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What the Bible says about First Day of Unleavened Bread
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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

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

Deuteronomy 16:2

This cannot be speaking of Passover because the Passover sacrifice is not selected "from the flock and the herd." It had to be a kid of the goats or a sheep—it could not come from the herd, meaning from cows. Instead, Moses is writing about a sacrifice on the first day of Unleavened Bread.

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

Matthew 26:17

Hidden in the Greek of Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:1, 12; and Luke 22:7 is a reference to Passover as "the first of the unleaveneds." This is because unleavened bread is indeed used on the 14th as part of the Passover service. A comparison with the Old Testament, however, discloses this to be only the popular usage of some during New Testament times. In the Old Testament, something akin to this is found in Deuteronomy 16, where the first day of Unleavened Bread is called "Passover," while the context clearly describes the first day of Unleavened Bread. People popularly used Passover and Unleavened Bread interchangeably, and the Bible notes this practice, though "Passover" was the term most generally used for the whole period.

Doing things like this is not uncommon. Today, we commonly refer to the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day as either the "Feast" or "Tabernacles," even though we clearly understand that the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day are separate festivals. So it was with Passover in the time of Christ and the apostles. Neither our use of "Tabernacles" nor the Jews use of "Passover" alters the authority of God's intent in the Scriptures.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001

Matthew 26:17

This translation introduces an impossibility due to the fact that God's instructions to Israel plainly state that Passover is the day before the Feast of Unleavened Bread—and we can be sure that Christ and the disciples were not late! That the disciples inquired about making preparations—and later that night assumed Judas would be purchasing something "for the feast" (John 13:29)—shows that the time in question could not have been the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Why? That day is a holy convocation on which no customary work is to be done (Leviticus 23:7), if God's instructions are to remain unbroken.

So how are we to understand this verse? First, notice that the words "day of the Feast of" are italicized, showing that the translators added them to the text. The Greek literally reads, "And on the first unleavened. . . ." The word translated as "first," protos, typically signifies a thing that is first in a sequence or first in prominence. However, it can also indicate an order of events, as well as whether an event occurs before or concurrently with another.

For example, in John 1:15 John the Baptist acknowledges Christ's pre-existence, saying, "He who comes after me is preferred before [above] me, for He was before [protos] me" (see also verse 30). Also, in II Peter 2:20, Peter says of those who become entangled in the world again, "the latter end is worse for them than the beginning [protos]," again showing an order of events.

Matthew 26:17, then, can more accurately be translated, "Now before [the Feast of] Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, 'Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?'" In other words, this incident happened before the Feast of Unleavened Bread had begun. Since they were inquiring about preparing the Passover, this could have taken place either late in the day on Abib 13 or possibly just after sunset on Abib 14 (since the Passover lamb was to be killed between sunset and dark as the 14th began).

David C. Grabbe



 




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