The Hebrew Calendar and Its Use of
"Day," "Light" "Evening" and "Morning"
The Hebrew calendar is obviously different from ours. It uses a different way of defining the parts of a day. Day, light, morning and evening are all important words to understand correctly in determining how the Bible defines the portions of a 24-hour cycle. To understand the system we need to look at each of these words and examples of how they are used.
On this page,we will examine different passages of scripture especially for any evidence that these words can be used within the Hebrew calendar with more than one meaning. Whether or not these words could have more than one meaning was the question we ended with after examining
the creation story in Genesis.
While no one verse can establish a case, we will look at all we can find that relate to this question and, with some sound reasoning, attempt to find an answer. Following is an examination of these words and the different ways they are used.
The Hebrew Calendar
and the Word "Day"
"This Day" Means "Now"
The term "this day" can refer simply to the present time rather than only to daylight hours. We might say "in our day." It does not mean just daylight hours.
"And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day." (Gen 19:37)
"Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank." (Gen 32:23)
"The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude." (Deut 1:10)
(See also Deut 34:6; Josh 4:9, 5:9, 6:25, 7:26, 8:29, 9:27, 10:27, 13:13 and many, many other verses that use "day" in this way.)
"This Day" Can Refer to a Period of Time
"Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:" (Jer 31:32)
While Israel came out of Egypt at Passover, the covenant was not made with them until weeks later at Mt. Sinai. Centuries later, when speaking to Jeremiah, God used "day" to refer to two events - the departure from Egypt and the making of the covenant agreement - as though they happened on the same day.
A "Day" in the Future
"Day" can be used of a time in the future without necessarily meaning during daylight hours:
"And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:" (Gen 27:2)
Did Isaac know he wouldn't die in the night? There are many more examples in scripture like this.
In the following verse, the angel of the LORD speaking to Manoah about her son to come (Samson), uses "day" in the same way:
"But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death." (Jud 13:7)
King David speaking to Shimei who had cursed the king as he fled from Absalom, (2 Sam 16:5) used "day" in the same way:
"For it shall be, that on the day thou (Shimei) goest out, and passest over the brook Kidron, thou shalt know for certain that thou shalt surely die: thy blood shall be upon thine own head." (1 Kings 2:37)
Shimei was essentially under house arrest. So if he had tried to escape and return to his home territory he would quite likely have done that at night. Why would he be warned against crossing the Kidron only in the day? If he was to go out at night would the warning not apply? That doesn't make any sense.
This verse says that in the same day a man dies his breath leaves. This must be true even if he dies at night. About half of all deaths (perhaps excepting accidents) occur at night.
"His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." (Psa 146:4)
We could reason similarly with this verse:
"A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth." (Eccl 7:1)
Day's of Life
"Days" can refer to while a person's lifetime:
"On that day the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life." (Josh 4:14)
"Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;" (Heb 5:7)
Here "Days of his flesh" describes the time while he (Melchisedec) was alive.
Day and Night at the Same Time?
"And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying ..." (Gen 15:17-18)
How could the LORD make a covenant with Abram while it was dark and do it in the day unless the term "day" can be used (as we do) to describe a 24-hour time period including the night?
"And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went." (Gen 35:3)
That "day of his distress" is referring to when Jacob was in distress about having to leave his home after lying to his father Isaac and being threatened by his brother Esau. Bethel was the name, meaning the gate of God, that he gave to the place where he
"... tarried there all night, because the sun was set ..." (Gen 28:11)
He received the answer in a dream where he was given the promises that he would inherit the land and that God would be with him. God answered him at night in a dream yet the verse says he received the answer "in the day of my distress."
"And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die." (Exo 10:28)
So it would have been safe for Moses to go to see Pharaoh at night?
Consider the following two verses that together make it very clear that the term "day" can include the dark portion of a 24-hour cycle:
"And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle." (Exo 12:29)
"Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the LORD." (Num 3:13)
Queen Esther's Fast
"Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)
Notice that the time for fasting was specified as "... three days, night or day ..." Clearly, this is specifying that the time was to include both the night (dark portion) and day (light portion) of three 24-hour days or portions thereof. This may have been a period of three days inclusive reckoning where any part of a day counts as a day. Thus, it could have looked something like this:
The time of fasting may have been slightly more than 36 hours and that, since it included parts of three days, could correspond to the request to "... neither eat nor drink three days, night or day ..."
Adam and Eve and the Tree
"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen 2:17)
Were Adam and Eve restricted from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil only during the day? So, as long as they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil at night there is no problem?
From the preceding examples, it is apparent that the word "day" can refer to the 24-hour day as well as just the light portion of the day.
The Hebrew Calendar
and the Word "Light"
There are a number of meanings to the word "light."
Light by Which We See
"And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:" (Exo 13:21)
"For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness." (Psa 18:28)
"The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up." (Matt 4:16)
To Kindle a Fire
"Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand." (Mal 1:10) (also Isa 27:11)
The word "fire" is here translated from a word that is most commonly translated as "light." We even say "light a fire."
Direction in Life
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psa 119:105)
There are obviously many meanings to the word light.
The Hebrew Calendar
and the Word "Evening"
The first use of "evening" is early in the first chapter of the Bible:
"The evening and the morning were the first day." (Gen 1:5)
The order of the words suggests that evening comes first within a day. This has commonly been understood to look like this:
Another important verse that uses the term "evening" is in Exodus in the specifications of when to kill the Passover lamb:
"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." (Exo 12:6)
The marginal note for "evening" is "between the evenings." Deuteronomy also gives instruction on this point:
"But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt." (Deut 16:6)
Of course, the sun actually begins to go down at noon and completes its going down at sunset. We could add to the above diagram using the instructions given for sacrificing the Passover lamb:
The difficulty this presents is that "evening" is then used in two different ways. But does that need to be a difficult problem? We have already seen that many Biblical words are used with multiple meanings. Could the "evening sacrifice" have been called that because it was to burn all evening (all of the dark portion of the 24-hour cycle) until the next morning sacrifice so that there was a "continual" sacrifice?
"This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee." (Exo 29:42)
The timing of the sacrifices is such that the morning sacrifice burned for only 6 hours until the next sacrifice. The evening sacrifice, if it was done at 3pm, would have to burn for 18 hours until the next morning sacrifice. Therefore it burned all evening. There seems to be a correspondence here to the daily times for prayer, the hour of prayer that scripture speaks of. This is described in the article
the daily sacrifice.
From Even Unto Even
Just when is the time for the evening sacrifice? The sun actually starts "going down" not down over the horizon but down in the sky at solar noon.
Leviticus says to celebrate the Sabbath from (start celebration) even unto (end celebration) even:
"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." (Lev 23:32)
Whenever evening is, it certainly is not sunrise. Here are the possibilities:
The marginal note for "in the evening" of Exodus 12:6 refers to this time of the evening sacrifice as "between the evenings." Let's try that:
That would make for very short Sabbath and not even all of a day!
Well, let's consider the Sabbath being from one "even" to the same time the following day. The first even in "between the evenings" would be at noon when the sun starts to go down in the sky:
How can we call that a sabbath day - it takes in parts of two days?
Let's try from the middle of the two evenings which would be about the time of the evening sacrifice, approximately 3pm:
Again, how can we call that a Sabbath day?
The second evening of "between the evenings" is at sunset:
This is now going from what can be understood as "even" according to scripture, it goes from one point to the same point the next day and corresponds to what we understand to be a 24-hour day.
Even at Sunset
Here is a use of "even" that clearly indicates sunset:
"When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:" (Matt 8:16)
"And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils." (Mark 1:32)
"Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them." (Luke 4:40)
These verses are all referring to the same event. Why did the people wait until sunset? Because of the Pharisaical prohibition against healing on the Sabbath:
"And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?" (Mark 2:24)
"And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things (healing the man by the pool of Bethesda) on the sabbath day." (John 5:16)
Once the sun was set the Sabbath was past and they felt they could bring the sick for healing.
Here is another verse that indicates evening can be used for sunset.
"He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red." (Matt 16:2)
The sky is red at sunset - here termed evening - as we well know and as the following states:
"Weather systems typically move from west to east, and red clouds result when the sun shines on their undersides at either sunrise or sunset. At these two times of day, the sun's light is passing at a very low angle through a great thickness of atmosphere, the result of which is the scattering out of most of the shorter wavelengths - the greens, blues, and violets - of the visible spectrum, and so sunlight is heavy at the red end of the spectrum."
Even Ends the Work Day
"So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first." (Matt 20:8)
This is not a reference to an evening that starts at noon. It is very clearly referring to the evening at the end of the work day. The householder hired workers early in the morning, at the third, the sixth and the ninth hours of the day.
"And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?" (Matt 20:6)
Those he hired at the eleventh hour worked for just one hour. Here is what those hired first said when payment was made at even:
"... the first came saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day." (Matt 20:10,12)
"Even" came after some had worked the full twelve-hour day, not at noon or at 3pm.
"Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening." (Psa 104:23)
The Hebrew Calendar
and the Word "Morning"
The word "morning" in the Greek is translated from Strong's no. 4404:
4404 prwi proi pro-ee'
from 4253; ; adv
AV-in the morning 5, early in the morning 2, early 2, morning 1; 10
1) in the morning, early
2) the fourth watch of the night, from 3 o'clock in the morning until 6 o'clock approximately
This definition includes a time before sunrise (3-6 am). Here is a case where the Bible uses the word "morning" to refer to a time before sunrise:
"And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." (Mark 1:35)
If it was a great while before day, it would have been dark and yet it is termed as morning.
In Mark 13, "morning" refers to the fourth watch of the night - from approximately 3 am to 6 am:
"Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:" (Mark 13:35)
The terms "even," "midnight," "the cockcrowing," and "morning" referred to the four watches of the night.
In this verse, the same word (Strong's 4404) is translated as "early" and the time is described as "while it was yet dark":
"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." (John 20:1)
Obviously, in the New Testament, morning can include a time while it is still dark.
We have looked at the Hebrew Calendar and its use of the words "day," "light," "evening" and "morning." It is apparent that all of these words, as the Bible uses them, have more than one meaning. There is no Biblical basis for using only the more-restricted definitions given in "My Burden is Light."
It is apparent that:
- Day can mean the whole 24-hour period or even refer to events happening while it is dark.
- Light has a number of meanings other then the physical means by which we see.
- Evening can refer either to the time from noon to sunset or the dark part of the 24-hour cycle.
- Morning can refer to the time from sunrise to noon or the daylight portion of the 24-cycle or even a time considerably before sunrise (but probably after midnight).