important book for humanity? He could have started more simply as: "God created first etc."? We can only speculate on the answer. For me, it shows a great lesson of humbleness from God as He didn't choose to put His existence, or the faith into it, as the first very word of His book, His legacy to human race. Rather He must have considered that the Bible will be universal and would be read by believers, non-believers and sceptics alike. If the Bible had started with the word "God", sceptics may have closed the book saying, "I cannot believe the existence of an entity called God." But rather, the start "at the beginning", then "creation", then "God" invites any thoughtful person to think for a moment to this very basic question: "Was there a start to everything?" Then the rest of the thought process leads to the existence of... God.

Modern science is in fact very useful because, although it doesn't explain the Big Bang, it does explain what happened next and how. In the text of the Bible, the word Bara (ברא) for creation is also only used in the first verse of the Bible. This is how the great Jewish thinker Nahmanides (about 1194-1270) interpreted this word in his classic Commentary: God only used the act of creation on the very first moment of the first day (His "day"). Everything else ever since, as the Bible describes it, has been evolution, modulation, formation, etc. but not Bara. Science also says the same: there was only one Big Bang. In the past 14 billion years, no such event ever occurred again. Evolution is also alluded to in the Bible in some respect because it tells us, "day by day", that God "shaped" His creation after His initial creation in order that it would follow His plan. So, according to the Bible, nothing in the observed evolution was random. This is another point of contention with non-believers who believe that evolution was entirely random. However, some mathematicians actually calculated the probability of random evolution and could only conclude that the time it would take to really happen far exceeds the time assumed for the Earth (4.5 billion years) and eventhe Universe (14 billion years) : in other words, the assumption of random evolution is "mathematically impossible". All what we see and measure cannot have happened by random occurrence because, even if one singlemathematically impossible event would have really occurred by random (because "mathematically impossible" does not strictly mean "impossible"), the complexity of Nature around us would have required an infinite number of mathematically im possible events to have evolved in the way it is. The Bible rather tells us that there was a "master plan" that started from the Big Bang, went on with the cooling period of energy and the formation of basic matter, then onto more cooling and more matter formation to heavier elements to form the universe and the galaxies, then more cooling into these galaxies to form the stars and their systems of planets (and the Earth in the Solar system), then our planet saw the formation of inert objects and structures, then the elements to sustain Life, then Life itself, then living creatures, then… mankind.  

Everyone knows the old saying that “the world could not have been created in one day” because it took seven days. Well… God actually "created" (Bara) everything He needed in one day, the first day, and didn’t need seven days. After that first day, there has been ongoing evolution, but provoked evolution rather than random evolution. To show this, let’s look at what the Bible says, day by day:

Day of Creation

What happened

Which verb is used

Genesis verses

Day “One”

Creation of Heavens and Earth


ברא     created

ויאמר   said


Second Day

Firmament, Waters

ויעש     made


Third Day

Land, Vegetation

ויאמר   said


Fourth Day

Luminaries of the sky

ויעש     made


Fifth Day

Living creatures in sea and sky

Great sea-monsters and reptiles

ויאמר   said

ויברא   has created


Sixth Day

Living creatures on earth

Original "Adam" (with both genders)

ויעש     made

נעשה   let us make



The Biblical text of the Creation is actually corroborated by what Science has proven. It was done in the following order, or evolution:

1- The initial Big Bang, some 13.8 billion years ago: the Biblical text calls it the "Day One" because that particular day was the unique day when there was "creation"; Light was not immediately created at the moment of the Big Bang, but was forced to "appear" by divine order, and extracted itself to separate from the "void and unformed"; Science recently proved that light only appeared some 380,000 years after the Big Bang.[1] And, better, it proved that, before that time, the Universe was a hot dense "soup" where basic particles such as protons and electrons would interact but not join together, and that they trapped everything in that soup including the potential release of energy/light; in other words, this is similar to the Tohu and Bohu described in the Bible, meaning the "unformed and void" state of the Universe. Then came the divine order: Let it be Light (Genesis 1:3). The elements started to join together and light was first emitted, and thus could escape the "soup": this is what the Biblical text refers as God dividing the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:4). 

2- Formation of the firmament, meaning the stars, solar systems and their planets, and, maybe surprisingly, water as well [2]

3- Later, on Earth, water made room for the continents which rose above sea levels; then vegetation would start to grow

4- Then the movement of the planets in the Solar System was stabilized, and maybe the Moon was "captured" by the Earth gravity at that time, so that, altogether (Sun, Moon, Planets, Stars) would serve as luminaries for mankind to mark the passing of time, seasons and cycles that now govern human life

5- Then Life finally appeared, but in the sea and in the air first; this is not contradictory to Science which says that all life on Earth started from marine organisms before evolving in the air and on earth; note that this verse also mentions a "creation" (word ויברא): this is when God created the "sea-monsters" and the "creatures that creep"; these giant animals were "had been created" by God Himself to populate the sea and the earth. What were they? Maybe the legendary leviathans in the sea and the known dinosaurs on earth?

6- Finally, more creatures appear on earth, "made" out of the existing created materials; this is evolution, not creation

In summary, we should not talk about the (six) days of Creation but just about the Day One of Creation.[3] Everything else since (except for the large animals that populated the sea and earth in the early times of the earth being formed) has been evolution, with God's intervention from time to time to provoke it.

What about mankind and the 5000 years that the Bible is attributing to it? Science shows that humanoids appeared on Earth some hundreds of thousand years ago, until the Homo Sapiens came some 150,000 years ago. But civilization, as we know it, started when humans started to have the form of intelligence that enabled them to extract themselves from the rest of human creatures on Earth. When did this happen? Well everyone may have some opinion about it as there is no real consensus. But the Bible states that it started with a person called Adam, formed by God according to His image, and that God was able to talk to him. Speech is surely a good reference point for the start of civilized world. So the 5000 or so years of the Bible are not counted from the appearance of intelligent humanoids called the prehistorical men, but from the time God formed one particular person, Adam, to whom He placed a neshama (divine soul).

let-it-be-light on Make A Gif
"Let there be Light" (Gustave Doré, 1868)

Science and God

People generally think that scientists are not believers in the existence of God. But is this the case? Here are comments made on this topic by some  scientists:

Max Planck (1858-1947), the father of Quantum Physics, Nobel Prize 1918, stated the following:

"As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter."
--- Planck's speech "The Nature of Matter"  at Florence, Italy, 1944

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), the author of the Theory of Relativity, said:

"I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details."
"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."
--- cited from the site Albert Einstein's Site Online

Allan Sandage (1926-2010), the astronomer who discovered the quasars, National Medal of Science 1970, said an wrote:

"The world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone. I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together. Each part of a living thing depends on all its other parts to function. How does each part know? How is each part specified at conception?"
--- Sandage, Allan, "A Scientist reflects on religious belief", Truth, vol. 1, 1985, page 54

"I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence - why there is something rather than nothing."
--- New York Times, 12 March, 1991, p. B9

Owen Gingerich (1930-present), Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University, wrote:

“It would take only small changes in numerous physical constants to render the universe uninhabitable. Somehow, in the words of Freeman Dyson, this is a universe that knew we were coming.”
--- Gingerich, Owen, "God's Universe", 2006


[1] Devlin, Hannah, "Let there be light: how the Universe looked after Big Bang", article published in The Times, Friday 22 March 2013; also in the BBC Science & Environment web site

[2] We will come back to the question of the water in the chapter about the Flood

[3] About the "six days"of the Creation, Dr Gerald Schroder offers the view of a scientist in his article Age of the Universe; to read it, click here

[4] In 2012, scientists have created a "timeline of the universe" clearly showing it had a start, some 13.77 billion years ago; see NASA's WMAP map

Copyright © Albert Benhamou 2013 - All rights reserved.