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

After Three Days

After three days he will rise

Jesus said, “The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”

But there are not three days – 24-hour periods – between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. This was something my fellow Bible College students and I asked every year when this study came up.

One lecturer said, “Jesus was speaking metaphorically.”

I dismissed this because that meant I would have to distrust everything that Jesus said.

Another time, a lecturer said, “They counted night and day as full days.”

Okay… Friday night in the tomb. Saturday day in the tomb, Saturday night in the tomb.

How does this square with the Bible?

God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” There was an evening, and there was a morning: one day.
Genesis 1:5  CSB – Holman Publishers

(More at this blog post )

There was an evening and a morning – one day, for seven days.
To count it the way the lecturer said would have made creation week fourteen days long.

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Aside: One helpful instruction we were given as Bible College students was, “If you don’t understand something, put it on the ‘back burner’ – the answer might come up in a future lesson.

That one never did, not at Bible college, so remained on the back burner for a great many years.

Sometimes scripture can seem confusing

I had to do a great deal of study as well as research when writing the Apostle John Series of novels. (Much of that I share with my VIP Readers.)

A little bit of that research can relate to this subject.

  • Why did Jesus have Passover the night before the temple sacrifice?

The original instruction from God was that it was a ‘domestic’ sacrifice.

The killing and cooking of the lamb was as the fourteenth started. (Just after sunset when the Israelite day started – so it was on the evening of the 13th as we would count it.)

  • Why did the Passover change from home to temple and on a different day?

When in exile in Babylon the Jews could not keep the Passover on the correct day. They believed it could only be done at the start of the fourteenth day (evening of the 13th) if they were in their own land. Therefore, they kept it the next evening.

The first record of Passover being a temple sacrifice I found was that of King Hezekiah (Chronicles 30: 1-5) These changes were instigated by King Hezekiah in his zeal to abolish idolatry in the land, and restore the worship of God.

    • In the time of Jesus, some were keeping a domestic sacrifice, as Jesus and the disciples did, and others kept a temple sacrifice, as the Pharisees did.

So Jesus and the disciples kept the Biblical Passover, not a supper before His crucifixion to say ‘goodbye.’
And He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before My suffering.”
Luke 22: 15 Berean Study Bible

I have many thick books of information on all of this, but that is not for here. I share what is above in order to show the main points about Passover.

After three days

Many years ago, someone pointed out to me that in the week after the crucifixion there were two Sabbaths.

The gospel of John holds the clue.

It was the day of Preparation, and the next day was a High Sabbath. In order that the bodies would not remain on the cross during the Sabbath, the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies removed.
John 19: 31 Berean Study Bible

High holy days

A ‘high’ Sabbath was one of the seven annual holy days. The one following the Passover, which started after sunset on the 14th, making it the start of the 15th was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (A holy day.)
High Sabbaths

According to a list of Passover days going back over the centuries, Passover that year was on a Wednesday.

This fits the three days and three nights, and Jesus would have risen just after sunset as the weekly Sabbath ended.

Jesus said of the religious authorities of His day…

You have disregarded the commandment of God to keep the tradition of men.”

He went on to say, “You neatly set aside the commandment of God to maintain your own tradition.
Mark 7: 8, 9 Berean Study Bible

Are our observances of Easter ‘keeping traditions of men?’

Something to think about.

Susan