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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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dā ( יום , yōm ; ἡμέρα , hēméra ): This common word has caused some trouble to plain readers, because they have not noticed that the word is used in several different senses in the English Bible. When the different uses of the word are understood the difficulty of interpretation vanishes. We note several different uses of the word:

(1) It sometimes means the time from daylight till dark. This popular meaning is easily discovered by the context, e.g. Genesis 1:5; Genesis 8:22 , etc. The marked periods of this daytime were morning, noon and night, as with us. See Psalm 55:17 . The early hours were sometimes called "the cool of the day" (Genesis 3:8 ). After the exile the day. or daytime was divided into twelve hours and the night into twelve (see Matthew 20:1-12; John 11:9; Acts 23:23 ); 6 a.m. would correspond to the first hour, 9 a.m. to the third; 12 noon to the sixth, etc. The hours were longer during the longer days and shorter during the shorter days, since they always counted 12 hours between sunrise and sunset.

(2) Day also means a period of 24 hours, or the time from sunset to sunset. In Bible usage the day begins with sunset (see Leviticus 23:32; Exodus 12:15-20; 2 Corinthians 11:25 , where night is put before day). See DAY AND NIGHT .

(3) The word "day" is also used of an indefinite period, e.g "the day" or "day that" means in general "that time" (see Genesis 2:4; Leviticus 14:2 ); "day of trouble" (Psalm 20:1 ); "day of his wrath" (Job 20:28 ); "day of Yahweh" (Isaiah 2:12 ); "day of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10 ); "day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2 );. "day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6 ).

(4) It is used figuratively also in John 9:4 , where "while it is day" means "while I have opportunity to work, as daytime is the time for work." In 1 Thessalonians 5:5 , 1 Thessalonians 5:8 , "sons of the day" means spiritually enlightened ones.

(5) We must also bear in mind that with God time is not reckoned as with us (see Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8 ).

(6) The apocalyptic use of the word "day" in Daniel 12:11; Revelation 2:10 , etc., is difficult to define. It evidently does not mean a natural day. See APOCALYPSE .

(7) On the meaning of "day" in the story of Creation we note (a ) The word "day" is used of the whole period of creation (Genesis 2:4 ); (b ) These days are days of God, with whom one day is as a thousand years; the whole age or period of salvation is called "the day of salvation"; see above. So we believe that in harmony with Bible usage we may understand the creative days as creative periods. See also ASTRONOMY; CREATION; EVOLUTION .

Figurative: The word "day" is used figuratively in many senses, some of which are here given.

(1) The span of human life . - Genesis 5:4 : "And the days of Adam ... were eight hundred years." "And if thou wilt walk ... then I will lengthen thy days" ( 1 Kings 3:14; compare Psalm 90:12; Isaiah 38:5 ).

(2) An indefinite time . - E xistence in general: Genesis 3:14 : "All the days of thy life" (compare Genesis 21:34; Numbers 9:19; Joshua 22:3; Luke 1:24; Acts 21:10 ).

(3) A set time . - Genesis 25:24 : "And when her days ... were fulfilled"; Daniel 12:13 : "Thou shalt stand in thy lot, at the end of the days" (compare Leviticus 12:6; Daniel 2:44 ).

(4) A historic period . - Genesis 6:4 : "The Nephilim were in the earth in those days"; Judges 17:6 : "In those days there was no king in Israel" (compare 1 Samuel 3:1; 1 Chronicles 5:17; Hosea 2:13 ).

(5) Past time . - Psalm 18:18 : "the day of my calamity"; Psalm 77:5 : "I have considered the days of old" (of Micah 7:20; Malachi 3:7; Matthew 23:30 ).

(6) Future time . - Deuteronomy 31:14 : "Thy days approach that thou must die"; Psalm 72:7 : "In his days shall ...." (compare Ezekiel 22:14; Joel 2:29; Matthew 24:19; 2 Peter 3:3; Revelation 9:6 ).

(7) The eternal . - I n Daniel 7:9 , Daniel 7:13 , where God is called "the ancient of days."

(8) A season of opportunity . - John 9:4 : "We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (compare Romans 13:12 , Romans 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 ). See DAY (4), above.

(9) Time of salvation . - S pecially referring to the hopes and prospects of the parousia (see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ). Romans 13:12 : "The night is far spent, and the day is at hand."

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Day'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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