Passover – 14th or 15th?

This a controversy that has gone on for so long it has it’s own name. We go through the Old Testament and the New showing when the original Passover was as well as when Jesus kept it.

Falling away from the law of God is nothing new

Original Passover

Exodus 12:1  Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
Exodus 12:2  “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.
Exodus 12:3  Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.
Exodus 12:4  And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb.
Exodus 12:5  Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.
Exodus 12:6  Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.


We know that the way God begins the day at sunset.  But let’s go ahead and have a quick look at Deuteronomy 16:6 to see more specifically how this word twilight is defined

Deuteronomy 16:6  but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt.

Here we have the same exact word as in Ex 12:6 and in context we see it is that this at the beginning of the day as God reckons it.

Back to Exodus 12:6

This word that is translated twilight in the NKJV and in the evening in the KJV  Between the evenings

(YLT)  `And it hath become a charge to you, until the fourteenth day of this month, and the whole assembly of the company of Israel have slaughtered it between the evenings;

And another translation that I believe correctly states the idea:

BBE Keep it till the fourteenth day of the same month, when everyone who is of the children of Israel is to put it to death between sundown and dark.

The word “twilight or the phrase “between the two evenings”, refers to the time after sunset (when the day begins) and the sun is just below the horizon and there is still some light reflecting off of the sky — but before dark.


Now as we continue we see when they were to actually eat the lamb.  Continuing in vs 7

Exodus 12:7  And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.
Exodus 12:8  Then they shall eat the flesh on that night
So remember that the Israelites killed the lamb at the very beginning of the 14th just after sunset and now they were told that they were to eat it on that very same night.  Of course this makes perfect sense and goes hand in hand with the next verses

Exodus 12:10  You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire.
Exodus 12:11  And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. [Keep this phrase in mind, we will come back to it later]


So now notice what happened on that night and subsequently what the Israelites did on that night

Exodus 12:12  ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.
Exodus 12:13  Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
The Israelites were in their homes eating the Passover lamb and benefiting from the protection that was being afforded them because of the blood on the lintel and doorposts – this was all on the night of the 14th – that is the time from sunset until morning.

We see this a little more clearly in vs 21 when Moses begins to pass on the instructions to the people:

Exodus 12:21  Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb.
Exodus 12:22  And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.
Exodus 12:23  For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.
So they were to remain in their homes until the morning of the 14th lest they be subject to the death angel as were all of the Egyptians.

After all of the firstborn had been killed the Pharaoh relented and told Moses that they could go.  In fact the Egyptians were anxious, as you can imagine, and were hurrying them out of town.

Let’s pick up the story in :33 of Exodus 12

Exodus 12:33  And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” [after all that they had been through with the 10 plagues this no doubt seemed like a logical assumption]

We have to remember that what takes place here couldn’t have happened before the morning of the 14th because they were told in :22 that they had to stay in the house until morning so that they would not be killed by the death angel.  So then if they were still alive at this point in time they had to have obeyed this command.

So here we are now at the morning of the 14th in :34…
Exodus 12:34  So the people took their dough before it was leavened [in other words unleavened], having their kneading bowls bound up in their clothes on their shoulders.
Exodus 12:35  Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing.

This all happened during the daylight hours of the day of Passover as the Israelites made “haste” to get out of Egypt at the urging of the Egyptians. In addition to taking spoils they made unleavened bread for the journey.


This was now happening during the daylight portion of the 14th

Exodus 12:36  And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

This was happening at this point because of all that had transpired.  Had the Egyptians not been in the state of mind that they were they wouldn’t have given them all that they had asked for.

Exodus 12:37  Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth

Exodus 12:39  And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they had brought out of Egypt; for it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt [at the urging of the grief-stricken and downtrodden Egyptians] and could not wait, nor had they prepared provisions for themselves.

And skipping down to :42 we see …

Exodus 12:42  It is a night of solemn observance to the LORD for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the LORD, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.
This had to be the next night that they were brought out of Egypt since the Israelites were confined to their homes on the 14th.  So we see that they left on the 15th just as God told Moses he would do.

Exodus 12:17  So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance.


Let’s turn to Leviticus 23 and the giving of the Holy Days

Leviticus 23:5  On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight [the same word that we talked about before] is the LORD’s Passover. [note the phraseology again, it is called the LORD’s Passover].
Leviticus 23:6  And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.
Leviticus 23:7  On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.
Leviticus 23:8  But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.‘ ”

Passover is on the 14th and the subsequent 7 days of Unleavened Bread begin on the 15th.  There is no sense to say it is the 14th if it is actually the 15th.

:5 says” On the fourteenth is the LORD’s Passover”

If it wasn’t to take place until after sunset at the end of the 14th it would be the 15th and would have been written down that way.

While we are here just take a quick look at :32 where the beginning and ending of a day is defined

Leviticus 23:32  It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your Sabbath.”


So we see here in Leviticus 23 that Passover is the 14th and the 15th is the beginning of Unleavened Bread just as we have seen in Exodus 12

As we move through the Old Testament we can see that God’s people continued to observe Passover on the 14th of the first month.

Other’s Who Kept it on the 14th

                Moses, One year later in the wilderness

Naturally we would assume that a year later Moses would still be keeping the Passover, especially since Exodus 12:24  said this was “an ordinance … forever.”

Numbers 9:1  Now 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:
Numbers 9:2  “Let the children of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. [And when was the appointed time?] Numbers 9:3  On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time. According to all its rites and ceremonies you shall keep it.”
Numbers 9:4  So Moses told the children of Israel that they should keep the Passover.
Numbers 9:5  And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, in the Wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did.


                Joshua – mantle passed, he continued in the way he was taught

Joshua 5:9  Then the LORD said to Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day.
Joshua 5:10  Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho.

Like we were talking about before there has been a proclivity for God’s people to ebb and flow when it comes to the law of God and we find one of these transitions in young Josiah

            Josiah – a revival under King Josiah, if you remember the story found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD and Josiah’s scribe read it to him and Josiah decreed that the Kingdom of Judah which was comprised of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and parts of Levi were to begin keeping the Law as they should have been doing all along

2 Chronicles 35:18  There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet; and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 35:19  In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept.


Now notice when Josiah kept the Passover

2 Chronicles 35:1  Now Josiah kept a Passover to the LORD in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the first month.

This revival didn’t last long and the curses that God suspended for Josiah’s sake were implemented and Babylon was able to take the nation of Judah captive.  After their release from captivity, they began rebuilding the temple and then let’s pick up the story in Ezra 6:15


Ezra 6:15  Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. [this was around 520-515BC]

Ezra 6:18  They assigned the priests to their divisions and the Levites to their divisions, over the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses.
Ezra 6:19  And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.
Ezra 6:20  For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were ritually clean. And they slaughtered the Passover lambs for all the descendants of the captivity, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.

What we have here now is a long history of the Israelites and then the Jews, after the northern 10 tribes went into captivity and were scattered,  of them keeping the Passover on the 14th.

The interesting thing here in Ezra is they “kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.” So if at this point there was any doubt or confusion as to when Passover was to be kept because of the twilight issue, or evening or between the evens, then to me this would clear it up. It just plainly states that they kept the Passover on the 14th of the first month and did all these things as prescribed in the Book of Moses.


Of course one of the main reasons that we are looking at this is because there came a time when the Jews started keeping Passover on the 15th of the first month.  So after 1,000 years of keeping it at the right time what happened?  It is not exactly clear when this happened or how it exactly happened.

Most of the data leads to the change happening around 300-200 BC when the Jews were under Egyptian control again.  It is believed that the beginning and ending of days, closer to what we do today where we begin the “day” at sunrise, was foisted upon the Jews at that time and thus the confusion ensued with when twilight on the 14th really was since the day was no longer beginning at sunset.

Nonetheless it happened which is why we have the term that we find in John 2:13  Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now remember what I asked you to keep in mind about the way the Passover was referred to Ex 12 and Leviticus 23.  It was whose Passover? It was the Lord’s Passover just like the Holy Days are God’s holy days.

Well this says the Jews Passover making a differentiation between the two.


The Jews only look at the Old Testament for figuring these things out

NT Passover

            When did Jesus Christ keep it

Matthew 26:17  Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?”

Let us look at the word “first” in Matthew 26:17.

2 Peter 2:20 uses the same word.  There the KJV translates it as beginning.

2 Peter 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning (#4413).

Realizing that the word <day> and <feast of> are not in the original in Matthew 26:17,  the verse should be translated as follows:

Matthew 26:17, Now at (toward) the beginning of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, Where will you that we prepare for you to eat the Passover?
Matthew 26:18  And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” ‘ ”
Matthew 26:19  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.
Matthew 26:20  When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.

Matthew 26:36  Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.”

Matthew 26:47  And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.
Matthew 26:48  Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.”
Matthew 26:49  Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.
Matthew 26:50  But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

The next morning, the Jews brought Jesus before the Sanhedrin

John 18:28  Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.


Matthew 26:5  But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

They didn’t think this was the day that they took Jesus Christ on

John 19:30  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
John 19:31  Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Jesus Christ our Passover died on Passover the 14th. THIS is what we memorialize and remember!

Then around 3 o’clock in the afternoon on the 14th, Christ died (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). The Passover meal and sacrifice all occurred on the 14th of Nisan.

THIS is what we memorialize and remember.




Commanded in the Old Testament: Leviticus 23:5

Observed in the New Testament: Matthew 26:2, 17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 2:41-42; Luke 22:1, , Luke 22:7; John 2:13; John 2:23; John 6:4; John 13:1-30; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29

Feast of Unleavened Bread

Commanded in the Old Testament: Leviticus 23:6-8

Observed in the New Testament: Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 2:41-42 Luke 22:1, Luke 22:7; Acts 20:6; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

8-Days not 7

Matthew 26:17-20; Mark 14:12-18; Luke 22:1, 7-16

Two separate feasts though adjoining: Mark 14:1-2