John Walton proposes that “…on day one God created the basis for time; day two the basis for weather; day three the basis for food.” (p. 58) This continues his argument that Genesis 1 is about the creation of function, not material (see proposition four to backtrack). Day one is “the great cycle of time” (p. 55), which is why sun and moon can be created later. It isn’t that God created material light before the sun and moon (Walton notes that “light is never treated as a material object in the ancient Near East, despite our modern physics on p. 53), but the concept to which “light” points = time.
Day two is the great water barrier in the sky. Again, we can’t think of this through our scientific lens. We know the sky is not a solid and the ancients did not. Walton proposes that we remember the main objective is function and for the ancients the sky created “a space in which people can live” and “a mechanism by which precipitation is controlled”. (p. 56) We understand the sky in a similar ways regarding function, though we have a much better understanding of the atmosphere and how weather patterns occur. Nevertheless, again, a “concept” is created. Like time in day one we have weather in day two.
Day three is the concept of harvest. God makes a place where food can grow.
This trifecta of time, weather, and food is paralleled by other ancient near eastern texts like Papyrus Insinger and Enuma Elish (p. 58). Likewise, after the flood God frames his provision in these terms in Genesis 8.22 promising as long as there is time there will be weather and food.
Walton ends the chapter by emphasizing God had to speak through ‘…the framework of the target audience.” God used their understanding of the cosmos to reveal himself as Creator. Overall I give Walton’s basic argument the benefit of a doubt. I agree that the first few days are primarily about concepts though I am not totally convinced the ancient separated material from function to the degree that Walton proposes. Nevertheless, it maintains a better reading of Genesis 1 than many other options.