A Better Understaning of Passover
Passover Has Not Been Changed
by: Jim Rector
The intent of this study is not to cause division among believers, but simply to share a perspective on Passover that is hopefully based on the best evidence of both Scripture and history. One of its major precepts is that the holydays form a pattern designed and instituted by God that cannot and should not be broken by any idea, interpretation, or theory of man. The Passover is one such situation.
The timing of our Savior’s death, coming as it did at mid-afternoon of the 14th day of Nisan, combined with the fact that He was and is the ultimate Passover Lamb, slain for all, forms powerful, convincing, even overwhelming evidence that the order of things with respect to the ancient Passover was precisely as the Jews of the first century understood them to be, and that the events of the Passover followed that same timing and pattern from the beginning.
The results of this study, simply stated, are:
1. God had Moses prepare the Israelites well ahead of time in anticipation of their being freed from Egyptian bondage, including giving them favor to obtain gold, silver, and raiment from the Egyptians, gathering them into their tribal groups, moving them to Rameses, and having them ready to move out at a moment’s notice.
2. God commanded that the people set aside a chosen lamb or goat on the 10th day of the first month and keep it until the 14th day.
3. On the 14th day, they were to kill the animal between the two evenings.
4. Between the two evenings is the same time as the daily evening sacrifice, which had to be offered BEFORE, not after, sunset.
5. The time of the death of Christ was approximately 3 PM on the afternoon of the 14th day.
6. Between the two evenings, therefore cannot be just after sunset on any given day, but rather in the mid-late afternoon.
7. All major Jewish and Christian commentators agree that the Passover sacrifice was historically offered at about the 9th hour on the 14th day.
8. The Passover was therefore to be slain on the afternoon of the 14th day, the blood put upon their dwellings, the flesh prepared between then and dark, and eaten after sunset beginning the 15th day. This was to be kept a Feast to the Lord forever. It is also referred to as the night to be much observed.
9. The eating of the Passover meal was to be accompanied by unleavened bread, thus inaugurating the seven days of Unleavened Bread.
9 A. It was on this same night that God brought the final plague upon the Egyptians, sparing the Israelites and setting them free.
10. The people were told to eat the Passover in haste, for their was no time to waste.They were going to be thrust out of Egypt, and their departure was to be immediate.
11. Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron sometime after midnight and told them to leave Egypt at once.
12. The Israelites left on their journey from Rameses at some point on the morrow of the 15th day, the exact hour is not stipulated, although it probably was at or near dawn.
13. God had commanded that the people keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days.This was to transpire from the 14th day at even until the 21st day at even.
14. The Hebrew phrase at even is clearly explained in Lev. 23:27, 32, as being at the end of the day in question, thus making the Feast of Unleavened Bread run from the end of the 14th day through the end of the 21st day or seven consecutive days. In other places, the Bible states that the Festival begins on the 15th day of the first month, which is totally compatible with the end of the 14th, so there is no contradiction.
15. The first and last days of the Festival were to be holydays. This would be the 15th and 21st days of the first month.
16. Israel crossed the Red Sea, thus removing them completely from Egypt, during the night, therefore accounting for the statement that God brought the people out of Egypt by night.
17. Yahshua was the ultimate Passover Lamb. He fulfilled perfectly the type of the physical animals slain anciently.
18. Yahshua and His family clearly observed the annual festivals at the same time and manner as the rest of the religious Jews of the first century.Luke states that He kept the Passover, according to the custom of the Feast.
19. In the first century, just as in the days of Moses, it was the custom of Passover for the lambs to be slain on the afternoon of the 14th day of the first month.
20. It was also the custom of that time to search out the leaven on the evening portion of the 14th day, put it out of the house by morning, burn it at noon, cease from work either by mid-morning or noon, and consume no leaven from noon onward. This intense preparation for the approaching Passover caused the Jews to often refer to the 14th as the first of unleavened bread, even though it did not legally begin until the 15th. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all use this common first-century reference.
21. After the 14th day had come, the disciples ask the Messiah where they are to keep the Passover. It must be understood that the term Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread had become interchangeable by the first century. When someone prepared for the Passover, they were getting ready for the entire 7-day Feast that began with the eating of the Passover after sunset on the 15th.
22. Christ instructs the disciples to go into Jerusalem and prepare for the Passover or Feast. The disciples do not question His decision, because the 14th day had always been the time of preparation for the Passover. They were doing nothing that they hadn’t been following throughout their lives.
23. John 13:1 clearly states that the Last Supper occurred BEFORE the Feast of the Passover.
24. Yahshua and the twelve apostles have a final meal, during which He specifies the significance of the unleavened bread and wine with respect to His approaching death. He tells them to eat and drink these items in remembrance of Him. Paul states in I Cor. 11 that, as often as it is done, it does show forth the Lord’s DEATH till He come.
25. During the meal, Christ identifies Judas Iscariot as His betrayer and tells him to leave the room. The other disciples misinterpreted what was said, some of them thinking that Yahshua told Judas to go and purchase items that they might need in order to keep the Feast. This is a clear indication that the Passover was still future at this point in time.If the 14th day was a holyday, this assumption on the part of the disciples could never be.As it transpired, there would have been ample time still left to buy things for the Feast.
26. After the meal, Yahshua is arrested in the garden of Gethsemane and brought before the Sanhedrin. His trial lasts throughout the night. John clearly points out that the Jews would not go into Pilate’s judgment hall, because to do so would have made them ceremonially unclean, and unable to eat the Passover, thus indicating that the lambs had not yet been slain and Passover had not yet begun.
27. Later, in John 19, John refers to that day as the preparation day of the Passover, which corresponds perfectly to the understood significance of the 14th day.
28. Yahshua was hung on the tree at about the 3rd hour of the morning on the 14th day of the first month, the historical time of the daily morning sacrifice. He died at about the 9th hour of the same day, just as the Passover lambs were being slain in Jerusalem, His death coinciding with the divinely ordained time between the two evenings on the 14th day.
29. Christ is our Passover Lamb, slain for us. Let us therefore keep the Feast. What was ordained to transpire on the 14th day with respect to Passover has been done once for all–the death of the Messiah. What remains for us is to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, commencing with the Passover memorial, followed by the celebratory feast at the beginning of the 15th day.
30. The bread and wine is a custom which the Bible does not prohibit from being taken more often than once a year. It finds its greatest fulfillment at Passover, but can be repeated as often as likeminded believers desire in honor of their Savior and His sacrifice for them.
In conclusion, I must admit that this brief paper does not cover every possible question involved in this discussion. These issues regarding the Passover have been around for a long time and have been debated by many people. All I am personally interested in doing is sharing this perspective for your information and hopeful edification.
While we all desire to be of like mind on all things, we know from experience that this is seldom so at any one given time. We all are works in progress and are in the ever-changing process of spiritual growth.Each of us must follow the dictates of his or her conscience in all matters. To do otherwise is to violate one’s own heart, and this constitutes sin before God. As the Scriptures state, “Let every man be persuaded in his own mind. ”It can be no other way. It is our responsibility to search out the truth to the fullest possible extent, and personally act upon what we know and understand, always allowing room for correction and change when necessary.
If unity on the timing of Passover is impossible right now among all believers, let us at least show the kind of love, respect, and patience for one another that God has shown to each of us.And let us never forget Who it is that we honor, and why we do what we do. The life and death of our Savior, Yahshua, are the paramount issues of the ages. May we be strengthened to show forth both in the conduct and impact of our lives in God’s service.