Why am I challenging the traditional view of what the daily cycle used by Jesus was? Well, it is partly curiosity, but it mostly has to do with how we view the events of Crucifixion Week, and it hopefully answer some questions people have had about the Last Supper – e.g., Was it really a Passover Seder or not?
In Part 1 – Passover Events, we found that the first daily cycle used by the Israelites seems to be from sunrise to sunrise rather than the traditional sunset to sunset. But it is possible that other information in the Bible will support the traditional view in spite of what we have found so far. So, is that the case, or will there be more support for what we have already found? The goal here is to find out what the Bible has to say IN ITS ENTIRETY, not just what a few verses here and there say. And if there are verses that say something different we really can’t leave them out, just because we might not like what they say. EVERYTHING the Bible has to say on the subject must be considered. (Yes, I am limiting my investigation into the daily cycle to just the Old Testament for a reason – I want to know how things stood at the time of Christ. How did Jewish culture at the time view things? Was there just one way of viewing a day or were there two?)
You might wonder why I am making such a big deal about this. The reason is because I grew up in a denomination that had selected specific verses that they wanted you to learn (memorize) because they revealed the “truth” that the church’s belief system was supposed to be based on. The problem was, as I started reading the Bible for myself, I kept finding that those select verses were not EVERYTHING the Bible had to say on the belief that was being “proven”. In fact, if you read the texts in their Biblical context, often those isolated verses did not contain everything that was being said in that passage that was relevant to the church doctrine or “teaching” (or, as they liked to proclaim, “THE TRUTH”) under consideration. And using a translation other than the KJV made things even worse because what was being quoted didn’t always say what was being claimed if you used a different translation of the Bible. What was causing problems was the majority of what I was finding did not support the views I had been taught all my life, rather it brought up questions about those doctrines that NO ONE was willing to answer for me.
So now, I demand that everything be included when I research a subject, even the passages that appear to disagree with each other and especially the ones that say things I might not like. I do my best to bring together everything on the subject I am studying before I even try to come to an understanding of what is being said. It is my job to let the Holy Spirit guide my study to find out what God has to say about a subject, and not force my personal opinions or preconceived ideas into what I WANT the Bible to say on that subject. And if it happens to be something I might not like, that is something I have to change in my belief system, I cannot just ignore what I don’t like.
Sorry for the soapbox, but this is something that means a lot to me, and I have no desire to repeat the errors of the way of “teaching” I grew up under. Maybe I go too far the other way now, but I would rather do that than take the chance of missing the full truth of what the Bible has to say. Now that you have a better idea of why I do things the way I do, we can continue our research.
There were several things I discovered while researching the Bible references about the daily cycle that I found interesting. The one had to do with the “Daily” sacrifices, AKA “the Evening and Morning” sacrifices (as they are referred to in the book of Daniel chapter 8). What I found interesting is the vast majority of the Biblical references to them are NOT as is recorded in Daniel! (Why am I making such a big deal about how Daniel uses these words? Well, it goes back to the denomination I grew up in – it was one of their “proof texts” that turned out to mean something much different than what I had been taught all my life.)
But before we get into that, let’s start with how it all began, literally, “In the Beginning God created . . . ” after all, that IS where the daily cycle started isn’t it?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” (Genesis 1:1-4 NIV)
Now what I find interesting about this passage is first, there is a bit of an ambiguity in the “timeline”. It starts out by stating literally, that “When all things began, God created the heavens and the earth.” Or you could put it this way, “When everything came into existence, God did it!” And then what follows is linked with the word “now” , as in “Now the earth had not been shaped, nor was there any life on it.” (Again, the literal meaning of the Hebrew passage.) The “now” is usually translated “and”, but that really doesn’t matter to our investigation, either way, it just creates a non-time specific link between the first statement and the events that are to follow.
While we are on the subject of “time” something should be understood about what we call “time”, and that is the fact that our way of measuring it is purely arbitrary. How we describe time is totally up to us, and how I or one group of people choose to describe it does not have to be the same as how others do so. So we are NOT looking for the “right” way to describe the daily cycle, just the one used in the Bible, especially the one that might have been used by Jesus in His religious observances. So no, I am NOT trying to make any sort of doctrinal statement with all this, just learn what I can about it from the Bible.
Now back to our discussion. The next interesting thing I found that IS important to our discussion is something that is recorded about God’s first “day” of creating things. The record states that God created light and called it “day” and the “dark” He called “night”. What is interesting is that there are no sun and moon yet, just light and/or the absence of light. And yet, we are told, “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” It is from this sentence, that many claim proof that the “true” daily cycle is from “evening to morning” i.e., first night followed by day, therefore from sunset to sunset, and that this cycle has existed from the very first day of creation. But there is a problem with that claim. Just how do you have an “evening and morning” for the first three days of creation without a sun to create them, or maybe a better way to say it would be, to cause them to happen?
Without the sun, just how do you get a daylight period and a darkness period to create a day? All you can go on is the actual rotational motion of the earth. The nice thing about that is that it really doesn’t care whether there is sun or not as a day is “formed” by the time it takes for a fixed observation point on the earth to rotate from a chosen reference point in space to the next time the observer returns to the same relationship to the chosen reference point in space. It is interesting to note that WHAT that point in space is, will determine how long the “day” (the entire cycle) is. For example, if you chose the sun as your designator – say solar noon to solar noon, you get a 24 hour time period (simply because that IS the definition of our day). However, if you were to chose a different reference point, say the star Sirius, then the time it takes to get from your reference position to that same position again (say you use the meridian crossing – when the star is directly “above” the north-south line that runs through the point at which you are making your observations) will give you a different length of “day” than the one you get using the sun as your reference point. The difference is due to orbital mechanics – and while an interesting fact, is not really pertinent to what we are looking into.
What is pertinent is the fact that we have a reference to a “day” outlined by first an evening followed by a morning, without having a “sun” as our controlling reference point. In fact, the same applies to the next two days as well, we have three days of “evenings” followed by “mornings” without a sun to create them! For there to be “night” and “day” on the earth, you MUST have a localized light source – e.g., the sun – to create that distinction. In other words, you need your light source to be able to cast a shadow when it encounters an object (the earth for example). For the first three days of Creation Week, we do not have a localized light source, but just “light” with no source – no directionality to it. That means the references are purely arbitrary labels applied to the time frame without reference to the events that make them actually happen. At this point in “time” God has created light, therefore He has also created the POSSIBILITY of darkness, which is simply the absence of light. No “day” or “night” exist yet, only their possibility. And remember, these time periods we are talking about here ONLY apply to the earth, yes, every other planet will have a “day” and a “night”, however, NONE of them will be the SAME days and nights. Each will depend on that planet’s orbital mechanics and what its rotational speed is.
It is not until the fourth “day” that we read, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:14-19) It was not until over halfway through the creation process (day four out of six) that we get a local source for the light that has existed since the first day! Weird isn’t it?
But think about that for a bit, without a local source, the implication is that the light existed everywhere, not just coming from discrete places like it does now. That makes me wonder, if the light existed BEFORE the light sources, just how “long” would it take for the light from those “sources” take to get to the other end of the universe after God “gathered” that pre-existing light so that it now came from localized sources? Again, not pertinent to our study, but another interesting thing to think about!
The part that is important is the cycle – evening then morning. But if you think about that for a bit, how else could you describe what has happened? Everything was dark, then all of a sudden, you had light – everywhere! So, first you had darkness, then you had light – first you had “night” then you had “day” – first you had “evening” then you had “morning”. That does explain something I came across years ago, and that is the way one of the Jewish writers looked at it. He believed darkness was a time of chaos, so his description of creation was “first darkness then light”, or “from chaos came order”. And that way of thinking is not all that foreign to us today, don’t we call them the “Dark Ages” because they were a time of “chaos” – a time when there was a break down in civilization? A time when the “civilized” Roman Empire came to an end, and the barbarians over ran the place until the time when order was restored by the formation of new empires? So the question arises, was the way “days” were described during Creation Week based on some God “ordained” daily cycle as many claim or just a way of adding one more reference to what God was doing – creating order out of “chaos”? In Jewish thought, any area not “formed” and/or without life on it, is an area in chaos. It doesn’t matter if what is there is in a “perfect” state exactly as it was originally created by God, without life on it or an intelligent agent actively shaping it or having shaped it (and by that they actually mean cultivating it – growing food on it), it is in chaos. And that was what the earth was – unformed, uninhabited, and in darkness. A “land” in chaos. And out of that chaos, out of that darkness came light, order, and life.
So, does that mean that that is the daily cycle fixed by God? We don’t really know yet, we have only studied the first 7 days of this earth’s recorded history! What is interesting is that the very next time the words “evening” and “morning” appear together after the record of Creation Week is not until Jacob is blessing his sons just before he dies in Egypt. Nothing for thousands of years! It is even many generations after the Flood! They next appear in Jacob’s last blessing, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.” (Genesis 49:27) Notice the order however, Jacob has the evening FOLLOWING the morning, not the other way around as at creation. Jacob is saying that in the morning “Benjamin” (a reference to the tribe of Benjamin) goes out on raiding excursions and in the evening, when they return home, they divide the “spoils of war” they got in their raiding. But as this is a more of a reference to a sequence of events than it is to a daily cycle, it doesn’t really help us much other than to give a bit of an insight into how the day might have been viewed at that time.
It is over 400 years before the term is used again – not until AFTER the Exodus, not until Israel is at Mount Horeb. And again it is in reference to a sequence of events during a day rather than a reference to the day itself as are the following two times the words are used together. (See Exodus 16:8-13; 18:13-14; and 27:21 at the end of this blog.)
The next time they are used is in reference to the daily sacrifices – the “evening and morning” sacrifices that God does command and therefore do, in a way, affect the daily cycle, or at least maybe reveal how God looks at how it goes.
Before we get to much further into this, I thought maybe we should check out exactly what the dictionaries and lexicons have to say about the Hebrew words we are talking about. Here is what I found:
06153 ערב ‘ereb eh’- reb
It is from 06150 ערב ‘arab aw-rab’ a primitive root that means “to become evening, grow dark”
Strong’s Dictionary – dusk: — + day, evening, eventide, night.
Hebrew / English Lexicon – 1) evening, night, sunset
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – (1)evening; at the evening; NOTE: in the phrase “between the two evenings”, Ex. 16:12; 30:8; used as marking the space of time during which the paschal lamb was slain, Ex. 12:6; Lev. 23:5; Num. 9:3; and the evening sacrifice was offered, Ex. 29:39,41; Num. 28:4; i.e. according to the opinion of the Karaite and Samaritans (which is favored by the words of Deut. 16:6), the time between sunset and deep twilight. The Pharisees, however, and the Rabbinists considered the time between when the sun began to descend to be called the first evening; and the second evening to be the real sunset.
As the Hebrew word for evening clearly refers to a time period when it is starting to get dark, it has to refer to the time AFTER sundown, it cannot be sometime in the mid afternoon. Remember, the sect of the Pharisees and the “Rabbinists” did not come into being until well after the time of the Exile in Babylon, therefore the meaning of “sometime in the afternoon”, is clearly a later development.
01242 בקר boqer bo’- ker
It is from 01239 בקר baqar baw-kar a primitive root that means “to seek, enquire, consider”
Strong’s Dictionary – properly, dawn (as the break of day); generally, morning: — (+) day, early, morning, morrow.
Hebrew / English Lexicon – 1) morning, break of day
1a1) of end of night
1a2) of coming of daylight
1a3) of coming of sunrise
1a4) of beginning of day
1a5) of bright joy after night of distress (fig.)
1b) morrow, next day, next morning
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon – (1) morning, daybreak, dawn [“and even before light, Ruth 3:14”] so called from the breaking forth of light; in the morning.
(2) Specially the next morning, Ex. 29:34; Lev. 19:13; 22:30; Num. 9:12; Jud 6:31, “whoever will plead for him, let him be put to death before to-morrow morning“. Hence to-morrow, Ex. 16:7; Nu. 16:5. i.q. 1 Sam. 19:2; used for presently, Ps. 5:4; 90:14; 143:8.
Notice the Hebrew / English Lexicon’s definition “1a5) of bright joy after night of distress (fig.)” Sounds like the Rabbi’s thoughts on darkness being a time of chaos doesn’t it? However, the Hebrew word for “morning” is a clear reference to the time AFTER sunrise, so, we have the time AFTER sunset – evening, and the time AFTER sunrise – morning. So the order they are used in would seem to reflect how the person using the words views how their day goes.
Earlier, I made a reference to how Daniel referred to the Daily Sacrifices. The way he used the words, the order he placed them in is one we are familiar with already, he used the same order as is used in the Creation account. He speaks of the “evenings and mornings” and uses the term in reference to events that took place in the Temple as part of the normal Temple services. And therefore we can know for certain that he is talking about the Evening and Morning sacrifices also known as the Daily sacrifices. And that is the word order he uses, evening followed by morning. However, when God gave the commands that instituted these sacrifices, something interesting is recorded by Moses. Here is what Moses says God told him about setting up the “order of service” for the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle and later the Temple).
“This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering and its drink offering as in the morning—a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.
“For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord.” (Exodus 29:38-42a)
The morning sacrifice – offered just after sunrise – is to be followed by the evening sacrifice – offered just after sundown, and those two sacrifices are on the same day! Day is followed by night! So, is this the only time that they are referred to this way? Actually no.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: “Make sure that you present to me at the appointed time my food offerings, as an aroma pleasing to me.” Say to them: “This is the food offering you are to present to the Lord: two lambs a year old without defect, as a regular burnt offering each day. Offer one lamb in the morning and the other at twilight, together with a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives. This is the regular burnt offering instituted at Mount Sinai as a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord. The accompanying drink offering is to be a quarter of a hin of fermented drink with each lamb. Pour out the drink offering to the Lord at the sanctuary. Offer the second lamb at twilight, along with the same kind of grain offering and drink offering that you offer in the morning. This is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.”‘” (Numbers 28:1-8)
Although the NIV uses the word “twilight” it is the same word we have been studying – the Hebrew word for evening. Here, clearly God is saying that these two sacrifices – to be offered daily – are to be offered first thing in the “day”, just after sunrise, and last thing in the “day”, just after sunset. So the order of the sacrifices is clearly morning then evening.
As we read through these passages and the ones that follow, it becomes clear that the term “Daily Sacrifices” is just one way these two offerings were labeled. The other is by referring to the time of day that they were made, i.e., “The Morning and Evening Sacrifices”. Even an apostate Judean king referred to them this way.
“King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: ‘On the large new altar, offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering, the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, and the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. Splash against this altar the blood of all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance.’ And Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered.” (2 Kings 16:15-16) The “big” alter he is referring to is one he had built that was a copy of one he had seen in the Assyrian capital. He replaced the one built by Solomon with it and moved Solomon’s alter off to one side, still there in the courtyard, but no longer the center of attention.
And Solomon, “the wisest man to ever live”, also used the order “morning and evening” when he spoke of the Daily Sacrifices.
“Solomon sent this message to Hiram king of Tyre:
“‘Send me cedar logs as you did for my father David when you sent him cedar to build a palace to live in. Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God and to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him, for setting out the consecrated bread regularly, and for making burnt offerings every morning and evening and on the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals of the Lord our God. This is a lasting ordinance for Israel.'” (2 Chronicles 2:3-4)
And years later, when the Northern Kingdom was attacking the Southern Kingdom the King of Judah told the attacking army that they were still offering the sacrifices every morning and evening and therefore still doing what God had commanded them.
“As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him. The priests who serve the Lord are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken him. God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. People of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed.” (2 Chronicles 13:10-12)
Many more years later the records show that Hezekiah, King of Judah, donated the animals used for the “morning and evening” sacrifices.
“Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions—each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites—to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the Lord’s dwelling. The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals as written in the Law of the Lord. He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord. As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.” (2 Chronicles 31:2-5)
And there is even one reference to them using the same word order after the return from exile in Babylon.
“When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.” (Ezra 3:1-3)
In fact, the ONLY use of the “evening and morning” order in speaking of the daily sacrifices is the one made by Daniel, during the Exile in Babylon.
“Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.
“Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, ‘How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?’
“He said to me, ‘It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.’ . . .
“‘The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”” (Daniel 8:9-14 & 26)
Notice that in his description of his vision Daniel records that the “small horn” that “grew until it reached the stars of heaven” took away the daily sacrifices, and that the daily sacrifices “were given over to it”? He then hears the question being asked, “How long will the vision about the daily sacrifices being taken way take to be fulfilled?” and the reply is given, in terms of the daily sacrifices – “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings” or the length of time it takes for that many evening and morning sacrifices to be offered, specifically, 1150 days. And then the vision ends with a final reference to it being about the “evenings and mornings” or the daily sacrifices.
This is actually the only time the daily sacrifices are mentioned as occurring in this order. EVERY other time they are spoken of as happening in the morning, then evening. It is helpful to note that Daniel was a high official in the Babylonian government and had been for all of his adult life. And we know from history that the Babylonians DID have a daily cycle that ran from sundown to sundown, and their calendar used the New Crescent Moon as the start time for their month and the new crescent moon is first visible in the evening. That means that the evening was the time of day most important to them and as it was when their new month started it would of necessity also be the start of the first day of that month. I mean, why would you observe the first crescent of the moon and determine that your new month has just started, but the day it starts on doesn’t begin for another 12 hours? If your month starts at twilight with the observance of the “new moon” (actually the first visible crescent) wouldn’t the first day of that month ALSO start at the same time – at twilight?
The remaining times that the words are used together are references to the sequence of events.
Exodus 16:8 – God will give meat in the evening and bread in the morning.
Exodus 16:13 – quails came up and covered the camp at evening, and “dew” (manna) covered the ground in the morning.
Exodus 27:21 – priests were to care for the lamp in the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle) from evening until morning, in other words, over night.
Esther 2: 14 – going in the king’s bed in the evening and leaving in the morning.
Job 4:20 – someone “coming to their end” between morning and evening.
Psalms 30:5 – weeping lasts during the night but joy comes in the morning.
Psalms 55:17 – praying evening, morning and noon.
Psalms 65:8 – God makes the dawn (morning) and sunset (evening) shout for joy.
Isaiah 17:14 – terror comes in the evening, but by morning those causing it are no more.
Ezekiel 33:22 – God kept Ezekiel speechless from evening until morning.
Zephaniah 3:3 – Israel’s judges are “wolves” who devour everything in the evening and leave nothing until morning.
The argument can be made that these are actually references to the daily cycle as well. I have not included them as they are not as explicit in their reference to the daily cycle as others are. They ARE references to the sequence of events that COULD also be references to the daily cycle.
Exodus 18:13-14 – people stood around Moses from morning until evening waiting for him to pass judgment on their complaints.
Psalms 90:6 – grass (people) grows in the morning, but dies by evening.
Ecclesiastes 11:6 – sow your seed in the morning and don’t stop until evening, because you don’t know which will produce a better harvest.
Ezekiel 24:18 – speaks to the captives in Babylon in the morning, and his wife died by evening, and the next morning he did as God had commanded (did not mourn her death) when He told Ezekiel his wife was going to die.
And that is it. All the times that the words “morning” and “evening” appear together in the Old Testament. Clearly, as far as the daily sacrifices are concerned, the cycle is first morning then evening, which would require the day to run from sunrise to sunrise not sunset to sunset. But, we have also seen that Daniel’s view of things was influenced by the way things were viewed in Babylon. However, this gives us a possible source for the sunset to sunset way daily cycle in contrast to the sunrise to sunrise one we have been seeing everywhere else we have studied so far. And THAT creates the possibility of there being TWO daily cycles in use in Jewish culture at the time of Christ.
But that is not all. There is still another way days are referred to – as day and night in reference to a single day. So what about those words? We’ll look into that next.
To be continued . . .