Even though our Western societies reckon days from midnight to midnight, and some even define a day as the period from morning to night, this is a purely human invention. The Bible is very clear that days are to be counted from sunset to sunset. For instance, the Sabbath, the last day of the week, is to be counted from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.
Set forth are excerpts from our booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days“:
“God has revealed in His Word exactly when the Sabbath starts and when it ends. God reckons each day, including the Sabbath, beginning at sunset and continuing through until the following sunset. Today, we would say that the Seventh-Day Sabbath starts Friday evening, when the sun sets, and lasts until Saturday evening, at sunset.
“We know from the Jewish people when to keep the Sabbath. It is the Jews to whom God committed His revelations or His ‘oracles,’ as Paul clearly explains in Romans 3:1–2. These ‘oracles of God’ included the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as the knowledge of the week and of the Sacred Calendar. The Jews preserved the knowledge of which day the seventh day of the week is. Without an understanding of when a week begins and ends, we would not have been able to tell, from the Bible alone, which day the seventh day of the week actually is. Today, the Jews keep the Sabbath on Saturday, beginning Friday evening, at sunset. Nobody questions today that the Sabbath, as preserved by the Jews, is the seventh or last day of the week. All understand that Sunday is the first day of the week—although there have been some attempts in Europe to actually change the calendar in order to deceitfully pretend as if Sunday, and not Saturday, was the seventh day of the week.
“The Bible reveals that days start and end at sunset, in the evening. Notice Genesis 1:5: ‘God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.’ [Note the comment by the Ryrie Study Bible to this passage: “… Jewish reckoning began the day with eventide (Lev. 23:32). This may be the reason for the order here…”]
“Many Scriptures associate the meaning of the word ‘evening’ with ‘sunset.’ For instance, a period of one day regarding a ritualistic, temporary law is noted in Leviticus 22:6–7: ‘The person who has touched any such thing shall be unclean until evening… And when the sun goes down he shall be clean.’ (Note the same definition in 2 Samuel 3:35.) Further, we are told in Leviticus 23:32 to keep God’s Sabbath ‘from evening to evening.'”
In regard to the meaning of “evening,” also notice Deuteronomy 16:6: “… at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover, at twilight [lit., between the two evenings], at the going down of the sun…” The first evening–when days start and end–is sunset. The second evening is nightfall, when it is really dark. The Passover had to be sacrificed on the 14th day of the first month, at twilight–between the two evenings–“at the GOING DOWN OF THE SUN.”
Rienecker’s Lexikon zur Bibel [“Rienecker”] correctly explains, under “evening”:
“Until evening (Leviticus 15:5; Judges 20:26) means the entire day, as the new day begins with sunset.”
Rienecker explains, under “day”:
“The day as part of the week and the month… lasted for the Israelites from one sunset to the next sunset (Exodus 12:18; Leviticus 23:32); within this unity the hours of the night preceded the daylight hours (compare ‘evening-mornings’ [in] Daniel 8:14; compare the Greek word ‘nychthaemeron,’ literally ‘Night-Day,’ = the time of 24 hours, 2 Corinthians 11:25).”
The biblical passages of Exodus 12:18 and Leviticus 23:32, as quoted by Rienecker, establish that days start and end at SUNSET:
Exodus 12:18 reads: “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.”
Verse 19 explains that the entire duration lasted for seven days; that is, from the evening (or sunset) of the fourteenth day (when the fifteenth day started) until the evening of the twenty-first day (when that day ended and the twenty-second day started). The seven days of unleavened bread FOLLOW the Passover, which is to observed on the 14th day–from the beginning of the fourteenth day, at sunset, until the end of the fourteenth day, at sunset (compare Exodus 12:6). Notice that the Passover falls on the fourteenth day (from sunset to sunset), but that the Days of Unleavened Bread begin on the fifteenth day–24 hours later (Numbers 28:16-17).
Leviticus 23:32 describes the annual Holy Day of Atonement, which the Jews today call Yom Kippur. It is stated: “It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest; and you shall afflict your souls [i.e., fast]; on the ninth day of the month at evening, FROM EVENING TO EVENING, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” The New International Version renders this verse: “… From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.”
But, this entire period, from the evening or sunset of the ninth day, until the evening or sunset of the tenth day, is defined as “the tenth day,” as Leviticus 23:27 clearly shows: “Also the TENTH day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement.” This proves that the Bible reckons days from evening or sunset to evening or sunset.
As further proof, note the following excerpts from our booklet, “Jesus Christ–A Great Mystery,” showing that Bible commentaries and translators clearly understand WHEN days start and end according to the biblical reckoning:
“We read in Matthew 28:1–6 (Authorized Version): ‘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. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it… And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for HE IS RISEN, AS HE SAID.’
“We note from the passage that Christ was already resurrected by the time the women came to the grave. We are told that they appeared ‘in the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.’ Many commentaries point out that this phrase discusses the END of the SABBATH, that is, Saturday evening or late afternoon, and NOT Sunday morning.
“The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament renders this verse in this way: ‘Now late on Sabbath, as it was getting dusk toward (the) first (day) of (the) week, came Mary the Magdalene…’
“A.T. Robertson’s Harmony of the Gospel comments: “This phrase once gave much trouble, but the usage of the vernacular Koine Greek amply justifies the translation. The visit of the women to inspect the tomb was thus made before the Sabbath was over (before 6 p.m. on Saturday).’
“Cockrell states: ‘When does the Bible say that Jesus rose from the dead? The two Marys came to the tomb “in the end of the sabbath” (Matth. 28:1). The Sabbath always ended at sunset: “From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath” (Lev. 23:32). Then they went to the tomb before sunset on Saturday. Jesus had risen from the dead before their arrival (Matth. 28:1–8)…’…
“The Elberfelder Bibel reads: ‘But late at the Sabbath, in the dawn of the first day.’ It comments: ‘Days started at sunset.’
“The Lamsa Bible states: ‘In the evening of the Sabbath, when the first day of the week began to dawn…’…
“The Menge Bible renders this verse as follows: ‘But after the Sabbath, when the first day after the Sabbath was about to begin.’
“Finally, the revised Zürcher Bible of 1942 states: ‘After the Sabbath, when it was shining (lightening up) towards the first day of the week…’ It adds the following comments: ‘For the Jews a day began with sunset. The expression [in] Luke 23:54, “The Sabbath lightened up…” [The King James Bible states: ‘The Sabbath drew on’ or ‘drew near’] does not mean that the morning began, but that lights were kindled for the evening…'”
It is therefore abundantly clear from the Biblical record that according to God, days are counted from sunset to sunset–and not from midnight to midnight, or by any other method.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link