This is a short study on what the Bible says regarding a day, as in length of time. Many people believe a Bible day is from evening to evening, but the Bible says different. A day in the Bible is not 6pm one day until 6pm the next day. Many people believe that, but let’s see what the Bible says.
Genesis 1:5 says, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Notice it doesn’t say “And the evening and the evening were the first day.” It says from the evening to the morning. If you believe the day started in the evening because it says that, then you have to believe the day ended in the morning, because it says morning, not evening.
The Bible is written for all men, not just for Jews, and as such, a day in the Bible is described the way it’s always been. There is no writing in the New Testament that states a day is from one evening to another. Notice what Jesus said in John 11:9, “Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day?” A day in the Bible is from morning to night. It is not from evening to evening. In the Bible, a day was 12 hours, from 6am to 6pm. Notice Mark 15:33 says, “And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” The sixth hour is noon and the ninth hour is 3pm. So 9am would be the third hour.
The night was in watches. A watch was 3 hours long. From 6pm to 9pm was the first watch. From 9pm to midnight was the second watch. From midnight to 3am was the third watch. From 3am to 6am was the fourth watch. Matthew 14:25 says, “And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.”
Exodus 16:23 says, “And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: 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.” Notice it says “tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath.” Notice also it says “kept until morning.” This verse shows that the holy Sabbath begins in the morning. It doesn’t say “kept until evening.”
A parenthetical statement is one that explains or qualifies something. You can call such a statement a parenthetical, (especially when it’s in parentheses). Have you ever said something like “I’m hungry!” and then added “…but I only want French fries”? That second statement is parenthetical: it clarifies the first statement. Just like words in parentheses (like these words) add clarity to a sentence, parenthetical words in speech help make something clearer or give extra information.
There is a parenthetical expression in Matthew that agrees with Exodus 16:23. Matthew 28:1 says, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” The two commas separate the identifier. It would read perfectly clear without it – “In the end of the sabbath came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” The identifier, or parenthetical expression, is highlighted here: “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” The phrase in between the commas describes the words “the end of the sabbath.” Another such sentence is John 20:1, “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.” It would be a perfectly clear sentence without the descriptive statement in between the commas. The phrase “when it was yet dark” describes the word “early” so you know just what early means. The same with Sabbath. The phrase “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” describes “the end of the sabbath.” The Bible uses parenthetical expressions as part of it’s built-in dictionary, to help us understand, and to make God’s word simple to read.
Luke 23:55-56 says, “And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” They had the spices and ointments, but they were resting on the Sabbath. Notice Luke 24:1, “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.” If they were resting on the Sabbath, and the Sabbath lasted until the evening, they wouldn’t have come in the morning. It says they rested the Sabbath day, and then it says they came in the morning, so the Sabbath was over when the morning came. If the Sabbath ended at 6:00 in the evening, they would have come after 6pm, because it was probably lighter outside in the evening after 6pm than it was early in the morning right before the sun came up. But they didn’t come in the evening. They came in the morning.
It says the same thing in Mark 16:1-2, “And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” Notice it says two things – the Sabbath was past, and it was very early in the morning. If the Sabbath ended at 6pm, they could have come to anoint Jesus at 6:01pm. They were anxious to anoint Jesus, so if the Sabbath had ended at 6pm, they would have immediately, at the first possibility, gone to anoint Jesus. But they waited until the Sabbath was past, in other words, in the morning.
In agreement with Genesis chapter 1, the Sabbath ended in the morning, not at six in the evening. Since the Bible is a book for all peoples, when it speaks of a day, it speaks of a normal day.