1. Are there any historical documents that detail the differences in opinions on when the "Jewish Day" began? (Perhaps between Sadducee and Pharisee/Rabbinic definitions, etc).

  2. What the earliest - explicit - references to the Jewish day beginning at "Sunset"?

Note: Explicit historical or Scriptural References would certainly clarify the confusion:

Closely Related:

  • The essenes believed the day started with sunset. This is apparently the conclusion that either the book of jubilees or the book of Enoch comes to.
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 0:55
  • @Aaron - I think it must be Jubilees. the last chapter is about the Sabbath, the one before Passover. So, maybe here somewhere. I will keep looking. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 1:07
  • I don't understand your question. The definitions given at the link you provided include "late afternoon."
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 14:22
  • @Daniel - A.) Thank you for the helpful comment. B.) There is a mistake with the quote I provided, but it will take a bit to fix, (working on it).; C.) In the meantime, However - It shouldn't affect the question, which is still for help finding the earliest references to the "Jewish Day beginning at Evening". Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 15:42
  • "Me'erev ad erev tishbitu shabbatchem." It's clear shabbos runs from evening to evening. The Seventh day is also clearly defined as the sabbath. Ergo, the seventh day is defined as running from evening to evening. A->B, B=C, A->C. At that point, the text in Gen. 1 provides an inference for applying this to the remaining days, since it's evident the text holds it true for 1/7 of the week. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 15:50

3 Answers 3


The most reliable historical document is Scripture. The evidence from the manna in Exodus indicates a day started at sunset.

After leaving Egypt the people were fed by manna from the LORD:

So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. (Exodus 16:6-7 ESV)

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. (Exodus 16:13-14 ESV)

The events begin in the evening and continue to morning.

The manna was found on the ground each morning; it melted when in the sun:

Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. (Exodus 16:21 ESV)

When the sun grew hot, the manna melted. This means the sequence came to an end well before the next evening.

The LORD’s stated that He was going to feed the people and how He would do this:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain (מַמְטִ֥יר) bread from heaven (הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם) for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. (Exodus 16:4 ESV)

Rain (מַמְטִ֥יר) from heaven (הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם) means that the bread the LORD was to provide came down from above just as He sent rain:

For in seven days I will send rain (מַמְטִ֣יר) on the earth… (Genesis 7:4 ESV)

Before the people could gather the manna the LORD had to rain it down. Since the people found it on the ground in the morning, it had been rained down during the night. The sequence is rain down, find on the ground in the morning, melt during the day.

Since the LORD said He would rain down bread every day except for the Sabbath, each day begin at sunset.

  • It is really hard, from this context, to objectively say this is referring to a 'calendar day'. It is often the case in Scripture that a 'day' means just that--the day time. This context clearly distinguishes between the 'day' period from the 'night' period, and it is really hard to argue that this is referring to a calendar day somehow. Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 1:07

There were sects of Judaism that believed that the morning began the day of the Jewish calendar. i am not familiar with how the Sadduccees did their calendar, as they did not survive as a sect, nor did any of their writings (if they had any). Many people equate Sadduccees with Karaites, but this is not correct, Karaites follow the normal Jewish calendar, with exceptions to how a new moon is reckoned, and when Shavu'ot is.

If indeed the Jews at Qumran were Essenes, then we could say that there was an Essene calendar that was based off the book 1 Enoch and Jubilees. While you might not find the very specific phrasing of "the day begins at sunrise," the calendars they propose are solar calendars, which have their basis with the rising and the falling of the sun as their measurement of counting days. Unlike a lunar calendar, which is based on the appearance of (or lack thereof) the moon. Many ancient civilizations used a solar calendar, and in fact a variant of a solar calendar is what is commonly used in America, given to us by the Romans, which is why we reckon the day at sunrise. So when you read discussions of ancient Jewish sects, the term solar calendar has the implicit understanding that the days are reckoned at sunrise.

You can read some information regarding the calendar of Enoch here. Be aware that if you do a Google search of the Enoch calendar you will find lots of websites of new "Messianic Christian" sects that are attempting to revive the use of the Enochian calendar.

In terms of normative Judaism, the Rashbam claims that the Jewish day begins at sunrise, though he also says that his words are not to contradict halachah, but that he is simply giving what he considers the p'shat of the text. It is unknown if he was aware of any Essene documentation or if he came to this conclusion on his own.

Rashbam on Genesis 1:5

ויהי ערב ויהי בקר – אין כתיב כאן ויהי לילה ויהי יום אלא ויהי ערב, שהעריב יום ראשון ושיקע האור, ויהי בוקר, בוקרו של לילה, שעלה עמוד השחר. הרי הושלם יום א’ מן הו’ ימים שאמר הק’ בי’ הדברות, ואח”כ התחיל יום שיני, ויאמר אלהים יהי רקיע. ולא בא הכתוב לומר שהערב והבקר יום אחד הם, כי לא הצרכנו לפרש אלא היאך היו ששה ימים, שהבקיר יום ונגמרה הלילה, הרי נגמר יום אחד והתחיל יום שיני:

And it was evening and it was morning – It does not say “it was night and it was day”, but “it was evening”, [meaning] the first day passed and the light set, “and it was morning”, the ending of the night, for the dawn broke. One day of the six days mentioned in the Ten Commandments was completed. Afterwards the second day began, and God said “Let there be sky.” The verse is not coming to tell us that evening and morning constitute one day, for we do not need to explain anything but how the six days were, for with the coming of the morning the night was over – thus one day was completed and the second day begun.

Source: http://thetorah.com/can-torah-contradict-halacha/

  • Rashbam says that the six creation days went day-night, not that the Jewish day starts in the morning. He would be rolling in his grave if he knew that people were still misinterpreting him even after he tried so hard to be extra clear what he was saying.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 18:06
  • @elikakohen i am unaware of the authors commentaries regarding that verse. However they may be available at sefaria.org if you want to try your hand at the hebrew
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 18:51
  • 1
    @DoubleAA The Rashbam knew very well those same verses he is explaining were the basis for the idea that the days begin in the evening and that therefore his commentary could be used as a counter argument. Just like his grandfather Rashi before him who said that the torah is NOT talking about creation ex nihilo in Genesis 1:1. My proof that he knew his comments could be taken as counter to halakha is his intro to Parashat Misphatim
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 18:53
  • 1
    @Aaron He knew he could be misconstrued that way which is why he is extra clear that's not what he means. So don't present him that way.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 1:38
  • @Aaron , I’m not sure about the Essenes reckoning, but I heard they began the day at evening, I’m not sure.. However the common reckoning of the day today, is that the day starts at midnight, which follows the Roman convention… other ancient cultures, especially sun worshippers did start the day at sunrise, and ironically I believe many Christian’s also share that perspective, though I’m not sure.. FYI Commented Jan 20, 2022 at 21:19

The chronology given for the night of the Exodus from Egypt seems to indicate that (at least at that time) the start of the day must have been at sunrise. Here's why: Num 33:3 says that the children of Israel departed "..on the 15th day of the first month; on the day AFTER the Passover" Deu 16:1 says that "the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night" Now the night of departure could not have been the same night that the passover lamb was eaten (Ex 12:8)and that the Egyptian first-born were slain (at midnight Ex 12:29) because the children of Israel were commanded not to go out of their houses until morning (Ex 12:22). So the night of departure from Egypt had to be a night following the morning, which came after the night the Egyptian first born were killed. But Passover was on 14 Abib. If the days began at evening rather than morning, that second night for the departure would have had to have occurred on 16 Abib. I can't see how the chronology of the Exodus events can fit with a departure on the night of 15 Abib unless in those days, each day was beginning at sunrise.

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