A controversy has existed for hundreds of years
concerning the correct time of the Passover sacrifice. Was it at the
beginning or end of the fourteenth of Abib? Many sources outside the
Bible can be used to support both beliefs. However, following the
example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11, the Holy Scriptures should be
our ultimate source for truth. Therefore this study will use only the
Bible to arrive at the answer.
To begin with we must understand that Yahweh's plan of salvation existed before the creation of the worlds. That plan included the slaying of His son Yahshua as we read in Rev.13:8 - "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Not only was it part of Yahweh's plan to provide His son as the lamb, but Yahweh Himself was the one who bruised him as we read in Is.53:10 -" Yet it pleased Yahweh to bruise him; he hath put him to grief." Considering these two verses we must conclude that Yahweh bruised Yahshua, as His Passover lamb, at the exact time that He decreed the Israelites to kill their Passover lambs.
Yahweh is a mighty one of perfection and exactness. Would He not have slain His lamb at the correct time? Yahweh has an appointed time for everything whether it be the resurrection of the dead, judgement day, the day of Yahshua's second coming, etc. The appointed time of His son's death was firmly established before the foundations of the world as well. It is this premise that must be kept in mind as we study the correct time for the Passover sacrifice.
Matthew tells us that Yahshua died about the ninth hour which is equivalent to 3:00 pm. (Mt.27:45-50). This time, then, would be the fulfillment of Ex.12:6 and the phrase "kill it in the evening" or more correctly "between the evenings." The Jews have always understood the first evening to begin at approx. 3:00 pm and the second evening to begin the moment the sun sets. Others believe the phrase "between the evenings" to mean from sunset to darkness or the time known as twilight. Interestingly, two Hebrew words were translated twilight in the KJV neither of which were ever used concerning the Passover. In addition, the Jews had another phrase (between the suns) that they used to denote the time between the setting of the sun and the appearance of any star (Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica - John Lightfoot, Vol. 3, pg.217).
The phrase "between the evenings" appears 11 times in the Hebrew text. Five of those pertain to Passover leaving us with six verses to examine and interpret its meaning. Ex.29:39,41 and Num.28:4,8 concern the morning and evening sacrifice which was offered daily. Since they all say the same thing we need only examine Ex.29:38-41 -" Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even : And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering. And the other lamb thou shalt offer at even , and shalt do thereto according to the meat offering of the morning, and according to the drink offering thereof, for a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto Yahweh."
Two lambs were to be offered each day; one in the morning and the other between the evenings. The word "one" in verse 39 is the Hebrew "echad" which can also mean "first" as in Num.29:1 - "And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing the trumpets unto you." The word "other" in verse 39 is the Hebrew "sheniy". According to Strong's Concordance it means "double ie: second." If the other lamb or more correctly, the second lamb, were sacrificed after sunset then it would be a new day making it the first lamb sacrificed. This is one reason the Jews always sacrificed the second lamb at 3:00 in the afternoon.
The next use of "between the evenings" is found in 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 was made from animal skins which means they would not allow much light to enter the sanctuary. If Aaron had waited until sundown to light the lamps he would not have had any light to see what he was doing. Lighting the lamps before sunset would make more sense. If Aaron had to light the lamps after sunset and offer the second lamb after sunset, when did he have time to offer the Passover sacrifice?
The last usage of "between the evenings" is found in Ex. 16:12,13 - 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. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host." The word "even" in verse 12 is "between the evenings" and the word "even" in verse 13 is "ereb." Some say that ereb means sunset therefore "between the evenings" must be twilight. However, ereb and ben ha arbayim (between the evenings) are used interchangeably. Lev.23:3 uses ereb concerning the time of lighting the lamps and II Chr.13:11 uses ereb concerning the time of the evening sacrifice. Therefore the quails could have come into the camp by 3:00 pm and been eaten before sunset. Twilight only lasts approximately 40 minutes. If the quail didn't come in until sundown, how did the Israelites manage to catch, kill, clean and cook them before dark? Incidently, according to "Aid to Bible Understanding", Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1971, under the heading "Quail" it states that they often fly at night which brings into question the assumption that they came in at sundown to roost in the trees. Ex.16:13 says the quail "covered the camp" implying that they landed on the ground and not in trees. Since this was a miracle performed by Yahweh, He could have brought the quail in at any time. He did not have to bring them in at the normal roosting time of other birds.
"Between the evenings" means just that; a period
of time that falls between two different evenings. Scripture
undoubtedly teaches that evening begins the moment the sun sets. It
then continues on towards morning. Scripture never states that a
second evening begins when twilight ends. It does show that another
evening can occur as early as 3:00 pm (ereb).
Those who believe the lamb was killed after the sun set beginning the 14th of Abib also say that the Hebrew phrase "ba ereb" always means the end of the day. However we find the same phrase used pertaining to the Passover in Jos.5:10 - "And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho." The Israelites kept the Passover at even (ba ereb) meaning at the end of the fourteenth. Deut.16:4,6 also use "ba ereb" to show the sacrifice occurred at the end of the fourteenth. Deut.16:6 - " But at the place which Yahweh thy Elohim shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even , at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt."
What does the phrase "going down of the sun" mean? The same Hebrew construction is found in Josh.8:29 - " And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down , Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day." The underlined words are the equivalent Hebrew found in Deut.16:6 (at the going down). A similar occurrence is found in Josh.10:27 - " And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave's mouth, which remain until this very day." Again, the underlined words are the equivalent Hebrew of Deut.16:6. Joshua was obeying Yahweh's commandment found in Deut.21:22,23 - " And if a man commited a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day ; (for he that is hanged is accursed of Elohim;) that thy land be not defiled, which Yahweh thy Elohim giveth thee for an inheritance." The body had to be buried the same day it was hung on the tree. That means it had to be buried before sunset. Therefore, when Deut.16:6 says," sacrifice the Passover at even (ba ereb), at the going down of the sun,..." it shows that "ba ereb" in this case means prior to sunset. Incidently, the word "eventide" in Josh.8:29 is "ereb" clearly showing that the king of Ai's body was both hanging on the tree and buried before sunset.
It is also believed by some people that the word "until" in Ex.12:6 means "up to" or the beginning of the fourteenth. Ex. 12:6 - "And ye shall keep it (up ,not in Hebrew) until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening." The same Hebrew word also means "through till the end" as we see in Ex. 12:15,18 - "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel . . .In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even." If "until" meant the beginning of the day then we would be permitted to eat leaven on the seventh day of the feast (Abib 21).
Notice also this crucial point; The Hebrew of Ex.12:18, "on the fourteenth day of the month at even," is the exact same phrase in Josh.5:10 declaring the time when Joshua kept the Passover. In Ex.12:18 it means the end of the 21st day and in Josh.5:10 it means the end of the fourteenth. Lev.23:32 shows this phrase to mean the end of the ninth day.
It is often said that Ex.12:6-14 refers to Abib 14, especially the phrase "this night" in verse 12. If we understand that "between the evenings" (vs.6) means approximately 3:00 pm, then obviously "this night" must mean Abib 15. It all depends on your understanding of the meaning of "between the evenings." Notice, however, verse 14. "This day" (the day Yahweh passed over them) shall be a memorial ; and you shall keep it a feast to Yahweh throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast forever." Whenever Yahweh memorializes a day He does so by making it a Sabbath just as He memorialized His finished work of Creation, the Day of Atonement, Trumpets, etc. He also memorialized the day He passed over Israel by making it a Sabbath, Abib 15. That is why the term "feast" is used in this verse. The Hebrew word is "chagag" which was also used in Ex.23:14; "Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year." A chagag is a special time of rejoicing and dancing. Certainly, Abib 14 cannot be considered a chag or chagag in any way. It is merely the day that the Passover lamb was sacrificed.
Let's look at a few more Old Testament verses. Deut.16:1 - "Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover unto Yahweh thy Elohim: for in the month of Abib Yahweh thy Elohim brought thee forth out of Egypt by night." Since Moses told the Israelites not to come out of their houses until morning (Ex.12:22), some people assume that they came out of Egypt the following night, Abib 15. The phrase "brought thee forth out of Egypt" refers to the period of time beginning with the killing of Egypt's firstborn males. Ex.13:14-16 - "And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand Yahweh brought us out from Egypt , from the house of bondage: And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that Yahweh slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to Yahweh all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem. And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand Yahweh brought us forth out of Egypt." That final act of Yahweh's strength is what delivered the Israelites or what "brought them forth." That act occurred at midnight on Abib 15. The following morning the Israelites left in a great hurry. They did not have time to leaven their bread (Ex.13:33,34). If the killing of the firstborn occurred at midnight on Abib 14 the women would have had at least ten hours to leaven their bread before they left at sundown.
It is taught that the killing and eating of the Passover Lamb takes place on Abib 14. Ex.12:43-50 outlines this eating concerning strangers. Notice verse 51, "And it came to pass the selfsame day , that Yahweh did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies." The "selfsame day" can only refer to the previous verses concerning eating. The selfsame day the Passover was eaten they came out of Egypt; Abib 15 (Num.33:3). Those that keep Passover at the beginning of Abib 14 believe it was eaten that night followed by the exodus the next night.
II Chr.35:1-19 recounts Josiyah's Passover. Verse 14 suggests the sacrifices and offerings took place hours before nightfall in order to complete them. Since twilight is only a period of approximately 40 minutes, how could they kill, bleed, clean and cook so many offerings and sacrifices in so short a time? This verse takes place after they had roasted the Passover offerings which would have taken several hours.
It is implied in verse 14 that the priests were busy with burnt offerings from before sunset until night and therefore, the Levites took charge of the passover lambs themselves. Yet, verse 11 implies that the priests sprinkled the blood [of the passover lambs] from their hands. Verse 14 then implies that after they finished sacrificing the lambs for the people [and by extension, after the priests finished sprinkling the blood for the people], the Levites began sacrificing lambs for themselves and the priests. Once the priests finished sprinkling blood they began offering burnt offerings until night.
Beginning of the 14th proponents use verses 16 & 17 to teach, "The whole service of the Passover [including eating] was observed that day (in one day) just as Moses prescribed; that is, on the 14th." (emphasis & brackets mine). The KJV says, "So all the service of Yahweh was prepared the same day to keep the passover..." Notice the difference in the emphasized words.
Moffatt's translation is often used to support that view. It says, "In this way, the whole service of holding the passover in honor of the Eternal and sacrificing burnt-offerings on the altar of the Eternal was carried out that day..." The phrase in bold type is not in the Hebrew. It simply says, "all the service of Yahweh was prepared the same day..." Moffatt's version leads one to believe that it is talking about a Passover service or ceremony whereas the Hebrew shows the service to be people prepared to conduct the passover ceremony. This can be seen by verses 2-5,10,14-16. Each family division had a specific service to perform and to prepare for. Verse 16 says that all those that had a service to perform were prepared the same day, Abib 14.
The last Old Testament verse we should read is Eze.45:21 . "In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten." This verse does not say "and a feast of seven days" thereby making a distinction between Passover and Unleavened. According to Strong's Concordance, Passover can mean either the festival or the victim (the sacrifice). Passover in this verse would refer to the festival. Verses such as Ex.12:6; Nu.9:5; and Lev.23:5 refer to the victim. Many people do not understand this and erroneously assume the killing and eating must take place on the same day. Once the Passover is sacrificed at the end of the fourteenth it is eaten as the first meal of the feast.
What does the New Testament tell us about Passover? First let's look at some clear scriptures beginning with Jn.18:28 . "Then led they Yahshua from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover." This verse has led many people to believe that these Jews were about to eat the Passover at the wrong time since Yahshua supposedly ate it the night before. This has led to the belief that the Pharisees kept Passover on Abib 15 and the Sadducees (whom Yahshua supposedly followed) on Abib 14. If you will check verses 3, 12, & 28 of that same chapter, as well as Jn.19:6, you will note that the Jews of verse 28 included "chief priests" and "captains". The chief priests were, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Sadducees. Luke 22:52 reveals the "captains" to be "captains of the temple", again Sadducees. Therefore, these Sadducees had not eaten the Passover yet.
Jn.13:1,2 - "Now before the feast of the passover, when Yahshua knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended . . ." This verse tells us that the supper of Abib 14 took place before the Passover. It was not the Passover.
John 13:2-30 - It is believed by many that this supper took place on the night of Abib 14 which they consider to be the time when the Passover Lamb was eaten. After the foot washing, they sat back down to the supper table. Yahshua then dipped a sop and gave it to Judas Iscariot at which time Satan entered him. Yahshua then said, "That thou doest, do quickly" (vs.27). The disciples did not know why Judas was leaving, but they suspected he was going to buy things they needed for the feast (vs.29). What?! How could the disciples think so nonchalantly of this sudden departure from the Passover supper unless, of course, it was only a common supper the night before the true Passover supper. Had Judas been sent from the true Passover supper the disciples would have been shocked. And what merchants would have their shops open to allow such a purchase on the night of Passover? Obviously the disciples thought shops would be open because it was the night before the lamb was eaten.
The supper in John 13 is the same supper of Mt.26:20,21; Mk.14:18; and Lu.22:22,23. John 13:1 says that supper was "before the feast of the Passover." The reaction of the disciples to Judas' departure confirms the fact that this supper was before the Passover supper.
Jn.19:14 - "And it was the preparation of the passover , and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!" If Yahshua had just finished eating the Passover the previous night, how can it be the "preparation of the passover" at about noon the next day? The "preparation of the Sabbath" ends as the weekly Sabbath day begins. The "preparation of the Passover" must also end as the Passover begins. Since this verse refers to Abib 14 at noon, then the Passover could not have begun yet. It will have begun at least three hours later at the normal time of sacrificing the lambs. If one believes the lambs were sacrificed at the beginning of Abib 14, then all of Abib 13 would be the "preparation of the passover."
Lu.22:1 - "Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover." As in Eze.45:21, Passover in this verse would refer to the entire festival and not the victim.
This brings us to the most difficult part of this study; understanding what took place at the last supper. What was Yahshua and his disciples doing the night he was betrayed? Was he partaking of the Passover meal with its lamb and bitter herbs or was this a pre-Passover meal?
Lu.22:7-18 - "Then
came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed.
And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover,
that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we
prepare? And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the
city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow
him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the
goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the
guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And
he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And
they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready
the passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve
apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired
to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I
will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of
Yahweh. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this,
and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink
of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of Yahweh shall
Verse 7 means that Abib 14 had begun. Why would they begin preparing for Passover after the sun had set? To prepare the Passover, if that were the Passover meal, would mean to bring the lamb to the priests, have it killed, bleed it, clean it, carry it back to the room that they still needed to get, cook it for hours after they kindled a fire and carve it up. Not to mention the lines of people waiting to have their lambs killed after sunset (thousands of lambs)!
Verse 16 adds the words "any more" which are not found in the oldest Greek manuscripts (Vatican, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus). The added words imply that Yahshua had just finished eating the Passover. Omitting the words implies that Yahshua did not eat the Passover. Although he desired to eat the Passover with his disciples the following night, he knew he couldn't because he would be dead.
In The Mishnah, Pesahim 6:4, it reads,
A. A festal offering derives from the flock of sheep or from the herd of oxen, from lambs or from goats, from males or from females.
B. And it is eaten for two days and the intervening night [to the night of the fifteenth of Nisan].
Since John's gospel suggests the Jews had not yet eaten their Passover lambs, and since the lambs were traditionally killed at 3:00 p.m. on Abib 14, I think it is logical to believe Yahshua and his disciples were partaking of this "festal offering" on that "intervening night". The festal offering could be eaten on the daylight portion of the 13th, the night beginning the 14th, and the daylight portion of the 14th. Then, on the night of the 15th, they would partake of the Passover lamb.
Matthew, Mark and Luke each say "they made ready the Passover" in preparation for the "last supper". Since Josephus says the Jews considered the Passover to be "a feast of eight days", the beginning of Abib 14 would begin Passover in that context. The first meal partaken of would have been the festal offering on the night of the 14th. The disciples made everything ready to begin the Passover by securing a room, making sure it was unleavened, preparing the festal offering, etc.
In the Evangel accounts of the
last supper, Yahshua and his disciples were having the festal
offering, a pre-Passover meal. They did not
eat the Passover since the priests did not begin killing them until
the following afternoon. That is why John 18:28 says the Jews hadn't
eaten the Passover even after Yahshua's trial began.
The Passover meal was a family gathering in which the women and children also paricipated. When Yahshua attended the Passover as a boy of twelve he accompanied his family (Lu.2:41,42). Yet, in Yahshua's last supper the women and children are conspicuously absent. All that were present were Yahshua's male disciples who were linked to him socially rather than through kinship. Where were the women who followed Yahshua throughout his ministry? Where is Peter's wife or the wives of the other married disciples? They were not in attendance because that was not the Passover meal.
Mk.15:21, Lu.23:26 - Simon was forced to carry Yahshua's torture stake. It is said that he was coming out of the "country" (Gr. agros meaning - country, farm, farmland, fields, etc.). The argument is put forth that if Passover was a high sabbath (Abib 15), Simon would have been at the Temple or synagogue and not in the fields. That is true. The opposite holds true as well. If the night of Abib 14 began Passover, Simon would have come out of the fields to observe it the night before carrying Yahshua's stake. The most likely scenario is that Simon came out of the fields the morning of Abib 14 for the purpose of observing Passover that afternoon.
1 Cor.5:7 reads, "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Messiah our passover is sacrificed for us:" Paul tells us that OUR passover lamb has been sacrificed "for us" or on our behalf. Who sacrificed it for us? Is.53 tells us that Yahweh bruised His Son and smote him. Did Yahweh have our Passover Lamb sacrificed at the wrong time? No. That being true, then Yahshua and his disciples could not have eaten the lamb the night before. If Yahshua did eat it the night before, and if he did it correctly, then Yahweh sacrificed Yahshua at the wrong time. The only way to reconcile this dilema is to acknowledge the fact that what Yahshua did in the evangel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is being misunderstood. When translating from Hebrew to Greek and from one culture to another, it can easily lead to error as it has concerning the Holy Names. John's evangel was written in such a way as to leave us no doubt as to when Passover took place.
There are more scriptures to support an end of Abib 14 Passover offering as opposed to a beginning of the fourteenth offering. The content of this study should suffice to enlighten the seeker of truth.