What Constitutes a Day in Scripture?

Currently, when we speak of time in relation to a day, many of us usually regard that day as a 24-hour period, and that is due to tradition. It has been habit forming from generation to generation, but where did this 24-hour day originate, and furthermore, is it Scriptural?

We will examine those questions here, especially with regard to what actually constitutes a Sabbath day, according to Scripture.

Origin of Divisions in the Day

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It is believed that in ancient times, to mark divisions in the day, the Sumerians, with their palms facing them, used their thumbs to count each of the three bendable segments of the four fingers on both hands, which, taken together, numbers 12 each, one hand representing night, the other, day. Each segment of the finger represented an hour, and the Sumerians’ base number was 12, unlike what we use as our base today, that being 10 (ten dimes in a dollar, ten tens in a hundred, ten hundreds in a thousand, etc.).

Building on this, the Babylonians developed a more sophisticated system to further measure time, using instead their base number 60, known as a sexigesimal number system, thus giving the hour 60 minutes, which in later Latin became known as pars minuta prima, or the first small part, meaning “minute,” and 60 seconds in that minute, known as pars minuta secunda, or the second small part, meaning “second.” And then they divided the day and night into 24 equal hours.[1]

By the time of Messiah, this system of a 24-hour day was already in play, though he did not acknowledge it. Why? Because the Scriptures themselves bear out what constitutes a day, without the double meaning of a 12- and 24-hour period.

Genesis 1 Contradiction?

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It’s so funny how many people get tripped up by one chapter and a few verses in Genesis when line upon line, precept upon precept, the obvious is plainly revealed all over Scripture, as seen in our documentary film Understanding the Sabbath (to which this article is a companion). That means that your understanding of that one chapter, which seems to contradict everything else, must be off.

Going back to the book of Genesis, beginning at chapter 1 and verse 3 we read:

3 Then Elohim said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

4 And Elohim saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness.

5 Elohim called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”. . .

Genesis 1:3-5

The verse goes on to say that “. . . evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.” The transliterated Hebrew is: wayhî- ereḇ wayhî- ḇōqer yōwm eḥāḏ—It came to pass evening, it came to pass morning, day one. Now many take this and tend to run with it, saying that the evening and morning constitute a 24-hour period, when we clearly see that Elohim separated the light, subsequently called day, from the darkness, known as night, thus day and night were separate and distinct.

The evening and morning having come simply refers to a night period that passed, which in essence meant that the work of creation stopped as an example to man, for Yeshua himself said, and we’ll take the literal sense here: “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.” (John 9:4)

So you see, the evening to morning period marked the night that caused work to cease, as when men slept as night fell long ago due to a lack of electricity, not counting those who were entrusted with a night watch or period of guarding that occurred at night regardless of light conditions.

Incidentally, the Hebrew word used for day in Scripture is most often yom, which means to be hot, or warm, which references the actions of the sun. The sun is only out during daylight hours, thus yom, or day, meant, literally, the period of light that is generally 12 hours during the spring and fall seasons, and not a period of 24 hours, with day and night combined. And if day and night were one, what would be unique about the Sabbath if everyone already rests on the night portion seven nights a week. The unique thing about the Sabbath day is that the servants of Yah get to rest on the day created for them.

Genesis 1 does not say that a day is evening to evening. It basically shows us at what time creation took place. Genesis 1:5 and all verses like it are simply showing that evening and night are tied to the morning and not the other way around like many believe—those who say the day starts in the evening and drag morning with it. You’ll notice that when the next morning came, that was the time to create again. Then evening passed and morning came, so the previous day and its events were collectively done, showing that evenings and nights are tied to the morning, but not in a 24-hour sense, because there is a clear separation according to verse 4 of Genesis 1.

And notice that the sun wasn’t created until day 4, meaning that Yah’s presence acted as the sun (1 John 1:5; Revelation 22:5; John 8:12). While he was present it was day, and when he went away, evening and night could come. A new day began with Yah’s return because there was no sun and Yah started day 2’s creation in the morning. Then on day 4 he created the sun to replace the function of his presence.

Evening to evening day folks cite Genesis as proof of their claims but notice that the verses say nothing of evening to evening. It in fact states clearly that evening ends creation and the next morning starts the official next round of creation. Morning starts the day for Yah and evening ends it as we’ll show from just a few of many Scripture verses.

The 24-hour day is a human construct. You have to understand that Yah is all about separation and grouping. With that understanding alone, day can never be one with night. They both represent totally different things that are diametrically opposed. Once you understand that good cannot and should not exist with evil, or light with darkness, you’ll understand why day cannot be 24 hours. The devil always goes directly against Yah. If Yah says marriage is between a man and a woman, he says not so, and causes man to break that law. The same goes for each and every law down the line. He has deliberately broken them all. And he has set out to recreate Yah’s entire structure of existence in a corrupt way, hence the 24-hour day; schools and universities; banking based on debt and interest; worthless fiat currencies that are not backed by actual money, which is gold, silver, etc.; pharmaceuticals instead of herbs, and so on and so forth. When you study it out it will begin to make sense, but it goes deep.

Examples of a Day in Scripture

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Another instance of a Hebrew word being translated as day is boqer, which means dawn, or break of day, and morning. Boqer is used in Judges 16:2, where it is often translated as morning or light of morning.

Citing that verse as well as the one before it we read:

1 Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there a harlot, and went in unto her. 2 And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson has come here. And they surrounded the place, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, “In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him.”

Judges 16:1, 2

In a twisted way, this fulfills Yeshua’s statement: “night is coming, when no one is able to work.”

Another Hebrew word used as day in some translations is shachar, which means dawn, and comes from another word of roughly the same spelling which means, to dawn or be early. To deviate a bit, some hold that the day begins and ends at evening, and that a seventh-day Sabbath lasts from sunset to sunset, but neither of these assumptions are proven from Scripture.

When the beginning of day is spoken of in Scripture it is usually done so by being referenced as the dawn of, or break of day, seeing day involves light and not darkness, so cannot begin when it is growing dark out, like so many falsely believe.

The word shachar, in addition to boqer, is another wonderful example of this. Shachar is used in a very familiar passage of Scripture that has Jacob wrestling with a messenger of Yah. In Genesis 32:24 we read:

24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day (shachar).

Genesis 32:24

Two verses later we read: 

26 And he said, “Let me go, for the day breaks (shachar).” And he said, “I will not let you go, except you bless me.”

Genesis 32:26

So dawn, and not evening, according to two Hebrew words, boqer and shachar, marks the beginning of the day, which itself, attested to by yet another Hebrew word, yom, occurs during daylight hours, and not night, thus negating the 24-hour day theory.

The next example is the Hebrew word mochoratham, which means simply, the morrow, or tomorrow. It is found in 1 Samuel 30:17, in a passage that recounts a fierce battle between King David and the Philistines. There we read:

17 David slaughtered them from the twilight until the evening of the next day (mochoratham).

1 Samuel 30:17

This verse could easily be used by someone trying to prove the day-begins-at-evening theory, but it would be done so in falsehood, for the word mochoratham, translated day, in that it is the morrow, means only that the period of daylight following the current one is being mentioned.

Note that both twilight and evening are mentioned, but not as beginning periods of the day, but rather as the final portions within that daylight period. Twilight of course refers to the time of the day when the sun is just below the horizon, especially the period between sunset and dark when light is diffused. This can occur during early morning as well, but here I believe the word twilight is speaking of early evening, given the fact that in Hebrew it is nesheph, which refers to a prevailing evening breeze. Thus, David smote the Philistines from the early evening of one day, all through the night and up to the evening of the day that followed. In other words, the smiting took about 24 hours.

This word, mochoratham, to further disprove the theory of a 24-hour day, is also found in the book of Jonah chapter 4 and verse 7. It reads: . . . when dawn came the next day (mochoratham) . . .” illuminating once more that the next day, meaning the day that followed, began in the morning. (Jonah 4:7)

Again, owr, for yet another example, is a Hebrew word which means to be or makeluminous. And luminosity, as we should all know, has to do with something emitting light, or something that is full of light. Therefore, when we come to 2 Samuel 2:32, we can again glean the essential truth that has been highlighted in this article, for there we read:

32 And they took up Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb which was in Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men went all night until the day dawned (owr) at Hebron.

2 Samuel 2:32

Thus the day, as even a child knows, begins in the morning, when light appears, and ends at evening, when light diminishes, having nothing to do with the night, which means it is not a period of 24 hours.

Now, without explaining the stories surrounding the texts, we will quote some verses that will further demonstrate, from Scripture, that a day is actually from morning to evening. First we give you Judges 19:9:

9 When the man arose to go along with his concubine and servant, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold now, the day has drawn to a close; please spend the night. Lo, the day is coming to an end; spend the night here that your heart may be merry. Then tomorrow you may arise early for your journey so that you may go home.”

Judges 19:9

Now, this next example is a bit graphic, so be warned. But, again in Judges 19:25, 26 we read:

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn.

26 As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man’s house where her master was, until full daylight.

Judges 19:25, 26

Often, we read these fascinating accounts in Scripture that causes us to get so caught up in the details of the stories that we in turn miss the important points of truth concerning subjects such as the one we are covering herein, that is, what constitutes a day in Scripture. Therefore, we are cutting to the chase so to speak and giving you the meat of the texts dealing with our topic, the day.

Moving on to Exodus 18:13, there we read:

13 It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening.

Exodus 18:13

This lesson is not limited to the Pre-Messianic Scriptures alone. We covered several examples in the Messianic Writings in our documentary video Understanding the Sabbath.

Evening to Evening Sabbaths

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When Sabbath-keeping believers speak of the Sabbath, or observe it, this usually entails a 24-hour, evening to evening period. Let us look at the relevance of this from Scripture. Beginning in the book of Nehemiah, in chapter 13:15-19 we read:

15 In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys; and also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them about the day in which they sold provisions.

16 There dwelt men of Tyre also there, who brought fish, and all manner of wares, and sold on the sabbath unto the people of Judah, and in Jerusalem.

17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that you do, and profane the sabbath day?

18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our Elohim bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet you bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.

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.

Nehemiah 13:15-19

Now to elaborate on verse 19, how can darkness fall on the gates of Jerusalem “before the Sabbath” if the Sabbath occurs during the night as well and is supposed to begin at “evening?” Doesn’t the term “it began to be dark” refer to the evening, at which point the Sabbath allegedly begins? So why do we have it that this was also “before the Sabbath?” This means that Sabbath rightly occurs only during daylight hours, from morning to evening. When it began to be dark, the gates were commanded to be shut, not because Sabbath was about to begin, but because it would have been considered work closing them on the morning of the Sabbath, and it couldn’t be done during the night darkness, so it was done before it became fully dark. Yeshua said it best: “the night comes, when no man can work.”

Another passage in Nehemiah further demonstrates this point. In chapter 4 and verses 21 and 22 we read:

21 So we labored in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.

22 Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let everyone with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labor during the day.

Nehemiah 4:21, 22

Finally we come to the mother of all quotes when dealing with this subject, and it is found in the book of Leviticus chapter 23. There we find the law pertaining to the Day of Atonement. Many use these verses to, again, “prove” a 24-hour day. Beginning at verse 27, and we won’t quote it in its entirety, we read, “ ‘. . . on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement. . . .’ ” Moving down to verse 32 we read: “ ‘It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and you shall humble yourselves: in the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening unto evening, shall you celebrate your sabbath.’ ”

First let us note that this is the only text wherein descriptive language is used to explain the duration of a Sabbath, and it is one of only two that is known as a high Sabbath, which we’ll explain shortly. Second, note that Yah mentions both the ninth and tenth day here. People tend to use this to say the tenth day begins on the evening of the ninth day, but that is confusing and misleading. The ninth day at evening is self-explanatory, in that the “ninth day” is in and of itself its own day, and not the beginning of the tenth. This was a rare Sabbath, hence the thorough explanation by Yah regarding its observance.

The other high Sabbath was the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the details of which can also be found in Leviticus chapter 23. Preceding the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread was the Passover, which, according to verse 5 of chapter 23, was commanded to be held, according to the Hebrew sense, between the evenings, whereas others translate it evening.

Between the evenings is a Hebrew idiom that refers to either 3:00 p.m., according to the Pharisees, or dusk, according to the Sadducees. Regardless of who was right, Yah darkened the day from the sixth to the ninth hour to fulfill it. At the ninth hour, being 3:00 p.m., is when Yeshua died, fulfilling the role of our Passover lamb—see Matthew 27:46-50; Mark 15:34-37; and Luke 23:44-46. Note that the first hour was reckoned as 6:00 a.m., further proof that a day does not begin at evening. How could the ninth hour be 3:00 p.m. if the day started in the evening? Error regarding these simple truths has persisted for far too long. And please note that I do not make this point to say that the day begins at exactly 6:00 a.m. wherever you are. It actually begins whenever the sun rises wherever you are in the world, and it ends whenever the sun sets whenever you are in the world. A simple Google search can tell you when the sun rises and sets for your given location.

Now remember that the Passover was to be observed all night, as we read in the book of Exodus chapter 12. But in the morning, the Israelites were to return to their tents as commanded in Deuteronomy 16:7, because the morning was no longer Passover but the first day of Unleavened Bread. Because the Passover, which ran throughout the previous night, connected directly to the first day of Unleavened Bread, this made that entire observance a high Sabbath. This leads us to ask, what exactly is a high Sabbath?

In John 19:31 we read:

31 The Yehudim (those of the tribe of Judah) therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the stake on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was a high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

John 19:31

Remember too that the Day of Atonement was called a Sabbath by Yah himself back in Leviticus chapter 23. Thus the seventh-day Sabbath was not the only Sabbath observed by the Yedudim in Yeshua’s day.

The word “high” in John 19:31, which refers to the type of Sabbath they were preparing for, is the Greek word megas (G3173), which means large, or great (like our English word mega) and it is associated with two other Greek words, megistos (G3176), which means greatest, and meizon (G3187), which means greater, or more. What does all this mean exactly? Well, it falls in line with exactly what we have been saying herein. A regular Sabbath was and is from morning to evening, but a high Sabbath, or megas Sabbath, is larger than usual. This is because a previous night is attached to it. Again, there are only two high, or big Sabbaths found in the entire Scriptures, and they are the first day of Unleavened Bread, which has the prior night of Passover attached to it, and the Day of Atonement, both observed from the evening of one day to the evening of another.

Yeshua once said wisely, while confronting a few Pharisees, “Why do you also transgress the command of Elohim because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3). If this light is new to you, and you must chew the cud of it awhile, then do so, but when light comes, if indeed it is light, then we must live up to it. The traditions of men causes us to err, but when we learn the truth behind these false traditions, which in effect makes them nothing but darkness, then we are supposed to live up to what we know, for “To him, then, who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

So once you come to light on this matter and are convicted of it, you must begin to observe the Sabbath as it has been laid out in the Scriptures, and not as tradition dictates, for . . .

15 “. . . It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Matthew 3:15

That said, I urge you to study this out for yourself. Only Yah and Yeshua can guide you to full truth on this and all subjects via the Ruach (Spirit). I hope you find light and truth in your search regarding this important topic, but don’t take anyone’s word for it, not even mine. Come to an understanding by Yah’s guidance alone.


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