As WND recognized this week, Passover is “one of the most famous events in all of the Bible, prominently featured in both the Old and New Testaments.
“Passover broadcasts the message of rescuing people from the death penalty through the slaying of a lamb, whom Christians believe represents Jesus Christ, called the Lamb of God.” [i]
But what most do not know is how very mysterious aspects of the original Passover connect the FIRST and SECOND coming of Jesus Christ to prophecy… and possibly even to the arrival of WORMWOOD ASTEROID APOPHIS IN 2029!
Read the fascinating and illuminating revelations below from the best-selling book THE MESSENGER:
The first three of the seven major feasts—Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits—occur in spring. In regard to the question, “How did Jesus fulfil the feasts?” they relate to His First Coming, the work He did on the cross.
- Commanded to do in: Leviticus 23:4–5 and Exodus 12:1–4; 13:8
- Talked about in the Old Testament: Numbers 9; 28:16–25; 2 Chronicles 35:1–19; Ezra 6:19; Ezekiel 45:21
- Talked about in the New Testament: Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 6:4; 11; 13; 19; 1 Corinthians 5:7
Passover begins on 14 Nisan on the Hebrew calendar, which occurs sometime during March or April on our calendar (we use the Gregorian calendar today).
The Hebrews began and ended their day with different timing than we do, as 6 o’clock in the evening, around sundown, is considered the start of a new day. This concept of daytime was wrapped around the phases of the moon and light, and is so alien to us now that it’s hard to wrap our brains around, but this is why Nisan days cannot be solidly linked to specific dates in March or April. (This is true for the next feast dates as well.)
The lamb of the tenth-plague narrative was slaughtered and the blood was sprinkled around the door at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on 14 Nisan. The subsequent feast then took place only three hours later, at 6 o’clock in the evening, which, to the Hebrew calendar, was precisely at the beginning of a new day, 15 Nisan. (However, see the explanation later under “Astoundingly Prophetic Links” for why there appears to be another dating/timing system in place for at least some of the Jews at the time of Christ.)
Passover commemorates the Jews’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The Passover meal, called the Seder (pronounced “say-der”; Hebrew for “order”), is consumed by families or communities, involving the gathering of multiple generations.
The Haggadah, an ancient writing that acts as a kind of script read intermittently during the entire feast, is a collection of readings composed by writers of the Mishnah and Talmud before the fifth century, though there are modern translations that include contemporary (and sometimes quite progressive) circumstances. The Haggadah includes the whole narrative from the Exodus story, and parents or mentors often stop in the middle of a reading to expound upon the ritual to their children and youth, so the feast can sometimes be lengthy. Family members take turns with the reading, and often they speak with flare and emphasis to dramatize and “act out” the event.
Jewish oral laws (the Halakhah) orders that the language spoken during the Haggadah be one that those present can understand, but a more traditional Passover meal will involve certain family members (usually the head of the household) reciting portions of it in the original Hebrew or Aramaic, in addition to the language of their nearby peers.
The food items served are specific and symbolic to the unfolding story. The lamb, which has to be flawless and without blemish, according to Exodus 12:5, is chosen on the tenth of the month and is closely observed for four days before the ritual killing for Seder. During this time, the animal is loved and treated like a member of the family—being hugged, petted on, and adored, etc. For many families, especially for the children, this makes the killing of the lamb harder, yet this difficulty is intended. It is only by learning to care about the lamb and seeing its precious innocence that its sacrifice to cover sin can be felt with the corresponding guilt over the fact that it had to die for us in the first place. (That prophetic element would certainly come into play on a deeper level on the day of Jesus’ sacrifice.) In the Exodus narrative, it was the blood of the first sacrificial lamb that was spread on the doorpost.
Greatly Misunderstood Origins and Meanings
Passover, the Hebrew Pesach (pronounced “pay-sahk”)—as a feast—was named after the evening when the homes of the Israelites were spared from the fate of the tenth plague of Egypt, which involved the angel of death taking the lives of the first-born males in any home that wasn’t covered with the blood of a perfect lamb.
Even this early on in our reflection, most readers are probably wondering why we haven’t already said that Passover is named for the night that the angel of death “passed over [or around]” the homes with the doorposts that were sprinkled in blood. This is by far the most popularly referenced explanation for the name of the feast. But the word pesach existed prior to both the feast and the tenth plague, and going farther back in history unveils a layer to the subject of the Passover that many Christians today have never heard of. A deep dig into the etymological roots of the word in ancient Hebrew blatantly exposes that the angel-passed-over definition is not only incorrect, but that the true meaning is far more significant!
Etymological Origins of Pesach and Sap
The term “folk etymology” (sometimes “pseudo etymology”) refers to when an errant word origin is assigned to a word, and most times this is because it phonetically (though coincidentally) sounds like what it’s describing. For centuries and beyond, the “angel passed over” definition of what was originally a Hebrew word of much greater antiquity has been widely accepted because the phrase “pass over” literally describes a person or thing skipping or avoiding something along the path to a destination (like the angel of death would have done with the marked Israelite houses).
To clarify, there was quite a bit of a mess in the meaning of the word “wormwood” in The Wormwood Prophecy released earlier this year due to folk etymology, and part of that discussion helps us here:
In the case of “worm-wood,” many have assumed, understandably, that this is a compound description of the woody texture of the [Artemisia] plant family’s outer skin, and the herb’s historical connection to being used as a remedy for intestinal worms. Although this makes perfect sense, as far back as we can trace it, our English “wormwood” actually stems from the German wermōd, meaning vermouth (an herb-infused wine).
Just prior to this statement in that book, it was also illustrated that “‘licorice’ (a variant of the French word for ‘sweet root’) was respelled ‘liquorice’ in Britain and Ireland because of the mistaken assumption that the ‘licor’ sound at the front had something to do with making ‘liquor’ from the root.” Ironically, because some alcohols are made from the licorice root, the “sounds like it” false explanation behind the origin of the word having anything to do with alcohol is still popularly accepted and reported as truth from many sources. Nevertheless, it is pure coincidence that the sound for “sweet root” in French sounded to the British like a reference to alcohol, despite the fact that, by quirky happenstance, distilleries make hard liquor from it.
And let’s don’t even get started on the whole “o-bel-isk” breakdown that was tackled in Unearthing the Lost World of the Cloudeaters. The way we arrive at “obelisk,” meaning literally “the shaft of Baal,” and the role that plays in association with the Washington Monument is too long a story to get into here, and we don’t need any distractions from the Passover trail we’re on. It should only be reiterated that people, during the earliest formations of languages, assigned sounds to what they saw in their own place, time, religion, culture, and political climate. It’s only after those sounds have been picked up by other languages and assumptions have been made that we lose the history behind those sounds’ names, and therefore their story.
This is why etymology is so important, because many times we can’t see the full picture without going back to the beginning, and that has never been truer than with the naming of the Passover! Missing the deeper meaning of pesach is like trying to appreciate a blurry-mouthed Mona Lisa, or like turning to Psalm 23:4 and reading, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of marginal discomfort.” There’s just a glaring missing element to a thing that was designed to pack a serious punch.
So the idea that the compound “pass-over” describes the act of the angel of death passing over (or around) the houses marked with blood on the doorpost and suggests that the feast of the same name commemorates that event is poetic for sure, but much of that ultimately is folk etymology. It works by coincidence. (Actually, it might not be coincidence. It could be that God, in His infinite, transcendent design, planned it all along to denote both its true, original meaning as well as describe what occurred that night in Egypt. It wouldn’t be surprising if He so thoughtfully maneuvered how those terms would trickle down through history.)
But hold on. Doesn’t Exodus 12:13 specifically say “I [God] will pass over you”?
Well, yes, in English that’s what it says. In Hebrew, it simply says ra’ah dam pesach negeph, which translates in its most basic form to “see blood pesach plague,” or, “when I see the blood, I [God] will pesach you [from or during] the plague.” So first, we must understand what pesach means before we can know what He is doing to us or for us in this moment.
What many don’t know today is that the threshold of one’s home served as the altar in many ancient religions in the days before worship structures were available, so it was there, on these doorway altars, where sacrifices were often carried out. The ritual, called a “threshold covenant,” marked a family’s doorway for a dual purpose. First, the practice served as the residents’ invitation for God or the gods to enter the dwelling and live with them there. In fact, mankind’s earliest civilizations—including those of the Sumerians and Assyrians—involved elaborate entryway and archway ceremonies that sought to attain “good omens” through important imitative magic. Colossal stone creatures stood guard at the gates and palace entries to keep undesirable forces from coming through the portals while these same sentinels were often accompanied by carved winged spirits holding magic devices and/or other enchanted statuettes concealed beneath the thresholds. Second, the “threshold covenant” provided a way for a deity to stand guard and protect those inside. An animal—such as a lamb, goat, dove, pigeon, ox, or calf—would be slain and the blood spilt right there over the threshold of the home as an offering to the deity. As such, it would be necessary to jump, step, or leap over the blood and into the home, because walking on the sacred, covenantal sacrifice blood showed disrespect and dissolved the covenant made with that deity.
Let’s spend a minute looking at another element of support for this thread. Remember the “basin” (sometimes alternatively “bason” in the KJV) mentioned in Exodus 12:21–22, into which the Israelites were instructed to dip their hyssop branches for spreading blood over the doorpost (lintel)? As it turns out, the Hebrew word translated as “basin” here is sap, and although it can describe a bowl-like object, that’s not what it’s talking about in this instance, according to some scholars who have studied the earliest etymological origins. The translators of the KJV were likely to assume, especially if they were unfamiliar with the threshold covenant ritual of the East, that God and Moses intended the Israelites to kill a lamb and catch the blood in a bowl, then spread it upon the doorposts. Because of the Hebrew word’s association with various precious-metal carrying vessels elsewhere in the Old Testament (for example, in 1 Kings 7:50 and 2 Kings 12:13), this assumption is not outrageous.
However, before younger books like the Kings, the Hebrew sap in Judges (c.f. 19:27) directly translates to “threshold.” Since Exodus is one of the oldest books written, the “threshold” translation of sap would be more accurate (and would certainly fit the description of the threshold covenants of the East, which we will visit at greater depth in a moment). From The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, we read that the noun “sap…belong[s] to the architectural vocabulary of ancient Israel and denote[s] an essential component of an entrance, whether gate or doorway. In the Hebrew Bible, that component is always the threshold, with the one exception of Ezek[iel] 40:6–7, where a gate chamber may be indicated.”[ii] So, rather than collecting blood in a bowl and spreading it with a branch, what is most likely being talked about in Exodus 12:21–22 is the animal being slain right on the doorstep and the blood flowing freely about the walkway. From there, the Israelite would dip the hyssop branch in the spilled blood and spread it up and over the two side posts and lintel.
Certainly, over time, sap came to mean “basin” or “bowl” in the context of the Passover, and that has been the assumed interpretation since, which is why Jews for thousands of years have been collecting the blood in the bowl. However, remember that thirty-nine years passed between the first and second Paschal offering. Many folks miss that detail. The first lamb was, as we’re about to show in more detail, sacrificed directly on the threshold of Hebrew houses. According to Logos Bible Software’s biblical timelines, as well as Tyndale’s masterful Complete Book of When & Where in the Bible and Throughout History, this was in the year 1446 BC.[iii] The next forty years were spent in the wilderness with manna. Then, according to the same sources, the Jews celebrated their first Passover in Canaan in 1405 BC (cf. Joshua 5:10–12).[iv] By then, the Jews had the Shema Yisrael (“Hear, O Israel”) prayer straight from the Mosaic Law, as documented in Deuteronomy (6:4–9; 11:13–21), which reminded the Jews that: 1) God is One, and 2) He will not tolerate idolatry. Twice in this prayer—once at the beginning and again at the end—God instructs the Jews to write these important reminders “upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates [6:9].… And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates [11:20].” (A quick aside for those who are curious: This string of passages also commands that His words be kept like a binding upon the hand and a frontlet [ornamental jewelry that hangs on the forehead] between the eyes, which is where the Jewish “phylactery” or “tefillin” comes from, which are those long black straps of leather with a tiny box on the hand or forehead that Jewish adult males wear during prayer times. The little boxes contain the Shema Yisrael.)
Thus, the covenant between God and the Israelites no longer needed to involve the blood of the lamb on the threshold for two reasons: 1) The threshold covenant was already established, God was already within their homes to protect them, and there would be no more angel of death; 2) The markings upon the door would now be permanent, year-round reminders of the covenant through the prayer of Shema Yisrael. The threshold covenant was rendered obsolete when two generations of Israelites later resumed the Passover. Now, with a different kind of altar and a different mark on the doorpost, sap would evolve from defining “where the lamb was slaughtered” to describing “an instrument used in the slaughtering.” It’s just our own etymological theory for how “threshold” became “basin,” but it all fits (including the location of both the threshold and the bowl being under the lamb’s neck), and we authors find it more probable in the natural evolution of a word than to assume that any ancient people groups would coincidentally make these otherwise completely unrelated words homonymous.
Back to pesach.
Dr. Richard Booker, founder of the Institute for Hebraic-Christian Studies and author of Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts, acknowledges this historical threshold connection, explaining that pesach, before the Exodus, meant “to come under the protection of a deity by crossing over, jumping over, stepping over, or leaping over…the threshold” and into the protection of a home sprinkled with the animal’s blood.[v] World-famous Sunday School Movement trailblazer and Yale Divinity School academic, Henry Clay Trumbull, published an entire volume in 1896 on the threshold covenant in ancient religions. His preface explains that the purpose of his book was to teach about “the beginning of religious rites, by which man evidenced a belief, however obtained, in the possibility of covenant relations between God and man; and the gradual development of those rites, with the progress of the race toward a higher degree of civilization and enlightenment.”[vi] His research into these religious practices—involving the consistent and corresponding contributions of thirty-six well-known and respected professors, scholars, and theologians alive in his day (including John Henry Wright)—shows that the original family altar was the “threshold, or door-sill, or entrance-way, of the home dwelling-place.”[vii] He goes on to explain:
This is indicated by surviving customs, in the East and elsewhere among primitive peoples, and by the earliest historic records of the human race. It is obvious that houses preceded temples, and that the house-father was the earliest priest. Sacrifices for the family were, therefore, within or at the entrance of the family domicile.
In Syria and in Egypt…when a guest who is worthy of special honor is to be welcomed to a home, the blood of a slaughtered, or a “sacrificed,” animal is shed on the threshold of that home, as a means of adopting the new-comer into the family, or of making a covenant union with him. And every such primitive covenant in blood includes an appeal to the protecting Deity to ratify it as between the two parties and himself. While the guest is still outside, the host takes a lamb, or a goat, and, tying its feet together, lays it upon the threshold of his door…. [A few sentences of potentially disturbing content is omitted here. Trumball explains specific details about how the animal is sacrificed. Then he goes on to say that the host:] retains his position until all the blood has flowed from the body upon the threshold. Then the [lamb] is removed, and the guest steps over the blood, across the threshold; and in this act he becomes, as it were, a member of the family by the Threshold Covenant.[viii]
So, far before it was a “Hebrew thing,” a “Jewish thing,” or an “Israelite thing,” pesach—in many ancient languages that are not phonetically similar to the sound the mouth makes when we say “passover,” by the way—was a custom that would have been carried out in many religions of our old world, including paganism. Technically, the compound “pass-over” is better translated today as “cross over,” as in the act of crossing over a threshold. It never meant “to avoid” or “float by,” as we imagine when we think of the angel of death. It’s actually quite the opposite! Pesach, in the context of the intended purpose of a threshold covenant ritual, meant “to invite in” (the humans’ appeal to the deity) or “to enter in” (the deity’s acceptance of the humans’ appeal). As Trumbull explained, this rite was even observed between two people with the invisible deity in the middle of them as a witness to a covenant.
Some scholars and theologians even acknowledge that, in the ancient East, kings would travel throughout their land with their armies and advisors, interacting with the people from door to door. Kings would do this for several purposes, such as to gain further support from nobility, to ensure that their laws were being carried out, or to personally deliver important changes to the law. However, if that had been all these kings were attempting to do, most of that could have been tended to in the kings’ courts and via the town criers and messengers. One central reason the kings would directly lead a march from castle grounds was to weed out their enemies. When people in these territories heard that the king was coming, they would complete a sacrifice upon their threshold, using their most prized animals as a covenant sign to the king and his men that he was welcome to “pass over” their threshold, enter their homes, and receive homage. If the royal troop happened upon a threshold that wasn’t marked with blood, that family would be seen as enemies of the king, and the home would be invaded and everyone killed.
Although variations of this custom are still practiced in some parts of the Middle East, over the years, the veracity of the threshold covenant’s history would be greatly blurred into oblivion in the West, even though there are quite a few traditions we still perform despite not knowing why.
For instance, the custom of a groom carrying his bride over the threshold actually began in the earliest records of human history as a woman stepping over the animal-sacrifice blood, right foot first, into her new husband’s home during or immediately after a matrimonial ceremony. No part of the threshold could be touched during the crossover, lest the covenant be then and there voided. However, because of the long veils involved in much of the wedding attire of the day, getting the bride from one side of the door to the other without disturbing the blood was a challenge. Thus, as a practical matter, the groom would lift his bride while she clasped on to any flowing fabrics; in this way, the couple completed the crossover as a joint effort, once again with their deity present (in their belief). And, as I’m sure readers have already imagined, because not every man is the buff jock he needs to be to carry out this tradition without clumsily bumbling and ruining the whole pesach ritual for both of them, some cultures switched to seating the bride in a chair that was then carried over by the groom and several others (a custom still practiced in some tribes of West Africa). Because of its association with the altar, some countries traded the blood for fire (which, in accordance with not burning one’s house down, actually meant a red-hot blade or a few coals from the fire were placedat the door for a brief time, though the Romans somehow used a torch); this is how we arrive at some of the earlier Eastern ceremonies in which brides are carried over smoke.
Of course, over time, eventually the brides, grooms, adopted family members, contractual agreements, and so on would extend the rite to involving blood above the door, and not just where a foot can tread, as a way of coming under covenant (as in “under” the obligations of the promissory pact). Ironic, then, that “pass-over” now becomes its own opposite, “pass-under.”
Are you starting to see how the angel of death has nothing to do with this word?
Anyway, you get the idea. The pesach exchange floods into nearly countless other rites and customs of almost all world cultures, always (as far as we can tell) related to a sworn covenant—and we could have mentioned another thirty examples…but a bride being carried over the threshold is a tradition still practiced in the US today, so we chose that illustration because we knew it would be most familiar. (We can’t help but chuckle a little, however. Most young men today have no idea that it’s not just about carrying his bride through the door, but that it’s also about not allowing his feet to tread on the threshold. These authors can imagine many well-meaning gentlemen in their struggle unknowingly stomping all over the “sacred” place in their eagerness to show chivalry, symbolically canceling or insulting their union.)
The Pesach Covenant Changes Common Tenth-Plague Imagery
Speaking of what’s familiar, Trumbull explains that God, Himself, reestablished the pesach for His own purposes on the night of the tenth plague not out of the blue, but because of the intense, covenantal overtones the Israelites would have easily recognized from common culture. He puts it this way:
How the significance of the Hebrew passover rite stands out in the light of this primitive custom! It is not that this rite had its origin in the days of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt, but that Jehovah then and there emphasized the meaning and sacredness of a rite already familiar to Orientals. In dealing with his chosen people, God did not invent a new rite or ceremonial at every stage of his progressive revelation to them; but he took a rite with which they were already familiar, and gave to it a new and deeper significance in its new use and relations.
Long before that day, a covenant welcome was given to a guest who was to become as one of the family, or to a bride or bridegroom in marriage, by the outpouring of blood on the threshold of the door, and by staining the doorway itself with the blood of the covenant. And now Jehovah announced that he was to visit Egypt on a designated night, and that those who would welcome him should prepare a threshold covenant, or a pass-over sacrifice, as a proof of that welcome; for where no such welcome was made ready for him by a family, he must count the household as his enemy.
In announcing this desire for a welcoming sacrifice by the Hebrews, God spoke of it as “Jehovah’s passover,” as if the pass-over rite was a familiar one, which was now to be observed as a welcome to Jehovah. Moses, in reporting the Lord’s message to the Hebrews, did not speak of the proposed sacrifice as something of which they knew nothing until now, but he first said to them, “Draw out, and take you lambs according to your families, and kill the passover”—or the threshold cross-over; and then he added details of special instruction for this new use of the old rite.[ix]
Understanding the threshold covenant brings new life to the story of the tenth plague. The pesach act of the Exodus narrative was the direct and intentional cross-over step of God, Himself, into the doorway of a faithful family, where He would now actively guard His people against the danger of the angel of death.
Pesach means to jump over something, as we have certainly discussed, but in proper context of the threshold, the term means “protect”! And whereas the translators of the KJV and other early translations rendered Exodus 12:13 to read “I [God] will pass over you,” the English translation of the Septuagint (LXX) actually has it: “I [God] will protect you”!
It gets even more beautiful and theologically profound when we consider that God was protecting those families from the vehicle of His own wrath, since He is the One who sent the judgment plague in the first place.
The tenth plague in movies, books, and plays, and generally in the minds of Westerners, is a moment when the Israelites cowered in fear and smeared blood above their doorposts as a way of warding away an angry God. In this view, God is not even with His people! This is a stark contrast to the historically true story behind the tenth plague, which tells of when the Israelites carried out a threshold covenant as a way of welcoming the King who would identify the other doors as the enemy of His kingdom and people.
Let’s turn to how this all connects to Christ.
Jesus’ Role in and Fulfillment of the Passover
The New Covenant was prophesied in more than one place in the Word, but in Jeremiah 31, we see some of its specific accomplishments:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.… But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31–34; emphasis added)
The death of “a” lamb covered sins. The death of “the” Lamb removed them entirely from God’s memory. The sins are forgiven and remembered no more, because of the New Covenant made with the perfect sacrificial Lamb—which, as confirmed by forerunner John the Baptist, is Jesus (John 1:29). This sacrifice, accomplished on the cross where He suffered, bled, and died, was described by the prophet Isaiah about seven centuries before Christ’s birth (Isaiah 50–53).
By now, a few Passover/Christ parallels should be clear:
- A) The Israelites spread a perfect lamb’s blood on the door to establish a threshold covenant between God and them; B) Jesus is the Perfect Lamb, whose sacrifice of blood established the New Covenant between God and all people.
- A) The threshold covenant involved all Hebrews inviting God into their homes through belief in the lamb’s blood on the doorpost; B) The New Covenant involves all believers inviting Christ into their lives through belief in the saving power of the Perfect Lamb’s blood on the cross.
- A) The threshold covenant saved the Israelites from the plague God sent upon the land; B) The New Covenant saves all believers from the judgment of God upon sin.
- A) The threshold covenant ultimately led to the Israelites’ deliverance from bondage in the hands of the Egyptians and onward to the Promised Land; B) The New Covenant immediately made possible our deliverance from the bondage of sin and onward to the Kingdom of God.
- A) The lamb’s blood marked the doorway of a common house, where the Israelites invited God the Father; B) Jesus’ blood marks the doorway of His Father’s house, where God the Father invites His children.
Already, the message conveyed by these parallels is beautiful. In the West, when we hear about blood, we tend to cringe and think of death. In the East, and embedded in the foundations of Christian doctrine, blood represents life, as many verses from the Bible directly declare (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11, Deuteronomy 12:23, and many others). All this talk of blood should inspire imagery of the celebration and transferal of life, not death.
Fresh Light on Old Words
Comprehension of the threshold covenant brings the Passover parallels and prophetic fulfilments through Christ into view, but it also casts new light on Jesus’ words, “This is my blood of the new covenant” (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20).
But the big picture is even more astounding when we see Christ literally referring to Himself as the threshold covenant for all people before His own death, irrefutably positioning Himself as the fulfillment of the promise that was begun that night in Egypt (brackets below for clarification):
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way [some way other than the threshold], the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep [Himself]. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”
This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
Then said Jesus unto them again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door [threshold] of the sheep [believers]. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers [because they didn’t establish a threshold covenant]: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life [through a blood sacrifice on the cross], and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:1–10)
Jesus not only fulfilled the pesach for us to enter His Father’s house; He was the Threshold, the Doorway upon which the pesach occurred. It doesn’t get any more poetic and sweet than that. A couple of chapters later in John, Jesus makes sure His parallel has been received, saying for ultimate clarification, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father [or into His eternal dwelling], but by me [as threshold covenant]” (John 14:6).
The writer of Hebrews also apparently sees the link between Christ as the Threshold and location of the blood covenant, as well as the cancellation of a covenant if the blood is stepped upon:
For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.… He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26–29, emphasis added)
Further, Jesus told His disciples on the night he was betrayed:
With desire I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it [the pesach/Passover] be fulfilled in the kingdom of God [which was later accomplished through His sacrifice]. (Luke 22:15–16)
Because of the New Covenant that was established through Him (Luke 22:20, Ephesians 2:11–13), He became the Passover Lamb, “our passover [who was] sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7) on the threshold of His Father’s Kingdom, fulfilling the purposes of the Passover feast. The Jews were commanded to observe the Passover (Leviticus 23:4–5; Exodus 12:1–4, 13:8). Christians are commanded to observe the replacement of the Passover in the form of communion (Mark 14:22–25, Luke 22:18–20, 1 Corinthians 11:23–25).
But, when we say He became the Lamb, some readers may not know just how deep that parallel goes…
The most obvious example would be the way Christ conducted the Last Supper. It confuses a lot of people at first. Without a theological understanding of the symbolism, Christ’s references to His own body and blood as the bread and wine sound cannibalistic (and of course, that’s what most people think at first, though they rarely dare to say it aloud). But once believers understand the parallel between the sin-covering Passover lamb that is sacrificed for the Seder feast and the sin-removing Jesus as the Lamb that replaced all others, it sheds fresh light on why Jesus presented Himself as such. As uncomfortable as it may be for some to imagine Jesus breaking bread and saying, “Take, eat; this is my body,” followed by the passing of the wine cup, over which He said, “Drink…this is my blood” (Matthew 26:26–28), it was necessary to establish that imagery and practice precisely in that way, since Jesus was establishing Himself as the replacement of the Seder lamb.
As for the unsettling and cryptic phrasing about “partaking” of Jesus’ body and blood, believers are required to be mature enough to see the Last Supper as it really played out: purely symbolically. The whole scene would be much harder to take if Christ had maimed Himself in any way and required His disciples to literally “partake.” (Goodness, just the thought. And though we wouldn’t launch into a diatribe about transubstantiation at this moment, these authors think the fact that the Last Supper was only symbolic says something about whether Jesus intended the communion/Eucharist sacrament to be also.) It would likewise be uncomfortable if Jesus had raised an arm outward and instructed His disciples to mimic a “partaking.” But that is certainly not what happened, and it behooves the reader to, for a moment, set aside how this representative act lands on us, and consider how it would have landed on them. The disciples were very well accustomed to the Passover feast, and it was no small thing. By their time, the lamb was no longer slaughtered over a threshold, since the temple in Jerusalem had now been built. (By then, the sprinkling of the lamb’s blood by the priests at the base of the temple’s altar was symbolic of the past sprinkling of the blood on the doorposts.) Historians acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of Jewish pilgrims from near and far traveled in enormous caravans to the same place at the same time each year, selecting lambs, checking them for perfection, preparing them for sacrifice, setting up extra ovens all over Jerusalem, and making accommodations. If you were a Jew in those days, you were either a part of the procession toward Jerusalem for Passover, or you were in Jerusalem getting your city ready for the endless barrage of pilgrims, which required months of planning: selectively breeding lambs for their sole purpose of sacrifice, cleaning ritual baths, ensuring that all roads and bridges leading in and out of the city were ready for mass travel, and so on. The population of Jerusalem during the Passover jumped from twenty thousand to about one hundred and seventy thousand.[x]
This annual event was so grand that it was, to borrow one of President Donald Trump’s favorite expressions, “YUUUGE!” We can hardly imagine it today, but to the people of Jesus’ time and in His area, the tremendous focus on the sacrificing, bloodletting, and eating of a lamb for one’s sins was on everyone’s mind—not just one day a year, but throughout the year in preparation.
So, at the Last Supper, Jesus wasn’t trying to be dark or cryptic; the disciples would never have taken His words that way. He was giving them a revelation by saying (if we might suggest a modern rewording), “Remember that Passover lamb who only covers your sins? You won’t need it anymore. I am the Lamb that completely removes your sins. It is not an animal every year, but the Son of God only once and for the benefit of all that will be sacrificed. I am the door, the way, the threshold upon which the New Covenant will be established between My Father and men. My blood will be spilled once for all, and My body will be broken once for all, in replacement of your lambs. So, when you see wine or bread, like these here at this table, when you think of the Passover feast, think of My blood that is shed, My body that is broken for your sin and in replacement of the Passover. Now take this bread and eat it, take this wine and drink it, with that in mind.”
What a powerful image.
But that was only to point out the most obvious comparison. The lamb/Lamb parallel continues.
Astoundingly Prophetic Links
Recall that, in Exodus 12:46 (see also Numbers 9:12), the Israelites were commanded to prepare the Passover lamb in a way that wouldn’t break a single bone.
You’re probably already trekking with us on this one. This is a “what comes first, chicken or egg?” conundrum, as we wonder whether God didn’t want the Israelites to break the lambs’ bones because not one of Jesus’ bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20, John 19:30–37), or if none of Jesus’ bones would end up broken because that’s how the Passover lamb was to die. Either way, God orchestrated this additional layer. Neither the lambs’ bones nor the Lamb’s bones would be broken in the carrying out of the sacrifice.
We all saw that one coming, we authors can hear the readers thinking.
Ah, yes, but do we all know how the Israelites had to prepare the Passover lamb in order for no bones to break? Do we know how they carefully roasted the animals in such a way that the entire flesh could be accessed and devoured (Exodus 12:10) without breaking any bones?
The process isn’t one we will go into in great detail, because those with weak stomachs may not appreciate it. Put simply: Once the lamb’s organs were removed, a pole (or branch from a sturdy source such as a pomegranate tree) was inserted horizontally to splay open the chest and upper arms of the animal, guaranteeing even and thorough roasting. Then another pole was inserted vertically and driven into the ground in order to hang the animal upright near the fire. The removed entrails were coiled atop the lamb’s head, an ancient tradition called the “Crown Sacrifice” or the “Crown of the Passover Lamb.” The result was literally a blood-crowned lamb hanging on a cross…a visual foreshadowing of Christ’s death. No regular human imagination could have planned that element centuries before He was crucified.
We could explore countless other parallels on this trail to understanding how Christ fulfilled the Passover. Here are just a few more that we can mention quickly:
- Jesus was thoroughly examined by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes for four days and found to be spotless (1 Peter 2:22), just as the Passover lamb for Seder was continuously examined for four days to ensure perfection before the sacrifice.
- After the building of the temple, when the Jews would gather en masse, preparations took more time to complete, and all the Passover lambs would have to be gathered and tied to their altars at 9 o’clock in the morning in order for the families to assemble to sing the Psalms. Nine in the morning was the same time Jesus would be nailed to the cross.
- In order for the lamb to be prepared in time for the feast, however, it needed to be slain at 3 o’clock in the afternoon—the same time of day Jesus died.
- At 6 o’clock in the evening, the Passover meal is complete and a new day begins. Thisis the same time Jesus was laid to rest in the tomb.
- When the temple’s high priest had completed the ritual killing of the lamb on the altar, he lifted his hands apart in the air and said, “It is finished.” This was the position of Jesus’ body on the cross when He spoke those same words and then gave up the Spirit.
The list goes on and on, detailing hundreds of intricate links and connections between the manner in which Jesus died and the feast that had been established or ages before He was born, many of which (like the timing of His crucifixion and death) couldn’t have been planned to symbolically align so perfectly.
Note that not every scholar agrees on the dates of these events. Some state that the Last Supper Jesus shared with His disciples was a true Passover Seder (i.e., happening on the official Jewish Passover day at the same time the rest of the Jews were sitting to supper), while others claim it was conducted ahead of the rest of the Jews so Jesus could have one last Passover experience before He was arrested (as He knew He would be). Theories abound as to what day of the week on which Jesus was crucified, and there are arguments for a number of different possibilities. This is all in addition to the fact that the Gospel of John mentions the urgency of taking the bodies down from the cross because it was a Sabbath day (John 19:31), which leads to numerous interpretations as to whether it was a literal or symbolic Sabbath day. (This discrepancy is no doubt related to the heated discussions between the Pharisees and the Sadducees regarding whether the “holy” day of Unleavened Bread would be considered the real Sabbath Day of Passover week…a quarrel we will visit at more length later on.) Likewise, the year is in question, though most sources are willing to agree that Jesus went to the cross in either AD 30 or 33. And then, of course, the “what day did which event happen” puzzle gets even more complicated when we compare Gregorian “days” (that begin at precisely midnight) with Hebrew calendar “days” (beginning at 6 o’clock p.m., or sundown).
You may be wondering why the timing of any of this matters.
Bear with us; we want to show you something astonishing. It will take some explaining, since the subject is a little complicated, but it’s well worth the effort.
The Double-Calendar Issue: Was the Last Supper a True Seder?
For centuries, scholars, historians, researchers, and even Hebrew and Greek linguists have visited all the considerable details available in Scripture, in culture, and in various extrabiblical texts. In the research for this book, we consulted many sources, including the following two New Testament scholars and seminary professors who subscribe to the AD 33 theory: Dr. Harold W. Hoehner, holder of multiple doctorates in Bible and theology from several respected universities (including Cambridge), and author of Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ; and Dr. Darrell L. Bock, senior research professor over all New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, editor of Christianity Today, and author of Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods (although most readers will remember Bock for his book, Breaking the Da Vinci Code, in which he exposed Dan Brown’s best-selling “Jesus married Mary Magdalene” fiction, The Da Vinci Code, as the historical and theological train wreck that it was). These men have spent a significant portion of their professional lives looking into what dates, times, and customs are mentioned in the Scriptures surrounding the Passion Week, and then comparing them to the writings of early Church historians and several contributing calendars of that time (Gregorian, Judean, Galilean, etc.; more on this in a moment). The conclusion, once these and other “AD 33” timelines are compared, is that Jesus was killed on 14 Nisan, Passover’s “preparation day.” Remember that technically the Seder lamb was killed on 14 Nisan and then consumed at sundown, the beginning of the Hebrew calendar’s 15 Nisan.
We also checked sources that land at the AD 30 theory. On this end of the spectrum, in addition to some convincing scholarly discussions, a few expert astronomers with cutting-edge computer calculation technology have taken all the data that can be collected about feast days, rules of crucifixion, calendar dates, and astronomical movements within the universe since the New Testament, and they have concluded that Jesus was crucified in AD 30, yet still on 14 Nisan.[xi] Once again, Passover “preparation day” is 14 Nisan; the Seder meal began at sundown hours later, on 15 Nisan.
In either case, AD 30 or AD 33, a massive number of scholars and historians agree that the order of weekdays, as they line up with the Passover week observations of the Jews, still place Jesus’ death on “preparation day,” not on or after the Passover Seder.
So, was Jesus’ last meal—the meal He called a Passover meal (Luke 22:15)—a real Seder or not? If He was killed on “preparation day,” then He couldn’t have been sitting down to the Last Supper hours later, right?
Before we go any farther, let’s stop for a moment and address why this is such a hotly debated issue.
If you’re familiar enough with the four Gospels, you will have already likely stumbled onto what we’re about to dissect, and perhaps you’ve even wondered about the apparent “discrepancy” between what the Synoptic Gospels say and what the Gospel of John says. The Bible seems to give two different days of Christ’s death.
Mark 14:12 appears to force the interpretation that Jesus’ Last Supper was an official Seder: “And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, ‘Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?’” At first glance, that looks like a clear description of 14 Nisan, during the hours when the lambs were slaughtered, which presses the idea that the Lord would have sat to His meal with the disciples at dinnertime, sundown, the moment 15 Nisan began. (Also see Luke 22:7 and Matthew 26:17. They refer to the same time stamp, but for the sake of simplicity, we will use Mark as a representative text for the other two.)
But as we turn to John 19:14, we read about a moment in what can only refer to early 14 Nisan—“preparation day”—when Jesus has already been arrested and is now standing before Pilate, soon to be crucified: “And it was the preparation of the passover [14 Nisan], and about the sixth hour [noon or midday in Hebrew time]: and he [Pilate] saith unto the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’” (emphasis added).
Both Mark and John look as if they’re talking about events occurring on early 14 Nisan. However, Mark shows Jesus prior to His arrest preparing for a peaceful meal just after having been anointed with expensive perfumes in Bethany. John places Him in Pilate’s presence, well after His arrest: flogged, beaten, slapped, taunted, crowned with thorns, dressed in a mock-royalty robe of purple, and bleeding from head to toe, all while a crowd stands nearby demanding “Crucify him!” (John 19:15). Jesus, because He is God, certainly could have been in two places at once, but that obviously isn’t the case here.
A few verses later in John, another reference to “preparation day” (14 Nisan) is quite clearly noted; this time, it’s after Jesus has died:
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (John 19:30–31, emphasis added).
Yet, just when we might start to think we’ve discovered a biblical discrepancy or contradiction—just when we’re getting the impression that Jesus died “on 14 Nisan in John” but “on 15 Nisan in Mark”—Mark suddenly delivers this gem over in 15:39–43:
And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost [note: Jesus just died in this passage], he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem. And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation [14 Nisan], that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. (Emphasis added)
Hold on a second… Mark describes Jesus as both preparing for the Last Supper on “preparation day” (Mark 14:12) as well as already being dead on “preparation day” (Mark 15:42), when the Word is clear that there was a whole night and day filled with trials, sentencing, beatings, mockeries, bleeding, and hanging on the cross between the Last Supper and Christ’s death?
Further, if John and the Synoptics don’t agree with each other…and Mark doesn’t even agree with itself…then why do all four Gospels agree that Jesus died on Friday, the day before the Sabbath (Matthew 27:62; 28:1; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54, 56; John 19:31, 42)?
If you’re confused, it’s okay. You’re only finding yourself in the same pickle that has caused many a brilliant Bible scholar to blink a few times. This is merely one of several areas of Scripture nonbelievers love to refer to as “proof” that the Bible is fallible and untrustworthy. However, the explanation is simpler than a lot of folks make it, and the answer can be found with a little diligent digging.
Today, many who study this subject initially believe the Hebrew calendar is a singular dating system for all the Jews. However, after the Diaspora separated the Israelites into many different sects for generations, which eventually saw to the establishment of slight variations in custom and tradition, not all sects within Judaism agreed on how to interpret the passage of a day. Eventually, the Galileans (including Christ) considered a day to be “from sunrise to sunrise.” The Judeans, along with the Sadducees (and therefore the high priest), considered a day to be “from sunset to sunset.” Though both of these considerations are “Hebrew,” once the instructions from God regarding the Passover are interpreted through these contrasting lenses, they effectively produce two Passover Seder meals the Jews would have been celebrating at the time of Christ.
Using AD 33 as an example:
- For the Galileans, 14 Nisan started at 6:00 in the morning on Thursday, April 2, and ended at 6:00 in the morning on Friday, April 3. However, because the Galileans’ “evening at the end of 14 Nisan” was on April 2, they would have celebrated their Passover Seder on Thursday night. In this, their “preparation” and their “Seder meal” were both on the Galilean 14 Nisan.
- For the Judeans, 14 Nisan started at 6:00 in the evening on Thursday, April 2, and ended at 6:00 in the evening on Friday, April 3. However, because the Judeans’ “evening at the end of 14 Nisan” was on April 3, they would have celebrated their Passover Seder on Friday night, just as the low sun whisked them into 15 Nisan. In this, their “preparation” was on 14 Nisan and their “Seder meal” was in the first moments of 15 Nisan.
Bottom line for us Gregorian calendar folks: One of these Seders would have been on Thursday, and one would have been on Friday, while both days would have been “preparation day” for one or the other of the Galileans or Judeans. And whereas it might be seen as a point of contention between Galileans and Judeans as to whom was correct in their traditional interpretations, many scholars have noted that this discrepancy of celebration days actually brought some relief to the Jews in Jerusalem, since there were thousands upon thousands of lambs for the priests to slaughter. Exodus 12:10 required the lamb to be eaten the evening after it was slain, and if there was any leftover, it was to be burned in the morning. The differentiating interpretations of 14 Nisan allowed the slaughter, the preparation, the roasting, and every other massive arrangement to be broken essentially into two national Seder observations—one on Thursday and one on Friday—the latter of which would be the more public display of the two in the temple, since the high priest was among this group.
Semitic language master, Bible scholar, former president of Hebrew Union College, former honorary president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and a founder of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, Dr. Julian Morgenstern, acknowledged this in his 1955 article, “The Calendar of the Book of Jubilees, Its Origin and Its Character.” Prior to that article, scholars were at times aware of this double-Hebrew-calendar problem due to the grace of God and/or their own passionate analysis of biblical cultures. However, since the academic quarterly Vetus Testamentum, which is sponsored by the International Organisation for the Study of the Old Testament, ran Morgenstern’s study,[xii] it has paved the way for many more modern scholars to delve even further into what this would have meant for the “Passover Day discrepancy” we just reflected upon.
One scholar who personally benefitted from the Morgenstern piece was Dr. Harold W. Hoehner, who, as we mentioned before, believes the crucifixion year to be AD 33. He wrote in his book, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ:
Thus, according to the Synoptics, the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Since the day was to be reckoned from sunrise, the Galileans, and with them Jesus and His disciples, had the Paschal lamb slaughtered in the late afternoon [3:00 p.m.] of Thursday, Nisan 14, and later that evening [6:00 p.m., but the same Hebrew day for the Galileans] they ate the Passover with the unleavened bread. On the other hand, the Judean Jews who reckoned from sunset to sunset would slay the lamb on Friday afternoon which marked the end of Nisan 14 and would eat the Passover lamb with the unleavened bread that night which had become Nisan 15. Thus, Jesus had eaten the Passover meal [the Last Supper with His disciples] when His enemies, who had not as yet had the Passover, arrested Him.[xiii]
So, the reference to the preparation slaughter in Mark 14:12 relates to the Galilean Hebrew calendar, and the reference to the preparation day in Mark 15:42 relates to the Judean Hebrew calendar. All talk of “preparation” was on 14 Nisan, but with different interpretations of when 14 Nisan begins and ends; this means “preparation day” at the time of Christ would have been on both Thursday and Friday.
Okay, but why wouldn’t the authors of the Gospels mention the two different Passover meal days?
Why would they feel the need to?
The audience of their time would have been very familiar with the ongoing incongruity between Jewish sects and their post-Diaspora variations of tradition. And don’t forget that the first rule of biblical interpretation is that readers need to interpret the Word as it was written to the original audience, lest we find our contemporary lens warping what was originally said.
The conclusion, in these authors’ opinions, and as is shared in the judgment of many scholars: Jesus’ Last Supper was a legitimate Seder, celebrated with the Galilean sect of the Jews, on Thursday evening. Then, later that same night, He was arrested, Peter denied Him three times before dawn (the crowing of the rooster) on Friday, and by 9 o’clock a.m. Friday morning, He was being nailed to the cross. He died and was removed from the cross just before the Judeans had their Seder meal.
What This All Means: Astonishing!
This is where we get to the rewarding part of all this calendar reflection.
Add the fact that Jesus died on 14 Nisan, “preparation day,” to the previously discussed times of day that Jesus was nailed to a cross, died, and then was taken down.
Do you see it yet?
The parallel, and Christ’s fulfillment of the feast, reaches an ultimate apex. Every single step taken throughout His last days was a moment-by-moment, exact playout of what the feast lambs over in the temple grounds faced in their own last days.
The massive Jewish crowds escorting lambs into the gates of the city and onward to the temple would have been aligned with Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city amidst shouts of “Hosanna!” and the waving of palm leaves.
The lambs were being loved, praised, doted on, and eventually inspected by the Temple priests to be proven worthy as the sacrifice, just as Jesus was being loved, praised, doted on, and eventually tried before the secular and religious authorities, upon which He proved Himself worthy as the only sacrifice for all mankind.
At 9 o’clock a.m. Friday, as the sacrificial lambs were led to the holding pens where they would be bound for slaughter, Jesus was led to the hill at Golgotha, where His hands were bound to the cross by nails.
Before, during, and after midday, between the binding of all the lambs and their mass slaughter, the Jews gathered for the singing of the Hallel, an event dedicated to thanking Jehovah for His love, grace, and provision. Simultaneously, Jesus was on the cross, completing Jehovah’s love, grace, and provision in the ultimate act of redemption.
The very second that Jesus died was at 3 o’clock on Passover day, after moving His lips one last time to say, “It is finished,” precisely in accordance with the high priest in the nearby tmple proclaiming, “It is finished,” as he ended the life of the sacrificial lamb. A spiritual transferal occurred in that instant, from the kosher knife of the Old Covenant Passover lamb to the forever accessible grace of the New Testament Covenant Lamb.
Once the no-bones-broken lambs of the Jews had been roasted with their bloody crown while hanging, arms outward, on their cross-shaped spit, they were prepared for the Seder.
Then, at precisely sundown—when the Judeans were sitting down to the Seder to consume the now-deceased, no-bones-broken lamb that had been hung, arms outward, on their cross-shaped spit with the bloody “crown of the sacrifice” atop their heads—Jesus was taken to the tomb to be washed and laid to rest.
One final thought on how all this might be additionally connected to The Messenger Apophis.
- According to NASA’s original dating, the asteroid Apophis could strike earth Friday, April 13, 2029, six days after Passover, and six is the number of man, sin, and judgment.
- Passover is also connected to the Rapture and Second Coming, as Jesus was the firstfruits of our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20–23).
- Lastly, the Apophis-Wormwood strike is one morning after HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the number one ins biblical numerology represents God and His power displayed.
The best men in Hollywood can’t write a more poetic drama…and now we’re going to see how this masterpiece is still, unbelievably, only the beginning.
- Commanded to do in: Leviticus 23:6–8; Exodus 12:15–20
The Lord commanded that all the people of Israel eat unleavened bread for seven days (Leviticus 23:6–8). The Hag HaMatzot (pronounced “Hawg Hah-Maht-zot”) Feast, or the “Feast of Unleavened Bread,” is a continual observance from 14–21 Nisan. In Scripture, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is often treated like a separate feast than Pesach (though not always; cf. Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, and Luke 22:1, 7), but because the dates overlap, today’s tradition involves the observance of all three together over a week: Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits (which will be discussed shortly). This is why, today, when we hear “Passover,” it’s in reference to a week-long celebration instead of a single meal.
As Passover commemorated the Jews’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt, the Feast of the Unleavened Bread observes the “going out” of Egypt.
Leaven (an ingredient used to make bread dough rise) was a symbol of sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7–8 and Luke 12:1), so the unleavened bread of the Passover week, known as matzah (or matzoh), became a symbol of either sinlessness or the removal of sin from one’s life. In fact, though the etymology of matzah only partially connects to this concept, as it first meant “sucked out” or “drained out” (note this original meaning for later!), after the establishment of the Passover, the use of matzah more heavily implied “without sin.” This flatbread, which looks quite a bit like a cracker, must be prepared and baked in less than eighteen minutes to prevent it from rising by fermentation, and during the preparation process, the dough cannot touch anything (cooking utensils, etc.) that has ever been in contact with leaven.
Before Passover, the Jews had to take serious measures to remove all traces of leaven from their houses, including an aggressive scrubdown of all walls, floors, ceilings, tables, chairs, cupboards, and any other surface that might have ever touched leaven at any point. Any leaven or leavening agents stocked in the home had to be destroyed or sold to a non-Jew.
The “Search for Leaven” Ceremony
Then, the Bedikas Chametz (“Search for Leaven”) ceremony takes place, conducted by the homeowner and/or head of the household: After sundown, the following blessing is recited:
Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the world, who sanctifies us with mitzvot [commandments] and calls upon us to remove chametz.
Once this blessing has been spoken, all others present say “amen,” then it becomes forbidden to speak about anything other than the search.
Carrying a lit beeswax candle and shining its flame high and low into every crevice, the homeowner thoroughly inspects the house on a mission to find any trace of leaven left behind or overlooked during the prior cleansing. The homeowner or his assistants bring along a small bag, a wooden spoon, a feather, and often a bell. When leaven is found, the bell is rung to herald the discovery. The feather is then used like a tiny broom to carefully sweep the substance onto the wooden spoon, and then the leaven is collected in the bag. When the search is over, the wooden spoon, feather, and candle are placed in the bag with the leaven, and a safety-measure “nullification statement” is spoken to cover any crumb that might not have been found throughout all these previous endeavors:
All leaven and anything leavened that is in my possession, which I have neither seen nor removed, and about which I am unaware, shall be considered nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.
The next morning, the bag, now more flammable, as it contains the wooden spoon and feather (thus the reason behind why these otherwise odd utensils would be used), is burned. During this somber moment of watching flames engulf the bag and its contents, ceremony participants are to think of their own lives and their own sin and pride, and they are to reflect on the God-given gift of sanctification.
The ceremony is celebrated at night because, in ancient times, the Jews didn’t have the kind of lighting needed to see in every nook and cranny of their home, and the candlelight tended to cast hyper-focused illumination in areas where daylight wouldn’t suffice. It’s common today for the custom to be carried out with a candle and supplemented with a flashlight (and even regular electric lights) for areas in a home where a flame would present potential danger.
Early on, it was decided that the blessing spoken at the beginning of the search was less meaningful (some even believed it was in vain) if there was no leaven anywhere in the house at the time to substantiate the recitation. On the other hand, the house cleansing is such a tedious and involved process that it wouldn’t be logical to leave it until the Bedikas Chametz to justify the blessing of removal, because it’s likely there would never be enough time to have it all done between the start of the “search” ceremony and the time the Jews must be leaven-free.
Just like their calendar, the precise time of day in reference here is difficult to calculate because it depends on what area of the world a Jewish family might live in and that geographical location’s relationship to the sun, known as the “halachic [seasonal] hour.” Suffice it to say that, for their purposes, it was midmorning, or one halachic hour before midday. Also, they weren’t allowed to start the Bedikas Chametz early (unless they had good reason, such as traveling far from home to join another family or a medical emergency, etc., in which case there were provisions in place to helpfamilies schedule the search around that event). This meant that they would have between sundown one evening and midmorning the next to start the search with all the candles, feathers, bell-ringing, etc., and complete all the washing down of the house to ensure that it was leaven-free. It could be that this was more possible in the beginning, when Israelite houses were much smaller than today, but before long, it became impractical to squeeze all this activity into such a narrow time frame when there were so many other Passover-related preparations to be done simultaneously.
So, the Jews essentially had no choice but to complete a pre-cleaning in the days leading up to the Passover, in which all the leaven would be removed. Then, to ensure that the “Blessed are You…who sanctifies us with [commandments] and calls upon us to remove [leaven]” words still had spiritual significance during the ceremonial search, a compromise was reached: Ten small pieces of leavened bread (a nod to the ten plagues) were separately secured in wrapping that wouldn’t allow them to leave crumbs behind, and they were hidden by a member of the family throughout the house. Notes were made as to where the pieces were placed, just in case the homeowner didn’t find all ten, to make sure that locating them later would not depend entirely on anyone’s memory. (For modern Jewish families, this hunt is often a favorite part of Passover week for young children who get to stay up late and wander the dark with flashlights looking for anything out of place. It’s like an Easter egg hunt with an Indiana-Jones twist. A similar hunt is the “search for the afikomen,” which takes place at the beginning and the end of the Seder, but it’s related to unleavened bread, so we’ll address that at the end of this section as well.)
With the Bedikas Chametz finalized and the bag burned (along with any leftover leaven stored up that the household wasn’t able to sell to non-Jews), the family is now set up to remain chametz-free for Passover week.
Now, comparing the leaven to sin and the symbolism enacted in this custom, we arrive at the early, pre-Christ representation: They had set out to acknowledge the presence of sin in their lives (planning the search and hiding the pieces of leavened bread), thanked the Lord for His command to remove it (the blessing), systematically searched all nooks and crannies for any sin that may have been either hidden or overlooked (the ceremonial search), claimed nullification of any sin they weren’t aware of (the nullification statement), and destroyed any remnant of sin (the burning of the bag).
As to why, of all things, flat, cracker-like bread would be so important as to be assigned the central symbol of sinlessness, there are several excellent reasons, but discussing those at length crisscrosses our reflection of Jesus’ personal fulfillment of the feast, so we will deal with both subjects simultaneously in the following pages.
Note going forward: As to what leaven, matzah, the Bedikas Chametz, and ultimately the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread would eventually all have to do with Jesus—those details, like the Passover links, couldn’t have been planned beforehand by any brilliant mind save for the Creator’s. Keep your eyes peeled to see the glory and wonder of all God designed, those elements that the best of human imaginations couldn’t have contrived just to make religion look pretty. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the next bit is as profound as all we’ve discussed regarding the Passover.
[ii] Meyers, C., in D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary: Vol. 6 (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1992), 544.
[iii] Rusten, Sharon, with E. Michael, The Complete Book of When & Where in the Bible and Throughout History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005), 8; “Timeline” tool, found by searching “Passover,” Logos Bible Software, accessed from personal commercial database on April 10, 2020.
[v] Booker, Dr. Richard, Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers Inc.; Expanded edition 2016), 36.
[vi] Trumball, Henry Clay, The Threshold Covenant or The Beginning of Religious Rites (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896), iii.
[vii] Ibid., 3.
[viii] Ibid., 3–4.
[ix] Ibid., 203–204.
[x] Jeremias, Joachim, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969), 84.
[xi] Edward M. Reingold, Calendrical Calculations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008; 3rd ed.), in the Calendar Book, Papers, and Code series.
[xii] Morgenstern, Julian, “The Calendar of the Book of Jubilees, Its Origin and Its Character,” January, 1955, Vetus Testamentum, Volume 5, 64–65.
[xiii] Hoehner, Harold W., Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 1977), 87.