A correct understanding of this phrase is crucial
in determining when the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. We cannot
use circular reasoning to arrive at its meaning. By that I mean,
because Yeshua apparently ate the Passover
at the beginning of Abib 14, we cannot conclude that "between the
evenings" must be a time period prior to that supper, namely sunset
or twilight beginning Abib 14. That is circular reasoning and poor
There is firm historical support showing that the Hebrew phrase "ben ha-erebim" (between the evenings) was a time period between noon and sundown (See 'Historical Evidence to Support a Passover Sacrifice at the End of Abib 14'). There is virtually no historical evidence I know of to support that phrase meaning twilight. One can find many modern day commentators and Bible translators supporting that position, but their position is based on opinion, conjecture, and a misunderstanding of Hebrew thought on this subject. By 'Hebrew thought' I mean their beliefs as far back as three hundred years prior to Messiah Yeshua, not their thoughts after 70 C.E.. Although Jewish thought on this subject did not change at that time, some people believe it did.
The phrase in question appears eleven times in the Hebrew text. Five of those times pertain to the Passover.
Ex.12:6 - "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 ."
Lev.23:5 - "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is Yahweh's passover.
Num.9:3 - "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."
Num.9:5 - "And they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in the wilderness of Sinai: according to all that Yahweh commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel."
Num.9:11 - "The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs ."
The context of these scriptures are not very helpful in determining the meaning of "Between the evenings" (in bold print). The remaining six verses, however, are quite helpful.
Ex.16:12 - "I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am Yahweh your Elohim. The "flesh" the Israelites would eat "between the evenings" was quail (vs.13). The question is, if "between the evenings" means twilight, which is a period lasting approximately 40 minutes, how did the Israelites manage to catch, kill, clean, cook and eat the quail in that short time period? It is obvious that much more time is required to do all that. They may also have had to start fires to cook the quail. We shouldn't assume that they had fires ready in anticipation of the quail coming.
Ex.29:39,41 is repeated in Num.28:4,8 so we need only look at Num.28:4,8 to understand the next four uses of "between the evenings."
Num.28:4,8 - "The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lamb shalt thou offer at even ;
And the other lamb shalt thou offer at even : as the meat offering of the morning, and as the drink offering thereof, thou shalt offer it , a sacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savour unto Yahweh."
Both phrases in bold type are from the Hebrew "ben ha-erebim." These verses deal with the time of the evening sacrifice. Keep in mind that a Hebrew day ends at sunset as we study these verses.
First, the historical testimony of Josephus places the evening sacrifice at "about the ninth hour" or approximately 3:00 p.m. (Antiquities 14.4.3). This agrees with his statement that the Passover lamb was sacrificed "between the ninth and the eleventh hour" (Wars 6.9.3). Two different sacrifices, both occurring at about the ninth hour and both fulfilling the command to sacrifice "between the evenings."
Secondly, we have the clear meaning of two other Hebrew words to assure us of the meaning intended. The word "one" used in verse 4 is the Hebrew word "echad" which can also mean "first" as in Num. 29:1 and many other texts.
Num.29:1a - "And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation;"
More importantly is the Hebrew word translated "other" in verse 8. It is "sheniy" meaning "double ie: second," according to Strong's Concordance. "Sheniy" is the most common Hebrew word for "second." If the "other" lamb, or more correctly, the "second" lamb, were sacrificed after sunset it would have been sacrificed on a new day making it the first lamb sacrificed that day. Both lambs had to be sacrificed the same day, the first one in the morning and the second one between the evenings or late in the day, but before sunset.
That leaves us with one verse left, Ex.30:8. Josephus says this was done at "sunsetting" (Antiquities 3.8.3). He does not say "sundown" or "sunset." This time period, in the Jewish culture, begins at noon. The sun begins setting at that time. It continues to set until it vanishes from sight beginning a new day. Ex.30:8 - "And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even , he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before Yahweh throughout your generations."
The Tabernacle in the wilderness was made out of
animal skins which means they would not allow much light, if any, to
enter the sanctuary. If Aaron waited until sundown to light the
lamps, he would not have had any light to see what he was doing. This
would especially be true when the moon was not full. Lighting the
lamps before sunset would make more sense. Also, if Aaron had to
light the lamps, burn incense and offer the evening sacrifice after
sunset, when did he have time to offer the Passover sacrifice?
Twilight only lasts about 30 minutes.
Interestingly, Lev.23:3 uses the Hebrew word "ereb" concerning the time for lighting the lamps and 2 Chr.13:11 uses "ereb" for the time of the evening sacrifice. Therefore, ereb and ben ha-erebim are interchangeable as far as these times are concerned.
Conclusion: The weightier evidence, both historical and scriptural, is clearly in favor of "between the evenings" meaning a time period before sunset. Appealing to modern day commentators and translators is fruitless since support can be found for both views. History, however, cannot be refuted and neither can context.