Appendix to Par. 188.8.131.52.4, p. 222-236f
By an unknown author
When Was The Passover Lamb Sacrificed?
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. 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
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
. . . . . 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. . . . . .
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
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. [ Here difference should be made between the “keeping” of the Passover in the sense of having it killed “at even” and in the sense of having it eaten after sunset in the night of the new day – with unleavened bread. Thus, unleavened bread is eaten the seventh time in the night or beginning of the 21st day and not on “the end of the 21st day”. CGE]
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
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
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
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. . . . . . .
Between the Evenings
understanding of this phrase is crucial in determining when the Passover lamb
was to be sacrificed. We cannot use circular reasoning to arrive at its
meaning. By that I mean, because Yahshua apparently ate the
Passover at the beginning of Abib 14, we cannot conclude that "between the
evenings" must be a time period prior to that supper, namely sunset or
twilight beginning Abib 14. That is circular reasoning and poor exegesis.
There is firm historical support showing that the Hebrew phrase "ben ha-erebim" (between the evenings) was a time period between noon and sundown (See 'Historical Evidence to Support a Passover Sacrifice at the End of Abib 14'). There is virtually no historical evidence I know of to support that phrase meaning twilight. One can find many modern day commentators and Bible translators supporting that position, but their position is based on opinion, conjecture, and a misunderstanding of Hebrew thought on this subject. By 'Hebrew thought' I mean their beliefs as far back as three hundred years prior to Messiah Yahshua, not their thoughts after 70 C.E.. Although Jewish thought on this subject did not change at that time, some people believe it did.
The phrase in question appears eleven times in the Hebrew text. Five of those times pertain to the Passover.
Ex.12:6 - "And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of
Lev.23:5 - "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is Yahweh's passover.
Num.9:3 - "In the fourteenth day of this month, at even , ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it."
Num.9:5 - "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
Num.9:11 - "The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs ."
The context of
these scriptures are not very helpful in determining the meaning of
"Between the evenings" (in bold print). The remaining six verses,
however, are quite helpful. [ If “kept”
be understood for meaning “sacrificed” they are easily understood as referring
to daytime before sunset. CGE ]
Ex.16:12 - "I have heard the murmurings of the children of
Ex.29:39,41 is repeated in Num.28:4,8 so we need only look at Num.28:4,8 to understand the next four uses of "between the evenings."
Num.28:4,8 - "The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lamb shalt thou offer at even ;
And the other lamb shalt thou offer at even : as the meat offering of the morning, and as the drink offering thereof, thou shalt offer it , a sacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savour unto Yahweh."
Both phrases in bold type are from the Hebrew "ben ha-erebim." These verses deal with the time of the evening sacrifice. Keep in mind that a Hebrew day ends at sunset as we study these verses.
First, the historical testimony of Josephus places the evening sacrifice at "about the ninth hour" or approximately 3:00 p.m. (Antiquities 14.4.3). This agrees with his statement that the Passover lamb was sacrificed "between the ninth and the eleventh hour" (Wars 6.9.3). Two different sacrifices, both occurring at about the ninth hour and both fulfilling the command to sacrifice "between the evenings."
Secondly, we have the clear meaning of two other Hebrew words to assure us of the meaning intended. The word "one" used in verse 4 is the Hebrew word "echad" which can also mean "first" as in Num. 29:1 and many other texts.
Num.29:1a - "And in the seventh
month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy
convocation;" More importantly is the Hebrew word translated
"other" in verse 8. It is "sheniy" meaning "double ie:
second," according to Strong's Concordance. "Sheniy" is the most
common Hebrew word for "second." If the "other" lamb, or
more correctly, the "second" lamb, were sacrificed after
sunset it would have been sacrificed on a new day making it the first lamb
sacrificed that day. Both lambs had to be sacrificed the same day, the first
one in the morning and the second one between the evenings or late in the day,
but before sunset.
That leaves us with one verse left, Ex.30:8. Josephus says this was done at "sunsetting" (Antiquities 3.8.3). He does not say "sundown" or "sunset." This time period, in the Jewish culture, begins at noon. The sun begins setting at that time. It continues to set until it vanishes from sight beginning a new day. 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 in
the wilderness was made out of animal skins which means they would not allow
much light, if any, to enter the sanctuary. If Aaron waited until sundown to
light the lamps, he would not have had any light to see what he was doing. This
would especially be true when the moon was not full. Lighting the lamps before
sunset would make more sense. Also, if Aaron had to light the lamps, burn
incense and offer the evening sacrifice after sunset, when did he have time to
offer the Passover sacrifice? Twilight only lasts about 30 minutes.
Interestingly, Lev.23:3 uses the Hebrew word "ereb" concerning the time for lighting the lamps and 2 Chr.13:11 uses "ereb" for the time of the evening sacrifice. Therefore, ereb and ben ha-erebim are interchangeable as far as these times are concerned.
Conclusion: The weightier evidence, both historical and scriptural, is clearly in favour of "between the evenings" meaning a time period before sunset. Appealing to modern day commentators and translators is fruitless since support can be found for both views. History, however, cannot be refuted and neither can context.
at the place which Yahweh thy Elohim shall choose to place his name in, there
thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even [ba-ereb], at the going down
of the sun , at the season that thou camest forth out of
Historical Evidence to Support a Passover Sacrifice
at the End of Abib 14
The Book of Jubilees - (2nd Century B.C.E.) -
"Remember the commandment which the Lord commanded thee concerning the Passover, that thou shouldst celebrate it in its season on the fourteenth of the first month, that thou shouldst kill it before it is evening, and that they should eat it by night on the evening of the fifteenth from the time of the setting of the sun."
"Let the children of Israel come and observe Passover on the day of its fixed time, on the fourteenth day of the first month, between the evenings, from the third part of the day to the third part of the night, for two portions of the day are given to light, and a third part to the evening."
is that which the Lord commanded thee that thou shouldst observe it between the
evenings. And it is not permissible to slay it during any period of the light,
but during the period bordering on the evening, and let them eat it at the time
of the evening until the third part of the night, and whatever is left over of
all its flesh from the third part of the night and onwards, let them burn with
fire." (Each 'part' was approximately 4 hours long). 'Apocrypha and
Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English' by R.H. Charles, chapter 49.
This shows that, as early as two centuries before Messiah, there were Jews who believed the Passover was to be sacrificed at the end of Abib 14 and eaten on the 15th. This also shows that this practice did not begin after the destruction of the second temple in 70 C.E.
Philo - (early 1st century C.E.) -
"After the New Moon comes the fourth feast, called the Crossing-feast, which the Hebrews in their native tongue call Pascha. In this festival many myriads of victims from noon till eventide are offered by the whole people ... The day on which this national festivity occurs may very properly be noted. It is the 14th of the month ..." 'De Specialibus Legibus, 2,' 145, 149.
Again, these offerings took place at the end of the 14th. Philo wrote from about 20 B.C.E. to 45 C.E. So this would have been the practice in Messiah's day.
Another treatise ascribed to Philo, 'Quasestiones et Solutiones in Genesin et in Exodum,' states the time of the Passover sacrifice to be after 3 p.m.
Josephus - (late 1st century C.E.) -
"... accordingly, on the occassion of the feast called Passover, at which they sacrifice from the ninth hour to the eleventh hour , [3 p.m. to 5 p.m.] and a little fraternity, as it were, gather round each sacrifice, of not fewer than ten persons" War 6.9.3.
Josephus also wrote about the time of the evening sacrifice that was offered between the evenings as was the Passover.
"...but did still twice each day, in the morning and about the ninth hour [3 p.m.], offer their sacrifices on the altar;"
Antiquities of the Jews 14.4.3
This was the practice in the days of Pompey (65 B.C.E.). It continued this way until the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E.
Writing on the subject of offering incense as it was practiced in Moses' time, Josephus says;
"... but incense was to be offered twice a day, both before sunrising and at sunsetting ." Antiq. 3.8.3.
The phrase "at sunsetting" has led some to believe that incense and the evening sacrifice were offered originally at sunset, but later changed to mid-afternoon. Note that Josephus does not say "sunset" or "sundown", but "sunsetting." To a Jew, the sun is setting from noon until it disappears below the horizon. Even to an American today, the sun is continually descending until sundown. So Josephus does not contradict himself, nor does he teach that a change was made.
Septuagint - (3rd Century B.C.E.) -
Lev.23:5 gives a literal translation of the Hebrew "ben ha-erebim" (Greek: anameson ton hesperinon = "at between the evenings.") However, in Ex.12:6,12 and Num.28:4,8, ben ha-erebim is translated as "toward evening," (Greek: pros hesperan). Ex.29:39,41 translates ben ha-erebim as 'to deilinon' in Greek meaning "in the afternoon" or "toward evening."
This shows that the Hebrew phrase ben ha-erebim was understood to mean the evening at the end of the day approximately 300 years before Messiah.
Ezekielos - (approx. 90 B.C.E.) -
Ezekielos was a Jewish dramatist who composed a tragedy in Greek on the theme of the Exodus. He writes, "And let them be kept until the fourteenth day is bright ; then sacrificing them towards evening (you will eat them) all roast, together with (their) entrails."
"Eustathius, in a note on the seventeenth book of the Odyssey, shows that the Greeks too held that there were two evenings, one which they called the latter evening, at the close of the day; and the other the former evening, which commenced immediately after noon . . ." McClintock and Strong, vol. VII, 1877, p.735. Irenaeus - (120 - 202 C.E.) -
"Of the day of His passion, too, he was not ignorant; but foretold Him, after a figurative manner, by the name given to the passover; and at that very festival, which had been proclaimed such a long time previously by Moses, did our Lord suffer, thus fulfilling the passover. And he did not describe the day only, but the place also, and the time of day at which the sufferings ceased, and the sign of the setting of the sun, saying: "Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any other of thy cities which the LORD thy God shall choose that His name be called on there, thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, towards the setting sun ." Ante-Nicean Fathers, Vol.1, pg. 473.
Although this source testifies from about 100 years after the temple was destroyed, I feel it is important. This was written at a time when weak Christians were avoiding persecution by forsaking the appearance of anything Jewish such as Sabbath observance. If the practice of sacrificing the Passover before sunset was a Jewish invention after 70 C.E., it most certainly would have been forsaken by Messianic believers at that time. But there is no evidence of that in Irenaeus's account.
Rabbinic Literature can also be added to this list of historical evidence, but since they are accused of changing the time of the Passover sacrifice, they won't be included.
All of the sources listed are unified in their support of "between the evenings" meaning at the end of the day. I have yet to see any historical documentation supporting a beginning of the 14th Passover. Most of the extra-Biblical support for that position comes from modern commentaries and translations written by people who did not understand Jewish thought on this subject.
It is often contended that Yahshua observed Passover the year he died according to the Sadducean way. It is said that, "as long as the temple stood, the Sadducees set the festival dates" and, eventually, Pharisaical changes were made. This view is primarily based on the commentaries such as, The New Bible Dictionary under "Pentecost."
Another comment in that same book is found on page 1054 under "Sadducees" - "Our sources are all hostile and inadequate for an accurate picture. They are Josephus...the Mishnah....the N.T. " In other words, we don't have any information concerning the Sadducees except from these three sources. None of these sources provides the view that the Sadducees set festival dates. On the contrary, they oppose that view. The N.T. only shows that the high priest was a Sadducee. So where does this view come from? Conjecture. Since the high priest was a Sadducee, it is assumed that the Sadducees had total control over the temple and festival dates. But if we honestly use the only information we have concerning the Sadducees, we see an entirely different picture.
Acts 22:3 says, "I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel (a Pharisee), and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers , and was zealous toward Elohim, as ye all are this day." Gamaliel would not have taught Paul the Sadducean way of counting.
Acts 23:6 says, "But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee : of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question." Not only was Paul taught by a Pharisee, his father was a Pharisee. It is doubtful he would have departed from the way he was raised.
Acts 23:9 says, "And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against Elohim." Paul had the scribes and Pharisees on his side. Notice he did not appeal to the Sadducees saying, "I count Pentecost and keep Passover just like you."
Phil.3:5-6 says, "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of
Mk.12:24 - "Yahshua answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures , nor the power of Yahweh." The Sadducees had a very shallow understanding of Scripture because they were political puppets appointed by foreign rulers. They did not understand the concepts of a resurrection or angels, and neither did they understand how to reckon festivals.
Notice what the New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible says about the priesthood in the time of Messiah;
"The chief priests who are mentioned in the N.T. were the officiating high priest, former high priests still alive, and members of their families. They were an anomaly of the times. The law (Yahweh's Law) that regulated the succession to the high priesthood had come into abeyance through political confusion and foreign domination. High priests were made and unmade at will of the rulers."
Mt.23:2,3 says, "... The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not." Yahshua did not say "the scribes and Sadducees." What is Moses' seat? Ex. 18:15-16 reads, "And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of Elohim: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of Elohim, and his laws." Yahshua declared that it was the job of the Scribes and Pharisees to teach Yahweh's laws and statutes, including reckoning festivals. Yahshua was not a hypocrite. If he taught us to observe the ways of the Pharisees concerning the Law, we can rest assured that he followed the Pharisees teachings as well.
Those who support an early 14th Passover seem to take pride in the fact that the Samaritan's sacrifice the Passover lamb at twilight. Yet, they disregard the fact that it was the twilight between the 14th and 15th of Abib, not twilight beginning the 14th. Although the Pharisees were in error because of their over zealousness and hypocrisy, Yahshua supported them in their role as those who sit in Moses' seat (Mt.23:2,3). Scripture, however, paints a different picture of the Samaritan's. Consider the following;
John 4:21,22 - "Yahshua saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at
Ezra 4:3-24 - It was the Samaritans that were the greatest obstacle in rebuilding Yahweh's temple in
The Samaritan religion developed as a result of Jeroboam's efforts at alienating the ten tribes from Yahweh's worship at
The Samaritan's reject all Hebrew Scriptures with the exception of the Pentateuch and possibly Joshua. They have rewritten these books in many areas. These rewritten books comprise the "Samaritan Pentateuch."