Before my family started keeping the seventh day Sabbath set apart, my understanding of a whole day was first there was morning, then afternoon, followed by evening and ending with night. In my mind the day had four parts: morning, afternoon, evening, and night; it always began in the morning and ended at night.
However, when we started keeping the seventh day Sabbath set apart, we automatically switched to an “evening-to-evening reckoning” because for some reason we had it in the back of our minds that a whole “Biblical day” began in the evening when the sun went down. I think it’s because of the verses in Genesis 1 that say, “And there was evening and there was morning – the [#] day.” Thereafter, we started paying more attention to sundown on Friday & Saturday nights for the start/end of our day.
After about a year and a half, someone posed the question on a blog I frequent, “When does the day begin: sunrise or sunset?” The author was putting forth the idea that Scripture taught it began at sunrise, not sunset. Needless to say, he was swimming upstream, as most of the readers commenting believed the contrary.
This caused me to dig a little deeper into the subject.
It Just Ain’t Natural
I had to admit, the whole evening-to-evening reckoning seemed very unnatural because to me it felt like I was splitting up two different days to come up with one new day…stopping one day at about 6:00 pm, calling that the beginning of a new day, then eating dinner and doing whatever after-dinner activities we did until bedtime, then going to bed at night, waking the next morning and going through the next day until about 6:00 pm again, calling that the end of the day, even though I’d still be awake for many more hours.
But I chalked all this up to getting used to changing from the “world’s way” to the “Biblical way”. I kept telling myself it was uncomfortable because it was new.
As I started digging deeper into Scripture and praying continually about the subject, I found myself seeing all sorts of references that the morning was the beginning of the day, but I couldn’t use that as my definitive defense, because even with the evening-to-evening reckoning, folks contend that a day can also begin in the morning…”it depends on the context.”
It was very frustrating because I could argue the objections away, where folks claim Scripture says the day begins in the evening, since depending on how you read it, it could also mean it begins in the morning. But these arguments were not conclusive one way or the other. So I was left with, “let’s just agree to disagree.” That is, until I went back to the beginning (Genesis) and a light bulb was turned on in my understanding.
Genesis 1:3-5 says,
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Scripture defines the “light” that has been separated from “darkness” as “day”, and the “darkness” that has been separated from “light” is called “night”. The Hebrew words for “separated from” are “badal beyn”.
When I looked up this phrase to see where else in Scripture this appears, I had an a-ha! moment. Another way to translate these words is “make a distinction between”.
The other items that are “badal beyn” are: the waters above the firmament and the waters beneath the firmament, day and night, the holy and the unholy/profane, the clean and the unclean, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, God and sin. Do you see what I was seeing? None of these things would ever be considered rolled together and called one or the other. For example, we would never combine the holy and the unholy and call it all holy. Why not? Because Scripture says there is a distinction between the two. Either its holy or its not, it can’t be both.
This was huge in my mind. For one thing, I no longer considered “night” as a part of the day. Night stood alone. Why? Because Scripture said so.
But what about, “And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day”?
And There Was Evening…
First of all, we have to recondition our minds to see that this is not saying, “And there was night, and there was day…” or “And there was darkness, and there was light…”. Evening and morning are totally different words (Hebrew: ereb and boqer) than night (layil), day (yom), darkness (choshek), and light (or).
Secondly, the phrase translated as “the first day” in this verse is “yom echad” in Hebrew. “Echad” does not mean “first”. There is another Hebrew word translated as “first” in Scripture, it is “rishone”. “Echad” means “one” denoting something as being a unit. This phrase can be translated more accurately as “one day” or “day one”.
It is my current understanding that this part of the verse is telling us that the evening and morning are one with day, leaving the night to stand alone. I certainly could be wrong in this understanding and am open to hear other thoughts and teaching on this. However, I cannot believe that this is saying the day includes the night. Here’s why:
- The author just got done saying the light and darkness is separated, a distinction has been made between the two, they are separate.
- The author has defined the light as day and the darkness as night. He did not say the light plus darkness is day.
- A few “days” later, lights/luminaries are put in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night (make a distinction between the two). There’s a greater light to govern the day and a lesser light to govern the night.
So now, where does that leave us on the subject of when the day begins? Clearly according to Scripture, the day does not include the night because they are “badal beyn”. The most logical conclusion that I can find is that the day begins in the morning and ends in the evening, and then there is night. When morning comes, a new day begins. So simple that a child can understand.
What do you think?