בָּרִאשֹׁן בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יֹום לַחֹדֶשׁ בָּעֶרֶב תֹּאכְלוּ מַצֹּת עַד יֹום הָאֶחָד וְעֶשְׂרִים לַחֹדֶשׁ בָּעָרֶב 12:18
Exod. 12:18 “In the first month, in the month’s fourteenth day, in the evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the month’s twenty and first day, in the evening.”
In this verse one could easily assume that we have corroboration for the Jewish day going from sunset to sunset. However, if we examine the wording carefully without prejudice, we must reach a contrary conclusion, one that corroborates my contention that the Jewish day doesn’t start in the evening (see Gene. 1:5 and v. 12:6)..
Consider this: There are really only two possible interpretations of the first part of this verse, “In the first month, in the month’s fourteenth day, in the evening, ...” and the last part of the verse, “... until the month’s twenty and first day, in the evening.” They are:
(1) each day starts in the evening; so the Lord is instructing us to eat unleavened bread in the evening of the 14th day, i.e., at the start of the 14th day, and until the evening of the 21st day, i.e., the start of the 21st day,
and (2) each day does not start in the evening and the Lord is instructing us to eat unleavened bread at the end of daylight on the 14th day until the end of daylight on the 21st day.
With possibility (1), we would be eating unleavened bread at the start of the 14th day. This conflicts with the wording of vss. 12:6 and 8. Therefore, it can’t be the correct conclusion.
With possibility (2), we would be eating unleavened bread at the end (evening) of the 14th day. This is obviously the correct conclusion for understanding the ramifications of this verse.
As a result, v. 12:18 gives us one of the strongest arguments for the day starting in the morning. If it starts in the evening, the holiday starts on the fourteenth day, not the fifteenth. As I see this result, the day, in recognition of the first act of Creation, starts with first light, just before dawn, and ends immediately before first light of the next morning. Other verses we will encounter in Leviticus 6 and 23 and in Numbers 9 and 33 will offer equally convincing evidence for my conclusion.
Traditional comments on the consequences of this verse and the others are absent from the literature, and it appears to have escaped notice until now, something I consider truly remarkable (and humbling - that I would discover this amazing fact). It also makes me wonder if I’m insane.
Before leaving this important topic, we should look at it from a totally different perspective. Suppose the timing of the day had already been established when the events of Genesis and Exodus were recorded -- actually considered by many as a most likely situation. Under this assumption, the going practice and understanding would have been that a day started in the evening. If that were the case, it would explain why the scribe(s) would record the happenings of these books as they were recorded. However, then we must conclude that the scribe(s) was not too smart and made a terrible error in this verse, having no idea of the hidden consequence of the words in the verse. This is certainly a possibility that cannot be reasonably refuted, but I give the scribe(s) more credit than that. As I’ve already stated, I believe that the scribe(s) thought the events and instructions and commands he (they) was (were) recording had come directly from God (through an intermediary perhaps) and were sacred. Why would the scribe question what he was recording? It seems to me he would have questioned only if he was a passionate cynic or impassioned skeptic. Certainly he (they) was (were) neither. Whatever the case, established tradition or no, this perspective does not settle or alter the controversy. The preponderance of the argument, however, rests with the day starting in the morning, not the evening. Six very convincing pieces of evidence point to that, and only a very weak and fallible argument can be raised for the day starting in the evening. I rest my case.
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