STUDY ON PASSOVER, UNLEAVENED BREAD,
AND YAHSHUA'S MEMORIAL SUPPER
By Frank Brown and Michael Mastropaolo, 7-16-96
Revised by Frank Brown, 6-23-99, 8-7-99 and 1-2-2002
This is a subject that seems to have no end of conflicting opinions, and has caused more than one heated argument between sincere brothers over the years. The most prevalent view among those who observe the Holy Days used to be that the Passover lamb of Exodus 12 was to be killed "between the evenings," meaning, to them, between sunset and dark of Abib 14, as Abib 13 ended. According to this view, it was then cooked and eaten that same night, and the death angel passed over at midnight. The people then spent the daylight part of the 14th "spoiling" the Egyptians before leaving as dark came on, ushering in the Days of Unleavened Bread beginning with the High Sabbath of the 15th, with the 21st being the last Holy Day.
We spent several years in an organization that believed and practiced this. They also kept a "night to be much observed" at the beginning of the 15th to commemorate the Israelites' leaving Egypt. Most of the "Sacred Name" groups that I am familiar with still follow this scenario except for the "night to be much observed," which they seem to ignore.
A few others hold the view that the 14th and the 20th are the Holy Days, thinking that if we count the 14th as a "day of unleavened bread," we would then have eight days instead of the scriptural seven, if the Feast ended on the 21st. Some reason that because Yahshua ate the Memorial Supper with His disciples, this had to be the Passover meal, and that the Jews "couldn't count," so kept it a day late. One man wrote a long article in which he declared that the Savior "just this once" broke the law and kept it a day early, since He would be dead the next night, and could not, of course, keep it then. But we know that He never broke the law, not even once!
More and more individuals and groups are coming to understand the events surrounding these days as we have come to understand them, after literally years of investigation and study. As you will see, we believe the Scriptures reveal a different picture than any of those painted above.
So, just where does the truth lie? Can we know? Everyone says that his way is the correct way. Some think that just because "we have always done it this way," or Mr. Soandso taught this or that, that their own particular way is right. Or, they do a quick study and make far-reaching conclusions that won't hold water on closer examination.
The Holy Spirit will guide us into truth if we will let it. But it will not drag us, kicking and screaming, against our will. Please, before you read any further, go somewhere and pray. Ask Yahweh to show you the truth. If these conclusions are right, as we think they are, you should change your way of keeping these days. If we are wrong, we want to know, so we can change. But let it be from the Scriptures. So let us begin:
1. When is Passover? Exodus 12:6 states that it is the 14th of the first month. Leviticus 23:5 verifies this. Numbers 28:16 has the same witness, as does Ezra 6:19-20.
2. What is Passover? It is the sacrifice; the lamb, goat, or later, Yahshua the Messiah, and not the meal itself. See Exodus 12:6, 11, 21, 27. You do not kill a meal or a day. See also Deuteronomy 16:2, 5, 6. The sacrificial victim is the Passover. It is not the day or the meal. In Ezra 6:21, they killed the Passover. 2 Chronicles 35:1 (killed), 6 (kill), 11 (killed), 13 (roasted). This was done on the 14th of Abib, the first month of the year.
3. When does the Feast of Unleavened Bread begin? Leviticus 23:6, the 15th of the first month. Numbers 28:17, the 15th of the first month. I know some who think this is the second day of the Feast. Please compare Deuteronomy 16:3 with Numbers 33:3. The day to begin Unleavened Bread is the 15th, the day the Israelites left Egypt. They prepared on the 14th. It is not reasonable to suppose that Yahweh would tell us the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the 15th, if that was the second day of the Feast, and not the first.
This belief sprang up to justify or make fit another misconception many have, that the 14th is a day of Unleavened Bread, and to count through the 21st would make 8 days of unleavened bread. This belief also came from the mistake about the "evenings." It is assumed that "at even" or "between the evenings" means at sundown, or between sunset and dark. However, this is not so. The Bible is consistent. Yahshua said, "Scripture cannot be broken." Yahweh is a precise Being. If there are inconsistencies, they are the result of mistranslation, or men putting their own ideas into them when translating. This mistake has caused many to prepare on the 13th, and begin eating unleavened bread at the beginning of the 14th. But the 14th is the Scriptural preparation day for the Feast. It is the day that leaven is removed from our homes, and the day the Israelites killed the Passover and prepared it for the Feast beginning after dark on the 15th. It is also the day and time (3 PM) that Yahshua died on the stake [Luke 23:44-46].
4. In Bible parlance, does "evening" belong to the day ending, or the day beginning? Leviticus 23:27 says we are to observe the Day of Atonement on the 10th day. Verse 32 says to observe it from the evening of the 9th. Is this the end, or beginning of the 9th? The end, of course, just as the 10th begins. So, in these passages, “even” belongs to the day ending.
This tells us that they did not rush out in the dark to put the lamb up on the beginning (dark part) of the 10th, nor rush out at sunset to kill it at the end of the 13th. They would have waited until the light part of the day. And, most important for what we are talking about, the verses in Lev. 23:5-7, and Num. 28:16-18 and especially Exodus 12:18 mean just what they say with the same consistency as Lev. 23:32, that the "at even" means from the end of the 14th (which begins the 15th) to the end of the 21st. These are the seven days of Unleavened Bread, with the 15th and 21st being the true Holy Days. Again, the 14th is the preparation for Unleavened Bread, the day when they got the leaven out of their homes, killed the Passover (lamb) in the "evening," about 3 p.m., and prepared it for the Passover meal that night. The Passover meal is the first meal of Unleavened Bread. This night is called, a night to be much observed (Exo. 12:42-43).
This is corroborated in the Book of John. First, notice John 13:1. It says, "Now before the Feast of the Passover…” and then goes on to relate events that were taking place at the Memorial Supper. Yahshua instituted His memorial this night, which was the beginning of the 14th, the preparation day, a full 24 hours before the Passover meal would be eaten. He had to, because He knew He would be dead in less than 24 hours. He, being our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7), died at precisely the same time as the lambs did in ancient Egypt, which the Gospels say was about the 9th hour, or 3 p.m. His Memorial Supper could not have been the Passover; if He had taken it early, as some insist, He would have broken the Law and thus would not have qualified to be our sinless Savior. Others say the Jews kept it a day late. This is nonsense. Yahshua said the Scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses' seat, and never even hinted that they were keeping the Holy Days wrong (Mat. 23:1-3).
Here are some related Scriptures that verify the scenario described above. John 18:28: They led Yahshua into the hall of judgment, and it was early; and they themselves went not into the hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. This and John 13:1 quoted earlier clearly shows that the Passover had not yet been eaten.
John 19:14, "and it was the preparation of the Passover, and …,"
John 19:31, "the Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the (stake) on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath was an high day),”
Luke 23:54, "and that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on."
Mark 15:42, "and now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,” v. 43, Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Yahshua's body. (Note here also the "even" has to be toward the end of the day, because the Sabbath had not yet begun. It is still "the day before the Sabbath," shortly after 3 p.m. after Yahshua had died; yet it was "even").
Here is the scenario: In ancient Israel (including the first Passover in Egypt), they were told to take their Passover sacrifice (animal) and put it up on the 10th day. Nothing indicates they were to go out in the dark to do this when the 10th began; it would have been done on the daylight part of the 10th. Then, on the 14th day, they got rid of the leavening in and around their homes (Exo. 13:7), and about mid-afternoon (between the evenings, evening beginning after the sun begins to decline in the western sky), they took the sacrificial animal and slew it. It was cooked according to Exodus 12, and the other preparations were made for the meal. Then it was eaten in the beginning part of the 15th, the first meal of Unleavened Bread. They continued eating unleavened bread from the evening ending the 14th and beginning the 15th, for seven days; the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and until the even ending the 21st day, just as Exodus 12:18 says.
In like manner, Yahshua died around 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Abib 14, the preparation day. He was buried sometime before dark, which would herald the arrival of the High Sabbath, Abib 15, and He lay in the tomb for three days and three nights before rising sometime before dark on the weekly Sabbath, Abib 17.
His supper with His disciples the night before was just what it has been called, the Last Supper. It also instituted the memorial of His death, in which He instructed His disciples how to conduct future Passovers, substituting the unleavened bread for the Lamb, and the wine for the blood on the doorposts [representing His Body and His shed blood]. But it was not the Passover, nor did it replace the Passover. And it was certainly not a high day, as evidenced by Judas' actions and what the disciples thought. Yahshua told him to do quickly what he was planning, John 13:27, and the disciples thought, because Judas was the treasurer, Yahshua had sent him to buy something they might need for the Feast, verses 28-30. This was the beginning (night) part of the Preparation day, the 14th. They would not have “bought or sold” on a High Day Sabbath.
In Luke 22:15-16 (KJV), Yahshua is quoted as saying, "…I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of Yahweh." Some versions use "again," but several versions do not. They indicate that He said He desired to eat this (upcoming) Passover with them but would not until the Kingdom be come.
Rotherham translates this, "…in no wise shall I eat it until…"
Interlinear (Green), "…for I say to you that never in any way I will eat of it until…"
American Standard (Sacred Scriptures) "…for I say to you I shall not eat it, until…"
The Revised Standard, the Good News, Lamsa's Peshitta, are all similar. Ferrar Fenton has this: "I have longingly desired to eat this Passover with you before my suffering; however, I tell you that I shall not eat of it, until it can be administered in the Kingdom of (Yahweh)."
Bullinger's Companion Bible, note on verse 16, ‘"this Passover" = not the eating of the LAMB, but the chagigah which preceded it.’
Here are answers to some common objections raised:
Q. They left Egypt on the 15th. Didn't they spend the daylight part of the 14th spoiling the Egyptians?
A. No, they did not. They had already done this. Note in Exodus 3:21-22, when Yahweh first contacted Moses, He told Moses that they would not leave Egypt empty-handed, but He would grant them favor in sight of the Egyptians and they would "borrow" riches, jewels, wearing apparel, etc.
This was done in Exodus 11:1-3, before the last plague. He informed Moses that He would bring one more plague on Egypt, so "speak now in the ears of the people" to go spoil them. Also note the conditions for eating that first Passover meal. Exodus 12:11, "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 Yahweh's Passover."
They did not wait around all day collecting things from those people; they were thrust out. After the firstborn were found dead, they had no more favor with the Egyptians. Exodus 12:29-33 plainly shows this. Note verses 32-33 especially: Pharaoh said, "BE GONE!" The Egyptians were urgent upon the people that they might send them out in haste!
So they started out probably about daybreak, since they were in sight of the Egyptians who were already out burying their dead (Numbers 33:3). Note, too, many versions of Scripture render Exodus 12:35 that the Israelites had done as Yahweh commanded, and had already spoiled the Egyptians [New KJV, New English, Good News, Complete Jewish Bible, NRSV, etc.]
Q. But didn't they leave Egypt by night?
A. Yes, they did. Deuteronomy 16:1 says so. This was accomplished in three different ways: [a.] they got word shortly after midnight that they were being thrust out right then. Remember, they were already dressed for travel, so they would have begun almost immediately to assemble to move out. They were still streaming out when daybreak came, as noted above. [b.] One of the meanings of "by night" in Strong's Hebrew dictionary is "by adversity." Yahweh certainly brought plenty of adversity on those rebellious Egyptians, via the plagues. [c.] They did not finally escape from Egyptian borders until a week later, no doubt on the last Holy Day, Abib 21, when they passed through the Red Sea all night long. See Exodus 14:18-31, especially verses 20 (gave light by night), 21 (all that night), 22-24 (Children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon dry ground), and (it came to pass that in the morning watch…), 27 (the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared).
Q. But don't the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that Yahshua kept the Passover that night?
A. No. These scriptures are ambiguous in that they conflict with John 13:1 (and other Scriptures) that says these events took place before the Passover. They do not say Yahshua took the Passover. That is an assumption based on how they read, and our previous teaching on this subject. The disciples prepared for the Passover in that upper room, and probably kept it there the next night, but this night, they only ate a meal there and received the ceremony and symbols of the bread and wine. Note, as discussed above, that He desired to eat this (upcoming) Passover with them before He suffered, but He obviously could not, since He would be dead before the following evening came.
Q. Something else does not seem to fit. If we eat unleavened bread beginning the night of the 14th, through the 21st, doesn't that make eight days instead of seven? Or, is it proper to eat the Memorial Supper with unleavened bread, then get up the next morning and eat biscuits and gravy, then begin again that night to eat unleavened bread?
A. As explained above, there is no evidence that Yahshua and the disciples ate a Passover meal that night. A lamb is not mentioned (remember that Passover lambs were killed by the priests at the Temple, 2 Chronicles 30:15-18; 35:10-18; Ezra 6:19-20, and this was not begun until the next day, at the time Yahshua died). Nothing is said of bitter herbs. Passover was a family affair and some of His disciples had families, yet none of them were present for this important occasion.
And, most significantly, the word for "bread" used in relation to the Memorial Supper denotes leavened bread, the same as leavened shew bread, and is different from the word for unleavened bread used elsewhere. There are 72 occurrences of "bread" in the New Testament, all from Strong's Greek Dictionary word #740, and three of them refer to the "bread" used at the Memorial Supper, Mat. 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19. It is "artos," and says, "From #142, bread (as raised) or a loaf: (shew) bread, loaf." #142 is "airo", to lift, to raise, among others.
Yet there are nine occurrences of "unleavened bread" in the New Testament, where the word is Strong's #106, "azumos," from #1 (as a neg. particle) and #2219; unleavened, i.e. (fig.) uncorrupted; (in the neut. plur.) spec. (by impl.) the Passover week: - unleavened (bread)." Yet none of these nine occurrences is in relation to the Memorial Supper. So, to say that He used unleavened bread that night, is to add to the Scriptures. The preparation day is not one of the days of Unleavened Bread, but is the preparation day for them.
Q. If the 15th and the 21st are the High Sabbaths, why would Yahweh have them travel, and do all that work on His High Sabbaths?
A. All of Yahweh's High Sabbaths commemorate great events in the history of His people, past, present, and future, and His plan for them. The High days of Unleavened Bread ARE high days because of the significant events that took place on those days. That is why Yahweh made them High Days. This is Yahweh's doing, and it is His plan so we would remember these days and teach them to our children. They are also shadows of things yet to come (Col. 2:17).
Consider, too, there is no scriptural prohibition against travel that we can find. The "Sabbath day's journey" spoken of in Acts came from the customs of men, which was a hedge placed around the Law of Yahweh by the religious leadership of the day, and not from Yahweh. Even today, we often travel long distances to attend Sabbath services in distant places, and find no scriptural basis for not doing so.
Q. In Deuteronomy 16:4, referring to the Passover lamb, the last part says, "neither shall there be anything of the flesh, which you sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning." Doesn't this show that the first day (the day the lamb was killed) is the first day of Unleavened Bread?
A. No, it does not. "Sacrificedst" is from Strong's #2076, and means to slaughter an animal, usually for sacrifice; slay. "First" is from Strong's #7223, and means first in place, time or rank; before, former, past. (my emphasis). So this could just as easily read, "which you sacrificed the former (or prior) day at even.
Conclusion: Based on these Scriptures and others, it seems likely that the original Old Testament lambs were put up on the daylight portion of the 10th day, then killed between the evenings, which is about mid-afternoon [3 PM] of the 14th day. The Passover is the sacrifice, the animal, not the meal. It was then prepared during the remainder of the afternoon (it takes about 4 hours to roast a small lamb, longer if it is bigger). The meal was eaten in haste; the people were ready to leave as soon as the word came. When that word did come, soon after midnight, they began immediately to make final preparations, then left. They did not wait around for another 12 or 24 hours; they were thrust out. They finally got completely out of Egypt a week later when they crossed the Red Sea all night long.
The Memorial Supper and the Passover are two different but related events. The Memorial supper was a rehearsal for the events that were to take place the next night. He gave a different symbolism with a different meaning. Henceforth the Passover was to be a memorial of His death, the True Lamb of Yahweh. He said, "This do, in remembrance of me." Paul added, "For as oft as ye do this, ye do show the Master's death till He come (I Cor 11). We do not observe a memorial before the event it memorializes takes place.
Some argue that He and His disciples kept the Passover a day earlier than the Jews. If so, then Paul, who had been a devout Pharisee, could not have said, "…as touching the law a Pharisee, …the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless." Phil 3:5-6. Paul could not have said this if he and the other Pharisees had been keeping the Passover on the wrong date.
I realize there are those who cold punch a few holes in this argument I have put forth. There are also holes in all the other arguments I have heard others propose. There are certain things it seems we are not to know at this time. This scenario seems closer to reality and fits more scripture than all others I have heard. It is my hope and prayer that anyone reading this study, regardless of your present understanding, will duly investigate this issue diligently and prayerfully, looking up and studying all related Scriptures - those I have used as well as others, and share your conclusions with me. Let us all strive to grow in grace and knowledge. ~
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