DOES THE WEEKLY SABBATH DAY REALLY BEGIN AT SUNSET?
As Christians we have learned many wonderful truths from God’s word. Over the years we have held these truths close to our hearts. We have diligently searched the scriptures and we have come before God in prayer seeking His wisdom and understanding. Our fellowship with other Christians of like minds has helped to strengthen our understanding of various doctrines. And over time, we have formed our belief systems.
For a good number of us, there is not a teaching from God more solidly fixed in our minds than our belief that we should observe the seventh day Sabbath (Saturday). Why is this the case? One reason is because for years we blissfully observed Sunday without having a clue about the Sabbath. After we discovered that we had been wrong all of this time as we read our Bibles through the filter of man’s traditions, the word God opened up to us as it never had before. Some of us did not really have an understanding of sin, repentance, obedience, love, etc., until the Sabbath was revealed to us.
As time went on we shared the truth about the Sabbath with numerous Sunday keeping Christians. We explained to them that the exact time that God ordained for weekly worship matters and that the Sabbath day is one of the 10 commandments and it is Holy. We patiently waded through the scriptures pointing out time and again that the Sabbath day still applies to Christians today.
We looked forward to that special time each and every week as the sun began to set on Friday evening. And as our observance came to an end the following sunset we could not believe how fast the time had passed.
Then one day, after what may have been decades of Sabbath keeping, someone comes along and says, “The Sabbath day does not begin on Friday at sunset and it is not 24 hours long. The Sabbath day begins at dawn on Saturday and ends at dark”. An amazing number of scriptures are laid out before us, indicating that the scriptural day begins in the morning at first light. A great number of Biblical scholars/commentators are quoted who hold the view that scriptural days begin at dawn/sunrise and not at sunset.
We begin to see a growing number of Sabbath keepers who have changed their belief in this area after observing sunset to sunset longer than some adults have walked on the face of this earth. It is becoming clearer every day that this teaching is having an impact because we see more and more Christians who observe the traditional sunset to sunset day writing articles against this doctrine. We start to ask ourselves, have we been loyal to our notions about God’s teachings on the time of the Sabbath day or have we been loyal to God’s teachings?
What do we do? This is the very first time that we have ever heard of such a thing. Some of us will let human nature take hold of us and we will ignore it, at least for a while.
We cannot believe it. Surely all of these Sabbath keepers cannot be wrong. This dawn to dark idea must be crazy. Isn’t that the same thing we said about Saturday when we were observing Sunday?
Finally we realize that in our initial study on the Sabbath, 99% of our research centered on our desire to find out if the Sabbath day was really on Saturday and did it apply to Christians. It occurs to us that we have spent very little time asking the question, “why do we begin our observance on Friday at sunset?” We take the time to read all of our Sabbath literature once again, only to find that there is no study of any substance on this subject. We know that the sunset to sunset day is a long-standing tradition of the Jews. Sure, Sunday keeping is also a long-standing tradition, but the Jews have always observed sunset to sunset. Haven’t they? Isn’t that what the Bible says? Eventually we come around and start to think logically that if we have the truth the scriptures will back up our long held position.
We open our Bibles and turn to Genesis 1:5, Leviticus 23:32 and Mark 1:32 and think here it is, “I can’t be wrong a second time, I have three scriptures to prove it”. The problem is that we are inundated with scriptures that saturate the Bible verifying the fact that the scriptural day begins at dawn. We begin to wonder if we are searching our emotions rather than the scriptures. Have we been using our three scriptures as inappropriate proof texts just like all of those Sunday keeping Christians do when they try to justify their position? Oh no. We start to think about all of those Sunday keepers, and how we told them that the exact time matters to God and, “I can’t be wrong a second time”. No, we can’t be wrong, not after telling them that their Sunday keeping doctrine that they had neatly wrapped in a box was nothing more than a tradition of man. Is it possible that when we accepted what we thought was the “real truth” that we never considered looking up to see if the lid to our doctrinal box was blocking additional scriptural light? Had we gone full circle? From searching all of the scriptures to seeking a scripture to support what we wish to believe?
Did we permit ourselves to go against our own convictions? Did we interpret the numerous clear texts that dismantle our long held belief, by the few proof texts that we could muster? Did we really do this, when we knew full well that we should have allowed the scriptures to interpret our few proof texts by the numerous clear texts that were available?
It hurts. It really hurts. But guess what? If we were wrong, it would not be the first time. Odds are, it will not be the last.
What do we do now? It never hurts to take another look at a long held belief. This may be difficult, considering the fact that our “Sabbath truth” may now be chiseled upon the tablets of our mind because we thought there was nothing more for us to learn about the timing of God‘s special day. Thankfully, our minds are not made of stone and if we are willing, maybe, just maybe we can move a little closer to the will of God. The closer the better.
The above scenario reflects some of the emotions that overtook me when I was first introduced to a “dawn to dark” Sabbath (And also the negative reactions that I have seen coming from other Christians). A number of these emotions may already strike a cord with some of you and some of you may yet experience similar feelings if and when you decide to look into this matter. If you do, let me assure you that you are not alone. It is my hope and prayer that you will not be like me in this instance, and wait as long as I did to take another look at this long held belief.
Please carefully consider the information below as you prayerfully search the scriptures to determine whether these things are so.
Following are several excerpts from my web site entitled:
“A Case For The 12 Hour Sabbath”. (Site link at the bottom of this page)
THE PURPOSE OF THIS WEB SITE IS TO SHARE WITH YOU WHY I AS A CHRISTIAN SABBATH KEEPER WHO OBSERVED FRIDAY SUNSET TO SATURDAY SUNSET AS THE SABBATH FOR MANY YEARS, NOW BELIEVES THAT THE SABBATH DAY IS SIMPLY 12 HOURS IN LENGTH, BEGINNING AT DAWN ON SATURDAY AND ENDING AT DARK. (Note: When I say the word "Hour", I do not mean 60 minutes. An hour is 1/12 of the period of daylight. Longer in the summer and shorter in the winter. I will explain this in greater detail later).
HOW DOES GOD DEFINE A DAY?
The ultimate question of course is how does God define a day? Is there a pattern running throughout the scriptures that tells us when a day begins? Yes, there is. And we will find that the 7th day (Sabbath) begins just as any other average day in scripture begins.
The Biblical definition for a day as defined by God Himself can be stated in 6 words. "And God called the LIGHT DAY ". Does this definition seem too simple? Please stay with me and I believe that you will find that it is very simple.
If we keep in mind that LIGHT = DAY, pure and simple, numerous scriptures will become crystal clear. Take Genesis 2:3 for an example. Here, God blesses and sanctifies the seventh DAY. (In other words, God blesses and sanctifies the 7th LIGHT PERIOD). Please note that God does NOT bless or sanctify the 7th NIGHT (Darkness). Only the 7th LIGHT (we will cover day and night in greater detail shortly).
Now we can take a look at the 4th Commandment found in Exodus Chapter 20. Verse 8 reads, "remember the Sabbath DAY (LIGHT), to keep it holy." Verse 10 explains to us not only what day the Sabbath is on, but also how long the day lasts. ". . But the seventh DAY (LIGHT) is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. ." (Or DAWN to DARK).
You might even be more surprised if you were to turn to page 136 of "Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words". You would read the following under "TO LIGHT". "The basic meaning of 'OR (my note-Hebrew for Light) is "DAYLIGHT" (cf. Gen. 1:3). In the HEBREW MIND the "DAY" BEGAN AT THE RISING OF THE SUN...". Many of us have been taught that in the HEBREW MIND a day began at SUNSET!
EVENING is the tail end of a day and NOT THE BEGINNING OF A DAY, as many of us have been taught. Why? Because God considers EVENING LIGHT. ". . . And the EVENING and the morning were the first DAY (LIGHT) . . ." (Genesis 1:5). Notice that the word "NIGHT" is NOT mentioned here, because NIGHT = DARKNESS. EVENING is still a part of the DAY SEASON and " . . . the GREATER LIGHT to rule the DAY . . ." (Genesis 1:16).
Please read all of Mark Chapter 4. Here we find Jesus teaching throughout the course of a day, and in verse 35 we read: "And the SAME DAY, when the EVEN WAS COME, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side." Based on the standard teaching, this "EVEN" should NOT be the "SAME DAY", but it should be the NEXT DAY if a NEW DAY begins at EVENING.
Then it happened. I found an astonishing quote that spurred me on to more research:
"The day was either the PERIOD OF SUNLIGHT, CONTRASTED WITH THE NIGHT (see John 11:9) or the whole period of twenty four hours, ALTHOUGH NOT DEFINED AS SUCH IN THE BIBLE." ("Oxford Companion to the Bible", p. 744). I read it again and again. A 24 HOUR DAY IS NOT DEFINED IN THE BIBLE. This agreed with my study of the scriptures.
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT --- SIFTING THROUGH THE TRADITIONS
Before we examine the DAY OF ATONEMENT, please take a look at the 4th commandment as found in Exodus 20:8. "Remember the SABBATH DAY, to keep it holy". Notice two very important words in this sentence. "SABBATH" and "DAY". Most of the time when we say the word Sabbath, we simply mean the 7th day of the week. In most cases when the Bible uses the word Sabbath it refers to the 7th day.
As you know, the Bible also mentions annual Sabbaths such as the "Feast of Trumpets" (Leviticus 23:24). Although the word "Sabbath" alone can be used to refer to the 7th day, God is very specific in Exodus 20:8 when He tells us to remember the "SABBATH DAY". He does NOT simply say "Remember the SABBATH" in this verse. He adds the critical word "DAY". Why? One major reason is the fact that the word "SABBATH" DOES NOT MEAN "DAY" (LIGHT). Most sources including the "New Bible Dictionary" state that the word "Sabbath" means "to CEASE' 'to DESIST" (p. 1042). The length of cessation is NOT found in this definition. It is God who determines how long a period of cessation lasts. That is why God says, "...the seventh DAY (LIGHT) is the SABBATH of the Lord thy God..." (Exodus 20:10). The WEEKLY Sabbath is ONLY the period of LIGHT. Speaking of the ANNUAL SABBATH in Leviticus 23:32 God says, "...from EVEN UNTO EVEN, shall ye celebrate your SABBATH..." Note. Once again, God does NOT just say "ye shall celebrate your Sabbath". He specifically says that this ANNUAL SABBATH is " FROM EVEN UNTO EVEN".
It is important to keep in mind that the word "SABBATH" does NOT mean "Saturday", it does NOT mean "24 hours", nor does it mean "DAY".
God has determined that the WEEKLY Sabbath is simply the period of LIGHT and that the ANNUAL Sabbath in Leviticus 23:32 is from EVENING TO EVENING (About 24 hours).
Is there a Sabbath in the scriptures that is longer than 24 hours? Yes there is. Turn to Leviticus Chapter 25 and read verses 1 through 4. "And the Lord spake unto Moses in Mount Si'nai, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a SABBATH UNTO THE LORD. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the SEVENTH YEAR SHALL BE A SABBATH OF REST UNTO THE LAND, A SABBATH FOR THE LORD..." What does all this mean? It simply means that this LAND Sabbath is NOT 12 hours long. It is NOT 24 hours long. It is OVER 300 DAYS LONG! Once again it is God who determines the length of this Sabbath, which by the way is the same word for "Sabbath" found in Exodus 20:8-10. So a "SABBATH UNTO THE LORD" is NOT limited to a single day, no matter how we may define a day. A Sabbath can clearly be SEVERAL HUNDRED DAYS IN LENGTH.
With the above information in mind, please turn to the command for the DAY OF ATONEMENT found in Leviticus Chapter 23, starting with verse 26. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the TENTH day of this seventh month there shall be a DAY (LIGHT) OF ATONEMENT..." (v. 26-27). God calls this "holy convocation" a "DAY (LIGHT) OF ATONEMENT". He does NOT mention NIGHT here. This "DAY (LIGHT) OF ATONEMENT" as He calls it again in verse 28 is on the TENTH day of the month (NOT THE 9TH DAY). In verse 32 we find that it is a "SABBATH OF REST". So the "DAY (LIGHT) OF ATONEMENT" is on the "TENTH" day of the month and it is a "SABBATH OF REST". Continuing in verse 32 we read; "...AND ye shall afflict your souls; in the NINTH day of the month at EVEN, FROM EVEN UNTO EVEN SHALL YE CELEBRATE YOUR SABBATH..." When does this SABBATH/FAST BEGIN? In the NINTH day of the month at EVEN and it ends on the TENTH day at EVEN. In other words this Sabbath/Fast falls on 2 DIFFERENT DAYS. Why? Because a Sabbath is NOT LIMITED TO A SINGLE DAY.
These scriptures reveal that although the DAY (LIGHT) OF ATONEMENT IS ON THE TENTH day ONLY, the SABBATH/FAST is on BOTH the NINTH AND TENTH DAYS and includes the NIGHT PERIOD FOLLOWING THE NINTH DAY. This is the ONLY Sabbath (Weekly or Annual) THAT TAKES IN A PERIOD OF NIGHT.
If you are interested in reading the entire text (about 90 pages), Please click on the link below: