This page was last updated on 21 January, 2017
Day and evening
What is the duration of a Biblical day? 12 hours? 24 hours?
What is the Biblical evening?
Observations from Genesis 1:5
Gen 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Observations from the verse:
The duration of the hour in ancient Israel ranged from 50 to 70 minutes. That way the day was always 12 hours long, regardless of the season. Gen 1:5 gives some proof for that. God defined day as light; not 6am-
Evening and morning -
Why “evening and the morning” and not the natural order “morning and the evening”? God changed His mind within a single verse?
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Gen 2:4 Here is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created. On the day when ADONAI, God, made earth and heaven,
Which was first? Heaven or earth?
Gen 8:22 All the days of the earth, seed and harvest, cold and heat, summer and spring, shall not cease by day or night.
1Kgs 8:29 That your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which you have said, My name shall be there: that you may listen to the prayer which your servant shall make toward this place.
1Kgs 8:59 And let these my words, with which I have made supplication before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require:
Night and day or day and night? The events (night, day) are the same but their order isn’t
Exod 18:13 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning to the evening.
This verse uses the word ‘to’ to define an order of events; to define a time span. In such case the order is strictly defined.
Ps 55:17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
David prayed 3 times a day, but he didn’t pray 24 hours a day. That’s logical but also clear from the text because it doesn’t state something like “until noon”, or “all evening”. In this case morning means a portion of the morning.
The above sets of verses clearly show mentioned events are not always in chronological order. Same for Gen 1:5
In the parable of the workmen in which some start to work at the eleventh hour and end one hour later seems to indicate only working during daylight was the norm. Likely theFather started that custom. Mat 20:1-
Morning and evening -
Gen 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Morning isn’t a wrong translation but it can be confusing.
Morning = Start of dawn until noon.
Morning = The split second of daybreak.
Evening isn’t a wrong translation but it can be confusing.
Evening = Noon until the end of dusk.
Evening = The split second that ends dusk.
If the verse is understood as points in time the events are chronological.
Gen 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the end-
What happened is this. All creation days have the following format:
So: Daytime creation (12 hours) → Blessing → Night (12 hours)
That totals a 24 hour day starting at dawn.
In the above sections I’ve shown that Gen 1:5 can be understood in two ways being:
While I edge toward the points-
Evening = afternoon
36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.
37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that you are the LORD God, and that you have turned their heart back again.
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
40 And Elijah said to them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
41 And Elijah said to Ahab, Get you up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down on the earth, and put his face between his knees,
43 And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
44 And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there rises a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say to Ahab, Prepare your chariot, and get you down that the rain stop you not.
45 And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
46 And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
After the evening sacrifice (v36) a lot of things are done. In verse 43 the sea is still visible. In verse 44 even a small cloud is visible. Meaning there was still (lots of) daylight left. The explanation for this is simple, ‘evening’ in the Bible is what we today call ‘afternoon’.
The evening sacrifice took place between 3-
There were 2 lambs sacrificed each day during the Temple period.
I think such parallels are to strong to ignore. The animal sacrifices were a weak foreshadow of the ultimate Jesus-
At the well
Gen. 24:11: And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water
That verse is less direct but it’s highly unlikely the women went to the well during darkness. No streetlight, dangerous and mostly because the water was used for cooking the evening meal.
In Gen 24 we read about Abraham’s servant meeting Rebekah at the well in the afternoon. The many events in this chapter must have taken considerable time. There is talking at the well. Drawing water for the camels. Rebekah runs home (v28). The camels where fed and feet were washed (v32). Then food was offered. Were it just leftover scraps? Freshly prepared especially for the servant? Or was it around diner time anyway?
Again nothing is firmly established but at least it sounds logical that those things happened during daytime.
3 days and 3 nights
Matt 12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Three days and three nights.
Walk in the day
John 11:9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world.
John 11:10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbles, because there is no light in him.
→ Jesus links the light to day.
→ Jesus states a day is 12 hours in duration. (Not 24)
Please note the hour had not a fixed length. It was a twelfth part of the daylight hours. The duration ranged between 50 and 70 minutes depending on the season.
Assuming the following day:
5:30am start of dawn
6:00am end of dawn/sunrise
6:00pm start of dusk/sunset
6:30pm end of dusk
Please note that the Western day has no strong relation with the sun. The day always is from 6am-
The whole period of both dawn and dusk are considered daylight.
Biblical name → Modern name → Time
Night → Evening + Night → 6:30pm-
Day → Day → 5:30am-
Morning → Morning → 5:30am-
Evening → Afternoon → noon-
Sometimes evening is split into:
→ First evening → Afternoon → noon-
→ Between evenings → None → 3:00pm-
→ Second evening → Dusk/Evening → 6:00pm-
Evening was defined as when the sun started to decline in the sky. The sun reaches it’s highest point at noon and then starts to decline over the course of the afternoon.
Spring → Dawn → Day
Summer → Noon → Day
Fall → Dusk → Night
Winter → Midnight → Night
Let’s wait and do nothing?
Ps 141:2 Let my prayer be set forth before you as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
1Chr 16:40 To offer burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of the burnt offering continually morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the law of the LORD, which he commanded Israel;
If the Biblical evening means the during the dark hours then the priests would be idle most of the day waiting for darkness. Obviously that’s possible technically speaking, it’s not so obvious to assume they did one of the important (lengthy) tasks during darkness while service the God of the Light.
It would mean the Passover meal would be killed, prepared and eaten late at night. It would also destroy a beautiful parallel….
The morning sacrifice was killed at the third hour; the hour Pilate sentenced Jesus, our Passover Lamb, to death.
The evening sacrifice was killed at the ninth hour; the hour Jesus died after a loud cry
Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying…
Just like the Divine Lamb cried out before he died, so did the many animal lambs that were slaughtered at the same time.
The Israelites divided the daytime into its natural segments: dawn, "the heat of the day," " the cool of the day," and "evening, the time when women would go out to draw water." Nighttime was divided into it three watches.
Readers Digest A B C's of The Bible", p. 177
The day was either the period of sunlight, contrasted with the night (John 11:9) or the whole period of twenty four hours, although not defined as such in the Bible."
Oxford Companion to the Bible, p. 744.
"The original meaning of the word "day" is the period of daylight, from sunrise to sunset, as distinct from the night, the period of darkness ...in this sense the "day" is said to "decline" (Jer.6:4) or to "be far spent" (Lk. 24:29 in the late afternoon, and is followed by night. Hence the earlier sequence, "day and night”
Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible P672
The basic meaning of 'or’ (Hebrew for light) is "daylight" (cf. Gen. 1:3). In the Hebrew mind the "day" began at the rising of the sun...".
Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words p136
"In order to fix the beginning and ending of the Sabbath-
Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 591-
→ Day is defined as the daylight hours only.
Linguists don’t fully agree on the exact meaning of the root word of yom (day) but for this discussion they are close enough.
Some believe: 'hot' or 'heat'. A reference to the hot Israeli day.
Others believe: 'active', as in when there is activity taking place.Both point to the daylight hours because those were the hot hours of activity.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
'From dawn to dark'...was the ancient and ordinary meaning of a day among the Israelites; night, as being the time ' when no man can work ' John. 9:4
Encyclopedia Biblica, pp. 1035-
It does Not say that it was Night time and it was Day time which made one day; but it says "it was Evening," which means that the period of the day time came to an end and the light disappeared. And when it says "it was Morning," it means that the period of the night time came to an end and the morning dawned.
Rabbi Samuel ben Meir on Gen 1:5 (1100-
The reason for mentioning the evening first is that as the evening ends the day, which begins with the light, the termination of the Light at evening precedes the termination of the Darkness, which ends with the Morning
Thomas Aquinas -
A few verses that show Scripture always uses day and night as contrasting things. Not day and evening.
John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.
Jer 33:20 Thus said the LORD; If you can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season;
Gen 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
Jer 31:35 Thus said the LORD, which gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divides the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: