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When Does A Day Begin?

The King James Version (KJV) is mostly used in these lessons. Click here to access the KJV online.
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We have restored on the WLC website, in the Scriptures quoted the Names of the Father and Son, as they were originally written by the inspired authors of the Bible.  Click here to download the Restored Names Version (RNV) of Scripture.  The RNV is a non-WLC resource.  -WLC Team

Throughout history, different cultures have begun their "day" at different times.  The ancient Greeks began their "day" at sunset; the ancient Egyptians at sunrise.  The Romans began their day at midnight and this practice has carried over to modern times.  Jews and many others who worship on the seventh-day Sabbath, begin Sabbath at sunset of the day before.

A careful study of Scripture reveals when the day really begins, and it is neither sunset nor sunrise, midnight nor noon. 

A day begins at dawn and ends at dusk.   The night is ruled by the moon and stars, therefore, day begins when the stars disappear - before actual sunrise and ends when they appear after sunset.

The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever. Psalm 136:9

Thus saith Yahuwah, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Eloah of hosts is his name:  Jeremiah 31:35  

The night begins at dusk and ends at dawn. A calendar date is not synonymous with a day. In contrast a calendar date includes both the day and the night, but also begins at dawn. A day is only the first half of the calendar date, while the night is the second half.

Creation week began when the Creator said: "Let there be light."  And there was light!  The first day of Creation week began with the coming of light.  Genesis 1:2 reveals that before the Creator spoke light into existence, "darkness was on the face of the deep."  This is the first evidence that the day begins with the coming of light, or dawn. 

The Creator called light into existence.  The first day of Creation week began only when light came.  Yahuwah did not declare: "Day One is now beginning" and, after sitting around in the dark for 12 hours, then declare "Let there be light!"  Nor did He make the last 12 hours before He created light to be part of the first day retroactively. Note also the sequence in this text: "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I Yahuwah do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7)

Satan has confused minds by a phrase repeated in Genesis 1.  Many believe that this phrase, repeated at the end of every day, is proof that the day begins at sunset: "And the evening and the morning were the first day . . . And the evening and the morning were the second day . . . And the evening and the morning were the third day . . . ."  (See Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31.)

This does not prove that the day begins at sunset.  Rather, after the day began at dawn, the evening came, and then another morning (the second day) arrived.  One full "24 hour period" was complete with the dawning of the next day.

Genesis 1:4 and 5 provides further definition of what constitutes the "day":

And Elohim saw the light, that it was good: and Elohim divided the light from the darkness.  And Elohim called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. 

The Creator Himself designated that light is called Day; darkness is called Night.  It is a principle of Scripture that what Yahuwah has joined, no one is to separate.  By extension, what Yahuwah has separated, let no one presume to join.  Satan has done this very thing by bringing in confusion over when the day begins. 

Just as Light symbolizes the kingdom of Heaven, Darkness symbolizes Satan's kingdom.  By confusing minds over the issue of when a day begins, Satan has effectively begun his "sabbath" (Saturday on the papal/pagan calendar) with the coming of darkness, thus claiming ownership of that "day."

When Moses wrote the book of Genesis, he did not lack the word "night."  He used it repeatedly in Genesis 1!  If the day began at night (midnight or sunset), Moses would not have written that the evening and the morning were all part of the day.  Dawn and dusk, morning and evening, are the transition times between Night and Day.  As such, they are counted as part of the daytime hours.

Yahuwah created the sun to "rule the day" (Genesis 1:16).  Thus, the day begins with the coming of light.  Near the equator, this can be very near sunrise.  Places far north or far south of the equator, however, can get light more than an hour before sunrise and stay light long after sunset.  All the time when it is light enough for the sun to be "ruling" is part of the day.

When it comes to Sabbath observance, these transition periods are to be guarded carefully for they are the "edges of the Sabbath."

In Bible times, mechanical clocks were not available.  The only means for keeping track of time that was available was the sundial.  "Days" were divided up into 12 equal parts, or hours.  Because these hours were reflective of the sun's movements, hours were longer in the summer and shorter in the winter. 

Yahushua used this as an illustration in one of His lessons.  He asked:

Are there not twelve hours in the day?  If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.  But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.  (John 11:9, 10, KJV)

Although the Saviour's enemies were continually quibbling and arguing over His words, no one argued with His claim that there were only "twelve hours in the day."

This method of reckoning time is seen in the parable of the man who hired laborers for his vineyard.

A man . . . went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.  . . . And he went out about the third hour . . . and said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard . . . Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.  And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others . . . He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.  (See Matthew 20:1-16.)

It is clear that the "eleventh hour" workers were hired only an hour before the work day was over.  When the owner generously paid the eleventh hour workers the same amount as those who had worked all day long, the men hired early in the morning complained:

These last have wrought but one hour, and thou has made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.  (Matthew 20:12)

The night hours were divided into first three and later (under Roman supremacy) four "watches."  These night hours belonged to the day preceding them, not the day that followed.

Evidence for each 24 hour period beginning at dawn can be seen in the account of Lot and his daughters.  After the destruction of the cities of the plain, Lot's daughters assumed that the whole earth had been destroyed.

And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us . . . Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.  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.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him . . . .  (See Genesis 19:30-38.)

If the "day" began at sunset, then this account does not make sense.  Instead, it would have to say that they made their father drink wine the next night.  Then, the next day when the firstborn spoke to her younger sister, she would have had to have said, "I lay tonight with my father: let us make him drink wine tomorrow night also."  However, that is not what she said.  Because a new day begins with dawn, the night belongs to the day that goes before it, not that comes after it.  Therefore, "yesternight" belongs toyesterday.

The Biblical account of the Passover and Exodus from Egypt also contains compelling evidence for the day beginning at dawn.  If the day truly began at sunset, the time details as given in Exodus 12 and other passages are impossible to all be true.

The traditional understanding of the Passover and Exodus is to assume that since the "day" begins at sunset, the Israelites killed the lamb just after sunset - the sunset beginning the "day" of the 14th.  They then roasted the lamb, ate it, and sometime during the night the Egyptians came and told them to get out, which they did before dawn of the next day (the 15th).

However, when all the facts presented in Scripture are carefully brought together, a very different picture emerges.  Exodus 12 opens with Yahuwah explaining to Moses how the Israelites were to keep the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread which followed.  On the tenth day of the month, they were to select a 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.  . . . And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; . . . 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.  (Exodus 12:6, 8, 10, KJV)

This solemn observance was called the Passover for a specific reason:

ye shall eat it in haste: it is Yahuwah's passover.  For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the eloah of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Yahuwah.  (See Exodus 12: 11, 12.)

Right here is the first evidence that the day begins at dawn. 

Scripture provides three important details about the Exodus. 

  1. It occurred at night;
  2. It took place on the 15th of the month.
  3. It suggests that there was a FULL MOON at that time – the MIDDLE of the month.

Deuteronomy 16:1 - "Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto . . . [Yahuwah thy Elohim]; for in the month of Abib . . . [Yahuwah thy Elohim] brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.

Numbers 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 an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians."

In addition to the date and time, here, special attention must also be given to the words “in the sight of all the Egyptians" as this suggests that there was a bright FULL MOON at that time – the MIDDLE of the month.

When these facts are factored in, it becomes very apparent that the day has to begin at dawn.  If the day began at sunset, then Yahuwah did not "pass over" the Israelites on the Passover at all - but on the 15th!

Furthermore, when Moses was relaying Yahuwah's instructions to the Israelites, he emphasized a very important point:

none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.  For . . . [Yahuwah] will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, . . . [Yahuwah] will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.  (Exodus 12:22, 23, KJV)

It was forbidden for any Israelite to step outside the door of his house until morning.  If he did, the divine protection would be withdrawn.  No Israelite would have dared disobey the command of Yahuwah to stay in their homes until morning.  This alone makes it impossible for them to have left the same night as the Passover was eaten.

The Passover took place on the night of the 14th - the night following the day of the 14th. 

And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of . . . [Yahuwah's] passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses . . .

And it came to pass, that at midnight . . . [Yahuwah] smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt . . . And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.  And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people . . . .  (Exodus 12:26, 27, 29-31, KJV)

Pharaoh may have sent messengers to call for Moses and Aaron, but they did not disobey their divine Deliverer to obey their oppressor.  They were delivered!  What was the rush?  They, and all Israel, obeyed the divine command to stay in their houses until morning. 

The next day, the 15th, was the seventh-day Sabbath.  Again, the people remained where they were.  These were the holy hours of the Sabbath.  Yahuwah does not break His own laws, and He would not lead a million-plus people, along with their flocks and herds, out of Egypt on the Sabbath.  They rested that day - something that greatly bothered the Egyptians.

And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.  (Exodus 12:33, KJV)

That night, after the holy hours of the Sabbath had passed, on the night of the 15th, in accordance with the details given in Deuteronomy 16 and Numbers 33, Moses led the people out.  Only if the day begins at dawn can all of these details be fulfilled, along with the command to remain in their homes until morning.

The practice of beginning the Sabbath at sunset came about after the Babylonian exile, possibly under Greek influence since the Greeks began their day at sunset. The intra-Testament time period (between the Old and the New Testaments) was a time of intense persecution of the Israelite faithful.  Because the law of Moses established that the observance of Day of Atonement also began the evening before (see Leviticus 23:26-32), it would be a simple thing for those who wished to compromise to simply "extend" the observation of the Sabbath backward to the sunset of the sixth day.

Furthermore, the Babylonian captivity finally cured the Israelites of idolatry.  Before the Babylonian captivity, they frequently worshipped false deities.  Seventy years of captivity in a foreign land forcibly impressed on them that their national security and temporal prosperity were inseparably bound up with keeping Yahuwah's law.

It was at this time that the sect of the Pharisees arose.  Their entire purpose was to make it impossible to break the law of Yahuwah.  They attempted to achieve national security by legislating righteousness.  The "traditions of the elders" from which the Saviour sought to free the people were nothing more than a very long list of rules which, if scrupulously obeyed, would make it impossible to break the law - or so they thought.

Yahushua said the Pharisees "bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders."  (Matthew 23:4, KJV)  It was under the influence of the Pharisees that the Israelites began to observe the Sabbath beginning at sunset of the preceding day.  Historical evidence indicates that the Israelites living around Jerusalem during the Saviour's time kept the Sabbath from sunset, while the Israelites living in Galilee, further away from the Pharisaical influence, were still keeping the Sabbath beginning at dawn.

The gospel account of the crucifixion provides time details that only fit if the day begins at dawn. 

Death by crucifixion was a lengthy process that typically took several days.  Yahushua, as the Lamb of Yah that takes away the sins of the world, was crucified on the day of Passover, the 14th of Abib.  He died at the time of the evening sacrifice.

The next day was not only the seventh-day Sabbath, but also the first day of Feast of Unleavened Bread, a "High Sabbath." 

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.  Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.  But when they came to . . . [Yahushua], and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs.  (John 19:31-33, KJV)

The purpose of breaking the legs was to hasten death so they could be buried before the Sabbath.  Yahushua's legs were not broken as He was already dead.  (He died about the "ninth hour" - the midafternoon time of the evening sacrifice).

"Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of . . . [Yahushua].  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of . . . [Yahushua].  Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him.  And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb, and departed."  (Matthew 27:57-60, NKJV)

This was a lengthy process! 

  • Joseph went to Pilate and asked for the body.  (Matthew 27:57)
  • Pilate did not believe Yahushua could die so quickly from a process that typically took several days.  He sent for the centurion to confirm Yahushua's death.  (Mark 15:44, 45)
  • Joseph went and got burial linens, returned to Golgotha and removed the body.  (Mark 15:46)
  • Nicodemus arrived bringing 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes for preparing the body for burial.  (John 19:39)
  • The body was likely washed before being bound in "strips of linen with the spices."  (John 19:40)
  • The body was then laid to rest in Joseph's own tomb which was nearby.  (Matthew 27:59, 60)

This lengthy process took the entire night.  The Sabbath could not begin at "even" because that was the very time Joseph of Arimathea first went to Pilate to ask for the Saviour's body!  If the Sabbath began at "sunset" as many have believed, the Sabbath would have already been broken by the fact that they did not even begin to ask for the body until "evening had come."

Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of Yahuwah, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Yahushua.  (See Mark 15:42, 43.)

Yahushua's friends finished burying Him just as the Sabbath began to dawn.

And he [Joseph of Arimathea] took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.  And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on.  (Luke 23:53, 54, KJV)

The phrase translated 'drew on' in this text, is the Greek word, . . . (epiphosko). The definition is startling: 'to begin to grow light: – begin to dawn.'  It is a form of #2017, . . . (epiphauo), which means 'to illuminate . . . give light.'  Because they waited until evening to even begin the process of seeking permission to take the body, taking it down, cleaning and wrapping it, etc., it took them the night hours to do their work. They did not finish until the Sabbath began as it started to grow light. 

(eLaine Vornholt and L. L. Vornholt-Jones, The Great Calendar Controversy, p. 40.)

Yahushua was resurrected very early on the first day of the week.  The first day of the week, like every other day, began at dawn:

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.  (Matthew 28:1, KJV)

The subject of when the day begins is important because it effects the observance of the Sabbath.  In recent years, it has become a very controversial topic among Sabbath-keepers.  However, when the weight of Scripture is brought together, it is clear that the day begins at dawn and ends at dark.  While the nighttime hours have the same date as the day that just ended, the sacred hours of the Sabbath, as revealed in the story of the Exodus, are the daylight hours only.

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