I've been studying Genesis lately in my time off. As I was studying Genesis 1 a few thoughts occurred to me.
1. The reason Genesis 1 was written is explained in verse 1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This is the summary statement for the whole chapter. Genesis 1 serves as a record of God's creative activity, and displays that our God is creative. But more than this verse 1 makes a clear statement of fact that God is the one who brought our world into existence, not any other power or force.
2. Genesis 1 does not exist to serve as a timetable so we can figure out the amount of time God used to create the world. First, Biblical Hebrew was a pre-scientific language. The Hebrew language was a very artistic and picturesque language. So, rather than describe exactly and scientifically the amount of time it took God to do his work, the activity of God was described and summed up by days.
3. In biblical interpretation we must allow the author's original purpose of the text to come though in our interpretations. That means we don't force the text to mean something in today's highly scientific world that it didn't mean in Moses' pre-scientific world.
So, what was Moses' purpose? To make a very direct statement that God is the sovereign author of all creation. He is bigger than his creation. So as the Israelites sat poised to take the promised land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, when they read the account of creation it would cause them to know that God is over all. Also, they would see that other nations were worshipping the mere things (sun, moon, stars, trees, rocks, etc.) that had been created by the God of Israel. Therefore, the gods of the other nations were powerless while the God of Israel was in full and sovereign control.
Does Genesis 1 describe 7 literal 24-hour-days? Maybe, but what does it matter because that was not Moses' purpose in writing Genesis 1. Unfortunately we major on this one point when we come to Gensis 1. Can you see the Israelites as they're about to move into the promised land arguing over whether Moses meant literal days or figurative days? Doubtful. They knew that their God had created the land and so he had the power to give it to them as he was doing.
Okay...so I suppose that will stir you all up and get some fun comments. Don't be too hard on me.