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When is Passover?
Nisan 14 Diagram

When is Passover? Here is a diagram to help understand the relation of the various events connected with the Passover in Egypt.

When is Passover

When was Passover? - Passover is Not a Day

Note that "Passover" is never referred to in scripture as "a day." There was a Passover lamb, a Passover meal, a Passover sacrifice, a feast of Passover and, of course, there was the initial Passover event in Egypt - which happened at midnight on Nisan 15 when the houses of those with the blood applied were "passed over." However, there was and is no "Passover day" or "day of Passover" designated in scripture. We need to remember that passover was a reference to who was being "passed over" and Who was "passing over." Obviously, the lamb was sacrificed on a day but that day was primarily a day of preparation for the Feast of Unleavened Bread also known as Passover.

By New Testament times, the terms "Passover" and "Feast of Unleavened Bread" came to be used to refer to the whole period from Nisan 14 to Nisan 21. Thus we have:

"Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover." (Luke 22:1)

It is logical that Passover observance was identified with the Feast of Unleavened Bread since the actual "passing over" of the houses with the blood applied occurred early on the fifteenth after they had commemorated the event with a Passover meal that included unleavened bread. The following verses show that on the first day of unleavened bread, as the term was used in Jesus' time, the Passover sacrifice was killed. The day this happened, from scripture (Exo 12:6), would be Nisan 14.

"Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?" (Matt 26:17)
"And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?" (Mark 14:12)
"Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed." (Luke 22:7)
We can think of the day on which the Passover sacrifice was made in relation to the feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread as the preparation day is to the seventh-day Sabbath:

Day to prepare
for an observance of
Day on which the lamb was to be killed Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread
    (Nisan 14, Exo 12:6)     (Nisan 15-21, Lev 23:6)
Preparation day Seventh-day Sabbath

The term "Passover day" could be confusing because the Passover sacrifice happened on Nisan 14 and the observance of the actual Passover event happened on Nisan 15. Scripture does not speak of a "Passover day" but we tend to think that way and then get confused.

When was Passover? - The Feast was at Night

While the lamb was sacrificed in the afternoon of Nisan 14, it was eaten at night:

"And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it." (Exo 12:8)

This was the actual observation of the Passover for which the lamb had been slain and prepared:

"And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD ..." (Exo 12:14)
"And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever." (Exo 12:17)

The selfsame day as what? As when they observed the feast of unleavened bread. They observed it before midnight during the dark hours yet left Egypt the same day ("this selfsame day") after sunrise. Yet verse 42 says it is "a night" to be much observed:

"It is a night to be much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations. (Exo 12:42)

So, we see that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed on the afternoon of the 14th and prepared to be eaten (they were to partake of, in symbol, the Messiah) before midnight so that they would be "passed over" and the destroying angel would not harm them. Unleavened bread began with the beginning of Nisan 15 at sunset and continued for seven days until the end of the 21st of Nisan.

When is the Feast of Unleavened Bread

When was Passover? - Understand the Grammar

Often, in scripture, the word "passover" occurs where it is really an adjective and the noun it is modifying does not appear as it is understood. In those cases, it can be helpful to add, at least in our understanding, another word to specify whether the passage is speaking of the meal, the sacrifice or the feast. Here are some examples. In the first example, we could add the word "meal" to help clarify the meaning. They are eating the Passover meal, not the Passover feast.

"And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD'S passover [MEAL]." (Exo 12:11)

In the next example, "Passover" refers to the sacrifice; they were not killing the meal:

"Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover [SACRIFICE]." (Exo 12:21)

In another example, Josiah kept the passover feast, not the Passover meal. They killed the Passover sacrifice, not the Passover meal or the Passover feast.

"Moreover Josiah kept a passover [FEAST] unto the LORD in Jerusalem: and they killed the passover [SACRIFICE] on the fourteenth day of the first month." (2 Chron 35:1)

When is Passover? Hopefully, the diagrams above have helped to make that clear.

 


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