Q. I have heard some teach that the Scriptural day begins at sunrise, rather than the Jewish sunset. Is this true?
A. The sunset ending and beginning of a day is not a “Jewish” determination but a Biblical one. The Romans and Egyptians began their day at midnight, as the world does today. The Babylonians began their day at sunrise because they were worshipers of the sun.
We can learn from the Bible itself which is the proper beginning and ending of a day in Yahweh’s sight.
Aside from Leviticus 23:32, which clearly shows that the Sabbath of rest begins at evening and continues until the next evening, the following passages also show that the Biblical day begins and ends at ereb (dusk):
Ex. 12:18: In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
Lev. 11:24-25: And for these you shall be unclean: whosoever touches the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even. And whosoever bears ought of the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.
Lev. 22:6: The soul which has touched any such shall be unclean until even, and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water.
Deut. 16:6: But at the place which Yahweh your Elohim shall choose to place his name in, there you shall sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that you came forth out of Egypt.
Deut. 23:11: But it shall be, when evening comes on, he shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again.
Deut. 24:13: In any case you shall deliver him the pledge again when the sun goes down, that he may sleep in his own raiment, and bless you: and it shall be righteousness unto you before Yahweh your Elohim.
Jud. 14:12, 18: And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if you can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day *before the sun went down*, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If you had not plowed with my heifer, you had not found out my riddle.
[Samson gave them seven days of the Feast to answer his riddle. When just before sunset on the last day it was answered through a deceitful maneuver, he was furious.}
Neh. 13:19: And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark 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.
Mark 1:32: And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. [They waited until the Sabbath was over at sundown before having Yahshua heal the sick and possessed.]
In the Hebrew, when a passage speaks of sunset, the word is bo, which means when the sun goes down into the horizon. This begins evening, end of one day and the beginning of another (see Gen. 28:11).
There is intriguing evidence that dates back to the first century, showing the observation of the Sabbath starting at evening. The historian Josephus, reports in Wars of the Jews IV,582: “And the last was erected above the top of the Pastophoria, where one of the priests stood of course, and gave a signal beforehand with a trumpet, at the beginning of every seventh day, in the evening twilight, as also at the evening when that day was finished, as giving notice to the people when they were to stop work, and when they were to go to work again.”
Archaeology has confirmed the place of trumpeting to which Josephus was referring. Excavated by B. Mazar at the southern foot of the Temple Mount we find a very unique artifact, a stone from the second temple. In the Biblical Archaeology Review’s July/August 1980 issue we read:
“When we excavated the beautifully paved Herodian street adjacent to the southern wall and near the southwestern corner of the Enclosure Wall, we found a particularly large ashlar block. On the inside was a niche where a man might stand, especially if the ashlar were joined to another which would enlarge the niche.
On the outside was a carefully and elegantly incised Hebrew inscription: LBYT HTKY ’H LHH [RYZ]; “To the place of Trumpeting to (declare).” If the restoration of the world “declare” is correct, the rest of the missing part of the inscription probably went on to tell us more about the declaring of the beginning and the end of the Sabbath.
The stone had been toppled during the Roman destruction of the Temple onto the street below where it had lain for nearly two thousand years until we uncovered it.
It must have originally come from the pinnacle of the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. From a spot on top of the Temple chambers a priest would blow a trumpet on Sabbath Eve, to announce the arrival of the Sabbath and the cessation of all labour, and to announce, on the following evening, the departure of the Sabbath and the resumption of all labor.
The entire city was visible from this spot on the southwest corner of the Temple Mount; the clarion call of the trumpet would reach the farthest markets of the city. Such a scene is recounted by Josephus in his work, The Jewish War. (IV, 582).” Editor, H. S. 2004; 2004.BAR 06:04 (July/Aug 1980). Biblical Archaeology Society