What is Passover

Passover, blowing shofar

Passover is NOT the Exodus from Egypt as many are told.

According to the Bible – where the original instructions are – it is to be kept in remembrance of God ‘passing over’ the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.

“It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households’.”
Exodus 12: 25, 26. (NKJV)

Following the Passover

The Exodus from Egypt was the following evening, after the people had gathered in Rameses and assembled themselves for the journey out of the land of their captivity.

These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.”
Leviticus 23: 4 – 6 (NKJV)

These are two distinct days. The fourteenth at twilight – Passover. The fifteenth at twilight – the Exodus. Those are GOD’S instructions. Yes, things have been changed over the centuries, but in trying to work things out – is it not better to go to the word of God, rather than man’s calculations, no matter how intelligent, or qualified they are.

Just a word of warning about that… by Jesus’ day the religious authorities had changed the original meaning. Therefore it is wise to go to the original instructions.

Original instructions

  • Sacrificed at home
  • Killed at twilight as the 14th day was beginning

In Jesus’ day…

  • Mainly a temple sacrifice, although some kept to the original instruction
  • Killed by priests on the 14th day at the time of the evening sacrifice – which was around 3 pm. (Although those who kept the original instructions, as Jesus did, had already eaten the Passover.)

A complication for us

In the 21st century we count time differently.

On a first read of the scripture, with my Western time frame – Passover is at evening time on the fourteenth.

Wrong! As a Scot and Australian I view time through the eyes of a person living under the Gregorian calendar.

The Hebrew slaves were Israelites and their time was as God had created it.

“God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So, the evening and the morning were the first day.”
Genesis 1: 5 (NKJV)

(See Biblical day for more information on the Biblical days.)

modern time, not as in the original Passover

We are used to the Roman clock where the day officially begins in the darkness of night time. Why they chose to have the day change as soon as it passed midnight is a mystery but the Roman calendar was not in use then. (The various Roman calendars are an interesting read. You will find all of them listed on Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_calendar)

So, to answer the question posed in the title –

What is Passover?

It is a remembrance of God ‘passing over’ and sparing the households of the children of Israel, the Hebrew slaves, in Egypt.

(There is a great deal of information online about the New Covenant Passover celebration.)

Search page for New Covenant Passover

Some ‘food for thought’ –

Susan

Passover, food for thought

The Biblical Day Ended at Sunset

Start of the Biblical Day

The Biblical day ended at sunset and a new one started. This was the most difficult fact to ‘get my head around’ when writing the first few books in the Apostle John Series. After that, I became almost accustomed to it.

Almost… because I live in a world where the day begins at 00.00 or 00.01 hours. I think that’s one second after midnight. If you think about it… that’s odd. However, if you have known nothing else it is probably not something you even think about. But it is something that needs to be understood when writing Biblical fiction, or even in understanding the Bible.

Evidence for the start of the Biblical day

“Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.”
Genesis 1: 3 – 5 NKJV

There is a footnote to verse 4 “Lit. And evening was, and morning was, a day, one.”

Sabbath keepers observe the Sabbath from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday.

Some other references…

Genesis 1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Genesis 1:13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

Genesis 1:19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Genesis 1:23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

Genesis 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Leviticus 23:32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.

Well, that is clearly God’s view and if you believe in the Bible, then God’s view is the correct view.

How did the start of the Biblical day change?

I found two theories.

  1. The reason a new day starts at 12:00 goes back to ancient Egypt when the day was measured using sundials. … Since the highest point of the day was noon, the opposite has to be midnight that was when the 12 started over again, so that’s why the day starts at midnight.
    https://www.vpr.org/post/why-do-days-start-12-oclock#stream/0
  2. The Babylonians developed midnight to midnight. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 2, p. 702) This page lists several religions and their views of the start of the day.
    The Babylonians are also ‘credited with the ‘invention’ of the zodiac. They associated and created their beliefs around planets based on the nature of the god associated with it. … This gives reference to which gods the Babylonian astrologers associated to regions of the sky or space, and is an example of how the gods were associated with the stars and planets.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylonian_astrology
start of Biblical day changed by Babylonians who also created the zodiac

Both are possibilities

Egypt

The Israelites (all 12 sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel) lived in Egypt for several generations before they were made slaves. Much of their Hebrew heritage could have been lost as the new generations succeeded one another.
(Remember the ‘golden calf’ incident.)

Babyon

In 722 B.C.E., the northern half of Hebrew lands known as Israel was invaded and mostly destroyed by the Assyrians. The southern half, known as Judea, survived until around 597 B.C.E., when the Babylonians defeated the Judeans and carried most of them back as captives to Babylon.
More information here… https://www.britannica.com/event/Babylonian-Captivity

To understand the Bible

Whether for a better understanding of what you are reading, or to research it for a book or an article, find the time.

questions

Ask questions!

Why were the Hebrews (Israelites) slaves in Egypt? They did not go there as captives.

Why did the Israelites become two nations? And a related one… when did they become two nations?

When did the tribe of Judah go into captivity in Babylon? Why?

Synagogue worship and Judaism were ‘born’ during the Babylonian captivity, does this change your understanding of the Bible?

New Testament

All these background pieces of information, and many others, are some of the background of the 1st century believers.

As I have said before, it is like a treasure hunt.

But lots of fun

Susan