The work of the death angel leading to the exodus from Egypt is one of the most dramatic events recorded in Scripture. Like all important times on God’s calendar, which satan loves to confuse to keep us from worshipping during God’s appointed times, it is subject to two different interpretations on when it occurred. Let’s study both to see which one is Scriptural.
One belief holds that the evening (dark, first part) of the 14th is the Passover meal, then the death angel came at midnight, still on the 14th. The next morning, all of the daylight of the 14th passes, the dark part of the 15th is the “night to be much observed”, and the Exodus occurred sometime after midnight on the 15th. Adherents to this belief observe two nights: the Passover meal one night (the onset of the dark part of the 14th, just after the sunset ending the 13th) and the “night to be much observed” (the onset of the dark part of the 15th) the following night. Most people who hold this belief point to the timing of the last supper, which took part on the first part of the 14th, as proof that the meal occurred one night and the death angel passed the following night. ("Night to be much observed" Exodus 12:42.)
Under this belief, the lamb was killed as soon as the sun set on the beginning of the 14th, which would be 6:00 p.m. or later, the meal was eaten as soon as it was cooked, the death angel passed at midnight (at most six hours after sundown, still the 14th), and the Exodus occurred 36 or more hours later, sometime on the 15th.
The other belief is that the Passover lamb was slain at the evening (3:00 p.m.) sacrifice on the day of the 14th, the death angel passed at midnight (which is now the 15th), and the Exodus occured quickly thereafter, early on the 15th.
What does Scripture show?
The Passover sacrifice took place at the time of the evening sacrifice (Exodus 12:6). Does that mean it was evening, as soon as the sun set and the 14th had just begun? There is never any reference in scripture to any sacrificial offering that took place at or just after sundown. According to 1 Kings 18:29-36, the evening sacrifice was well past noon. Bible historians place it at 3:00 p.m. (the ninth hour). This would make it mid-afternoon on the 14th, just hours before sundown which is the 15th.
Once slain, the sacrificial lamb had to be gutted, skinned, and cooked on a spit, a process that takes several hours. (Just think how long you have to cook your Thanksgiving turkey, which was already cleaned. The food network says a 20-24 pound turkey needs to cook 4.5 to 5 hours. The North Carolina State Extention website states that a 5 - 8 month old lamb weighs 80 - 100 pounds.) If the killing, cleaning and cooking didn't begin until 6:00 p.m., it is almost impossible to have killed, prepared, and cooked a young lamb and still have it eaten before midnight. Even starting at 3:00 p.m., by the time the meal could be eaten, it is now sundown or later, the 15th of the month.
Which day did the death angel pass?
This would mean that the death angel passed in the early dark hours of the 15th. This is where people have difficulty, because they want to insist that the death angel event had to happen on the 14th, which is given as the day of the Passover. But never does Scripture state that the death angel would come on the 14th. Every plain word of Scripture in fact contradicts the idea that the death angel passed on the 14th. We are told that the Passover lamb is slain at the evening sacrifice on the 14th. That timing makes it impossible for the death angel to pass at midnight on the 14th, or the death angel would pass 15 hours before the lamb was even slain.
There is further Biblical evidence that supports the fact that the death angel passed at midnight on the 15th. Exodus 12:12 tells us that the pass through of the death angel happens “this night”. What night? We’re already beyond the evening sacrifice of the 14th in earlier verses, so the night in question has to be after sundown, which is now early on the 15th. Then, in Exodus 12:30-36 we see that Pharaoh rose up in that same night (vs 30), he called for Moses & Aaron by night, told them to rise up, get you forth, and go (vs 31), be gone (vs 32), the Egyptians were urgent and sent the people out in haste (vs 33), the Israelites took dough before it was leavened (vs 34. When is the first day of unleavened bread? The 15th – Leviticus 23:6).
Re-read all of those action verbs: rose up that same night, rise up, get you forth, go, urgent, haste. Nothing at all in this passage of Exodus 12 suggests there was the 36 hour delay that the two night theory requires. Verse 42 then contains the phrase “the night to be much observed”. Verse 51 refers to it as “the selfsame day” that the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt. This event is later plainly stated to be on the 15th, the morrow after the Passover (which we know from Leviticus occurs on the 14th). (Numbers 33:3)
When was the house deleavened?
Remember also that the Passover meal was eaten with unleavened bread. In the yearly annual remembrances of Passover, the leavening was removed on "preparation day" (the 14th, which is the only day in Scripture given the name of preparation day. Many people now call the 6th day of each week preparation day, but there is no Scriptural example of it ever being called that. See Luke 23:54, which shows that the 14th, Passover, was the preparation for the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread the next day). If the meal was eaten immediately upon the first few minutes or hours of the 14th, adherents to this timing would have had to deleaven on the 13th, or deleaven after the first meal that was eaten without leaven. This would mean that no leaven was found in their houses for eight days, instead of the seven specified in Exodus 12:19. Traditional Passover seders include a game between father and children of searching to ensure there is no remaining leaven in the house, which indicates that historically the leaven was indeed removed before the meal. If the leaven is removed during daylight hours of the 14th, the meal had to occur after that time.
One night, or two?
Let’s work it backwards, for review and clarity: They left on the 15th (Number 33:3), which was in haste after the death angel (Ex 12:31-36), which occurred after the Passover sacrifice that happened at the evening (3:00 p.m.) sacrifice toward the end of the day of Passover, the 14th (Ex 12:6).
So there is only one dark period of time here – the dark part of the 15th, just after sundown of the 14th, which is the night to be much observed, and which is the night of the death angel, and which is the night of the Exodus. All of these events happened on the same night, not over a period of two consecutive nights.
Reconciling the Last Supper
There is nothing Scripturally (beyond the last supper) to suggest the Passover meal is on the early/dark part of the 14th, the day before the crucifixion. But that timing conflicts with what is plainly laid out in Torah, and was necessary only because Jesus had to die on the cross at the time of the true Passover sacrifice. It was an impossibility that he could both eat the Passover meal at the correct time, yet die on the cross at the correct time to be the Passover Lamb of God.
Which was more important? That he ate the meal at the specific moment, or that he fulfilled his role as our Passover Lamb by dying at the specific moment? If he did not die at the time of the Passover sacrifice, the ninth hour (3:00 p.m. evening sacrifice time) of the 14th (which he did, according to Matthew 27:46), then how could he be our Passover Lamb? (Read also Matthew 27:62, the day after the burial, also called the day after the preparation. The burial and preparation were the same day - the 14th.)
The gospel accounts are admittedly confusing on the timing of the last supper and the Passover, but John is most clear and specific. John states that the last supper was before the feast of passover (John 13:1), and that Yeshua knew his time had come. The last supper was ended (John 13:2) when Judus left to betray him. The disciples thought Judas was leaving to buy thing needed for the Passover feast (John 13:29), but why would they think that if they had just consumed the Passover feast? John 19:14 shows clearly that it was the time for the preparation of the Passover when Pilate delivered Yeshua for crucifixion. Yeshua wanted to observe Passover with this disciples (Luke 22:15) before he would be put to death. Is that any different than what we do routinely: celebrating a special event a day early because of a conflicting schedule on the actual day?
Line upon line, precept upon precept reveals that the Passover lamb was slain at the evening sacrifice on the day of Passover, which would be 3:00 p.m. on the 14th. This also became the day of preparation, the day of deleavening, in time for the meal to come that evening. The onset of the exodus is on the morning of the 15th. That leaves only one night for the death angel, the night to be much observed, as falling on midnight of the 15th, prior to the morning of the exodus. Yeshua died at the same time as the Passover sacrifice, 3:00 p.m. on the 14th, several hours before the Passover meal would be eaten. The last supper was an early celebration of Passover because Yeshua knew his hour had come and he would not be alive to keep it with them the following night.
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As always, this is my understanding and interpretation of Scripture. I always invite my readers to show me by the word of God if I am in error. May you have a blessed Passover, and may God wink at our ignorance if the best of our understanding has us observing it at the wrong time.