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Creation and Time

by Dr. Hugh Ross, M.Sc., Ph.D. (from his book "Creation And Time")

Nearly half the adults in the United States believe the God created the universe within the last 10,000 years1-2. What reason do they give? "The Bible says so."
Meanwhile, more than 99 percent of America's practicing scientists view this idea as more far-fetched than the hypothesis that the earth is flat. Their reason? "The scientific record says so."
On no other issue has such a large segment of the American populace been in such direct opposition to the scientific community. On no other issue have the words of the Bible been pitted so sharply against the facts of nature.
Can science be trusted? Is the Bible Flawed? Can that many Americans be wrong? Are scientists involved in a grand conspiracy to hide the facts from the public? Is there any hope of reconciliation?
In the following pages you will read my responses to all these questions, and most importantly, to the last one. I am convinced there is hope for reconciliation, a reconciliation that requires no compromise from either the biblical or the scientific side of the issue.

What's All the Fuss About?

For the past two hundred years the scientific and religious worlds have thundered at each other in a series of battles over God. Traditionally, the conflict has focused on these key questions:
- Does God exist?
- If He does, is He the God of the Bible?
- If He is the God of the Bible, how involved was He in forming the universe, the earth, the first life-form, subsequent life, and the human race?
- Is the Bible free of contradiction and error?

In the past thirty years, however, the debate has veered away form these core issues. Now the battle line has been drawn over a peripheral point - the age of the universe and of the earth.

Ours is the first generation that has witnessed the measuring of the universe, including its date of birth. In demarking the universe, astronomers in many respects are measuring the creation. In measuring the creation, they are determining several of the characteristics of the Creator, even certain aspects of His personality. This scientifically revealed Creator uniquely and decisively matches the character and characteristics of the biblically revealed God3.

Ironically, this exciting news is being ignored or rejected less by opponents of Christianity than by many Christians. Why? Because it threatens belief in a recent creation date for the universe.

This belief in a recently created universe has inoculated a large segment of secular society from taking seriously the call to faith in Christ. Worse yet, the courts in North America have come to perceive as the central issue. Thus a pretext has been provided - the "Christian dogma" of a thousands-of-years-old universe and earth - for discounting the credibility of the Bible and for removing "religious notions" from public education and the public arena.

The creation date for the universe also has divided the Christian community into hostile camps. Often young-universe and old-universe creationists focus more energy on defending their respective positions than on reaching out to non believers.

Meanwhile, an even larger segment of the Christian community hovers on the sidelines. Lacking the theological and scientific tools to resolve the issue for themselves, they remain distressed and confused. In the midst of this confusion, many long for simplicity, for a universe not so mindboggling, vast and complex, and for answers untainted by the presumed corruption of secular research.

In their bewilderment and longing, many Christians react by refusing to support organizations that use science as a tool for reaching others for Christ, and they refuse to use science in their sharing of the gospel with non Christians. Thus, not only does the faith of these Christians remain unstrengthened by scientific evidences, but also many secularists who need solid evidence to resolve their doubts remain untouched by the claims of Christ. Further, such secularists perceive evangelical Christians as anti-intellectuals, as individuals who "park their brains at the front door of the church."

A Needless Controversy

Few Christians comprehend just how destructive the age issue has become. The sad irony is that age need not even be an issue. But because it is, numbers of nonChristians turn away from the Christian message.

The three creation accounts of the Bible (Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and Psalm 104) emphasize most strongly the who of creation. To a significant degree they explain the how of creation. And to a much lesser degree they discuss the when of creation.

Given that the Bible teaches centrally about the steps men and women may take to form a relationship with their Creator, this order of emphasis is entirely appropriate. Misidentifying God or His key attributes could destroy the possibility of a person's relationship with Him. Misunderstanding God's strengths, capacities, and past works can impair the success of a such a relationship. But misidentifying the timing of God's past works in the cosmos has little or no bearing on that relationship. Nor does it bear upon the Bible's authority. It appears ill-advised, then, to make an issue out of such a trivial doctrinal point.

Many Christian claim the Bible can be interpreted as teaching that all creation took place in six, twenty-four-hour days - about 10,000 years (104 years) ago. Other say the text allows ample room, with no compromise of inerrancy, for a birth date of the cosmos of about 10,000,000,000 years (1010 years) ago.

Meanwhile, nontheists are being pushed by the evidence to concede that the age of the universe must exceed 10100,000,000,000 years for life to have self-assembled by natural processes. Thus believers in the Creator are separated from unbelievers by a hundred billion zeros in the index while young-universe creationists differ from old-universe creationists by only six zeros. For creationists to make an issue of such a relatively trivial difference seems both impolitic and unnecessary.

The emotionalism associated with the young- versus old-universe debate also is unnecessary. Science is an attempt to interpret the facts of nature. Christian theology is an attempt to interpret the words of the Bible. Since, according to that theology, God created the universe and is also responsible for the words of the Bible, and since He does not lie or deceive, there can be no contradiction between the words of the Bible and the facts of nature. Any conflict between science and Christian theology must be attributed to human misinterpretation. Such conflicts should be viewed with neither fear for the integrity of the Bible nor outrage against science, but rather should be accepted for the time being as indications that further research is needed. The Christian expectation is that such research will lead to greater understanding of both science and theology and to an eventual reconciliation that will uphold both the Bible and the data from nature.

Poisoning the Wells

Secularists are delighted that a majority of evangelical Christians believe in a young universe and a young earth. They are confident that they can exploit such a belief to win court cases related to teaching about creation in public institutions. Of greater importance, they believe that by discrediting Genesis, they can demonstrate a flawed Bible. Thus they can use this "faulty creation message" to discredit Christ's deity, the inerrancy of Scripture, the sanctity of life, the second coming, doctrines on heaven and hell, etc. After all, many Bible authors and Jesus Himself strongly endorsed the message of the Genesis creation account. If they could be so wrong on creation, what basis is there to believe anything else they declared?

An example of this line of reasoning is articulated in the book Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality:

The fundamentalists argument against the scientific assertion of the great age of our planet - to the effect that God created the earth only about 6000 years ago, including fossils embedded in rocks - is unworthy of serious discussion...... It is now recognized by every intelligent and informed person that the two [Genesis and science] cannot be reconciled......Nor should we be guilty of the error of assuming that the problem related only to Genesis. It touches the New Testament as well.4

Many secularists use the age of the universe to marginalize, patronize, and abuse the Christian community. They marginalize - that is, minimize and isolate - by consistently equating all Christians with young-universe creationists. The term creationist, for example, is rarely qualified, even though one can be creationist without also adhering to the young-universe view.

They patronize with such statements as this: "If you are a creationist, the Bible - not nature - dictates what you believe." 5 "The spurious stories in Genesis are simply absurd. Yet, they do represent a conceptual framework from the undisciplined imagination of a prescientific age."6 "The biblical story of creation has great poetic beauty and metaphorical power."7 They patronize by exhorting high school science teachers to forbid classroom discussion about creation and to redirect students to discuss such issue's "outside the domain of science" with their families and clergy.8

They abuse in their name-calling. Michael Ruse's oft-quoted railing against creationists is a prime example:

There are degrees of being wrong. The Creationists are at the bottom of the scale. They pull every trick in the book to justify their position. Indeed, at times they verge right over into the downright dishonest...... Their arguments are rotten, through and through.9

Enemies of the Faith

Obviously these attacks have had an unfavorable impact on the Christian community. Small wonder so many Christians look fearfully, suspiciously, or bitterly at scientists and treat science as a hostile enemy of the faith.

Sadly, many Christians who are scientists by profession or hobby have been blasted by their brothers in the crossfire. Christians who believe that the Bible is true and that the universe and the earth are as old as the stars and rock reveal are called "compromisers," whose lives and work "do not lead to soul-winning or spiritual growth, but to apostasy."10 Lists of these apostates have been published: Calvin College geologist, David Young; Pattle Pun and all his science faculty colleagues at Wheaton College; most of the authors and officers of the American Scientific Affiliation; former young-universe creations, Dan Wonderly; Alan Hayward; Charles Hummel; Howard Van Til; and Hugh Ross. (Yes, my name shows up on the lists, too.)

Russell Akridge, addressing the 1982 Annual Creation Convention, berated astrophysicists and astronomers as "high priests of the decades-old cult [of the] Big Bang myth, [and as] persuasive speakers [who] have deceived an unsuspecting public."11

Apostasy and disinterest in evangelism are serious charges to hurl at specific evangelical leaders. Such words engender hostility rather than harmony. Similarly, accusing all of the world's astronomers and astrophysicists of cultism, promoting myths, and purposeful deception gives slight likelihood of winning many friends from those disciplines.

With so much gasoline on the flames, does any hope exist for a peaceful resolution? I believe so. I am persuaded that more than enough evidence is now available to resolve the issue. No compromise of integrity is required by either side, not by the scientist who trusts in the established facts of nature, nor by the Christian who upholds the inerrancy of God's written word.


Genesis 1 states that within six "days" God miraculously transformed a "formless and void" earth into a suitable habitat for humanity and then created human beings from dust. The meaning of the word day, of course, is the focal point of the creation time-scale controversy. Does it, or does it not, represent a contradiction between Scripture and Science?

The answer to that question depends on whether the time period indicated must be a twenty-four-hour day or whether it can refer to something like millions of years. Most Bible scholars would agree that a correct and literal interpretation takes into account definitions, context, grammar, and relevant passages from other parts of Scripture.

While young-earth creationists assert the "plain meaning" of the text rules out all but twenty-four-hour creation days, a careful look at various textual elements points to a different conclusion. Old-earth creationists find many scriptural reasons, apart from science, for interpreting the creation days as long time periods. Here are key considerations:

1. The length of God's days. The same author of Genesis (Moses) wrote in Psalm 90:4 "For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that had just gone by, or like a watch (four hours) in the night." Moses seems to state that just as God's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:9), God's days are not our days.

2. The Hebrew words yom, 'ereb, and boqer. The Hebrew word yom, translated day, may be used (and is) in biblical Hebrew, as it is in English, to indicate any of three time periods: (a) sunrise to sunset, (b) sunset to sunset, (c) a segment of time without any reference to solar days (anywhere from weeks to a year to several years to an age or epoch). This does not mean, however, that yom can be interpreted as referring to an indefinite time or infinite time.

William Wilson, in his Old Testament Word Studies, explains that yom is "frequently put for time in general, or for a long time, a whole period under consideration.....Day [yom] is also put for a particular season or time when any extraordinary event happens."12

Even in English - which includes many more words than Hebrew for describing time periods - such expressions as "my grandfather's day" or "the day of dinosaurs" are common. Biblical examples would be Genesis 4:3 (yom=process of time); Genesis 30:14 (yom=wheat harvest time); Joshua 24:7 (yom=a long season); Proverbs 25:13 (yom=harvest time); Isaiah 4:2(yom=a future era); Zechariah 14:8(yom=summer + winter); and many references to the day of the Lord (yom=forty-two months or more, depending on one's interpretation of certain end-time prophecies).

The Hebrew word 'ereb, translated evening, also means "sunset," "night," or "ending of the day."13-14 And the word boqer, translated morning, also means "sunrise," "coming of light," "beginning of day," "break of day," or "dawning," with possible metaphoric usage.15-16

In other words, evening and morning refer to the beginning and ending components of "day," however it is used. For example, "in my grandfather's day" refers to my grandfather's lifetime. So the morning and evening of his day would be his youth and old age.

Young-earth creationists have argued for twenty-four-hour days on the basis that yom when attached to an ordinal (second, third, fourth etc.) always refers to a twenty-four-hour period. This argument can be challenged on several counts. For one, it is true only for passages describing days of human activity rather than days of divine activity. For another, nowhere else does the Bible have the occasion to enumerate sequential epochs. More important, the rules of Hebrew grammar do not require that yom must refer to twenty-four-hours, even when attached to an ordinal.

Hosea 6:2 prophesies that "after two days he [God] will revive us [Israel]; on the third day he will restore us." For centuries Bible commentators have noted that the "days" in this passage (where the ordinal is used) refer to a year, years, a thousand years, or maybe more.17-19

Young-earthers also hold the view that the Hebrew word 'olam (as opposed to yom) would have been used to indicate a long time period. However, Hebrew lexicons show that only in post-biblical writings did 'olam only refer to a long age or epoch. In biblical times it meant "forever," "perpetual," "lasting," "always," "of olden times," or "the remote past, future, or both." But the range of its usage did not include a set period of time.20-21

3. The function of a chronology. A study of other chronologies in the Bible reveals a common characteristic; They record sequences that are both significant and discernible to the reader. The timing and order are important because they show the careful unfolding of God's plan and affirm His control. The discernibility provides a tool for validating the message of God's spokesmen. Examples from my own theological perspective include: Jeremiah 31:38-40 (a prediction, now fulfilled, of the location and construction sequence of Jerusalem's nine suburbs during the second rebirth of Israel as a nation); Daniel 9:24-27 (a timetable for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the Messiah's coming and death, the destruction of Jerusalem, years of desolation, and final restoration); and Daniel 11:2-35 ( a prediction, since fulfilled, of the chronology of victories, defeats, and intrigues of various kings and kingdoms of the Greek and Roman eras). The supernatural accuracy of such chronologies not only proves their inspiration but also gives assurance for today and hope for tomorrow.

Recorded events not intended to be time discernible to the reader are presented without the use of sequence markers. For example, in Act 6 Luke does not indicate the order in which the first seven deacons of the church were chosen. He lists the names in random order because there was no special significance to the order of their selection.

For the creation days, long time periods during which increasingly complex life-forms were created, indeed, are verifiable and essential to validate the supernatural accuracy of the writer's statements. But if all creation were completed in six twenty-four-hour days, the most sophisticated measuring techniques available, or even foreseeably available, would be totally incapable of discerning the sequence of events. Thus a major use of the chronology would be thwarted.

4. The unusual syntax of the sentences enumerating specific creation days. Looking at the word-for-word translation of the Hebrew text, one finds this phraseology: "and was evening and was morning day X." The New International Version phrases the time markers this way: "And there was evening, and there was morning-the Xth day." The word arrangement is clearly a departure from simple and ordinary expression. It creates an ambiguity. If "day X" were intended as the noun complement for the one evening and morning together, the linking verb should appear just once, in plural form (as the King James Version renders it): "And the evening and the morning were the Xth day." We would expect the literal Hebrew to say, "and were evening and morning day X." But it does not. This syntactic ambiguity does not constitute a proof. However, it does suggest that "day" here is to be taken in some unusual manner.

5. The uniqueness of the seventh day. Of the first six creation days Moses wrote: "There was evening, and there was morning - the Xth day." This wording indicates that each of the first six creation days had a beginning and an ending. However, no such wording is attached to the seventh creation day, neither in Genesis 1-2 nor anywhere else in the Bible. Given the parallel structure marking the creation days, this distinct change in form for the seventh day strongly suggests that this day has (or had) not yet ended.

Further information about the seventh day is given in Psalm 95 and Hebrews 4. In these passages we learn that God's day of rest continues. The writer of Hebrews stated,

For somewhere he [God] has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work."...It still remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest. (4:4-11)

According to this passage, the seventh day of the creation week carries on through the centuries, from Adam and Eve, through Israel's development as a nation, through the time of Christ's earthly ministry, through the early days of the church, and on into future years. King David in Psalm 95:7-11 also refers to God's seventh day of rest as ongoing.

From these passages we gather that the seventh day of Genesis 1 and 2 represents a minimum of several thousand years and maximum that is open ended (but finite). It seems reasonable to conclude then, given the parallelism of the Genesis creation account, that the first six days may also have been long time periods.

Supporting evidence for the seventh day as an ongoing period of rest from creating comes from John 5:16-18. Here, Jesus defended His healing on the Sabbath by saying that God, His Father, "is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." Jesus' appeal is that He is honoring the Sabbath the same way His Father is. That is, His Father works "to this very day" even though the very day is part of His Sabbath rest period. God - both the Son and Father - honors His Sabbath by ceasing from the work of creating. The Sabbath does not preclude healing people any more than it precludes a man from changing his baby's diaper on his day off from work.

The fossil record provides further confirmation of an ongoing seventh day, a day of cessation from creative activity. According to the fossils, more and more species of life came into existence through the millennia before modern man. The number of species going extinct nearly balanced the number of introductions, but introductions remained at least slightly more numerous. Then came human beings.

In the years of human history, the extinction rate for species of life has remained high while the introduction rate measures a virtual zero. Estimates of the current extinction rate vary widely, from a low of one species per day to a high of five species per hour.22,23 Though humanity's influence on that rate is significant,24 even without it, at least one species per year goes extinct.25,26

As biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich report, "The production of a new animal species in nature has yet to be documented." Furthermore, "In the vast majority of cases, the rate of change is so slow that it has not even been possible to detect an increase in the amount of differentiation.27 Obviously a tremendous imbalance between extinctions and speciation now exists.

The creation days of Genesis, if long, provide an explanation. For six days (the fossil record eras) God created new life-forms. After the creation of Adam and Eve, however, God ceased from His work of creating new life-forms (the seventh day), and His rest, or "cessation," continues to this day. (He is still at work in other, providential ways.)

6. The events of the sixth day. Genesis 1 tells us that the land mammals and both Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day. Genesis 2 provides further amplification, listing events between Adam's creation and Eve's. First, God planted a garden in Eden, making "all kinds of trees to grow out of the ground." Then Adam, after receiving instructions from God, worked and cared for the Garden of Eden. After that, he carried out his assignment from God to name all the animals (the nephesh creatures - i.e., all the birds and mammals). In the process Adam discovered that none of these creatures was a suitable helper and companion for him.

Apparently Adam had sufficient interaction with the plants and animals of the garden to realize that something was missing from his life. Next, God put Adam into a deep sleep, performed an operation and, after Adam awoke, introduced him to the newly created Eve.

Adam's exclamation on seeing Eve is recorded in Genesis 2:23 as happa'am. This expression is usually translated as "now at length" (see also Genesis 29:34-35, 30:20, 46:30; Judges 15:3), roughly equivalent to our English expression "at last."

Still later on the sixth day Adam and Eve received instructions from God concerning their responsibilities in managing the plants, animals, and resources of the earth, a length communication, one can imagine. Altogether, many weeks', months', or even years' worth of activities took place in this latter portion of the sixth day.

Some twenty-four-hour proponents argue that Adam's intelligence was so much higher before he sinned that he could do all these tasks at superhuman speed. This argument fails to account for Adam's response to Eve and, just as important, for the following five matters:

a. There is no biblical basis for suggesting Adam functioned at superhuman speeds before he sinned.
b. The Bible never claims that intellect (as opposed to wisdom) is correlated with the degree of sin in one's life.
c. Greater intellect would not significantly impact Adam's sixth-day tasks and experiences
d. Adam in his perfect state would be all the more meticulous in performing his God-assigned tasks.
e. Jesus, though He was perfect in every way, did not perform His carpentry work and other everyday activities at a much faster than normal rate.

7. The wording of Genesis 2:4. This verse, a summary statement for the creation account, in the literal Hebrew reads, "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day of their making." Here the word day refers to all six creation days (and the creation of the universe that took place prior to the first creative day). Obviously, then, this is a period longer than twenty-four-hours. Hebrew lexicons verify that the word for generation (toledah) refers to the time between a person's birth and parenthood or to a arbitrarily longer time span.28 In Genesis 2:4 the plural form, generations, is used, indicating that multiple generations have passed.

8. Biblical figures of speech for the earth's age. In describing the eternity of God's existence, several Bible writers often compare it to the longevity of the mountains or the "foundations of the earth." The figures of speech used in Psalm 90:2-6, Proverbs 8:22-31, Ecclesiastes 1:3-11, and Micah 6:2 all depict the immeasurable antiquity of God's presence and plans. The brief span of a 3000-year terrestrial history (in the context of the wisdom literature) seems an inadequate metaphor for God's eternality. The fact that the Bible does consider the antiquity of the founding of the earth a suitable metaphor for God's eternality suggests the biblical view of a very ancient earth.

9. Explicit statements of earth's antiquity. Habakkuk 3:6 directly declares that the mountains are "ancient" and the hills are "age-old." In 2 Peter 3:5, the heavens (the stars and the universe) are said to have existed "long ago."


Though not an exhaustive treatment of the subject, these nine considerations come from Bible passages directly addressing the length of the creation days.

To order this book "Creation And Time" go to: Reasons to Believe Catalog


Ross Hugh, Ph. D., "Creation And Time" Navpress, (1994) Reasons to Believe, p.7-15,45-52

Dr. Hugh Ross's References :

-1. Gallup, George, "Creation/Evolution Debate goes On," Los Angeles Times Syndicate, quoted in The Sacramento Bee, 28 August 1982, p.B7.

-2. Scott, Eugenie C., "Gallup Reports High Level of Belief in Creationism" National Center for Science Education Reports, vol. 13, no. 3. (1993), p.9.

-3. Ross, Hugh, "The Creator and the Cosmos (Colorado Springs, CO: Nav-Press, 1993).

-4. Allen, Steve, "Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, & Morality" (Buffalo, NY: Pometheus Books, 1990), p.19-20.

-5. Hazen, Robert M., and Trefil, James, "Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy" (New York: Doubleday, 1990), p.243. (Hazen and Trefil may not be secular humanists, but they do provide breif summaries of the stated positions of secular humanists on creationism.)

-6. Brix, H. James, "Interpreting Evolution: Darwin & Teilhard de Chardin" (Buffalo , NY: Prometheus Books, 1991), p.98.,

-7. Hazen and Trefil, p.244.

-8. Johnson, Phillip E., "Darwin on Trial" (Washinton, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1991), p.141.

-9. Ruse, Michael, "Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies" ((Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1982), p.303,321.

-10. Morris, Henry M., and Morris, John D., "Science, Scripture, and the Young Earth" (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 1989), p.67.

-11. Akridge, Russell, "A Recent Creation Interpretation of the Big Bang and Expanding Universe," Bible-Science Newsletter (May 1982), P.1, 4.

-12. Wilson William, "Old Testament Word Studies (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1978), p109.

-13.Brown, Francis; Driver, S.R.: and Briggs, Charles A., "A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament" (Oxford, UK: Clearendon Press, 1968), p.787-788.

-14. Harris, R. Laird; Archer, Gleason L.; and Waltke, Bruce K., "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament", vol.II (Chicago: Moody, 1980), p.694.

-15. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, p.133-134.

-16. Harris, Archer, and Waltke, "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament", vol.I, p.125.

-17. Wilson, p.109.

-18. Calvin, Jean, "Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, Volume I: Hosea, trans." John Owen (Edinburgh, UK: The Calvin Translation Society, 1846), p. 218-219.

-19. Given, J.J., "Hosea," The Pulpit Commentary, vol.13, Daniel, Hosea, and Joel, ed. H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (Grand Rapids, MI:.Eerdmans, 1950) p.166-167.

-20. Harris, Archer, and Waltke, "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament", vol.I, p.672-673.

-21. Tregelles, Samuel P., "Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament" (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), p.612-613

-22. Lewin, Roger, "No Dinosaurs This Time," Science 221 (1983), p.1169.

-23. Raloff, Janet, "Earth Day 1980: The 29th Day?" Science News 117 (1980), p.270.

-24. Raloff, p.270.

-25. Ehrlich, Paul R.; Ehrlich, Anne H., ; and Holdren, J.P., "Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment" (San Fancisco: Freeman, 1977), P.142.

-26. Ehrlich, Paul R.; Ehrlich, Anne H., "Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species" (New York: Ballantine, 1981), p.33

-27. Ehrlich and Ehrlich, p.23

-28. Harris, Archer, and Waltke, "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament", vol.I, p.378-379.

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