Sunday, 14 July 2013

The timing of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread

God gave the Israelites specific commands concerning the celebration of the Passover and the associated Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Passover was instituted at the time God delivered the Israelites from Egypt. The month of Nisan (Abib) in the Spring became the first month of the year for the Hebrews. Every household was to take one lamb on the 10th day of the month and kill it on the 14th of the month.
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight (between the evenings). (Exodus 12:5-7)
Twilight being the time between sundown and the sky turning black. The sky remains lit for a short time after the sun disappears over the horizon. By the time of the New Testament it appears that the Jews considered that the new day commenced at the beginning of twilight; modern Judaism still starts the day at sundown. It seems to me, during the time of the Torah at least, that the new day started at dawn. There are several reasons to think this though I will not address them here, I will continue on the assumption of a new day starting at dawn.

Celebration Day Date
Passover 0 Nisan 14
Unleavened Bread 1 Nisan 15
Unleavened Bread 2 Nisan 16
Unleavened Bread 3 Nisan 17
Unleavened Bread 4 Nisan 18
Unleavened Bread 5 Nisan 19
Unleavened Bread 6 Nisan 20
Unleavened Bread 7 Nisan 21

Leviticus reiterates that the lamb is to be killed on the 14th day.
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord's Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.” (Leviticus 23:5-8)
Numbers repeats the command prior to the second Passover 1 year after leaving Egypt.
Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its rules you shall keep it.” So Moses told the people of Israel that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, (Numbers 9:2-5)
The first Passover occurred on Nisan 14 at twilight. The firstborn were killed at midnight (Exo 12:29) still the 14th day of Nisan. Pharaoh summoned Moses and told him to leave. The Egyptians also urged the Israelites to leave. They set out that morning.
They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them. On their gods also the Lord executed judgments. (Numbers 33:3-4)
So they set out in the morning when the new day commenced, that is Nisan 15. The bread was not risen due to the haste at which the Israelites left (Exo 12:39). God also instituted the Feast of Unleavened Bread at this time.
This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread. (Exodus 12:14-20)

You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib, (Exodus 34:18)
Therefore unleavened bread was to be eaten from the evening of the 14th until the evening of the 21st, but not necessarily during the day of the 14th prior to twilight, or after sunset on the 21st. The Israelites were to eat bread without yeast at the Passover meal and during the days of Unleavened Bread but it does not appear to be that the yeast was to be removed from the dwelling until the 1st day of Unleavened Bread, that is Nisan 15.

On the 1st day of Unleavened Bread (15th) there was to be a feast, and also on the last day (21st).
Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. And when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year. (Exodus 13:3-10)
Both the 1st day (15th) and the 7th day (21st) were to be a holy convocation, that is, there was to be no work done.
On the fourteenth day of the first month is the Lord's Passover, and on the fifteenth day of this month is a feast. Seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, but offer a food offering, a burnt offering to the Lord: two bulls from the herd, one ram, and seven male lambs a year old; see that they are without blemish; also their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil; three tenths of an ephah shall you offer for a bull, and two tenths for a ram; a tenth shall you offer for each of the seven lambs; also one male goat for a sin offering, to make atonement for you. You shall offer these besides the burnt offering of the morning, which is for a regular burnt offering. In the same way you shall offer daily, for seven days, the food of a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. It shall be offered besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering. And on the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. (Numbers 28:16-25)
Further, there were to be special sacrifices to God during this festival. It was one of the 3 main festivals for Israel: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest (Weeks), and the Feast of Ingathering (Booths).
“Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. (Exodus 23:14-15)
It is notable that the Passover could not be eaten by anyone who was unclean. For those who had become unclean Passover was deferred for 1 month.
And there were certain men who were unclean through touching a dead body, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day,... The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If any one of you or of your descendants is unclean through touching a dead body, or is on a long journey, he shall still keep the Passover to the Lord. In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight they shall keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. (Numbers 9:6-11)
Moses repeated the instructions concerning the Passover and the Feast of Unleavend Bread during his sermon prior to entering Canaan.
Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose, to make his name dwell there. You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the flesh that you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning. You may not offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, but at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt. And you shall cook it and eat it at the place that the Lord your God will choose. And in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. For six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God. You shall do no work on it. (Deuteronomy 16:1-8)
Again we read the Passover is to occur at twilight, they are not to eat leaven for 7 days. They are to go to there tents in the morning after Passover, that is Nisan 15, day one of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and eat unleavened bread for 6 days inclusive, Nisan 15 to Nisan 20, and hold a holy convocation on day 7, Nisan 21.

On entering Canaan under Joshua they celebrated the Passover
While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. (Joshua 5:10-12)
To summarise
  • The day commenced at sunrise
  • A lamb was selected on Nisan 10
  • Passover occurred on Nisan 14
  • The passover lamb was killed at twilight and eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread
  • No yeast was to be eaten from twilight Nisan 14 until twilight Nisan 21
  • The Feast of Unleavened Bread began on Nisan 15
  • The dwelling was cleared of all yeast on Day 1 of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15
  • A holy convocation was held on Day 1, Nisan 15
  • A feast was held on Day 1, Nisan 15
  • Sacrifices were made on Day 1 thru Day 7, Nisan 15 to Nisan 21
  • A holy convocation was held on Day 7, Nisan 21
  • A feast was held on Day 7, Nisan 21

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