From the beginning, time was divided into weeks, each consisting of six days of working and one of rest (Ge 2:2-3; 7:10; 8:10,12; 29:28). The references to this division of days becomes afterwards more frequent (Ex 34:22; Le 12:5; Nu 28:26; De 16:16; 2Ch 8:13; Jer 5:24; Da 9:24-27; 10:2-3). It has been found to exist among almost all nations.
Hebrew shabua', a period of sevens; Greek hebdomas. Is astronomically an appropriate division, as being the fourth of the 28 days' lunar month (more exactly 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes). In Ge 4:3 (margin) "at the end of days" the reference may be to such a period; but Abenezra explains "at the end of the year," namely, after the fruits of the earth were gathered in, the usual time for sacrifice. Noah's waiting other "seven days" (Ge 8:10), and Laban's requiring Jacob to fulfill Leah's "week," i.e. celebrate the marriage feast for a week with Leah (Ge 29:27), are explicit allusions to this division of time (compare Jg 14:12); also Joseph's mourning for Jacob seven days (Ge 50:10). The week of seven days was the basis of the sabbatical seven years, and of the Jubilee year after seven sevens of years.
Pentecost came a week of weeks after Passover, and was therefore called the feast of weeks (Ex 34:22). The Passover and the tabernacles' feast was for seven days each. (See SABBATH, on the beginning of this division dating as far back as God's rest on the seventh day after creation). It prevailed in many ancient nations; all the Semitic races, the Peruvians, Hindus, and Chinese. The Mahratta week has Aditwar (from aditya the sun, and war day), Somwar (from som the moon) Monday, Mungulwar (from Mungul Mars) Tuesday, Boodhwar (from Boodh Mercury) Wednesday, Bruhusputwar (from Bruhusputi Jupiter), Shookurwar (from Shookru Venus), and Shuniwar (from Shuni Saturn).
As Judah's captivity in Babylon was for 70 years, so its time of deliverance by Messiah was to be 70 sevens of years (Da 9:24-27). (See DANIEL.) Seven was a predominant number in Persia; seven days of feasting, seven chamberlains, seven princes (Es 1:5,10,14). Rome adopted the division by weeks.
There can be no doubt about the great antiquity of measuring time by a period of seven days.
The origin of this division of time is a matter which has given birth to much speculation. Its antiquity is so great its observance so widespread, and it occupies so important a place in sacred things, that it must probably be thrown back as far as the creation of man. The week and the Sabbath are thus as old as man himself. A purely theological ground is thus established for the week. They who embrace this view support it by a reference to the six days' creation and the divine rest on the seventh. 1st. That the week rests on a theological ground may be cheerfully acknowledged by both sides; but nothing is determined by such acknowledgment as to the original cause of adopting this division of time. Whether the week gave its sacredness to the number seven, or whether the ascendancy of that number helped to determine the dimensions of the week, it is impossible to say. 2d. The weekly division was adopted by all the Shemitic races, and, in the later period of their history at least, by the Egyptians. On the other hand, there is no reason for thinking the week known till a late period to either Greeks or Romans. So far from the week being a division of time without ground in nature, there was much to recommend its adoption. And further, the week is a most natural and nearly an exact quadri-partition of the month, so that the quarters of the moon may easily have suggested it. It is clear that if not in Paul's time, yet very soon after, the whole Roman world had adopted the hebdomadal division. Weeks, Feast of. [PENTECOST]