10

Each day that God worked in Creation in Genesis chapter one concludes with the words, "And the evening and the morning were the [1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th] day."

Day as we know it, begins with the morning and ends with the evening. Why does the evening come before the morning at the end of each of the six days that God worked in Creation in Genesis chapter one? Could it be that God created evening (the end of day) before morning (the beginning of day) because He is unique in that He is the only being in existence who has no beginning?

This would explain why, with Him, the end comes before the beginning? When the end comes before the beginning... mathematically, the end has no beginning. The beginning has no end. And the middle has no beginning and no end because they are all transcendent.

                  (No beginning)An end/A beginning (No end) 

Does that make any sense? Can anyone help me with this puzzling question of why the evening (or the end of day) comes before the morning (or the beginning of day) at the end of each of the six days that God worked in Creation in Genesis chapter one?

1
  • I already had an answer in mind when I posted my question asking, Why does the Bible put the evening before the morning at the end of each of the six days that God worked in Creation in Genesis chapter one? In question form: "What is the Mystery Of Creation Solved?" Those are the keywords to my web address. Click on the following link to read the answer to my original question in context: www.commentaryongenesis1.org Jun 27 at 12:53

8 Answers 8

24

In all societies, there must be a convention about when the cycle of the day begins such as:

  • In most modern societies it is mid-night
  • In some farming communities the start and end of the day is sun-rise
  • In modern astronomical calculation it is mid-day

In ancient Jewish and Hebrew reckoning, the day began with sun-set. One can see this in several OT references:

  • Gen 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31, "There was evening and and there was morning - the nth day"
  • Lev 23:32 - It will be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall humble yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to keep your Sabbath.”
  • Dan 8:14 - ... For 2,300 evenings and mornings [ie, days]; then the sanctuary will be justified

Note the comments of Ellicott in his remarks about Leviticus 23:32

In the ninth day of the month at even.—In accordance with the ancient mode of counting the day, the tenth of the month began with the evening of the ninth. (See Leviticus 16:29.)

Thus, the OT daily calendar regarded the day as beginning at sun-set. Modern Jewish religious observance preserves this.

1
  • 1
    There is a reverse logic issue. The creation came before Jewish tradition. It is likely their tradition was based on Torah. Similarly, what is the origin of a week is 7 days. Will it be based on creation? Or the cycle of Sabbath? Jun 28 at 13:37
8

In Jewish society, a day begins at 6:00 PM rather than 12:00 AM, hence the "evening" is at the beginning of the day and the "morning" comes after. From what I can tell, this is the reason for "evening" being mentioned first.

6
  • 12
    More accurately, a day begins at sunset.
    – arp
    Mar 9, 2021 at 2:18
  • 1
    But isn't this answer 'backwards'. It is saying "a day begins at the evening and the morning comes after" is wy evening is mentioned first in Genesis (to answer the question.) But was it that way always, and thus the OT was written that way, or was the OT written that way and Judaism followed? I would think that Genesis was written based on the belief of God's creation, and Judaism followed, because first there was darkness....
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 9, 2021 at 13:03
  • @CGCampbell Great point! My answer was that evening's mentioned first because of Jewish society's understanding, but it makes more sense to say Jewish society's understanding is because the evening's mentioned first in Genesis.
    – The Editor
    Mar 10, 2021 at 15:04
  • Right. and before someone complains that Judaism existed prior to the OT being 'written down', my point is that assuming Judaism believes in the fact of Genesis, it was a fact before Judaism started. So, the OT was written in support of what was known by it's writers as fact. Creation (what was recorded in Genesis) came first, then the religious adherents and beliefs, then the OT in spoken form, then written form. It simply had to be this way. (point of personal fact, I am an agnostic, so this is all as my understanding, not based on religious schooling.)
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 10, 2021 at 15:24
  • 1
    @CGCampbell This may be off-topic, but here's a book dealing with Jesus' resurrection I recommend for anyone with doubts about Christianity, Christian or not: amazon.com/Case-Resurrection-Jesus-Gary-Habermas/dp/0825427886. In short, even secular scholars grant that Jesus was crucified and was in some sense "seen" alive afterward. While non-Christians explain this as being merely hallucinations, they don't work in group settings--and even secular scholars agree the sightings of Jesus happened in group settings. Additionally, some but not all secular scholars grant the empty tomb.
    – The Editor
    Mar 10, 2021 at 16:19
4

In Genesis 1:2, it's dark. In Genesis 1:3, there is light. This establishes the time ordering: darkness precedes light.

In Genesis 1:5, the darkness is called Night and the light is called Day. Then, still in the established ordering, the evening and the following morning is the first day.

You say "Day as we know it, begins with the morning and ends with the evening." But this is a convention and it is a convention deeply steeped in the demands of labor and sleep cycles (which have changed as a result of the industrial revolution). It seems a bit ambitious to project this ordering merely 2000 years, much moreso to project it to the Creation.

5
  • 1
    Excellent response and I thoroughly agree. +1 and welcome to this stack. Mar 10, 2021 at 4:47
  • 1
    +1 for convention. If we're out for an evening with friends and midnight passes, it's fully idiomatic to speak of the subsequent morning as "tomorrow" ("I'll sleep in tomorrow morning", "I've got an early meeting tomorrow morning", etc.) even though it's the same day. If we're in a mode where waking corresponds more or less with daybreak, then psychologically that's the start of our "day".
    – CCTO
    Mar 10, 2021 at 14:45
  • @CCTO agree. I strongly think that 4am makes more sense as a “tomorrow” - midnight just makes things confusing.
    – Tim
    Mar 10, 2021 at 18:23
  • @Tim, yes, it's about 4 am when I'd say, "Dang, I've been up all night". Didn't TV Guide use to include slots up to about 6 am with the prior day's schedule? Back when stations signed off at 1 or 2 am, it was pretty easy to define "our broadcast day", but even with 24-hr broadcasting, it made no sense to start a new "day" in the middle of Letterman or SNL. (I have no idea if there are still printed TV Guides.)
    – CCTO
    Mar 10, 2021 at 18:57
  • @CCTO as an example, an all day bus ticket in my city runs from whenever you activate it until 4am the next day. So you can go out to a club (or used to be able to!) and get back when it closes on the same ticket. Makes a lot more sense.
    – Tim
    Mar 10, 2021 at 19:13
3

The ancient Egyptians changed the date of the day in the morning. Whether this was at sunrise (when the first sliver of the sun disc becomes visible), or at dawn (when the stars disappear) is still a matter of debate amongst Egyptologists.

The ancient Mesopotamian cultures changed the day name and date of each day at sunset.

In the Egyptian Calendar the end of each month occured at the disappearance of the old crescent moon which was last seen before its final disappearance in the morning sky. Hence the first day of the month began in the morning and each subsequent day following started in the morning.

On the other hand the Mesopotamians saw the beginning of the month with the appearance of the new crescent moon in the evening sky: hence the first day of the month began in the evening and each subsequent day of the month necessarily followed in tow with the new day name and date change happening at sunset.

The first few chapters of Genesis were written in Mesopotamia and passed down to Moses: this can be seen by the existence of Hebrew words which are Sumerian and Babylonian Akkadian loan words, ie they have their origin in these two languages. Furthermore, though there are many Egyptian loan words throughout the Pentateuch there are none in the opening chapters of Genesis. (For more on this see https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/71195/who-documented-biblical-events-before-moses/71197?r=SearchResults&s=2|23.6639#71197 )

It has until recently been thought that the Israelites changed the date and day of the week at sunset throughout the whole of the Old and New Testament eras. This is now a matter of debate. It is argued by Colin Humphreys in "The Mystery of the Last Supper" that for the Israelites from the time of Moses until the Babylonian Exile the new day and date changed in the morning, copying the Egyptian Calendar. Upon returning from the Babylonian Exile the conventional calendar of the elite of the Jews followed the Babylonian Calendar (the day starting in the evening at sunset).

An example in the Old Testament of the day and date change starting in the morning can be seen in Leviticus 7:15-17. An example of the day start in the evening can be seen in Daniel 8:14, where Daniel has adopted the Calendar format of the Babylonians.

After the Babylonian Exile, Colin Humphreys argues that the elite, who had been in exile in Babylon, used a Babylonian-influenced Calendar (day and date changes in the evening, date of lunar month starts with the new crescent moon), whereas some/many(?) of the "ordinary Jews" who had not been in exile, such as common fishermen, etc, continued to use the Mosiac Calendar (day changes in the morning, date of month starts with the disappearance of the old moon).

The existence of "there was evening and morning.." in Genesis chapter 1 is further evidence that Moses, under divine inspiration, was not writing these chapters from scratch, as it were, but was taking up previously inspired scriptures, writings which had had their origin in Mesopotamia, and incorporating them into his writings.

1
  • +1 for an original (to this board) theory addressing both references to evening and morning.
    – Austin
    Jun 27 at 14:30
1

”Day as we know it, begins with the morning and ends with the evening. Why does the evening come before the morning at the end of each of the six days that God worked in Creation in Genesis chapter one?”

The principle question is why must you assume the evening is the end of the day? Says who? Modern society? Sure that’s how we are forced to set our clocks if we want to partake in the marketplace.

If God says evening, going into the night comes first, then that’s the beginning of the day and morning going into the daytime, is the end of the day.

It’s backwards to say that since the Hebrew people considered the day started in the evening that this is why Genesis 1 reads as it does. Rather because God said the day starts with the evening that is why the Hebrew people started their day in the evening.

In light of this your subsequent question

”Could it be that God created evening (the end of day) before morning (the beginning of day) because He is unique in that He is the only being in existence who has no beginning?”

becomes moot as you are contrasting two entirely different paradigms and the axioms contained within them, are by nature going to conflict.

Possibly you meant to ask why does God consider the darkness to be the first part of the day, the beginning and the day to end with illumination, with daytime? How does this reflect on His character?

In order of events, He created darkness first

“I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭45:7‬ ‭

Darkness was over the cosmos, heavens and earth, or over the waters.

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2

Afterwards God brought forth the light and had to separate the light from the darkness.

And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭

Your question implies that darkness is uncreated. That doesn’t correspond to the text, even if it agrees with modern western thinking. Darkness cannot exist unless first there is somewhere for it to exist in. Prior to the beginning, prior to the creation of the cosmos there was nothing, meaning darkness itself did not exist either.

Conclusion

As such evening being first is an acknowledgment of chronology. The first day, which started in Genesis 1:1 at the beginning, at 00:00:00, corresponded to the evening time on subsequent days. When the sun went beyond the horizon around its circuit that was the end of one day and the beginning of the next. (And the sun was only placed in the heavens on day four, it didn’t exist prior to day four).

If we want to understand biblical prophecy and timing is of the essence then it pays to know when the day starts.

“But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:6‬ ‭

If you think with a modern mind you would think midnight is the end of the current day, when in fact it’s already hours into the next day or what we would call tomorrow.

This passage if it has any prophetic correlation, and you were to understand it thinking we are already at the seventh day, the calendar is going into the eight day already, something should have happened already, you’d be misled because midnight is in the eight day and the Calendar would be expected to flow over into the eight day (thousandth year).

1
  • 2
    Mute should be moot.
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 10, 2021 at 16:26
1

The Editor above provides the most likely answer to this question, but I will offer one other, less likely possibility. The creation narrative of Genesis 1:1-2:3 appears to be a prologue to the book of Genesis, and appears to take the format of a Hymn. If this wording were awkward to the Hebrew reader (and it most likely is not for the reason given in The Editor's Answer), then it is likely because this phrasing better fits the structures and any rhyming that may be present in the Hymn/Prologue of Genesis, thus allowing the writer(s) to better follow their chosen format.

2
  • Sorry James, but Hebrew poetry never phonetically rhymed, but followed the genius of what is sometimes called "cognate parallelism" which can be easily seen in Isaiah 55:6, and then again in Is 55:7. Hebrew poetry thus lends itself to translation into other languages without any loss of poetic structure. Eg translating Hebrew poetry into English does not require trying to find phonetically rhyming words in order to maintain the poetic form. The Hebrew poetic form is thus a stroke of (Divine) genius for a book which would one day need translating into all the languages of the nations. Dec 30, 2021 at 13:49
  • all the languages of the nations. Thus, when translating into another language, the meaning of the Hebrew needs never be compromised at the expense of maintaining the poetic form. Meaning is paramount, as we all would obviously expect from the Word of the true God. I read a summary of the Biblical Hebrew poetry, as commonly found in Psalms and Proverbs, in the Daily Bible Illustrations of Dr Kitto who clearly read extensively on the subject, where more information can be found written in Dr Kitto's typically beautifully written style. Dec 30, 2021 at 13:57
0

All good things come from heaven. There was no day or sun or time before God started creating. The absence of light (God is light) we call night. In hell they call it eternity.

Bereshit describes this event. God established the order of eternity with this act. In the terms that God operates on, it was as if you or I would have thought of the word yes. Many words are used to convey this concept to our minds. 'Light Be' was said which made the universe and everything in it. It was Yeshua that came forth from His mouth.

The concept of evening was not truly understood until the 'day' came. As many will not understand how many of God's blessings they had, until they have been removed (in death). He sends sun and rain to the good and the wicked.

Eventually, for our way of understanding, he will separate these two types of existence, one to everlasting joy (the eternal co-existence in God's presence {and they will have no need of the sun, and they will not hunger -- in God's rest}) and the other to everlasting condemnation (the absence of God's presence {and the smoke of their torment ascendeth forever, in darkness and there is no rest -- for hell hath torment}).

1
  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the Tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Mar 12, 2021 at 23:50
0

In my perception, God put the evening before the morning is simply when He completed a day of work, it was evening. A day of work is counted when the job is done, not before it starts. So it is logical when God said this after a day of work, it was evening time that He mentioned evening before the morning.

Surely whether God completed the creation in 6 days and took the 7th day at rest (Sabbath), is debatable. In my opinion, the 7 days of creation is a metaphor aiming to provide wellness to human being. It forbids us to work with no rest, forbids the masters abuse their power on their slaves. Many modern discoveries identified the reason of land fallow; why circumcision is to be on the 8th day, why not drinking blood, all have a wellness concern from God to the Israelites, by that time they were not well civilized.

In other words, God gave them commands in simple form that they could understand, easier to follow.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.