Many times the phrase on the Xth day is used i.e.

22 When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled,

Genesis 31:22

Does this mean
a) Jacob fled + 2 days then Laban was notified
b) Jacob fled + 3 days then Laban was notified

  • someone having the paid version of Logos bible software may do a clause search to show all the examples of this. From what I know, it is means the same as third day or after three days.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 16:16
  • 1
    See inclusive counting.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 20:30
  • I would have read "on the third day" to mean "(some time) on the third (calendar) day" in English (E.g. Jacob left Tue, Laban Told Thu.) rather than a measurement of 24 hour days only because that's the way English speakers tend to mean (since they are not usually using a stopwatch). "On the third day" in this case, could be as short as, say, 3 PM Tue - 6 AM Thu = 39 hours (i.e. less than 48 hours).
    – mojo
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 2:37

1 Answer 1


Leviticus 23:

5The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.

To count the days, begin with twilight, not sunrise.

Deuteronomy 5:

14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God.

So, the first day means the first 24 hours of the week.

Genesis 31:

19When Laban had gone to shear his sheep,

Presumably under daylight.

Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. 21So he fled with all he had,

Assume Jacob fled while there was daylight. Let's say at least 1 hour before sunset.

crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead.

22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled.

On the 3rd day means within 3*24 hours. Laban knew Jacob had left no more than 72 hours after the fact,

This mean Jacob fled + 2 days then Laban was notified, i.e., between 49 hours to 72 hours.

  • 1
    The day starting at twilight/evening even predates the Mosaic Law: (Gen 1:5 "And there was evening, and there was morning, one day.") The idea is repeated in v. 8, 13, 19, 23, and 31.
    – mojo
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 17:23
  • One limitation of this approach is that it's using pieces of the narrative where accurate measurement of elapsed time does not necessarily have to be the purpose of the author. It is not hard to find other instances where "round numbers" are used (not specifically in reference to days) that would thwart the reliability of such an argument.
    – mojo
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 17:26
  • 1
    "It is not hard to find other instances where "round numbers" are used." E.g.?
    – user35953
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 18:32
  • E.g. Ge 15:13 ("four hundred years" cf. Ex 12:40-41), 1Ki 6:37-38 ("seven years", from Ziv yr 4 - Bul yr 11 is ~6.5 yrs; compare to Lk 4:25 "three years and six months"), 2 Sam 8:4 ("1,700 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers"), 2 Chr 23:3 ("38,000 men"). My point is, it's hard to prove that the author is trying to be (very?) precise merely because he uses a number.
    – mojo
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 2:20
  • Compare to explicitly precise measurements, like Lev 23:16 ("fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath"), Lev 25:50 ("his purchaser shall calculate from the year..."), Jer 52:28,29 ("3,023 Jews," "832 persons"), Ge 7:11, 8:4 ("second month, on the seventeenth day of the month", "seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month").
    – mojo
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 2:31

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