Passover (Pesach)

The Passover (Exodus 12; Leviticus 23:5) began on the evening of the fourteenth day of Nisan (our March-April), the first month in the Jewish Calendar, and lasted for 7 days. The first and last days of the festival were days on which no work was permitted. It is the first of the three major Jewish festivals (the other two are Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles). All adult males were required to travel to the sanctuary to take part. It combined two celebrations that were originally separated: Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8). The two were closely linked. Passover celebrated the night when the angel passed over the Hebrew households in Egypt; the Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorated the fact that the Hebrews left Egypt in such a hurry that they did not have time to add leaven (i.e. yeast) to their dough. Eventually the Jewish people merged the two celebrations into one.

Preparing for the Passover

A lot of preparation was put in for the Passover. On the 10th of Nisan a lamb was brought into home (Exodus 12:3,6). This was the Passover Lamb that was kept until the 14th. On the Eve of Passover, all leaven were to be searched out and burned (Exodus 12:19). It was also a symbolic way of leaving the sinful life of Egypt.

The Passover Meal

On the 14th of Nisan, just before sunset, the Passover Lamb was to be slaughtered and was roasted whole (no bone was to be broken) and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The unleavened bread was made simply from flour and water and cooked very quickly. This ceremony was rich in symbolism: the blood of the lamb symbolized the cleansing of sins; bitter herbs, the bitterness of slavery in Egypt; the unleavened bread, purity.

Jesus - The Final Passover Lamb

Jesus is the final Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). He entered Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan, the same day when the Passover Lamb was brought into home. The night before Good Friday He was examined by Pilate and was found no fault, thus fulfilling the requirements of the Passover Lamb being a "male without defect." On Good Friday, the day of the Passover celebration, Jesus was crucified (John 19:14). At around 3:00 pm, Jesus said, "It is finished" and died. This was the time when the Passover Lamb was to be slaughtered. Further, when the lamb was roasted and eaten, none of its bones were to be broken. This was prophesized for the Messiah, whose bones were not to be broken (Psalms 34:20). It was customary for the soldiers to break the leg bones of the crucified person after a few hours in order to hasten their death. The only way a person could breathe when hanging on a cross was to push up with his legs. By breaking the legs, the person could no longer push up to breathe and death soon followed. However they did not break Jesus' bones since He was already dead.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

Then on the 15th, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began (Leviticus 23:6-8). For the next 7 days until the 21st, the people ate unleavened bread.

The first and seventh days of the festival were days on which there was no work and the people came to a holy gathering (Leviticus 23:7, Numbers 28:18,25).

The Feast of Firstfruits

After the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, the second day was observed as "the Feast of Firstfruits". On this day, a priest waved a sheaf of barley to consecrate the coming harvest (Leviticus 23:10-12). It was similar to the first fruits celebration of the Feast of Weeks, except that it was in celebration of the barley harvest, while the Feast of Weeks was for the wheat harvest.

Jesus - The Firstfruit

The Feast of Firstfruits falls on "the day after the Sabbath" (Leviticus 23:11) , or Nisan 16, which was the very same day when Jesus was resurrected. Thus Jesus has fulfilled being the firstfruit of resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Offerings

During the feast the priests daily sacrificed two bulls, one ram and seven male lambs as a burnt offering along with its grain offering; and one male goat for a sin offering in addition to the regular sacrifices (Leviticus 23:8, Numbers 28:16-31):

Day Burnt Offering Sin Offering
Bulls Rams One-year-old Male Lambs Male goat
1 2 1 7 1
2 2 1 7 1
3 2 1 7 1
4 2 1 7 1
5 2 1 7 1
6 2 1 7 1
7 2 1 7 1
(Total) (14) (7) (49) (7)

The burnt offerings were accompanied by their grain offering and their drink offerings.

Second Passover (Pesach Sheni)

The 14th day of Iyar was the Second Passover. This day served as a "second chance" for those who were unable to attend the Passover one month earlier because of being unclean or being away on a journey.

The circumstances that led to the Second Passover was recorded in Numbers 9:1-14. There were some men who were unclean through contact with a dead body and were not allowed to participate in the Passover. They came to Moses and Aaron and voiced their concern that when the Passover sacrifice was offered, they were ritually impure and therefore unable to participate in this sacred obligation. It was then God instituted the Second Passover so that they could present their offering one month later.

The significance of the Second Passover reminds us of God's grace. He always gives us a second chance when we sinned (became unclean) or departed away from Him (away on a journey) so that we can always come back to Him and rectify our wrong doings in the past.

Related Topics

The Jewish Calendar - Presents an overview of the Jewish Calendar and Festivals. Also provides links to online tools.

The Five Offerings - Presents an overview of the sacrificial system.

References

Jewish 101. "Pesach: Passover." http://www.jewfaq.org/holidaya.htm

The Wild Olive. "Pessach - Passover. The Last Supper - The Seder." http://fp.thebeers.f9.co.uk/pessach.htm

Deem, Richard. "How the Passover Reveals Jesus Christ." http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Lab/6562/apologetics/passover.html