Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Old Testament understanding of time

Posted by Chris on July 13, 2008

This is part of a series. See the description and introduction and glossary.

Before I move on to the specific holidays, it is important to try and give and explanation of how the Israelites view “days”.  It is helpful for understanding the timeline as you read the text.  My explanation is based only on my own logic and some elementary understanding of Jewish tradition; therefore it probably contains some faults but as I stumbled over some timeline issues, especially studying the Feast of Unleavened Bread, these conclusions were helpful to my holistic understanding of what is happening.

The Jewish “day” starts in the evening, at sundown.  So, the Sabbath begins on Friday night and goes into Saturday.  Saturday night, which is on the same “day” in the time sense, is not the Sabbath.

In other words, there is a difference between what I’ll call “Jewish time” and “calendar time.”  Let’s say that a 2 day feast starts on the 15th day of the month, a Wednesday.  Wednesday morning is the first day of the feast.  But Tuesday night is also the first day of the feast, even though that is the 14th.  Yet, the feast will still end on the 16th.  So the feast takes place on 3 different “calendar time” days but only lasts 48 hours.  It takes place over 2 “Jewish days,” ending at sundown on the 16th.

We can see parallels in our own culture.  Christmas is not celebrated by children after their bedtime at 8 pm on December 25th.  But Christmas Eve might include reading stories, opening a gift, or looking in the sky to see a plane fly that parents can call Santa.  In a way, the Christmas celebration takes place for 28 hours, from the night of Christmas Eve until the bedtime on December 25th.

The next post will deal with Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread and this understanding of time is important for understanding the passage of the Festival.  It is important, if for no other reason, than to make sense of the Feast so that you don’t get confused and have unnecessary doubts (there are enough other things to be confused over!)

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One Response to “Old Testament understanding of time”

  1. […] to give a good picture of Passover but also differ in purpose to complement one another.The last post I made on Old Testament time is important here. Passover starts on the 14th day of the first month (see Timeline), at twilight. […]

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