Monday, May 4, 2015

Is Shabbat "dawn to dawn"?

We receive the following study from a reader.   We though it worthwhile to post their study and our response here for all to see!
Reader: I have studied Genesis 1 and I find something interesting!  The Sabbath is from dawn to dawn!
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  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. And God saw that the light was good. And God 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 1:1-2, 4-5 ESV)
I see light came from darkness:  "from" darkness means between or in the midst.  Thus, light=Day, darkness=Night.

Then, reading on to verse 14: "And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so. And God made the two great lights--the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night--and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day." (Genesis 1:14-19 ESV)

"Signs" in Hebrew (Strongs 226) shows "owth" means "mark".  Now "dawn" is the time that marks the beginning of the twilight before sunrise. It is recognized by the presence of weak sunlight, while the Sun itself is still below the horizon. Dawn should not be confused with sunrise, which is the moment when the leading edge of the Sun itself appears above the horizon.   Thus, dawn is the time that marks the beginning of the twilight before sunrise.  Dawn is not sunrise. In the dictionary dawn means the first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise. Therefore the darkness is first, then the dawn, then sunlight.  So the "24 hour day" is dawn to dawn!   Amazing!
Our response:

Well,  I think you led yourself down a foxhole!  If I followed your logic, you concluded that "dawn to dawn" is the "24 hour day", rather than "sunset to sunset" or even "sunrise to sunrise".   Let me see if I can go through this and determine where you went astray.

First, you concluded that "light came from darkness: 'from' darkness means between or in the midst."  But you left out Genesis 1:3 in your scriptures:  "Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light." With verse 3 we see that "darkness" was first, and then God CREATED light!  So light did not "come from darkness"! Light and darkness were separated.

Second, you concluded that "day" means "light", and while this is true, just like the English word "day", the Hebrew word "יום" (yom) means "daytime" but also means a "whole 24 hour period".  In Genesis 1:5, the exact same word is used for both the "light of the day" and "the whole day".  Genesis 1:5 in Hebrew:
  ויקרא אלהים לאור יום ולחשׁך קרא לילה ויהי־ערב ויהי־בקר יום אחד׃
לאור יום =  la'or yom =  Literally "light day", i.e., "He called the light 'day'".
יום אחד=  yom echad =  Literally "day first", i.e., "the first day".

Since there are no vowels in ancient Hebrew, the context is important.  In Hebrew, the very fact that the "day" is called "echad", i.e., "one thing composed of parts", means the "day" is composed of parts - and it is - Night & Day!  Nevertheless, in the first part of the verse, the "daytime" part of the "day", i.e., the "light" is also called "day"!

So now let's move on to Genesis 1:14.  Here you have isolated אות  ('ôth, "sign") and concluded it means "mark".  But the word אות means "sign"!  "Mark" is only an example of the word "sign".  In your dictionary definition, other examples are: "a banner, remembrance, miraculous sign, omen, and warning"!  Anyway, the fact that "a mark" is also a "sign", does not change the meaning of  אות  ('ôth, "sign")  in Genesis 1:14.  In Genesis 1:14 the Hebrew word is לאתת (li'ôth't, "signs"), and in context the verse says that the sun, moon, and stars are FOR "signs, appointed times [moedim], days, and years".  It is the sign by these objects (the sun, moon and stars) that is important, not the affect or "mark" which is caused by the object.  "Daylight", for example, is caused by the sun but the light itself not the sign of the day! The sun is the sign!

If you change the meaning of "sign" to "mark", then Genesis 1:14 says that the sun, moon, and stars are FOR "marks, appointed times, days, and years", and the context is lost.  The sun, moon, and stars really are for "signs", rather than for "a mark".  The sun does "mark" sunset, because at that moment, the sun instantly changes from being visible to being invisible.  But sunset is actually "the sign" that the "period of light is changing to the period of dark" - the sign that the day has changed - just as Genesis 1:5 provides.  On the other hand, at dawn, as the sky is brightening, we are observing only the affect of the sun, with its light, separating the darkness for the daylight part of the day, again just as Genesis 1:5 provides.  

This idea of a "sign" is clearer in the case of the moon.  In the case of the moon, there is no visible "mark" of conjunction.  You don't see the sky change as the moon is nearing conjunction. On morning, the moon simply does not rise!  The moon is too close to the sun to be seen and is absent for many hours, up to 3 days!  But the "absence of the moon" is the "sign" that conjunction is happening and the month is changing from the old to the new month.  There is no "mark" of when the old moon becomes the new moon.  Conjunction, the absence of the moon, is a "sign" and not a "mark".

Returning to the sun, in English Bibles, the first use of the word "dawn" is found in Exodus 14:24 "Just before dawn, Adonai looked out..."  But the word translated as "dawn" here is the Hebrew word "הבקר" (ha'boker; morning), not "dawn"!   בקר (boker) properly means "break of day", which in English is close to the meaning of "dawn", but not in the Hebrew mindset of  "boker".  "Boker" therefore, means is associated with human activity - when the morning is becoming bright enough for human activity.  Even after sunrise is is still "boker".  In Hebrew, we say "boker tov", meaning "good morning", and that can be said any time in period before or after sunrise and before noon!  If you are up before sunrise, to go work in your field, you still say "boker bov".  You don't say "good dawn"!

Another example.  In Job 3:9 (3:8 in some versions), it says in most English translations: "may the stars of its twilight be dark, may it look for light but get none, may it never see the shimmer of dawn", we see again the English word "dawn".  But in the Hebrew the word is בעפעפי (b'af'ap'pei) and the word literally means in context, the "morning rays of sunlight", that is the way the "dawn" looks as the sun is about to rise.  But the English "dawn" simply does not convey that picture.

Actually, the first use of "dawn" in the Bible in Hebrew is in Genesis 19:15  which says: "When השׁחר  (ha'sha'char; dawn) came, the angels told Lot to hurry."  It would be wise to note that in Genesis 1, we find the day defined as an "echad" consisting of the ערב  (erev; evening, darkness) and בקר (boker; morning) and the "dawn", ha'sha'char, is not mentioned.

You conclude that the Sabbath is to be observed from "dawn to dawn".  I hope you can see that this conclusion was reached in error.  YHWH set apart the Sabbath as a holy day, a holy convocation, a day of rest.  It is clearly segregated as a complete day, its own special appointed time with YHWH, specifically cited in Leviticus 23:3. And the Hebrew day is very clearly sunset to sunset.  Nehemiah 13:19 is a clear example:  "It came about that just as it grew dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and that they should not open them until after the sabbath..."  (Recognize that in Hebrew, the late afternoon, in the time before sunset, it is known as the "first evening", and it is this time referred to in Nehemiah 13:19).  It was not "becoming light before the sabbath"!  And Yom Kippur is described as follows in Leviticus 23:32:

"It will be for you a Shabbat of complete rest, and you are to deny yourselves; you are to rest on your Shabbat from evening the ninth day of the month until the following evening."  

Here in English, the correct translation of this verse is made - evening to evening.  It does not say "morning to morning" or "dawn to dawn".

No.  The Shabbat is not "dawn to dawn"!  In fact, watching for sunrise for anything other than preparation for labors, is precariously close to idol worship, for YHWH says "For the same reason, do not look up at the sky, at the sun, moon, stars and everything in the sky, and be drawn away to worship and serve them; ADONAI your God has allotted these to all the peoples under the entire sky." (Deuteronomy 4:19, CJB)


  1. When did our world create a new time that did not coincide with this proper knowledge of God's truth..night and day, the first day..

  2. Since the beginning when man took it upon himself to organize into groups and follow other gods. Many civilizations used sunrise as the new day, and since in most civilizations "mid day", i.e., "noon" is when the sun is on the meridian, midway between the time of sunrise and sunset - then "mid night" became the time when the day changed. In other words, civil needs overrode YHWH's signs.