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Bible verses about Passover, Timing of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

When should the Passover be kept? This question has caused much contention in the church over the years, but we will avoid those controversies here by examining the question straight from God's Word. The answer is surprisingly simple. Passover is to be kept on the fourteenth day of the first of God's months, called Abib or Nisan. Scripture after scripture proves this point beyond every shadow of doubt. We will quickly run through six of them:

» On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD'S Passover. (Leviticus 23:5)

» And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, in the Wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did. (Numbers 9:5)

» On the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the LORD. (Numbers 28:16)

» Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho. (Joshua 5:10)

» Now Josiah kept a Passover to the LORD in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the first month. (II Chronicles 35:1)

» And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. (Ezra 6:19)

The evening beginning Abib/Nisan 14 was when the Passover lamb was killed, cooked, and eaten. The night of Abib/Nisan 14 was when God's Angel of Death passed over Egypt. During the evening of Abib/Nisan 14, Jesus kept the Passover, often called the Last Supper, with His disciples. Later that same night and day of Abib/Nisan 14, Jesus was arrested, tried, tortured, and murdered. So it is on the evening beginning Abib/Nisan 14 that we hold the Passover service.

It is well known that God's days begin and end at sunset. As Passover day is not specified as one of the holy days, if a person must attend school or work on it, he or she should make a point of keeping in mind what happened during this very day in AD 31.

Staff
What Is the Passover Anyway?


 

Genesis 14:18

Genesis 14-15 contains time markers that help us line up these events with the Passover and Exodus from Egypt, as well as the Passover and crucifixion in the New Testament:

» “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; [H]e was the priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). This corresponds with Jesus' Passover observance with bread and wine, which took place at the beginning of the 14th.

» “Then He brought him outside and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be'” (Genesis 15:5). Abraham is outside and viewing the stars. The time has progressed to full dark on the 14th.

» The sacrificial activities described in Genesis 15:9-11 indicate the arrival of the daylight portion of Abib 14; it was light enough to make sacrifices. This method of making a covenant symbolizes that, if the terms were not met, the transgressor must be cut in half, just like the animals (see Jeremiah 34:18-20).

» “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him” (Genesis 15:12). The sun begins to go down as soon as noon has passed, so this verse could indicate any time in the afternoon or early evening.

» “And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces” (Genesis 15:17). The sun has set and Abib 15 has begun. The symbol of a burning lamp is linked with the salvation of God's people (Isaiah 62:1) and describes the eyes of God (Daniel 10:6). In addition, when God descended on Mount Sinai in fire, its “smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace” (Exodus 19:18). Through these symbols, God is seen confirming His covenant to Abraham by passing through the middle of the sacrificed animals.

What happened during the daylight portion of the 14th in Abraham's day was a conversation about inheriting the land, then Abraham divided and arranged the animals at God's command in preparation for the covenant. Thus, the timing of Christ's crucifixion on the afternoon of Abib 14 points to something centuries before the Passover in Egypt—to the promises God made to the father of the faithful and to the preparations made for their covenant.

David C. Grabbe
Why Was Jesus Not Crucified as Passover Began? (Part Two)


 

Genesis 15:4-5

Twilight is clearly past and now—with stars visible—it must be the dark part of Nisan 14. Both John 13:30 and I Corinthians 11:23 confirm the same general time in the events of Christ's final Passover. The daylight portion of the 14th is approaching.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Genesis 15:7-17

Sunset is the beginning of Nisan 14, and chronologically we are moving into the daylight portion of that day—Passover day. As daylight hits, Abraham asks God for evidence that He will follow through. Abraham receives the command to prepare a sacrifice and a prophecy regarding his family. Verse 12 shows the preparation of the sacrifice was during the daylight part of Nisan 14, because when we get to verse 12, the sacrifice has been prepared, and the sun was going down. That brings us up to the end of the 14th.

Many have wondered why Christ was sacrificed during the daylight portion of Nisan 14 in the afternoon rather than at the beginning, and seemingly more in alignment with Passover. Was not the Passover lamb slain at the beginning of Nisan 14, after ben ha arbayim began? Yes, it was. So people think because Christ was sacrificed sometime during the afternoon of the 14th that there is something wrong. The answer as to why He was sacrificed during the afternoon rather than at the beginning of the 14th appears here in Genesis 15: Even as the covenant of promise with Abraham was ratified by the sacrifice Abraham makes here, Christ's sacrifice provides the ratification of the New Covenant. Christ's sacrifice, by God's decree, had to align with the ratification of the covenant of promise with Abraham, not the Passover. The time of the crucifixion aligns exactly with Genesis 15.

Verse 12 specifically states "when the sun was going down." Therefore, this sacrifice in Genesis 15, like Christ's sacrifice, took place in the late afternoon. What happened at Christ's crucifixion? A great darkness occurred. In Genesis 15, a great darkness occurred to Abraham. In addition to that, a great horror fell upon him. Now what does that picture? There are two possibilities.

  1. Abraham was made by God to experience a very small taste of the horror that Christ had to face in His crucifixion and burial. God almost scared him to death by putting the fear in him.
  2. It could also be a precursor of the darkness and the earthquake that took place at Christ's crucifixion.

I prefer the first one, that Abraham, as the father of the faithful and the first covenantal ancestor of Jesus Christ, had to experience a bit of what God's Son in the flesh would have to go through 1,700 years later.

Something else appears here that is not so readily apparent at Christ's crucifixion: Abraham had to beat off vultures. When the fowls came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. Vile birds are the Bible's symbol of demons. This gives the impression that, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, a great spiritual battle occurred during which the demons were taunting and persecuting Christ to induce Him to give up. Some of the psalms speak about everybody gawking at Him and taunting Him. It was not only human beings. We can understand it was demons as well, who were doing everything to break His courage and to break His spirit.

It says very clearly that God forsook Jesus. "Why have you forsaken me?" Christ asks, because now He was on His own completely and totally for the first time in His life. God made Abraham go through a little bit of that great horror and darkness. Maybe part of the horror that Abraham had to experience was the fear, perhaps, of being buried alive. We can speculate on such things, but it is included so that we will understand what Abraham went through and how it parallels what Christ endured—even to the exact days and times of the days as the events progressed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf and the Selfsame Day


 

Genesis 17:23

Comparing Genesis 17:23; Exodus 12:41; and Galatians 3:16-18, we have evidence of a significant Genesis event that later became a festival date, and thus it is important to Christianity. Exodus 12:2-6 dates the Passover on the fourteenth of Abib. Israel left Egypt on the next day, the fifteenth. Verse 41 strongly suggests that the Exodus was 430 years to the very day from when Abraham made the covenant with God which was sealed by the patriarch's circumcision. Galatians 3 reinforces the link between the events of the Exodus (Paul sums them up in the term "the law," which was given about two months after leaving Egypt), the 430 years and God's covenant with Abraham. These verses confirm that the Abrahamic covenant, the introduction of circumcision, and Israel's going out of Egypt took place on Abib 15, the First Day of Unleavened Bread.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Promises Are Sure!


 

Exodus 12:1-14

Historically, the church of God has observed the Passover just after sunset as the 14th day of Abib begins, as commanded in Exodus 12:1-14 (see also Leviticus 23:4-5; Numbers 9:2-5). However, it is also plain from Scripture that Jesus Christ was not sacrificed at that time—His trial and crucifixion took place during the daylight portion of the 14th, and He died around 3:00 pm on the preparation day for the first day of Unleavened Bread (Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:30-31). Since He is our Passover (I Corinthians 5:7), why did His death not occur at the time the Passover lambs were to be slain—at the beginning of the 14th day? Or should His death set the standard for understanding the instructions given to Israel?

To add to the complexity, the gospel accounts show Jesus observing the Passover with His disciples at the beginning of the 14th. Which of His actions should we use as our guide for observing Passover: the time when He observed it or when He died? And why are those events at different times?

When the time of Jesus' death is chosen above all else, the typical result is a change in the observance of Passover from the beginning of the 14th day of Abib, just after sunset, to the afternoon of the 14th or even into the 15th. Further, those who make this change must then find a different explanation for when the Israelites killed the lambs and later left Egypt, which frequently involves leaning on Jewish tradition for support—for those Jewish sects that follow Talmudic traditions promote this divergent perspective.

David C. Grabbe
Why Was Jesus Not Crucified as Passover Began? (Part One)


 

Zechariah 9:9

This verse prophesies Jesus' triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, and it is the basis of the traditional Christian holy day of Palm Sunday. However, the Bible's chronology shows that Christ's entrance did not occur on a Sunday.

John 12:1 says, "Then six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom he had raised from the dead." After Mary anoints Jesus' feet, the next time marker appears:

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. The King of Israel!" (verses 12-13).

If one is not paying attention, Palm Sunday seems plausible, but closer inspection proves otherwise! When Jesus comes to Bethany, it is six days to the Passover, or the ninth of Abib/Nisan. The next day, the tenth, Jesus enters Jerusalem, five days before the Passover (counting inclusively). The tenth of Abib/Nisan is special because it is the day that the Israelites were to take the Passover lamb into their homes and keep it until the fourteenth day (Exodus 12:3-6). Therefore the people of Jerusalem symbolically select Him as their Passover lamb.

If His triumphal entry occurs on Sunday, five days before Passover, the Passover must occur on Thursday, the fifteenth of Abib/Nisan—not Friday! This alone destroys the Friday crucifixion—Sunday resurrection argument. The truth is that Christ enters Jerusalem on a Sabbath, is crucified on Wednesday, the fourteenth of Abib/Nisan, and rises from the dead 72 hours later as the Sabbath ends.

Staff
Was Jesus Resurrected on Easter Sunday?


 

Matthew 26:17-19

There is no equivocation in Jesus' words. The stated will and intent of the Son of Man was to keep the Passover with His disciples in the house of that certain man. He knew He would be betrayed and crucified, but He, God in the flesh, said with full assurance that He would be keeping the Passover with His disciples in that house.

When He was crucified, though, He was not in any man's house, nor was He with His disciples—they had all fled!—so that was not when He or they kept the Passover. Did Jesus' words return to Him void (see Isaiah 55:11)? If the Messiah's words hold any weight with us, we can be confident that His will came to pass, and that the meal He shared with His disciples—including the bread and wine (Matthew 26:26-29)—was the Passover.

David C. Grabbe
Why Was Jesus Not Crucified as Passover Began? (Part One)


 

Matthew 27:46-50

Christ's sacrifice confirming the New Covenant occurred on the anniversary of God's covenantal promise to Abraham—the same day and hour! Its specific timing draws our attention to the “eternal inheritance” promised to Abraham and his spiritual seed. Jesus set the example of when and how He wants us to observe the Passover—at the beginning of the 14th—and then on that afternoon, He shed His blood so that a New Covenant could be made.

This covenant is an outgrowth of the covenant with Abraham, making his “great nation” a reality. It provides for justification on the basis of faith—for Israelite and Gentile alike—and promises eternal life to those who continue to the end in faith. Christ is our Passover, not by lining up with the timing outlined in the instructions given to Israel, but by renewing and advancing the covenant God made with Abraham.

David C. Grabbe
Why Was Jesus Not Crucified as Passover Began? (Part Two)


 

 




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