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When the Bible Day Ends and Begins


Biblical Day - Sunset? Sunrise? Midnight?



 So many studying the bible have been
 taught God's day, the biblical day -
 the Jewish day, ended (and still ends)

 (We were told the Jews have always
 ended their day at sunset.)
Is this correct?

The central verse in this discussion is;

       Lev   23:32  It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn
                    rest, and you shall afflict your souls;
                    on the ninth day of the month at evening,
                    from evening to evening, you shall
                    celebrate your sabbath.

This verse is discussing how (and when) the 'Day of Atonement' was
to be observed. The 'Day of Atonement' was observed on the 10th day
(Lev 23:27) of the 7th month and involved having to 'afflict one's
soul', ie to fast.
The Day of Atonement was a full day period observed from the close of
the 9th day to the close of the 10th day.

This 'evening to evening' form of defining a day, or sequence of days,
is also encountered in respect to the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

       Exod  12:18  In the first month, on the fourteenth day
                    of the month at evening, you shall eat
                    unleavened bread, until the twenty-first
                    day of the month at evening.

       [ This verse defined a seven day period which was
         observed in the first month. This period started
         on the 15th day and ended at the close of the 21st. ]

Having shown a day, or period of days, was defined by the terminology
'evening to evening' it apparently only remained to demonstrate that
the word 'evening' was used to allude to the time of sunset.

There appears to be a number of verses which link the term 'evening' to
the time marking the transition from daylight to night.

       2Chr  18:34  The battle increased that day, and the
                    king of Israel propped himself up in his
                    chariot facing the Syrians until evening;
                    and about the time of sunset he died.

       Deut  16:6   but at the place where the LORD your God
                    chooses to make His name abide, there you
                    shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight
                    (evening), at the going down of the sun,
                    at the time you came out of Egypt.

       Josh   8:29  And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until
                    evening. And as soon as the sun was down,
                    Joshua commanded that they should take his
                    corpse down from the tree, ...

       Judg  19:14  And they passed by and went their way; and
                    the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which
                    belongs to Benjamin.
               :15  They turned aside there to go in to lodge
                    in Gibeah. And when he went in, he sat down
                    in the open square of the city, for no one
                    would take them into his house to spend the
               :16  Just then an old man came in from his work
                    in the field at evening, who also was from
                    the mountains of Ephraim; ...

       Psa  104:23  Man goes out to his work and to his labor
                    until the evening.

       Matt  16:2   He answered and said to them, "When it is
                    evening you say, 'It will be fair weather,
                    for the sky is red'".

       Mark   1:32  Now at evening, when the sun had set, they
                    brought to Him all who were sick and those
                    who were demon-possessed.
       Luke   4:40  When the sun was setting, all those who had
                    any that were sick with various diseases
                    brought them to Him; and He laid His hands
                    on every one of them and healed them.

This discussion would end with this proof, if it was not for the
indication that there is a 2nd evening in a full day!

       Exod  12:6   Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth
                    day of the same month. Then the whole assembly
                    of the congregation of Israel shall kill it
                    at twilight.

                    The word rendered 'twilight' in this verse
                    would have been better translated as
                    'in the evenings' or 'between the evenings'.


The phrase 'between the evenings' is found in the original Hebrew in a
number of scriptures.

The relevant verses are outlined in the webpage,


Becoming aware that there are two evenings in a day, does not necessarily
mean that sunset does not end the day. However, it does create a need to
identify the second evening and consider the possibility that the second
evening, and not sunset, may end the day.

To explain the two evenings some have suggested they represent the times
of 1)sunset and 2)arrival of night, ie so that 'between the evenings'
represents dusk.

Others feel the first evening is a time prior to sunset; such as 3.00pm
in the afternoon, when the shadows start to lengthen and it becomes
apparent the work day is coming to an end.

Before considering such issues we should note how Scripture describes
the daylight period.

       Jer   31:35  Thus says the LORD,
                    Who gives the sun for a light by day,
                    And the ordinances of the moon and the stars
                    for a light by night, ...

       John  11:9   Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours
                    in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he
                    does not stumble, because he sees the light
                    of this world.

These verses seem to indicate a 24 hour day is composed of 12 hours
of daylight and another 12 hours of night. There is no inference of
any lessening of the night to 10 hours in order to cater for an hour
of dusk after sunset and another hour before sunrise. Rather, it seems
a particular point in time would either fall in the period of daylight
or the period of night.

Few of the activities which fell 'between the evenings' are precisely
timed. There is though a verse which indicates the 2nd lamb was offered
after sunset.

    Lev   6:20  This is the offering of Aaron and his sons,
                which they shall offer to the LORD, beginning
                on the day when he is anointed: one-tenth
                of an ephah of fine flour as a daily grain
                offering, half of it in the morning and half
                of it at night.

Half the grain offering was offered with the evening lamb, so this
means the 2nd lamb was also offered at 'night', ie after sunset.

The ritual observance which provides the best indicator of the timing
of the period 'between the evenings' is Passover.


The Temple Passover

    Lev   23:5   On the fourteenth day of the first month at
                 twilight (between the evenings) is the LORD's

We can easily gain a starting point for this observance.

    Deut  16:2   Therefore you shall sacrifice the Passover
                 to the LORD your God, from the flock and
                 the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses
                 to place His name.
            :6   ... there you shall sacrifice the Passover
                 at twilight (evening), at the going down of
                 the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt.

        [ This reference to their departure from Egypt is a reference
          to when they started to cross the Red Sea, Exodus 14:21-22. ]

Having seen that the LORD's Passover is an event which begins with the
'sunset evening' it is apparent the second evening must be some time
after sunset! This means that any conjecture that the missing evening
could occur at 3.00pm, or at any time prior to sunset, can be eliminated.   

In 2 Chronicles 35:1-19 we find a detailed description of the temple
Passover. We can see in verse 14 that the animals (which included cattle,
verses 7-9) were slaughtered (and the appropriate offerings made) up until

    2Chr  35:1   Now Josiah kept a Passover to the LORD in
                 Jerusalem, ...

            :14  Then afterward they prepared portions for
                 themselves and for the priests, because the
                 priests, the sons of Aaron, were busy in
                 offering burnt offerings and fat until night;
                 therefore the Levites prepared portions for
                 themselves and for the priests, the sons of
            :15  ... Also the gatekeepers were at each gate;
                 they did not have to leave their position,
                 because their brethren the Levites prepared
                 portions for them.
            :16  So all the service of the LORD was prepared
                 the same day, to keep the Passover ...

Nightfall was not the end of the Passover observance, but rather its
beginning! There was a need to ensure all concerned, including the
singers and gatekeepers, were handed a portion of the meat prior to
the start of the ceremony. 

[ NB: The animals to be eaten at this ceremonial Passover were
      slaughtered during the daylight hours prior to sunset.
      Please refer,
      In this respect this Passover differed from the family Passover
      (observed the prior night) where the lamb was killed 'between
      the evenings', Exod 12:6. ]

The completion time for the observance of the LORD's Passover was

       Deut  16:7   And you shall roast (boil) and eat it
                    in the place which the LORD your God
                    chooses, and in the morning you shall
                    turn and go to your tents.

       [ 'Morning'?  This may at first appear to be saying that
         this Passover finished at sunrise, but it actually finished
         at the arrival of the latter 2nd evening (ie, the evening
         which marked the completion of the 'between the evenings'
         NB: 1) This Passover night represented the first of seven
                sequential nights of celebration and those who
                took part in this observance did not stay awake and
                celebrate from sunset to sunrise for seven sequential
             2) Like the term 'evening' the term 'morning' refers to
                two points in a 24 hour period. The 1st morning being
                the same as the 2nd evening. The latter 2nd morning
                being sunrise. ]

The Family Passover

Let us consider when the family Passover ended.

    Exod  12:10  You shall let none of it remain
                 until morning, ...
            :21  ... Pick and take lambs or
                 yourselves according to your
                 families, and kill the Passover
            :22  ... And none of you shall go
                 out of the door of his house
                 until morning.
            :29  And it came to pass at midnight
                 that the LORD struck all the
                 firstborn in the land of Egypt,
death angel
The lamb was to be eaten before midnight. At midnight the firstborn males
of Egypt were killed and this ended the Passover observance. Verse 22
states that no one was to go out of their house until 'morning', but this
'morning' was not sunrise! Note, that when Christ and His disciples kept
this Passover they departed for the Mount of Olives many hours before
sunrise. Once the angel had passed over at midnight there was no longer
any need to refrain from leaving one's house.     

  [  NB: Exodus 12:10 refers to a 'morning' when the non-edible
         remains of the lamb would be burnt. The 'morning' in
         this case would be sunrise! Those who observed this
         Passover ceremony would normally go to sleep after
         midnight and rise around sunrise to burn the remains
         of the lamb.  ]

The examples of the Passover observances, the temple Passover and the
family Passover, indicate that the term 'between the evenings' defined
the time between sunset and midnight.


There are two statements in respect to the events surrounding the crucifixion
of Christ which provide insight into the understanding of when the day ended.

First Day of Unleavened Bread

The family Passover was observed on the same day as the prior daylight

    Mark  14:12  Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread,
                 when they killed the Passover lamb, His
                 disciples said to Him, "Where do You want
                 us to go and prepare that You may eat the

    Matt  26:17  Now on the first day of the Feast of the
                 Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus,
                 saying to Him, "Where do You want us to
                 prepare for You to eat the Passover?"

    Luke  22:7   Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when
                 the Passover must be killed.
            :8   And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and
                 prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat."
            :9   So they said to Him, "Where do You want us to

[ NB:  A number of translations of Matt 26:17, Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7
       incorrectly capitalise the words 'unleavened bread' (or add the
       words 'the Feast of'), and by this incorrectly imply these verses
       are referring to the 'Feast of Unleavened Bread'. (Note, the
       Feast of Unleavened Bread did not begin until the day following
       the death of Jesus Christ.)
       Scripture in these verses is referring to the first time in the
       new year that unleavened bread would be eaten, ie with the
       Passover lamb meal (Exod 12:8). ]

The disciples asked their question during the daylight hours prior to the
celebration of the family Passover. That very same day the disciples would
later be eating unleavened bread with the Passover lamb.

The Passover lamb was killed after sunset, roasted over a fire, and when
cooked eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread before midnight.

Burial of Jesus Christ

Christ was buried after sunset, but before the day ended!

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

   Notice, 'evening had come' before Joseph had even
   asked for the body of Christ. (Refer also Matthew
   27:57-58.) The first evening (ie, sunset) had
   already arrived!
From the gospel of John we learn the disciples placed the body in a nearby
tomb because that day, the Preparation Day, was drawing to an end (and a
sabbath day followed).

    John  19:41  Now in the place where He was crucified there was a
                 garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one
                 had yet been laid.
            :42  So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews'
                 Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

John 19:38 also tells us why Joseph of Arimathea waited until after
evening, ie after sunset.

    John 19:38  After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple
                of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews,
                asked Pilate that he might take away the body of
                Jesus; ...

Joseph was afraid of the Jewish hierarchy. However, he knew that after
sunset they would be preoccupied in their observance of the temple Passover
referred to in John 18:28.

The day did not end shortly after sunset, because the ladies after having
observed where His body was laid in the tomb still had time to return to
their residence and prepare spices and fragrant oils.

    Luke 23:55  And the women who had come with Him from Galilee
                followed after, and they observed the tomb and how
                His body was laid.
           :56  Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant
                oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to
                the commandment.

From these two crucifixion examples we can confirm,

     A)  The prior daylight hours were considered to fall within
         the same day as the first portion of the night.

     B)  The second evening, and not the first, ended the day. 


A number of scholars in trying to prove the biblical day ended at sunset
make reference to the Creation verses in Genesis chapter 1.

Genesis, starting in verse 5, repeatedly describes a day as an 'evening
and a morning'.

    Gen    1:5   ... So the evening and the morning were the
                 first day.

           1:8   ... So the evening and the morning were the
                 second day.


The verse 5 text immediately followed after the creation of light, an
event which resulted in a period of daylight and a period of night.

Many, having been taught the biblical day ended at sunset, then conclude
'morning' equates to daylight and 'evening' equates to night.

Unfortunately Scripture does not confirm this reasoning.

    Mark   1:35  Now in the morning, having risen a long
                 while before daylight, He went out and
                 departed to a solitary place; and there
                 He prayed.

    Job    3:9   May the stars of its morning be dark; ...

Having seen that morning does not equate to daylight, one might conclude
that morning was the period from 'midnight to midday' and evening was the
period from 'midday to midnight'.

Even if for the moment one does consider the words 'evening' and 'morning'
in this context, the description 'the evening and the morning' would be
indicating that 'noon', the start of 'evening' and the end of 'morning',
represented the start (and end) of the 24 hour day and no one is suggesting
this is correct.

Surprisingly, Scripture does not tend to use the terms 'evening' and
'morning' to each describe 12 hour periods.

Scripture generally uses the term 'evening' to represent;

              1) sunset, or
              2) the following 2nd evening (ie midnight), or
              3) the period between these two evenings.

It uses the word 'morning' to represent;

              1) the time immediately after midnight, or
              2) sunrise, or
              3) the period between midnight and sunrise.

With these definitions of evening and morning the text in the first
chapter of Genesis would only be defining 12 hours, the hours of the

Hence, a literal understanding of the Genesis chapter one statement
of an evening and a morning defining a literal day makes little sense.

However, another look at the Hebrew used in Genesis indicates common
translations are the problem. The Hebrew shows 'becoming evening'
and 'becoming morning'.

This allows the following understanding of the first day. 

    1)  God created light,

    2)  the day proceeded until the evening period began (at sunset), 

    3)  the day further proceeded until the morning period began
        (at midnight)
This suggests that when God initially caused light to shine in the
darkness it did so at a midnight strength, continued to increase for
12 hours to mid-day strength, and then reduced for 12 hours to midnight
level again.

So that after God created light 18 hours passed before sunset was
reached and then an additional 6 hours of evening passed before the
first day came to an end. 


There are in the Old Testament three further examples which indicate the
first portion of the night did not fall in the same day as the following
daylight period.

The Daughters of Lot

       Gen   19:33  So they made their father drink wine that
                    night. And the firstborn went in and lay
                    with her father, and he did not know when
                    she lay down or when she arose.
               :34  It happened on the next day that the
                    firstborn said to the younger, "Indeed
                    I lay with my father last night; let us
                    make him drink wine tonight also, and
                    you go in and lie with him, that we may
                    preserve the lineage of our father."

       [ This verse quite clearly shows the first portion of the
         night was not included in the next day. ]

Meat of the Thanksgiving Passover

       Lev    7:11  This is the law of the sacrifice of peace
                    offerings which he shall offer to the LORD:
               :12  If he offers it for a thanksgiving, ...
               :15  The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace
                    offering for thanksgiving shall be eaten
                    the same day it is offered. He shall not
                    leave any of it until morning.
               :20  But the person who eats the flesh of the
                    sacrifice of the peace offering that belongs
                    to the LORD, while he is unclean, that
                    person shall be cut off from his people. 
       compare with,

       Num   9:12   They shall leave none of it until morning,
                    nor break one of its bones. According to
                    all the ordinances of the Passover they
                    shall keep it.      

       [ None of the meat of Passover could be eaten the next day,
         it had to be eaten the same day it was offered. The
         following morning was not considered to fall within the
         same day as the Passover celebration. ]

Burial of those Hung on Trees

    Josh   8:29  And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until evening.
                 And as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded
                 that they should take his corpse down from the tree,
                 cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and
                 raise over it a great heap of stones ...

          10:26  And afterward Joshua struck them and killed them,
                 and hanged them on five trees; and they were hanging
                 on the trees until evening.
            :27  So it was at the time of the going down of the sun
                 that Joshua commanded, and they took them down from
                 the trees, cast them into the cave where they had
                 been hidden, and laid large stones against the cave's
                 mouth, ...

On two occasions Joshua waited until sunset before ordering the bodies,
of those who had been hung on trees, to be buried. Note that Deut 21:23
explicitly stated that such dead bodies were to be buried that same day.

    Deut  21:22  If a man has committed a sin deserving of death,
                 and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,
            :23  his body shall not remain overnight on the tree,
                 but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you
                 do not defile the land which the LORD your God is
                 giving you as an inheritance; ...

    [ Joshua had acted in accordance with the Old Testament law.
      The bodies of these dead men did not have to be buried
      before sunset, because the first portion of the night
      (that immediately after sunset) was still part of that day. ]


Shipwrecked on Malta

Acts chapter 27 provides an account of a ship, which Paul is aboard, being
shipwrecked on Malta. Paul had initially advised against the voyage, warning
of an impending loss of life (verse 10). Failing to be persuaded by Paul's
warning the ship's captain set sail and the ship was caught in a severe
tempest (verse 18).

In the initial portion of the night, prior to them running aground on Malta,
Paul advised them that he had been told by an angel that there would be no
loss of life (verses 21-26). Notice from verse 23 the night had already

    Acts  27:23  For there stood by me this night an angel of the
                 God to whom I belong ...

Despite this, verse 27 goes on to speak of the subsequent arrival of the
'fourteenth night'.

    Acts  27:27  Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were
                 driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, ...

What Scripture is alluding to is that the first portion of that night
belonged to the 13th day and the later portion to the 14th day.

The time of this transition between the 13th night and the 14th night
is implied to be midnight!

    Acts  27:27  Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were
                 driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about
                 midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing
                 near some land.

Preaching at Troas

Acts 20:4-12 describes Paul's arrival and stay at Troas. (The rendering
of this text is usually quite misleading.)

Paul and some of his companions arrived in Troas prior to the 7 day Feast
of Unleavened Bread. However, the other companions of Paul (including the
writer of Acts) did not set sail for Troas until after the first day of
the feast. These sailed (presumably via Corinth to pick up the Corinthian
food offering for the saints in Jerusalem) and arrived in Troas before
what would have been the 5th day of travel. The 6th day of the feast was
the weekly Sabbath (being the day before the 'first of the weeks') and
the 7th day was the day of commanded rest when they assembled together. 

The night of that last day Paul preached until the close of this annual

    Acts  20:7   Now on the first day of the week, when the
                 disciples came together to break bread, Paul,
                 ready to depart the next day, spoke to them
                 and continued his message until midnight.

Feeding of the 5,000

The account of the feeding of the 5,000 confirms the existence of two
successive evenings.

    Matt  14:15  When it was evening, His disciples came to Him,
                 saying, "This is a deserted place, and the hour
                 is already late. Send the multitudes away, that
                 they may go into the villages and buy themselves

            :21  Now those who had eaten were about five thousand
                 men, besides women and children.
            :22  Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the
                 boat and go before Him to the other side, while He
                 sent the multitudes away.
            :23  And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went
                 up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when
                 evening came, He was alone there.
            :25  Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to
                 them, walking on the sea.

This second evening was after the first (ie sunset), but prior to the fourth
watch of the night.


Christianity today has inherited from the current set of Jewish beliefs
the notion that the biblical day ended at sunset. However, biblical
evidence plainly shows otherwise. 

In the Old Testament one encounters the term 'between the evenings' and

this should be understood as the time between sunset (the first evening)
and midnight (the second evening). The first 'evening' ended the 12 hours
of daylight and the second 'evening' ended the 24 hour day.    

Both the home based and temple based Passover ceremonies fell within the
period defined by the term 'between the evenings'. Both of these were
observed after sunset until midnight. (In respect to the temple based
Passover the animals were slain prior to sunset, in preparation for the
Passover celebration.)

The chronology of the crucifixion of Christ can not be understood without
the recognition of two evenings and the acknowledgment that the biblical
day ended upon the arrival of the second of the two evenings.

Both Old and New Testament verses verify the biblical day did not end
at sunset.

In conclusion one might ask how it was possible for the current Jewish
faith to be in error on such a fundamental issue. At the time of Jesus
Christ there apparently existed no such confusion. Therefore, it seems
the answer should be sought in the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem,
the dispersion of the Jewish people over many centuries, and their
willingness to acceptance into their faith non-inspired writings.

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