What is God’s 24 hour day and why does it matter? How was God’s time clock set in motion according to Genesis 1:5?
When reading through the Bible, there are stories dealing with time that don’t really make sense if we think about it in the sense of what we know as the common day. Sometimes, the order of events and the time of day do not seem to be what we would consider to be normal. There are also occasions where one Biblical author mentions an event as occurring at a specified time, while another author seems to indicate a contradictory time.
If we only use our understanding of time (and how we tell time) when studying the Scriptures, we can run into problems understanding time (and how to tell time) as described in the Scriptures.
The purpose of this post is to investigate how time was established by God himself and to understand how time is presented in the Scriptures.
God’s Day Established in Genesis 1:5
Anyone who studies the Bible will understand the law of first mention. For those who are not familiar with it, here is a short summary. Whenever a word, or a concept, or a principal is mentioned for the first time, it typically sets the parameters for its meaning and significance throughout the rest of Scripture. At the very least, it reveals some important details.
The concept of a day is mentioned for the first time in Genesis 1:5 “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
The parameters that are established in Genesis 1:5 is that the evening and the morning make up a day. When reading the verse, it is important to note the order that is presented: the evening comes first, and the morning comes second. This establishes what consists of a day according to God in the account of His creation.
This same pattern of evening / morning is repeated another five times in Genesis 1. After each day’s creation event, the concluding statement is “And the evening and the morning were the ### day”.
The order of evening and morning is well-established in the six days of creation.
The evening: it’s not what you think
The use of the word evening in Genesis 1 differs from what we are accustomed to. For most of us, we associate evening with the time between sunset and midnight (or whatever hour corresponds to our bedtime).
The definition of the word evening in Genesis 1 has to do with the sun setting. But the definition extends to more than just a few hours after sunset, it extends to include the entire time of darkness until the sun rises again.
Strong’s Concordance gives the definition as: dusk: – + day, even (-ing, tide), night. The word used comes from a primitive root defined as: to grow dusky at sundown: – be darkened, (toward) evening and stated as rather identical to another word conveying the idea of braiding through the idea of covering with a texture.
A visual you can use to understand the idea of what evening means in Genesis 1 is that of pulling a comforter over yourself while lying in bed when you are getting ready to go to sleep. As the sun sets, the darkness (the covering) is being pulled over, figuratively covering the sky.
The evening begins at sundown and includes the 12 hours of darkness (more or less of course, depending on where you are in the world).
Practically speaking in the Scriptures, it includes the time between 6pm and 6am.
This post called God’s 24 hour day – the Accuracy of Time explains how the hours of the night are described and understood in the Scriptures. (link pending)
The morning: it’s not what you think
The use of the word morning in Genesis 1 differs from what we are accustomed to. For most of us, we associate morning with the time betweeen sunrise (or the time we wake up) and noon.
The definition of the word morning in Genesis 1 has to do with the sun rising. But the definition extends to more than just a few hours after sunrise, it extends to include the entire time of daylight until the sun sets again.
Strong’s Concordance gives the definition as: properly dawn (as the break of day); generally morning: – (+) day, early, morning, morrow. The word used comes from a primitive root defined as: properly to plough, or (generally) break forth, that is, (figuratively) to inspect, admire, care for, consider: – (make) inquire (-ry), (make) search, seek out.
A visual you can use to understand the idea of what morning means is that of throwing off a comforter when you are ready to get out of bed. As the sun rises, the darkness (the covering) is being plowed away, figuratively uncovering the sky.
The morning begins at sunrise and includes the 12 hours when daylight is visible (more or less of course, depending on where you are in the world).
Practically speaking in the Scriptures, it includes the time between 6am and 6pm.
This post called God’s 24 hour day – Details of the Night and Day explains how the hours of the day are described and understood in the Scriptures.
Time Shifting – Mental Adjustment
When someone is first introduced to the Scriptural concept of what constitutes a day, it can provoke a very strong reaction. And mostly a reaction of confusion. We are so used to the common new day starting at midnight, that we cannot fathom any other method for determining the start of a new day.
Our brains have been trained to reset the day when the clock strikes midnight. The new year begins at the end of the last day and is “rung in” at midnight. As kids (or teens), it is a big milestone the first time you stay awake until midnight, because you managed to stay up until the “next day”.
When the Scriptures indicate that the start of a new day occurs at sundown (6 pm), it takes a pretty strong reset for our minds to understand it, let alone get accustomed to it.
For all intents and purposes, God’s 24 hour day is shifted 6 hours from our common day. Or correctly stated, our common day is shifted 6 hours from God’s 24 hour day.
So by the time the common day begins, God’s 24 hour day will already have run 6 hours.
We often need to readjust our mindset or change our way of thinking to better understand the Bible. The concept of God’s 24 hour day is especially critical in order to understand the fulfillment of the prophecy related to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To see how important it is to understand this 6 hour shift I encourage you to check out this series of posts dealing with Three Days and Three Nights. (link pending)
Action Point: God’s 24 hour day is the standard
Why does it matter how we tell time when studying the Scriptures?
Download the printable PDF of God’s 24 Hour Day Time Shift chart
Check out the second post in this series called God’s 24 hour day – Details of the Night and Day to find out how the hours of the day are described and understood in the Scriptures.
View the third post in the series called: God’s 24 Hour Day the Accuracy of Time