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This may sound like a silly question at first, but I honestly can't decide for myself. I've always assumed that where the text says "And there was evening, and there was morning—the *n*th day" that this is the same day in which the events depicted in the preceding verse take place. E.g., God's actions in Gen.1:1-4 occurred on the 'first day' referred to in Gen.1:5.

But it occurred to me that Hebrew days begin at dusk. Therefore, might not the correct reading be that the events of Gen.1:1-4 take place, then Day One begins with evening and morning in line Gen.1:5? In this scenario the events of Day One are actually Gen.1:6-7 where God separates the waters above from the waters below.

So where precisely does the first day begin? The more times I read the verses, the more reasons I think of how either way might be justified, so I'm curios what the experts have to say.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

If we translate the phrase וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר (vayhi erev vayhi boker) as:

  • "then there was evening; then there was morning"
  • "and there was evening; and there was morning"

then it reasons that 1) there was a time before the evening, and 2) Gen. 1:1-4 occur at that time before the evening.

The repeated refrain, "and evening came, and morning came," on each creative day suggests to some that the author is stating the order of the day. A few considerations should lay this argument to rest.

.....(1) The combination ערב ("evening") and בקר ("morning") is not equivalent to לילה ("nighttime") and יום ("daytime"), and in fact does not add up to a complete day, but amounts only to two lesser parts of one day. We cannot, therefore, understand the two-fold refrain as constituting some kind of summation of two parts of an entire day of creation.

.....(2) The appearance of the consecutive waw before the refrain suggests that the evening and morning are part of a sequence of events. We should not therefore understand them in isolation from the rest of the events mentioned on any given creative day. The sequence is as follows: (1) act or acts of creation; (2) evening; (3) morning. The evening clearly follows the creative activity that occurs during the day.

.....(3) If the evening follows God's creative acts on any given day, the evening cannot be the beginning of the day, but rather would be the concluding part of it. It is the morning that would signal the transition from one day to the next.

(Special thanks to an En Hakkore for bringing this to my attention.)


David Miano, Shadow on the Steps: Time Measurement in Ancient Israel (Society of Biblical Literature Resources for Biblical Study 64; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010), pp. 11-12.

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The "and" only re-iterates the "then". There was Evening (Darkness) before there was light. How long that first darkness was is debatable but those thereafter were certain periods of darkness as we know.! Yes there was time, but to restrict the first period of darkness to the length of the proceeding nights would be fallacious to the extent that God is not restricted by our assumptions. It is also possible that the period of time from the when the Spirit of God began to hover over the water, was only the same as the length of the nights proceeding. What difference does it make? –  John Unsworth Nov 12 '13 at 10:02
@JohnUnsworth: Please see the citation in my edit. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Nov 12 '13 at 17:31
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If Light equals Day, then a Day is the period Light. A Day begins when Light begins. A Day ends when Light ends. Evening and Morning are part of a Day. Evening ends a Day and Morning begins a Day. Darkness is the absence of Light and is therefore not part of a Day. It is stated that God "separated" the Light from the Darkness, calling the Light "Day", and calling the Darkness "Night". Where does it say that God "combined" the Light and the Darkness and called this combination a Day? Yet this is the combination that we have been taught to accept.

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