Bottom line up front:
- Yeshua could not have been our Passover Lamb until after He died and His blood offered on our behalf, which, in itself, renders moot whether the meal He ate with His disciples was a "Passover" meal or not! Fact is, Yeshua had to carry out an early "Passover meal" with His disciples as He had revealed to them He was about to die! See Matthew 26:2, Mark 14:21, and Luke 22:15.
- Scriptures say that the Passover lambs were to be kept until 14 Nisan and that the "appointed time" was late afternoon, before sunset on the 14th day of the month:
Leviticus 23:5 "'In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month, in the afternoon is the time of the Pesach-offering to HASHEM. (Stone's Tanach)
Numbers 9:1 HASHEM spoke to Moses, in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the second year from their exodus from the land of Egypt, in the first month, saying: 2 'The Children of Israel shall make the pesach-offering in its appointed time. 3 On the fourteenth day of this month in the afternoon shall you make it, in its appointed time; according to all its decrees and laws shall you make it." 4 Moses spoke to the Children of Israel to make the pesach-offering. 5 They made the pesach-offering in the first [month], on the fourteenth day of the month, in the afternoon, in the Wilderness of Sinai; according to everything that HASHEM had commanded Moses, so the Children of Israel did. (Stone's Tanach)
(Note: The text, in original Hebrew for the English "in the afternoon" translation above is literally more properly: "between the evenings". See discussion below.)
- The observance of Passover is a "forever" commandment (Exodus 12:14), and its observance at sunset on the 14th of Nisan is therefore, without question, the proper day of the celebration.
There are three typical perspectives about the proper time to observe Passover. By the end of this discussion, you should see there is only one answer. The three positions or points are:
- Passover is the evening of the 14th of Nisan, before sunset, in commemoration of the original Passover;
- Passover is after sunset of the 13th of Nisan, when the Hebrew day changes to the 14th;
- Passover is at sunset the 13th because Yeshua changed it to the 13th at the "last supper".
Regarding point 2, some argue that since a Hebrew "day" ends and the new day begins at sunset, then the original Hebrew in Numbers 9:3, which literally reads "between the evenings", means the previous sunset rather than "afternoon" of the 14th day, and therefore the scripture is describing sunset the 13th instead of the 14th! Although the literal translation of the Hebrew is, indeed, "between the evenings", the logic of this point of view is incorrect for two reasons: First, there is the meaning of "evening" in ancient times, and second, that it really is not about "sunset"!
You can understand this for yourself from Exodus 29:38 "This is what you shall offer upon the Altar: two sheep within their first year every day, continually. 39 You shall offer the one sheep in the morning, and the second sheep in the afternoon [between the evenings]; ... 41 You shall offer the second sheep in the afternoon [between the evenings], like the meal-offering of the morning and its libation shall you offer it..." (Stone's Tanach; with the original Hebrew "between the evenings" in brackets). Though "afternoon" is not an ideal English translation of the original Hebrew, it does closely convey the meaning. Two sacrifices were offered per day - one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. Clearly, the second sacrifice is not after sunset, or it is the next day! So "between the evenings" is, from scripture alone, decidedly "late afternoon".
Further evidence of this is demonstrated in the writings of Josephus, a 1st Century Priest of the Levitical class, who wrote in his "The Wars of the Jews": "So these high priests, upon the coming of that feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, ..." ...clearly identifying the "9th to 11th hour", as the time the sacrifices were made for Passover. The "9th" hour, as it turns out, in that era, was what we today call about "3 PM" (though the ancient "hour" was not the same length then as it is today).
In the ancient Hebrew view of the day then, in essence, the first "evening" was about the last 3-4 hours of the daylight of a day. Then the sun would set, and and it became the "second evening" as it grew dark. Though sunset "marked" the change of day, the "second evening" is not to be understood as "sunset" or "at sunset". Rather, the second evening was the "span" from sunset to darkness. So we've demonstrated the Hebrew phrase "between the evenings" meant the "late afternoon of the current day". Therefore, in Numbers 28, "...on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evenings..." literally means "on the late afternoon of the 14th"! This eliminates the second point above.
Regarding point 3, we now understand that Scripture dictates that since Yeshua, who was our Passover Lamb, according to the Torah, had to die on Nisan 14 when the traditional Passover lambs were slain (as outlined in Exodus 12:5-8 and Numbers 28:16-17) and the Passover offering was made. He would not and could not have partaken of the Passover meal on the evening of 14 Nisan that particular year because He could not die "between the evenings", and eat of the Passover with His Talmidim! That is, He could not be crucified before the Yahweh-commanded 14 Nisan "late afteroon" Passover meal, and partake in the meal!
Please study this for yourselves. One must understand that in our day, as in Yeshua's day, the Passover is no longer "when the offering was made so the angel of death 'passed over' our homes...". The Passover after that original "Passover" became an offering for remembrance. The words "...on the fourteenth day of the first month shall be the LORD'S Passover..." in Numbers 28, is actually saying that the 14th is the day the Passover offering comes, not "at midnight" (when the angel of death killed the firstborn). Rather, Passover "arrives" on the 14th, and is when preparation for the Passover offering begins, and the offering is made "between the evenings". See, the Passover offering is not the "typical" blood sacrifice offering in the Temple - nevertheless, it was a blood offering! But every year after the original, as scripture indicates in Numbers 28 and Exodus 13, "Passover" is an offering, followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a perpetual remembrance of the exodus and and is "kicked off" on the 14th, before sunset.
So it is with this understanding that the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion week which state it was the time of the Passover means that the Talmidim (disciples) went off to prepare for Yeshua's Seder, but it was only now the beginning of the 14th, that is, the 13th was just ending, and the "meal" which was then eaten that night very was the "day" of, but night before the lamb would be slaughtered. For instance, in Matthew 26, Luke 22 and Mark 14 we are told it was "the day of matzah", or the "Feast of Unleavened Bread was near", when Yeshua shared his meal with the the Talmidim - meaning that very day matzah was being prepared, and leavened bread was being removed from homes. Thus, in both Luke and Mark, when Yeshua broke bread with the talmidim, this could have been leavened bread, or matzah, without breaking Torah.
Upon close examination, we see that the Scriptures of Mark and Luke do NOT actually say that Yeshua and His disciples ate "the" Passover meal, rather that they had only "prepared" for the Passover - secured the room, and begun the preparations. And nowhere do we see that for this one year, Yeshua held the traditional, remembrance of the Exodus, Passover Seder meal, performing any of the 15 traditional symbolic steps - already a long-held tradition in Yeshua's time. Though we know Yeshua observed Passover all his life, this year, we are told that He reclined with His disciples on the evening of the very day He had ordered them to prepare for the Passover, and at that time He explained to them the symbolism of the wine and bread. This was a memorial meal!
Luke 22:15. And he said to them, I have greatly desired that I eat this Paskha with you before I suffer. 16. I say to you for that from now on I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of Elohim.
In this scripture we can see that Yeshua stated that, despite His desire to eat the Passover (Pashka) meal with them, the Father had other plans - which included that Yeshua experience what He had yet to endure. Therefore, He wouldn't be celebrating the Passover with them again until He celebrates it with them in the coming Millenium or the kingdom. We know He referred to this meal as a Passover preparation, or else the disciples wouldn't have known what He wanted prepared! (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:8). Preparation Day is always on the 14th, when matzah is prepared and with the lambs' slaughter followed by the meal later - about sunset - just before/as the 14th turns into the 15th. Yeshua who was to be THE Passover Lamb therefore had a "Memorial Meal" earlier, still on the 14th, but after sunset of the 13th as the date had changed to the 14th - it was not and could not have been near sunset the 14th! In fact, look at the way John puts it: "Now before the feast of the Paskha, Y’shua had known that the time that he would depart this world to his Father had arrived. And he loved his own who were in this world, and he loved them up until the end. And when supper was done, Satan placed it into the heart of Yehuda, the son
of Shimon, Skaryota that he would betray him." (John 13:1-2). This is pretty clear! John is reporting that the annual feast of Paskha had not yet happened (as it was the next evening), but Yeshua and his talmidim had their meal!
John 18 and 19 tells us that Yeshua was sentenced, tried, convicted and crucified on the "day of Passover" which the Bible tells us is always 14 Nisan going into 15 Nisan! See for yourselves:
John 18:28 They led Yeshua from Kayafa to the governor's headquarters. By now it was early morning. They did not enter the headquarters building because they didn't want to become ritually defiled and thus unable to eat the Pesach meal. (Remember, those who had touched a corpse could not observe Pesach. They would become "unclean" and have to observe Pesach the next month. See Numbers 9.) So here, in John 18, the Passover offering/meal had not yet happened!
John 19:14 ...it was about noon on Preparation Day of Pesach. He said to the Judeans, "Here's your king!" 15 They shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Put him to death on the stake!" Pilate said to them, "You want me to execute your king on a stake?" The head cohanim answered, "We have no king but the Emperor." 16 Then Pilate handed Yeshua over to them to have him put to death on the stake. "Preparation day" is the 14th, so here we know it is about noon on the 14th, and we also know Yeshua had His meal with the talmidim the preceding evening!
We've seen here that Yeshua, through the course of events, had his last meal with His talmidim, on the evening of the 13th-14th of Nisan. During this meal, He broke bread, and shared wine, and related to the talmidim to remember Him by doing the same. What did He mean by "remember Him"? (Luke 22:19). He meant that the ceremony, breaking bread - His body, and the glass of wine - His blood, would remind us of His gift - eternal life. But He never said that His meal, there with the talmidim that evening would "replace" the Passover offering which YHWH had set on the 14th! No, we WAS the Passover offering! Therefore point 3, above, is dismissed. Yeshua, did not "change" the observance of Passover to the 13th!
The title of this article was "On what day are we supposed to eat the Passover meal?" It should be clear that Yeshua's death at Passover, representing us to the Father for our eternal life with Him, in no way "fulfilled", "abolished", "nailed to the cross", or "changed" the date and time of the perpetual observance of Passover. Passover did not become "Easter", and it did not get "moved to Sunday". We don't observe Passover on Nisan 13 because Yeshua was forced to have His final meal with the talmidim before He could be the offering. We are to observe Passover today as it has from its beginning: the late afternoon of Nisan 14, which is point 1, above. Always was, always will be.