We have included this article, and the article ‘When was the Exodus?’, from a guest contributor, for extra information as they reveal the time the Israelites left Egypt as recorded in the BIBLE. This is important as doctrines are formed on the information presented.
An understanding of the meaning of ‘Boqer’ will change some perceptions we have of the time and day the Israelites left ie night of the 14th, not the night of the 15th, and also the ‘night of watching by the Lord’ in Exod 12:42 which many celebrate as the ‘Night to be Much Observed’. The night of the 15th is the first Holy night of the Days of Unleavened Bread and should be a special occasion but the night before, the 14th was the one the Lord told the Israelites to be kept. They had their bowls strapped to their backs, sandals on and their staff in hand, ready to leave at a moments notice after the death angel struck at midnight. They left at night (Deut 16:1). ‘Boqer’ has a ‘dark time’ period as described, and a morning component too.
BY GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
Did the Israelites leave Egypt on the fourteenth or the fifteenth?
The Bible tells us they were to eat the Passover on the night of the fourteenth and were to remain indoors till morning (“BOQER” in Hebrew.) But we are also told they went out “by night”. Which suggests they left on the fifteenth. That conclusion is based on “BOQER” meaning only the period after dawn, when it is light. But as we shall see, “BOQER” cannot be that easily defined, and there is no reason not to conclude they went out on the fourteenth.
The following examples show BOQER being used in ways that throw doubt on whether it always meant a period of light, following the dawn.
Gen 44:3 “As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away they and their asses". [if BOQER always meant a time of light after dawn, the phrase used here, “as soon as the morning was light” would not be necessary]
Exodus 14:24 “And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud and troubled the host of the Egyptians”. [ The pillar of fire was present only at night time, so the morning watch [BOQER watch] must have included a period of darkness.]
Judges 9:33 “And it shall be, as soon as the sun is up in the morning, that you shall rise early and rush upon the city. [BOQER (morning) is qualified by “as soon as the sun is up”. But if BOQER meant only the dawn, the qualification would not be necessary.
Judges 16:2 “When the Gazites were told “Samson has come here!” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. They were quiet all night, saying, “in the morning, when it is light, we will kill him.” [Same comment, BOQER must not be self-explanatory in the Hebrew, since it was necessary to add “when it is daylight” to give the exact meaning.]
Judges 19 :25-27 “But the men would not heed him. So, the man took his concubine and brought her out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until morning; and when the day begin to break, they let her go.” Then the woman came as the day was dawning and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light.” When her master arose in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to go his way, there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold.”
There are several steps in this story.
- They abused her till BOQER.
- When the day began to break, they let her go. This daybreak seems to be the first glimmer of light. It is translated sometimes as dayspring; and is also translated as dawn; but it is not the sunrise.
- Then the woman came when the day was dawning. The phrase in Hebrew is literally “at the turning of the morning” (BOQER)” Which possibly means sunrise, since that is a turning point.
- The woman fell at the door TILL it was light. “Light” in this sentence means bright, and thus indicates the sun was up by then. The master arose in the morning [BOQER]and found his concubine on his doorstep. So BOQER is used thrice in these verses to mean different times. The first seems to be a time before the first glimmer of light, the second seems to be sunrise, and the third seems to be daylight.
Ruth 3:14 “So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” [BOQER in this verse seems to indicate at least semi darkness.]
1 Sam 14 :36 “Now Saul said, “” Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them until morning light;” [ it is necessary to qualify BOQER in this verse with “light”. But if BOQER was always associated with light anyway, it would be redundant to in include the word “light”]
1 Sam 25:22 “May God do so and more also, to the enemies of David, if I leave one male of all who belong to him by morning light.” [Same comment]
1 Sam 25:10 “Now therefore, rise early in the morning with your master’s servants who have come with you. And as soon as you are up early in the morning and have light, depart. [There are two things to note in this verse. 1: BOQER is qualified by “early”, so BOQER must be an extended period of time; if it was a single point of time, such as “sunrise”, early wouldn’t be necessary. 2: They were up early in BOQER, but they still had to wait for the light before they departed. So BOQER can include a time before there was sufficient light to travel.
1 Kings 3 :21 “And when I rose in the morning to nurse my son, there he was, dead. But when I had examined him in the morning, indeed, he was not my son whom I had borne. [When the woman arose in the BOQER to feed her son it must have been dark because she didn’t know the child was not hers. When later in the BOQER she examined him, she saw the child was not hers. So BOQER can include a period of darkness.]
Micah 2:1 “Woe to those who devise iniquity and work out evil on their beds! At morning light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. [Once again, BOQER is qualified by “light”, so BOQER must be able to mean a time when there is not light. Otherwise it wouldn’t be necessary to include the word “light”]
From the above examples we can conclude, at the very least, that BOQER is not confined to the narrow meaning which some give it. Probably, BOQER meant much the same to the Hebrews as our “morning” means to us. That is, an indefinite time following our sleep, up to the middle of the day. The Greek language seems to have the same, loose, meaning because we read of Jesus in Mark 1:35
“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”
The important point to grasp is that the meaning of BOQER cannot be easily pinned down. Consequently, no doctrines can be hung upon it. A fundamental rule of Bible study is to use the clear Scriptures to throw light on the unclear; not attempt to use the unclear Scriptures to undermine the clear.