The Night to be Observed and the Holy Convocations
Some people who observe a 13th/14th Passover and a 15th-21st Festival of Unleavened Bread believe that God commands the observance of a festive banquet on the eve of the 15th of Nisan.
Surprisingly, a simple misunderstanding of one primary scripture, plus a few peripheral verses, form the basis for this teaching. The primary scripture quoted for this teaching is Exodus 12:42:
"It is a night to be much observed to 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" (KJV).
There is no doubt that verse 42 is speaking of the eve of the 15th of Nisan. But, does this scripture command the observance of a festive banquet on the eve of the 15th to celebrate and commemorate the event when the Israelites left Egypt? The answer is no; it does not say this.
The English word observed in verse 42 is the Hebrew word shimmurim, which means vigil or watch. In Jonah 2:9, the verbal root of shimmur means paying attention. The word shimmurim is only used twice in the entire Bible (both times in the plural form) and does not refer to observing a feast or celebration of any kind.
The problem is that shimmur (vigil or a watch) cannot be translated into the English word observance without altering the meaning of this verse. The intent of the command to keep a vigil or a watch does not support the teaching of a mandatory banquet celebration on the eve of the 15th of Nisan. Verse 42 instructs the Israelites to remember "that night of vigils", which was clearly the first Passover night (15th of Nisan) wherein the Israelites ate the sacrificial lamb in a state of watchfulness.
Exodus 12:14,16, and 17 are also often cited as supporting a commanded festive banquet on the eve of the 15th:
"And this day shall be to you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations by an ordinance for ever And the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and
the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you and no manner of work shall be done in them saving that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. And you 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 you observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever" (KJV).
These verses reveal the following important information about the 15th of Nisan:
- All of the 15th of Nisan is to be a memorial (Hebrew: zikkaron, i.e., a memorial, a reminder, a token or a record) of the Israelites leaving Egypt, and it is to be kept as a feast (Hebrew: hagag, i.e., to celebrate a religious festival). The 15th of Nisan is a day to remember with a cheerful celebration, which includes eating and drinking; however, there is no mention that only the evening or the night portion of this day is to specifically be observed.
- There is to be a holy convocation (miqra qodesh), which is a sacred assembly where one's physical presence is mandatory. There is no mention of a festive banquet meal to be eaten at this holy convocation. The clear intent of the command in this verse is that there is to be an assembly for the purpose of worship (Lev.23:7; Num.28:18). It seems illogical that a continuation of the Passover ceremony is referred to here, because there is no such command for an assembly on the alternate Passover. Therefore, it seems that this commanded assembly is a reference to the first day of Unleavened Bread, because the Festival of Unleavened Bread is to be observed by the Israelites forever.
- The Israelites came out of Egypt on the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which contains the Passover ceremonial meal (Ex.12:14; Num.33:3; Deut.16:1). But, do these scriptures say that there should be a celebration on the eve of the 15th to commemorate the day the Israelites left Egypt? They do not!
There is nothing in Exodus 12:14,16-17 validating the teaching that a festive banquet is mandatory on the eve of the 15th of Nisan to commemorate the day the Israelites left Egypt. However, the command does say to observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is a separate observance from the Passover.
THE HOLY CONVOCATIONS
"And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts" (Lev.23:1-2 KJV).
"These are the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice and a drink offering, every thing upon his day" (Lev.23:37 KJV). See also Deut.16:16-17.
The following are the annual festivals and commanded assemblies:
- First day of Unleavened Bread
- Last day of Unleavened Bread
- Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)
- Feast of Trumpets
- The Day of Atonement
- First day of Shelters\Ingathering
- The Eighth Day
One of the requirements for observing the annual festivals was that all the males of Israel were to come before God to give an offering of gratitude for his blessings.
An important point to take note of is that these were commanded assemblies in which the place of assembly was chosen by God. The Israelite males did not have an option to appear or not to appear before the Lord (Deut.16:2-16). These assemblies with their attending sacrifices and offerings were required in order for the Israelites to remain in right-standing with God and receive blessings from him (Ex.19 and Deut.28).
It should be remembered that the first Passover ceremony, which included the killing and eating of the sacrificial lamb was not a joyous festival; it was an extremely anxious and fearful event. Exodus 12:11 and Deuteronomy 16:3 use the Hebrew word 'be-hipazon', which means "in an alarmed hurry", to denote an element of fear and tension on the night of the 15th of Nisan. However, the portion of the 15th of Nisan when the Israelites came out of Egypt was to be remembered as a joyous occasion.
A careful study of Exodus, chapter twelve shows that the Israelites killed and roasted the Passover Lamb on the eve of the 14th day, sometime between noon and sunset, before the beginning of 15th Day:
"And it shall be for you to keep until the fourteenth day of this month. And all of the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the evenings" (Ex.12:6 Para.).
The Passover instructions in Deuteronomy, chapter 16 require unleavened bread to be eaten with the Passover sacrifice and during the remainder of the seven day festival:
"You shall eat no leavened bread with it [i.e., the Passover sacrifice] seven days shall you eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for you came forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life" (Deut.16:3 KJV).
"And there shall be no leavened bread seen with you in all your coast seven days; neither shall there anything of the flesh, which you sacrificed the first day at even, remain all night until the morning" (Deut.16:4 KJV).
Verse 4 shows that the remains of the Passover sacrifice made during the afternoon of the 14th day had to be disposed of before the dawning of the first day of unleavened bread, which began on the 15th day of Nisan.
The English word sacrificed in verse 4 is translated from the Hebrew word zabach, a primitive root, which means to slaughter an animal (usually in sacrifice):
Exodus 12:42 shows that the evening portion of the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread was not a night of festivity; it was a very fearful and sober night filled with apprehension and death—a night to pay careful attention to what was happening. This was the night the death angel passed through Egypt while the sacrificial lamb was being eaten:
"A night of vigils it is to the Eternal to bring them from the land of Egypt. It is this night, to the Eternal, of vigils for all the sons of Israel, for their generations" (Ex.12:42 literal translation).
The biblical record and the historical observance of the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread by ancient Israel and the Jews of Jesus' day show a sacrificial ceremony which begins with the sacrifice of the Passover lamb during the afternoon of the 14th day before sunset and the eating of the sacrificial lamb during the evening of the 15th day, which is the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
There are two facts to take note of at this point:
- The original Passover ceremony spans a time period which includes the end of one day and the beginning of another.
- The lamb was selected for sacrifice on the 10th day of Nisan, killed during the afternoon of the 14th day before sunset, and eaten during the evening of the 15th day, which began the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
The sequence of the Passover which Jesus and his disciples observed was the same as the Jews of his day: a lamb was sacrificed at the temple before sunset, the lamb was roasted, and then eaten after sunset.
The insertion of a full day between the performance of the Passover (as instructed by Christ) and the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread results in the Passover being observed on the wrong day.
There is no support in the biblical or historical records for a banquet celebration on the eve of the 15th of Nisan. In fact, the apostle Paul reprimanded the elect at Corinth for having a festive meal during the Passover ceremony—the eve of the 15th of Nisan. See 1.Cor.11:17-34.
By B.L. Cocherell b5w34