Segment of time that includes the night ( Gen 1:8 ) as in a twenty-four hour day. "Day" also stands in contrast to "night" ( Num 11:32 ; Luke 18:7 ; Rev 7:15 ). The term may refer to an era ( Matt 24:37 ) or to the span of human history ( Gen 8:22 ), or specify a memorable event ( Isa 9:4 ) or a significant time ( Zep 1:14-16 ). The term often has a metaphorical meaning. A "day" is important largely for what fills it rather than for its chronological dimension.
The "Day" and Cosmic Order. The "days of creation" in Genesis 1, given the semipoetic nature of the composition, are quite possibly intended as literary devices, division markers as in a mosaic. The refrain, "And there was evening, and there was morning, " speaks not only of sequence but of an order that is affirmed following the flood as a foundational element in creation and as an answer to chaos and destruction ( Gen 8:22 ). The succession of days is testimony to a God whose governance of the universe is not haphazard but marked by order and, especially, reliability. The regularity of day and night guarantees God's promises in history as trustworthy. So when God makes a new covenant and assures Israel of continuing as a nation indefinitely, God offers the constancy of the cosmic order ("he who appoints the sun to shine by day") as his credentials for following through on his intention ( Jer 31:35-37 ).
The "Day" and Redemption History. Certain days in Israel's history were clearly days of salvation, the most striking of which was the day of God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt at the exodus ( Exod 12:14 ; 13:3 ). In conjunction with Saul's conflict with the Philistines, it is said, "so the Lord rescued Israel that day" ( 1 Sam 14:23 ).
Interest in "days to come" is a longstanding one ( Gen 49:1 ; Num 24:14 ). The prophets speak of a coming day when God will intervene in history. In that day a root will emerge from the stem of Jesse. This remarkable person will be endowed with the sevenfold Spirit ( Isa 10:33-11:10 ). In coming days, God will be exalted in all of Israel and even over all the earth ( Isa 2:11 ). In that future day Israel will be saved from her enemies and will be safely secured in her land. God promises that "In the day of salvation I will help you" ( Isa 49:8 ). Evil will be decisively dealt with and righteousness will be established. That decisive action involving judgment and salvation is the day of the Lord.
At Pentecost Peter can speak of the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy of the day of the Lord ( Acts 2:17-21 ; cf. Joel 2:28-32 ). Essentially this day is one in which God is fully on the scene; it is a day that he monopolizes. In the coming of Christ and in the Spirit's descent at Pentecost, Peter discerns a day of God. Because of God's grace and favor, the current day is the day of salvation ( 2 Cor 6:2 ). The offer during this extended "day" remains: "and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" ( Acts 2:21 ). Such decision is urged because God has "set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed" ( Acts 17:31 ). With regard to the history of redemption the word "day" is shorthand for a particular event (such as the exodus), but more often for an era as a singular stage in the progress of God's plan for salvation.
The "Day" and Calendars of Worship. Some days in Israel's calendar were set aside for special purposes (e.g., the Sabbath Exod 20:8-11 ; Deut 5:12-15 ). In keeping with the purpose of the day, which was to bring wholeness (Heb. salom), Jesus healed individuals of their sicknesses. The writer to the Hebrews sees in the day a prefiguring of the greater "rest" that God envisions for his own (4:6-11).
Special days are holy days that belong to God ( Ne 8:9 ). In Israel's religious calendar the Day of Atonement, observed soon after the day of the New Year (Sept.-Oct), was a day when corporate and individual sins were confessed, appropriate sacrifices and rituals were performed, and divine forgiveness was extended ( Lev 16 ; 23:26-32 ). Other special days were the several festivals, such as the Passover, the Feast of the Firstfruits, and the Feast of Tabernacles ( Lev 23 ; Deut 16:1-17 ). Taken together the days of festival indicated that Israel's religion was communal in character, that it came as an occasion for instruction, and that it was marked by joyfulness. Later in Israel's history the festival of Purim was added ( Esther 9:18-32 ). In New Testament times, Christians worshiped on the first day of the week ( 1 Cor 16:2 ), but Paul cautioned them not to overrate any festival ( Col 2:16 ).
The "Day" and Believer's Lifestyle. Life is lived a day at a time. Prayer is offered for daily bread ( Matthew 6:9-13 Matthew 6:31-34 ). Like Paul, the Christian in one sense dies daily ( 1 Cor 15:31 ), but in another sense is renewed day by day ( 2 Cor 4:16 ). Since within the larger span of history, any one person's days are like a shadow ( 1 Chron 29:15 ; Psalm 102:11 ), it is appropriate to pray for wisdom ( Psalm 90:12 ). Believers recognize that days can be stressful ( Gen 35:3 ), but they do not share a pessimistic view about life as a series of meaningless days ( Eccl 6:12 ). Jesus urged his followers to work the works of God while it is day ( John 9:4 ). Believers, children of the day as opposed to children of darkness, will do works of love and hope becoming to persons enlightened by the gospel ( 1 Thess 5:5 ).
Elmer A. Martens
Bibliography. G. Delling, TDNT, 2:943-53; S. J. DeVries, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow; G. Hasel, ISBE, 1:877-78; M. Saebo, TDOT, 6:12-32.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[J] indicates this entry was also found in Jack Van Impe's Prophecy Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary
Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Day'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".