Deuteronomy 16: 1 reveals this month as Abib, the beginning of the year and first of the months in Yahweh’s calendar. Abib in Hebrew means“Green Ears” of barley. Abib comes in the spring when the warming sun brings vegetative life back to the earth in the northern hemisphere. Passover falls in this month, reminding us of the renewal of our life as portrayed by the time of our Savior’s sacrifice.
Because the Passover season ushers in the holy times of Unleavened Bread, Satan continues his attempts to influence well-meaning people to follow teachings and practices outside the Bible. Not only does the Adversary confuse us as to the proper month, but he attempts to delay the proper day Yahweh’s people should observe.
By listening to those who ignore the plain teaching of the Bible, some are led astray to keep a day the Scriptures do not honor. Surely the Word will tell us plainly which day we are to keep for Passover! Yahweh would not make the proper time difficult to figure out.
First Biblical Passover
The seven Annual Holy Days were already programmed early in Yahweh’s grand plan for mankind back at creation. He said: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons and for days, and years” (Gen. 1: 14).
The word “seasons” in this verse does not refer to the four seasons’ of the year – spring, summer, fall and winter – but is from the- Hebrew moed. The word moed (Strong’s No, 4150) means “appointed time,” and is connected with Yahweh’s Feasts, His special times of the year. On the other hand, the Hebrew word eht means seasons of the year as we see in Deuteronomy 11: 14 andLeviticus 26:4.
There are those who contend that we should follow the Jews and keep the same days they do, as they have been observing the Feast days for some 4,000 years. The problem is that the Jews no longer follow the Bible in the special times that they observe. They have written their own rules missing from Scripture, and today they keep Passover a day late. However, they do have a “Seder” service that they keep at home with the family at the start of the 14th. They then go to the synagogue on the 15th for a supper, which they call “The Passover,” even though a day too late.
It would be well to review chapter 12 of Exodus to get the story flow of the first Passover. All Passovers must conform to the first example given us. Exodus 12:3-5 tells us that a lamb without blemish was selected on the tenth day of Abib and was to be kept until the 14th. Verse six reveals that each family was to slay its lamb: “And you 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.”
Between the Evenings: Dusk
When the 14th came the lamb was to be slain. Scripture shows that the day begins at evening (dusk, sunset), when the previous day ends (Genesis 1:5; Lev. 23:32; Mark 1:32), not at midnight as in our Roman-Gregorian calendar. Numbers 9: 1-5 is clear that everything pertaining to Passover is to be done on the 14th: “In the fourteenth day of this month, at even [between the evenings], you shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall you ‘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 Yahweh commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel” (Num. 9:3-5). The 15th is nowhere mentioned in connection with the Passover.
The Hebrew term “even” or “evening” referring to Passover frequently is ben-ha-arbayim, explained as “between the evenings” and understood by the Samaritans and Karaites as between sunset and dark. The Jewish Tanakh published by the Jewish Publication Society translates this as “twilight.” Other Bibles follow suit or translate it “dusk.” The first evening is sunset, the second is darkness. The majority of today’s translations (like the NASB) read twilight, dusk or after sunset – literally between the “evenings” of sundown and complete darkness.
Attempts at a different understanding have been made by those quoting various Rabbinical philosophies of the Pharisees who later reinterpreted the meaning of ben-ha-arbayim to mean “beginning at noon (or later) until sunset.”
When the Jews returned from Babylon under Ezra, they first observed two days, the first for Passover and the second for the first day of the Feast. But in a later shift, they merged Passover and Unleavened Bread. There were legitimate changes made by Ezra after the Jews returned from Babylon. For Passover they no longer had their staff at hand, their shoes on their feet, nor packed for a journey. They were now in the Holy Land and lounged on benches. Four cups of drink were added, which Yahshua utilized in His symbols of His body and blood, the “cup of blessing.”
Records during the time of the Messiah and before show that the Sadducees were in charge of Temple worship and set the Feast days until 70 C.E., when the Temple was destroyed. The annual Sabbaths were set by the Sanhedrin when Yahshua walked this earth. The Savior, along with Mary and Joseph, kept the Feast days according the set times of the Temple, the calendar of the Sadducees: “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Yahshua stayed behind in Jerusalem …” (Luke 2:41-43).
He obviously continued observing the Feast days according to the Sadducees while on earth, as He went to the Temple for Tabernacles, John 7:14. He had no quarrel with the Sadducees and their calendar.
Passover Clearly on the 14th
Following are passages that clearly state that the 14th is Passover:
“These are the feasts of Yahweh, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons. In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is Yahweh’s Passover” (Lev. 23:4-5).
“Let the children of Israel also keep the Passover at his appointed season. In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, you shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall you keep it” (Num. 9:2-3)
This is an especially significant verse, as it clearly states that everything dealing with the Passover is to be done on the 14th, which is the appointed time (twilight, NIV), the rites and ceremonies (rules and regulations, NIV) pertaining to it. Nothing pertaining to Passover was to be done on the 15th.
“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. 9:5).
“And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of Yahweh. And in the fifteenth day of this month is the feast: seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten” (Num. 28: 16-17).
“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. And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the Passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day” (Josh. 5:10-11).
“Then they killed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of Yahweh” (2Chr. 30: 15).
“Moreover Josiah kept a Passover unto Yahweh in Jerusalem: and they killed the Passover on the fourteenth [day] of the first month” (2Chron. 35:1).
“And the children of the captivity kept the Passover upon the fourteenth [day] of the first month” (Ezra 6:19).
The above verses distinctly state that the 14th is the Passover, and the 15th is the Feast (of Unleavened Bread). The following verses are a real problem for those who mistakenly insist upon a 15th Passover. Note the similar wording describing when the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles will be observed in the Kingdom:
• “In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, you shall’ have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten” (Ezek. 45:21, note the similar wording, keeping it on the 14th).
• “In the seventh month, in the fifteenth day of the month, shall he do the like in the feast of the seven days, according to the sin offering …” (Ezek. 45:25).
If keeping the Passover at the end of the 14th is the correct time, then one should observe Tabernacles at the end of the 15th as the 16th begins and keep it seven days! This is an important comparison, for the wording about both is almost exactly duplicated. If this means that Passover in the Kingdom will be kept at the end of the 14th just as the 15th begins, then Tabernacles also will be kept a day later, at the end of the 15th as the 16th begins. But the Bible says that Passover is on the 14th of Abib and Tabernacles begins on the 15th of Tishri.
The sequence of events given in Yahweh’s Word is clear and logical. All verses dealing with Passover harmonize with a 14th Passover and 15th as the High Sabbath, the first day of Unleavened Bread. After sunset ending the 13th, the 14th would begin, which signaled the time to slay the lamb and smear blood on the doorposts and lintel. The lamb was roasted and eaten that night before midnight when the destroyer came over.
On the morning of the 14th, the remains of the lamb were taken out, and the people began gathering their family, flocks, and herds and assembling at Rameses some 30 miles from Goshen (Num. 33:3) and spoiled the Egyptians. From Rameses they left Egypt as the 14th ended and the 15th began, which Deuteronomy 16:1 says was by night. This took time, as an estimated total of 2-3 million Israelites left, Exodus 12:37.
“Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto Yahweh your Elohim: for in the month of Abib Yahweh your Elohim brought you forth out of Egypt by light” (Deut. 16: 1).
Once gathered at Rameses, Israel prepared themselves in marching order with their families and livestock together and prepared to leave Egypt on the full moon night of the 15th.
“And they departed from 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 an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians” (Num. 33:3).
Yahshua Observed It Properly
Yahshua kept the Passover at the proper time and fulfilled all righteousness right up to the time of His death. Even by that time the Jews were keeping Passover a day later, just as they do today, John 18:28. Notice that the disciples were not confused about when He was keeping the Passover, Matthew 26: 18-19; Mark 14; Luke 22:8-14; John 13. All Evangels say Yahshua was entombed on the preparation day: Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54, John 19:31, 42. This in itself shows that Yahshua kept the Passover as the 14th began; was on trial that night, and was impaled as morning came.
Yahshua kept the Passover with His disciples and shortly afterward was taken prisoner and then severely beaten and scourged, His flesh ripped open. By His stripes we are healed. If He kept the lawperfectly, should we not also keep Passover on the beginning of the 14th?
We are told we should follow the practice of the Jews in observing the Passover on the 15th. Today, far too much credence is given to the practice of the Pharisees, who already in Yahshua’s time kept Passover a day late.
Beware of Jewish Custom
The Jews freely admit that the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were at one time two separate festivals. However, following their return from Babylon, the two were merged into one observance .and Passover is now kept by Jews on Abib 15. That they kept Passover a day late is clear from John’s Evangel:
“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” (John 18:28).
The Encyclopedia Judaica admits that the Jews have fused the two observances and now keep Passover a day late on the 15th, observing it along with the first day of Unleavened Bread: “The feast of Passover consists of two parts: the Passover ceremony, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Originally, both parts existed separately; but at the beginning of the exile they were combined” (Vol. 13,“Passover,” p. 169).
It is clear that the Bible knows nothing about Passover’s being observed on the 15th. Bible references show that Passover is to be on the 14th of Abib, which has to be in the evening when the 13th ends at sunset, and the 14th begins. Those who anchor their Passover to the Jews ignore the plain statements of Scripture that Passover is on the 14th. They depend upon a misunderstanding ofMatthew’s statement. “Then spake Yahshua to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not you after their works: for they say, and do not” (Mat. 23:1-3).
Yahshua is telling us that when the scribes and Pharisees read the Old Testament as Moses did, they will be quoting these same verses. These teachings, when from the Bible, we are to obey. We are not to DO what the Pharisees do, however, for they say one thing and do another. They tell us from their reading of the Bible to keep the Passover on the 14th. But in their practice they keep Passover on the 15th. “Do not after their works,” says our Savior. He also so much as says that the Pharisees will not have everlasting life, Matthew 5:20. Why should we want to folIow a custom of those who were fatally wrong in their practices?
Yahshua is telling us not to follow Jewish custom. We are to keep Passover on the 14th as Moses wrote, not as the Jews do today.
There is not one verse in the Bible telling us to keep Passover or any rite or ceremony thereof on ANY day except the l4th! We find no saints keeping Passover as the 14th ends and 15th starts. Yahshua kept the Passover at the beginning of the 14th, and we are to walk in His steps.
His Later Practice
The four Evangels show that the Savior and His disciples were prepared to eat the Passover (Mat. 26:17-20; Mark 14:12-17;Luke 22:7-18; John 13:1-2). Not one of these references shows the disciples questioning why the Savior is preparing to partake of the Passover early (or late).
In both Matthew and Mark the disciples asked Yahshua where they should prepare for Him to eat the Passover. The disciples knew when Passover was to be held. They had no problem with keeping this special time correctly and went to make ready the Passover.
A Fabled ‘Memorial Supper’
Nowhere do we find any disciple keeping Passover a day later with the Jews, who apparently observed the 15th. The question is, why did the Jews keep Passover a day later than the Savior?
The Savior had already kept the Passover in John 13, five chapters earlier. Somehow a fable has arisen that Yahshua kept a sort of “memorial supper,” separate from the Passover. “Memorial Supper” nowhere appears in Scripture. A careful reading of the four evangels shows that Yahshua and His disciples did indeed keep the Passover on the “preparation day,” which is the 14th of Abib. Furthermore, the Bible says Yahshua ate the Passover meal with the Disciples.
“Now when the even was come, He sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, He said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began everyone of them to say unto him, Master, is it I? And He answered and said, He that dips his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me” (Mat. 26:21-23).
Some historians and Bible dictionaries admit that Passover was held on two consecutive dates in the year 31 C.E., including The Dictionary of the New Testament.
Passover is not a “Sabbath” or Shabbathown. It is a time to prepare for the ensuing week of Unleavened Bread. That is baking the “bread of affliction,” and ridding our domiciles of all leavening. Passover is for those immersed into the Savior’s Name and is to be observed religiously as a Feast Day every year in the spring:
“And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to Yahweh throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever” (Ex. 12:14).
If the Savior kept the Passover early and at the wrong time, as some allege, then He sinned and did not keep the law perfectly! He also made His disciples to sin by misleading them to keep Passover on the wrong day!
Night of Watching
As He kept the Passover, Yahshua observed a much neglected command along with His disciples, given back in Exodus 12. We read little about it, but scholars contend that the following Passover verse tells those keeping Passover to go back to their tents in the morning after keeping a Shimmurim or all-night vigil, a “Night of watching”: “And you shall roast and eat it in the place which Yahweh your Elohim shall choose: and you shall turn in the morning, and go unto your tents” (Deut. 16:7).
This command is found where the Passover is first mentioned: “It is a night to be much observed unto Yahweh for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of Yahweh to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations” (Ex. 12:42).
Yahshua and the disciples kept the correct Passover on the 14th and followed it by keeping the “Night of Watching” when they went out to the garden. There Yahshua asked the disciples to stay awake and pray: “Then said Yahshua unto them, All you shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad … Then said He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry here, and watch with me” (Mat. 26:31-38).
Matthew clearly states that the disciples were asked to “watch” with the Savior that night. Three times He came to them, and they were sleeping. Reading the Evangels, we learn there were many Jews, priests, and even young maidens up and about in this chilly “night of watching” when Peter warmed himself outside.
Yahweh watched out for Israel during the night the destroying angel was about, and now His people are to keep a watch for Him.
by Donald R. Mansager