When Does The Biblical Day Start?

When Does the Biblical Day Start?

The Hebrew Words

Our Gregorian system has the day starting at midnight, there are proponents for the day starting at sunset, others say nightfall, there are those who hold that the day starts at sunrise or with the morning dawn. I have seen scriptural defenses for all of the above. (Yes, even Gregorian midnight.) So what is the answer? When does the Biblical day start? Well, to get started, we need to understand the meanings of the Hebrew and Greek words used in the scripture. In many cases they are not consistently translated to English, in others they don't correspond exactly to a concept conveyed by common English words. Understanding how the original languages' time related words and phrases are used is key. Each commonly used word or phrase can quickly turn into a full length study itself, so I only plan to give brief usage examples. If you are after an in depth look, I suggest finding a reverse concordance or program so you can look up every passage where these words are found. Seeing a word used a dozen times or more, usually makes its meaning pretty clear from context.

yom (usually translated "Day") is used nearly two thousand times in the OT. It can mean [1] daytime as opposed to night, or [2] a full twenty-four hour calendar day. Also (though not really useful for this study) when plural or used referencing the future it can mean an unspecified number of days or period of time.

Show/hide definition example scriptures

  1. Genesis 1:18 And to rule over the day [yom] and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
  2. Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day [yom], to keep it holy.

erev (usually translated "Evening") is used over one hundred times in the OT. It can be used in various Hebrew phrases that alter its meaning, but in its usual sense, [1] it means the end of a daylight period, specifically after the sun has gone down but before night. When being used in contrast with daylight, [2] it is also translated night. One of the important phrases that alters the meaning is "bane ha'erebim" (literally translated "between the evenings") which is used [3] for when the Passover and evening sacrifice are to be killed and includes what we would call mid-afternoon. (One way we know this is because Yeshua, our Passover, died about the ninth hour or 2-3pm.)

Show/hide definition example scriptures

  1. Leviticus 22:6 The soul which hath touched any such shall be unclean until even [erev], and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water.
    7 And when the sun is down, he shall be clean, and shall afterward eat of the holy things; because it is his food.
    Deuteronomy 23:11 But it shall be, when evening [erev] cometh on, he shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again.
    Joshua 8:29 And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide [erev]: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.
    Zecheriah 14:7 But it shall be one day which shall be known to Yahweh, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening [erev] time it shall be light.
  2. Psalm 30:5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night [erev], but joy cometh in the morning.
  3. Exodus 12:6 And ye shall keep [the Passover animal] up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the evenings [bane ha'erebim].
    Exodus 29:39 The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer between the evenings [bane ha'erebim]:

mochorat and machar (usually translated "Morrow") are used thirty-two and fifty-two times respectively in the OT. They have the underlying meaning of a time to come, but mocharat [1] in usage has that "time to come" always being next daylight. It apparently can never include nighttime. On the other hand, machar has a more vague sense of time to come and includes uses like [2] the next 24-hour calendar day, [3] ambiguous time in the future, and [4] the immediately following daylight period.

Show/hide definition example scriptures

  1. Exodus18:13 And it came to pass on the morrow [mocharat], that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.
    1 Samuel 30:17 And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day [mocharat]: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled.
  2. Exodus 16:23 And he said unto them, This is that which Yahweh hath said, To morrow [machar] is the rest of the holy sabbath unto Yahweh: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
    1 Samuel 20:5 And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to morrow [machar] is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat: but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even.
  3. Exodus 13:14 And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come [machar], saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand Yahweh brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage:
    Joshua 22:24 And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come [machar] your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with Yahweh God of Israel
  4. Exodus 17:9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow [machar] I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.
    12 But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

emesh (usually translated "Yesterday/Yesternight") is used only 5 times in the OT. It has the opposite meaning of the previous two words, and means a past time period. This is [1] usually the immediately preceding night or day but can be [2] an indeterminate time.

Show/hide definition example scriptures

  1. Genesis 31:24 And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
    29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight [emesh], saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
    2 Kings 9:26 Surely I have seen yesterday [emesh] the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons, saith Yahweh; and I will requite thee in this plat, saith Yahweh. Now therefore take and cast him into the plat of ground, according to the word of Yahweh.
  2. Job 30:3 For want and famine they were solitary; fleeing into the wilderness in former time [emesh] desolate and waste.

nesheph (usually translated "twilight" or "night") is used 12 times in the OT. It has a meaning of [1] night as can be shown from context in most cases even where it is translated twilight. It may also be able to mean [2] early dawn but even the two passages that are translated that way have indications that night might be what is actually meant.

Show/hide definition example scriptures

  1. Job 3:9 Let the stars of the twilight [nesheph] thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day:
    Isaiah 59:10 We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night [nesheph]; we are in desolate places as dead men.
  2. Psalm 119:147 I prevented the dawning of the morning [nesheph], and cried: I hoped in thy word.
    148 Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.

As you might expect, the multiple definitions and ranges of meaning for many of the words involved means that in many, if not most passages, several different day starts can be made to fit with the passage. Most of these cases, I will skip, to focus on the passages that can be used to prove something. However, a few have been claimed as proof for one side or the other often enough that they need to be dealt with. I have provided a summary for each section with an assessment of the strength of the arguments. To see the full explanations for a topic, click the title of the collapsed "Detailed" section.


In the Beginning: Summary

The Hebrew phrase for "the evening and the morning were the first day" is vague enough to accommodate all theories. However, the darkness that God called night preceded the light that he called day, making a strong case that night (or to a lesser degree sunset) is the beginning of the day.

In the Beginning: Detailed (Major problem for Dawn and Sunrise, Minor problem for Sunset)

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [choshek] was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness [choshek].
5 And God called the light Day [yom], and the darkness [choshek] he called Night. And the evening [erev] and the morning were the first day [yom].

Exodus 20:11 For in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Yahweh blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

There are a couple spots in this passage from which argument can be made as to when the day starts, but the phrase at the end of verse 5 (and the other five times in Genesis 1 it is used) is one of the most discussed. There are two main sides to this, but there seems to be enough leeway in the Hebrew phrase to allow for a sunset/nightfall or dawn/sunrise day start. In other words, the phrase there is really not conclusive for either side. However, for those interested the arguments from that phrase are below.

  • The KJV version quoted above sounds like the evening and the morning, in that order, make up day one. It is a fair position that this phrase is a recap of the first day just like Genesis 2:15-25 is a recap of Genesis 1:26-28. The fact that erev is used with morning lends itself well to meaning dark (definition 2 above) as the contrasting word is there. So it could be seen as, "And the Darkness and the Daylight were the first day." This fits perfectly with a sunset or nightfall day start.
  • On the other hand, the Hebrew might be more literally translated, "And it came to be evening, and it came to be morning, day one." This, if seen as a continuing narrative instead of a recapping phrase, would mean that after Yahweh created light and divided it from the darkness, it then became evening, and then when it became the next morning the first day was over.

The inconclusiveness of the Hebrew phrase in verse 5 leads me to going back to the context to determine which interpretation of the phrase fits better. In Exodus, Yahweh says that He created everything, including the heaven and the earth, in six days. This means that Genesis 1:1-2 had to have taken place on the first day before God said "Let there be light." In other words, the Spirit was moving on the waters in darkness during the beginning part of the first day and Yahweh called that darkness "Night." This puts night into the narrative of the first day, before the light that He called "Day."

To make it simple, since God called the "choshek," "Night," and the light, "day," we can insert those names into verses 2-3 and it comes out as, "And the earth was without form, and void; and it was Night upon the face of the deep... And God said, Let there be light: and it became Day." With night clearly coming before day in the narrative, night is the most obvious beginning of a calendar day here. (Sunset could work with a stretch.)

A dawn day start proponent has posited the theory that creation was actually created in light and that Satan's fall happened on the first day, turning that light into the darkness that we see in verse 2. This theory claims that the darkness we see there to be "contaminated darkness" rather than simply night. There are several reasons why this is far fetched. For one, it requires that God actually created light before He said, "Let there be light." Then we have the clear usage of the word "choshek" in three other places in the chapter as simple darkness. (Not to mention "choshek" is a side effect of God's very presence at Mount Sinai making it hard to believe that it is "contaminated darkness.") God also says everything was "Very good," after all of creation on the sixth day, and Psalm 104:20 says of Him, "Thou makest darkness [choshek], and it is night:". There is not much standing to believe that the "choshek" was anything more than the darkness that we know as night.


The Covenant With Abram: Summary

The key phrase, "In the same day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram," has as its context an event that is already on the same day by any standard, making this story inconclusive.

The Covenant With Abram: Detailed (Inconclusive)

Genesis 15:8 And he said, Lord Yahweh, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?
9 And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.
11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.
12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.
13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.
18 In the same day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

Jeremiah 32:22 And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey;

Dawn and sunrise day start advocates point to the phrase, "In the same day," in verse 18 and say that Yahweh making the covenant with Abram includes the dividing of the animals which took place before sunset and nightfall. This would mean that the day had not changed between afternoon and night. However, the phrase, "In the same day," requires a contrast between two events in order to make sense. If I say, "I bought a new car and in the same day I wrecked it," the buying of the car is not part of the wreck. In this passage, the immediate context for the phrase is the event of the burning lamp passing between the pieces. That makes it the contrasting event and therefore not part of making the covenant. A shortened version of 17 and 18 would be, "After dark the lamp moved and in the same day Yahweh made a promise."

In support of this, we only see a similar animal splitting ceremony in conjunction with one other covenant in the Bible. It is a stretch to say that the splitting of the animals is included in the phrase "made a covenant" when we have dozens of examples of covenants where no such thing is mentioned. In many cases the covenants we see consist only of the oath taking. It is more consistent with the rest of scripture to see the promise in verse 18 as the actual covenant. With both the lamp moving and the covenant making taking place after dark, every day start theory works here.


Lot's Daughters: Summary

The words and phrases that are used in this story are vague enough that the point in time where the calendar day changed can be seen as following any template. However, the easiest reading would have the new day starting in the morning.

Lot's Daughters: Detailed (Minor problem for Nightfall and Sunset)

Genesis 19:31 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 after the manner of all the earth:
32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
33 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.
34 And it came to pass on the morrow, [mocharat] that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight [emesh] with my father: let us make him drink wine this night [ha'lila] also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.

On the surface, this story seems to have the days starting at dawn/sunrise. If you look at the Hebrew words in verse 34, it still makes more sense with that, but it isn't quite as cut and dried as it looks in English. The English words "tomorrow" and "yesterday" give the idea of a subsequent or previous calendar day, but the Hebrew words "mocharat" and "emesh" don't have the same connotation, as "mochorat" refers to "future daylight" and "emesh" to "time past." In this case, "it came to pass on the mocharat," would mean the daylight after the first night, though without certainly indicating that the calendar day has changed. Same thing for, "I lay emesh with my father," it refers to a previous time (night in contrast to day) and does not require that the calendar day changed. This leaves the three references to "this" and "that" night. The dawn/sunrise day start view would hold that these statements are attributing the night following the daylight to that same calendar day. This certainly is the plainest reading, but there are linguistic and textual counter-arguments that make that conclusion less than certain.

First, we make statements like, "I will set an alarm for 2am tonight," and even though our Gregorian day ends at midnight, we understand that by "tonight" the speaker this coming dark period irrespective of calendar day. This is obvious because, outside of science fiction, setting an alarm for a time in the past is laughable. In the same way, saying, "let us make him drink wine this night" would be nonsensical if it referred to the past. It can only refer to the future even if "tonight" does not strictly belong to the calendar day of the speaker. This flexibility and inexactness of language is part of what makes this study more difficult than it would seem on the surface.

Second, and more compelling, is that we find this same Hebrew phrase from verse 34 in another context where we have evidence that it means the previous night.

1 Samuel 15:10 Then came the word of Yahweh unto Samuel, saying,
11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto Yahweh all night.
12 And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.
13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of Yahweh: I have performed the commandment of Yahweh.
14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto Yahweh thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.
16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what Yahweh hath said to me this night. [ha'lila] And he said unto him, Say on.

In other words, "this night" can refer to either a previous or future night depending on context. We see in the narrative in 1 Samuel 15 that when Samuel talks to Saul in the morning and says, "this night," that it refers to the previous night, not the one to follow. Thus the "this night" in the story of Lot's daughters is not solid proof about which calendar day "this night" belongs to. So, while the literal reading of the passage is better for a dawn/sunrise day start, the colloquial nature of the statements leaves room that calendar days are not being referred to at all.


Isaac and Abimelech: Summary

Like in Abraham's covenant story above, we have a phrase, "it came to pass the same day," that on the surface appears to prove something. In this case, a sunset or nightfall day start. However, just like in the previous story, the actual event in context of the phrase takes place on the same day regardless of when the day starts and is thus inconclusive.

Isaac and Abimelech: Detailed (Inconclusive)

Genesis 26:26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army.
27 And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?
28 And they said, We saw certainly that Yahweh was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee;
29 That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of Yahweh.
30 And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.
31 And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.
32 And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water.

Here we have the counter point to the Genesis 15 covenant that is often used to try to prove a dawn or sunrise day start. In this case though, the superficial reading points to a sunset or nightfall day start. Abimelech comes to Isaac to make a covenant, and they eat a feast together which is associated with covenant making much more often in the scripture than animal splitting. (See Do Covenants Require Death?) The next morning they swear to each other and "the same day" Isaac's servants tell him about a well of water. Since feasts are often eaten at night, and the well of water is discovered the "same day" as the covenant is made, an evening day start enthusiast would point to this as proving that the day starts at sunset or nightfall. Of course, for the same reasons as in Genesis 15, there is actually nothing provable here. "The same day" phrase is in context of "they departed from him in peace" and does not have to include the entire covenant and meal. Thus, again, every day start theory works with this narrative.


Locust, Quail and Saul the Prophet: Summary

In these three passages we have the English phrase, "All that day and all that night." The literal Hebrew however is more like "All that day and all the night" which does not make a distinction as to which calendar day the night belongs to and is thus inconclusive as to when the day starts.

Locust, Quail and Saul the Prophet: Detailed (Inconclusive)

Exodus 10:13 And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and Yahweh brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.

Numbers 11:32 And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next [mocharat] day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.

1 Samuel 19:24 And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?

In these passages we have the same Hebrew phrase appear for, "All that day and all that night." The "All that day" half of the phrase contains the same type of designation as the "that same day" phrase we saw in the stories of covenants between Abraham and Yahweh and Isaac and Abimelech. Here it still does mean, "that same day," though in this case where there is a comparison with night, it likely means only "that same daylight period." (If it did mean, all that calendar day, then the night mentioned next would be marking the beginning of the next calendar day and thus support a nightfall day start.)

The second half of the phrase is literally "the night" not "that same night" and is the same as we see in Genesis 19:34 and 1 Samuel 15:10. In those cases we see demonstrated that "the night" can be referenced from either the day light period before or after the night. Thus this phrase doesn't tie the night to either calendar day. The quail verse especially demonstrates these principals as the succeeding daylight period after the night is also included, yet the phrase "the night" isn't specific enough to let us know which of those daylight periods the night goes with to form a calendar day. Thus these passages can be made to work with any day start theory.


Passover in Egypt: Summary

This is one of the best lines of evidence we have since consecutively numbered calendar days are used for two events. The killing of the Passover takes place on the afternoon of the 14th and Israel marches out of Egypt in the daylight of the 15th. Several phrases, events and commands tie the night that occurs between those two events to the 15th, making night come before daylight in a calendar day. Also the seven days of unleavened bread are referred to as natural calendar days outside of Exodus 12, and in Exodus 12 the description is evening to evening based. Thus this narrative contains multiple evidences that strongly support sunset or nightfall beginning the day.

Passover in Egypt: Detailed (Major problems for Dawn and Sunrise)

Exodus 12:1 And Yahweh spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6 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 [bane ha'erebim].
7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.
10 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.
11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is Yahweh's passover.
12 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 gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Yahweh.
13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to Yahweh throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
20 Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
23 For Yahweh will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, Yahweh will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.
25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which Yahweh will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
27 That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of Yahweh's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
28 And the children of Israel went away, and did as Yahweh had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
29 And it came to pass, that at midnight Yahweh smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
30 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.
31 And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve Yahweh, as ye have said.
32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
33 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.
34 And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.
35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:
36 And Yahweh gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.
37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.
38 And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.
40 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.
41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of Yahweh went out from the land of Egypt.
42 It is a night to be much observed unto Yahweh for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of Yahweh to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.
43 And Yahweh said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
44 But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
45 A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.
46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.
47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.
48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to Yahweh, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
50 Thus did all the children of Israel; as Yahweh commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
51 And it came to pass the selfsame day, that Yahweh did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.

Numbers 33:1 These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
2 And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of Yahweh: and these are their journeys according to their goings out.
3 And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow [mocharat] after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.
4 For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which Yahweh had smitten among them: upon their gods also Yahweh executed judgments.
5 And the children of Israel removed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth.

Deuteronomy 16:1 Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto Yahweh thy God: for in the month of Abib Yahweh thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
2 Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto Yahweh thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which Yahweh shall choose to place his name there.
3 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.

There are a number of timing related statements in this narrative that have bearing on when the day starts. The fact that calendar days are mentioned for two of the events allows us to know with certainty that exactly one day change takes place between the killing of the Passover and Israel's marching from Rameses to Succoth. The lamb is killed "between the evenings" on the fourteenth and the Israelites were marching "in the sight of the Egyptians" during the "mocharat" or daylight of the fifteenth. Still, there is enough controversy out there that a quick look at the time of day that those two events occurred is in order.

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, "Between the evenings" is a Hebrew phrase based on the word "erev." It is used 11 times, 5 refer to killing the Passover, 4 to offering the evening sacrifice, 1 to lighting the lamps in the tabernacle and the last 1 occurs in the story of Israel and the quail. The most notable connection is between the Passover and the evening sacrifice and this can be used to see what time of day is referred to by "between the evenings."

  1. The lighting and dressing of the lamps in Exodus 30:7-8 appears to have the lamps lit to burn through the whole night. This implies lighting them before dark, but after morning when they are dressed. As lighting them is to be done "between the evenings," the first clue we have is that it means a time after morning and before dark.
  2. In Exodus 29:38-46 and Numbers 28:3-8 the instructions for the morning and evening sacrifices are that the first lamb of each day be killed in the morning and the second lamb of each day be killed "between the evenings." This puts the meaning of the phrase as a time after morning but before the end of either the daylight or the calendar day.
  3. The story of Elijah on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18, (notably verses 29 and 44) has "the time of the evening sacrifice" as coming after midday, yet later there is still enough daylight left to see a cloud the size of a man's hand on the horizon. Thus, this evidence puts "between the evenings" in the afternoon, but before nightfall.
  4. As mentioned before, Yeshua, Our Passover, died at the ninth hour (Matthew 27:45-50, Mark 15:33-37 and Luke 23:44-46) or about 2-3pm which puts "between the evenings" into what we would call afternoon or early evening.

All taken together, "between the evenings" is shown by context to be a time of day in the afternoon, no earlier than noon and no later than nightfall.

The time of day that Israel marched out of Egypt has a bit more conflict in the evidence.

  1. Exodus 12:17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies [tsaba] out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
  2. Exodus 12:22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
  3. Exodus 12:41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts [tsaba] of Yahweh went out from the land of Egypt
    42 It is a night to be much observed unto Yahweh for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of Yahweh to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.
  4. Exodus 12:50 Thus did all the children of Israel; as Yahweh commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
    51 And it came to pass the selfsame day, that Yahweh did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies [tsaba].
  5. Numbers 33:1 These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies [tsaba] under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
    3 And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow [mocharat] after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.
  6. Deuteronomy 16:1 Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto Yahweh thy God: for in the month of Abib Yahweh thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.

The conflict here is whether the bringing out and the armies departing from Rameses took place during the day or night. Deuteronomy 16:1 says the bringing out was "by night" while Numbers 33:3 says they departed from Rameses on the 15th during the "mocharat" or daylight. Also Moses says not to leave their houses until morning in Exodus 12:22 and in verse 42 we have a "night to be much observed for bringing them out."

There are not many options for reconciling these statements, but perhaps the easiest is to see them as a single event taking place at night, claiming that Moses' instruction to not leave the house before morning was not adhered to (and perhaps wasn't from God as it is only found in Moses' recap, not the "Yahweh said unto Moses" section.) This also requires seeing Numbers 33:3 as two statements; one that they departed on the 15th (still night) and a second that they marched in the sight of the Egyptians during the day. This way of reconciling only works for a sunset or nightfall day start as the departure during the night is already specified as being on the 15th.

A second option is seeing the death of the firstborn and Pharaoh's decree of freedom as being the bringing out by night while seeing the armies' departure which takes place on the morning of the 15th as a separate event. This allows the Numbers 33:3 statement to be plainer and perhaps more importantly allows Moses' command to stay in the houses all night to be seen as inspired. On the surface, this allows any day start theory to work here, so the following verse by verse examination of Exodus 12 will assume this is the correct one and use it as the "working theory."

  • Exodus 12:6 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 [bane ha'erebim].
    7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
    8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
    9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.
    10 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.
    11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is Yahweh's passover.
    12 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 gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Yahweh.
    13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
    14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to Yahweh throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
    15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.

    The "that night" phrase in verse 8 and "this night" phrase in verse 12 are often used to claim that the night following the Passover sacrifice belongs to the same calendar day as the sacrifice. It is the same Hebrew phrase in both places and, unfortunately for proving anything, those are the only two times that that phrase is used in the OT. Depending on our bias, we can see it meaning simply the subsequent night or the night that belongs to that calendar day. There just isn't any further evidence to prove or disprove either one, making this particular phrase inconclusive.

    The "this day" phrase in verse 14 is also difficult to make any certain statements from. It says the day that Yahweh passed over is to be a feast, which could be seen as the first day of Unleavened Bread or Passover. As both of those events are listed in Leviticus 23 as the feasts of Yahweh, either option makes sense, again leaving the statement inconclusive as far as determining when the day starts.

  • Exodus 12:16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
    17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
    18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
    19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
    20 Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.

    The Hebrew phrase for "selfsame day" in verse 17 is found three times in the chapter and comes from "bone" so it may be derived from "bone of my bone" in Genesis 2. It emphatically means that very day. In this verse it says that the very day that Yahweh brought out the armies of Israel, is the feast of Unleavened Bread. As we know from Numbers 33, the day the armies went out is the 15th day of the month. Not surprisingly, Leviticus 23:6 confirms this saying, "And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto Yahweh: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread." Numbers 28:17 also references the 15th day of the month in conjunction with seven days of Unleavened Bread. This is important as thus we have multiple witnesses outside of this passage as well as context in verse 15-16 and then 19 about eating Unleavened Bread for seven days that are apparently calendar days. It is in this context that we find verse 18.

    The command in verse 18 is to eat unleavened bread from evening (no unusual modifiers on the Hebrew word for evening in this verse) on the 14th to evening on the 21st. It fits right into the sunset day start theory. Starting from the sunset/evening right at the end of the 14th and counting to the sunset/evening at the end of the 21st gives seven calendar days starting with the 15th day of the month. The context of seven days and the importance of the 15th, when Israel's armies left Egypt, all fit together nicely. On the other hand, the dawn and sunrise day starts are not nearly as clean since they require the time to eat unleavened bread to be six calendar days with an extra half day on each end. With Hebrew inclusive counting, that would be considered eight days, not seven. While not as incompatible as the sunrise or dawn start, the nightfall start needs some tweaking to work here, with the simplest option being that the statement in verse 18 means "from (but not including) the evening of the 14th."

  • Exodus 12:21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
    22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
    23 For Yahweh will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, Yahweh will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
    24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.
    25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which Yahweh will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
    26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
    27 That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of Yahweh's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
    28 And the children of Israel went away, and did as Yahweh had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
    29 And it came to pass, that at midnight Yahweh smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.

    We looked at the command not to go out of the house until morning above. What I want to bring attention to this time is verse 28. It is nearly word for word in the Hebrew the same as verse 50 which, as we will see, does have a timing statement per day of the month associated with it. Verse 28 however is followed by verse 29 which states that "at midnight" Yahweh killed the firstborn. This associates a time of day (night) with the first reference to "so did they."

  • Exodus 12:30 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.
    31 And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve Yahweh, as ye have said.
    32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
    33 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.
    34 And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.
    35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:
    36 And Yahweh gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.
    37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.
    38 And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
    39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.

    Here we see that the decree, freeing the children of Israel was given during the night. Some have argued that Moses and Aaron then did leave their houses before morning and went to Pharaoh, however in the previous encounter, in Exodus 10:29 Moses said that he would not see Pharaoh's face again, so it makes more sense that the message was delivered to them without them going to Pharaoh.

    Also looking back at Exodus 11 we see that the borrowing of items from the Egyptians was indicated to have already taken place before the passover. The tense of the Hebrew words in verses 35-36 bears this out and while it can be seen better in a literal version such as Young's Literal Translation, verses 34 and 37 seem to be present tense book endings around a reference to an event in the past tense in 35-36. That aside, all the other statements in these verses, "haste" and "urgent" and "thrust out" and "before it was leavened" and "could not tarry," testify to a hurried exit and further strengthen the opening proof that only one day change takes place between the killing of the passover and the armies of Israel marching out of Egypt.

    Also of note, the journey of six hundred thousand footmen from Rameses to Succoth is the one mentioned following the emphasis of the haste and that is the very journey specified as taking place by Israel's armies on the 15th in Numbers 33. Immediately setting out on this journey following the night of deliverance also seems to be reflected in the command to eat with shoes on and staff in hand, ready to travel.

  • Exodus 12:40 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.
    41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of Yahweh went out from the land of Egypt.
    42 It is a night to be much observed unto Yahweh for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of Yahweh to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.

    The "selfsame day" statement here is the second instance of the "bone of my bone" idea that ties two events very clearly to a specific day. In this case, the events tied to the same day are the end of the 430 years of sojourn and the going out of the armies of Israel which doesn't help much for determining when the day starts on its own. However, the following verse does add some evidence. It equates the "night to be much observed" with the day from verse 41, and that day, we know from Numbers 33, is the 15th. Thus it says that the two separate events from our "working theory;" 1, being delivered at night and 2, marching out of Egypt by day take place on the same calendar day which is the 15th. This can only be the case if the night part of the day comes before the daylight part of the day and so it works with a sunset or nightfall day start, but is unworkable with the dawn or sunrise start.

  • Exodus 12:43 And Yahweh said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
    44 But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
    45 A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.
    46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.
    47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.
    48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to Yahweh, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
    49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
    50 Thus did all the children of Israel; as Yahweh commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
    51 And it came to pass the selfsame day, that Yahweh did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.

    After an interlude about the rules for a stranger wanting to keep the passover, we have the near word for word repetition of verse 28 which as we saw was followed by "and it came to pass at midnight." Here it is followed by "and it came to pass" conjoined with the third appearance in the passage of the "bone of my bone" word for "selfsame day." The events that are tied inextricably to the same day here are; 1, Israel doing what they were told and 2, the armies of Israel marching out of Egypt. So if the time of day that Israel finished "so did" was midnight and the day of the month that Israel finished "so did" was the 15th, the only conclusion possible is that midnight of the 15th comes before the daylight of the 15th. Again, this is exactly what we would expect with a sunset or nightfall day start, but is incongruous with a dawn or sunrise one.

So, in conclusion, all through the Exodus narrative we find aspects that fit right in with or even demand a sunset or nightfall day start and are poorly fitted or outright contradict a dawn or sunrise day start. The evidence here is heavily weighted in favor of night coming before daylight in a calendar day.


Crossing the Red Sea: Summary

Moses makes a "this day" statement before the deliverance and there is also one in the narrative afterwards. The vast bulk of the story takes place at night and pre-sunrise and while there are tidbits on each end that could have taken place in before sunset or after sunrise, nothing in the story really requires it, thus the "this day" statements fits with any day start theory except dawn.

Crossing the Red Sea: Detailed (Significant problem for Dawn)

Genesis 37:18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near [qarab] unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.

1 Samuel 11:11 And it was so on the morrow [mocharat], that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the host in the morning [boqer] watch [ashmoreth], and slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together.

Judges 19:25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: [ad boqer] and when the day began to spring, they let her go.
26 Then came the woman in the dawning [panah] of the day [boqer], and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light.

Exodus 14:9 But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.
10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, [qarab] the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto Yahweh.
11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will shew to you to day [ha'yom]: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day [ha'yom], ye shall see them again no more for ever.
14 Yahweh shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
15 And Yahweh said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
16 But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
17 And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near [qarab] the other all the night. [col ha'lila]
21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and Yahweh caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
24 And it came to pass, that in the morning [boqer] watch [ashmoreth] Yahweh looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
25 And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for Yahweh fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
26 And Yahweh said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning [boqer] appeared; [panah] and the Egyptians fled against it; and Yahweh overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
29 But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
30 Thus Yahweh saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.

When Israel sees the Egyptians coming, Moses makes a statement that God is going to provide salvation, "today." Since most of the narrative takes place at night, it is safe to assume that "today" is referring to a calendar day, not just a daylight period. So, chronologically the order of events is:

  1. Israel is camping next to the sea (Since they are camping, there would be a good chance that it is already night.)
  2. Israel sees the Egyptians when they get near (The same word for "near" is used in contrast with "afar off" in the story of Joseph's brothers seeing him. This again brings up the idea that it may have been night since visibility would be more restricted than in Genesis 37:18.)
  3. Israel freaks out, Moses calms them down, Yahweh tells Moses what to do
  4. The pillar of cloud moves, giving light to Israel and darkness to the pursuers (Verse 19 calls the pillar a pillar of cloud rather than a pillar of fire which would lend support towards it being day, however the next verse mitigates this, explaining that the pillar was both fire and cloud in this case as it was a cloud to the Egyptians and a light to Israel. Furthermore, it specifically calls the time while the pillar is between the two hosts, "night." Numbers 9:15-23 seems to call the pillar a cloud even when speaking of it in its night state as well.)
  5. The waters part, Israel goes through, Egyptians follow
  6. In the morning watch, the chariots break down (It seems there are three watches of the night in the OT since Judges 7:19 references the "middle watch." So the "morning watch" could be the third watch. In the only other direct mention, 1 Samuel 11:11 has a context of "mocharat" showing that an event that occurred in the "morning watch" takes place after the light of morning has started. Thus the "morning watch" stretches from the wee hours of the night, shortly into the morning and probably ends at sunrise. This leaves open the possibility that it is after "boqer" starts, but before sunrise here.)
  7. At literally, the turning of the morning, the water returns and drowns the Egyptians (While usually having the idea of "turning," "panah" in verse 27 is often translated "looked" or "look" so it could be trying to convey, as translated, that morning has appeared. A better proof of what it means here is from another instance where "boqer" and "panah" are paired, found in Judges 19:25-26. It is clear there that the event occurred in the morning but before it was fully light. Also of note, the cloud was said to stay between the armies "all the night" which lends credence to it being morning before the Egyptian army was no longer an army.)
  8. Israel sees the dead bodies of the Egyptians on the shore (This gives even more support to at least pre-sunrise morning light at this point, but Israel has just crossed the sea and could be mere yards away from where the bodies are, so again, not a certainty.)

Overall, while it is possible that there was some daylight remaining when Moses said "today" or that the deliverance itself transpired after sunrise, there doesn't seem to be anything that requires either one. The only day start theory that seems to have problems with Moses' "this day" declaration is a dawn start with the deliverance happening post-night, but pre-sunrise.

The statement in verse 30 at the end of the story, "Thus Yahweh saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore," is another one of those connector phrases. Connected to the same day here are: 1, Yahweh saving Israel, and 2, Seeing the dead Egyptians. If Yahweh saved Israel after sunrise, then Moses' statement is evidence of a sunset or nightfall day start. However, with it more likely that the salvation took place during the light of morning before sunrise, then the seeing of the dead Egyptians can take place in that same light. Thus the concluding "that day" connector is only opposed to a dawn start and is evidence of a sunset, nightfall or sunrise day start.


Manna and the Sabbath: Summary

Manna rains down at night with the dew and in Exodus 16:26 Moses says of manna during the Sabbath, "in it there shall be none." This works for sunset and nightfall day starts, but dawn and sunrise would require the first day of the week's manna to fall during the night of the Sabbath, thus this verse is evidence of a sunset or nightfall day start.

Manna and the Sabbath: Detailed (Significant problem for Dawn and Sunrise)

Numbers 11:6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
8 And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.
9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night [lila], the manna fell upon it.

Exodus 16:4 Then said Yahweh unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
5 And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.
6 And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even [erev], then ye shall know that Yahweh hath brought you out from the land of Egypt:
7 And in the morning, [boqer] then ye shall see the glory of Yahweh; for that he heareth your murmurings against Yahweh: and what are we, that ye murmur against us?
8 And Moses said, This shall be, when Yahweh shall give you in the evening [b'erev] flesh to eat, and in the morning [b'boqer] bread to the full; for that Yahweh heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against Yahweh.
9 And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before Yahweh: for he hath heard your murmurings.
10 And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of Yahweh appeared in the cloud.
11 And Yahweh spake unto Moses, saying,
12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even [bane ha'erebim] ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning [b'boqer] ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am Yahweh your God.
13 And it came to pass, that at even [b'erev] the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning [b'boqer] the dew lay round about the host.
14 And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which Yahweh hath given you to eat.
16 This is the thing which Yahweh hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.
17 And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.
18 And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.
19 And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. [ad boqer]
20 Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, [ad boqer] and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them.
21 And they gathered it every morning, [b'boqer b'boqer] every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.
22 And it came to pass, that on the sixth day [yom] they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses.
23 And he said unto them, This is that which Yahweh hath said, To morrow [machar] is the rest of the holy sabbath unto Yahweh: bake that which ye will bake to day [no word for today here in Hebrew], and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. [ad ha'boqer]
24 And they laid it up till the morning, [ad ha'boqer] as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.
25 And Moses said, Eat that to day [ha'yom]; for to day [ha'yom] is a sabbath unto Yahweh: to day [ha'yom] ye shall not find it in the field.
26 Six days [yamim] ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, [b'yom] the sabbath, in it there shall be none.
27 And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day [b'yom] for to gather, and they found none.
28 And Yahweh said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?
29 See, for that Yahweh hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day [b'yom] the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. [b'yom]

Usually it is difficult to show evidence for when a day starts without at least one part of the event taking place at night, since otherwise "yom" can just be seen as referring to the daylight portion. By bringing in Numbers 11:9 which describes when the manna falls and comparing it with Exodus 16:4, and 16:14 we see that manna rains down from heaven with the dew during the night and then is visible once the dew evaporates in the morning. This gives us an event at night that may help determine the day start here.

We have Moses' statements in verses 6-8 speaking of the two foods that Yahweh is going to send in the evening and in the morning. We have Yahweh saying in verse 12 that they will eat meat "between the evenings" and bread "in the morning." Finally we have the actual occurrence where the quail came in the evening and Israel saw the manna in the morning. Although some might try to use this as evidence for the day starting in the evening, since the evening event takes place before the morning event, there is nothing that really ties the two events to a single calendar day. In fact, the arrival of the quail "in the evening" with Yahweh saying they will eat it "between the evenings" could imply that they are not going to actually eat the meat until the next afternoon. While it is possible, I don't think we can assume with certainty they are eating quail soon after it arrives since by comparison the manna falls during the night and is eaten during the morning.

Next comes the story with manna and the sabbath. First the instructions not to leave it until the morning, which they do anyway. Then they end up with twice as much bread on the sixth day and Moses tells them that, "Tomorrow" is the Sabbath so cook what you want to cook and keep the rest until morning. The word for tomorrow is "machar" which from the fact that it refers to the Sabbath here can be safely assumed to be talking about a full calendar day. The rest of the statement could be seen as, "cook now so you won't have to when Sabbath comes in the morning," which would favor a dawn day start. However, there is a period of "keeping" that would naturally seem to be keeping it through the night, that comes after the cooking and before morning, so it could instead be that the night of keeping, where cooking work has ceased, is also part of the Sabbath. Also inconclusive is Moses' statement in verse 25 where he refers to "today" as the Sabbath, since every theory agrees that the daylight portion that Moses is speaking in is part of the sabbath.

Verse 26 is the first verse where we see something one sided. It says of the manna that, "in the Sabbath, there shall be none." Remembering that manna comes at night, there is no problem for a sunset or nightfall day start, as the night of the Sabbath in which there is no manna precedes the Sabbath morning in which there is no manna. However, for a dawn or sunrise day start, the manna would need to fall during the night of the Sabbath in order for it to be gathered the morning of the first day of the week. The best attempt to rectify this might be to emphasize the context, "gathering," which is only morning related, still, the literal statement is that there is no manna on the Sabbath.

Verse 29 contains a similar problem, in that it says the bread for two days is given "on the sixth day." With a sunset or nightfall start, that is literally true since manna falls during the night. With a dawn or sunrise start, the double manna would actually fall on the fifth day. There is a good counter argument here though, since verse 8 says that God will "give them in the morning bread to the full," so the "giving" of the manna may not technically count until morning. That considered, I count verse 29 as inconclusive. However, the literal statement "in it there shall be none" in verse 26 is hard to totally discount. For that reason, I think there is decent evidence here to support the sunset/nightfall viewpoint over the dawn/sunrise one.


Thanksgiving and Peace Offerings: Summary

The thanksgiving offering is a type of peace offering. The day after the normal peace offering expires, it is to be burned. When a thanksgiving offering expires it is not to be left until the next morning. Connecting the rules for those two types of peace offerings results in there needing to be a night for the expired remains to be burned that comes before morning in a calendar day. While this connection between the two offerings is not certain, it makes the most sense, thus there is some support here for a sunset or nightfall day start.

Thanksgiving and Peace Offerings: Detailed (Minor problem for Dawn and Sunrise)

Leviticus 19:5 And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto Yahweh, ye shall offer it at your own will.
6 It shall be eaten the same day [b'yom] ye offer it, and on the morrow: [mocharat] and if ought remain until the third day, [ad yom] it shall be burnt in the fire.

Leviticus 22:29 And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto Yahweh, offer it at your own will.
30 On the same day [b'yom] it shall be eaten up; ye shall leave none of it until the morrow: [ad boqer] I am Yahweh.

Leviticus 7:11 And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto Yahweh.
12 If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried.
13 Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings.
14 And of it he shall offer one out of the whole oblation for an heave offering unto Yahweh, and it shall be the priest’s that sprinkleth the blood of the peace offerings.
15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day [b'yom] that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning. [ad boqer]
16 But if the sacrifice of his offering be a vow, or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day [b'yom] that he offereth his sacrifice: and on the morrow [mocharat] also the remainder of it shall be eaten:
17 But the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day [b'yom] shall be burnt with fire.
18 And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings be eaten at all on the third day, [b'yom] it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it: it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity.

Leviticus 22:30 and its more detailed equivalent Leviticus 7:15, found within the context of general rules for peace offerings, are often used to support dawn or sunrise day starts. The idea being that since the peace offering for thanksgiving can be eaten on "the day" it is offered and that none of it can be left to the next morning, therefore the night between the sacrifice and the next morning is included in "the day" when the sacrifice can be eaten. This requires that the word "yom" mean a calendar day here and not just the daylight portion which is only certain if we make the assumption that it is permissible for a peace offering for thanksgiving to be eaten at night which in turn is only certain if the word "yom" means a full calendar day. This is a circular argument and thus weak, since the opposite assumptions could be just as valid.

So, what should the person who offered a peace offering for thanksgiving do if he has eaten all that he can, but morning is coming? It seems pretty obvious that he would need to burn the remains. For a normal peace offering the burning is specifically commanded to take place. Thus from the look of things, the difference between the other peace offering and the peace offering for thanksgiving, is that you have one extra day to eat it. So, a peace offering offered on one day would have the same expiration as a peace offering for thanksgiving offered the next day. This brings up a combination of not keeping the flesh until morning on the second/third day, but also burning it on the second/third day. The only way that can work out is if there is time (night) on that day that comes before morning. This would fit right in with sunset and nightfall day starts, but cannot fit with a dawn or sunrise day start.

On top of that, the second "day" of the peace offering is actually described with the word "mocharat" which means daylight period. That could imply that eating the sacrifice at night is not permitted anyway which would undermine the original dawn or sunrise day start argument even further. Ultimately, if we deny that the two types of expired peace offerings should be treated the same way, nothing in the entire passage is guaranteed to take place at night. So, without that connection, evidence that a calendar day starts one way or another is minimal. However with that connection, which to me seems more probable than not, these passages support a sunset or nightfall day start.


The Day of Atonement: Summary

The Day of Atonement is repeatedly called the 10th of the month. Leviticus 23:32 contains a phrase, "in the ninth of the month at even, from even unto even" in regard to when to rest for The Day of Atonement. This does not fit well with a dawn or sunrise day start and sunset day start is even worse since it puts the "evening of the ninth day" at the beginning of the 9th rather than the 10th. Starting the day with nightfall fits quite well since it puts the evening of the 9th right before the beginning of the 10th. Thus by virtue of having the only working interpretation, the nightfall day start is strongly supported here.

The Day of Atonement: Detailed (Major problem for Dawn, Sunrise and Sunset)

Leviticus 16:29 And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:
30 For on that day [b'yom] shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before Yahweh.
31 It shall be a sabbath [shabbat shabbathown] of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.

Numbers 29:7 And ye shall have on the tenth of this seventh month an holy convocation; and ye shall afflict your souls: ye shall not do any work therein:
8 But ye shall offer a burnt offering unto Yahweh for a sweet savour; one young bullock, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year; they shall be unto you without blemish:

Leviticus 23:27 Also on the tenth of this seventh month there shall be a day [yom] of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto Yahweh.
28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: [b'etsem ha'yom hazey] for it is a day [yom] of atonement, to make an atonement for you before Yahweh your God.
29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, [b'etsem ha'yom hazey] he shall be cut off from among his people.
30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, [b'etsem ha'yom hazey] the same soul will I destroy from among his people.
31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
32 It shall be unto you a sabbath [shabbat shabbathown] of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth of the month at even, [b'erev] from even [m'erev] unto even, [ad erev] shall ye celebrate [t'shabbat'o] your sabbath. [shabbat]

The major element here that can be seen as evidence for when a day starts is found in Leviticus 23:32. Three other verses refer to the "tenth of the month," which demonstrates that "The day of Atonement" is a calendar day. Commands for the calendar day in Leviticus 16 and Numbers 29 include, afflicting your souls, not working, having a holy convocation and (the priest) making an atonement by sacrifice. The day is also called a "sabbath of rest." In Leviticus 23, we find every one of these aspects repeated leading up to verse 32 where it specifically reuses the phrases "sabbath of rest" and "rest your sabbath" with the following key phrase, "in the ninth of the month at even, [b'erev] from even [m'erev] unto even, [ad erev]." Coming to a conclusion that the "sabbath of rest" calendar day in which we are to afflict our souls falls outside the time period described takes quite a stretch.

For a dawn or sunrise day start, that stretch has to be made in one way or another. There are several options for rectifying this problem, but none are very sustainable.

  1. Seeing the statement in 23:32 as an additional command to the other three instances commanding rest and affliction of your soul on the tenth day of the month results in a 36 hour period being described. While starting the affliction and rest 12 hours ahead of the actual day is conceivable, the glaring problem with this is that Leviticus 23:32 gives us an ending statement for the affliction and rest as well as a beginning. If the Day of Atonement is meant to be 36 hours, the ending statement of resting "until even" is simply false. There would still be 12 hours to go before the tenth day of the month ends.
  2. Alternatively, Numbers 29:7, Leviticus 23:7 and Leviticus 16:29 would need to be taken as not actually talking about the tenth morning-to-morning calendar day of the month. This would be unexpected since Numbers 29 and Leviticus 23 refer to multiple other feast days by their calendar day designation and there is no statement that the resting on feast days such as Trumpets, Tabernacles or the weekly sabbath should be done any way other than as a normal calendar day. The counter to that is something like, "That is the point! Why would we need a statement that The Day of Atonement starts in the evening if every day starts in the evening!" This makes some sense, throughout the Bible we have commands repeated or described in other words, often with an additional detail in another passage. However, if the statement is seen as merely an additional detail, that leads back to the problem in #1. What is needed for a dawn or sunrise day start to work is a complete redefinition of "tenth of the month," but without redefining "first of the month" and "fifteenth of the month."
  3. A third attempt at reconciling the phrase with a dawn or sunrise day start is to claim that the final phrase in the verse is talking about something different than "keeping The Day of Atonement" and is instead about a separate observation period to prepare for the day, but that also overlaps the day. The Hebrew words simply don't bear that out. The beginning of the verse is, "it shall be unto you a sabbath of rest" or literally, a "resting sabbath" and the last phrase literally says that "from even until even you shall rest your sabbath." Separating the key phrase out as a separate command to "rest your sabbath" over a time period that only partially overlaps with the "your resting sabbath" found in the same verse is a severe stretch of the context.

While far fetched for a dawn or sunrise day start to reconcile, the key phrase "in the ninth of the month at even, [b'erev] from even [m'erev] unto even, [ad erev]" is absolutely disastrous for a sunset or evening based day start. This is because of the beginning of the phrase, "in the ninth of the month." According to a sunset day start, the evening of the ninth day of the month comes at the beginning of the ninth day of the month. By the time you go from that evening to the next evening you have basically described the ninth day of the month, not the tenth. This either requires the sunset/evening interpretation to claim that "from even until even" actually means "from evening, skip one evening, until the second evening" or to claim a variation of #3 above, essentially making the verse into a statement about two "resting sabbaths" in a row. Both options require pretty wild stretches.

This really only leaves the nightfall day start as a reasonable option. Under the nightfall day start, "in the ninth of the month at even, [b'erev] from even [m'erev] unto even, [ad erev]" results in the time period described basically covering a normal calendar day, but with an addition of starting the resting during the evening of the ninth day. This makes way more sense with the idea of the tenth of the month being the resting sabbath that is to be rested from evening to evening. It results in the key phrase being an "additional detail" to the other three "tenth of the month" verses instead of a redefinition of them. The ease with which this phrase fits into a nightfall day start compared to the other options makes this pretty strong evidence in favor of nightfall starting the day.


Sanctifying the Firstborn: Summary

Yahweh says that He sanctified the firstborn to Himself in the day that he smote the firstborn in Egypt. The firstborn were smitten at night, and the record of Yahweh first telling Moses that the firstborn of Israel were to be sanctified to Him falls between two clear statements that are tied to the following daylight. This puts night before daylight on that calendar day. The counter argument that the sanctifying happened that night and the morning statement to Moses is merely when Yahweh told Moses what to do is a reasonable alternative, thus this line of evidence is inconclusive.

Sanctifying the Firstborn: Detailed (Inconclusive)

Exodus 12:51 And it came to pass the selfsame day, [b'etsem ha'yom hazey] Yahweh did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.
1 And Yahweh spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Sanctify [kadash] unto me all the firstborn, [col bekore] whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.
3 And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, [ha'yom hazey] in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand Yahweh brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten.
4 This day [ha'yom] came ye out in the month Abib.

Numbers 3:13 Because all the firstborn are [col bekore] mine; for on the day [b'yom] that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn [col bekore] in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am Yahweh.

Numbers 8:17 For all the firstborn [col bekore] of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day [b'yom] that I smote every firstborn [col bekore] in the land of Egypt I sanctified [kadash] them for myself.

Numbers 33:1 These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
2 And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of Yahweh: and these are their journeys according to their goings out.
3 And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow [mocharat] after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.
4 For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, [col bekore] which Yahweh had smitten among them: upon their gods also Yahweh executed judgments.

Yahweh says that He sanctified the firstborn to Himself "in the day" that he smote the firstborn in Egypt. As we saw in the Passover section, the firstborn were smitten at night, while looking at the story line at the end of Exodus 12 and beginning of chapter 13 we see that Yahweh's statement to Moses to "sanctify unto me all the firstborn" falls between several statements about Israel coming out of Egypt "this day." If killing the Egyptian firstborn is at night and sanctifying the firstborn happens on the 15th, then the night is coming before morning here. The counter argument is that it was the very action of killing the Egyptian firstborn that sanctified Israel's firstborn to Yahweh and that the statement in chapter 13 telling Moses to sanctify the firstborn is just a follow up. The second option is well within reason and would work with any day start reckoning, so this evidence is inconclusive.


Cleansing from a Dead Body: Summary

The man who is unclean by a dead body becomes clean on the seventh day, but that is also described as happening "in the evening." For a sunset day start, this would mean that the person becomes clean just minutes into the seventh day. This is not impossible, but since the unclean man is also commanded to wash himself and his clothes and be sprinkled with water of cleansing, it seems pretty clear the evidence supports the other day starts better.

Cleansing from a Dead Body: Detailed (Significant problem for Sunset)

Leviticus 22:6 The soul which hath touched any such shall be unclean until even [erev], and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water.
7 And when the sun is down, he shall be clean, and shall afterward eat of the holy things; because it is his food.

Deuteronomy 23:11 But it shall be, when evening [erev] cometh on, he shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again.

Numbers 19:11 He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. [yamim]
12 He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day [b'yom] he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean.
13 Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of Yahweh; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.
14 This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. [yamim]
15 And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.
16 And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. [yamim]
17 And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel:
18 And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave:
19 And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: [b'yom] and on the seventh day [b'yom] he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even. [b'erev]

I found 32 verses where different types of uncleanness are said to last "until evening" with a couple of them also specifying that evening starts "when the sun is down." This is often used to claim a sunset day start, and while that sounds reasonable, it is still only circumstantial as nothing actually states that it takes a new calendar day to become clean. In fact, studying the time frame in which someone unclean by reason of a dead body becomes clean again we can see that there is circumstantial evidence that sunset does not begin a new day.

The keys to discover this are found in Numbers 19:11, 12 and 19. The man involved is unclean for seven days, but in keeping with Hebrew numbering, which is inclusive of partials, it says that "in the seventh day" he shall be clean. This means that the point at which the man becomes clean falls somewhere within the seventh day, but given that he is unclean during part of that day, it still counts as seven total days of uncleanness. The time of day at which the man becomes clean is "in the evening." So the uncleanness expires both "in the evening" and "in the seventh day." With a sunset day start, the seventh "day" of the count consists of just a couple minutes in the evening. With a sunrise or dawn day start, the seventh "day" of the count consists of about 12 hours. With a nightfall day start, the seventh "day" consists of all but a few minutes of a calendar day.

The first option is somewhat farfetched since it is also in the seventh day that the unclean man is to be sprinkled, wash his clothes and bathe in water. It might be possible to do that in the 30 minutes between sunset and nightfall, but it doesn't seem like the natural reading of the passage. (Detueronomy 23:11 places a similar washing to get rid of uncleanness as happening just before sunset.) The dawn, sunrise and nightfall starts definitely make more sense, though of them I would lean towards a nightfall day start since that results in much closer to a full day for the seventh day of the count.


Hanging on a Tree: Summary

The command in Deuteronomy 21:23, "His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day, does not actually contain the word "night" in Hebrew. This leaves open the possibility that "day" here is simply "daylight" and thus this passage is inconclusive.

Hanging on a Tree: Detailed (Inconclusive)

Deuteronomy 21:22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:
23 His body shall not remain all night [no word for night in Hebrew] upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day [b'yom hahu]; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which Yahweh thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

Young's Literal Translation:
Deuteronomy 21:23 his corpse doth not remain on the tree, for thou dost certainly bury him in that day — for a thing lightly esteemed of God is the hanged one — and thou dost not defile thy ground which Jehovah thy God is giving to thee — an inheritance.

Joshua 8:29 And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: [ad at ha'erev] and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.

Joshua 10:26 And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. [ad ha'erev]
27 And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day.

Numbers 25:4 And Yahweh said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before Yahweh against the sun, that the fierce anger of Yahweh may be turned away from Israel.

This statute is often used to support a dawn or sunrise day start based on the fact that most translations add "overnight" or "all night," to the Hebrew word for "remain." On the surface that works, with the implication that a body could hang on the tree from daylight into part of a night. However due to Hebrew thought normally being inclusive, even having the body on the tree for part of the night might be a violation of "remain the night" (compare with the passages from Joshua and Numbers.) If that were the case, then this verse would be supporting a nightfall day start, so even based on the English translation, it is not a foolproof argument for dawn or sunrise.

Honestly though, I don't think either of the options above are correct. While it is true that "remain" is most often used in a context that implies the remaining would be during the night, (E.g. people in a one day to the next type of narrative) that is context based and "overnight" does not appear to be inherent in the word itself. 2 Samuel 12:15-20 illustrates this in David "remaining" upon the earth for seven days. Obviously, it wasn't night the whole seven days that he laid there. Another implication that night is not implied in the word itself, is that it is found in Hebrew phrases where the word "night" or "until morning" are actually there. As Young's Literal Translation makes clear, this is not one of those instances. There is no word for night in the command.

In Numbers 25, Yahweh commands Moses to hang people and the emphasis is that it be done "against the sun." The only other clarifying contextual narratives for this command I can find are in the two cases where Joshua appears to take action in order to keep it. In them Joshua has hanged bodies taken down right at the beginning of evening. On the surface, this supports the sunset or nightfall day start interpretation, but in reality, this is viable for every day start. Those who believe in a sunset start, would see it happening right at the change of the day. With nightfall proponents, Joshua was leaving himself a few minutes of cushion by taking the body down just after sunset. Dawn and sunrise start advocates can see him taking it down before night as simply a convenience to avoid having to get up and do it before morning while it was still night. Since these are narratives of the command being kept and not commands to do it exactly that way, nothing is really proven.

Without certainty that either the command or the instances of keeping it involve night, "bury him in that day" can even be seen as meaning only the daylight period and not relate to a calendar day at all. Ultimately, there is no conclusive evidence here.


Jericho: Summary

The 7th day of marching around Jericho started in the pre-sunrise dawn. If the day changed at sunrise, it is unlikely that all seven circuits of the city could be completed before the 8th day, yet it says all seven were to be done in the 7th day. Thus this story is somewhat problematic for a sunrise day start.

Jericho: Detailed (Significant problem for Sunrise)

Judges 19:25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night [col ha'lila] until the morning: [ad ha'boqer] and when the day began to spring, [ca'alot ha'shachar] they let her go.

Genesis 19:15 And when the morning arose, [ha'shachar alah] then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.
23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.

Joshua 6:11 So the ark of Yahweh compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.
12 And Joshua rose early in the morning, [b'boqer] and the priests took up the ark of Yahweh.
13 And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of Yahweh went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of Yahweh, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.
14 And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days.
15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, [ca'alot ha'shachar] and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day [b'yom hahu] they compassed the city seven times.
16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for Yahweh hath given you the city.

Here, by comparing with Genesis 19 and Judges 19 to understand the phrases used, we have Joshua and the Israelites getting up before sunrise on the seventh day to march around Jericho seven times in "that day." This doesn't really work with a sunrise day start unless all seven marches around the city are packed into the short time between dawn and sunrise. The total distance, based on archeology, was probably between 4-5 miles. The time available between there being no stars visible and sunrise is around 30 minutes. While possible, the Israelites would have had to be running fast, about 6-8 minutes per mile. For the other day start theories, there is no trouble here. If the day started at sunset, nightfall or dawn, then there are about 12 hours available for the 7 marches.


Jonathan's Victory and Saul's Oath: Summary

Saul's oath and its retelling equate "this day" and "until evening." However, with "yom" meaning daylight period, this is true without requiring that sunset ends a calendar day. On the other hand, the people make a statement during the night that Jonathan's victory took place "this day" supporting a dawn or sunrise day start. The statement could be taken to be only talking about a daylight period, but that is not the most direct interpretation. Overall, the evidence definitely leans towards a dawn or sunrise start.

Jonathan's Victory and Saul's Oath: Detailed (Significant problem for Sunset and Nightfall)

1 Samuel 14:24 And the men of Israel were distressed that day: [b'yom hahu] for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, [ad ha'erev] that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food.
25 And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground.
26 And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath.
27 But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.
28 Then answered one of the people, and said, Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day. [ha'yom] And the people were faint.
29 Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey.
30 How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day [ha'yom] of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?
31 And they smote the Philistines that day [b'yom hahu] from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint.
32 And the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground: and the people did eat them with the blood.
33 Then they told Saul, saying, Behold, the people sin against Yahweh, in that they eat with the blood. And he said, Ye have transgressed: roll a great stone unto me this day.
34 And Saul said, Disperse yourselves among the people, and say unto them, Bring me hither every man his ox, and every man his sheep, and slay them here, and eat; and sin not against Yahweh in eating with the blood. And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night, [ha'lila] and slew them there.
35 And Saul built an altar unto Yahweh: the same was the first altar that he built unto Yahweh.
36 And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, [lila] and spoil them until the morning light, [ad oer ha'boqer] and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee. Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God.
37 And Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into the hand of Israel? But he answered him not that day. [b'yom hahu]
38 And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people: and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day. [ha'yom]
39 For, as Yahweh liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him.
40 Then said he unto all Israel, Be ye on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side. And the people said unto Saul, Do what seemeth good unto thee.
41 Therefore Saul said unto Yahweh God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped.
42 And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken.
43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die.
44 And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.
45 And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as Yahweh liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. [ha'yom hazey] So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.

The first item of note might be claimed by the sunset day start. We see that Saul's oath and the retelling of it to Jonathan are word for word in the Hebrew with one exception. Saul said "until evening" and the soldier says it as "this day." The obvious implication is that the two are equivalent phrases and thus the day ends at evening. While true, this overlooks the meaning of "yom" where it simply means daylight. Regardless of when a calendar day starts and ends, "this day" is equivalent to "until evening" since that is when the daylight ends. This comparison doesn't actually prove anything.

The second, slightly more solid evidence here is found in verse 38. Saul wants to know where the "sin hath been this day" in verse 38. Especially in light of Israel eating the blood in the previous verses, Saul could very well be talking about some sin since sunset. After all the story of Ai demonstrates that sin can cause Israel to be defeated and prior to sunset they were defeating their enemies. Still, with the added context of verse 45, the easier reading is that he was talking about some sort of sin that took place during the preceding daylight. That it is currently night, seems clear from the fact that the people are eating and the presence of the word "night" in both verse 34 and 36. To have the whole event take place within the evening would mean that Saul started his inquiry into the sin before the people brought their oxen to kill "that night." It would require that the story line in verses 32-35 is in parallel with the story in verses 36-45 rather than preceding it. This is definitely a stretch.

So while Saul's statement in verse 38 is conceivably workable with referring to the last few minute or hours since evening or night began, the one by the people in verse 45 is clearly not. The statement that is that "Jonathan hath wrought with God this day." While not the very clear phrase "this selfsame day" that we saw in the Exodus account and others, "this day" does mean "this day." Since Jonathan's working with God happened prior to sunset and the statement by the people is after night had come, this is solid support for a dawn or sunrise day start. Perhaps the best counter argument would be to claim that "this day" here is simply referring to a daylight period rather than a calendar day. Since the statement is in the past tense, the previous daylight, not the future daylight, is clearly what is intended. This counter is possible, though certainly less than ideal. For that reason I classify this as evidence for a dawn or sunrise day start.


David and Saul's Spear: Summary

David takes Saul's spear in the night and then makes two "this day" statements, one referring to his action in the night, the other referring to leaving Israel which he does soon after. If those statements were made during the day, which appears likely, then his reference to the previous night's events as "this day" show a sunset or nightfall day start. If those statements were made during the night, then his reference to the next day's events show a sunset or nightfall day start. Either way, this appears to be evidence of a nightfall or sunset day start.

David and Saul's Spear: Detailed (Significant problems for Dawn and Sunrise)

1 Samuel 26:5 And David arose, and came to the place where Saul had pitched: and David beheld the place where Saul lay, and Abner the son of Ner, the captain of his host: and Saul lay in the trench, and the people pitched round about him.
6 Then answered David and said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Abishai the son of Zeruiah, brother to Joab, saying, Who will go down with me to Saul to the camp? And Abishai said, I will go down with thee.
7 So David and Abishai came to the people by night: and, behold, Saul lay sleeping within the trench, and his spear stuck in the ground at his bolster: but Abner and the people lay round about him.
8 Then said Abishai to David, God hath delivered thine enemy into thine hand this day: now therefore let me smite him, I pray thee, with the spear even to the earth at once, and I will not smite him the second time.
9 And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against Yahweh’s anointed, and be guiltless?
10 David said furthermore, As Yahweh liveth, Yahweh shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish.
11 Yahweh forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against Yahweh's anointed: but, I pray thee, take thou now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go.
12 So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul’s bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither awaked: for they were all asleep; because a deep sleep from Yahweh was fallen upon them.
13 Then David went over to the other side, and stood on the top of an hill afar off; a great space being between them:
14 And David cried to the people, and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, Answerest thou not, Abner? Then Abner answered and said, Who art thou that criest to the king?
15 And David said to Abner, Art not thou a valiant man? and who is like to thee in Israel? wherefore then hast thou not kept thy lord the king? for there came one of the people in to destroy the king thy lord.
16 This thing is not good that thou hast done. As Yahweh liveth, ye are worthy to die, because ye have not kept your master, Yahweh's anointed. And now see where the king’s spear is, and the cruse of water that was at his bolster.
17 And Saul knew David’s voice, and said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And David said, It is my voice, my lord, O king.
18 And he said, Wherefore doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? for what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand?
19 Now therefore, I pray thee, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If Yahweh have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering: but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before Yahweh; for they have driven me out this day [ha'yom] from abiding in the inheritance of Yahweh, saying, Go, serve other gods.
20 Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of Yahweh: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains.
21 Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: [ha'yom hazey] behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.
22 And David answered and said, Behold the king’s spear! and let one of the young men come over and fetch it.
23 Yahweh render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: for Yahweh delivered thee into my hand to day, [ha'yom] but I would not stretch forth mine hand against Yahweh's anointed.
24 And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day [ha'yom hazey] in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of Yahweh, and let him deliver me out of all tribulation.
25 Then Saul said to David, Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail. So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.
27:1 And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand.
2 And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath.

In the story, David goes down to Saul's camp by night and refuses to kill him, but takes his spear and water jug. After leaving, he calls from a distance to Saul and Abner and shows them the spear and jug. In the course of that conversation, Saul (verse 21) and David (verses 23 and 24) both refer to David sparing Saul's life "this day." Since David is at a shouting distance and is showing objects, it seems probable that this part of the story happens during daylight. This would mean that David and Saul are referring to the night event as part of the day they are now on which only works with a sunset or nightfall day start. Unlike in the story of Jonathan's victory, "this day" cannot be taken in its "daylight" sense, because the event was at night.

The counter argument would thus need to be that David is shouting and showing off the spear and water jug at night. Given a full moon or maybe if it were getting towards dawn but before sunrise, this might be able to work, but runs into another problem. Prior to saying "this day" about sparing Saul, David makes another "this day" statement in verse 19 where he says that he is "this day" driven out of the inheritance of Yahweh. We see from the end of the chapter and beginning of the next that the narrative indeed does continue with David leaving the land of Israel. This sets up a conundrum for the dawn and sunrise day starts, since whether the conversation took place during the day or night, we have one of David's "this day" statements referring to a calendar day where night comes before day.

To counter with the idea that David's taking of the spear, conversation with Saul and his journey to Gath all take place during the night gets to be a stretch, since even though we don't know exactly where the border between Israel and the Philistines was, historians place the full distance between Ziph and Gath at about 30 miles. The remaining counter argument is that the conversations did take place at night and that David was not speaking literally when he said "this day" he is driven out of Israel. I don't like going to the non-literal without obvious necessity as it throws into question every other instance where the words are used, thus I put this as solid evidence of a sunset or nightfall day start.


Ishbosheth's Murder: Summary

Isbosheth is murdered at noon and apparently early the next morning his murderers make a statement to David that vengence occurred "this day." While aspects of the phrase could be interpreted other ways, the most literal reading only allows for a sunrise day start.

Ishbosheth's Murder: Detailed (Minor problems for Dawn, Sunset and Nightfall)

2 Samuel 28:5 And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day [ha'yom] to the house of Ishbosheth, who lay on a bed at noon. [tsohar]
6 And they came thither into the midst of the house, as though they would have fetched wheat; and they smote him under the fifth rib: and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.
7 For when they came into the house, he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, and they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and gat them away through the plain all night. [col ha'lila]
8 And they brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and Yahweh hath avenged my lord the king this day [ha'yom hazey] of Saul, and of his seed.

Here we have Ishbosheth murdered at noon, followed by the culprits marching "all night" to find David and then declaring "Yahweh hath avenged my lord the king this day." "All night" is a phrase that literally, and contextually in other passages, means "all night." This places the arrival before David in the morning before sunrise at the earliest. Thus this passage supports a sunrise day start if the murderers' "this day" statement is about a calendar day and is referring to the moment they killed Ishbosheth. On the other hand, if "this day" is used to mean the most recent daylight "yom" rather than a calendar day, or if they refer to the delivery of the head to David as the moment of vengence then any day start is workable. The first feels like the most natural way to read the passage, so I consider this evidence for a sunrise day start.


David's Punishment: Summary

Yahweh sent David's three days of pestilence starting in the morning. However, since Hebrew numbering can be inclusive of partial days, this is inconclusive as to when a calendar day starts.

David's Punishment: Detailed (Inconclusive)

2 Samuel 24:10 And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto Yahweh, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O Yahweh, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
11 For when David was up in the morning, [b'boqer] the word of Yahweh came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,
12 Go and say unto David, Thus saith Yahweh, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ [yamim] pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.
14 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of Yahweh; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.
15 So Yahweh sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning [m'ha'boqer] even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

I would not have included this one except that I have seen it referenced as an argument for dawn or sunrise day start in multiple places. The idea is that since the three days of pestilence started in the morning, thus that is when a calendar day begins. This argument overlooks two things. One, it was morning when Gad went to David and David made his choice of punishment, thus the start of the pestilence immediately after means that it did not start right at the beginning of the morning anyway. Two, as we have seen before, Hebrew numbering includes partials in the count so "three days" could start at any point on day one and end at any point on day three, thus the start of the pestilence being "from the morning" does not mean that morning is the beginning of a calendar day. Ultimately, this narrative works with any day start, and is thus inconclusive.


Elisha and the Syrian Camp: Summary

The king of Israel says that he will behead Elisha "this day." Elisha then says that "tomorrow" food will be plentiful, which of course transpires. The king does not kill Elisha, so something changed his mind, either Elisha speaking the word (which considering his reputation is probably enough) or the actual miracle of looting the Syrians abandoned camp. The only thing in the story that might tie these events to a single calendar day is the king's oath. Since we don't have a statement telling us exactly why the king failed to keep his word, we can't determine when the "day" he referred to would have ended. Thus the story is inconclusive.

Elisha and the Syrian Camp: Detailed (Inconclusive)

2 Kings 6:30 And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh.
31 Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day [ha'yom].
32 But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him: but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head? look, when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door: is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?
33 And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he said, Behold, this evil is of Yahweh; what should I wait for Yahweh any longer?
7:1 Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of Yahweh; Thus saith Yahweh, To morrow [machar] about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.
2 Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if Yahweh would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.
3 And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?
4 If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.
5 And they rose up in the twilight [b'nesheph], to go unto the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there.
6 For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.
7 Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight [b'nesheph], and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life.
8 And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it.
9 Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day [ha'yom hazey] is a day [yom] of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, [ad-or ha'boqer] some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s household.
10 So they came and called unto the porter of the city: and they told them, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man, but horses tied, and asses tied, and the tents as they were.
11 And he called the porters; and they told it to the king’s house within.
12 And the king arose in the night, [lila] and said unto his servants, I will now shew you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we be hungry; therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city.
13 And one of his servants answered and said, Let some take, I pray thee, five of the horses that remain, which are left in the city, (behold, they are as all the multitude of Israel that are left in it: behold, I say, they are even as all the multitude of the Israelites that are consumed:) and let us send and see.
14 They took therefore two chariot horses; and the king sent after the host of the Syrians, saying, Go and see.
15 And they went after them unto Jordan: and, lo, all the way was full of garments and vessels, which the Syrians had cast away in their haste. And the messengers returned, and told the king.
16 And the people went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians. So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of Yahweh.
17 And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate: and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said, who spake when the king came down to him.
18 And it came to pass as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, Two measures of barley for a shekel, and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, shall be to morrow [machar] about this time in the gate of Samaria:
19 And that lord answered the man of God, and said, Now, behold, if Yahweh should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.
20 And so it fell out unto him: for the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died.

Elisha's promise "tomorrow about this time" contains the word "machar" which does not always mean a subsequent calendar day, but in this case where it is used with "about this time" it seems pretty solid to view it that way. However, Elisha is not promising a one-time event. Two measures of barley being sold for a shekel could start happing before "tomorrow about this time" and last longer than "tomorrow about this time." So Elisha's statement is not actually useful for determining a calendar day.

The king's oath to kill Elisha provides a more limited timeframe in that he says "this day." If he had killed Elisha, we could have reasonably surmised that the king's statment and the moment of Elisha's death were on the same day. Yet, since he never actually kills Elisha, we know that the statement made in his oath is false. If we reason a little further, we could make a connection and say that whatever changed the king's mind to make him not kill Elisha must have taken place before he was going to kill Elisha and therefore the event that changed his mind must have occurred on the same day that he promised to kill Elisha. All we would need to do this is a statement telling us why the king changed his mind. However, we have no such statement, leaving us with only a beginning point and no end point. Was Elisha's promise that there will be plentiful food the next day enough to make the king change his mind? Since the king had already sent a messenger to kill Elisha (see 6:32), there is no reason to believe that that is not the point at which the king changed his mind. Elisha's reputation as being a true prophet would be a very good reason for the king to do so. With that being the case, all we know about the timeframe of the king's "this day" statement is that it lasted from the time he spoke on the wall until he got to Elisha's house, which sounds like a matter of a few minutes and is useless for determining a day start.

The word nesheph, translated "twilight" twice later in the passage means night in most if not all instances. Its other possible meaning is dawn, but with "lila" being specified in 7:12, we know that night is what it means here. So we know it was night when the lepers make their own "this day" statement in 7:9. Their statement is, "this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us." This could imply they believed the next day would start with the morning light. They could instead think that morning light is an important milestone of the day, even if they don't think it starts a new day. They could also have meant that once morning light appears the poeple in the city would see for themselves the Syrians had fled, and that the lepers were keeping that news to themselves and would rightfully be angry about it and do them mischief. Ultimately, this is inconclusive since there are valid, contextually-based explantions for both sides.


Josiah's Passover: Summary

For Josiah's Passover they killed over 40,000 animals, cooked most of them in pots and roasted the Passover offerings. It is stated that they worked "until night" and that all the preparation was done in "the same day." It seems virtually impossible for all this to have been done between sunset and nightfall even assuming there was only one animal per available Levite. This means that the timeframe covered by "same day" runs from sometime during the day, through sunset, until nightfall. In order to rectify this, the sunset day start needs the daylight meaning of "yom" to include evening and its extended meaning of calendar day to not include evening. This isn't ideal, giving mild support to the night, sunrise and dawn starts.

Josiah's Passover: Detailed (Significant problem for Sunset)

2 Chronicles 35:6 So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the word of Yahweh by the hand of Moses.
7 And Josiah gave to the people, of the flock, lambs and kids, all for the passover offerings, for all that were present, to the number of thirty thousand, and three thousand bullocks: these were of the king’s substance.
8 And his princes gave willingly unto the people, to the priests, and to the Levites: Hilkiah and Zechariah and Jehiel, rulers of the house of God, gave unto the priests for the passover offerings two thousand and six hundred small cattle, and three hundred oxen.
9 Conaniah also, and Shemaiah and Nethaneel, his brethren, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, chief of the Levites, gave unto the Levites for passover offerings five thousand small cattle, and five hundred oxen.
10 So the service was prepared, and the priests stood in their place, and the Levites in their courses, according to the king’s commandment.
11 And they killed the passover, and the priests sprinkled the blood from their hands, and the Levites flayed them.
12 And they removed the burnt offerings, that they might give according to the divisions of the families of the people, to offer unto Yahweh, as it is written in the book of Moses. And so did they with the oxen.
13 And they roasted the passover with fire according to the ordinance: but the other holy offerings sod they in pots, and in caldrons, and in pans, and divided them speedily among all the people.
14 And afterward they made ready for themselves, and for the priests: because the priests the sons of Aaron were busied in offering of burnt offerings and the fat until night; [ad-lila] therefore the Levites prepared for themselves, and for the priests the sons of Aaron.
15 And the singers the sons of Asaph were in their place, according to the commandment of David, and Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthun the king’s seer; and the porters waited at every gate; they might not depart from their service; for their brethren the Levites prepared for them.
16 So all the service of Yahweh was prepared the same day, [b'yom hahu] to keep the passover, and to offer burnt offerings upon the altar of Yahweh, according to the commandment of king Josiah.

Zechariah 14:7 But it shall be one day [yom] which shall be known to Yahweh, not day [yom], nor night [lila]: but it shall come to pass, at evening [erev] time it shall be light.

Nehemiah 4:21 So we laboured in the work [b'melachah]: and half of them held the spears

from the rising of the morning [m'alot ha'shachar] till the stars appeared.
22 Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night [ha'lila]they may be a guard to us, and labour [melachah] on the day [ha'yom].

There are more than 40,000 animals that were killed in all that day. They roasted the Passover lambs/goats with fire and boiled the other offerings before dividing them among the people. The priests were busy "until night," so the end point of all the preparations was nightfall. Yet verse 16 says that all this preparation was done "the same day." Given that it takes a couple hours to roast a whole lamb, and just the logistics of getting the animals killed and distributed, there is very little credibility in the idea that all of this took place after sunset and before nightfall. Thus the preparations ran from sometime during the day, past sunset, until night fall. That whole period is described as taking place on the "same day." This is fine for dawn, sunrise and nightfall daystart views, but does not work for a sunset day start.

The only real defense for the sunset day start is to say that "yom" here means a daylight period rather than a calendar day and that "erev" is included in "yom" when it means daylight. While Zechariah 14:7 places "erev" as not part of either "yom" or "lila," Nehemiah 4:21-22 indicates that "yom" as opposed to "lila" can include all the time up until the stars appear. So on the surface this defense is valid, but the basic idea behind it can be questioned. If it is possible for "yom" to mean the daylight portion including evening after sunset, and then, in its extened meaning of calendar day it stops including evening, that gets strange. For all the other day start views, this is not a problem since the evening belongs to the same calendar day as the preceding daylight anyway. Overall, while this defense definitely lessens the problem here, it does expose that the sunset view requires having a strange conflict in the meanings of "yom" and thus is less than ideal. The night, sunrise and dawn day start views are at least slightly better supported here.


Nehemiah Closes the Gates: Summary

Nehemiah would have had the gates closed for about 36 hours (one day, two nights) regardless of which day start we see here. That being the case, there is no way to tell which night goes with the daytime to form a calendar day. Thus this passage is inconclusive.

Nehemiah Closes the Gates: Detailed (Inconclusive)

Nehemiah 13:15 In those days [b'yamim] saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day [b'yom ha'shabbath]: and I testified against them in the day [b'yom] wherein they sold victuals.
16 There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day [yom]?
18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.
19 And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark [tsalal] before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day [yom].
20 So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.
21 Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.
22 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day [yom]. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.

This passage has been used by quite a few to argue for an evening day start. In some cases even as their "champion" passage. However, the whole argument really centers around the meaning of one word. What does it mean for the gates of Jerusalem to be "tsalal" in verse 19? According to Strongs, there is only one other passage where this word is used, which is found in Ezekiel. However, there is also a word coming from the same three Hebrew letters and is a noun rather than a verb and occurs four more times.

Ezekiel 31:3 Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing [tsalal] shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs.
Job 40:22 The shady trees cover him with their shadow [tselel]; the willows of the brook compass him about.
Song of Solomon 2:17 Until the day break, and the shadows [tselel] flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.
Song of Solomon 4:6 Until the day break, and the shadows [tselel] flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
Jeremiah 6:4 Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows [tselel] of the evening [erev] are stretched out.

We can see from the usage in the Ezekiel and Job passages that the words have very similar ideas since both of them are describing the shade of a tree. "Tselel" is translated as shadow or shadows all four times, but looking at the context it isn't quite what we normally think of as shadows in English. Besides the one where it means the shade of a tree, we have two similar passages in Song of Solomon where the "tselel" flee away when the day breaks. In Jeremiah, it refers to the "tselel" of the evening. In both of these, we are talking about shadows either before sunrise or after sunset, while normally direct sunlight is what causes English "shadows." The main idea I get from taking the "tselel/tsalal" passages is indirect light. So taking that back to the original passage in Nehemiah, what he ordered was for the gates of Jerusalem to be shut when the gates no longer had direct light. The likeliest scenario is that this means after sunset and before nightfall, but there is enough question about what is meant by the "gates' indirect light" that it could be describing a shadow cast by the gate and thus be somewhat before sunset.

We do know from passages such as Joshua 2:5 and Nehemiah 7:3 that gates were normally shut at night and opened in the morning. So with Nehemiah having the gates shut late in the day before the sabbath (e.g. Friday evening) and then not opened again until after the sabbath, we can be pretty certain that it means the gates were closed for two nights and the intervening daylight. This is because if the day started at sunset or nightfall, then when the sabbath would be over the next evening, it would be time to shut the gates for the night again, (e.g. Saturday night) so they wouldn't be opened until the following morning. If the day started at dawn or sunrise, then the gates were shut the night before the sabbath started and could not be opened until the following morning. Either way, the gates are shut from what we might call Friday evening, until Sunday morning. As a confirmation to this, verse 20 says the merchants lodged around the wall "once or twice." The ones who arrived late on Friday, spent two nights, the ones who arrived on Saturday, spent one night, thus "once or twice."

With that being the case, there isn't really any way to tell which night goes with the daylight as part of the sabbath. Nehemiah's purpose in closing the gates to keep people from bringing in burdens on the sabbath is served with any view and the merchants coming "no more on the sabbath" makes sense with any view. Overall, this passage is inconclusive as to when the day starts.


Ezekiel's Eastern Gate: Summary

The gate in Ezekiel 46 is commanded by Yahweh to be open on the Sabbath and closed on the working days. The time for closing the gate is "in the evening" thus the change from Sabbath to a working day must occur in that timeframe. This is very problematic for sunrise and dawn day starts, but works ideally with a sunset day start and still rather well with a nightfall day start.

Ezekiel's Eastern Gate: Detailed (Major problem for Dawn and Sunrise, Minor problem for Nightfall)

Ezekiel 46:1 Thus saith the Lord Yahweh; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days [yami]; but on the sabbath [v'b'yom ha'shabat] it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon [v'b'yom ha'chadash] it shall be opened.
2 And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening [ad ha'erev].
...
12 Now when the prince shall prepare a voluntary burnt offering or peace offerings voluntarily unto Yahweh, one shall then open him the gate that looketh toward the east, and he shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, as he did on the sabbath day [b'yom ha'shabat]: then he shall go forth; and after his going forth one shall shut the gate.

Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day [at yom ha'shabat], to keep it holy.

This statement is made by Yahweh Himself, giving it greater weight than some of our other proofs based on what men said to each other. The gate facing East is to be open on the sabbath day and closed on the working days, and the time when the gate is shut, after the sabbath day, is in the evening. It is pretty hard to read this any way other than that the transition from sabbath to the next day occurs in the evening. This fits perfectly with a sunset day start, where the gate is closed at the beginning of evening and is not too bad for a nightfall day start where the gate is closed at the end of evening. Sunrise and dawn day starts are hard to reconcile with this.

Since the word "yom" is used in the phrase, the argument could be made that "yom ha'shabat" only means the daylight portion and does not include the full 24 hours of the sabbath. The problem that runs into is that God also used the phrase "yom ha'shabat" when He spoke the ten commandments from the mountain, so taking that phrase to mean only daylight has pretty drastic consequences. Ultimately, this is fairly solid evidence supporting sunrise or nightfall day start over sunrise and dawn.



Conclusions from the Tanakh


After having looked at every verse where one or more of the key words occur in the Old Testament, I have come up with a collection of about 15 passages where the evidence supports a conclusion of some type. Compiling the problems that they end up posing for each day start theory, we can create a chart which helps us visualize the theories that are harder or easier to rectify with what the scriptures say. I have used a simple green-yellow-orange-red ranking system for the various levels of problems we explored in the article to help quantify what the various viewpoints look like. (Plus a comparative probability calculation for the nerds.)

Clearly, nightfall is the best overall explanation for what we see. If we go further and remove the problems based on people talking about events the day before or after, where they may have been using conventions of language rather than trying to be perfectly precise, the worst problems for the theory also melt away. I plan to do a similar in-depth study of what the NT has to add, but I want to go ahead and publish this (I started writing this study 17 months ago). As I see it the evidence is already pretty overwhelming that new calendar days start at nightfall, shortly after sunset, when we first see stars in the sky.

Comments

Very thorough and easy to understand. I think that conventions of language are used by people in scripture that are not trying to teach us when a day starts. The chart is a good visual aid. Can you make it where we can click on each incident in the chart and see the explanation drop down below it or something?

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