It is NOT the Exodus from Egypt.
(This post interrupts the sequence started last week, and was triggered by a newsletter saying that the Passover celebrates leaving Egypt.)
According to the Bible – where the original instructions are – it is to be kept in remembrance of God ‘passing over’ the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
“It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households’.”
Exodus 12: 25, 26. (NKJV)
The Exodus from Egypt was the next evening, after the people had gathered in Rameses and assembled themselves for the journey out of the land of their captivity.
These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.”
Leviticus 23: 4 – 6 (NKJV)
They are two distinct days. The fourteenth at twilight – Passover. The fifteenth at twilight – the Exodus. Those are GOD’S instructions.
“For I am the Lord, I do not change:”
Malachi 3: 6a
Yes, many things have been changed over the centuries, both Israel and Judah went into captivity and much was lost, But in trying to work things out – is it not better to go to the word of God, rather than man’s calculations, no matter how intelligent, or qualified they are?
Examining some of the discussions to disprove the fact Passover is on the fourteenth and the Exodus on the fifteenth, some notable scholars have based their writings on theorizing.
A complication for us in the 21st century is the fact we count time differently.
On a first read, with my Western time frame understanding – Passover is at evening time on the fourteenth.
The Hebrew slaves were Israelites and their time was as God had created it.
“God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So, the evening and the morning were the first day.”
Genesis 1: 5 (NKJV)
To the Israelites therefore, the fourteenth began after the sun set on the thirteenth.
We are used to the Roman clock where the day officially begins in the darkness of night time.
Why they chose to have the day change as soon as it passed midnight is a mystery but the Roman calendar was not in use – it had not been ‘invented’ then.
(The various Roman calendars are an interesting read. You will find all the different versions listed on Wikipedia.)
So, to answer the question posed in the title – What is Passover?
It is a remembrance of God ‘passing over’ and sparing the households of the children of Israel, who were the Hebrew slaves, in Egypt.
(There is a great deal of information online about the New Covenant Passover celebration.)
Some ‘food for thought’ –