When Does the Day Begin?
Abstract: Understanding that the ordinary Scriptural calendar day was reckoned from daybreak to daybreak (or dawn to dawn) is essential for understanding Genesis 1, Exodus 12, Deut. 16, and many other scriptural passages, including Hosea 6:1-3, and passages concerning the timing Messiah’s death and resurrection. When a day begins is a foundational truth to understanding the Torah and the Prophets, and Messiah’s exact fulfillment of the third day prophecies.
Post AD 70 Judaism typically claims that a day always begins at sunset, and has forgotten the Temple Era definition of the day. This post Temple dogma is 180 degrees wrong, and diametrically opposed to the Chronology of Messiah. A day always begins at the daybreak and only the twenty-four hour period for a Sabbath is an exception! Messianic Jews and Messianic Israelites, along with most other Christians have followed Judaism headlong into this error, despite the fact that a minority of top Jewish and Christian scholars have pointed out the error, including Hebrew Scholars Franz Delitzsch (Commentary on Genesis) and Jacob Milgrom (JPS Torah Commentary on Genesis). The logic and language of Scripture refutes the sunset tradition as does applied historical chronology.
We do not share the presupposition of the traditionalists that the sunset day is correct, but require historical proofs based only on accurate translation of the original Hebrew, the scientific method, and sound linguistics, and not circular reasoning from the tradition or authorities. We require historical proof to be based on mutually accepted sources without the contamination of the erring tradition, which would render proof circular or invalid. We require and present the proof based on the facts alone.
I. A literal day is defined from dawn to dusk.
II. The ordinary twenty-four hour period, as defined in scripture, is a day and a night. One period is a cycle of day and night timed from the dawn of one day to the dawn of the next day.
III. The twenty-four hour period of all Sabbaths are defined as a night and a day. The twenty-four hour period of the weekly Sabbath is defined to start with the sunset after the sixth literal day, and ends with the sunset (or dusk) at the end of the seventh literal day. There are therefore two types of twenty-four hour periods, one for the ordinary calendar period, and another for Sabbaths.
IV. A regular twenty-four hour period is called a calendar day, and it is understood that day in this context means a period of time, and not a literal day.
The literal day is defined in Gen. 1:3-5a:
Then the Almighty said ‘Let there be light.’ Then there was light. Then the Almighty saw the light, that it was good. Then the Almighty separated between the light and between the darkness. Then the Almighty called the light ‘day.’ We see here that the literal day is defined as the light, and so it is limited to the time between dawn and dusk. The light that was seen first was the dawn, a mixture of light and darkness. The dawn is further defined as a separating of the light from the darkness of Gen. 1:2. When the separation is complete, the full light is called ‘day,’ and logically this ends when the light goes away.
The twenty-four hour calendar day is added onto the definition of the literal day in Gen. 1:5b:
And darkness he has1 called ‘night’: Then there was setting; then there was daybreak; one day. One day is understood as one calendar day, or one twenty-four hour period, which started with the creation of light at the first dawn, and then ended at the next daybreak, ready to start a new day. The ESV study bible explains:
There was evening and there was morning, the first day. The order—evening, then morning—helps the reader to follow the flow of the passage: after the workday (vv. 3–5a) there is an evening, and then a morning, implying that there is a nighttime (the worker’s daily rest) in between. Thus the reader is prepared for the next workday to dawn.
So the ordinary twenty-four calendar day is timed from one daybreak to the next daybreak. I will break this down more later.
The weekly Sabbaths begin at sunset at the end of the sixth day. This may be proved from Genesis 1:31,
Then the Almighty saw all which he had made, and behold it was very good. Then there was setting. Then there was daybreak: the sixth day. This verse is the first time Scripture says ‘all which he had made’ (כָּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה). The word ‘all’ implies that nothing was made after seeing ‘all which he had made.’ None of the previous statements say ‘all which he had made,’ (cf. Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25.) But the seventh time this phrase is uttered, two additional elements are included, ‘all which he had made,’ and ‘behold’ to get us to take notice, and the adjective ‘very’ before ‘good.’ And the final use of ‘good’ is the seventh time it is used in the account. These facts confirm that nothing more was made after Elohim ‘saw all that he had made.’
Following the statement that the Almighty saw everything, it says, “Then there was setting” (וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב), vayehiy-erev. Following sequential order, this setting is the evening or sunset at the end of the sixth literal day. The Almighty was already resting by this point in time. The Hebrew phrase ‘then there was setting’ opens up with what is called a waw consecutive, the va in vayehi, which in Biblical Hebrew was pronounced, wa. The letter (ו) vav in Biblical Hebrew is called waw. A waw consecutive is used in narration of a story by a story teller. It is not used in direct discourse (when an actual person is quoted as speaking). The waw consecutive is the story teller’s way of saying ‘and then next …,’ which is simply translated ‘then.’ It is always attached to a verb. ‘Then the Almighty saw all’ also begins with waw consecutive. This is followed by ‘then there was setting.’ This is followed by ‘then there was daybreak,’ vayehi voqer. Another waw consecutive is used. The term ‘consecutive’ is used to indicate sequence. The waw consecutive tells us the sequence or order of events. So the order is that God saw all, then next there was sunset, and then next there was daybreak. The text then says, ‘the sixth day’ (יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי). Here the text is referring to a calendar day lasting from Gen. 1:24 to the end of 1:31, which includes a day and a night, or twenty-four hours from the dawn that started the sixth day, to the dawn that ended the sixth calendar day. The Almighty, however, began to rest just before sunset on the sixth calendar day.
Genesis 2:1 begins,
So the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. The waw used here (וַיְכֻלּוּ), vayekhullu, is a concluding waw, much like the English ‘then’ is used to mean ‘therefore’ or ‘so.’ A concluding or summarizing waw may be distinguished from a waw consecutive by context only. By default the waw is consecutive, but if the statement with a waw makes no sense as a sequence, and does make sense as a summing up, then it is a concluding waw.
Genesis 2:2 begins with
So the Almighty was finished on the seventh day from his work, which he had done. So he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. Here we have two more concluding waw’s, since they are saying the exact same thing as Gen. 2:1, only in different words. I have translated ‘So he was finished’ (וַיְכַל) as a Qal Passive: וַיְכֻל. This is a form which linguists recognize as valid, but the Rabbis and Masoretes did not. The active form has to be translated ‘So he finished’ vs. Qal Passive, ‘So he was finished.” The active form implies that something was made on the seventh day, and that he finished at some point on the seventh day, that was the seventh day. This has caused translators no end of difficulty. The LXX even translated, ‘and God finished on the sixth day’ (ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ ἕκτῃ) to avoid the problem verb. 2 Probably the Qal Passive was no longer recognized after the Babylonian exile. As we have seen from our exegesis of Gen. 1:31, he did finish on the sixth day, and he was finished on the seventh day. He actively finished on the sixth day, and was passively finished on the seventh day.
The first definition of ‘day’ in Genesis is ‘light,’ which is dawn to dusk. The literal light is between dawn and dusk, so the first definition of day is about twelve hours. The meaning of ‘begin’ vs. ‘end’ is that a beginning must come first and and ending must come last in sequence. So the beginning of a literal day is at dawn, and the ending of it is at dusk.
A second definition of a ‘day’ is a calendar day. A calendar day includes a night in the cycle of day and night. According to Scripture a calendar day is from dawn to dawn, or from one daybreak to the next daybreak. Sabbaths are not regular calendar days. Sabbaths begin with the night before the beginning of a literal day, and last a night and a day. Sabbaths span halves of two calendar days. The weekly Sabbath contains the night at the end of the 6th calendar day, and the day at the beginning of the 7th calendar day. When the scripture speaks of the seventh day as the Sabbath, it is ordinarily speaking of the day part, but it is understood that it is sanctified beginning with the night before the seventh day.
Now, we will find that understanding a calendar day to be from dawn to dawn is essential for understanding nearly everything in biblical chronology having to do with days. Correct observance of the Torah is otherwise bound to go off track, or at the very least to be rendered confusing. Also you will find that correct understanding of the Levitical services and how days are timed for offerings depends wholly on the dawn to dawn day. Finally, the dawn to dawn day is necessary to properly understand Messiah’s death and resurrection and the prophesies of the ‘third day.’
First let us go to Exodus 12:6. The Passover lamb was to be slain ‘between the settings’ (בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם) on the 14th day. The Hebrew word baeyn (בֵּין) means ‘between.’ Ha- (הָ) means ‘the,’ and ervayim is is made of the word erev (עֶרֶב) and the dual ending ayim. The dual ending is often confused with the plural ending iym. The dual ending means a plural of two. The word עֶרֶב means the ‘setting’, or the ‘going down’ of a light source. I avoid the definition ‘sunset’ because the word is used in Genesis for situations that do not involve the sun, but only the light that the Almighty created. Strictly erev refers to ‘setting’ of some light source. Except for the first days of Genesis, however, it does refer to the setting of the sun in usage.
In English we say the sun is ‘setting’ or ‘going down’ perhaps up to an hour before it actually disappears. We might say that the sun is ‘declining’ at anytime after noon, but not ‘setting.’ Biblical Hebrew did not make such a technical distinction as English between ‘declining’ just after noon, and setting about an hour before sunset. The same word עֶרֶב is used to refer to all phases of setting. In some dialects of English ‘evening’ refers to the afternoon as well as time after sunset, and so comes closer to the Hebrew erev.
Now עֶרֶב in Hebrew may also refer to time after sunset so long as dusk can be detected. Erev always refers to the setting of the light at the end of a literal day. So the dusk light refers to light contained in one literal day, dawn to dusk. “Then Elohim called the light day.” The light is not only a visible source. It is all the light from dawn to dusk that is defined as ‘a day.’ It is only by legal tradition that a literal ‘day’ is said to end at sunset. It should be understood, however, that as much dusk as there is belongs to the literal day going before the night begins. So if a legal day is to end at sunset, then the ‘dusk’ is not being counted as part of the legal ‘day.’ If the dusk is regarded as ‘day’ then the dusk goes with the literal day before it.
These considerations show that baeyn ha-ervayim means a time in the middle of the setting of the light, beginning at the earliest at noon and ending at the latest with the last dusk on the 14th day of the first month, the month of Passover. The dusk associated with the night before the 14th day belongs to the 13th day. Many translations of the phrase baeyn ha-ervayim interpret it to mean ‘twilight.’ While it may be true that ‘between the settings’ includes twilight, it only means the ‘twilight’ belonging to the literal day going before the twilight. Also, the translation ‘twilight’ is not literal. It is an interpretation, and it is clearly too restrictive because it excludes all time before sunset that the sun is ‘setting.’ The usage of the term by most Jews applies it to the afternoon, which is when the Passover offerings were actually brought. The Jewish Historian Josephus, writes about the Passover practice during the time of Messiah, “they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh” (Jos. Wars 6:423). The hours are counted from daybreak, so in Roman time this is 3 pm to 5 pm. Also as a type of Passover lamb, Messiah died at the ninth hour, which is 3 pm.
The Samaritans slew their Passover offerings during twilight, and not at the Temple. This twilight was counted as part of the before going 14th day. But, the scribes and the Pharisees fully approved of the timing used at the Temple, as recorded by Josephus for that time. However, the Samaritans did not attend the Temple. To this day the Samaritans sacrifice their Passover in Samaria at twilight coming at the end of the 14th literal day. In AD 2014 the first day of the first month for them was March 30-31st, and the 14th day of the first month for them was Sunday April 13th. The sacrificed their Passover at twilight on Sunday, which I verified from their website calendar, and this for them was after the day part of the 14th of the first month.
The difference in time between the Temple Passover and the Samaritan Passover is not more than two hours. Even though it is after sunset, the Samaritans count their time as on the 14th day of the month, adding the dusk to the day. This is permitted, because the dusk twilight is part of the 14th day, but as I said, it is an unnecessary restriction. The Scripture shows that erev means afternoon in 1Sam. 17:16:
And the Philistine came forward morning and evening for forty days, and took his stand. The Philistine was Goliath who went out to utter his challenge to Israel. He did not come out every day after sunset to utter the second challenge of the day. The strategic times were daybreak and mid-afternoon.
The erev is stated to be the time that women go out of a city to draw water (cf. Gen. 24:11). The ordinary time to draw water was late afternoon, which reveals that erev means afternoon. Jeremiah also gives us a contextual definition,
Prepare war against her; Arise, and let us attack at noon. Woe to us. For the day turns, and evening shadows stretch out (Jeremiah 6:4). Shadows disappear at sunset, and are not observed stretching out during twilight. Jeremiah’s usage is sensible because erev means afternoon. The account of Elijah and the prophets of Baal also uses erev in context to mean afternoon (1Kings 18:29). They prophesied until early afternoon. Then at the time of the erev sacrifice, fire came down from heaven. Elijah sends his servant to observe the sea seven times. He sees a cloud, which turns into a rainstorm. Naturally, erev means afternoon allowing the time line to flow smoothly without cramping events.
Numbers 28:3 says that two lambs are offered each day for the continual daily offering. One is offered at daybreak, and the second is offered baeyn ha-ervayim. If we assume this means after sunset and that the day ends at sunset, this is a contradiction, since the second offering of the day would then become the first offering of the next day, and the first offering in the text would become the second on the next day. Therefore, the assumption that baeyn ha-ervayim means after sunset, i.e. on the next day, contradicts counting the first and second lamb each day.
The only meaningful definition of baeyn ha- ervayim that avoids the contradiction and agrees with the usages above, is ‘afternoon.’ It is meaningful because the Hebrew means ‘between the settings’ and the first setting begins at noon, and the second setting occurs at sunset. Between these times is mid-afternoon or about 3 pm. The time baeyn ha- ervayim is also the hour of incense in Exodus 30:8. The same hour of incense is equal to the hour of prayer in Luke 1:10. And the same hour of prayer equals the ninth hour in Acts 3:1. It is the hour that the vision appeared to the centurion in Acts 10. It is also the same hour that Messiah died. It is the hour that connects the Passover lamb type to Messiah’s death at the 9th hour.
Therefore, the Passover lamb was slain in the afternoon on the 14th day of the month, also noted by Josephus between the 9th and 11th hour from dawn. The Most High did not make a mistake in calling for the second lamb at baeyn ha-ervayim. So it is established that the Passover lamb was slain in the afternoon of the 14th day. It was also eaten ‘that night’ (בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה; Exodus 12:8). The words ‘that night’ imply that the night goes with the day before to make one calendar day.
I will now use this result to show again when the day begins. Since the Passover lamb was offered in the afternoon, it follows that ‘that night’ in which it was eaten was the night after the literal 14th day (Exodus 12:8). Furthermore, they were told not to go out of their houses until daybreak (עַד־בֹּקֶר Exodus 12:22). Pharaoh ‘called to Moses and to Aaron by night’ (וַיִּקְרָא לְמֹשֶׁה וּלְאַהֲרֹן לַיְלָה) and told them to depart, and they were to depart in haste, but they could not depart until daybreak, since that is what the Almighty had commanded them. But the Egyptians pressed them to send them out in haste (Exodus 12:33). There can be no question that Israel left at daybreak. There can be no question that Israel did not start to leave Egypt until daybreak.
Now it says in Numbers 33:3,
On the fifteenth day of the first month, in the day after the Passover, the sons of Israel came out with a high hand in the eyes of all the Egyptians. We must therefore investigate the meaning of the ‘day after’ also translated ‘morrow’ or ‘tomorrow.’ It says in 1 Samuel 19:11,
If you don’t deliver your soul this night, tomorrow you will be killed. We see here that daybreak is counted as the next day from the point of view of the night.
Now Israel was brought out of Egypt in one day, ‘For in this same day I had brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt’ (Ex. 12:17). And this day was the 15th day of the month. Yet they could not leave their houses until daybreak. In Deuteronomy 16:1 it says,
Yahweh your Almighty brought you out of Egypt by night (לָיְלָה). Since they did not start out until daybreak on the 15th day, what night did they go out? Israel must have completed the Exodus in the night following the 15th day. Therefore, the day of the Exodus must be counted with the night of the Exodus in the ‘same day’ (בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה). It is therefore proved that the ‘same day’ is counted in a day and a night, from daybreak to daybreak.
Exodus 12:51 also says,
And it was on that same day that Yahweh brought the sons of Israel out from Egypt by their hosts. (בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה). The 15th day is counted here from daybreak to daybreak. It consists of a day and a night. At the start of the day, at dawn, Israel began to leave, they saw the Egyptians burying their dead, and received from them gold and silver and jewels. The Exodus continued into the night and completed by the next morning.
So a day here is daybreak to daybreak. Israel did not come out of Egypt on two days, the day part of the 15th, and a night counted as part of the 16th. The 15th day alone is the memorial of the Exodus. Deut. 16:1 places emphasis on the fact that it included the following night. And we have seen that it is impossible that it included the night before since Israel could not leave before ‘daybreak’ (Exodus 12:22).
Erev requires a light to go down, decline or set. So in Genesis 1:3, the first act of creation is the making of light. Then the erev follows the first literal day. Also the order of mentioning day first in Gen. 1:5 and then the night reinforces the natural order: first day, and then night. Readers of Genesis, who are ‘informed’ that a day is always from sunset to sunset, try to impose this tradition on Genesis 1 when they read the text. Readers of Hebrew, who are not so biased, simply take the text in the natural order, and realize that calling some point in the darkness preceding the first day erev makes no sense! Erev requires a light to set just to make sense. This is sort of like saying breathing makes no sense until there is air to breath. Calling total darkness erev is as nonsensical as calling 10 pm or 3 am at night setting. We have to remember that the night was not artificially divided into ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ as is done by the Roman custom at 12 pm. This is Roman thinking. In the thinking of Biblical Hebrew, erev ends when the light ends. We also have to remember that Roman thinking says that months begin on days having nothing to do with the timing of new moons.
The attempt to impose the sunset tradition on Genesis 1 found its way into the King James Version,
And the evening and the morning were the first day (Gen. 1:5b). The KJV adds the word ‘the’ three times to the text and eliminates one use of the verb, and moves the other use of the verb to the end of the sentence. This makes it appear that the reader is supposed to read the text retroactively, or as a summary of Genesis 1:2-4a. If you use the correct senses of evening and morning (setting and daybreak), the KJV appears to say that the night beginning with evening and ending at daybreak is one day. So night is defined as day. They could not get it more backwards. To avoid this contradiction, the reader subconsciously interprets evening as night and morning as day, so that the mental sense imposed on the text is, “And the night and the day were the first day.”
The Hebrew says,
Then there is setting, then there is daybreak; day one vayehi erev yahehi voqer, yom echad (וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד). The most common use of the waw ו when attached to a verb is to narrate sequences. In English a story teller introduces the next stage of a sequence by saying ‘Then …’ Hebrew grammars call this usage ‘waw consecutive.’ It has a special form in Hebrew when attached to an imperfect verb. The word ‘consecutive’ is so termed to indicate that the waw is showing the consecutive order of events. The first ‘then’ introduces erev consecutive to the creation of light in vs. 3. So the natural order in Hebrew is first the creation of light. Then erev comes next.
There is another use of the waw in Genesis 1:5 that is not consecutive. This is called waw conjunctive, ‘And the darkness he has been calling night:’ (וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה). Waw conjunctives are attached to noun phrases. That is one way they are told apart from waw consecutives. In this case the verb is switched to a perfect form to show that the phrase departs, in part from the main sequence, ‘And the darkness he has called night:’ A careful translation of the Hebrew text for Gen. 1:3-5, preserving these temporal relations runs as follows:
Then Elohim said let there be light. Then there was light. Then Elohim saw the light, that it was good. Then Elohim made a separating between the light, and between the darkness. Then Elohim called the light ‘day’, (and the darkness he has been calling ‘night’): Then there is setting, then there is daybreak; one day.
The the first light appears as a dawning break in the darkness. The separating is the increase of the dawn twilight until full day arrives. Then the separating is completed. The separating is temporal and not spacial. A spacial separation is like a picture that is half black and half white with a sharp boundary. A temporal separating is a gradual increase of light from a state of full dark to a state of full light, a continuous change from earliest dawn to full light. After the full light arrives, then the Almighty calls it ‘day.’ The term ‘day’ applies before he made the statement to the earliest dawn. But the time of making the statement is after full light arrived.
Then follows the statement, ‘And the darkness he has been calling night’; this statement is not part of the consecutive sequence. What is normal in this situation is that the phrase does not say when he called the darkness night. It is a statement made from the writers point of view. As a matter of course (habit) the Almighty has been calling the darkness night. The switch to the conjunctive waw is shown by its not being attached to a verb, but to a noun, “And the darkness”, and the removal of the phrase from the temporal sequence is further indicated by the verb tense “he has been calling” qara (קָרָא) switching to the Hebrew perfect. I added the parenthesis to the translation above to show that the phrase is an additional detail that is not part of the consecutive sequence.
After the side detail ‘And the darkness he has been calling night’, the text returns to the sequence, ‘Then there was setting, then there was daybreak.’ It now becomes clear why ‘And the darkness he has been calling night’ begins with a waw conjunctive. And also why it uses a tense removing the phrase from the sequence. The proper place of the night in the sequence is between the setting and the following daybreak, but it is not mentioned there. But, between the evening and the morning there can only be a night, so we must infer its existence by the time points at which a night begins and ends.
Verse 5 ends with the words ‘one day.’ These words are not part of the sequence. They do not occur in time after the mention of setting and daybreak. But they are so positioned to summarize the whole preceding sequence as one calendar day. The sequence is: creation of light-full day-setting-implied night-daybreak | one day. By so positioning the ‘one day’ phrase, the Scripture is summarizing the sequence. One calendar day is defined from the first appearing of light up to the next daybreak signaling the start of the next day. This defines a twenty-four hour calendar day from dawn to dawn.
As an aside here, we may inquire why Scripture does not give formal definitions like a technical manual. Formal definitions are impossible to to misinterpret, especially when given with examples. But the Scripture method of definition is to build a context that allows the reader to infer the definition by logical reasoning instead of reading a formal definition. This suits two purposes. First it suits a literary purpose. Formal definitions intrude on the literary effect. Literature is supposed to give one a feel of reality. Formal definitions give a feel of pedantic artificiality. Second, allowing the reader to infer the definition naturally separates the sheep and the goats. Goats are contrary and take things out of context. Goats interpret individual statements wrongly without reasoning their correct interpretation using other texts. Sheep are careful not to assume their own thinking. Sheep wait for the Shepherd to show the way to go. Sheep pay attention. Goats do not. The Scripture method diverts the wrath of the goats from the text to the sheep. The goats argue with the sheep and not with the text they have misinterpreted. This serves the purpose of preserving the text. And since the text is preserved, the sheep can defeat the goats by pointing out the context. Only when the goats are defeated by the sheep do the goats change the argument to eliminating the text itself. But then it is clear to all that they are evil.
The words ‘one day’ are an extension of the literal definition of day earlier in the text,
Then Elohim called the light ‘day’ (Gen. 1:5a). The phrase ‘one day’ refers to ‘one time period’ or one cycle of day and night. In fact, in Hebrew the term ‘one day’ may mean ‘one time period.’ This usage is not the most literal, but it is allowed. The literal day is defined as the ‘light’, restricting its meaning to about twelve hours, dawn to dusk. The extended use to twenty-four hours is less literal. The phrase ‘one day’ at the end of vs. 5 is clearly the twenty-four hour sort of day.
The first hearers of Genesis were very familiar with both sorts of day, and therefore they were prepared for the two usages in Genesis 1:3-5.
The scripture habitually mentions ‘day’ and then ‘night’, according to the order given in Genesis. Here is a list of usages in that order: Gen. 8:22, 31:39, 31:40; Ex. 10:13, 13:21, 13:22, 40:38; Lev. 6:20, 8:35; Num. 9:16, 9:21; 11:32. Numbers 11:32 indicates the day is from daybreak to daybreak,
And the people rose up all that day, and all the night, and all the day after (וַיָּקָם הָעָם כָּל־הַיּוֹם הַהוּא וְכָל־הַלַּיְלָה וְכֹל יוֹם הַמָּחֳרָת). The words ‘all the day after’ follow immediately the words ‘and all the night.’ The NAS renders הַמָּחֳרָת ‘the next day’ as most other translations. The Scripture continues to put day first: Num. 14:14; Deu. 1;33; 16:4. In Deu. 21:23 the order is changed, but only in the text. The actual day mentioned is before the night. Deu. 28:66; Josh. 1:8; Judges 6:27, 19:9, 11; 1Sam. 14:24, 19:24, 28:20; 2Sam. 21:10; 1Kings 8:59; 1Chron. 9:33; 2Chron. 6:28; Neh. 1:6, 4:9, 9:12, 19. Job 3:3; 5:14; Psa. 1:2, 19:2, 22:2, 32:4. Psalm 42:3 says
My tears have been bread to me by day and by night while they are saying to me all the day, ‘Where is your Almighty.’ ‘All the day’ is parallel to ‘by day and by night’ defining the whole day. Also Psa. 55:10, 74:16, 77:2, 78:14, 88:1, 121:6; Eccl. 8:16; Isa. 4:5, 21:8, 28:19, 38:12, 13, 60:11, 62:6; Jer. 9:1, 16:13; 31:35. Jeremiah 33:20 implies the order of day and then night is a covenant to be ‘at their appointed time’; Jer. 33:25, 36:30; Lam. 2:18; Hos. 4:5; Amos 5:8; Zech. 14:7;
Certain passages are not exceptions due to the circumstance and the phrasing, ‘Then Joab and his men went all the night; then it grew light for them in Hebron’ (2Sam. 2:32). Neh. 4:22. Psa. 139:12, because the phrase is a comparison with emphasis; Micah 3:6.
Exceptions: 1Sam. 25:16. 1Kings 8:29 (an exception which is clarified in 2Chron. 6:28, and therefore is explained). Esther 4:16 ‘night and day.’ Also Psa. 91:5. Isa. 27:3, 34:10; Jer. 14:17. For the Torah and Prophets, these exceptions are few in comparison to day and then night, and none of these passages impose the opposite definition. The author just happened to mention night first on a rare occasion.
The situation changes in the NT showing the influence of the sunset tradition for a calendar day. Texts having night first are Mat. 4:27; Mark 5:5; Luke 2:37; Acts 20:31, 26:7; 2Cor. 11:25; 1Thess. 2:9, 3:10; 2Thess. 3:8; 1Tim. 5:5; 2Tim. 1:3. Texts with day first are: Luke 18:7; 21:37; John 9:4; Acts 9:24. And most tellingly, the book of Revelation always puts the day first: Rev. 4:8, 7:15, 8:12, 12:10, 14:11, 20:10.
Then David slaughtered them from the dawn twilight even until the setting of their next day (מהַנֶּשֶׁף וְעַד־הָעֶרֶב לְמָחֳרָתָם). A key word is not translated in most translations, ‘their next day.’ Whose next day? What is meant is the next day of their enemies. This clearly indicates that David and his men used the opposite convention and times a day from daybreak to daybreak. In 1Sam. 30:12, day is listed first. Even in the usage of ‘days’ and ‘nights’ in the plural, the days are put first. Gen. 7:4, 12; Ex. 24:18, 34:28; Deu. 9:9, 11, 18, 25, 10:10; 1Sam. 30:12; 1Kings 19:8; Job 2:13; Jonah 1:17; Mat. 4:2; 12:40. Back with David and his men, the Egyptian had not eaten ‘three days and three nights.’ In Egypt the day came first and then the night, and a calendar days was from daybreak to daybreak. The Egyptian counting backwards says, “I had fallen sick the third day” (חָלִיתִי הַיּוֹם שְׁלֹשָׁה). So they found him at night, and he revived the third night, and led them to begin the attack at dawn twilight. Counting backwards leads to the same ‘third day’ that David found Ziklag burned (1Sam. 30:1). The disaster and the reviving are both counted on the third day. Let us now compare this with Hosea 6:2, ‘He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him.” Hosea speaks of after two calendar days, which agrees with the type in 1Sam. 30:12 only if the day comes first and then the night.
Come, let us return to Yahweh. For he has torn, then he will heal us; he has wounded, then he will bind us up (Hos. 6:1). In terms of these words, the passage says “He will revive us after two days.” The meaning is two days after being torn and being wounded. The day of the wounding must be counted as the first of three days. But this fits with ‘three days and three nights’ (1Sam. 30:12; Jonah 1:17) if and only if the calendar day begins at dawn and lasts till the next dawn.
The ESV Study Bible includes a very well written note on Hosea 6:2:
After two days he will revive us shows that even after this fierce slaying (v. 1) they are not beyond the Lord’s healing. Healing is a picture of a complete metamorphosis: a rising from the dead on the third day. The Septuagint’s Greek translation for on the third day he will raise us up is part of3 what lay behind Jesus’ and the NT writers’ statements that Jesus’ resurrection “on the third day” was according to the Scriptures (Luke 24:46; 1 Cor. 15:4; cf. also Jonah in Matt. 12:40). Hosea was not writing about the Messiah directly,4 however, but about the people of Israel. The NT use of this idea depends on seeing a parallel between Israel’s resurrection on the third day in this verse, and Jesus as the Messiah representing and embodying his people. The potential of Israel’s third-day resurrection is to be ultimately realized in the resurrection of the One who acted in Israel’s stead (cf. Matt. 3:13–15). This picture of Israel’s death and resurrection thus sets the pattern for what eventually will be accomplished in and through Christ.
So the ESV does recognize the passage as Messianic. Further clues are from chapter 5 vs. 14b-15,
I, even I, will tear and go away … they shall seek me at dawn. Also Hos. 6:3,
His going forth is fixed at dawn. The passage is teaching that Israel is vicariously slain with Messiah. This is why the passage uses the term ‘us’: “he has torn us, that he may heal us.” We see this theology in Gal. 2:20. Now the third day motif is in this text precisely because it is congruent to Messiah’s three days and three nights in the gave. Firstly, the text says that we are raised in Messiah “after two days.” And then it says “on the third day.” The synthetic parallelism is saying that “after two days” and “on the third day” both refer to the same exact day. The “after two days” are two days after we are slain in Messiah.
Now I apply this to the question of how the calendar day is being counted. If it be supposed that the day begins with the sunset, then the first day after the slaying is the night and day afterward. The second day afterward is the next night and day. Since the slaying of Messiah was in the daytime the sequence is: day, night+day, night+day. We see that we have only three days and two nights. This is exactly how the Friday-Sunday theory wishes things to be! Friday-day, Friday-Night+Saturday-Day, Sat-night+Sunday-day. But if we correctly count the calendar day from dawn to dawn, according to Scripture, then the slaying is on the first day: a day + night. After one day is: a day+night. After two days is: a day + night. So the whole sequence is: day+night (slaying), day+night, day+night (after two days, third day)! There are now three days and three nights. The raising is two days after the slaying, and on the third day, and there are three days and three nights.
Messiah therefore, suffered and died on Wednesday-day+night. This was the first calendar day. After one day was Thursday-day+night. And after two days was Friday-day+night. Messiah was raised in the third calendar day, which takes us to dawn on the Sabbath day. We should wonder no longer why tradition has corrupted the definition of a biblical day! It was done to confuse the facts about Messiah’s death and resurrection.
The diagram shows what happens when the traditional sunset to sunset day is imposed on the Hosea 6:1-3 Messianic Prophecy and the Sabbath resurrection. “After two days”/ “On the third day” ends up ending before the third night can be realized. This is because the Hosea prophecy teaches the resurrection two days after the crucifixion, counting the crucifixion as the first day.
Now in Lev. 7:15 it says,
And the flesh of a sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offering on the day of its bringing shall be eaten. None shall be left from it until daybreak. It says ‘on the day of its bringing it shall be eaten’ (בְּיוֹם קָרְבָּנוֹ יֵאָכֵל). And then a parallel command is given to show when the day ends, ‘he shall not leave any of it until daybreak’ (לֹא־יַנִּיחַ מִמֶּנּוּ עַד־בֹּקֶר). The same instruction is given in Exodus 12:10, ‘And you shall let none remain from it until daybreak, and the remainder of it until daybreak in fire you shall burn.’ We proved out at first in this paper that the Passover offering was eaten ‘that night’ (בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה). This confirms that the offering was eaten in the night following the day of its offering. However, the night following the day is the same calendar day as the offering. Therefore the Passover is eaten in the day of its being brought (בְּיוֹם קָרְבָּנוֹ) according to the calendar day ending at daybreak.
Moses repeats a similar command for the manna,
Let no man leave any from it until daybreak (אִישׁ אַל־יוֹתֵר מִמֶּנּוּ עַד־בֹּקֶר) Ex. 16:19. The calendar day far gathering and eating the manna was from daybreak to daybreak. In order to ensure that none was left until daybreak, each household had to throw out the leftovers before everyone went to sleep. On the sixth day, they gathered double, and did not have to throw out the remaining half before dawn on the Sabbath. The Sabbath portion was meant to last all night after the Sabbath also, but had to be disposed of before daybreak on the first day of the week. This pattern confirms that the collecting and eating of each daily portion is timed on a daybreak to daybreak basis. It also confirms that the meaning of the phrase ‘until daybreak’ is that eating is permitted before this time.
Now eating was permitted before daybreak, and eating did occur during the night before sleeping time. The Passover offering sets the example of the offering made in the afternoon and eaten ‘that night.’ Yet mandatory offerings had to be eaten the same day they were brought. These requirements are only sensible in terms of the day lasting from daybreak to daybreak. The command to eat the peace offering before daybreak is also given in Lev. 22:30.
Now the burnt offerings that went upon the altar were explained “as bread, an offering by fire for Yahweh for a soothing aroma; all fat is for Yahweh” (Lev. 3:16; cf. Lev. 3:11; Num. 28:2). Lev. 6:9-10 explains the duration of Yahweh’s bread, for a soothing aroma: “This is the Torah of the ascending offering: the ascending offering shall itself remain on the hearth of the altar all night until the daybreak, and the fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it.
The ascending offering is Yahweh’s bread, his allotment, his continual food as a soothing aroma. It falls exactly parallel to the manna, the daily portion of Israel, from daybreak to daybreak. At daybreak, the first lamb of the day is offered, and is consumed on the altar all day, and all night. At mid afternoon, the second offering is put on the altar and is consumed for the remainder of the day and all night. This is His bread day by day. Any additional festive offerings that Israel brings are allowed to be eaten for a day and a night. But a vow offering or voluntary offering could be eaten on the next day and night. But it was forbidden to eat it on the third day, which began at dawn (Lev. 7:17-18).
The second Passover offering is a festive offering. The priest took a portion and the worshiper and his family consumed the rest. It was not a freewill offering, because it is commanded in Deut. 16. Now the principle of the matter is thus: Yahweh consumes his offerings for a day and a night. They are his bread, a soothing aroma. Likewise, Israel is allowed to consume their festive offerings for a day and a night. The continual offering on the altar, and the festive offering is how the Most High defined his fellowship at the altar with Israel. He consumed his portion at the same time Israel consumed their portion. For this reason, it is not allowed for Israel to consume their portion after Yahweh’s portion has ended. But it is encouraged to feast and enjoy one’s own portion while the Almighty is enjoying his.
The daybreak to daybreak day is essential for the timing of sacrificial offerings. It is also necessary to understand the timing of the three days for Messiah’s sacrificial offering.
If we look at Exodus 12:18, it says,
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at the setting, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty first day of the month at the setting. Now it would appear that if the calendar day normally started at sunset then the command would be to abstain from the beginning of the 14th to the beginning of the 21st. But if the day is correctly understood, then the setting on the 14th day is at the end of the day part of the calendar day. For that calendar day began at dawn and ended the next day at dawn. No one could be confused about the time, because there was only one setting on the 14th day. Also the setting was ‘on the fourteenth day’ and not at the beginning or end. This makes better sense of the word ‘on’/ ‘in’.
The same explanation goes with on the 21st day of the month at the setting. We are to abstain ‘until the 21st day … at the setting’; The word ‘until’ indicates up to the time indicated, (עַד יוֹם הָאֶחָד וְעֶשְׂרִים לַחֹדֶשׁ בָּעָרֶב) ad yom ha-echad ve-eserim la-chodesh ba-arev, which is sunset on the 21st day. If taken the wrong way, due to a misunderstanding of the day, someone might eat leavened bread on the day part of the 21st, which would be incorrect, because they thought the prohibition only lasted till sunset at the start of the 21st day.
Israel was used to a legal definition of a calendar day that lasted from daybreak to daybreak. For this is exactly the timing of a day used in Egypt, where Israel was enslaved, just before the Torah was written down. Israel would naturally bring this understanding to the texts. It is therefore all the more significant that that no statements are made in the Torah anywhere saying that an ordinary calendar day begins at sunset, or in the evening. The timing of all the days underlying the commandments is a calendar day lasting from daybreak to daybreak. For this reason, there could be no confusion about a time stated to be the setting of a particular day. There was only one setting on any calendar day, which was in the middle of it, or after the end of the day part.
People everywhere consider their calendar day to be the time from waking until turning in to bed. One expects to go to sleep on one day and then to wake up on the next. The scriptures bear this cycle out with the period of time for which a sacrificial offering is allowed to be eaten, and for which the day’s manna was allowed to be eaten. No one had to rush to wholly eat an offering slain in the midafternoon before sunset, which would then remain uneaten after sunset, yet did not have to be burned up until daybreak. Meanwhile Yahweh was enjoying his offering during the night.
Messiah’s death and resurrection parallel the daily offerings. The first passover offering on the 14th is for a day and a night. The second passover offering for the Exodus is on the 15th for a day and a night. And the wave offering on the 16th is for a day and a night. These offerings are for three days and three nights.
Now in our survey of the beginning of a day in Scripture, I refer to Daniel 8:14, “Then he said to me, unto setting [and] daybreak two thousand, and three hundred; then the holy place will be righted.” This passage pertains to the daily offering (Dan. 8:13). Most readers mistakenly imposed a sunset to sunset day on this text when interpreting, because they have already imposed that mistake on Genesis 1. Also translators reinforce this mistake by translating the preposition as “For” (ESV, NAS). Only the KJV and YLT are correct “unto” or “till.” The daybreak to daybreak day explains the language. The first daily offering is at daybreak and lasts until setting and then until daybreak when it ends. The second daily offering is mid-afternoon, and lasts until setting and then until daybreak. So there are 2300 offerings “until setting-daybreak” (עַד עֶרֶב בֹּקֶר). The text is literally, “until setting daybreak 2300.” The number is not counting days. It is counting daily offerings “until setting-daybreak.”
The day for the daily offerings is from dawn to dawn, because the offering burns all night (Lev. 6:9-10), and ends at daybreak. To convert 2300 daily offerings to actual days requires division by two. It is 1150 days, counted from daybreak to daybreak.
The day of atonement begins on the ninth day at setting. On (or in) the ninth day only makes sense from the standpoint that the calendar day is from sunrise to sunrise (or dawn to dawn). Setting on the ninth day comes at the end of of the literal day part, but in the middle of the calendar day (a day and a night). See Lev. 23:32. And then Yom Kippur ends in the middle of the next calendar day at the setting which comes at the end of the literal day part of the calendar day.
Yom Kippur is on the literal tenth day (daylight) of the month, but it begins with the night at the end of the ninth calendar day. Now if a day is viewed as beginning at sunset, then an interpreter is likely to think that Lev. 23:32 refers to sunset that demarks the night before the 9th day. Or the interpreter is likely to get confused as to which sunset is meant because there was two sunsets attached to a ninth day that is counted from sunset to sunset! Since the calendar day begins at dawn, there is no confusion. There is only one setting for each calendar day.
I have been using the term daybreak to refer to the beginning of a day in this paper. This is because the English term morning is too ambiguous to precisely represent the Hebrew sense. Morning in English can be used from 12:01 AM to 11:59 AM. In Hebrew the term boqer (בֹקֶר) comes from a root meaning split or penetrate. These senses appear to be present in other derived words. Contrary to the notion that many assume, the first daily offering was not delayed to midmorning. It was offered as soon as it was clear that dawn was spreading in the eastern sky.
If a day ends at sunset, does this mean that a new one begins at sunset? Not at all. This argument cuts two ways. If a day begins at sunrise, then does the old one end at sunrise? What is going on here is that the begining and ending of a literal day are not to be confused with the beginning and ending of a calendar period of twenty-four hours that contains a day and a night. The calendar period for all days is from daybreak to daybreak. The literal day ends at sunset (or dusk), but not the calendar day. This is shown in Judges 19:9,
Look, please, the day has declined to setting; take lodging, please. Look to the decline of the day. Lodge here, and let it be good for your heart, and you will have arisen early tomorrow to your way, and you will have walked to your tent. We see here that the next day, termed מָחָר, tomorrow or the day after begins when they are to rise up at daybreak. Indeed, the literal day ends at dusk, but the next literal day does not begin until daybreak. In this case the narrative does not have the calendar day in view, just literal days.
If the day declines in the evening, does this mean a new one begins at sunset or dusk? In Luke 24:29 it says,
Stay with us, because it is toward setting, and the day has already bent down. This time would be late afternoon. For he would need little urging to stay if the sun had already set. The literal day ends at sunset because it is only about twelve hours, i.e. from dawn to dusk. The next literal day begins at dawn after the night. Therefore, it is imperative not to confuse the beginning and ending of a calendar day of twenty-four hours with the beginning and ending of a literal day.
If any text says a day ends at sunset, then does this mean that a new day begins at sunset? (cf. Judges 14:12-18; Josh. 8:28-29 (Deut. 21:23); Josh. 10:26-27; 2Sam. 3:35). It only means that a literal twelve hour day (dawn to dusk) ends with the fading of the light. The next literal day does not begin until dawn. We need to be careful not to confuse calendar days with literal days. In Neh. 13:19 the gates are shut in the evening. This is the end of the literal sixth day. And it is the beginning of the twenty-four hour period (yom) for the Sabbath. But the literal Sabbath day begins with the daytime, i.e. with dawn. Likwise the night after the sixth day belongs to the sixth calendar day, as stated in Gen. 1:31: Then there was setting; then there was daybreak: the sixth day. Again, as in John 19:31, it is a sabbath day that is referred to, the meaning of day is a twenty-four hour calendar period, and not a literal day.
If, the sunset tradition is correct, then a surprising number of authorites on the Hebrew language disagree with it: The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states,
The phrase ‘there was an evening and there was a morning’ occurs six times in the creation narrative (Gen 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31), delimiting the six days of divine creative activity.
Here is a soundbite for Genesis 1:5 tagged #rules:
By the rules of Hebrew, where EREV is first mentioned, “Then there is setting (EREV)”, this evening comes at the end of the first day, because the verb is prefixed with a waw consecutive meaning “then next.” The conjunction is wrongly translated “and” in most bibles, and readers errantly assume that this “and” goes backward in time to an undefined time in the darkness of vs. 2. In Hebrew there is a difference between an ordinary “and” which is spelled wǝ, and the waw consecutive spelled wa, which is properly translated “then” and means then next. This is proved by the context since the first calendar day ends with “then there was daybreak. One day.” This twenty-four hour calendar day ends at daybreak. This is further shown by the impossibility of having an erev “setting” without light first being created that can set. Therefore, evening did not exist until the end of the first literal day when the light began to go down and fade.
1. ^ The narrative switches to the perfect tense here because the definition of night is given out of sequence before the defining boundaries of the night are mentioned in the next clause: then there was setting; then there was daybreak. The darkness indicated is that following the day, which is between the setting and the daybreak. The darkness is not introduced with a waw consecutive, but only a waw conjunctive. This means it is only coordinated with the day before for the sake of definition, and that the narrator has stopped giving the verbal sequence. When the verbal sequence begins again: “then there was setting” then it is understood that the night takes place after that. The perfect tense might be better rendered by the English present: “And darkness he calls ‘night:’”, because the Hebrew perfect is being used to background additional information before actually saying where the night falls into the sequence. The calling darkness ‘night’ is completed from the narrators time frame, but is not completed in the narrators sequence. The narrator is giving the background detail relative to his time: ‘has been calling.’ Since the background detail is a truism, the article before darkness is generic and should be dropped in English.
2. ^ The NAS resorts to “And by the seventh day God completed His work” translating the Hebrew preposition on/in in a sense that it never has with respect to time.
3. ^ Why the note writer credits the LXX I do not know. The Hebrew text reads exactly the same way.
4. ^ None of the third day passages mention the Messiah ‘directly’, yet they are intended by the Spirit who gave the prophets the words to write to give hints of the Messiah’s death and resurrection.