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When does a day start? [Full Study]


(Some of the Bible verses quoted in this study have had comments added in brackets. The sole purpose of this study technique is to emphasise or introduce a line of thought. All verses KJV unless otherwise stated).

Every Friday, late afternoon, many of us find ourselves rushing around getting prepared for the Sabbath, and when sunset finally arrives we stop and "rest the sabbath day according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56).

One busy Friday afternoon, we met some other Sabbath keepers at our business; and while still talking to them just before Sabbath started, we found it amazing how relaxed they were as the Sabbath drew nigh. We discussed their seemingly flippant behaviour with them, and the reasons they gave were very interesting.
In this study we'd like to share their answers with you, and the reasoning behind their answers.

But to do this, we first need to set the scene.
Mark says;
(Mar 15:25) And it was the third hour, and they crucified him...
(Mar 15:33) And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

This same record of time is also in Mathew and Luke. However in John it is different;
(Joh 19:14) And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
(Joh 19:15) But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King?

According to John, Jesus stood before Pilate at the sixth hour but according to Mark, at the sixth hour Jesus had already been on the cross for 3 hours!!!

Historical records clearly show the use of at least 3 different clocks, used to define time, at the time of Jesus. The most commonly kept are a midnight clock (as seen in John's example), a morning clock (as seen in Mark's example), and also an evening clock (still traditionally used by most Jews today).

But the question arises, which of these clocks does God use?
Somewhere within the ongoing repetition of day and night, a 'break' is required to define between each 24 hour 'Day'.

Does the 'break' go here ^

Or does the 'break' go here ^

Or does the 'break' go here ^

How do we know where to insert the 'Day' - 'Break'?
Does the Bible provide clues where to insert the 'Day' - 'Break'?
The Gospel does record which of the above 3 clocks Jesus used.
But before we look at this, let us look at another time anomaly.

This one is to do with the Passover.

(Lev 23:5) In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD's passover.

Why is the Passover feast day called Passover?

Because Passover means "Passed over", as in, on the 14th of Abib (Nisan) the Lord "passed over" Egypt at midnight, and killed the first born of Egypt;
(Exo 12:12) For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt,

Moses records a chronology of "this night", along with the journeys that followed;
(Num 33:2) And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys...
(Num 33:3) And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.

Notice the day they left Egypt was 'a new day' (the morrow) in relation to when the passing over Egypt took place at midnight.
So how could the 15th be called "the morrow" after God 'passed over' Egypt, if the 15th had commenced at sunset (ie, before the midnight Passover had even occurred)?

The Passover was to be celebrated each year, at an exact time and place;
(Num 9:3) In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it.

If they couldn't keep it at that exact time they had to celebrate it EXACTLY one month later.

(Num 9:11) The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.


According to the above verse, the Passover was kept and eaten on the 14th.
The Passover lambs had to be killed on the afternoon of the fourteenth, just as Jesus died about 3pm; the Passover lamb was killed in the afternoon of the Jewish Passover.

Speaking of the Passover lamb;
(Exo 12:8) And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it....
(Exo 12:10) And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.

Why was anything remaining at morning burnt with fire?

In other Scripture, we find that other forms of sacrifice also needed to be eaten by morning;
(Lev 7:15) And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning.

So here again the flesh was to be eaten by morning.
Again we could ask, why morning?
The previous portion of the verse could well provide the answer.
It says that it "shall be eaten the same day that it is offered"; (and then elaborates by saying) "he shall not leave any of it until the morning".

The flesh of this sacrifice must be eaten the same day it is sacrificed. So any remaining at the end of the day is not to be eaten.
According to the verse, at what point should it be eaten by?

So taking this verse on it's own, you could easily come to the conclusion that a day ends in the morning !!! (ie, a new day begins at day break).

So how could we verify how God's starts and begins a day?
The most obvious place to start would be at the beginning;
(Gen 1:1) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth...
(Gen 1:3) And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

So First God creates light.
(Gen 1:4) And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
(Gen 1:5) And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

This reveals that God has called the light 'day', followed by the darkness which He has called 'night'.

If a day consisted of the night time first, and then the day light time; where would the day end?


But the Genesis verse says the morning ends the day;
(Gen 1:5) And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

On the 'first day' God creates 'light'; that is followed by evening, then through to morning, which 'completes the first day'.

If God had said 'the night' and 'the day' were the first day, it would be clear to see that a day ended at evening.

The Hebrew word for night is different to the Hebrew word for evening.
Also, the Hebrew word for day is also different to the Hebrew word for morning.

'Morning' does not refer to the entire daylight period we know as 'day'. It is a specific moment in time where the darkness of night is replaced by the light of day.
You can see from other verses using 'morning', that it relates to a specific point in time; not a broad length of time as in the Hebrew word 'day'.

So far, you could get the impression that a day starts and ends at morning.

But if the Jews were keeping from evening to evening; even at the time of Jesus, surely they would be the ones to look to; Correct?
Well, what we really find is that the Israelites of today and at the time of Jesus have their own traditions which, according to Talmud, are above Scripture; and in many cases are simply inherited from Pagan nations that they were assimilated into, during the exile in Babylon and Assyria. You could say, in much the same way that Christianity has also adopted many pagan traditions.

This should come as no surprise, because Jesus Himself saved some of His most scathing rebukes for the "experts" in the Torah.

For Jews, Sabbath traditionally starts at evening, when the sun goes down, and ends 24 hours later. It appears that Jewish tradition has become the mandate for how Sabbath keeping Christians should also follow the Sabbath, instead of the Bible itself.

It is historical fact that nations had differing times to begin a day.
Today, our day starts at midnight.
Some start their day at morning.
Some start their day at evening.

When the remnant of Israel came out of Babylonian captivity they had an evening to evening 'day';

Thus far the Scriptures have indicated that God may have originally established a morning to morning 'day'.

Should we follow 'majority belief' as an indicator of truth?
If 'majority belief' were an indicator of truth; then it would be self evident that we would need to follow the Sunday keeping majority!!!

Could this be evidence of satan corrupting God's truth at every possible level?
If God did constitute 'a day' from morning to morning; then not only has satan corrupted 'which day' is Holy; he may have also corrupted 'what constitutes a day'.

It is clear that 'majority belief' is not a reliable gauge of truth.
Jesus actually indicated that it would be 'a minority' whom would find the true path;
(Mat 7:14) ...narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

So to be safe, lets have an in-depth look into what the Bible has to say on the subject, to pursue a clearer answer to this question.

Taking another look from the beginning;

(Gen 1:5) And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

This account of 'day one' is no different to describing the age of a child. You are not one year old until you have lived to the one-year mark. Likewise, Genesis describes the creating that took place during the day, then added evening through to morning and called it "the first day".
So in the beginning there is nothingness, or darkness. At the commencement of 'day one', God creates light and calls it "day". That is the start of what God calls 'the first day'.
Scripture states that evening came, then morning, completing the first day (therefore being also the start of the next day). The creation process continues like this for six days.

Watch the pattern for 'day two'. First He creates;
(Gen 1:6) And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters...
(Gen 1:8) And God called the firmament Heaven. (and when He had finished creating) And the evening and the morning were (H1961) the second day.

From the concordance; H1961 can also be translated as 'became', 'accomplished' or 'altogether become'.

So a day started with the creating, then
...the evening and the morning 'accomplished' the second day.

l<<<<<<<<<< First Day >>>>>>>>>>l

Is it really that simple?

From this a day is quite clearly shown to be morning to morning.

Let's look at it another way;
And the evening and the morning were the second day.
Evening to morning is 12 hours.
Unless we believe a day consists of only 12 hours; where do we put the other 12 hours?
Do we put it before the evening, or after the morning?
And what authority do we use in deciding where to put it?
We have to let the verse decide.
The only other activity God reveals in the verses for 'each day'; is before the evening, when He performs the creating.

Does it really matter when a day begins?

Yes, we need to know which portion of time is Holy to God. It is Sin to work on the 24 hrs of Sabbath.

At the end of the six days of creation we read:
(Gen 2:1) Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
(Gen 2:2) And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
(Gen 2:3) And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

As we continue through Scripture, we actually find many narratives that define a 24-hour day as beginning in the morning.
Following are some of the most straightforward examples:
(Gen 1:16) And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night:...

So far God is still maintaining a consistent pattern of daytime proceeding nighttime.

(Gen 1:18) And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

Again the same order: day then night, light then darkness...

Let's now look beyond creation week to some more examples;
(Gen 19:33) And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
(Gen 19:34) And it came to pass on the morrow (ie, tomorrow or the next day), that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay last night with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also;...

First point: The morrow (ie, next day) followed the night. You wouldn't call the next day "tomorrow", if it belonged to the same 'day' as the night in question !!!
The Second point also confirms this: The next day, the sister said "last night" as in belonging to a previous 'day'. This is also confirmed in that she also said "this night", as in belonging to the 'day' at hand.

Another example;

(Exo 10:13) So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and the LORD made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts;
From this verse we see "that day" belongs to "that night", then "morning" marks a new day.

More from Exodus;

(Exo 16:22) And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses.
(Exo 16:23) And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
(Exo 16:24) And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.
(Exo 16:25) And Moses said, Eat that today; for today is a sabbath unto the LORD:...

Notice the order. On the sixth day, Moses said "Tomorrow" was Sabbath, and they were therefore to "lay it up till morning". Then when "morning" comes, Moses says, "eat that today, for today is a Sabbath".

More evidence;

(Lev 6:20) This is the offering of Aaron and of his sons, which they shall offer unto the LORD in the day when he is anointed; the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a meat offering perpetual, half of it in the morning, and half thereof at night H3915.

The first point to note is that 'night' is not referring to 'evening'. It is referring to the 'darkness' period that commences after evening. Compare the use of H3915 below;
(Gen 1:5) And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night H3915.

Therefore, because they had to make the offering 'in the day' he is anointed, why would the first half be offered 'in the morning', and the other half 'at night', (which would actually be the next day, if the day started at evening)?

Another example;

(Num 11:32) And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails:...

Again, "that day" belongs to "that night", then "the next day" comes.

Some very clear evidence from 1 Samuel;

(1Sa 19:10) And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night. (ie, darkness).
(1Sa 19:11) Saul also sent messengers unto David's house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning (ie, after darkness) and Michal David's wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life tonight (during darkness), tomorrow thou shalt be slain.

It was already "night" when Michal told David to flee, for "in the morning", or "tomorrow" he was to be killed. If a day begins at evening, and David was to be killed in the morning, then Michal should have said "today thou shall be slain", and not "tomorrow thou shalt be slain".

Another example from 1 Samuel;

(1Sa 28:8) And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night (darkness): and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee....
(1Sa 28:11) Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel....
(1Sa 28:16) Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?...
(1Sa 28:19) Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.

Again, if a day begins at evening, because Saul came at "night"; fighting the Philistines should have been referred to as "today", not "tomorrow".

Moving on to 2 Samuel;

(2Sa 24:13) So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.
(2Sa 24:14) And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.
(2Sa 24:15) So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed:...

Notice the "three day" plague started in the "morning", not at 'evening'. This would support a 'day' commencing with morning.
We find the same pattern in the following verse;
(Lev 8:35) Therefore shall ye abide at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation day and night seven days,..

A period of seven 'days' is defined here, and again the day precedes the night.

And yet again, another period of time, with the day proceeding the night;
(Gen 7:4) For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.

The following verse also conforms to 'morning' starting a day;
(Lam 3:22-23) It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning:...
"New every morning", would indicate morning is a new day.

The pattern continues;

(Zec 14:7) But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.

(ie, the remainder of that 'one day' shall be light)
A 24 hour 'day' is mentioned here, with the day preceding the night.

So do we find a similar pattern in the New Testament?

(Mat 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 sepulcher.

This verse indicates dawn (morning) as being 'the end of the Sabbath'.
In all the following examples the Sabbath ended at "dawn";

(Mar 16:1) And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
(Mar 16:2) And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.

(Luk 24:1) Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher,...

The account given in John is the only one that appears to disagree with the above three witnesses;
(Joh 20:1) The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher.

The fact that 1 out of 4 appears to disagree, means the translation of "yet" dark may need to be examined, (because we know the Bible doesn't contradict itself).
The Greek word translated as 'yet' = "eti" G2089, can also mean "no longer".
Notice other use of the same word;
(Luk 16:2) ...give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. G3621 G3756 G2089

(Luk 20:36) Neither can they die any more: G2089 for they are equal unto the angels;

(Heb 10:17) And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. G3364 G2089

So using the meaning of G2089, as seen in the previous examples, the verse in John could well be saying "when it was 'no more' dark" or 'no longer' dark".
This would also eliminate the apparent contradiction between the 4 gospel accounts.

The following verse also appears to contradict the Sabbath beginning at evening;
(Mar 15:42) And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,
(Mar 15:43) Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

Joseph requested the body of Jesus when even was come. If Sabbath started at even, he wouldn't have had much time to get Jesus' body down, wrap it, place it in the tomb, and position the stone over the entrance, all before even! Remember, Scripture says "when even was come". If Sabbath begins at even, it would be like saying "when Sabbath was come".

Another example;

(Act 4:3) And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. (ie, nightfall or dark).
If evening was the start of a new day, then the verse would not say 'the next day', as it would be part of the same day.

We find the same pattern in the following verse;
(Act 23:31) Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris.
(Act 23:32) On the morrow (ie, tomorrow, the next day) they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle:

Again, how could it be referred to as 'the next day' or 'tomorrow', if the day began at evening? Otherwise it should say "on that day".

As we looked at earlier, there is Scriptural evidence that more than one method of time keeping was in use at the time of Jesus.
Consider the following verse;
(Mar 15:25) And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.
(Mar 15:33) And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
(Mar 15:34) And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice,...
(Mar 15:37) ...and gave up the ghost.

We must ask; the third, sixth, and ninth hour from what?
Unlike our part of the world, in Jerusalem, sunrise and sunset is fairly consistent all year round. Not like here where sunset can vary from 5pm in the winter, to 9pm in summer. First light in Jerusalem is about 6am, so it appears Mark was quoting time based on counting from morning. So the third hour was what we call 9am, the sixth hour 12pm, and the ninth hour when Jesus died was 3pm. Luke confirms this time;
(Luk 23:44) And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

As does Matthew;
(Mat 27:45) Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
(Mat 27:46) And about the ninth hour Jesus...
(Mat 27:50) ...when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

As we covered earlier, we find that John quotes a midnight calendar (like we use today);
(Joh 19:14) And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
(Joh 19:15) But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King?

This sixth hour is probably 6am, when Jesus was taken to Pilate.
It is clearly a different 'sixth hour' to the accounts of Mark, Luke and Matthew, because at their sixth hour, Jesus had already been on the cross for 3 hours.
So which apostles were recording time, according to how God had set up the day?
Did a day start at evening, at midnight as in John's account, or morning as in Mark, Luke and Matthew?

Interestingly, Jesus uses the morning time method in His parables;
(Mat 20:3) And he went out about the third hour (9am), and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
(Mat 20:4) And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
(Mat 20:5) Again he went out about the sixth (12pm) and ninth hour (3pm), and did likewise.
(Mat 20:6) And about the eleventh hour (5pm) he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
(Mat 20:7) ...Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
(Mat 20:8) So when even was come (6pm), the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire,...
(Mat 20:9) And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour (5pm), they received every man a penny.
(Mat 20:10) But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more;...
(Mat 20:12) Saying, These last have wrought but one hour (ie, 5pm to 6pm), and thou hast made them equal unto us,

So Jesus clearly also counted time from the morning.
The Jews referred to the nighttime period as 'watches'.
The 'first watch' was what we know as 6pm to 9pm; the 'second watch' 9pm to 12am; the 'third watch' 12am to 3am; the 'fourth watch' 3am to 6am.
Jesus also confirmed this method for counting the darkness hours;
(Luk 12:38) And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.


1/ With so many Scriptural references defining the day and when it begins, one wonders what compels some to hold to the traditions of the evening to evening Sabbath?
To be fair there are a couple of references that can cause confusion if taken out of context.

(Lev 23:26) And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying,
(Lev 23:27) Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
(Lev 23:28) And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.
(Lev 23:29) For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.
(Lev 23:30) And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.
(Lev 23:31) Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
(Lev 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.

It is quite clear in the context of this Law, that the Sabbath for the Day of Atonement differs from other Sabbaths, in that God specified this particular Sabbath to be kept from evening to evening.
Given the context of the above verse (the Day of Atonement), we couldn't use the above verse for verification of when to keep the weekly Sabbath.
Interestingly, this is the only verse in Scripture that uses the phrase "from even unto even".
Notice that God makes it clear by numbering the days; that the Day of Atonement is on the "tenth day" but the fast commences on the "ninth day" at evening.
Why would God Command to start the fast on the ninth day at evening if the tenth day started at evening anyhow?
He could have just said you must fast the tenth day.
As seen below, a morning to morning 'day', still fits harmoniously with the above description;

Other thoughts to consider from the 'Holy Day' instructions in Leviticus 23.
Why would God say to keep the Passover Sabbath "between the evenings", and the Day of Atonement from "evening to evening", if it was the same as all other Sabbaths?
In Leviticus 23:3, God says to keep the weekly Sabbath, without mentioning an "evening to evening" observance; but mentions two verses later, a "between the evenings" observance with Passover.
He does not mention a start time with any other Holy days, until again in verse 32, with the ONLY "evening to evening" reference, for the Day of Atonement. Why?
If this is the way we are to observe all Sabbaths, why not say so in verse 3, in the weekly Sabbath instructions?
And if it is because they already knew all Sabbaths were kept "evening to evening", why mention it at all?
And if because they didn't know; why mention it only for the Passover and Day of Atonement, and not mention it for the other Sabbath commands in this chapter?
Why explain this format only for these two Holy days specifically, if there wasn't any difference to other Sabbaths?

As touched on earlier, another area of confusion is the night of the Passover, in which God led His people out of Egypt:
(Lev 23:5) In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD's passover.

One glaring problem of the evening to evening observance, is that it is impossible to celebrate your Passover on the evening of the 14th and eat your celebration meal "that night", the 14th!

We looked earlier at how the Passover lamb was to be killed and eaten on the 14th;
(Num 9:11) The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

If your "day" starts in the evening, then you have passed into the 15th according to an evening to evening reckoning;
(Exo 12:6) And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening (usually around 3pm).
(Exo 12:7) And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
(Exo 12:8) And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

This whole Festival takes place on the one day of the 14th, killing the lamb around 3pm (same time Jesus died), and continuing that night!
(Deu 16:6) ...thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, ... (ie, from around 3pm).

The Passover feast day was not to be kept at their homes;
(Deu 16:5) Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates...

However, at the end of the feast day, they could return home;
(Deu 16:7) And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents.

ie, go home at the end of the 24-hour 'Passover feast day'; at morning.

So this 'morning' (first light) would also mark the beginning of the 15th day;
(Num 33:3) And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.

Notice the day they left Egypt was 'a new day' (the morrow) in relation to when the 'passing over' Egypt took place at midnight.
As covered earlier, how could the 15th be called "the morrow" after God 'passed over' Egypt, if the 15th commenced at sunset (before the midnight Passover had even occurred)?

They were ordered to leave, after the firstborn of Egypt were struck dead at midnight;
(Exo 12:31) ...he (Pharaoh) called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people,...

During the hours that followed, the Israelites made haste and gathered all their belongings, their cattle, along with a great looting from among the Egyptians;
(Exo 12:35) And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:
(Exo 12:36) And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.

So by night, Israel were released from slavery, and by first light on the 15th they were assembled with their families, their cattle, and all they had taken from the Egyptians, and journeyed out of Egypt on the 15th;
(Num 33:3) And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.

It should be pointed out at this time, that a day begins at 'first light', not at 'sunrise'.
The 'creation of light' commenced the 'first day', not sunrise (remember the sun was not even created until day 4).
So 'the day' actually begins approx. 1 hour before the physical sighting of the sunrise. This makes more sense, because for someone living under the shadow of a hill, sometimes they may not even see the sun until 11am!
Basing the day on 'first light' means that everyone uses a common time to mark the beginning of the day.

2/ Another apparent anomaly is:

(Neh 13:18) Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.
(Neh 13:19) And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day.
(Neh 13:20) So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.
(Neh 13:21) Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.

"As it began to be dark before the Sabbath" could infer that the Sabbath starts when the sun goes down, but does not have to be the case. Against the weight of all other Scripture, it would be foolish to base the Sabbath on this one verse. In fact, it was customary to close the gates at night, and earlier in Nehemiah we see why they were closing the gates;
(Neh 7:3) And I said unto them, Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, (ie, at night).

Nehemiah had ordered them to shut the gates at night anyhow, and they were not to be opened "until the sun was hot". As we can see from the context of the Scripture, Nehemiah did not want the Sabbath profaned by merchants carrying in their wares and selling on the day of rest. Some merchants undoubtedly travelled on the sixth day and arrived toward the end of the day, so Nehemiah simply shut the gates on them.
If the Sabbath began at sunrise, why would they leave the gates open all night, just to shut them at sunrise?
Doing this, merchants coming at first light would have still made it into the city, potentially defiling their Sabbath. It would make more sense to close them the night before. Therefore the time that the gates were closed, does not provide clear evidence of when the Sabbath started.

3/ Another apparent anomaly is: There are also a great number of Scriptures that declare uncleanliness till evening and certain events taking place before evening that give some the assumption that a day starts in the evening. None of these Scriptures actually state this, and it is common sense to be made clean at evening, so the persons may come into the camp to spend the night, as it was unlawful for an unclean person to come into the camp. More importantly, if the next day were a Sabbath, an individual would not be able to participate in any set-apart assembly and would have to wait for the next evening.

Further points:

Looking at the Bible as a whole, it is interesting to note that the phrase "night and day" appears 13 times in Scripture,
yet the phrase "day and night" appears 28 times (twice as many).

The order of "day" preceding "night" in Scripture is used 84 times compared to only 19 of the opposite (over four times as many).

When determining a set period of time (e.g. "forty days and forty nights" which appears 11 times), the Scriptures always use the order of day and night.
Why would the Scriptures record a 'count of days' starting with the "day" if a day starts with a night?

Notice the order of the natural processes that God has ordered;
(Gen 8:22) "As long as the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease."

This is what God has to say about the order of day and night;
(Jer 33:20) Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season;...
and continuing...
(Jer 33:25) Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth;...


Some who are encountering this topic for the first time may think; "if this is fact; how could it go hidden from our sight for so long?".
Well, the truth is, this matter has actually been a source of debate, as far back as records exist. So far we have examined the Scriptures from which should come all our doctrine; but it is also interesting to delve into some of the studies of historians and commentaries...

"...The night time is considered as belonging to the preceding period of daylight. from this there developed the meaning of "day" in the sense of the cycle made up of one period of daylight and one period of darkness, or according to our modern reckoning, twenty-four hours...from the natural viewpoint the twenty-four hour day begins at sunrise...
however, beside this conception there arose another idea of the twenty-four hour day, according to which this daily period began at sunset. It was no doubt the lunar calendar of the Jews which gave rise to this viewpoint... although the earlier computation did not die out completely, the custom of considering the day as beginning at sunset became general in later Jewish times..."
(Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible. p.497).

"There can be no doubt that in pre-exilic times the Israelites reckoned the day from morning to morning. The day began with the dawn and closed with the end of the night following it..." (Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1951), p. 446).

"...To the Light He gives the name Day, to the Darkness the name Night...Thus the work of the first day, reckoned probably from morning to morning, is accomplished. The period of Light is followed by Evening and Darkness, which comes to an end with the next morning when the second day begins..."
(Peake's Commentary on The Bible, p.136).

"In the Old Testament the earlier practice seems to have been to consider that the day began in the morning. In Gen. 19:34, for example, the "morrow" (ASV) or "Next Day" (RSV) clearly begins with the morning after the preceding night..." (Jack Finegan, The Handbook of Biblical Chronology, p.7-8).

"...In earlier traditions a day apparently began at sunrise (e.g., Lev. 7:15-17; Judg. 19:4-19)... later its beginning was at sunset and its end at the following sunset...
this system became normative... and is still observed in Jewish tradition, where for example , the sabbath begins on Friday evening at sunset and ends Saturday at sunset..."
(Oxford Companion to the Bible, p.744).

"That the custom of reckoning the day as beginning in the evening and lasting until the following evening was probably of late origin is shown by the phrase "tarry all night" (Jdg 19:6-9); the context shows that the day is regarded as beginning in the morning; in the evening the day "declined," and until the new day (morning) arrived it was necessary to "tarry all night" (compare also Num 11:32)" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).

"...It is also interesting that according to the Karaite historian Al-QirqisanI (ca. 975 CE), the dissident Meswi al-Okbari (ca.850 CE) broke from traditional Rabbinical Judaism in an attempt to get back to the original religion and began the reckoning of the day from sunrise. (The Itinerary of R. Benjamin of Tudela, ix, 5-8, ed. Gruhut-Adler, (1904), p. 23)

"Among the Greeks the day was reckoned from sunset to sunset..." (Handbook of Chronology, op.cit., p.8).

"Among the ancient Israelites, as among the Greeks, the day was reckoned from sunset to sunset. This was the custom also of the Gauls and ancient Germans, and was probably connected originally with the cult of the moon. There is, however, evidence that this was not the custom at all times..." (Delitzsch in Dillmann's commentary on Gen. i. 5).

"...Early in the old testament period, when Canaan was under Egypt's influence, the day started at sunrise... later, perhaps under Babylonian influence, the calendar seems to have changed. The day began at moonrise (1800 hrs) ... (Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible - p.163).

"...The Israelites, like the Babylonians, counted their days from sunset to sunset..." (NIV Study Bible, p.707).

"We know little about the old Israelite calendar, apart from the laws of the festivals. But the Mishnah (the collection of Jewish law made at the end of the 2nd century AD) fully describes the system which the Jews had worked out under Babylonian influence..." (Eerdman's Handbook to the Bible).

"When the Jews returned to Palestine after their Babylonian exile (516 B.C.E.) they brought back with them the Babylonian astronomy and way of reckoning time..." (What is a Jew, p. 108).

"In order to fix the beginning and ending of the Sabbath-day and festivals and to determine the precise hour for certain religious observances it becomes necessary to know the exact times of the rising and setting of the sun. According to the strict interpretation of the Mosaic law, every day begins with sunrise and ends with sunset... (Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 591-597).

"Days were reckoned from morning to morning... Following the reign of King Josia (c. 640-609), and especially after the Babylonian exile a number of significant and enduring changes occurred in the Israelite calendar showing that the Jews gradually adopted the Babylonian calendar of the time...the seven day week persisted despite its failure to divide evenly either the month or the year. The day however, was counted from evening to evening, after the Babylonian fashion..."
(New Catholic Encyclopedia -Volume 11, p.1068).

"So far as we know, the Babylonian calendar was at all periods truly lunar... the month began with the evening when the new crescent was for the first time again visible shortly after sunset. Consequently, the Babylonian day also begins in the evening..." (Exact Sciences in Antiquity, p.106).

"...Numerous scholars have argued for the existence in Bible times of a sunrise method of day reckoning...the evidence for the sunrise reckoning is significant and cannot be ignored..." (The Time of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, Chapter 5).

"In Israel, the day was for a long time reckoned from morning to morning...and it was in fact in the morning, with the creation of light, that the world began; the distinction of day and night, and time too, began on a morning (Gen. 1:3-5, cf. 14:16, 18). The opposite conclusion has been drawn from the refrain which punctuates the story of creation: "There was an evening and there was a morning, the first, second, etc., day"; This phrase, however, coming after the description of each creative work (which clearly happens during the period of light), indicates rather the vacant time till the morning, the end of a day and the beginning of the next work...The change of reckoning must there fore have taken place between the end of the monarchy and the age of Nehemias... this would bring us to the beginning of the exile..."
(Ancient Israel, p.181-182).

"The first evening was not the gloom, which possibly preceded the full burst of light as it came forth from the primary darkness, and intervened between the darkness and full broad daylight. It was not till after the light had been created, and the separation of the light from the darkness had taken place, that evening came, and after the evening the morning...It follows from this, that the days of creation are not reckoned from evening to evening, but from morning to morning..."
(Commentary on the Old Testament, The First Book of Moses, p. 51).

"In early Jewish practice,... it seems to have been customary to reckon the day from sunrise to sunrise, or, rather, from dawn to dawn. Thus the law for the "praise-offering" (lev. 7:17 (pt) specifies that this sacrifice must be eaten on the day upon which it is offered, and that nothing may be left until morning. The repetition of the law in Lev. 22:30... is even more explicit: "On that very day (when it was sacrificed) it shall be eaten; ye shall not leave anything of it until morning. Clearly the next morning is here reckoned as belonging to the next day, and not the same day as the preceding evening and night. In other words, the day is reckoned here from sunrise to sunrise...
Likewise in Exod. 16:19f...the manna was given to the people in the morning, just at dawn and before the sun had become warm (16:21). It was to be eaten only on the day upon which it was gathered; nothing was to remain over until the next morning; that which did so became foul. Here, too, the day seems to have been reckoned from dawn to dawn...From Matt. 28:1 It may be inferred that the practice of reckoning the day from sunset to sunset was not universal in Israel, but in certain circles the older practice continued for several centuries...It is manifest that the day is still reckoned here from dawn to dawn. This is also the implication of the parallel passage, Mark 16:1f...Luke 23:56b-24:1 seems to imply the same...
Finally, it is significant that in the second Temple, throughout its entire existence, the practice seems to have been in all ritual matters to reckon the day from dawn to dawn, and not according to the later practice, from sunset to sunset...even the rabbis, who, themselves, reckoned the day from sunset to sunset, and refused to admit the legitimacy of any other practice, or rather, absolutely ignored all divergent practice, none the less had to admit the validity of the interpretation of Lev. 7:15...
the day was at one time reckoned from sunrise to sunrise...
The earlier practice, which continued until the time of the secondary strata of the Priestly code, was to reckon the day from dawn to dawn...
The later practice was to reckon the day from sunset to sunset...
It is impossible to tell exactly when this change in the mode of reckoning the day took place in Israel, and what causes brought it about. Possibly it may have had something to do with the introduction of the lunar calendar instead of the solar, for the lunar calendar naturally presupposes a reckoning of the day from nightfall to nightfall...
It was probably coincident with the revision of the festival calendar, which took place in the period after the time of Ezra, and was, in all probability, the work of the soferim or of the Great Synod in the fourth century B.C. This may also be inferred from the statement in the Talmud (Berachoth 33a) that the men of the Great Synod instituted the ceremonies of Kiddush and Havdalah, the solemn sanctification of the Sabbath on Friday eve, and its equally solemn ushering out on Saturday eve, in other words, ceremonies specifically marking the beginning and close of the Sabbath as at sunset. These were ceremonies for the Jewish home instead of the Temple. This, coupled with the fact that in the second Temple the old system of reckoning the day from dawn to dawn continued to be observed, as we have seen, may perhaps indicate that this entire innovation was the work of an anti-priestly group or party in the Great Synod..."
(The Sources of the Creation Story - Gen. 1:1- 2:4, p. 169-212).

"A new stage in the investigation of the problem of the calendar of ancient Israel was marked by the appearance of a learned article by E. Koenig in 1906...He maintains that two distinct calendars were current in ancient Israel. The first, a solar calendar...This solar calendar was well adapted to the conditions of the simple, agricultural life which the Israelites lived during the first period of their sojourn in Palestine. It reckoned the day from sunrise...
The second calendar was a luni-solar year...The day now came quite naturally to be reckoned from sunset...This second calendar was obviously based upon Babylonian models and was adopted under direct Babylonian influence at about 600 B.C., when Babylonian religion and general culture began to affect with steadily increasing force the Jewish exiles in Babylonia and, through those of them who return from exile, the Jews who had remained in Palestine.
This broadly sums up Koenig's conclusions...
...the time of the transition from the reckoning of the day as beginning with morning to the reckoning of it as beginning with evening...
...that in the earlier calendar and in the literature which records this the day was reckoned from the morning, presumably from sunrise, while in the later calendar and the literature pertaining thereto the day was reckoned from the evening...must be eaten upon the day upon which it is sacrificed, and that nothing of it must be allowed to remain over until morning. Obviously the implication here is that the next morning is no longer a part of the day upon which the sacrifice was offered, but mark the beginning of the next day...
...Elsewhere we have presented quite a mass of evidence which establishes conclusively that the earlier practice in Israel during the biblical period was to reckon the day from sunrise to sunrise...
...That in the earliest period of Israelite sojourn in Palestine, under calendar 1, the day was reckoned from morning to morning is established by a superabundance of evidence...
...This in turn, together with other important considerations, would point to a time approximately about the beginning or the first half, of the third century B.C. as that of the introduction of the new system of reckoning the day."
(Supplementary Studies in The Calendars of Ancient Israel, p. 1-148).

It is interesting to note the wide variety of commentators who may not agree on many points of doctrine, but do agree that the Scriptural day begins at first light in the morning.


In searching the Bible from cover to cover, there does not appear to be any Scripture defining 'a day' as commencing at sunset.
However, there are many verses indicating that morning marks the beginning of 'a day'.

If we have no Scripture to support a belief, then we have to ask; is that which we are practicing based on yet another vain tradition?
If this is true, is this something to be brushed aside?
Will this be too inconvenient for us to align our actions with God's will?
Or perhaps it will not be a popular change within our circle of friends; (or our church)?
What should be the basis of our actions, if we claim to keep the commandments of God?