Bible Commentators: The Original Day Starts in the Morning

This is a collection of quotes from many different Bible commentators showing that the day is from morning to morning, not evening to evening.

“Thus evening was and morning was one day.” אחד (one), like εἷς and unus, is used at the commencement of a numerical series for the ordinal primus (cf. Genesis 2:11; Genesis 4:19; Genesis 8:5, Genesis 8:15). Like the numbers of the days which follow, it is without the article, to show that the different days arose from the constant recurrence of evening and morning. It is not till the sixth and last day that the article is employed (Genesis 1:31), to indicate the termination of the work of creation upon that day. It is to be observed, that the days of creation are bounded by the coming of evening and morning.

The first day did not consist of the primeval darkness and the origination of light, but was formed after the creation of the light by the first interchange of evening and morning. 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; and this coming of evening (lit., the obscure) and morning (the breaking) formed one, or the first day. It follows from this, that the days of creation are not reckoned from evening to evening, but from morning to morning. The first day does not fully terminate till the light returns after the darkness of night; it is not till the break of the new morning that the first interchange of light and darkness is completed, and a ἡερονύκτιον has passed …

The first day commenced at the moment when God caused the light to break forth from the darkness; but this light did not become a day, until the evening had come…

But if the days of creation are regulated by the recurring interchange of light and darkness, they must be regarded not as periods of time of incalculable duration, of years or thousands of years, but as simple earthly days.

Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Genesis 1:5


… The nighttime 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, pp. 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


… 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) and a whole day became an evening and a morning ….

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, pp. 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, pp. 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, pp. 169-212

Ricky

My name is Ricky Bokovoy, but this website isn't about me. Please enjoy this article and I pray that it is a blessing to you. May you be strengthened in the faith once delivered to the saints!

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