In our desire to get closer to Yahweh, we continue to search His Word and often we see things we did not see before. Yahweh did not give us all understanding at once - our human minds could not have grasped it. But as we seek, He gives us a little more. When He sees that we are willing to change and follow Him wherever He leads, He blesses us with deeper understanding. The cycle goes on. The time has come to review Passover in both the Old and New Testaments.
Have you ever noticed that different groups observe the Passover at different times? Sometimes a month or so apart? And they don't necessarily do it at the same time as the Jews. Other churches observe what they call the Lord's Supper as often as monthly. How do you know when it is the right time? Is it observed with unleavened bread and wine? Or crackers and grape juice? Or with a Seder meal? What about the Night to be Much Observed? Is that a separate celebration? A different evening? How does it fit into the scheme of things? So, who is right? They can't all be. We will look at some of these points, but by no means will all questions be answered.
The first instance of Passover is in the book of Exodus. The children of Israel had been in slavery in Egypt for a long time. Using Moses as a human leader, Yahweh had the people begin making preparations for freedom. He was going to show them who He was and the power He had.
In Exodus 12 Yahweh relates to them the things they are to do. He specified in verse 2, "This month shall be the chief of months for you. It shall be the first of the months of the year for you." When is that? January? During the winter? No.
Today you are going out in the month of Abib.
The word aviv is Strong's #24. It means "green, i.e., a young ear of grain; hence, the name of the month Abib or Nisan." But it means somewhat more. In order for this to be offered as a wave sheaf offering shortly after Passover, there must be substance there. It must contain grain, not be just a green, empty husk. This is the beginning of the harvest time, so the grain must be fully formed - ripened enouth to be roasted and used.
A few pages earlier, in Exodus 9:31, during one of the plagues, we read, "the barley was in the ear, and the flax in blossom." This doesn't happen in January. This month corresponds to our March-April time of year and is know by the Jews as Nissan today.
According to the Dictionary of Talmud Babli, Yerushalmi, Midrashic Literature and Targumim, by Professor Marcus Jastrow, page 5, aviv is defined as "early stage of ripening, esp. of grains; season of beginning barley-crop; also the offering of first-fruits (on Passover)." In reference to Deuteronomy 16:1 where it says to observe the month of Abib, the Talmud says "observe the ripening of the equinoctial season that it be in the month of Nissan."
Looking at the combination of ripening grain with new moon, the Congregation of Yahweh uses the conjunction on or after the vernal equinox to establish the first day of the first month. Then it is a matter of simply counting from there to find the correct day for Passover.
Fourteenth or Fifteenth
Let's go back to the story in Exodus 12. They had to begin counting immediately. On the tenth day of the month, the people were to pen up a male lamb or a kid of the first year and keep it until the fourteenth.
And it shall be for you to keep until the fourteenth day of this month. And all the assembly of the congregation shall kill it between the evenings.
There are constant disagreements as to when this was and exactly what it means. Some assume this means just after sunset ending the thirteenth and starting the fourteenth. Others argue that it is immediately after the sunset ending the fourteenth and beginning the fifteenth.
The phrase "between the evenings" is bane ha-arbayim in Hebrew. It is an idiom meaning "dusk" or "twilight, before complete darkness." It is the time between sunset and dark.
In Scripture, days are measured from one sunset to the next, not from one midnight to the next. Genesis 1 shows that at the time of creation, the evening and the morning were a day. So the day began at sunset, went through the night and into the morning and on through the day until the moment of sunset. Then the next day began. The first part of the 24-hour period was called evening. Not at the end of it as we determine in our society. So, to kill the lamb in the evening or at dusk on the fourteenth, it would have to be immediately after sunset, at the beginning, not the end, of the fourteenth.
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even (bane ha-arbayim) is Yahweh's Passover.
Ordinances of the Passover
The instructions continue ---
Exodus 12:7-11, 14
7 - And they shall take from the blood, and put it on the two side doorposts and on the upper doorpost, on the houses in which they eat it.
8 - And they shall eat the flesh in this night, roasted with fire and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
9 - Do not eat it raw, or at all boiled in water, but roasted with fire; its head with its legs and with its inward parts.
10 - and you shall not leave any of it until morning. And you shall burn with fire that left from it until morning.
11 - And you shall eat it this way: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Passover to Yahweh.
14 - And the day shall be a memorial for you. And you shall celebrate it as a feast to Yahweh, for your generations. You shall celebrate it as a law forever.
Notice - He tells them how and when to cook it and eat it, what to eat with it, and what to do with any leftovers. And note the last verse - this is a day to be observed throughout their generations; forever,
Look again at the wording of verse 7. It didn't say to put the blood on the doors of every house, but only on the houses where they were to be eating. If a household was too small for a whole lamb, they were join with others, all being in one house.
What was the purpose of the blood? To forgive sins? No. To protect everyone? No. It was a sign of protection for the firstborn. Yahweh was slaying the firstborn of Egypt that night. If the Israelites did not have this sign on their doors, only their firstborn would have died - not all of Israel.
The people did as Yahweh commanded. At midnight, the death angel passed over, and the firstborn of Egypt died. Now think this through. The Passover - the passing over of the death angel - was to be on the fourteenth, at midnight. If that was to happen at midnight of the fourteenth, the lamb had to be slain at the beginning of the fourteenth, not at the end of the fourteenth. If they had waited until the end of the 14th, it would have been too late for the blood to be placed on the doors and the firstborn would have been dead!
These instructions were repeated.
21 - And Moses called to all the elders of Israel and said to them, Go out and take of the flock for you and for your families. And kill the passover.
22 - And take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin. And apply some of the blood in the basin to the upper doorpost and to the two sideposts, and Yahweh will pass over the door. And He will not allow the destroyer to come into your house to strike you.
In our past history, we have solemnly observed what we called the Passover at the beginning of the 14th. It consisted of the footwashing of John 13, followed by the symbols of bread and wine Yahshua instituted. Then on the next night, immediately after sunset beginning the 15th, we met again. At that time we enjoyed a meal and celebrated what we understood to be the Night to be Much Observed.
It is a night of celebration to Yahweh, for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This night is it, a celebration for all the sons of Israel to their generations.
Does our practice square with Scripture? Have we been observing it properly? Does this celebration refer to the 14th or the 15th? Let's look more closely at the context and see the events step by step.
30 - And Pharaoh arose by night, he and all his servants, and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not a dead one.
31 - And he called Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Arise, go out from the midst of my people, both you and the sons of Israel, and go serve Yahweh according to your word.
Who called Moses and Aaron? Pharaoh. When? During the night. Did they go? No. Yahweh had said they were not to go forth out of their houses until morning.
And the Egyptians pressed hard on the people, to hasten to send them away from the land. For they said, All of us are about to die.
When was the first instant the Egyptians would have pressed and been urgent upon the people? After daybreak - on the daylight portion of the fourteenth. The Israelites did not go out of their houses until then.
So when did they leave? On the fourteenth? On the fifteenth? By day or night?
And they departed from Rameses in the first month on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover the sons of Israel went out with a high hand, before the eyes of all the Egyptians.
But at what time of day did they leave?
Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to Yahweh your Elohim, for in the month of Abib Yahweh your Elohim brought you out of Egypt by night.
The trigger that released the people was the Passover and the events surrounding it. Once that took place, as far as Yahweh was concerned, they were as good as out of there.
Could they have left, in any way, during the daylight part of the 14th? What did they do between sunrise and sunset on the 14th? It probably took quite a bit of time for them to spoil the Egyptians, to gather the things they would take, getting families and ranks together. With that size group, it would have taken time.
37 - And the sons of Israel pulled up from Rameses to Succoth, the men being about six hundred thousand on foot, apart from the little ones.
38 - And also a mixed multitude went up with them, and flocks and herds, very many livestock.
That is 600,000 men. Suppose we double that to count the women. That's 1,200,000 people. Now if there were just one child per couple. That's 1,800,000. But the Israelites were quite prolific. That was one of the main things that worried the Egyptians. So, as many commentaries say, there could have easily been over 3,000,000 people involved here. That would only be an average of 3 children per couple. Just consider the logistics that would be involved. They could not get a group that size moving in just minutes. Everyone would have to be contacted. Think about what an area they would cover. That number of people rivals the population of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Even if the first ones had started out of there during the late daylight of the 14th, it would be some time before the last ones in the ranks exited the same area. It was the events of that Passover that gave them freedom - a Night to be Much Observed forever.
And they baked the dough which they brought out from Egypt into unleavened cakes. For it was not leavened, because they were driven out from Egypt, and they were not able to delay. And also they had not prepared for themselves food for a journey.
So when did they bake that dough? On the 14th? No, they were rushing around in preparations for leaving. On the 15th? No, they were busy marching. So it had to be some time after that, when they were able to stop and make camp and take a break.
41 - And it happened, from the end of four hundred and thirty years, on this very day all the armies of Yahweh went out from the land of Egypt.
42 - It is a night of celebration to Yahweh, for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This night is it, to celebrate for all the sons of Israel to their generations.
Which night? The 14th or the 15th? What is the context of the chapter? The Passover. What follows this verse? The repetition of the ordinances of the Passover. If not for the events of the Passover, they would not have been released.
In verse 42, the word "celebrate" or "celebration", is the Hebrew #8107, shemurim. It means to observe, to celebrate, to watch, to guard, to keep a vigil. The root of the word, shamar, is the same one regarding the keeping or observing or guarding of Yahweh's commands. In the Septuagint, the word here is translated as being related to the duties of an outpost or a guardpost.
On which night was Israel to watch? To keep a vigil? On the 15th? No, they were busy marching; they were on the move. But Passover was a night of vigilance. They had to be alert and make sure no one went out the door during the night the death angel was going through the land. It was important that no one, without thinking, went out to get fresh air or a child decided to go out and play or go see a friend.
The Night to be Much Observed was the fourteenth! Not the fifteenth, as we've always believed! Keep this concept of watching and keeping a vigil on the fourteenth in mind. We will return to that idea when we come to the Passover events of the New Testament. We will see that there, as well, there is evidence of the Night to be Much Observed - on the fourteenth.
Days of Unleavens
The 15th was important, though. It began another festival.
15 - Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. Indeed, on the first day you shall cause leaven to cease from your houses. For anyone eating anything leavened, that soul shall be cut off from Israel, from the first day until the seventh day.
16 - And on the first day shall be a holy convocation, and in the seventh day a holy convocation shall be to you. Not any work may be done on them, only what must be eaten by your soul, that alone may be done by you.
6 - And on the fifteenth day of this month is the feast of unleavens (matzoth) to Yahweh, seven days you shall eat unleavened things (matzoth).
7 - On the first day you shall have a set-apart gathering; you shall do no work of service.
8 - And you shall bring near a fire offering to Yahweh seven days; and the seventh day shall be a set-apart gathering; you shall do no work of service.
(For more information on these days, on what leaven is or is not, and what Yahweh expects of us on these days, please see our booklet titled "Days of Unleavens".)
The first few verses of this chapter totally confuse most people in regard to the issue of Passover and the Days of Unleavens. It is used to prove numerous ideas, among them the reasoning for moving the killing of the Passover lamb to the temple; for moving Passover to the start of the 15th; for shortening the Days of Unleavens, etc. Let's look at it verse by verse.
Observe the month of Abib, and keep Passover to Yahweh your Elohim. For in the month of Abib Yahweh your Elohim brought you out of Egypt by night.
Here is that root word shamar again - watch; keep; observe; celebrate; guard; keep a vigil.
And you shall sacrifice a Passover to Yahweh your Elohim of the flock, and of the herd, in the place which He shall choose to cause His name to be there.
Wait a minute! What? Of the herd? In the place He shall choose? How can that be? There is no ordinance for an animal of the herd (a calf or a bull) to be slain for Passover. So this cannot be referring to the same event as described in verse 1. In various Scriptures and throughout history, the word Passover has been used to define the slaughtering of the lamb, but also to refer to the entire season. Using the word can refer to that evening alone, or to that evening plus the seven days of unleavens. It is, as all one unit, called Passover.
Numbers 28:16 briefly mentions the Passover of Yahweh and that it is to be kept on the fourteenth. The next few verses, 17-25, describe the sacrifices and offerings for the days of unleavens. Those do include herd animals - bullocks - as well as flock animals - kids and lambs.
You shall eat no leavened bread with it. You shall eat unleavened bread with it seven days, even the bread of affliction. For you came out of the land of Egypt in haste, so that you may remember the day that you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.
Eat unleavened bread with it seven days? Did they eat of the Passover lamb for seven days? Of course not. So it has to be referring to more than the one Passover evening. It is referring to the seven-day season of the Days of Unleavens.
And there shall be no leaven seen with you in your borders seven days; nor shall any of the flesh you sacrificed the first day at evening remain all night until morning.
The first day at evening? Is it referring to the Passover lamb? Exodus 12:10 says that none of it should remain till morning. So this verse is including that event as part of a longer period of time known as Passover.
5 - You may not sacrifice the Passover offering inside any of your gates, which Yahweh your Elohim gives you.
6 - But at the place which He shall choose to cause His name to dwell there, you shall sacrifice the Passover offering at evening, at the going of the sun at the time when you came out of Egypt.
Where did the original instructions, in Exodus 12, say that the Passover lamb was to be slaughtered? Did Yahweh ever change it? If so, where is the Scripture? Where in Scripture was the unblemished Passover lamb referred to as an offering? But the animals for the following days were - Numbers 28:17-25. Yahweh had said He would have a location where He would place His name for the High Days He instituted. But the Passover was not a High Day. It was to be done in the home, throughout their generations.
And you shall cook and eat in the place which Yahweh your Elohim shall choose. And in the morning you shall turn and go into your tents.
The word "cook" is #1310, bashal, a root word meaning to boil up; to be done in cooking.
Now go back to Exodus 12:9. It says specifically that the Passover lamb was NOT to be boiled - the same word, #1310. According to Exodus 12:8, the Passover lamb was to be roasted with fire. "Roasted" is #6748, tsaliy. Two totally different words.
So verse 7 here cannot be referring to the Passover lamb! It is referring to the offerings and/or sacrifices of the next seven days. Some of those were boiled.
This is referring to the first day of unleavens - a high day; one of the pilgrimage festivals (see verse 16). Here it specifies that the Feast of Unleavens was a pilgrimage festival. But no where does it give Passover that same designation. It was to be done in their homes.
You shall eat unleavened bread six days, and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to Yahweh your Elohim. You shall do no work.
Why six days? Shouldn't it be seven? No, because except for verse 1, we have been reading about the Days of Unleavens, specifically the first high day, the 15th. Once they had finished the first high day, there would have been six days still remaining.
We have to be careful when we are reading Scriptures and how we interpret them. Our beliefs must square with what is in the Scripture - not the Scripture with what we believe.
When Yahshua Messiah walked on this earth as a human, He also observed all these commands.
41 - Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.
42 - And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
He continued this throughout His life and He observed Passover on the last night of His human life. There have been endless arguments about whether or not He did it on the correct night. Did He do it on the 14th or the 15th? Did He actually eat of that Passover? Or simply sit there while the others ate?
Yahshua instructed His disciples ahead of time to prepare the Passover. He mentioned no changes or alterations in the annual observance. If He had done this on any other day than what the law stipulated, don't you think the disciples would have questioned Him? Wouldn't they have demanded an explanation?
Also, we know that Yahshua was without sin. He was totally obedient to the law. That would not be a correct statement if He had kept the Passover a night earlier. Or later. If He had, He would have sinned and broken the law.
Wouldn't the disciples have objected if He had asked them to do it any other time? If the Passover lambs were all to be slain at the temple, by the priests, how did the disciples get one? The priests were not doing it until hours later, on the afternoon of the 14th. Or did the disciples kill it themselves, according to the ordinances?
And He sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat."
Notice this says "we", not "you." He was planning to join in and participate in this meal.
And He said unto them, With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
The disciples prepared the Passover, according to all its ordinances. They gathered at the correct time. They ate the meal together.
And as they sat and did eat, Yahshua said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eats with me shall betray me.
The key words here are "with me". He was eating as well.
1 - And before the feast of the Passover, Yahshua knowing that His hour had come that He should move from this world to the Father; loving His own in the world, He loved them to the end.
2 - And supper having occurred, the Devil having already put into the heart of Simon's son Judas Iscariot that he should betray Him.
3 - Yahshua knowing that His Father has given all things into His hands, and that He came out from Yahweh, and goes away to Yahweh.
4 - He rose up from the supper, and laid aside His garments. And taking a towel, He girded Himself.
5 - Then He put water into the basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, to wipe off with the towel with which He was girded.
In those days, the people walked everywhere they went and their feet became dusty and gritty. Each household usually had someone assigned to wash the feet of those entering the house. It was good hospitality. To set an example of humility and service, Yahshua did this for His disciples. Afterwards He introduced new symbols to the men, adding them to the night's celebrations.
14 - And when the hour came, He reclined, and the twelve apostles with Him.
15 - And He said to them, with desire I desired to eat this Passover with you before My suffering.
16 - For I say to you that never in any way I will eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of Yahweh.
17 - And taking a cup, giving thanks, He said, Take this and divide it among yourselves.
18 - For I say to you that in no way will I drink from the produce of the vine until the kingdom of Yahweh has come.
19 - And taking a loaf, giving thanks, He broke, and gave to them, saying, This is My body being given for you. Do this for My remembrance.
20 - In the same way, the cup also, after having supped, saying, This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is being poured out for you.
As Yahshua told His disciples, we do these things each year in remembrance of Him.
But before we do so, we remember the words of Paul in I Corinthians 11:27, that we should not eat the bread or drink the wine unworthily. He did not refer to the person being unworthy, but to the manner and attitude in which a person was partaking. We need to come to this service in a repentant frame of mind.
Before these days begin each year, we clean our homes and remove all the leavening. The leavening is likened to sin that permeates mankind. While we are doing that cleaning, we should consider our lives and how to remove the sin from ourselves.
So what took place after the meal and the sharing of the new symbols? They went out! Except for that first Passover, when the death angel passed over, there was no danger involved in going out doors. If there had been, Yahshua and the disciples would not have gone out!
There are people who keep the Passover at different times. Some keep it on the evening beginning the 15th because they insist that the symbols He instituted could not be used until after He had died. Or that He had to die at the same time as the Passover lambs, so they do it on the afternoon of the 14th.
The original ordinances for the daily morning and evening offerings (and the passover lamb) placed the evening offering at bane ha-arbayim, about sunset. But Edersheim says that during the time of Yahshua, the daily evening sacrifice and the Passover lambs were moved to as early as 12:30 p.m. Why? For their convenience. If Yahshua died at the time the priests were slaughtering lambs at the temple, in meant nothing in Yahweh's scheme of things. Why not? Because they were not doing them at the time Yahweh said in Exodus 12. And there is no scriptural evidence that He ever changed it. (For further references to show that it was to be on the fourteenth and not the fifteenth of the month, please see Numbers 9:9-14; Joshua 5:10; 2 Chronicles 30:15; 2 Chronicles 35:1; Ezra 6:19 and Ezekiel 45:21.)
Remember the discussion in Exodus 12:42 about the Night to be Much Observed? Does it appear in the New Testament? Let's look a little deeper.
36 - Then Yahshua came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to the disciples, Sit here until going away I shall pray there.
37 - And taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to grieve and to be deeply troubled.
38 - Then He said to them, My soul is deeply grieved, even unto death. Stay here and watch with me.
What? Did you catch that? "Watch." Watch what? They didn't question Him about it. Apparently they knew what He meant. They were familiar with this night of vigil and watch. Even today the Jews have a tradition that is passed down that the Passover is a night of watching and vigil-keeping. In many cases, they stay up all night doing so.
40 - And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, So! Were you not able to watch with Me one hour?
41 - Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Twice more here, He told them to watch. But watch for what?
In the few days just before these words, Yahshua had talked to His disciples in Jerusalem in the discussion of Matthew 24. They asked Him what would be the sign of the end of the age and of His coming. He gave them numerous things to watch. We won't print every verse here, but take the time to read through that chapter and just notice the many things He is pointing out, things that will come about in the world's history.
In Matthew 24:15 and 33, He said,
15 - Then when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place - the one reading, let him understand.....
33 - So also you when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the doors.
He mentions something that would be seen. Think about it: if you are not watching, you will not see. It will sneak up on you and you will not be prepared.
Toward the end of the chapter, notice verse 46. It says, "Blessed is that servant whom his lord shall find so doing when he comes."
Doing what? Watching! That has been what the whole chapter has been about - and He was admonishing them to watch.
Mark 13 and Luke 21 also report these same warnings. Let's look at one more reference.
33 - Be careful; be wakeful, and pray. For you do not know when the time is.
34 - As a man going away, leaving his house, and giving his slaves authority, and to each his work - and he commanded the doorkeeper, that he watch.
35 - then you watch, for you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, at evening, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing, or early;
36 - so that he may not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
37 And what I say you, I say to all. Watch!
So on which night did they do the watching? The night of the Passover, the 14th. The next night Yahshua was in the grave and the disciples were hiding and grieving. They were not keeping a vigil. As far as they were concerned, it was all over. What was there to watch for then?
Now consider our past history. Where in our past observances of Yahweh's high days have we watched? Or kept a vigil? We really haven't. Our activities of the fifteenth were more like a party atmosphere than a vigil. Did we even talk about what had happened on that date in history?
In I Corinthians 11, Paul is admonishing the people for their attitude regarding the meal they were having before they partook of the symbols. If you notice, at not time did he tell them not to do the meal, or not to watch, but just to be careful in the manner and attitude in which they did it.
In the past, we've done Yahshua's symbols on the fourteenth and had a meal on the fifteenth. But Exodus 12 tells us that the Passover meal was to be done forever. Why haven't we done that? Why did we move it to the fifteenth? That is not scriptural. If a vigil was a part of the original Passover service, and Yahshua and His disciples understood that, what about us? Should we consider that? What if we take the celebrations that we have been doing on the next night and move them back to the fourteenth? Put the footwashing and the symbols of the bread and wine after the meal. Keep a vigil for at least a while. Yes, it will make for a longer evening. But is it for our convenience or to do what Yahweh wants? What is important here?
Change of Plans
As of the spring of 2002, the Irving congregation made an alteration in the way we observe the Passover. Immediately after sunset at the beginning of the fourteenth of Nissan (the modern calendar date will be just after sunset on April 2, 2004), we will share a meal of lamb, a mixture of bitter herbs, and unleavened bread. We will follow that with the symbols of footwashing, bread, and wine that Yahshua instituted. And we will watch and keep a vigil, at least for a while. We will not meet again just after sunset beginning the fifteenth - but we will meet again on the daylight portion of the fifteenth, the first day of Unleavens, April 4, 2004.
This may not be final draft for all time, though. We will continue to study. And if Yahweh gives us deeper understanding and shows us more things we need to change, we will share that with you as well.