However, this passage is just one of five in the Pentateuch (Exodus 20:9–11; 31:15–17; 35:2; Leviticus 23:3; Deuteronomy 5:12–15) that address the fourth commandment. For all five passages the preposition “in” is not present in the original Hebrew text. For three of them (Exodus 35:2; Leviticus 23:3; Deuteronomy 5:12–15), no connection at all is drawn between God’s workweek and humanity’s. For the remaining two passages, the calendar-day support would hold only if neither the word for “day” nor the word for “Sabbath” were ever used with reference to any time period other than 24-hours. However, just like yôm has variable usage, so does shabbat (“Sabbath”).
In all five passages, the Sabbath rest for humanity is referred to as “a sabbath,” indicating that there may be more than one kind of Sabbath. Hebrew scholar Gleason Archer noted, “By no means does this [Exodus 20:9–11] demonstrate that 24-hour intervals were involved in the first six ‘days,’ any more than the eight-day celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles proves that the wilderness wanderings under Moses occupied only eight days.1
Sometimes a sabbath is a full year, as in Leviticus 25:4, where God commands a 12-month rest period for agricultural land. Sabbaths for God’s physical creation appear to be related to the biological limits of His creatures. Thus, a 24-hour rest period every seven calendar days is appropriate for humans, while a 12-month rest period every seven years is best for agricultural fields. Since God is not subject to biological limits, His “rest” period can be of any duration He chooses. Thus, the mention of a sabbath in Exodus 20:9–11 seems to be a reference to the pattern of one out of seven, not the precise duration of the creation days. Therefore, the creation days need not be interpreted as 24-hour periods based on Exodus 20.
For a more in-depth treatment of the Exodus 20 passage as it relates to RTB’s understanding of the length of the Genesis creation days, see chapter 8 of my book A Matter of Days, a new edition of which will be released this spring.