The Meaning of Passover and the Night to be Observed

The Meaning of Passover and the Night to be Observed


Calvin Lashway

February 2008 Revised


In the spring of each year, there are Christians who gather to keep the Passover, and then the following night, celebrate the Night to be Observed. Why are they doing this? What is the meaning of Passover and the Night to be Observed? In this study we will examine the Old Covenant and New Covenant meanings of these celebrations.


The Fourteenth Day of the First Month

First we will examine the date of Passover. From the scriptures we see that Passover begins at twilight (the time between sunsets and darkness) on the fourteenth day of the first month of the sacred calendar. We know this month by the names Abib or Nisan. In the Bible, days begin at sunset or evening, not at midnight (Genesis 1:5; Leviticus 23:27, 32):



In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD’S Passover (Leviticus 23:5, all scriptures quoted are from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise stated).


Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 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 twilight. . . . Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’S Passover (Exodus 12:5-6, 11).


Thus the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Now, let the sons of Israel observe the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall observe it at its appointed time; you shall observe it according to all its statutes and according to all its ordinances.” So Moses told the sons of Israel to observe the Passover. They observed the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the sons of Israel did (Numbers 9:1-5).


Then on the fourteenth day of the first month shall be the LORD’S Passover (Numbers 28:16).


Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho (Joshua 5:10 New King James Version).


Then Josiah celebrated the Passover to the LORD in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover animals on the fourteenth day of the first month (2 Chronicles 35:1).

The exiles observed the Passover on the fourteenth of the first month (Ezra 6:19).



The Meaning of the Old Covenant Passover

The Old Covenant Passover is a memorial to God passing over the houses of the children of Israel. When He killed the firstborn of man and beast in Egypt, during the night of the fourteenth. The Passover isn’t a memorial to the exodus from Egypt:


For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance (Exodus 12:12-14).


Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’" And the people bowed low and worshiped (Exodus 12:21-27).


The Meaning of the New Covenant Passover

The New Covenant Passover is a memorial of the death of Jesus Christ as the true Passover Lamb. We eat the broken bread and drink the wine in remembrance of the sacrifice of His beaten body and shed blood. This sacrifice makes possible the forgiveness of our sins. By partaking of the Passover symbols of bread and wine, we are proclaiming our continual faith in Jesus’ sacrifice:


Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7).


The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).


Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18-19 New King James Version).


And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:13-15, 19-20, also see Matthew 26:19-20, 26-29 and Mark 14:16, 22-25).


For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 New King James Version).


Sharing in the Death of Jesus Christ

The yearly Passover ceremony of eating bread and drinking wine reminds us that we share in Jesus’ death: “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). When baptized, we also share in Jesus’ death, with the crucifixion of our “old self”: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:3-6). Partaking of the Passover symbols is a reminder of our sharing in Christ’s death, as well as the death of our old self and the commitment we made to God at baptism


The Fifteenth Day of the First Month

The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the fifteenth day of the first month. The first and the seventh days of the feast are Sabbath days, during which we refrain from working, and attend a holy convocation. Throughout the weeklong festival we avoid eating leavened bread products, instead we to eat unleavened bread:


Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work (Leviticus 23:6-8).


On the fifteenth day of this month shall be a feast, unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days. On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. . . . On the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work (Numbers 28:17-18, 25).


You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. 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.1  Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread (Exodus 12: 17-20).


The Fifteenth Day of the First Month is the Exodus

Israel left Egypt during the night of fifteenth day of the first month. They began leaving Egypt at twilight, twenty-four hours after killing the Passover lambs:


These are the journeys of the sons of Israel, by which they came out from the land of Egypt by their armies, under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of the LORD, and these are their journeys according to their starting places. 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, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn whom the LORD had struck down among them. The LORD had also executed judgments on their gods. Then the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses and camped in Succoth (Numbers 33:1-5).


Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. . . .but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 16:1, 6).


The Night to be Observed

Israel was to observe or celebrate their departure from Egypt each year. This celebration was to occur on the anniversary of the Exodus. Starting at sundown, the beginning of the fifteenth day of the first month. This was the time of day Israel began to leave Egypt (Numbers 33:1-3; Deuteronomy 16:1, 6):


Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be observed for the LORD for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the LORD, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations (Exodus 12:37-42).


God wanting Israel to remember their exodus from Egypt commanded them to eat unleavened bread for seven days, beginning on the fifteenth day of the first month until the end of the twenty-first day of the first month:


Moses said to the people, "Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten. On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth. It shall be when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall observe this rite in this month. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year” (Exodus 13:3-10).


"You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 16:3).

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. 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. Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread’" (Exodus 12:15-20).


When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He was delivering them from slavery: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect” (Leviticus 26:13, also see Deuteronomy 5:15; 6:21; 15:5; 24:18, 22).


The New Covenant meaning of the Night to be Observed

As the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, so we were slaves to sin. According to Jesus, “everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:34). Freedom from the slavery of sin comes through Jesus’ death: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? . . . knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:3, 7-8). During the New Covenant Passover service we are remembering and proclaiming Christ’s death (1 Corinthians 11:24-26), which makes spiritual freedom possible. During the Night to be Observed we are celebrating our freedom and deliverance from spiritual Egypt, sin. The eating of “the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” throughout the week of Unleavened Bread helps us to remember our freedom and deliverance from sin. It’s also a continual reminder that once freed we shouldn’t return to sin, the leavened bread “of malice and wickedness” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).


Romans Six, Passover and the Night to be Observed

In Romans chapter six, we see a connection between Jesus’ death and resurrection; our spiritual death and resurrection, and the Passover and the Night to be Observed. When baptized, we share in Jesus’ death by being “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:1-3). Each year the Passover reminds us that when we drink “the cup of blessing” and eat “the bread which we break.” We are “sharing in the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17), His death, through baptism.


On The Night to be Observed Israel began their new life by walking out of Egypt (Joshua 5:6; Judges 11:16). In like manner, this night pictures the beginning of our walk in the newness of life. A life committed to walking in obedience to God: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).


This night is a time to celebrate our freedom from the slavery of sin, just as Israel received freedom from slavery in Egypt:


For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin (Romans 6:5-7).


But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:17-23).


The whole Feast of Unleavened Bread, starting with The Night to be Observed, teaches us that we are dead to sin, and it should no longer control our lives. Once freed, returning to sin would be like the Israelites returning to Egyptian slavery, which some of them wanted to do (Numbers 14:1-4):


Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Romans 6:8-16).


Conclusion

The Old Covenant Passover was a memorial of God passing over the houses of the children of Israel when He killed the firstborn of Egypt. It isn’t a memorial of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. The New Covenant Passover is a memorial of the death of Jesus Christ. We eat the broken bread and drink the wine in remembrance of the sacrifice of His beaten body and shed blood.


Israel was to celebrate their departure from Egyptian slavery every year, on the fifteenth day of the first month. The anniversary of their exodus from Egypt, a full day after the death of the Passover lambs. Known as The Night to be Observed, this is a night for Christians to celebrate our freedom and deliverance from spiritual Egypt.




Notes

1 The instruction to eat unleavened bread starting “on the fourteenth day of the month at evening,” “until the twenty-first day of the month at evening,” means they were to start the Feast of Unleavened Bread at the end of the fourteenth day at sundown. The Feast was to continue until the sundown on the twenty-first day of the month. As we have seen in Leviticus 23:6-8 and Numbers 28:17-18, 25, the Feast of Unleavened Bread clearly starts on the fifteenth day of the first month, and is seven days long. This would make the twenty-first day of the first month the Last Day of Unleavened Bread. After sundown that night, it was permissible to once again eat leavened bread. In Leviticus 23:27, 32 we find a similar description on how to observe the Day of Atonement. The tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. We observe this day as a Sabbath, along with fasting. In verse 32 we find instructions on when to begin the Day of Atonement: "It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath." The Day of Atonement starts at sundown on the ninth day of the seventh month, and ends 24 hours later at sundown on the tenth day.


© Calvin Lashway 2018  -  Contact: cinfowritings@gmail.com