Should the weekly Sabbath observance be for 24 hours or only during daylight hours?

Email Received:

I want to refer you to this web page: He indicates not only that the weekly Sabbath should be observed on Saturday but, also, that that the observance should be only during daylight. What do you think?

Ted’s Response:

The author of that web page has attempted to demonstrate how the Sabbath is composed only of daylight hours and does not include the initial hours of darkness. I DO agree with his assumption that the Sabbath should be kept on Saturday, not Sunday. However, I do not agree that the initial hours of darkness should be excluded from the Sabbath. I will use Bible passages to explain my position.

It is true that "day" can indicate "light," as in Genesis 1:5a. But the second part of that same verse indicates that initially "evening" (darkness), and then "morning" (light), were part of the first day.

In the Bible, the darkness following sunset is the beginning of a new date or day. The initial "evening" or "darkness" is just as much a part of that day as the "morning" or "light" portion. For instance, Leviticus 23:32 describes when one of the special Sabbaths (in this case, Yom Kippur = Day of Atonement) is to take place. It says, "From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath." It not only is this special Sabbath that begins in the evening (that is, at sunset); ALL Sabbaths, including the regular weekly Sabbath, begin in the evening, after sunset.

In the whole chapter of Leviticus 11, various things are shown which would cause the ancient Israelites who touched them to be unclean. In each case, the person was considered to be unclean until evening (that is, until the sun went down), because evening was the beginning of a brand new day/date. Each new day began at sunset, with darkness of approximately 12 hours, and ended the following sunset, after a period of light of approximately 12 hours.

As Moses and the ancient Israelites wandered around the Sinai Desert, they would set up camp every few days to rest for a time. Whenever they did this, one of the first things to be set up was the tabernacle or Tent of the Testimony. Numbers 9:15 indicates that on the day the tabernacle was set up, a cloud covered it, and "From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire." Darkness, from evening till morning, was an integral part of each and every full and complete day.

In the sixth paragraph of the Passover and crucifixion on Thursday section of my Good Thursday commentary, I describe how the Passover lamb—including our ultimate Passover Lamb, Jesus—was slain at "twilight" or mid-afternoon (about 3:00 p.m.) on Preparation Day, Aviv 14. As the lamb was slain, Passover officially began. Now, consider these passages, pertaining to the day of Jesus' crucifixion and burial (which was Preparation Day, Aviv 14):

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached.... (Mark 15:42)

It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. (Luke 23:54)

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. ... Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:31,42)

Jesus was crucified at mid-afternoon on Preparation Day, Aviv 14, while it was still daylight. The next day, Aviv 15, which began at sunset, was the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6) and was considered to be a "special Sabbath" (John 19:31a). Jewish tradition dictated that a body should not be left on a cross during a Sabbath (19:31b), so Jesus' body had to be buried before sunset—that is, before evening (darkness) arrived (Mark 15:42) and the next day began.

In summary, a 24-hour solar day in Jewish tradition starts at sunset—that is, with darkness. A Sabbath day, whether it is a regular weekly Sabbath or a special Sabbath, like any other day, begins at sunset. It ends 24 hours later, following the light portion of the day.

I believe that if someone wants to celebrate the weekly Sabbath beginning when the sun rises on Saturday and extending until the sun sets, that is fine. Personally, I choose to celebrate the weekly Sabbath beginning at sunset on Friday and extending for 24 hours to sunset on Saturday. I do not believe that the Fourth Commandment, to observe the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week (Exodus 20:8-11), was changed to a Sabbath observance on the first day of the week just because Jesus rose from the dead on that day. See the following:

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