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Beginning Or End Of Fourteenth? When Is Passover?

Ellen Kavanaugh

Defining Erev (Evening/Twilight)

Scripture tells us that Passover lamb is kept until the fourteenth of Aviv and is then killed in the evening of the fourteenth of Aviv. The purpose of this article is to determine when in the evening begins. 'In' and 'At' are both translated from the Hebrew word, beyn which means 'between' or 'divided' (Strong's 996) while evening and twilight are both translated from the Hebrew word, erev (Strong's 6153). So the phrase here is really beyn ha erev, that is, 'between the evenings.'

The Biblical Command

‘You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at (beyn) twilight (erev)" Exodus 12:6

"In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight (erev) is the LORD’S Passover." Leviticus 23:5

"On the fourteenth day of this month at twilight (erev) , you shall observe it at its appointed time; you shall observe it according to all its statutes and according to all its ordinances." Numbers 9:3

"They observed the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight (erev) in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the sons of Israel did." Numbers 9:5

Scripture clearly places the Passover in the evening at twilight. Combining Exodus 12:6 with Leviticus 23:5, the passover is literally 'between the evenings, at twilight.' But does this 'between the evenings-twilight' occur at the beginning of the fourteenth day or the end of the fourteenth day?

Doesn't Erev Begin Each Day?

"God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening erev and there was morning, one day." Genesis 1:5

Genesis places the evening as beginning the new day -- biblical days begin and end at sunset, a practice still observed today by those who are torah observant/sabbath observant. But does the timing of Passover follow this same biblical day reckoning?

Daily Sacrifices

"And thou shalt say unto them, This is the offering made by fire which ye shall offer unto the LORD; two lambs of the first year without spot day by day, for a continual burnt offering. The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lamb shalt thou offer at even;" Numbers 28:3,4

Day by day here is from the Hebrew word yowm (Strong's 3117) which means 'day' or 'daytime' -- from sunrise to sunset. Note that here the order of the biblical day here is reckoned differently -- the morning sacrifice and the evening sacrifice constitute one day's sacrifices -- both sacrifices occur within the same day. So this passage places evening erev as nearing the end of a day, 'not' as beginning the following day.

Defining Erev According To Sunset/Sundown

"but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening/erev at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt." Deuteronomy 16:6

Here the timing of Passover's evening is linked with the timing of the sunset. Sunset is translated from the Hebrew words shemesh (Strong's 08121) meaning 'brilliant' or 'sun' & bo (Strong's 0935) meaning 'going' or 'coming.' Is evening/erev the same as sunset/shemesh bo? Here we need another Scripture to clearly place evening/erev at a particular time of the day in regard to its sunset:

"The battle raged that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot in front of the Arameans until the evening; and at sunset he died." 2 Chronicles 18:34

The king was alive in his chariot until evening, and didn't die until sunset. Here evening is shown as preceding sunset, indicating evening is near the end of a day, just prior to sunset.

"And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day." Joshua 8:29

Similarly in Joshua, we see the eventide/erev (lit: evening time) preceding the setting of the sun. This places evening at the end of the day and not the beginning.

Seven Days Total Of Unleavened Bread

"In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening." Exodus 12:18

"Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty" Exodus 23:15

"The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt." Exodus 34:18

Note that unleavened bread is eaten for a total of seven days, beginning on the fourteenth and lasting through the twenty-first. Hmm. If the fourteenth is counted inclusively, that would be eight days and not seven. But when Passover is observed near the end of the fourteenth day then it's not counted inclusively, and we arrive at exactly seven days from the end of the fourteenth until the end of the twenty-first.

Defining Erev According To Yom Kippur

"Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD." Leviticus 23:27

"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." Leviticus 23:32

These verses are about Yom Kippur and not Passover, but they also help define evening/erev for us. Note that the tenth of the month is defined as the period of time occuring on the evening/erev of the ninth until the next evening/erev -- that is 'from evening to evening.' This is pretty conclusive that the evening occurs at the end of the day and not the beginning. If we let evening here mean the beginning of the day, Yom Kippur would fall completely on the ninth and not the tenth as indicated in Lev 23:27.

If we use evening/erev uniformly through Scripture, then the evening of the fourteenth of Aviv is near the end of the fourteenth. We see clearly that the Paschal lamb was kept until the fourteenth day and was then sacrificed near the end of that day. At midnight of the fifteenth (same night, but new day had begun) G-d passed over Israel, and in the wee early hours Pharaoh demanded Israel leave Egypt. What day did Israel leave Egypt? "They journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the next day after the Passover the sons of Israel started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians." Numbers 33:3 Now this makes sense. When we try to place the Passover at the beginning of the fourteenth, we end up with Israel girded and sandal-footed having no time for the bread to rise, ready to hurry out of Egypt in ... twenty-four hours. Doesn't make a lot of sense, huh? But by correctly placing Passover near end of fourteenth, we see the purpose of being ready to leave asap that night -- the day had already changed from the fourteenth to the fifteenth.

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