Days, Months, and Years in the Holy Bible
Copyright © July 1, 2017 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
The Holy Bible uses the words days, months, and years starting in the first book of the Bible and continuing to the last book of the Bible. Therefore it would be useful if we had a better understanding of what these words mean when they are used in the Holy Bible.
In the Holy Bible the Hebrew day began at sunset of one day and ended at sunset of the next day. A Hebrew day therefore contains the same amount of time as a day in the 21st century with the only difference being that a Hebrew day begins at sunset whereas in the 21st century we define a new day to begin at midnight.
Months and Years
In the beginning mankind measured time using one solar day and one lunar cycle of the moon.
Due to the elliptical orbit of the moon, one complete cycle of the moon (new moon to next new moon) takes between 29.27 days to 29.83 days, or an average of approximately 29.5 days.
Therefore one lunar month contains approximately 29.5 days.
The standard Hebrew calendar contained six months with 29 days each and six months with 30 days each.
Twelve months was one year. Therefore a standard Hebrew 12 month lunar year contained approximately 12 x 29.5 = 354 days.
A solar year contains approximately 365.25 days.
Therefore 12 lunar cycles is approximately 11.25 days shorter than one complete solar cycle.
The Hebrew calendar therefore added one additional month containing 30 days to their standard 12 month calendar once every second or third year in order to compensate for the difference between 12 lunar cycles and one solar cycle. (Note: A "leap" month was added approximately 7 times in 19 years.) This method allowed for the Hebrew calendar to be accurate to within one day per 224 years. (Note: Depending on the calendar being used as a reference, this difference of one day will occur somewhere between 216 years to 231 years.)
In simple terms what does this mean?
It means that if a Hebrew year is compared to what we now call one year in the 21st century (based on all of our current scientific and astronomical knowledge), then the Hebrew calendar contains a one day difference after approximately 81,816 days. In other words, the Hebrew calendar is accurate to within 0.001%, or it matches our current calendar system with an accuracy of 99.9%.
Therefore, from a "common sense" perspective, when the Holy Bible uses the word "year" then it refers to what we currently define to be one "year" with a difference of only one day after approximately 224 years, based on all of the accumulated scientific knowledge of mankind in the 21st century.
Keeping Track of the Passage of Time
In the afternoon one person may say to another person, "I'll see you in two days." Almost everyone understands that statement to mean that the reunion will occur the day after tomorrow. Very few people would expect it to mean exactly two 24-hour days and that the reunion will not occur until the afternoon of the second day. The reunion may occur in the morning of the second day, or at noon of the second day, or late in the evening on the second day, and the original statement of the person would still be truthfully fulfilled.
During the time period when the Holy Bible was being written, time was measured in a similar but slightly different way. Any part of a day was counted as one day. So the first day was counted as a day even if it was late in the day. And the last day was counted as a day even if it was early in the day. Therefore 3 days would be part of the first day, all of the second day, and part of the third day. This would be three days but it would not equal three 24-hour days.
The same procedure applied to recording the number of years. The first year was counted as a year even if it was near the end of the year. And the last year was counted as a year even if the year had just begun. Therefore twenty years would be some part of the first year, 18 full years, and some part of the last year.
Criticisms of Time in the Holy Bible
The number of people who wish to find fault with the Holy Bible is overwhelming. These people want to criticize anything and everything they can about the Bible. This includes casting doubt on what the words "day" and "year" mean in the first book of the Bible called "Genesis." These people claim that since Genesis was written so long ago that we cannot possibly know today how long a "day" or a "year" was back then, or what those "terms" meant when the book was originally written.
However, most knowledgeable Bible scholars agree that Moses was the most likely author of the first five books of the Bible, with the exception that the last chapter of the book of Deuteronomy that describes Moses death was written by someone who outlived Moses.
Moses was raised and educated during the first 40 years of his life in the home of Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, as the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter (Exodus 2:1-10). Moses received the best education available to the ruling class of Egyptians at that time in history, including their extensive knowledge of astronomy (not astrology). The Egyptians were the most intellectually advanced group of people in the world at that time and their pyramids, and their written language, and the artifacts found in their tombs attest to their knowledge and their beliefs.
Acts 7:17-22 - "As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father's house. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh's daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action." (NIV)
As the author of the first five books of the Holy Bible, Moses would have used the words "day" and "year" consistently in everything that he wrote. He would have had the Egyptian's knowledge of the lunar and solar cycles and he would have clearly understood the scientific implications of the words "day" and "year" when he wrote the book of Genesis. It is also helpful to remember that God spoke directly to Moses.
Exodus 33:11 - The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. (NIV)
Exodus 34:34-35 - But whenever he entered the LORD's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD. (NIV)
When the Holy Bible says that God created the world in six days and that God rested on the seventh day and that God declared the seventh day to be a holy day of rest, then God actually created the world in six days and each day was 24 hours in length. Some people want to argue that the sun and the moon were not created until the fourth day so it was not possible for the first three days to be 24 hours in length. This assumes that God did not know what He was doing on the first three days and that when God said that each of those three days ended that He did not know what He was referring to, and that God did not actually know that He was going to make a 24 hour day until the fourth day of creation. This assumes that God did not have a plan for all of creation before He spoke the heavens and the earth into existence on the first day of creation.
Some people want to argue that the entire universe, including the earth, is too complicated for God to have created everything in six days. These people want to limit God to their own knowledge and power.
I personally believe that God did exactly what He said He did and that God created the heavens and the earth in six days, and that each day contained 24 hours. I don't mind if other people want to place limits on what God can do and place restrictions on the power of God. But I personally believe God can do anything He wishes and that includes creating the entire universe and the earth in six days. (Note: In Revelation 21:1-5, the Holy Bible says that the first heaven and the first earth will pass away and that God will say "Behold, I am making all things new." When that happens all of us who have placed our faith in Jesus will get to be eyewitnesses to the power of God and to His ability to create an entire universe just by speaking the words. When that happens none of us will be ashamed of our faith in our Creator, or of our faith in what God said that He did in the Holy Bible.)
Some people want to object to the longevity of the people mentioned in the book of Genesis. They base their knowledge on how long the average person can live today and how long the average person has lived for the past few thousand years. As already mentioned, Moses knew exactly how long one year was. Please also remember that Moses received the words that he wrote down directly from God.
In the book of Genesis the life expectancy of the average person gradually declined. In the beginning it was not uncommon for a person to live more than 900 years. But then the average life expectancy decreased to about 600 years, and then 400 years, and then 200 years, and eventually to about 70 or 80 years which is normal today in several nations of the world in the 21st century.
I personally believe what the Holy Bible says and I believe that people did live more than 900 years when God first created the heavens and the earth. And I also believe that everyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God, and who accepts Jesus' death on the cross as the full payment for all their sins, will live forever with Jesus in glory.
I do not mind if other people do not wish to believe the entire Bible.
However, even though I do not understand everything in the Holy Bible (such as some of the imagery that is mentioned in some scriptures), I will not personally discredit anything the Holy Bible says.
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