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When Does A Day Begin?

Posted in Calendar Studies

When does a Biblical day begin? One of the many false concepts to come out of the lunar Sabbath theory is that the day begins at dawn, rather than sunset. They had to create an answer as to why there was a verse that clearly showed the falsity of the lunar Sabbath theory if indeed the concept of the day beginning at nightfall was true. But even non-lunar Sabbath timekeepers are starting to believe that the day begins at dawn, and that only 12 hours of Sabbath need to be observed. So, what does Scripture say? This article will discuss three witnesses from Scripture:

1.    The week of creation shows that the day begins at evening
2.    Clear instructions on the feast days show that Sabbath is a 24 hour period that begins at evening
3.    Both the crucifixion and resurrection timing shows that darkness precedes light on the Sabbath and on the first day of the week.

First witness: Creation Week

We are told repeatedly in Genesis Chapter One that the “evening and the morning” were the first, second, etc day. “Evening” being the Hebrew word “erev” and “morning” being the Hebrew word “boquer”.  Some proponents of the “day begins at dawn” idea will claim that “evening” is really “afternoon”, simply the second half of the 12 hour daylight period. Does that idea agree with Scripture? Well, first of all, God, who is not the author of confusion, would be saying repeatedly in the creation week that the afternoon and the morning (reversing their chronological order) were the 1st, 2nd, etc day, and completely ignoring the twelve hours of darkness.

The first day is the easiest of these to assess since it directly addresses darkness and light. During the first day of creation, we were told: Gen 1:2-5  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Which came first, darkness or light? Darkness. So when we are next told that the evening and then the morning were the first day, that continues the pattern we’ve just seen that the darkness was first and then the light, and all of it is collectively called the first day. That patterns repeats for the remaining days of the creation week.

In yet another witness to the idea of evening coming before morning, David spells out his daily prayer ritual in order in Psalm 55:17:  “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” So unless David also upsets the chronological order, even precedes morning and noon.

Going back to the prior stated idea of lunar sabbatarians that “evening” begins at noon when the sun “begins” to set, what other texts in Scripture help define if evening is dark or night, as opposed to any time after midday noon? Here are two verses that make it easy to see that evening/eventide (both English words are translations of “erev”) is at or after the going down of the sun:

1.    Joshua 8:29:  “And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree…”
2.    Proverbs 7:9:  “In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night

In this first witness of the creation week, we have discovered that a day consists of “evening and morning”, we have discovered that evening begins at twilight and covers the dark part of the day, and we have discovered that David’s practice of praying three times a day are given in order as evening, morning, and noon. Other verses spell out specifically that even is tied to the going down of the sun/twilight/darkness. This is proof enough that a day begins at sundown and goes until the following sundown, but using the Torah standard of two or three witnesses, let’s move on to our second witness.

Second witness: Feast Days

The issue of the day beginning at morning is used by lunar sabbatarians to show that Sabbath is a 12 hour period. This denies the very plain wording given in Leviticus 23:32:  It shall be unto you a Sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath. (The tenth day is the feast. Leviticus 23:27.)

The Sabbath in this verse (the Day of Atonement) is identified as going from even unto even, a full 24 hour period. Lunar sabbatarians claim that the very specific timing for Sabbath in this verse applies only to the one Sabbath of Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement. That is wrong on two counts:

1.    First, there is no indication given that this one annual Sabbath has a different period of time than the other seven annual Sabbaths or the 52 weekly Sabbaths. The introduction of this chapter in Leviticus is laying out all of God’s Feasts (weekly and annual) and nowhere  does it state or imply that one lasts twice as long as the other 58 each year. To teach otherwise is a violation of Deuteronomy 4:2, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”
2.   Secondly, the Feast of Unleavened Bread also begins and ends at even, as shown in Exodus 12:18-19: “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses.” The Feast of Unleavened Bread is, according to Leviticus 23:6, the 15th of the month, which is shown above to begin at even of the 14th day.

But, even if this command was specific only to the Day of Atonement, and not to any other Sabbath or feast day or working day, there is still a problem for dawn believers in this verse. Let's just assume for a moment that the "even to even" did apply only to this one instance. Clearly, no matter how you define "even", you have to admit that this is a 24 hour period of time. If even is 6:00 p.m. or 12:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. or whenever, even of the 9th until even on the 10th is a 24 hour period of time. Yet it is still called the DAY (not the day and night) of Atonement, so a DAY can properly refer to a full 24 hour period. (See other examples of this in the question section at the end of this article.)

Third witness: Crucifixion and Resurrection Timing

As stated in Deuteronomy 21:22, crucified bodies were not to hang overnight, with no command specific to bodies not remaining on the cross during Sabbath. John 19:31 states “the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day.” This clearly implies that the Sabbath had to include night, beginning that sunset, and not at sunrise the next morning.

This is also supported in Luke 23: 52-54 when Pilate was approached for permission to release the body of Yeshua. “And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on.” The body needed to be removed before night, which was the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread, shown above from Exodus 12:18-19 to begin at even.

Perhaps one of the most quoted verses of “day begins at morning” adherents comes from the resurrection story. Here it is from all four gospels:

  • Matthew 28:1:  In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
  • Mark 16:2:  And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
  • Luke 24:1:  Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
  • John 20:1:  The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

The first three gospels are inconclusive, but thankfully, John spelled it out so there could be no confusion. He specifies the first day of the week “when it was yet dark”. If indeed the first day of the week didn’t begin until the sun was up, it was impossible for this to be both the first day of the week and for it still to be dark.

 In Conclusion

  • The creation story shows that a day starts with darkness, and other verses clarify that the Hebrew word translated as evening means sundown, not any time after twelve noon.
  • The Day of Atonement shows us that Sabbaths are a full 24 hours, from even unto even, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread also shows us that Sabbaths begin and end at even. These are two separate proofs that the feast days begin and end at even.
  • The timing of removing Yeshua’s body from the cross shows that Sabbath (Feast of Unleavened Bread) was beginning at nightfall, and the Gospel of John shows us that following the resurrection, the first day of the week included timing while it was yet dark before sunrise. These are two separate proofs that the day began with even, nightfall.

Questions to Ponder

If a "day" in Scripture always means only the light part of a 24 hour period…then…

  1. How can John 20:1 call the first day of the week the period when it was still dark?
  2. How can the "day" of the Lord come as a thief in the “night”? (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10)
  3. Is it impossible to surrender your heart to God during darkness, since the Bible only talks of the "day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2) and no “night of salvation”?
  4. Why does Jesus say in Mark 14:30 "that this day, even in this night..."
  5. During the week of unleavened bread, do you eat leaven after sundown throughout the week, since the command is to not eat it for seven “days” instead of seven “days and nights”?  If so, please give specific examples from Scripture where that was done.
  6. Genesis 7:12 said it rained 40 days and 40 nights, while Genesis 7:17 says it was 40 days. Were there two floods: 1) one in verse 12 that was 40 24-hour periods, and 2) another in verse 17 that was 40 12-hour daylight periods that included 40 12-hour non-rainy dark times between each “day”?
  7. If a day is only the light part of a 24 hour period, how can the "day" of atonement be from even until even, clearly a 24 hour period?
  8. In 2 Kings 7:7-9, the lepers fled at twilight and discuss what would happen if they tarry till the morning light. Why then, do they say "this day is a day of good tidings" when it was clearly after twilight and before morning light?
  9. Do births and deaths occur only during daylight hours? If not, why does Ecclesiastes 7:1 refer to the "day of death" and the "day of one's birth"?
  10. Ezekiel 46:1-6 speaks of the "day of the new moon". A new moon is not visible during daylight hours, so should this not be the "night of the new moon"?
  11. How are we to understand verses like Amos 5:20 and Zephaniah 1:15, both of which refer to a day of darkness? Shouldn't those be called "night of darkness"?

Satan was unable to fool some people about the real seventh-day Sabbath, so he came up with a trick to fool them to break half of it, which of course is the same as breaking it entirely. I pray that people who have been deceived with this theory repent of their error while there is still time.

For a more detailed study on this topic, visit:
http://www.clearbibleanswers.org/when-does-a-day-begin.html