This is such a simple concept that I almost feel ridiculous writing about it, but YECs have swarmed this blog lately. I thought non-literal numbers in the rest of the Old Testament merited a mention.
Charles Isbell was my first professor of Old Testament (though I’m sure it may have grated on his nerves as a Jewish professor to teach a course called “Introduction to the Old Testament” at a secular university like LSU). One of the books assigned for this course was Isbell’s God’s Scribes. In that book, though I can’t put my hands on it anymore, I remember there being a chapter on non-literal use of numbers in the Hebrew Bible. Even as an evangelical, this chapter didn’t really bother me at all. People use non-literal numbers all the time. All that to say, Young Earth Creationism is absolutely lost on me.
I believe there are almost innumerable examples of non-literal use of numbers in the Bible. Here are a couple of candidates:
- 2.5 million people leaving at the time of the (Exodus 12:37) Not likely (though I also realize that some have argued that “thousand” may not really mean “thousand” there).
- 430 years of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41) – Exodus 6:14-25 actually only calculates 4 generations between Levi and Moses. That this time period lasted 430 years seems doubtful to me.
- The ages of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 20) – I’ve always wondered what the King of Gerar would have wanted with a perhaps nearly 90 year-old, barren woman, but maybe that’s just me.
- Jeremiah’s 70 years (25:11) – Jeremiah said the people would serve the King of Babylon for 70 years after the land became a ruin and waste …. Nope, at least not if one reads the 70 absolutely literally.
Perhaps not all of these would work, but there are a myriad of other candidates. These are just the first that sprang to mind. I would obviously add to this list of non-literal use of numbers – 6 days of creation, the life spans of people in the book of Genesis, the numbers in the flood account (since they don’t all agree) … and, oh yes, the age of the earth if you calculate it based on the Book of Genesis.