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What the Bible says about Night To Be Much Observed
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 15:10

In Abraham's day, covenants were sometimes agreed to by preparing a sacrifice, cutting it in two pieces and halving it exactly. They would lay the pieces out on the ground. Then those making the covenant had to pass between the divided carcass. This symbolized the seriousness of their intentions to keep the covenant, because the divided carcass represented what would happen to them if they did not keep their oaths. They were committing themselves to be cut in two if they broke their word.

That was not the way every covenant was agreed to, only rather more serious covenants. They placed their lives at risk. If either party did not keep that covenant, they were pledging their life. Then after they passed through, the carcass was burned, symbolizing their acceptance.

What is interesting here in this case is that God is the only one shown passing between the divided carcass. First, this shows God's seriousness to meet the requirement of the covenant. It also shows that God was not holding either Abraham or his descendants to the same stringent requirement to the covenant as He held Himself. This promise therefore would be met by God's grace, and not by man's works. Nobody will meet the terms of the covenant on the basis of works, but by grace.

The smoking oven and the burning torch symbolize God in many instances in the Bible. In the Old Testament especially, God represents Himself through the image of fire: the burning bush and the pillar of fire in the wilderness. It is likely that, as He passed through the divided sacrifice, the fire consumed it, showing His acceptance. The burning of the sacrifice by fire means "fire out of heaven" from an invisible source. Whoom! It just appeared there, and turned it into a charred mess. God has done this in the past, too. When the Tabernacle was built, God ignited the first sacrifice. When the Levitical ministry and the priesthood under Aaron were consecrated, God ignited the sacrifice, as He did in Genesis 15:10. God consumed it out of heaven.

Abib 14 thus symbolizes the ratification of the promise by sacrifice, and Abib 15 symbolizes what it accomplishes by giving visible evidence of God's faithfulness as the Israelites go free. He is keeping His promise, and here is the evidence.

When Israel left Egypt on the night of Abib 15—The Night To Be Much Observed—it marked the beginning of the fulfillment of the physical aspects of that promise. God's promise included “race”—national promises—and “grace”—spiritual promises. Abraham's descendants left Egypt with great substance, exactly as the promise says, and Christ's sacrifice marks the beginning of the spiritual fulfillment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf and the Selfsame Day

Genesis 15:17-21

For the events of Genesis 15:17-21, the sun has gone down, and it is dark. In the crucifixion sequence, by dark the Son was in His grave. This is now the 15th of Nisan, the day that became the first day of Unleavened Bread, the part known as the Night To Be Much Observed, "the selfsame day" of Exodus 12:41. Numbers 33:3 confirms Israel left Egypt on the 15th of Nisan, but Exodus 12:42 specifically states Israel began its departure at night, and God names that night the "Night To Be Much Observed." Its significance is that, because the firstborn of the Egyptians have been slain, the descendents of Abraham are released from their bondage and free to leave Egypt. The firstborn of Egypt thus become a type of the True Firstborn, Jesus Christ, the sacrifice for our sins that enslave us to spiritual Egypt.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001

Genesis 15:17

Now it was dark. In the antitype, the Firstborn, Christ, is in His grave. Therefore, time-wise we are now into Abib 15. We have come all the way from ben ha arbayim, at the beginning of Abib 14, and the events progressing one after the other through Genesis 15. At verse 17, Abib 15—the First Day of Unleavened Bread—begins.

What occurs in Genesis 15:17 is the actual beginning of the Night To Be Much Observed. Exodus 12:41-42 merely records a fulfillment of this first Night To Be Much Observed. Genesis 15:17 is the point from which the 430 years began, and they ended in Exodus 12:41—down to the very day. It was the beginning of Abib 15.

This is a night of great significance in the salvation story of God's people. Because the firstborn of the Egyptians had been slaughtered, and the descendants of Abraham had been released from their slavery to leave Egypt, the firstborn of Egypt thus become types of the Firstborn, Jesus Christ—the Sacrifice for our sins that enslave us to spiritual Egypt.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf and the Selfsame Day

Exodus 12:14-15

Without any break in the context, God switches from the 14th of Nisan (Passover) to the 15th (First Day of Unleavened Bread). If we are not careful, we might be easily confused on this. Then He gives detailed instructions about the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Exodus 12:15-16

Does God really want us to be deleavening on the First Day of Unleavened Bread? Verse 16 clarifies what He means: "On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you."

This "first day" is the first holy day of God's annual holy day season. He commands His people to hold special church services and to do no work other than what is necessary to prepare food. Even for ancient Israelites living in tents, this forbade deleavening work on the holy day. The phrase "On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses" might therefore be better translated, "You shall have removed leaven from your houses by the first day." Verses 18 and 19 make this even clearer.

All leaven must be off our property by the sunset that closes Abib/Nisan 14. This sunset marks the Night to be Much Observed and the beginning of the First Day of Unleavened Bread. Many brethren, however, choose to have their deleavening work completed a little earlier so that they can spend more time preparing spiritually for Passover and physically for the Night to be Much Observed. We should permit no leaven on our property until after the sunset that closes Abib 21, which is the Last Day of Unleavened Bread.

Staff
The Five Ws of Deleavening

Exodus 12:22

One cannot go out of Egypt by night (Exodus 12:51) and stay in his home until morning (Exodus 12:22; Deuteronomy 16:21) at the same time. One cannot "leave" and "stay" simultaneously. The events of Passover and the events of the Night To Be Much Observed (beginning of the first day of Unleavened Bread) occurred on two different nights.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Exodus 12:40-42

Exodus 12:40-42 is describing the Night To Be Much Observed, not the Passover night. There is a reason why God established two different festivals. The first, Passover, on the 14th of Nisan, begins in the evening, that is, at the beginning of the day with the killing of the lamb.

The killing of the lamb has a specific focus, the death of the Savior, showing that we have a part in His death. The second part of the ritual, the eating of the lamb, emphasizes the more important continuance of the relationship. When a person ingests food, he receives energy, and his life is sustained. This is the symbolic meaning of eating the lamb.

Nisan 15—the First Day of Unleavened Bread, when the exodus occurred—emphasizes the action required to keep the relationship going and growing. That is our part. We have to get up and do something; we have to leave Egypt, a type of leaving sin.

We are dealing with two different festivals with two altogether different focuses.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Exodus 12:40-42

Israel was to keep the Night to Be Much Observed in part as a night of watchful vigil to commemorate the reason they could leave Egypt so easily: God watched over them as His plan unfolded.

Reading Genesis 15 with the story in Exodus, we can see how God watched over them. Israel's bondage in Egypt had disciplined Israel, preparing them to go through the wilderness, and afterwards, take the Promised Land. This was God's plan for them, and He watched it brought to completion. His greater plan is not completed even now, because we are a part of it! Genesis 17 shows that it has eternal consequences and is still in operation.

The Night to be Much Observed is a significant event in God's plan. Will anyone deny that God watched out for Israel, seeing the blood on the doorposts and lintels and passing over them? Can anyone deny that He watched over them as they finished spoiling the Egyptians during the daylight portion of Nisan 14, watching as they gathered to meet in Rameses?

“Watch" does not mean that God passively observed them as they left. Instead, it means that He actively "guarded" them. "Watched" comes from the Hebrew shamar, used often and translated as “keep.” Whenever one desires to keep something, he guards and protects it. In like manner, God watched, kept, guarded, and protected Israel. Exodus 11:7 shows just how closely God watched, not allowing even a single dog to bark.

Can anyone deny that God watched as the Israelites walked out that night of Nisan 15 in the very sight of the Egyptians who were burying their dead? Most likely, the Egyptians would want to blame the Israelites for the death of their children and animals. They would be enraged. They could not see God, nor blame Him directly, as it were; but they would take it out on His people. But they stood by numbly instead of resisting or fighting.

The Night to Be Much Observed is the official marking of God's watchful care. It is good and right that we celebrate what God did and continues to do. We can easily see that this portion of the first day of Unleavened Bread is of great significance, not just on the basis of its prior history in the life of Abraham, but also its significance to the Exodus. An entire nation of slaves just got up, and without lifting a hand to achieve their liberty, they walked away.

Most people, in order to win their liberty, must undergo bloody warfare, and many people lose their lives. Those who do not suffer the loss of life usually lose their material wealth. Israel did not lose any lives and came away rich! The captor nation was helpless to do anything to retain its slaves because God restrained the Egyptians.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Exodus 12:40-42

The account of Israel's exodus from Egypt provides a clue to the significance of the afternoon of the 14th—the time when the Messiah was crucified.

The Israelites had killed the lambs after sunset as the 14th began, smearing the blood on the doorposts of their houses. They then roasted and ate the lambs, burning the remains. At midnight the Death Angel passed over, slaying the firstborn of those not under the blood. The Israelites remained in their houses until daybreak, after which they finished spoiling the Egyptians, then all 2-3 million of them traveled to Goshen. Numbers 33:3 records that they departed Rameses on the 15th day—“the day after the Passover”—and Deuteronomy 16:1 verifies that they left at night.

The Exodus, then, began at night, as Abib/Nisan 15 began. This “night of solemn observance” is the “very same day” or the “self-same day” (King James Version [KJV]) as an event that happened 430 years before—to the exact day. That prior event is the initial covenant God made with Abraham:

Then He said to him, “I amthe LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.” And he said, “Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. . . .

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror andgreat darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land thatisnot theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. . . .

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. On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram. . . . (Genesis 15:7-10, 12-14, 17-18)

In verse 13, God's states that Abraham's descendants would be afflicted, yet finally delivered. This is that “very same day” to which Exodus 12:41-42 refers—the beginning of the 15th day, just after sunset.

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

Exodus 12:42

Israel, a nation of slaves, began to glimpse the possibility of freedom through Moses. Their anticipation roller-coasted from high expectation to dread after each plague. How their emotions must have soared when they walked away from the brickyards with their firstborn alive, laughing and playing! They left Egypt with a high hand or as we might say "on a real high"! The Night To Be Much Observed memorializes our own freedom from spiritual bondage. We left spiritual Egypt, the world, behind, and in great hope and zeal, began our trek toward God's Kingdom.

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread

Deuteronomy 16:1

That "God brought you out of Egypt by night" ought to give us a clue as to what this context is about. It is about coming out, the Exodus from Egypt, not Passover night and the slaying of the firstborn. This is what we have called the Night To Be Much Observed (Exodus 12:40-42). Anyone who understands the context of Exodus 12 and similar places can understand that the instruction in Deuteronomy 16:1-8 does not contemplate Passover per se. It certainly speaking of the Passover season, but it is generally describing the Days of Unleavened Bread and specifically the Night To Be Much Observed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Deuteronomy 16:3

This verse is clearly describing the first day of Unleavened Bread—not Passover.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Deuteronomy 16:4

This sacrifice was made at the beginning of Nisan 15—at ba erev ["even" (KJV); "twilight" (NKJV)]—not at the beginning of the 14th. That makes it very certain that what is being discussed is the first day of Unleavened Bread.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Deuteronomy 16:5

Where was the Passover supposed to be sacrificed? At home! This sacrifice was not to be performed within their gates but somewhere else.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Deuteronomy 27:7

In their reference work, McClintock and Strong inform us that these offerings (especially those made on the first day of Unleavened Bread) were called hagigah (sometimes also transliterated chagigah), which means "festivity." These offerings were a festivity, something given in order to have a feast, a happy, festive time. If a person wanted to give God a peace offering, it was divided three ways: some to God, some to the priest, and the remainder came back to the offerer. With his portion, he would invite his family and friends, and they would have a fine time, eating a sumptuous meal and fellowshipping together.

These offerings are stipulated in Numbers 10:10. They are shown actually being offered in II Chronicles 30:22, included, in this case, under the name "Passover." But these offerings cannot be the actual Passover, because of the rules regarding the Passover having to be roasted and from a lamb or a kid of the goats. These offerings—the hagigah—are shown in II Chronicles 30 quite a number of times. This was when Hezekiah had his great Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Deuteronomy 29:2-3

Was God a God from afar here? The answer is "yes" and "no" because His overall plan was undoubtedly in mind, and He was recording this for the sake of future generations. Realize that from the time the book of Exodus opens until the Israelites finally leave Egypt eighty years pass. Moses was not born at the time that Scripture says they were crying out to God because of the bondage. Moses was born and preserved right through the persecution. He was cast in a little ark onto the Nile River, rescued by Pharaoh's daughter, grew up to be a man, fled into the wilderness at age forty, and spent forty years tending sheep, learning to be humble. Finally, God had him ready, so He sent him back to Egypt.

God's overall plan was in mind for a long time, yet all through these events, He was very near to Moses, preparing him. God was far off in the sense that He was using these people to prepare an account that His servant Moses would write for our sakes, so that we would understand these things.

God undoubtedly appeared to be far away from the Israelites who were crying out to Him for deliverance, but He was really right on the spot. He was near to them; He is a God at hand. We have to keep both of these views in mind. They both have an impact on the transference of the Spirit of God into our minds. God is always working two things at once: His overall purpose and His specific purpose for us as individuals and for the church.

Out of this comes a principle. God is Yahweh Jireh, which means "the Eternal who sees" or "the Eternal who provides." It is shortened into this statement: He is there. He was there when Abraham stood on Mount Moriah about to sacrifice his son, Isaac—and God provided a ram. He was at hand through all the plagues of Egypt—and He divided the Israelites away from them. He watched so closely when they left Egypt that not even a dog barked, which is what the Night to Be Much Observed is all about (Exodus 12:42). God was the One observing, watching. He was aware at the Red Sea—and He parted the waters.

He is there. He may seem far off, but He is not.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part Six)

Joshua 5:10-12

Some assume the events of Joshua 5:10-12 can only mean—by the eating of unleavened cakes and parched corn—"that Passover occurred on a weekly Sabbath and wavesheaf day was the first day of Unleavened Bread." However, nothing in the context directly states those assumptions, nor does it indicate anywhere that a wavesheaf offering or its accompanying burnt offering occurred either.

We may know the dates on which these events occurred, but they in no way reveal on which days of the week they fell. If Israel made a wavesheaf offering, when did they do it? It seems especially critical at this point, since it would have been the first time in the land. But Joshua says absolutely nothing about it.

We know that Passover observance begins at twilight when the lamb is slain, but the bulk of it is observed at night. We also know that twenty-four hours after Passover begins the Night to be Much Observed begins. The first day of Unleavened Bread begins with this observance at night. On the 15th, beginning with the keeping of the Night to be Much Observed, the people would be eating unleavened bread just as we do today because it is such a significant event in the history of God's people.

Where did the grain for making the unleavened bread and parched corn come from? It came from the grain of the land, exactly as the Scripture implies (Joshua 1:11). They could have used the old corn confiscated from the Canaanites' storage places or even harvested a sufficient amount from fields of grain left behind by Canaanites as they fled the Israelites. They had sufficient time to make such preparations. Joshua 5:11 says the Israelites ate unleavened bread and parched grain on the day after Passover. Day does not necessarily have to mean "daylight," but simply any portion of the next 24-hour day. The observance of the Night to be Much Observed is a very significant part of the day after Passover.

The Israelites rested on the holy day. They could eat manna as well as unleavened preparations. On the 16th, the next day, when they would normally have expected manna to appear, it did not. From this point, they were completely dependent upon the crops harvested from the land.

Why did Israel not make a wavesheaf offering? Because they could not lawfully do so for many reasons:

1. Because the 15th is a Sabbath, and Leviticus 23:11 clearly commands the wavesheaf offering to be made on the day following the Sabbath, not on the Sabbath.

2. Because, if the particular Sabbath that preceded the 15th was also Passover (as per the WCG scenario), it would not qualify to determine wavesheaf day since it is not part of the Days of Unleavened Bread.

3. Because they had absolutely no grain that qualified as an acceptable offering. The wavesheaf offering law states specifically that it had to be from seed that they had sown. Israel reaped what Canaanites had sown. Conquest did not change this fact. They could eat it but not offer it.

4. Because Deuteronomy 12 specifically forbids making the required animal sacrifice that accompanied the wavesheaf offering until the Tabernacle was established where God had placed His name. This did not occur until seven years had passed (compare Joshua 14:6-13 and Joshua 18:1).

5. Because Leviticus 22 strictly forbids an offering from the stranger's hand. It had to come from someone who had covenanted with God. A stranger is someone "unknown" to God, an outsider, or someone not in the family.

Israel never made a wavesheaf offering in Joshua 5.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001

Luke 22:1

What Luke is doing is showing the popular usage of the terminology, which is similar to what we do. Sometimes we call this season "Passover season," but at other times we refer to "the Days of Unleavened Bread," often implying the inclusion of Passover. We are probably less likely to do this than the Jews were because many of them blended the two days (Passover and the first day of Unleavened Bread). Luke is showing that the two terms were used in both ways. Sometimes "Passover" referred to the whole eight days, and sometimes "the Days of Unleavened Bread" identified the whole eight days.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Galatians 3:15-17

Four hundred and thirty years after the covenant God made with Abraham the law came. We understand that it was already in existence, but it was given to Israel in a codified form as a portion of the covenant that God made with him.

The real beginning of the Old Testament church was not at Mt. Sinai but in the land of inheritance where Abraham pitched his tent 430 years earlier; the Old Testament church began with Abraham. And the New Testament church, in that sense, also began at the same time—because Abraham is the father of the faithful. This highlights how important Nisan 15 is.

We understand that the real, true beginning of the New Testament church was on the day of Pentecost—when God gave His Spirit. But these are the very roots of that event! By combining Exodus 12:40-41 with Genesis 17 and Galatians 3, we know that these two events, God's covenant with Abraham and Israel's exodus from Egypt, took place on the same date 430 years apart.

From that small beginning with Abraham and Sarah came Isaac and Rebecca and then Jacob and his wives and children. Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt. Then the famine drove Jacob down into Egypt along with all of his relatives, where they grew into a sizable nation subjugated by the Egyptians. They became a nation of about 2½ million people. Then came the raising up of Moses and the destruction of Egypt culminating in the slaying of the firstborn on Nisan 14. And then the climax: The children of Israel leaving Egypt 430 years to the day that God entered into the covenant with Abraham!

On that very day, Abraham, Ishmael, and all the males of Abraham's household were circumcised, and thus they received the sign of the covenant. The covenant made at Mt. Sinai was essentially the same covenant as that entered into by God and Abraham but expanded to include the entire nation (that is, all the descendants of Abraham). Added to it, then, were civil and ceremonial laws necessary for administering the covenant to the whole nation. That makes Nisan 15 a very significant date.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed


 




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