Toward a Better Understanding of Passover by Jim Rector

Part 4 - THE 15TH DAY

God goes on to say that this very day (15th) was to become a memorial.  In Exodus 12, we read the account:

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt THIS NIGHT, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt . . . And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you . . . And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a FEAST to the Lord throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever. Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread; even the first day you shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.And in the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for in this SELFSAME DAY have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day in your generations by an ordinance forever” (Ex. 12:12-17).

This passage says a lot and it is powerful teaching. The very night beginning the 15th day of the first month was the same night that God slew the firstborn of Egypt, spared the Israelites, and BEGAN THE PROCESS OF BRINGING THE PEOPLE OUT OF EGYPT!!  We know for a fact that the day in question was the 15th, but just to confirm it, Numbers 33:1-5 states:

“These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies, under the hand of Moses and Aaron. And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the Lord: and these are the journeys according to their goings out.And they departed Rameses in the FIRST MONTH, ON THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF THE FIRST MONTH; on the MORROW AFTER THE PASSOVER the children of Israel went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians. For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the Lord had smitten among them . . . And the children of Israel removed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth.”

Notice that their journey begin that very same 15th day, but that it began from Rameses, and that the first segment of their journey was to Succoth. There is not even a hint in the Bible that the children of Israel ate the Passover at one place and then traveled to Rameses and then left Egypt from there.We have already read the testimony of Josephus that Moses had gathered the people all together in one place, and prepared them to leave Egypt at a moment’s notice.This is precisely why the Scriptures contain absolutely no evidence that the Israelites did any extra traveling. The Bible does not confirm that the people needed any extra time. In fact, it goes out of its way to state that there was NO TIME.

Also please make note that the day the Israelites left Egypt was ON THE MORROW AFTER THE PASSOVER.  Should the morrow be considered the next numerical day–that is, that they kept the Passover on one day and then 24-36 hours left Egypt?  Of course not. Notice how the Bible explains the term morrow. The proof is found in the account of Genesis 19 regarding Lot and his daughters:

“And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelled in the mountain, and his two daughters with him . . . And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine THAT NIGHT: and the firstborn went in and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down nor when she arose. And it came to pass ON THE MORROW, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay LAST NIGHT with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father” (Gen. 19:30—34).

Granted, this episode is sort of buried back in ancient history and might not be a very uplifting subject to study, but it does show us clearly that the morrow was the morning after the night before, and that the same numerical day would be involved. This event occurred on one night, and the next morning was called the morrow.  It was, however, still the same day, based upon a sunset to sunset reckoning.  So when the Bible states that Israel left Egypt on the MORROW AFTER THE PASSOVER, it is incumbent upon us to accept the Scriptural usage of the word, and the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that the morrow after the Passover was simply the NEXT MORNING. Thus, if they departed on the 15th day, and we know for a fact that they did, then the Passover had to have been eaten the NIGHT BEFORE, or at the beginning portion of the 15th day. 

It is absolutely correct that the Israelites began their journey on the morning of the 15th day of Nisan. But what about the passage in Deuteronomy 16:1?  Notice what it says:

“Observe the month of Abib (Nisan), and keep the Passover unto the Lord you God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you forth out of Egypt BY NIGHT.

This statement may seem at first to clash with that of Numbers 33:3, where it is said that the children of Israel began their journey on the morrow after the Passover

There are two very possible and plausible explanations for the language of Deuteronomy 16:1. First of all, this statement does not mean that the Israelites actually started on their journey on the early or evening portion of the 15th day.  It is clear that they left Rameses much closer to dawn or in the morning of that day.

It is very possible that the passage is referring to the time, in the night of the 15th, when God slew the firstborn of Egypt, passed over the Israelites, and, from that point on, set them free from bondage.In Exodus 11, we read:

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely THRUST YOU OUT HENCE ALTOGETHER” (Ex. 11:1).

Indeed this passage gives us a Scriptural basis for connecting the timing of the last plague, which, as we know, occurred at midnight (Ex. 12:29) on the 15th day, with the liberation of Israel from Egypt.We also read in the account of the Exodus itself the following:

“And Pharaoh rose up IN THE NIGHT, he and all his servants, and all the Egyptians . . . And he called for Moses and Aaron BY NIGHT, and said, RISE UP AND GET YOU FORTH from among my people . . . and BE GONE” (Ex. 12:30-32).

Clearly, once the danger of the last plague was past, the Israelites were set free.In the middle of the night, Pharaoh himself demanded that they leave. We know that this was sometime after midnight, since that is the time the last plague struck. Common sense tells us that, once Moses and Aaron were summoned to meet with the Pharaoh and learned of his decree for the Israelites to leave, they immediately began the final preparations. This would certainly have been during the darkness of the 15th day, what we would call the early morning hours. By near sunrise, the hosts of Israel were ready to move out. We are not given a precise hour at which they took their first step. We do know that it was on the morrow of the 15th day, and that it was likely near daylight, as they went out in the sight of the Egyptians. We also know that that particular night was extraordinary in the history of Israel. God calls it

“a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations. And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the Passover: there shall no stranger eat thereof” (Ex. 12:42-43).     

There is another very possible way of understanding the passage in question as well.  It could easily be a reference to the point in time when God took the Israelites completely out of Egypt at the event of the Red Sea crossing. You may not have thought of this occurrence with respect to the passage in Deuteronomy 16:1, but it is entirely possible to connect them.  We know that the Red Sea formed part of the eastern boundary of Egypt. To be brought totally out of Egypt would have required the people cross the border.  We also know that they crossed the Red Sea by night, and that in the morning watch, God destroyed the Egyptians (Ex. 14:13-31).  So it would be absolutely accurate and appropriate to say that God did indeed bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt by night.

Either one of these explanations could be correct.  In fact, they both might be right.  In neither case, however, do they counter the fact of the actual time that Israel began their journey out of Rameses. That was plainly on the morrow of the 15th day of Nisan.

They were commanded to eat the Passover in haste. All the normal considerations for an evening meal were suspended on this unique occasion. Under normal circumstances, they would have had a leisurely dinner. They would have put their staffs down, removed their shoes, loosened their robes, and sat or reclined.  None of these customs were allowed on this particular night.  If the Israelites indeed did eat the Passover early on the 14th, then there was no reason whatsoever for God to give command for all these normalities to be prohibited.  It is clear and emphatic that such instruction was for the express reason that they were going to have to get up and get out of Egypt right away!And that is precisely what transpired.

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