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Examining Supposed Creation Passages in the Psalms

Introduction

In a series of articles, I am examining a long list of supposed creation passages compiled by Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe (RTB). Ross contends that these passages, when properly integrated with the creation account of Genesis 1–2, leads to the conclusion that the world is billions of years old. This seems to be an admission that the creation account of Genesis 1–2 indicates that the creation was not very long ago. Furthermore, my examination of the list shows that none of these other passages reveal anything about God’s acts during the creation week that requires reinterpreting Genesis 1–2 in terms of billions of years.

In the first article, I gave an overview of the series, along with six errors that Ross committed when assembling his list. I concluded the first article with a discussion of passages on that list from the book of Genesis. In the second article, I discussed passages on the list from the book of Exodus through the book of Job. In this third article, I continue the series with a discussion of passages in the list from the book of Psalms.

Psalm 8

Spurgeon called this the psalm of the astronomer.

Spurgeon called this the psalm of the astronomer. Driven by his awe of the night sky, David was inspired to write Psalm 8, where, in considering the heavens that God has made, David asked, what is man’s significance? The answer is firmly based in creation, in that God made man just a little lower than the heavenly beings, yet he has made man the crown of creation, with glory and honor. This is because man is uniquely made, as Genesis describes, in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Furthermore, Psalm 8:6–8 reasserts man’s dominion over creation, again echoing Genesis 1:26. While this message is consistent with the Genesis 1 account, it does not add any new information that would alter the literal six-day interpretation.

Psalm 19:1–6

Psalm 19:1–6 is an important support passage for the dual-revelation theory.1 The first verse proclaims a purpose for the heavens (to declare God’s glory), which is not found in Genesis. Verse 2 mentions speech and knowledge in this proclamation. While the KJV verse 3 states, “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard,” the word “where” is not in the original Hebrew, and most commentators believe that that word ought to be omitted. Therefore, verse 3 is better rendered (as NASB, NIV and other modern translations have), “There is no speech or language, their voice is not heard.” This reading emphasizes that the message of the creation is non-verbal (cf. NET translator notes). As such it is subject to misunderstanding, much as non-verbal human communication is easily misunderstood. The remainder of the Psalm (verses 7–14) is about special revelation, which is verbal communication. What special revelation can achieve in its communication is very specific, and it goes far beyond what general revelation can do. Thus, Psalm 19 is a contrast between what general and special revelation can teach us. Rather than giving license to reinterpret Scripture considering what the majority of modern geologists and cosmologists say about the age of the creation (as Ross does), Psalm 19 functions as a mild warning that our understanding of general revelation cannot trump the clear teaching of special revelation.

Psalm 24:1–2

Psalm 24:1–2 tells us that the world and all that is in it is the Lord’s because he made them. Again, while this ascribes possession to God, nothing here alters the understanding of the creation event that would be plainly understood from the Genesis text.

Psalm 33:6–9

Psalm 33:6 states that the word of the Lord made the heavens and that the host of the heavens was made by his mouth. This use of parallelism is a classic hallmark of Hebrew poetry. Notably, God spoke the expanse/firmament into existence on day two, and then he populated the heavens by the word of his mouth on day four. This echoes the commands in Genesis 1:14, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens.” Psalm 33:7 (another use of parallelism) states that God gathered the waters as a heap and laid the deep in storehouses, which echoes the gathering of the waters into one place on day three (Genesis 1:9).2 Psalm 33:8 declares (again using parallelism) that all the earth ought to fear the Lord and all its inhabitants should stand in awe. Psalm 33:9 gives the reason for this, stating that when God spoke, it was done, and when he commanded, it stood fast. This is a strong implicit reference to the rapid formation of the universe in direct response to the spoken word of God. It is inconsistent with the notion of creation gradually taking place over long expanses of time (billions of years). The only new information about creation that is introduced in this passage that is not explicitly mentioned in Genesis 1 is the statement that God “commanded” the heavens into existence—but even that may be inferred from Genesis 1 given the semantic overlap between the verbs “said,” “spoke,” and “commanded.”

Psalm 50:6

While Psalm 50:6 mentions the heavens, it is out of keeping with the context to count this as a creation passage. The heavens are also mentioned two verses earlier in verse 4, in that God will call to the heavens above and the earth to judge his people. This reflects upon passages such as Deuteronomy 4:26 and 30:19 where God calls upon heaven and earth to behold the covenant he had forged with his people, that they might be “witnesses” if Israel violated its covenant commitment. Psalm 50 carries this idea forward, issuing to Israel a covenant indictment (which, admittedly, is more common in the prophetic literature than in the Psalms). In any case, the context is God’s judgment, not creation. That the heavens are part of God’s creation is merely assumed here, so this verse does not qualify in any meaningful sense as a “creation account or passage,” as Ross lists it. (Note also that the first part of this verse is repeated in Psalm 97:6.)

Psalm 51:5

Psalm 51:5 is not about creation week; instead, it is about how the world now exists, corrupted by sin.

Psalm 51 is David’s famous lament after Nathan confronted him because of the sin he had committed with Bathsheba. Verse 5 is David’s acknowledgement that he was conceived in sin. This is a comment about original sin and the fact that we are born with a sinful nature. As such, Psalm 51:5 is not about creation week; instead, it is about how the world now exists, corrupted by sin. Any connection to creation has to do with God’s involvement in the formation of a new life ever since he supernaturally created Adam and Eve (note the reference to conception). However, this verse does not necessitate any sort of old-earth or evolutionary reinterpretation of Genesis 1–2.

Psalm 65:5–13

Early in this passage, there is a statement that God established the mountains by his strength and power (verse 6). This could allude to creation, but the passage also speaks of the sustenance of the world, with rainfall and the growth of grain (verses 9–13). The bulk of this passage more properly addresses God’s providential sustaining of the world rather than his acts of creation.

Psalm 72:5–7

Psalm 72:5 mentions the sun and moon, and verse 7 mentions the moon, which may be why these three verses are included in the list of creation passages. However, verse 17 mentions the sun in much the same manner, though it is not on the list. The context is God’s sovereignty, since it states that all will fear God as long as the sun and moon endure (verse 5), that there shall be peace as long as the moon endures (verse 7), and that his name shall continue as long as there is a sun (verse 17).3 There are other aspects of the natural world that this psalm alludes to, such as mountains (verse 3), seas (verse 8), and verdant plant growth (verse 16). Even so, this passage makes no mention of creation, and it does not constitute a “creation passage.”

Psalm 74:12–17

These verses address some aspects of creation. However, as always, we must look at this passage in context. Most psalms are self-contained, so what is the message of this Psalm specifically? It begins with a lament that God has abandoned his people (verses 1–11). The passage in question reminds us of his mighty works, and then the Psalm concludes (verses 18–23) with a plea for God to overthrow his enemies. What of God’s mighty works? Some are clear allusions to his acts of creation, such as the ordination of night and day and the making of the sun (verse 16). This is a reference to day one and day four of the creation week.

Noticeably, if one assumes based on this that the entire passage is about creation, as Hugh Ross does, then it follows that the description of the breaking the heads of the dragons in the water and leviathan of verses 13–14 indicates that there was death before sin. However, is this indeed the case? Verse 14 goes on to mention that the Leviathan became food for people in the wilderness, but before the Fall, when could this have been? There is no good answer to that question, so it is doubtful that these verses really are a creation passage. Given the mention of feeding people in the wilderness, verses 13–14 appear to be a poetic description of the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13–31). Verse 15 could be a reference to the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 3). Verse 17 credits God with the establishment of summer and winter and appears to be an allusion to Genesis 8:22 after the Flood. One could respond that while Genesis 8:22 is the first explicit mention of summer and winter, the seasons could have existed prior to this time. However, verse 17 also credits God with setting the borders of the earth. This sounds as if it may refer to God’s promise not to flood the world with water again (Genesis 9:8–17). If so, then in the typical fashion of ancient Hebrew poetry, verse 17 would refer to the post-flood world, not to the creation week. In summary, the intent of Ross’ list here probably is to associate death with the pre-fall era, but it is doubtful that Psalm 74:12–17 is a creation passage.

Psalm 89:5–12

As with other passages cited on this list, Psalm 89:5–12 mentions things created by God, with the implication that this passage is about the events of Genesis 1. But is it? The heavens are mentioned in verses 5, 6, and 11, but the heavens also are mentioned in verse 2, which is outside of the passage cited. This is a psalm of praise, with God’s faithfulness established in the heavens (verse 2), the heavens praising the Lord’s wonders (verse 5), asking who in the heaven can be compared to the Lord (verse 6), and acknowledging God’s ownership of the heavens (verse 11). God’s rule over the seas is stated in verse 9. Amid this, verse 10 mentions the defeat of God’s enemies.4 Obviously, this did not happen during creation week. Hence, while this Psalm makes use of things created to make its point, this is not a creation passage.

Psalm 90:2–6

Psalm 90 . . . acknowledges God as Creator, but it does more than that.

Psalm 90 was penned by Moses. Verse 2 acknowledges God as Creator, but it does more than that. It establishes that God existed long before he created the world, which is indicative of his eternal nature. God is timeless in that a thousand years are but as a day or a few hours of the night in God’s sight (verse 4). This is contrasted to the very brief existence of man (verses 5–7), expounded further in the psalmist’s reference to man’s typical 70-year lifespan (verse 10). The emphasis here is God’s judgment, not creation. As Creator, God is the legitimate and ultimate Judge. It is fitting that the Apostle Peter referenced Psalm 90:4 in his discussion of God’s future judgment of the world (2 Peter 3:8). Some have used the words of Moses and Peter to support the day-age theory, but that interpretation divorces the verses from their context. These verses offer no support for taking the days of Genesis 1 as figurative of hundreds of millions or even billions of years, as Ross does. Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 are statements about the nature of God, not the nature of the days of Genesis 1.

Psalm 93:1–2

Psalm 93 is a psalm of praise. As in Psalm 90, it is acknowledged that God established the world and that God is eternal. But it is irrelevant to the correct interpretation of Genesis 1.

Psalm 37:2

It is not clear why this passage is out of order on the Matter of Days (MoD) list. Psalm 37 is a psalm of encouragement, and it begins with an admonishment not to fret over evildoers. Verse 2 assures us that they shall be cut down like grass and whither like a green herb. This is reminiscent of Psalm 90:5–7, which may be the reason why this verse is included in the RTB list. However, creation is at best hinted at here, so this is not a creation passage.

Psalm 95:4–5

Verses 4–5 teach that God made the sea and his hands formed the dry land, which is an obvious allusion to day three of creation (Genesis 1:9–10). Verse 6 explicitly acknowledges God as our Maker. However, these verses give no basis for reinterpreting Genesis 1.

Psalm 95:11

This passage may be a misprint on Ross’ list. Psalm 96:11 calls upon the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that it contains to rejoice. The wording is nearly identical to Psalm 69:34 and Isaiah 49:13. However, none of those passages are on the list. But these verses have nothing to do with the interpretation of Genesis 1. Psalm 95:11 states that God, in his anger, would not allow those who disbelieved Him in the wilderness to enter his rest. Hebrews 4:3–5 quotes this verse in comparing salvation to entering God’s rest (Hebrews 4:8–11). Hugh Ross appeals to Hebrews 4, along with the fact that the Genesis account contains no explicit mention of the beginning or end of the seventh day of the creation week, to argue that the seventh day is ongoing, and hence not a literal day. He extrapolates this to mean that the other days of the creation week were not literal days. I shall return to this topic when we discuss Hebrews 4:1–11 on the RTB list in a future article.

Psalm 97:6

The first part of this verse, “the heavens proclaim his righteousness,” is a repetition of the phrase from Psalm 50:6, though the context is different. Psalm 50 is about God’s judgment; Psalm 97 is about the power and dominion of God. As with many other passages on the MoD list, this passage is not about creation week but merely assumes that God created to make another point.

Psalm 98:2–3

It is not clear why Psalm 98:2–3 is included as a creation passage. It states that God has revealed his salvation and righteousness before the nations and that the ends of the earth have seen this. Perhaps the intended connection to creation is the phrase “the ends of the earth,” but this does not serve to reverse a straightforward understanding of Genesis 1–2.

Psalm 102:25–27

Ross uses the phrase “of old” in verse 25 to support the notion of billions of years, but that is unwarranted.

This passage states that God made the earth and heavens of old. The heavens and earth will grow old like a piece of clothing, but God remains. And, as an old garment, one day God will change the heavens and earth (Psalm 102:26b; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). Psalm 102:25–27 links the original creation to the future heaven and earth. Both Hugh Ross and several recent creationists would understand the wearing out in the context of the second law of thermodynamics. Ross uses the phrase “of old” in verse 25 to support the notion of billions of years, but that is unwarranted. Notably, the Hebrew word panim, which means “faces,” is here used in a rather uncommon idiomatic fashion. It carries the sense of “the former times,” or “the earlier period” (cf. Deuteronomy 2:10, 12; Joshua 11:10; 14:15). As such, it is a strikingly indefinite time reference, and may not be pressed into service to argue that the days of creation were long expanses of time.

Psalm 104

Psalm 104 clearly is a psalm about God’s care for his creation. However, is it a psalm about God’s creative acts in Genesis 1? More specifically, does Psalm 104 describe the creation as it originally existed prior to the Fall, or does it describe the creation as it now exists If Psalm 104 describes the original creation, then verse 21 indicates that carnivorous activity existed from the beginning, despite the fact that Genesis 1:29–30 implies otherwise. While Psalm 104:1 refers to God, verses 5 and 19 refer to a few of God’s creative acts in Genesis 1 on day 1 and day 4, the rest of the psalm refers to creation as it exists at the time of the psalmist.5 The order things are mentioned in the psalm contradicts the order in Genesis 1, but no chronological markers guide the reader through the psalm as we find in Genesis 1. Also, the psalm mentions things that did not exist in Genesis 1: rain, wine, oil, Lebanon, ships, death, and wicked sinners. Chaffey (2012, p. 121) has rightly observed that Hugh Ross “has often interpreted poetic passages like Job 38 or Psalm 104 in a literal fashion, while simultaneously treating [the historical narrative of] Genesis 1 in a non-literal manner.” While this is a psalm about creation, it is not as an account of the creation of the world at the beginning.

Psalm 105:29

Psalm 105 praises God for the wonders that he had performed on behalf of Israel. Much of the psalm deals with God’s mighty works in delivering Israel from bondage in Egypt. Verse 29 states that God turned Egypt’s water into blood and cause their fish to die, a reflection on the first plague in Egypt (Exodus 7:14–25). To include this as a “creation passage” is very misleading. The first plague was possible because of God’s dominion over nature. However, most of the other plagues are mentioned here (Psalm 105:30–36), so why single out this one plague over all the others? And why present it as a “creation passage”?

Psalm 119:64

Psalm 119:64 teaches us that the earth is full of the Lord’s mercy. It has no perceivable relationship to the creation event. It is clearly not a creation passage.

Psalm 121:2

Psalm 121:2 tells us that help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The emphasis of this verse is that God is our help, which is predicated upon God’s power as demonstrated by his work in creation. This verse acknowledges that God is the Creator but says nothing that would alter the young-earth understanding of Genesis 1.

Psalm 124:8

Psalm 124:8 is very similar to Psalm 121:2, except that it states that our help is in “the name of the Lord,” and that the promise is stated in the first person singular rather than the first-person plural. Again, it is irrelevant to the interpretation of Genesis 1.

Psalm 125:1

Psalm 125:1 states that those who trust in the Lord are like Mt. Zion—the mountain cannot be moved and will abide forever. This does not appear to relate to creation. Perhaps Dr. Ross intends to press into service the verse’s reference to Mt. Zion abiding “forever” as an indication of the supposed great antiquity of the earth (i.e., billions of years). However, that is not the sense of the verse. The Hebrew does not refer to the existence of Zion from antiquity past; rather, it suggests that it will endure “unto perpetuity.”

Psalm 134:3

As with so many of the passages from the Psalms, Psalm 134:3 acknowledges the Lord as the One who made heaven and earth. This is part of a blessing, but it adds nothing to our understanding of Genesis 1.

Psalm 135:6–7

Psalm 135 praises God for the wonders he performed in overcoming the pagan neighbors of Israel. Verses 6 and 7 emphasize the Lord’s control over the world. Verse 6 tells us that the Lord does what he pleases in the heaven, the earth, the seas, and all the deep places, while verse 7 informs us that he is responsible for rain, lightning, and the wind. This concerns creation as it now exists not as described in Genesis 1.

Psalm 136:3–9

The only possible information about creation revealed here that is not found in Genesis 1 is that God made the heavens skillfully (or, in the KJV, with wisdom) and that God spread out the earth.

Psalm 136 sometimes is called the Great Hallel. Each of its 26 verses concludes with the memorable refrain “for his mercy endureth for ever” (KJV). The psalm recounts God’s wonders, beginning with creation and continuing with the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and conquest of other nations, and concludes with God’s provision. The references to creation are found in verses 5–9, which tell us that God skillfully made the heavens, spread out the earth above the waters, and made the great lights—the sun to rule by day, and the moon and stars to rule by night. The only possible information about creation revealed here that is not found in Genesis 1 is that God made the heavens skillfully (or, in the KJV, with wisdom) and that God spread out the earth. The spreading of the earth is mentioned in only two other places, Isaiah 42:5 and Isaiah 44:24. In both of those verses, the spreading out of the earth is in parallel with the stretching of the heavens. There is a parallel in Psalm 136 between verses 5 and 6, though verse 5 does not include mention of the stretching of the heavens. In any case, nothing here is indicative of the age of the universe or the length of the days of creation.

Psalm 139:1–18

In Psalm 139, David acknowledged that God, in his omniscience, knew everything about David. Verses 13–15 emphasizes that God even knew about David as he developed in his mother’s womb. This psalm is irrelevant to how God made the first man or brought the rest of the world into existence.

Psalm 146:6

As with Nehemiah 9:6, this verse echoes Exodus 20:11 in stating that God made heaven, earth, sea, and all that is in them. It says nothing about when and how long God created.

Psalm 147

Psalm 147 recounts God’s control over the world. Verse 4 says that God counts the stars and calls them all by name. Verse 8 credits God for the rain that makes crops grow. Verse 9 says that God is responsible for feeding the animals. Verses 16–18 acknowledge God’s control of snow, ice, cold, and wind. This chapter discusses the operation of the world today, not its original creation.

Psalm 148

Psalm 148 calls upon things in the world to praise God. They include the heavens (vv. 1, 4), sun, moon, and stars (v. 3), various animals (vv. 7, 10), weather phenomena (v. 8), and mountains and plants (v. 9). People too are called to praise God (vv. 11–12). “He commanded, and they were created” (v. 5) echoes Psalm 33:6–9, which echoes the repeated refrains in Genesis 1 “and God said . . . and it was so,” which is consistent with young-earth creation but not Ross’s old-earth view.

Conclusion

In this third article in a series examining Hugh Ross’ claim of many biblical creation passages apart from the creation account of Genesis 1–2, I have discussed those passages from the book of Psalms. In the next article, I will continue my study with the passages on Ross’s list coming from the book of Proverbs through the book of Isaiah.

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