When does a day start?

When does a day start?


We read in Bereshis 1: 3 And Elohim said, Let there be light: and there was light  4 And Elohim saw the light, that it was tov (good); and Elohim divided the ohr (light) from the choshech (darkness). 5 And Elohim called the light Yom (Day), and the darkness He called Lailah (Night). And the erev (evening) and the boker (morning) were Yom Echad (Day One, the First Day.

8 And Elohim called the raki’a Shomayim (Heaven). And the erev and the boker were Yom Sheni (Day Two, the Second Day).

13 And the erev and the boker were Yom Shlishi (Day Three, the Third Day).

19 And the erev and the boker were Yom Revi’i (Day Four, the Fourth Day).

23 And the erev and the boker were Yom Chamishi (Day Five, the Fifth Day).


Vayikra 23:32 It shall be unto you a Shabbos Shabbaton, and ye shall afflict your nefashot; in the ninth day of the month at erev, from erev unto erev, shall ye observe your Shabbos.


Yochanan 20:1 Now on the Yom Rishon, Miryam of Magdala comes early, while it was still dark, to the kever (tomb) and sees the stone having been taken away from the kever.


Nechemyah 15 In those days saw I in Yehudah some treading winepresses on Shabbos, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys; as also yayin, grapes, and figs, and all manner of massa (burdens), which they brought into Yerushalayim on Shabbos; and I warned them against selling food on Shabbos.

16 There dwelt men of Tzor also therein, which brought dag (fish), and all manner of merchandise, and sold on Shabbos unto the Bnei Yehudah, and in Yerushalayim.

17 Then I contended with the nobles of Yehudah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, being Mechallel Shabbos (desecrator of Shabbos)?

18 Did not your avot thus, and did not Eloheinu bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Yisroel by committing Chillul Shabbos (desecration of Shabbos).

19 And it came to pass, that when the gates of Yerushalayim began to be dark before Shabbos, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after Shabbos, and some of my own men set I at the gates, that there should no massa (burden) be brought in on Shabbos.


These times below are one day. As one can see, they add up to 12 hours, not 24 hours. In Yochanan 11:9 יהושע answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble because he sees the light of this world. Logically, if there are 12 hours in the day, then there must be 12 hours in a night as well. Otherwise, it would not add up to 24 hours.

The first hour = 6 to 7 am

The second hour = 7 to 8 am

The third hour = 8 to 9 am

The fourth hour = 9 to 10 am

The fifth hour = 10 to 11 am

The sixth hour = 11 am to 12 pm

The seventh hour = 12 to 1 pm

The eighth hour = 1 to 2 pm

The ninth hour = 2 to 3 pm

The tenth hour = 3 to 4 pm

The eleventh hour = 4 to 5 pm

The twelfth hour = 5 to 6 pm

Let’s see if we can make this even more confusing for the ones that do not trust the Torah. Don’t we call a 24 hours period a day and also a 12-hour period? When one claims they worked all day, do they imply they worked 24 hours? The same if one states they have a one-week vacation do they count only the daylight hours?

For centuries, scholars interpreted this statement as a summary of what had just happened: first, there was evening (darkness), and then there was morning (light), making one day. In recent years, however, this assumption has been called into question. Many scholars are moving toward the “morning theory.” They argue, “When day-time had passed, the period allotted to darkness returned (and there was evening), and when the night-time came to an end, the light held sway a second time (and there was morning), and this completed the first calendar day (one day), which had begun with the creation of light.” Other scholars have been unwilling to take a firm stand because the biblical data is quite mixed.

At this point, I would have to ask, did you know that the Elohim of light dwells in thick darkness? This idea flies in the face of much of our imagery and imagination about YHWH. After all, we so often hear that YHWH is light (1 Yochanan 1:5) and that the Elohim will be our light (Yochanan 60:19), and this is true. But what is also true is that “YHWH has said he would dwell in thick darkness” (Melachim Alef 8:12). He dwells in thick darkness so that his glory doesn’t wholly consume those He loves. Here are a few examples of this:

When the Israelites sent Moses to speak with YHWH on the mountain because they were afraid of Him (Shemot 20:21).

Tehillim 97:2 – “Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;”

Devarim 5:22 – ” ‘These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.'”


YHWH had created the darkness, and then he created the light. We cannot argue that the darkness was not a part of YHWH’s creative work. Bereshis 1:2-5, which demonstrates that the world was covered first in darkness and chaos, but then the light was created. Each subsequent day is a reenactment of that sequence of events that moves from darkness (chaos) to light (order). Clearly, the evidence shows that the morning theory is weak if it uses Bereshis 1:5 as its foundation. The rest of the biblical data is inconclusive as to when the Jewish day begins, though the texts we have examined either support the evening theory or only weakly support the morning theory. The concept of cultic cleanness and certain festivals are strongly associated with evening. There are texts that may be interpreted according to the morning theory, though these are unclear.

Why, then, does the beginning of the day matter? The most important and practical reason is that it has implications for religious observances, especially the Sabbath. Does the Sabbath begin on Friday night and go until sunset Saturday, or is it from sunrise Saturday to sunrise Sunday? As we have seen, using Vayikra 23:32 to prove that the Sabbath begins in the evening is rather sound. However, the evidence from Bereshis 1:5, as well as texts such as Yochanan 20:1, demonstrates that the day begins before sunrise. Thus I believe that the traditional position of the Sabbath beginning and ending at sunset is still valid, and unless any other evidence comes to light, it will remain so. I will continue to search the Scripture to learn and obey.

Yehoshua 24:14 Now, therefore, fear Hashem, serve Him batamim (completely) and in emes; put away the Elohim which Avoteichem served on the other side of the [Euphrates] River, and in Mitzrayim; and serve ye, Hashem. :15  And if it seems rah unto you to serve Hashem, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the Elohim which Avoteichem served that were on the other side of the River, or the Elohei HaEmori, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my bais, we will serve Hashem.