The 24 hour "evening and mornings" ???

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Sun Aug 27 16:02:07 EDT 2000

I was surprised to come across this morning in my church service, in a song
which we sang, clear evidence that YOM does NOT always mean a 24 hour
period, even when it has no preposition. The song quoted from Isaiah 61:2,
in which YOM is in parallel with SHANA, in a clear case of synonymous
parallelism. Well, the parallel between "favour" and "vengeance" seems odd,
but I am sure that there is no intention of contrast between the time
periods involved. There are similar parallels in Is. 34:8, 63:4. The
parallel makes it clear that this "day of vengeance" was not intended by the
author to be understood as a 24 hour period. So why is it so certain that
the "days" of Genesis 1 are 24 hour periods, in the author's intention?

The "evening and morning" formula is hardly strong evidence as it occurs
only in Genesis 1, if I remember rightly. And the lack of examples of YOM
with an ordinal number tells us little because I am sure that almost all
cases of this outside Genesis 1 are in dates, so in a construction which is
not comparable. Unfortunately, as a general rule in Hebrew studies, the
limited size of the corpus and the lack of native speakers means that we
cannot argue that a word or phrase must always have a particular meaning
from the lack of unambiguous examples of it having another meaning.

Peter Kirk

----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Hildenbrand" <hildenbr at Haas.Berkeley.EDU>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Friday, August 25, 2000 9:19 PM
Subject: Re: The 24 hour "evening and mornings" ???

> We seem to be slipping in this thread.  I sent what is written below out
> to the list some time this past month.  The issue is a non-issue.  YOM in
> Gen 1 linguistically *has* to refer to a day of the 24 hour variety.
> That is a certainty.  Now, what you DO with that is up to your theology.
> It is not optional as to the intent of the author/editor of Gen 1.  The
> meaning of YOM is a linguistic question, not theological.
> Michael
> -------------------------------------
> Actually, YOM falls into quite clear categories.  When it is not augmented
> (prefixed article or pronoun-like "b"- or in the plural) and used with
> numbers, the word *always* refers to a literal day (some 200x), Gen 1 of
> course being a battleground.  Further in Gen 1, YOM is delimited by
> "evening and morning" a phrase which is never used in reference to
> anything other than a literal day.  I am sure that we do not want to get
> too deeply into this (presuppositions being what they are in this area)-I
> don't either.  BDB had this figured out a long time ago (they have these
> categories very clearly set out).  Also Evan-Shoshan divides up the usages
> quite neatly.
> Michael
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