When Does the Weekly Sabbath Begin and End?

This question is becoming more common as the belief that Sabbath begins at dawn and ends at dark (night) is promoted. One publication in particular, “The Scriptural Weekly Sabbath Is Not From Sunset To Sunset”, Gary C. Miller; International Congregation of Yahweh, 1986, will be addressed.

This study is a refutation to the key points used to support that belief. It will also address the use of “deductive reasoning” which the author heavily relies upon to prove his point.

A Sunset Sabbath is Rooted in Paganism? 

The author begins by quoting Unger’s Bible Dictionary, “Day”, page 1098, which states;

“From a very early period the time of reckoning the day was from sunset to sunset, and this BECAME THE JEWISH METHOD. . . The Phoenicians, Numidians, and other nations of the East are said to have followed the same custom, if it was not indeed the custom generally followed in remote antiquity. . .” [Emphasis author’s]

He also quotes two other sources to establish the fact that the Babylonians observed days from evening to evening with divisions of the day into twelve hours.

This is not much evidence to prove the Jews adopted the Babylonian way of reckoning days. Consider the following quote from the jewishencyclopedia.com under the heading, “Eve of Holidays”.

“Unlike the early Babylonians, whose day began with sunrise, the Jews began theirs with sunset.” [Emphasis mine]

Assuming, however, that it is true that the Jews adopted that Babylonian practice, let’s use that same logic concerning days beginning at dawn. A note in the NIV Bible for Neh.13:19 says,

“When evening shadows fell on the gates. Before sunset, when the Sabbath began. The Israelites, like the Babylonians, counted their days from sunset to sunset (the Egyptians reckoned theirs from dawn to dawn).” [Emphasis mine]

What do we do now? If a day beginning at sunset is pagan and a day beginning at dawn is pagan, does a day really begin at noon or midnight?

The author quotes the following;

“So far as we know, the Babylonian calendar was at ALL PERIODS truly lunar, . . .the month BEGAN with the EVENING when the new crescent was for the first time again visible shortly after sunset. Consequently, the BABYLONIAN DAY ALSO BEGAN IN THE EVENING. . .” (The Exact Sciences in Antiquity, O. Neugebauer, 1957; Brown University Press;1969 Dover Publications, Inc.; New York; p.106;” [Emphasis author’s]

In other words, from Babylon’s foundation they began months and days with the evening. When was Babylon founded? It was founded by Nimrod in Gen 10:10 (“Babel” in the Greek Septuagint is “Babylon”). Nimrod was the son of Cush who was the son of Ham who was the son of Noah. Did Noah know when to begin a day? Did he teach Ham when days begin? Since Nimrod was such a close relative of Noah, it is very likely he kept days just as his great grandfather did. In Gen 11:1-5, we are told the earth was still of one language when the tower of Babel was being built. They were most likely of one calendar as well.

If it is true that Babylon reckoned days from evening, then the most likely scenario is that Babylon and Israel used the same calendar from their earliest history. However, since there are sources that say Babylon reckoned days from evening and others that say they reckoned days from sunrise, it would profit us to seek the truth in Scripture only.

Deductive Reasoning  

The author then tries to prove his belief using deductive reasoning. He uses the following example;


Statement accepted as true (premise):     And Elohim called the light day (Gen 1:5)


Additional Fact:     But the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh . . . (Ex.20:10)



Conclusion:     The Sabbath of Yahweh is the seventh light.



This example is true, if one uses the narrow definition of “day” as only the light portion. If, however, we use a broader definition of “day” (a 24 hour period including night), we can prove a day consists of night as well.

It is not uncommon for a Hebrew word to have two or more definitions. For example, “pesach” (Passover) can mean the lamb, the day or the entire festival of seven days. Can we insist that Passover is a specific day of only 12 or 24 hours when Ezekiel tells us the broader definition of it being the entire seven day festival (Ezek.45:21)? So, too, “yom” (day) has a broader definition. This does not contradict Gen.1:5 just as Ezekiel’s broader definition of pesach contradicts Lev.23:5.

For a broader definition of “day”, consider Yeshua’s words in Mark 14:30,

“And Yeshua said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.”

Here Yeshua includes the night as part of the day in which Peter would deny him. It was night when Yeshua spoke these words, yet he called it “day”.

According to Mt.27:1 and Mk.15:1, “morning” began AFTER Peter’s denial. Lu.22:66 says the “day” began AFTER Peter’s denial. Therefore, Peter’s denial took place at night, prior to morning or day, and yet, Yeshua called it “this day”. Why? Because there is a broader definition of “day” which includes the night portion.

Now let’s prove this by deductive reasoning.



Statement accepted as true (premise):          

“And Yeshua said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That thisday, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.” (Mk.14:30)





Additional Fact:     Peter denied Yeshua at night

(Mt.27:1; Mk.14:30; 15:1; Lu.22:66)



Conclusion:     The day includes the night.



As you can see by this example of deductive reasoning, the Scriptures teach both a narrow and a broad definition of “day”. Gen 1:5 is very narrow and Mk.14:30 is broad. As with all Holy Days (including the Day of Atonement which I deal with later), the broader definition which includes the night is the proper understanding.

Those who do not believe the concept of a 24 hour day reject my use of Mk.14:30 to support it. They say the word “day” is not in the Greek text. Let’s look into this a little closer.

The common Greek word for “day” is “hemera” (Strong’s #2250). Strong’s definition is as follows; ” . . .mean. tame, ie. gentle, day, ie. (lit.) The time space between dawn and dark, or the whole 24 hours . . .”

The Greek word for “this day” in Mk.14:30 KJV is “semeron”. (Strong’s #4594). Strong’s definition is as follows; “neut. (as adv.) of a presumed comp. of the art.3588 . . .and 2250; on the (ie. this) day (or night current or just passed); gen. now (ie. at present, hitherto)”

Thayer’s Lexicon says, “also where the speaker refers to the night just passed, Mt.xxvii.19; equiv. to this night (now current), Lk.ii.11.”

Therefore, we have the Greek word for “day” as the root of the Greek word for “this day” in Mk.14:30. A prefix was added to “hemera” to denote a specific “day”, that is, “this day” or “today”.

Now let’s see some examples of how “semeron” (in bold) was used in the Bible.

Luke 2:11 reads;

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Messiah the Master.”

When was our Savior born? At night (vs.8). The night in which Yeshua was born is called “this day” in verse 11. He wasn’t born on just any “day”, but on the specific “day” in which the angel was speaking. That “day” includes night.

Matthew 27:19 reads;

“When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”

Pilate’s wife spoke these words in the morning (vs.1) and was referring to a dream she had the night that just ended. She wasn’t referring to a dream she had two days ago, but the one she had “this day”.

Ex.13:4 in the Greek Septuagint reads;

This day came ye out in the month Abib.”

When did they come out? At night (Deut.16:1). “This day” = night.

More importantly, however, is that the Septuagint uses “semeron” here whereas the Hebrew uses “ha yom”. “Yom” is the Hebrew word translated “day” concerning all Sabbaths and feasts. If those promoting a weekly Sabbath from dawn to dark insist that “yom” only means the daylight portion of a day, they must also accept the fact that “semeron” is interchangeable with “ha yom” as the Septuagint proves. Is “ha Yom” the same as “yom”? No. “Yom” means “day” whereas “ha yom” means “this day”. In the Hebrew of Ex.13:4, a “yom” (day) is being referred to, but the prefix “ha” is added to specify a specific “yom”.

Recall that dawn proponents reject Mk.14:30 because they say “day” is not in the Greek. Not only is “day” (hemera) a root of “semeron” and therefore in the Greek, yet veiled as a root, but “day” (yom) is in the Hebrew as well.

Let’s look at one more Old Testament example as it relates to Sabbath. Ex.16:25 in the Septuagint reads;

“And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto [Yahweh]: ye shall not find it in the field.”

Both uses of “to day” are “ha yom” in Hebrew; not just any “yom” (day), but the “yom” Moses was speaking on in verse 25. In this verse, “ha yom” and “semeron” mean the same thing (a specific day or yom, this day, to day).

So when Yeshua said, “Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice,” he is including the night as part of “this day”, “this” specific “day” (or “yom” since he was probably speaking Hebrew) on which he was speaking.

Consider, also, Acts 27:20;

“And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.”

Stars in the day? Yes, if the broader definition is used.

So when this author says,

“The Biblical day cannot include night,” (p.19)

you know he is incorrect.

On page 13 of the publication in question, the author digresses by falsely teaching that Yeshua was the “Elohim” of Gen.1:1. This concept is soundly refuted in other studies on this blog. Click here for one.

He goes on to give us a false interpretation of John 1:1,3. Click here for the historic rendering of John 1:1-3.

On page 20, he writes;

“And in verse 8: “And when Aaron lighteth the lamps AT EVEN [the time from sunset to dark], he shall burn incense upon it . . .,”

The Hebrew for the phrase “at even” actually means “between the evenings” and is a time period prior to sunset. Click here for a study on this phrase.

Leviticus 23:32 

On pages 32-36, the author tries to show how the Day of Atonement is a special Sabbath that is not to be kept from dawn to dark as the weekly Sabbath would. He says people are using “inductive reasoning” to conclude that since the Day of Atonement Sabbath is from even to even, then so must the weekly Sabbath. While it is true that such an assumption is unreasonable, we can still use deductive reasoning in this case.

Lev.23:27-32 clearly teach the “DAY” of Atonement begins at even (sundown) and ends at the next even. Therefore, the “DAY” of Atonement includes the night.

Statement accepted as true (premise):     Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: (Lev.23:27a)
Additional Fact:         It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath. ( Lev.23:32)



Conclusion #1:     The day includes the night.
Conclusion #2:     The Sabbath “Day” can include the night using the broader definition of “day.”    

Now, this entire doctrine of when a Scriptural day begins, especially as it relates to Holy Days or annual Sabbaths, is open to interpretation. One can choose to apply a narrow or a broad definition to the phrase “Sabbath Day.” Since the Jews have historically began Sabbath at sundown, including the time period encompassing Yeshua’s life on earth, and since it is unclear how the Jews reckoned days prior to their Babylonian captivity, to try and prove a dawn to dark Sabbath is fruitless.

Mark 1:32 

On page 37, the author tries to show that this verse cannot be used as evidence to support a Sabbath ending at sundown, Mark 1:32 reads;

“And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.”

The people were well aware of the teachings of the Pharisees concerning healing on the Sabbath. Luke 13:14 reads;

“And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Yeshua had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.”

This was the common teaching of the Jewish leaders. This is what all the people were taught all their lives and that is what the people obeyed. Therefore, they waited until the Sabbath Day had ended at sunset to come and get healed. They waited for the first work day to begin at sunset. At that point it was safe to resume work (including healing). Little did they know they were being taught falsely that being healed on Sabbath was forbidden by the fourth commandment.

Yeshua was definitely not intimidated by Jewish leaders. Had the people come to him on the Sabbath Day he would have healed them. The people, however, feared the rulers and would not defy their commands. 

Nehemiah 13:19 

On pages 43-45, the author appeals to Neh 13:19 to verify that the Sabbath does not begin at sunset. Neh 13:19 reads,

“And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: . . .”

The author mentions several translations that use the word “dark” (Strong’s # 6751) or “darkness” and then says,

“Clearly these agree it began to be a time of very little or practically no light, i.e. darkness. Darkness is not light.”

By this, the author concludes the gates were shut after sunset, sometime during twilight, yet before Sabbath.

A look into the Hebrew will help us to understand what is being said.

Compare Strong’s # 6751 with # 2822. The latter refers to darkness without light. Consider these verses;

Joshua 2:5;

“And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I know not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.”

Job 12:25;

“They grope in the dark without light, and he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.”

Job 18:6;

“The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out with him.”

These verses refer to a different kind of darkness than Neh.13:19. Notice Jos. 2:5 in which the gates were shut when it was dark (without light). This, no doubt, refers to shutting the gates at night whereas Neh.13:19 refers to shutting the gates at sundown when twilight was about to begin. As soon as the shadows were gone, that was Nehemiah’s signal to close the gates. Shadows disappear the moment the sun sets. Nehemiah closed the gates the moment the Sabbath began.

Another “dawn Sabbath” proponent wrote;

“Since the gates of Yerusalem were shut during All the Nights (Nehemyah 7:3), the order was to keep them shut during All the Sabbath, otherwise, as they did before (Nehemyah 13:15-18), the traders and merchandisers would continue to enter in Yerusalem, bringing in their loads, From The Next Morning, during The Sabbath, to sell, buy, trade products on The Sabbath Day, as we can Clearly read that they still tried to do,sleeping outside the wall the night before The Sabbath Day, even after the order of Nehemyah, until he threathened them to use force against them (Nehemyah 13:20-21)!”

To which I respond; The traders were conducting business on the Sabbath (after sundown). Nehemiah gave a new command to shut the gates at sundown to guard the Sabbath. If it was a common practice to shut the gates every day at evening or at night, there would be no need for such a command to close the gates. All he needed to do was command them not to open the gates at sunrise Sabbath morning. Verse 21 makes it clear that they were coming on the Sabbath and lodging (sleeping) outside the walls. Once Nehemiah threatened them, they no longer came on Sabbath to try and sell or to lodge outside the walls.

Another point to consider is this; why command them to shut the gates at sunset (or even twilight) if the Sabbath wasn’t going to start until dawn? They still had plenty of time to buy and sell even until the stars came out; even until midnight if they so chose. The fact of the matter is, Sabbath would begin at sunset and that is the exact time Nehemiah commanded the gates to be shut.

The Evening and the Morning 

Gen.1:5 reads;

“. . .And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

The Hebrew reads;

“And was evening (ereb) and was morning day one.”

The author says,

” . . .the word order does not here signify a time order of occurrence in which day begins in the evening . . .”

He tries to prove “evening” is at the end of a day by once again holding to a narrow definition of “day”.

He writes on page 25,26;

“Now we know that evening is a period of light. But is it a period of light at the end of the day or the beginning of the day? It is definitely at the end of a day. . .

First recall that light is Day. Now, since Night is darkness, it cannot be Day, For darkness was separated from the light (Gen.1:4). So when night starts, day or the light period must end since they are separate from each other. Consequently, when one starts the other must end.

Second, the Bible tells us evening starts at sunset: . . .” 

Keep in mind that our Savior Yeshua believed night was part of a 24 hour day (Mark 14:30). This directly contradicts the author’s statements above that “light is Day” and that “Night . . . cannot be day”. Yeshua understood the broad definition of day whereas this author doesn’t.

Concerning the word order of Gen.1:5, Yahweh does not do things haphazardly. He is very orderly and precise. Why would He call only twilight and dawn “day one”? Is that all there is to day one? What happened to the period between dawn and evening? He does not say, “and was evening and was morning and was daytime.” Obviously, He intended “evening” (beginning at sunset) as the starting point of day one and meant it in a broader sense than just twilight.

Consider the following two verses as using “ereb” (evening) in a broad sense.

Job 7:4 – “When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night (ereb) be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.”

Did he mean twilight would be gone when he arose or night would be gone? He was having restless nights and couldn’t wait for them to end.

Ps 30:5 – “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night (ereb), but joy cometh in the morning.”

Weeping may endure throughout all of twilight, a whole hour or so? I would not call that enduring, but to weep all night, that is enduring.

Once again, let’s address this concept of the “evening” being the “twilight” at the end of a day. If that is the case, why would the Day of Atonement begin with the evening of the previous day? Yahweh commanded Israel to begin the Sabbath of Atonement with the evening between the ninth and tenth days of the month. Why not begin Atonement with the night following day nine rather than the evening? Why didn’t He say to keep it from dawn on the tenth day to dawn on the eleventh day? Why end the Day of Atonement prior to day eleven?

All these questions are answered by the simple fact that Yahweh chose evening to evening (sunset to sunset) because He was starting at one day and ending at the next day. If evening is at the end a day, then the Day of Atonement should really be the “DAYS” of Atonement since it includes part of the ninth day (evening) and part of the tenth day (dawn to evening)!

Acts 27:9 reads;

“Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,”

This is a reference to the Day of Atonement fast which most margins reference. That fast began at even when the actual “Day” of Atonement began (Lev.23:32).

Acts 27:27 then says;

“But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country;”

This refers to the 14th night of fasting which began the evening preceding the daylight portion of the 10th day of the 7th month when the “Day” of Atonement began.

Acts 27:33 reads;

“And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.”

Here we see “this day” (semeron) is the 14th “day” (hemera) that they were fasting.

Notice what is happening here. Since the “Day” of Atonement began on the evening preceding the daylight portion of the 10th day of the 7th month, all ensuing days are kept the same way, that is, the night precedes the day. Also, all days preceding the 10th would be kept the same way, the night preceding the day.

If this were not the case, then somewhere a change would have to be made. Either the 9th day lost its night or the 11th day gained a night. This, of course, is problematic only for those that believe the day comes first, then the night. For those who believe the Genesis account of “the evening and the morning” occurring in that order, there is harmony.

 Some Things To Consider 

I would like to mention a few more points before I conclude this study.

Lev 15:19 reads,

“And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.”

If the woman’s flow began at 8:00 pm (night), according to this “day begins at dawn” theory, this woman could still be touched and even had relations with prior to the next “day” beginning. Then, after that first “day” ended, she could again be touched that night until the next “day” and so on. It is obvious that these seven days must include the seven nights as well.

Also, whoever touched the woman would be unclean until “even” (sunset). The publication I am refuting agrees that “even” = sunset. On page 26, the author writes;

“Second, the Bible tells us the evening starts at sunset.”

That being the case, why would a person become clean at sunset rather than dark? The simple answer is because a day ends at sunset. Once a new day begins, a new, clean beginning starts for the person that was unclean.

Consider the following as well;


“And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down , Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.”


“… and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day.”

The underlined words in both verses are the equivalent Hebrew of “at the going down” in Deut.16:6. Notice one verse says the sun was already down and the other verse says it was going down. To understand what the status of the sun really was, we must look at the commandment that led Joshua to order the king’s body taken down. It is found in Deut.21:22,23;

“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day ; (for he that is hanged is accursed of Elohim;) that thy land be not defiled, which Yahweh thy Elohim giveth thee for an inheritance.”

Yahweh commanded the body to be removed and buried the same day . To accomplish that, the body had to be removed before sunset . After sunset would have been a new day. Josh.8:29 should have been translated “at the going down of the sun” just as Deut.16:6 and Josh.10:27 were.

Yeshua was also hung on a tree. Here is how the non-canonical Gospel of Peter describes the account.

Gospel of Peter – Fragment 1

03, 04] Now there stood there Joseph the friend of Pilate and of [Yeshua], and he, knowing that they were about to crucify him, came unto Pilate and begged the body of [Yeshua] for burial. And Pilate sending unto Herod, begged His body. 05] And Herod said: Brother Pilate, even if none had begged for Him, we should have buried Him, since also the Sabbath dawneth; for it is written in the law that the sun should not set upon one that hath been slain (as per Dt. 21:23). 06] And he delivered him unto the people before the first day of unleavened bread, even their feast. 15] Now it was noonday, and darkness prevailed over all Judaea: and they were troubled and in an agony lest the sun should have set, for that he yet lived: for it is written for them that the sun should not set upon him that hath been 16] slain (as per Dt.21:23).

How clear this entire passage is!!! “for it is written in the law that the sun should not set upon one that hath been slain.” That is the interpretation of Dt.21:23. In order to be buried the same day, he had to be buried by SUNSET, not sunrise. Notice they were in “agony” because they were afraid the sun would SET before they buried Messiah. If they had all night to bury him there would be no agonizing rush to bury him.


The word “day” can narrowly apply to only the daylight portion of a day or can broadly apply to a period of time from even to even (sunset to sunset).

Yeshua included the night in the “day” in Mark 14:30.

Two annual Sabbaths (Passover and Atonement) include the night as part of the “day”.

The Jews have historically kept Sabbath from sunset to sunset.

Pagans keep days beginning with sunset or beginning with dawn. Therefore, to claim a sunset Sabbath is pagan is to also claim a dawn Sabbath is pagan. Relying on pagan practices to determine the truth is useless.

Dawn proponents claim sunset proponents are breaking the Sabbath if they work during the twilight after the sun sets ending Sabbath. If this a concern to anyone who is unsure which view is correct, you can always end Sabbath at dark. It is a Jewish practice to build fences around the Sabbath to protect its pollution. They will begin Sabbath prior to sunset and end it when three stars are seen.

On the other hand, if a sunset Sabbath is correct, anyone who works from sunset to dawn will be breaking the Sabbath.

Based on these points, it would be rather absurd to abandon a sunset to sunset Sabbath belief for something so foreign and so unsubstantiated as a dawn to dark Sabbath.


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