Home Video Lessons Biblical Articles The Law of God Controversial Contact Us

 

The Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits

 

 

          The Biblical Holydays are an intriguing topic.  A common misunderstanding of these days are that they are just solemn days to be observed, which paints a very boring understanding of them, but the scripture paints an entirely different picture.  It is true, these were "solemn" days to be observed (Lev. 23:36, Num. 10:10), but the Hebrew word used for solemn does not have the same meaning that we use for solemn today.  The Hebrew words used are ‛ătsârâh ‛ătsereth and mô‛êd mô‛êd mô‛âdâh.  The first simply means, "an assembly, especially on a festival or holiday" and the second means, "an appointment, that is, a fixed time or season; specifically a festival" (Strong's Concordance - H6116 & H4150).  These days are to be greats feasts of joy, gladness, and a party (2 Chron. 30:21-22, Ezra 6:22, Neh. 8:16-18).  We are to have live music and lots and lots of people (Psalm 81:3, 2 Chron. 8:13, 9:11).  Giant feasts of food and fun are commanded for us.  Our second tithe is designed to fund these Holydays and we are to spend this money on, "whatsoever thy soul lusteth after" (Deut. 14:26).  These feasts are clearly a time of rejoicing and celebrating the wonderfulness of God with the children of God.  During this time we are to learn God's law as well (Deut. 31:10-12, Neh. 8:1-2, 13-17).  To put this in modern terms the feasts are like vacation Bible school for the entire family.  Why would we not want to celebrate them today?

          I believe we should celebrate these feasts even today.  Since 2008, my family has celebrated the feasts.  Each year we have learned more about how to celebrate these holydays.  The purpose of this series of articles is to explain when to celebrate the holydays, how to celebrate them, and what we should learn from them.

 

The First Passover:

 

          The details of the first Passover are explained in the book of Exodus.  This feast is a result of God delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  The Israelites settled in Egypt as a result of Joseph's favor with the Egyptian Pharaoh (Gen. 41:41).  Shortly after, the Pharaoh changed and the Israelites lost this favor (Ex. 1:8).  The new Pharaoh saw the Israelites as a threat because of their growing population (Ex. 1:9).  The end result is their slavery to the Egyptians (Ex. 1:11-14).

          God raised up a man named Moses to free His people, Israel.  Moses was spared as a baby through the Nile river as the Pharaoh ordered the death of every male under two years of age.  He was saved from the river and raised by Pharaoh's daughter.  Moses grew up in Egypt and had great power.  As an adult, Moses learns his true identity and has compassion for the Hebrew people.  In anger, Moses kills an Egyptian and then escapes to Midian.  Here he lives with his father in law Jethro.  God then appears to Moses in a burning bush and commands him to appear before Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave for a feast to the LORD.  Pharaoh refuses and God unleashes ten plagues upon the Egyptians.  The 10th plague is the death of all firstborn males in Egypt.  To spare the Israelites the death of their firstborn sons, God gave them the Passover.  The Israelites were to kill a lamb on the fourteenth day of the month (Ex. 12:6).  They were to roast it with fire and eat it that night (Ex. 12:8).  They were to strike their door posts with the blood of the lamb (Ex. 12:7) so that the LORD would "pass over" the Israelites and their firstborn sons would be spared (Ex. 12:13).

          The Hebrews did as they were told, and the Egyptians lost their firstborn sons.  The Pharaoh let the Israelites leave for their feast, but quickly changes his mind and gives chase.  The drama ends as God parts the Red Sea and the Israelites cross safely (Ex. 14:21-22), but the Egyptians followed and the waters overtook them (Ex. 14:27).  These are the events that gave way to the Feast of Passover.  We are to tell these events to our children each year at Passover (Ex. 12:26-27).

 

God's Timing System:

 

          The question might be asked, how do we know when to celebrate the Passover?  This can be a confusing topic to study.  God's timing system is very different than the system we use today.  It is not like our modern calendar that can be predicted years in advance.  God's system uses the moon and the sun to determine the times of the year (Gen. 1:14).  This is to be done by observation and not by mathematical calculations.  In Deuteronomy 16:1, God said to, "Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night."  The Hebrew word for "observe" is shâmar which means, "to hedge about ... mark, look narrowly, observe ... wait (for), watch (-man)" (Strong's Concordance - H8104).  We are to "look narrowly" for, we are to "wait" and "watch" for the month of Abib to determine when the Passover is to be.  You might ask, what are we looking for?  The answer is found in two of the Hebrew words in this verse.  The first word is the word for Abib ('âbı̂yb), which means, "to be tender; green, that is a young ear of grain" (Strong's Concordance - H24).  The first month of the year is just after winter when the first crops of the year turn green.  We are to look for this greening of our crops.  The second word is chôdesh and is defined as, "the new moon; by implication a month" (Strong's Concordance - H2320).  From this definition we can conclude that we are watching for the new moon.  The conclusion is drawn that we are to watch for the greening of our crops, then we are to watch for the next new moon.  This next new moon is the first day of the first month of the year.  This seems like a simple task, but it is not without its difficulties.

          For example, there are many different understandings of what a scriptural new moon is.  I've read several papers defending these different positions on the definition of the scriptural new moon, but still have a difficult time making a definitive conclusion on the matter.  Of these many understandings there are three positions that stand out above the others.  These positions are: the crescent moon is the new moon; the dark moon is the new moon; and more recently is a theory that the full moon is the new moon.  It is not the intent of this article to try and answer this question.  As already stated, I have not been able to come to a definitive conclusion in my own mind as of yet.  Although I tend to lean towards the first position, that of sighting the crescent moon.  Instead of defending one of the above positions I will briefly explain each and then continue with this study on the Passover of the LORD.

  • The Crescent Moon:  The Crescent Moon theory is the most common position regarding what the scriptural new moon is.  This position holds that the first visible crescent determines the first day of the month (new moon).  From this date you can now determine the Passover and all other holydays.  You would first look for the greening of your crops, then you would look for the first visible sliver of light from the moon.  This day would be the first day of the first month of the year.

  • The Dark Moon:  The second position is that of the dark moon.  This is commonly called a Lunar Conjunction.  This is when the earth, moon, and sun are all aligned.  The moon is not visible at this time.  This position holds that the Lunar Conjunction is the time of the new moon and this is what determines the start of the month/year.

  • The Full Moon:  This position holds that the full moon is in reality the new moon of the scriptures.  This position holds that the full moon after the crops turn green is the first day of the first month of the year.

          As stated earlier, I have not come to a definitive conclusion regarding these positions.  My family started out following the full moon theory, but recently have shifted more towards the crescent moon theory.  I have no doubt that members from all sides sincerely believe their position and sincerely want to follow the God of the scriptures.  I think it is up to each of us to, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).  We need to study our best and do what we believe is right.  In eternity, the LORD will straighten out this matter for us.  I believe that this falls under God's grace.

 

Outline of the Passover Feast:

 

          Once the first day of the year is established, the rest of the dates are easily determined.  Here is an outline of all the requirements I could find in the scripture concerning the Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Feast of Firstfruits.

  • The Tenth of Abib:

  1. The tenth day of the first month we are to set aside a lamb (Ex. 12:3).

  2. One lamb for each house (Ex. 12:4).

  3. A lamb can be shared with two households if one household is too small (Ex. 12:4).

  4. The lamb shall be without blemish (Ex. 12:5).

  5. The lamb shall be male (Ex. 12:5).

  6. The lamb shall be less than one year old (Ex. 12:5).

  7. The lamb shall come from the sheep or the goats (Ex. 12:5).

  • The Fourteenth of Abib (evening):

  1. A hymn shall be sang (Matt. 26:30, Mark 14:26).

  2. Foot washing ceremony (John 13:4-5).

  3. Communion bread shall be eaten (Matt. 26:26-30, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:18-22).

  4. Communion wine shall be drank (Matt. 26:26-30, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:18-22).

  • The Fourteenth of Abib (day):

  1. Shall keep the lamb until the fourteenth day of the first month (Ex. 12:6).

  2. Shall kill the lamb in the evening (Ex. 12:6).

  3. Shall strike the sides and upper door posts with the blood of the lamb (Ex. 12:7).

  4. Shall roast the lamb with fire (Ex. 12:8).

  5. Shall blow the trumpet over the Passover Offering (Num. 10:10).

  • The Fifteenth of Abib:

  1. Shall eat the lamb in that night (Ex. 12:8).

  2. Shall eat the lamb with bitter herbs (Ex.12:8).

  3. Shall eat the lamb with unleavened bread (Ex. 12:8).

  4. Shall not eat it raw (Ex. 12:9).

  5. Shall not eat it sodden with water (Ex. 12:9).

  6. Shall roast the lamb whole with it's head, legs, and internal organs (Ex. 12:9).

  7. Burn the lamb until nothing remains (Ex. 12:10, Deut. 16:4).

  8. Eat with your loins girded (Ex. 12:11).

  9. Eat with your staff in your hand (Ex. 12:11).

  10. Eat with your shoes on (Ex. 12:11).

  11. Eat in haste/quickly (Ex. 12:11).

  12. Shall teach the Passover to your children (Ex. 12:26-27).

  13. Servants can eat if circumcised (Ex. 12:44).

  14. Must be eaten in one house (Ex. 12:45-46).

  15. Not one bone shall be broken (Ex. 12:46).

  16. All the congregation shall keep the Passover (Ex. 12:47).

  17. Strangers can keep the Passover if all males are circumcised (Ex. 12:48).

  18. All that keep the Passover shall practice one law (Ex. 12:49).

  19. If you miss the Passover you can celebrate it on the second month (Num. 9:6-14).

  20. Shall remove all leaven from your household (Ex. 12:15).

  21. Shall eat unleavened bread for seven days (Ex. 12:15, 18, Ex. 13:6-7, Lev. 23:6-8).

  22. Those that eat unleavened bread shall be excommunicated (Ex. 12:15).

  23. There shall be no unleavened bread in all your camp for seven days (Ex. 12:19-20).

  24. A Sabbath is to be observed (Ex. 12:16, Lev. 23:7-8).

  25. A Holy Convocation is to be observed (Ex. 12:16, Lev. 23:7-8).

  26. No servile work is to be done (Ex. 12:16, Lev. 23:7-9).

  • The day after the Sabbath (First Fruits):

  1. Shall be on the morrow after the Sabbath (Lev. 23:10-11).

  2. A Wave Offering is to be given (Lev. 23:9-11).

  3. A Burnt Offering is to be given (Lev. 23:12).

  4. A Meat Offering is to be given (Lev. 23:13).

  5. A Wine Offering is to be given (Lev. 23:13).

  6. Shall not eat bread until after the offering (Lev. 23:14).

  7. Shall not eat parched corn until after the offering (Lev. 23:14).

  8. Shall not eat green ears until after the offering (Lev. 23:14).

  • The Twenty-Second of Abib:

  1. There shall be no unleavened bread in all the camp for seven days (Deut. 16:4).

  2. A Holy Convocation is to be observed (Ex. 12:16, Lev. 23:7-8).

  3. No servile work is to be done (Ex. 12:16, Lev. 23:7-9).

          This is how the scripture describes to keep the Passover.  It is detailed in Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23.  At the end of these details listed in Exodus 12 God said, "And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.  And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service" (Ex. 12:24-25).  He said again, "And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month" (Ex. 13:5).  The scripture clearly teaches that we are to do the "service" as outlined in Exodus 12 and this was to be "forever."  Today, however, very few people keep the Passover in this manner.  Instead, they opt to do a Jewish Seder instead.  For some reason we believe we are to keep the feasts, but not in the way God lays out in the scripture.

 

The Seder or Exodus 12?

 

          Many are confused today regarding some passages about the Passover.  Today, many claim to "sacrifice" the Passover and use a real lamb is against the scripture.  They cite several verses to show that doing so outside of Jerusalem, without a Temple, is against the will of God.  This is their justification for doing the Jewish Seder.  Unfortunately, this belief does not hold up to a detailed study of the scripture.

          The scripture does teach that we are not to sacrifice the Passover within our own gates, but only at the place where the LORD has placed his name (Deut. 16:5-6).  However, this is not referring to the Passover lamb.  This is referring to all the offerings during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  We know this based on the context.  The word "Passover" in the scripture can refer to several things.  First, it refers to the lamb (Ex. 12:21).  We are to kill the Passover.  Second, it refers to the first day of the feast (Lev. 23:5).  This is the preparation day.  Third, it refers to the entire week of unleavened bread (Eze. 45:21).  In Deuteronomy 16 it is used to refer to the entire week.  We know this based on the offerings mentioned.  The context is clear.  We are to "sacrifice the Passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there" (Deut. 16:2).  This sacrifice is of the flock and the herd.  The word for flock is tseh-one' and refers to a sheep or a goat, but the word for herd is bâqâr which refers to a bull or heifer.  The Passover is never to be a bull or heifer. 

          This is clearly referring to all the offerings during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which are required to be at the Temple (2 Chron. 35:7-8).  In Deut. 16:5 it is still referring to the Passover sacrifices in the Temple of sheep, goats, bulls, and cows, not the Passover lamb.  In Deut. 16:6 it does sound like the Passover lamb, but it is not.  It says, "thou shalt sacrifice the Passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt" (Deut. 16:6).  The word for "at even" is not the same phrase as in Exodus 12.  The phrase in Exodus 12 is bêyn ‛ereb, which means between the evenings.  This refers to the time between noon and the setting sun, around 3pm.  The word used in Deut. 16:6 is just ‛ereb, which is at sunset.  You cannot kill the Passover at sunset and also have it ready to eat at sunset.  To slaughter and roast an animal whole takes hours.  The next verse clarifies this problem.  We are told to "roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose" (Deut. 16:7).  The word for roast is also different than in Exodus 12.  The word roast is bâshal, which means to boil in water.  Exodus 12 specifically says not to boil (bâshal) the Passover (Ex. 12:9).  This is the same word.  In Exodus 12 we are told not to boil the Passover in water, but here in Deuteronomy 16 we are apparently supposed to boil the Passover in water.  The truth is, this is a description of the sacrifices during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, not the Passover Lamb.

          The reality is, there are several examples in the scripture where Israel sacrificed the Passover outside of Jerusalem.  During the 40 years of wandering Israel kept the Passover outside of Jerusalem (Num. 9:3-4).  At this time Israel was not in the land.  Even in the New Testament we see this.  Paul told the Corinthians to keep the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7-8).  Corinth was 800 miles away from Jerusalem.  That is a several month travel.  Does God expect the Corinthians to keep the feast in Jerusalem?  If so, they would have to spend most of the year traveling to the feasts.  How would you work?  How would you support yourself?  This is unreasonable.  The truth is that God had a much grander plan.  Deuteronomy 12 is the answer.  The first twenty verses of chapter twelve speaks of sacrifices only at the place the LORD shall choose (Deut. 12:5-6, 11, 13-14, 17-18).  God clearly said not to sacrifice anywhere except where the LORD thy God chooses.  Where the LORD thy God chooses is clearly Jerusalem, which is where God's Law was.

          By verse twenty, however, God expands on His answer.  You see, His plan was much bigger than Jerusalem.  God said, "When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.  If the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill (H2076 - sacrifice) of thy herd and of thy flock, which the LORD hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after" (Deut. 12:20-21).  God's plan was to enlarge Israel's borders and grow.  If Jerusalem is too far to travel to for the feasts and sacrifices, we can sacrifice within our own gates.  After all, God's plan was to make Abraham the father of many nations (Gen. 17:4).  Israel was only the start.  Any nation today can follow God's commands and keep His feasts.  Including America.  It is true that God placed His name in Jerusalem, but is that the only place.  At the start of the Old Covenant God said to Moses, "An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee" (Ex. 20:24).  The word places is plural.  God's plan was to place his name in several places.  This is how Abraham was to be a father of many nations.  God's name is anywhere his law is practiced.

          In fact, the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed in everyone's homes.  This was a special sacrifice that God commanded each family to do.  During the time of the Messiah the Pharisees did their Passover's in the Temple, but was this correct?  It does not match the commandments of Exodus 12.  We know from Josephus that "the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers" (Flavious Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. 13, Ch. 10, vs. 6).  The truth is, every other Jewish group did their Passover in their own homes.  Josephus also recorded that "when the fourteenth day was come, and all were ready to depart they offered the sacrifice, and purified their houses with the blood, using bunches of hyssop for that purpose; and when they had supped, they burnt the remained of the flesh, as just ready to depart.  Whence it is that we do still offer this sacrifice in like manner to this day, and call this festival Pascha which signifies the feast of the Passover;" (Flavious Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. 2, Ch. 14, vs. 6).  The Jews in the Messiah's day did this sacrifice just like Exodus 12, painting their doors with blood using hyssop, eating the Passover at evening, and burning the remainder of flesh throughout the night.  Philo of Alexandria confirms this as well when he said of the feast, "the Hebrews call, in their native language, Pascha, on which the whole nation sacrifices, each individual among them, not waiting for the priests, since on this occasion the law has given, for one special day in every year, a priesthood to the whole nation, so that each individual slays his own victim on this day"  (Philo of Alexandria, The Decalogue, pg. 159).  The majority of the Jews during the time of the Messiah sacrificed their Passover in their own homes and followed Exodus 12, while the Pharisees sacrificed their Passover in the Temple.  Based on scripture, the Pharisees had it wrong, but the people had it right. 

          After the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Pharisees could no longer keep their Passover the way they taught.  As a result, they started keeping the Passover in their own homes, but they still believed it could only be done in the Temple.  This is where the Seder comes from.  It was modeled after the formal meal of the day called a Greek Symposium.  The Greek Symposium was a formal meal that involved reclining at the table, four cups of wine, a learned discussion, and a last morsel of food called the afikomen.  Does this sound familiar?  The similarities go even further, but the truth is simple.  The Pharisees believed so strongly that sacrifices were only to be done in the Temple that they changed the Passover to the Seder.  The Seder was modeled after the common formal meal of the day, which was the Greek Symposium.

 

A Shadow of Things to Come:

 

          The feasts of the LORD have another purpose as well.  They outline the events of God's plan in history.  Though each of the feasts have a historical aspect, they also have a prophetic aspect.  The Apostle Paul tells us they are, "a shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:16-17).  Here is the prophetic aspect to the Feast of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits.

          The name Passover comes from the words of Exodus 12:13 where God says He will "pass over" the Israelite homes that have the blood of the lamb on their door posts.  This is an obvious reference to the Messiah, who is called our Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7-8).  The Messiah was crucified on Passover day at the exact time the Passover Lambs were slaughtered (John 18:28).  His death gives us our atonement and God can now "pass over" our sins and spare our lives from the penalty of sin (1 Pet. 1:18-19).  Here are some examples of how the Messiah fulfilled the Passover:

  • The Messiah was the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:3, 1 Cor. 5:7-8).

  • The Messiah was without blemish or defect (Ex. 12:5, 1 Pet. 2:22).

  • The Messiah's blood covered our lives of sin (Ex. 12:7, Rom. 3:25).

  • The Messiah delivered us from our slavery to sin (Ex. 13:3, Heb. 2:14-15).

  • The Messiah brought us our sanctification (removed sin/leaven from our lives (Ex. 12:15, 2 Thess. 2:13).

  • The Messiah is the firstfruits of man (Lev. 23:9-11, 1 Cor. 15:20, 23).

          There are many other examples of how the Messiah fulfilled these feasts.  The list can go on and on.  The point to all of this is that these feasts proclaim God's plan throughout all the ages.  By practicing them we will learn God's plan.  After all, "A good understanding have all they that do his commandments" (Psalms 111:10).  If we start doing God's commandments we will start understanding what they are for.  When we start practicing the Feast of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits, we will learn more and more what the will of God is for our lives and mankind.

 

Conclusion:

 

          This type of Passover might seem different than most, but it is truly the biblical Passover.  We have lost sight of this over the years and have turned the Passover into a religious ceremony.  This has clouded the truth of what the Passover is designed to teach.  It only seems weird to us today because we are so far removed from reality.  A hundred years ago it was very common for a family to roast a whole animal for a feast.  Today it is almost unheard of.  The Passover is no different.  It is a family barbecue designed to remember our history and teach a biblical concept.

         The most common complaint I hear about this type of Passover is this.  People often say, "but I can't kill a lamb.  How can I do this?"  My response is always, "then don't kill a lamb, but you can still keep the rest of the commands correctly."  A family could easily buy their lamb from the supermarket on the tenth.  Set it aside and label it "Passover" in the fridge until the fourteenth.  Barbecue it on the fourteenth and eat it on the evening of the fifteenth.  They could take the juices from cooking the lamb, or any substitute desired, to paint their door posts.  The point I make is this, the closer we keep God's commandments as He commanded the better off we will be.  Who knows, maybe after a few Passovers kept God will provide someone who can butcher the animal for you. 

  

By Steve Siefken
 

  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth

not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV