According to the world’s standard, a Day is a 24-hour period that begins at midnight, when the clock strikes 12 in the middle of the night and continues until the next night.
In mainstream Judaism and most Hebraic circles, a Day is also a 24-hour period reckoned from evening to evening, when the sun goes down to the next sundown.
But according to the Bible, a Day is separate from the Night. After the Creator made the heavens, earth and seas, He placed the sun, moon and stars in the heavens for the express purpose to separate between Day and Night.
Since the reckoning of a day in mainstream Judaism is evening to evening, and the world’s standard of timekeeping recognizes the day begins in the middle of the night, it can be difficult to wrap your mind around when to keep the Passover.
But then there are religious traditions that have been handed down through Judaism that are not found in the Bible, such as the Seder, which also make it difficult.
Teachings of Man
Compounding the problem is the New Testament writings, which seem to portray conflicting testimony surrounding the timing of the Passover. Then, there’s also the nature of Jesus/Yeshua’s last supper in question and a supposed discrepancy surrounding his time in the grave.
But if we take the understanding of what the Bible says concerning Day and Night, that they are separate from each other, and we consider the actual Pass Over event found in Exodus 12, the Passover Timeline is very simple to understand.
Let’s walk through the initial event together.
The Timing of the Pass Over Event
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. (Exodus 12:1-2)
YHVH identifies when the first month of the year is to Moses and Aaron.
Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: (Exodus 12:3-5)
He instructs Moses and Aaron to speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel to take a lamb, every man a lamb for his household. Some believe the instruction is to take the lamb on the 10th day in particular, while others believe it’s possible that the instruction was simply given on the 10th day, and the lamb was to be taken shortly thereafter.
Either way, on or about the 10th day, a lamb is selected for each household.
And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. (Exodus 12:6)
Then He instructs them to keep the lambs until the 14th of the same month and the whole assembly of the congregation was to kill it “in the evening”. <– This is where the confusion often sets in.
When we understand that the day is separate from the night, and the evening comes at the end of the day, this is not difficult to understand. But when those who reckon the day from evening to evening (to include the night), the question becomes which evening is this referring to: the beginning of their so-called day or the end of it?
The translated phrase “in the evening” in the Hebrew is: בין הערבים
It is the same phrase used in Numbers 28 where it explains when the daily offerings are to be made.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, My offering, and my bread for my sacrifices made by fire, for a sweet savour unto me, shall ye observe to offer unto me in their due season. And thou shalt say unto them, This is the offering made by fire which ye shall offer unto the LORD; two lambs of the first year without spot day by day, for a continual burnt offering. The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lamb shalt thou offer at even; And a tenth part of an ephah of flour for a meat offering, mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil. (Numbers 28:1-5)
Notice, where it says, “at even”. In Hebrew the phrase is, again: בין הערבים
This is referring to the second of the two offerings that are prescribed daily, indicating it is the latter part of the day, and not the start of it.
So, the whole assembly was instructed to kill their selected lambs in the latter part of the 14th DAY.
And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. (Exodus 12:7-9)
They were told to eat the flesh of it “that night”, fire-roasted, and with unleavened bread.
And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. (Exodus 12:10)
Then they were told not to leave any of it until the morning. He goes on to tell them how to eat it, and what will happen in that night.
And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.
And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:11-13)
We see here that the “pass over” event takes place in that night, after the lamb was killed and the blood was applied to the posts. And it is in this night that the fire-roasted lamb is eaten with unleavened bread.
So, the timeline is this:
- On the 10th DAY – The Israelites are instructed to take a lamb.
- On the 14th DAY in the evening, which is the latter part of the day – The lambs are killed.
- On the NIGHT after the 14th DAY – The lambs are eaten with unleavened bread.
- In the morning of the 15th DAY – Any lamb remaining is to be burned.
And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. (Exodus 12:14)
This event was an individual household event. They were told it would be unto them for a memorial going forward and that they were to keep a feast to YHVH by an ordinance.
A few verses later we see Moses giving the instructions to the elders of Israel concerning the lambs and their blood.
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. (Exodus 12:21-24)
He tells them that they were to observe this thing for an ordinance to them and their sons in the future.
The Timing of the Passover Service
And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped. (Exodus 12:25-27)
Moses proceeds to tell them, when they come to the Promised Land, they are to keep this service, teaching their children what it means.
After the children were brought out of Egypt, YHVH gave Moses and Aaron instructions concerning the eating of the Passover in the future.
And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you. Thus did all the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they. (Exodus 12:43-50)
This specifically addresses who may or may not eat of it, but it does not give any indication that it is to be eaten at any other time besides the timing surrounding the actual Pass Over event.
And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Let the children of Israel also keep the passover at his appointed season. In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it. And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, that they should keep the passover. And they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in the wilderness of Sinai: according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel. (Numbers 9:1-5)
It appears that in the second year after the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they kept the Passover Service at the same time of the Pass Over event.
An Exception to the Rule
All are required to participate in the Passover Service, unless he has become defiled by the body of a man or is on a distant journey. In those cases, he is to partake of a Passover Service at the same time of the same day, but in the second month.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD. The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it. But the man that is clean, and is not in a journey, and forbeareth to keep the passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people: because he brought not the offering of the LORD in his appointed season, that man shall bear his sin. And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the LORD; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land. (Numbers 9:6-14)
When we understand that the Day is separate from the Night, and that the Day begins in the morning, and we don’t get bogged down in religious tradition and the teachings of man, I think understanding the timing of the Pass Over event is pretty straightforward.
When it comes to understanding how the Passover service is to be kept, although I am interested in what the New Testament writings testify to, I personally prefer to base my actions on what the instructions say to do in the Old Testament.