True News 4 U — Passover 2020 — Part 11
Did YHWH Alter His Commands for the Passover?
In our study of the Passover account in the book of Exodus, we have found no evidence to support the Jewish tradition of a late afternoon Temple sacrifice of the Passover lambs. To the contrary, we did find that all the Scriptural evidence points to a Passover at the beginning of the 14th. By letting the Scriptures define “morning” and “night,” we have determined that the children of Israel killed their Passover lambs on the 14th as the day began, right after sunset of the 13th day. As the Scriptural account shows, the lambs were killed at the houses of the children of Israel, which were located in the land of Goshen. The domestic sacrifice of the Passover, as observed in Egypt, was established as a lasting ordinance for the children of Israel:
“And this day [the Passover day] shall be a memorial to you. And you shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it a feast as a law forever.”
(Exodus 12:14, comment and emphasis added)
The instructions that YHWH delivered for Israel’s first Passover were to be observed by all generations that would follow. In our study of the Scriptural account, we have found no indication whatsoever that future Passovers were to be observed any differently from the instructions that are recorded for us in Exodus Chapter 12. YHWH’s command to keep the Passover “by an ordinance forever” included the observance of all the instructions that were delivered to the children of Israel by Moses:
“In the fourteenth day of this month, between the two evenings, you shall keep it in its appointed time. You shall keep it according to all its statutes, and according to all the ceremonies of it.”
(Numbers 9:3, emphasis added)
Despite this command, some proponents of a 15th Passover claim that the Passover in Egypt was the only domestically killed Passover observed by the children of Israel. They maintain that from the time of the second Passover, when the Tabernacle was set up in the wilderness, the blood of the Passover lambs had to be sprinkled at the base of the altar of burnt offerings, as required for all other sacrifices. As Kuhn and Grabbe state,
“Later Passovers were kept somewhat differently from the one in Egypt. The blood of the lambs had to be sprinkled on the altar (2 Chron. 30:16; 35:11).”
(The Passover in the Bible and the Church Today, p. 12)
Based on this supposition, they claim that YHWH instituted a change in the observance of the Passover and maintain that a late afternoon sacrifice of the lambs is supported by Scripture.
The Scriptural references that they use to support their claim are describing Passover observances which took place in the days of King Hezekiah and King Josiah—approximately 800 years after the Passover in Egypt. They ignore earlier Scriptural records of Passover observances before the days of King Hezekiah and King Josiah. They make a creative leap of 800 years and imply that all Passover sacrifices after the Passover in Egypt required the assistance of the priests and the sprinkling of the blood on the altar.
Is there any Biblical evidence that YHWH altered the Passover ordinances that He had given to Moses? Did YHWH Himself end the domestic sacrifice of the Passover lambs? After Israel’s first Passover, did He institute a mandatory Tabernacle sacrifice of the Passover lambs? Did YHWH require that the blood of the Passover lambs be sprinkled on the altar, as these scholars claim?
In this study, we will examine the Scriptural commands for the sacrifices that were offered at the Tabernacle, and we will see that YHWH did not institute a Passover sacrifice at the Tabernacle. The change that took place in the observance of the Passover in the days of King Hezekiah and King Josiah was not commanded by YHWH!
SUMMARY OF THE ORDINANCES AND STATUTES OF THE PASSOVER
We will now review the statutes and ordinances of the Passover, as they are recorded in Exodus Chapter 12:
Select an unblemished male lamb on the 10th day of the first [Hebrew] month [of Aviv-March/April] (Exodus 12:3).
Kill the lamb at each house between sunset and dark (Hebrew ben ha arbayim) at the beginning of the 14th. Share the lamb with a neighbor if one’s own family was too small to eat it (Exodus 12:4, 6).
Strike the side posts and lintel of the door of each house with some of the blood (Exodus 12:7).
Eat the flesh in that night (Exodus 12:8).
Roast the whole lamb—head and legs and edible entrails— with fire, and eat it with bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8).
Do not boil the meat with water or eat it raw (Exodus 12:9).
Burn any remains, including the skin and guts, by morning (Exodus 12:10).
Allow no alien to eat it unless circumcised (Exodus 12:43-44).
Eat the lamb in the same house where it was slain. Do not carry any of it out of the house. Do not break a bone of the lamb (Exodus 12:46).
The ordinances/instructions for the Passover noted above differ greatly from YHWH’s instructions for the sacrifices that were offered at the Tabernacle in the wilderness and later at the Temple. We find YHWH’s commands for those sacrifices in Exodus Chapters 29 and 30. These chapters contain instructions for every type of sacrifice that was offered at the Tabernacle. The same commands applied to all the sacrifices that were offered at the Temple that King Solomon built in Jerusalem 500 years after the Exodus.
The Tabernacle/Temple Sacrifices as Commanded by YHWH
Prior to the institution of YHWH’s covenant with Israel, known as the Old Covenant, it was the patriarchs of each family, such as Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Job, who offered burnt offerings and sin offerings to YHWH. They were, in effect, acting as priests for their families and clans. When the Old Covenant was established, this patriarchal function was assigned to the sons of Aaron and their fellow Levites. The sacrificial system of the Levitical priesthood was instituted when the Tabernacle was built in the year after the Exodus. The purpose of this study is to examine YHWH’s instructions for the sacrifices that He required at the Tabernacle.
The commands for these sacrifices were given by YHWH at the same time that He gave the instructions for building the tabernacle. The first sacrifices that are listed in Exodus Chapter 29 are the sin-offering (verse 14), the burntoffering (verse 18), the wave-offering (verse 24), and the heave-offering (verse 28). The commands for the daily burnt offerings, called the morning and evening offerings, are given in...
“38 And this is what you shall offer upon the altar: two lambs of the first year, day by day continually. 39 The one lamb you shall offer at sunrise [Hebrew boqer, the dawn of day], and the other lamb you shall offer between the two evenings [Hebrew ben ha arbayim, between sunset and dark].”
(Exodus 29:38-39, comments added)
The use of the Hebrew terms boqer and ben ha arbayim pinpoints the exact time for offering the two daily sacrifices. As we have already seen, these same Hebrew terms are used in the Passover account in Exodus Chapter 12. In our study of Vital Element #6 (What does “night” (Hebrew lailah) mean? What does “morning” (Hebrew boqer) mean?), we learned that “morning,” or boqer, begins when the sun rises, and ben ha arbayim—“between the setting-times” or “between the two evenings”—begins when the sun has set.
In accordance with YHWH’s command, the morning offering was originally offered at sunrise, when the morning begins, and the evening offering was originally offered between sunset and dark. Every day of the year, there was an offering at the beginning of daylight and at the beginning of darkness. Later records of the Temple service show us that a change was instituted in the time of the evening offering. Instead of an offering immediately after sunset, as YHWH had commanded, the offering was moved to the late afternoon.
The advocates of a 15th Passover claim that from the beginning, the evening offering was made in the late afternoon, which is their view of ben ha arbayim. They argue that the Scriptural command shows a morning-evening sequence of the two daily offerings, which means that the evening offering was made before the day ended at sunset. This interpretation of the Scriptural command, which is also recorded in Numbers 28:4, is frequently used to promote the definition of ben ha arbayim as the afternoon hours of the day. Some have been persuaded to accept this false definition of ben ha arbayim because the English translation of YHWH’s command for the daily offerings appears to support this view. However, a careful examination of the Hebrew text exposes the fallacy of this interpretation.
The structure of the Hebrew text reveals that the two daily offerings are not listed in chronological order, as the advocates of a 15th Passover have assumed. The word “and,” which links the two offerings, is translated from the Hebrew waw. This Hebrew conjunction is used numerous times in Scripture to link objects or events.
Events that are linked by the Hebrew waw are generally listed in chronological order, as one would expect. But the Scriptures do not always list events according to their chronological sequence. Whether or not two events are listed chronologically is revealed by the manner in which the waw is used in the Hebrew text. When events are not listed in chronological order, the rules of Biblical Hebrew require a specific structure of the text. An examination of Exodus 29:39 and Numbers 28:4 in the Hebrew text shows us that these verses fit all the requirements for listing events out of chronological order. Thus, the Hebrew text leaves us with no room to assume that the morning and evening offerings are listed chronologically, as the advocates of a 15th Passover have claimed.
After the daily burnt offerings, two additional offerings are given in Exodus Chapter 29: the meal offering, or flour offering (translated “meat offering” in the KJV) (verse 40), and the wine offering, or drink offering (verse 41). Chapter 30 records that an incense offering of sweet spices was to be burnt on the altar of incense at the same times of day that were appointed for the morning and evening offering (Exodus 30:7-8).
The various types of sacrifices that YHWH required at the Tabernacle are only briefly described in Exodus Chapters 29 and 30. Detailed instructions for each sacrifice can be found in the first seven chapters of the book of Leviticus. Nowhere in these chapters will we find a single reference to a Passover sacrifice to be done at the Tabernacle much less the Temple.
If YHWH had changed the Passover from a domestic observance to a Tabernacle sacrifice, YHWH would have recorded these instructions for us in the Scriptures. We need to do as the Bereans, and search the Scriptures. Let us see if there is such a command for the Passover to be offered in the Tabernacle/Temple by YHWH.
We will first examine YHWH’s instructions for setting up and consecrating the Tabernacle, which will give us the exact chronological setting. These events are recorded in Exodus Chapter 40. As the account shows, the entire Tabernacle was set up with its furniture, all the holy things were anointed and consecrated, and Aaron and his sons were consecrated for YHWH’s service on the first day of the first Hebrew month of Aviv (March/April) in the second year in the wilderness (verses 1-17). That was only two weeks before the children of Israel would observe the Passover—their first Passover after the Exodus from Egypt:
“And it came to pass in the first [Hebrew] month [of Aviv (March/April)] in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was set up.”
(Exodus 40:17, comments added)
When the Tabernacle and all its furnishings were anointed and made holy, and Aaron and his sons were consecrated and ready, a great and fantastic event occurred. YHWH put His presence and glory in the Tabernacle!
“33 ....And Moses finished the work. 34 And the cloud covered the tabernacle of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter into the tabernacle of the congregation because the cloud stayed on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”
[INSERT TABERNACLE PICTURE HERE]
When YHWH came down and dwelt in the Tabernacle after it had been built and everything was in its proper place, you know this was a sight to behold. YHWH was dwelling in the Tabernacle, in the midst of His people. As He had told Moses when He gave him the instructions for building the tabernacle,
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.”
(Exodus 25:8, emphasis added)
DEDICATION OF THE ALTAR OF BURNT OFFERINGS
[ADD PICTURE OF BURNT OFFERINGS ALTER HERE]
Following the momentous event of YHWH’s coming down to dwell in the Tabernacle, the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel each brought an offering:
“1 And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it and sanctified it, and all the vessels of it, both the altar and all its vessels, and had anointed them and sanctified them, 2 and the leaders of Israel offered, the head men of their fathers’ house...”
(Numbers 7:1-2, Jewish Publication Society of America)
These offerings began a twelve-day ceremony for the dedication of the altar:
“10 And the leaders offered for the dedication of the altar in the day that it was anointed, even the leaders offered their offering before the altar. 11 And the LORD said to Moses, ‘They shall offer their offering, each leader on his day, for the dedication of the altar.’ ”
Beginning with the first day of the first Hebrew month of Aviv (March/April) of the second year, each prince (tribal head) brought a special offering for the dedication of the altar. The twelve princes, as representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel, presented exactly the same offering, each on his own specified day of offering. On the first day of the first month, the prince of Judah gave his offering (Numbers 7:12); on the second day, the prince of Issachar (verse 18); on the third day, the prince of Zebulun (verse 24). The offerings continued for a total of twelve days, ending with the offering of the prince of Naphtali on the twelfth day (verse 78).
“....This was the dedication of the altar after it was anointed.”
On the last day, the twelfth day of the dedication offerings, those Levites who were not of the house of Aaron were dedicated to YHWH for the service of the Tabernacle:
“9 And you shall bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation. And you shall gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together. 10 And you shall bring the Levites before the LORD. And the children of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites. 11 And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD for an offering on behalf of the children of Israel, so that they may do the service of the LORD.... 14 So you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel. And the Levites shall be Mine. 15 And after that the Levites shall go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.... 20 And Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel did to the Levites according to all that the LORD commanded Moses concerning the Levites. So the children of Israel did to them. 21 And the Levites purified themselves, and they washed their clothes. And Aaron offered them as a wave offering before the LORD. Then Aaron made an atonement for them to purify them. 22 And after that the Levites went in to do their service in the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron and before his sons. Even as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them.”
(Numbers 8:9-11, 14-15, 20-22)
On the twelfth day of the first Hebrew month of Aviv (March/April) of the second year, the Tabernacle was fully operational for the offering of sacrifices for all the children of Israel. The priests of the house of Aaron and the Levites, their helpers, were all fully consecrated and ready to do the work of the Tabernacle. Only two days later, the Passover was to be observed.
The Tabernacle with its newly dedicated altar was officially ready for use in time for Israel’s second Passover. It would have been easy to change the domestic Passover to a Tabernacle sacrifice, since the tents of the children of Israel were pitched all around the Tabernacle. This was a most opportune time for YHWH to change the ordinance concerning the time and location for killing the Passover lambs. Had YHWH done so at this time, there would never have been any question that He had instituted such a change. Let us now examine the account of the second Passover to see if we can find any Scriptural evidence of a change from the Passover ordinances that are recorded in Exodus Chapter 12.
The Passover of the Second Year
The account of Israel’s second Passover, which was kept in the wilderness in the year following the Exodus, is found in Numbers Chapter 9. Remember, this Passover was observed two days after the dedication of the Tabernacle and the altar. What did YHWH command the children of Israel to do for the second Passover? The answer is clearly recorded for us in the Scriptural account:
“1 And 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, 2 ‘Let the children of Israel also keep the Passover at its appointed time. 3 In the fourteenth day of this month, between the two evenings [Hebrew ben ha arbayim, between sunset and dark], you shall keep it in its appointed time. You shall keep it according to all its statutes, and according to all the ceremonies of it.’
“4 And Moses spoke to the children of Israel to keep the Passover. 5 And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month between the two evenings [Hebrew ben ha arbayim, between sunset and dark] in the wilderness of Sinai. According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, the children of Israel did.”
(Numbers 9:1-5, comments and emphasis added)
The Scriptural record of Israel’s second Passover shows no change in the time or the manner of its observance. The children of Israel followed all the ordinances and statutes that were established at the first Passover, as recorded in Exodus Chapter 12. There is no indication that YHWH added to, or eliminated, or altered any of the ordinances and statutes that were observed at the Passover in Egypt. WE DO NOT FIND ANY CHANGE WHATSOEVER!
Since the children of Israel were commanded to keep the Passover according to all the statutes and all the ordinances that YHWH had originally commanded, we know that they killed the Passover lambs at their individual tents. They did not take their lambs to the Tabernacle for the Levites to slay and for the priests to sprinkle some of the blood on the altar. They observed the Passover exactly as YHWH had commanded in Exodus Chapter 12. In tents throughout the camp of Israel, the heads of households were relating the story of that perilous night in Egypt when YHWH passed over their houses, sparing their firstborn.
It is clear that YHWH did not institute any changes in the ordinances of the Passover at the time of the second Passover observance. However, a problem arose at that time which required a special judgment by YHWH. There were some Israelites who had touched a dead body and they were unclean. As a result of their uncleanness, they were unable to observe the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first Hebrew month of Aviv (March/April). Here is YHWH’s judgment in this matter:
“9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying, “If any man of you or of your generations shall be unclean because of a dead body, or in a journey afar off, he shall still keep the Passover to the LORD. 11 They shall keep it the fourteenth day of the second month between the two evenings [Hebrew ben ha arbayim, between sunset and dark], eating it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break any bone of it. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. 13 But the man that is clean, and is not on a journey, and holds back from keeping the Passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he did not bring the offering of the LORD at its appointed time, that man shall bear his sin. 14 And if a stranger shall live among you, and will keep the Passover to the LORD, he shall do according to the law of the Passover, and according to its ordinance. You shall have only one law, both for the stranger and for him that was born in the land.’ ”
(Numbers 9:9-14, comment and emphasis added)
This judgment was a special provision for those who were unclean by reason of a dead body or they were on a journey outside the land of Israel, and who consequently were unable to keep the Passover at its appointed time. Although YHWH made provision for them to keep the Passover on an alternate date, He did not change the manner in which they were to observe the Passover. YHWH’s commands to Moses in the above verses show us that they were to keep all the statutes and all the ordinances that were established at the first Passover in Egypt.
No changes were instituted by YHWH in the Passover that the children of Israel observed in the second year. The Scriptural account makes it very clear that all the ordinances and statutes of the first Passover were still in effect. The children of Israel carried out all the instructions and commands that are recorded in Exodus Chapter 12 when they kept the second Passover in the wilderness of Sinai. They did not change any of YHWH's statutes nor did they change any of His ordinances.
The fact that the children of Israel did not observe the Passover at the tabernacle is confirmed by The Encyclopedia Judaica: “Originally the Passover was celebrated among the families (Ex. 12:21 [J] in tents), after the territorial occupation [it was celebrated], in houses” (Vol. 13, p. 170). This authoritative source confirms that the children of Israel observed the Passover “in tents” before they occupied the land of Canaan and built houses. From the time that they left the land of Egypt until the end of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the children of Israel observed the Passover in tents. After they occupied the Promised Land, the Passover was observed in their houses.
The Karaite Jews, who belonged to the Levitical community that strictly followed the Scriptures, they testify that during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness that the children of Israel observed the Passover according to the ordinances that YHWH had instituted in Egypt:
“If one should ask about the generation of the wilderness, whether or not they performed the Passover during the forty years of their sojourn in the wilderness, the answer is this: in the second year after the Exodus they performed it according to its rules and ate unleavened bread as it is written: ‘And they kept the passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai’ (Num 9:5); this is in conformity with God’s command to them: ‘according to all its ordinances and all its statutes shall ye keep it’ (Num. 9:3). As for the remaining years of their sojourn in the wilderness, all those who were themselves circumcised and had no uncircumcised person in their possession did not fail to perform the Passover. This is demonstrated by the praise bestowed by the Prophet Moses upon those who were about to enter the Land of Palestine, as it is written concerning them: ‘And ye who did cleave unto the Lord your God’ (Deut. 4:4); he could not possibly have praised them had they neglected to observe this important ordinance in the absence of any legal hindrance. Had they been so neglectful, Scripture would have branded them with reproof, yet we do not find [this] to be the case.”
(Nemoy, Karaite Anthology, pp. 205-206, emphasis added)
These historical records confirm that the domestic Passover was observed during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. There is no record whatsoever of a Tabernacle-centered Passover during this time period, neither in Scripture nor in the historical writings of the Jews.
The Commanded Times for Tabernacle Sacrifices
YHWH’s commands for the Tabernacle required that different types of sacrifices be offered at specific times. There were sacrifices for every day of the week, every weekly Sabbath, every new moon, and every annual Sabbath or High Holy Day. The commands for these sacrifices are found in Numbers Chapters 28 and 29.
Numbers Chapter 28 begins with YHWH’s instructions for the two daily offerings and it includes instructions for the meal and drink offerings which accompanied these burnt offerings (verses 1-8). In addition to the two daily offerings, on every weekly Sabbath there was an offering of two he-lambs (verses 9-10). On the new moons, the beginning of each month, there was an additional offering of two young bullocks, seven he-lambs of the first year with their meal and drink offerings, and one he-goat for a sin offering (verses 11-15).
Sacrifices on each annual Sabbath, or Holy Day, were also required in addition to the daily offerings. Instructions for these feast offerings are given in the following order:
The seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot) (Numbers 28:17-25).
The Feast of Firstfruits (Shavuot), or Pentecost (Numbers 28:26-31).
The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), the first day of the seventh Hebrew month of Tishri (September/ October) (Numbers 29:1-6).
The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the tenth day of the seventh Hebrew month of Tishri (September/ October), in addition to the special sacrifices that are recorded in Leviticus Chapter 16, which were performed by the high priest (Numbers 29:7-11).
The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), this feast takes place between the 15th-21st of the seventh Hebrew month of Tishri (September/ October), on each of the seven days. Thirteen bullocks were offered on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and the number decreased each day through the seventh day (Numbers 29:12-34).
The Last Great Day (Shemimi-Atzeret), the 22nd day of the seventh Hebrew month of Tishri (September/ October), immediately following the Feast of Tabernacles (Numbers 29:35-38).
This completes the list of sacrifices that were required to be offered at the tabernacle. Notice that no instructions for the Passover sacrifice are listed among these sacrifices. Nowhere in Numbers Chapters 28 or 29 do we find any mention of a Passover sacrifice at the Tabernacle. Since these chapters list the sacrifices that were offered at the Tabernacle on every day of the year, every weekly Sabbath, every new moon, and every annual feast day, it is reasonable to expect that if a Passover sacrifice was required at the Tabernacle, instructions for this sacrifice would also be included. Although Numbers Chapter 28 makes reference to the Passover day, we find no instructions for a sacrifice at the Tabernacle. The verse simply states, “And in the fourteenth day of the first [Hebrew] month [of Aviv-March/April] is the Passover of the LORD” (Numbers 28:16).
THE SCRIPTURES DO NOT COMMAND A PASSOVER SACRIFICE AT THE TABERNACLE. This verse states only that the Passover is to be observed on the 14th day of the first Hebrew month of Aviv (March/April). The fact that there is no Passover sacrifice is included in YHWH’s instructions for the Tabernacle sacrifices leaves only one logical conclusion: YHWH DID NOT REQUIRE THAT THE PASSOVER LAMBS BE SACRIFICED AT THE TABERNACLE.
There is not one single word in Numbers Chapter 28 concerning a Passover sacrifice at the Tabernacle. The Hebrew word for “sacrifice” is not used in Numbers 28:16, which is the only verse that speaks of the Passover. The Hebrew word for a “peace-offering,” zebah, is not found in Numbers 28:16. The Hebrew word for “burnt-offering,” olah, which is used in Verse 6, is not found in Verse 16. The Hebrew word for “offering” in general, qarob, used in Verse 2, is not found in Verse 16. There is nothing whatsoever in the Hebrew text to indicate that a sacrifice or offering of any kind was required at the Tabernacle for the Passover. The only sacrifices offered on that day were the morning and evening sacrifices, which were commanded for every day in the year.
Sad to say, in some modern translations of Numbers 28:16, the word “sacrifice” has been inserted after the word “Passover.” Such translations give the impression that the Passover lambs were to be sacrificed at the Tabernacle. The new Jewish Publication Society translation, TANAKH—The Holy Scriptures, incorrectly translates Numbers 28:16 in this manner: “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, there shall be a passover sacrifice to the Lord.”
Of the five Jewish translations that were examined by Dr. Fred R. Coulter, he says this translation is the only one which blatantly inserts the word “sacrifice” in the verse, despite the fact that this word is not in the Hebrew text. This erroneous translation is completely misleading to those who are seeking the truth concerning the Passover, especially those who rely on study aids and reference works to help them understand the Scriptures. Even Rabbi Kaplan, who erroneously translated ben ha arbayim as “afternoon,” does not misrepresent the meaning of Numbers 28:16 in his translation.
The Jewish Publication Society of America (JPSA), which in 1988 published TANAKH—The Holy Scriptures—The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text, is better known for its earlier translation of the Hebrew text, titled The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text. This earlier work was published in two editions; the first edition was copyrighted in 1917 and the second in 1955. The 1955 edition, which is used in this study, is referenced as Jewish Publication Society of America (JPSA). In both the 1917 and 1955 editions, Numbers 28:16 has been translated in the following manner: “And in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, is the LORD’s passover.”
The wording of this verse in TANAKH—The Holy Scriptures, the most recent JPSA translation, is a major deviation from the Hebrew text. Such an obvious discrepancy raises questions about the reliability of this latest translation. It is disturbing to find obvious mistranslations of the Scriptures when comparing an older translation with a newer one. When such changes concern the Passover, the motive is evident. It is clearly an attempt to make it appear that the Hebrew text supports the traditional beliefs of Judaism. The translators have added the word “sacrifice” in Numbers 28:16 because they are unwilling to admit that no Passover sacrifices were required at the Tabernacle. Such an admission would undermine the Jewish tradition of a 15th Passover. To uphold their traditional belief, they deliberately inserted the word “sacrifice” in Numbers 28:16 when translating the Hebrew text.
The true meaning of Numbers 28:16 is this: God did not require that any sacrificing be performed at the Tabernacle for the Passover. Nowhere in the Scriptural accounts is there a single command to sacrifice the Passover lambs at the Tabernacle.
If YHWH had changed the ordinances of the Passover when the Tabernacle was set up, He would have recorded it in the Scriptures for us, but He did not make any such changes in the Scriptural accounts as tehy are recorded in Numbers Chapters 9 and Numbers Chapter 28. When we examine these accounts, we do not find one shred of evidence where YHWH changed any of His instructions for the Passover as it is recorded in Exodus Chapter 12. There is not one word in Numbers Chapter 9 to indicate that the children of Israel offered any Passover lambs at the Tabernacle in the second year after they left Egypt, the year that the Tabernacle was set up. That would have been the most convenient and appropriate time to make such a change. After all, the people were camping all around the Tabernacle and they were within walking distance to the Tabernacle. All the priests and Levites were ready to perform their duties as commanded by YHWH, and the Tabernacle was in full operation. But YHWH did not command that any sacrifices for the Passover be offered at the Tabernacle at that time. Furthermore, no Passover sacrifice is listed in Numbers Chapters 28 and 29, although this section of Scripture enumerates all the sacrifices that YHWH required for the Tabernacle service.
The Scriptures that we have studied make it very clear that the Passover sacrifice did not become part of the Tabernacle service. The Passover continued to be observed as a domestic sacrifice, according to the ordinances and statutes that YHWH had given to Israel in Egypt. At the time of the second Passover, YHWH commanded the children of Israel to keep these ordinances and statutes of the Passover throughout all their generations.
Nowhere have we found any evidence that YHWH changed the Passover in the Scriptures that we have studied thus far. Furthermore, when we examine Deuteronomy Chapter 16, we will see that what some have interpreted as commands for the Passover are in reality commands for the Feast of Unleavened Bread and not for Passover. These commands do not pertain to the sacrifice of the Passover lambs, as some have assumed. The account of the sacrificing of the lambs in Exodus Chapter 12 makes it very clear that the Passover was a domestic observance. Let’s review the Scriptural account:
“24 And you [referring to each head of household] shall observe this thing as a law to you and to your children [descendants] forever [this ordinance was not to be changed]. 25 And it shall be when you have come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as He has promised that you [the heads of households] shall keep this service [including killing the lambs at their houses]. 26 And it will be, when your children shall say to you [while watching their fathers kill the lambs], ‘What does this service mean to you?’ 27 Then you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S Passover, Who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our houses.’ ”
(Exodus 12:24-27, comments and emphasis added)
Think about this for a moment! How could the children ask about the Passover sacrifice, if they had not been able to observe it being done at their houses? When the children would see their fathers offering this sacrifice and they would ask, “What does this service mean?” (Exodus 12:26) they were to answer, “It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S Passover.” (Exodus 12:27) This was the answer the heads of each family was to give to each succeeding generation, WHEN THEY WERE SETTLED IN THE LAND AFTER THE EXODUS!
The meaning of these verses in Exodus Chapter 12 is obvious! No Tabernacle/Temple Passover sacrifice is even remotely hinted at in the explanation that YHWH commanded them to give to their children for all generations to come. There was no question concerning YHWH’s commands for observing the Passover. The people of Israel understood that it was strictly a domestic observance. Although many of their descendants forsook YHWH’s commands and they neglected to keep the Passover, the knowledge that it was a domestic observance was not lost. Historical records show us that the majority of the Jews during New Testament times kept the Passover at their houses, fulfilling the ordinances that YHWH gave through Moses in the Book of the Law (The Torah-the books of Moses).
Philo, a Jewish historian, confirms that the Passover lambs were slain at the houses of the Jews during the first century before the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.. He states that the Passover was
“...called by the Hebrews in their own tongue, the Pasch, on which the whole people sacrifice, every member of them, WITHOUT WAITING FOR THE PRIESTS, because the law has granted to the whole nation for one special day in every year the right of the priesthood and of performing the sacrifices themselves.”
(De Decalogue, p. 159, emphasis added)
Another historical work by Philo also records the domestic observance of the Passover:
“After the New Moon comes the fourth feast, called the crossing feast, which the Hebrews in their native tongue call Pascha [Passover]. In this festival many myriads of victims are offered—by the whole people, old and young alike, raised for that particular day to the dignity of the priesthood. For at other times the priests according to the ordinance of the law carry out both the public sacrifices [evening and morning] and those offered by private individuals. But on this occasion the whole nation performs the sacred rites and acts as priest...”
(DeSpec, Leg. II, p. 45, emphasis added)
These historical records confirm that the Passover commands that YHWH gave to Moses and Aaron, which are recorded in Exodus Chapter 12, were still in effect. These commands of YHWH were established as lasting ordinances for the children of Israel throughout their generations. As the historical accounts of Philo shows us, most of the Jews in his time were still following the command to observe a domestic Passover.
When we study the New Testament accounts of the Passover observance, we will see that Yeshua/Jesus, Who obeyed His Father perfectly and He never sinned or followed the traditions of the Jews, He kept the domestic Passover at the beginning of the 14th with His disciples. The New Testament shows us that the domestic Passover was followed by the Temple sacrifice of the Passover, in which the lambs were slain late on the 14th and they were eaten on the 15th. Both practices were observed by the Jews at that time.
Despite the fact that there is no command from YHWH anywhere in the Scriptures to support the Temple sacrifice of the Passover, this practice eventually became a national tradition among the Jews. Although the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. ended the Temple sacrifice of the lambs, the tradition of a 15th Passover did not die. Today, most Jews believe that the 15th day of the first Hebrew month of Aviv (March/April) is the day that YHWH ordained for the Passover. But YHWH commanded that the Passover be observed at the beginning of the 14th—not at the beginning of the 15th.
All Sacrifices except the Passover Were to be Brought to the Tabernacle
With the exception of the Passover sacrifice, YHWH commanded that all animal sacrifices be brought to the Tabernacle to be offered on His altar:
“1 And the LORD spoke to Moses saying, 2 Speak to Aaron and to his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them, This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, saying, 3 Any man of the house of Israel who kills an ox or lamb or goat for a sacrifice to the LORD in the camp, or kills it out the camp, 4 and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation to offer an offering to the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD, blood guilt shall be charged to that man; he has shed blood. And that man shall be cut off from among his people, 5 so that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they offer in the open field, even that they may bring them to the LORD, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to the priest, and offer them for peace offerings to the LORD. 6 And the priest shall sprinkle the blood against the side of the altar of the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and burn the fat for a sweet savor to the LORD. 7 And they shall no more offer their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they have gone whoring. This shall be a statute forever to them throughout their generations.”
(Leviticus 17:1-7, emphasis added)
This was a perpetual statute for the children of Israel. Every sacrifice except the Passover sacrifice had to be brought to the Tabernacle and offered to YHWH. Despite this command, the children of Israel repeatedly apostatized and offered sacrifices to demons and pagan gods, which brought YHWH’s wrath upon them time and time again. In fact, that is the history of the children of Israel, as it is recorded in the books of Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah.
The Scriptures that we have studied in this study make it clear that the ordinances and statutes which YHWH instituted at the Passover in Egypt remained in effect throughout Old Testament times. The Scriptural account of the second Passover, observed in the wilderness in the year that the Tabernacle was set up, is undeniable evidence that YHWH did not change either the time or the location for slaying the Passover lambs. He did not change the ordinances which required that the lambs be slain at individual homes at the beginning of the 14th of the Hebrew month of Aviv (March/April). The Old Testament observance was meant to continue until the coming of Yeshua/Jesus as our perfect Passover sacrifice from YHWH our Heavenly Father. The ordinances concerning the sacrificing of the lambs were changed when Yeshua/Jesus instituted the new Passover symbols representing His body and His blood.
In our next study, we will examine additional historical and Scriptural records concerning the observance of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Old Testament times. We will read eye-opening statements by Jewish writers attesting to major changes in the observance of the two feasts, and we will learn from the Scriptures approximately when those changes began. Until then, stay tuned in.