There is a simple way to see how the Bible itself points to figurative interpretation of Genesis 1. To see it, one must approach the text with the heart of a Berean, with a mind that’s open to questions, but even more open to the Word. Discerning the nature of the text requires neither science nor fancy theological analysis. Understanding comes from recognizing the passage’s spiritual origin, rather than treating it as purely human-generated, and paying attention to what it really says, rather than what people claim it says. Open your eyes, and take a look at Genesis 1 from a Biblical standpoint.
When we look at the text, we need to know what we are looking for. Are we trying to prove a point, or are we seeking truth? In this case, science has raised a question about the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1, and we are seeking to answer that question from Scripture. Asking questions is fine, but we have to seek answers with the right motive.
In this case the question is whether the creation account in Genesis 1 could be figurative, because traditional literal interpretation is at odds with scientific investigations.
The question mainly has to do with the first chapter of Genesis. Looking closely at the text, some key differences become apparent that set it apart from the rest of Genesis. The narrative flow suddenly breaks, jumping backwards in time. The literary style shifts abruptly, and the name of God changes. Compared to the simple narrative of the following text, Genesis 1 has a profoundly majestic style that many hear as something different than mere history. This shift doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but it does set Genesis 1 apart as a text that can stand on its own.
Another thing that sets the text apart is that, unlike other historical narratives, the initial chapter had no human witness. Therefore, the narrative must have been given supernaturally; it is a divine oracle. In the Old Testament, God communicated supernaturally through prophets, and such communication was almost always figurative. The profound majestic style of Genesis 1 is much more in line with a figurative divine oracle than literal historical narrative.
These observations show that a figurative nature is reasonable, but it is made certain by the text itself. At the end of the creation account, God rested, a statement echoed in Exodus 20:11. The term used can mean several things, but the proper interpretation is that He ceased and got His energy back. We know that this is the proper interpretation because it is the one that God told Moses to proclaim in Exodus 31:17. This is clearly figurative, because God does not tire as a human. In other words, the interpretation that God told Moses to proclaim is one that takes Genesis 2:2-3 figuratively.
Here is the difference between humbly seeking truth, and simply trying to prove a point. There are two verses outside Genesis that explicitly mention six days, and they are not the same. Anyone trying to justify traditional thought would only choose those verses that support their desired belief, but anyone seeking truth would consider both. Hence, creationism arguments frequently quote Exodus 20:11, but almost always ignore Exodus 31:17. But if we have the heart of a Berean, then we will listen to all of God’s counsel and carefully consider both verses.
In summary, we see that Genesis 1 is set apart from the rest of the narrative as a supernatural divine oracle that God Himself takes figuratively. This means that the text gives no concrete timeframe, so we look to science for physical understanding. There is no conflict between the science of creation and the Biblical text, in fact science is giving us a better and better view of God’s eternal power.