Passover in the Hebrew Bible

Passover in the Hebrew Bible


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Passover is a Jewish festival celebrated since at least the 5th century BCE, typically associated with the tradition of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. According to historical evidence and modern-day practice, the festival was originally celebrated on the 14th of Nissan. Directly after Passover is the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which most traditions describe as originating when the Israelites left Egypt and they did not have sufficient time to add yeast to the bread to allow it to rise. Although the Festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread are closely associated, this article will focus primarily on Passover.

Origins & Practice

The historical origins of Passover are unclear. Though the Hebrew Bible describes the origins of Passover, these texts were likely composed after the 6th century BCE and include evidence for editorial additions and enrichments, namely expansions of older texts. Therefore, in order to understand the origins and practices associated with Passover, we must first examine the various texts in the Hebrew Bible which describe Passover. In doing so, three characteristics will emerge concerning the nature of Passover as represented in the Hebrew Bible:

  1. association with Yahweh, Israel's god
  2. shifts in the rituals associated with Passover
  3. different assumptions concerning whether or not people should perform Passover.

First, Passover is always associated with Yahweh, though not necessarily Yahweh's leading the Israelites out of Egypt or passing over the doorposts of their households. In analyzing and proposing a history for the textual growth of Exodus 12:1-28, Professors Simeon Chavel and Mira Balberg suggest that the oldest layer of text in Exodus 12 does not feature "Israel's liberation through Yahweh's smiting of Egypt and does not explicitly advance it" (Chavel 2018, 299), essentially characterizing it as an ambiguous piece of folklore about a festival.

Subsequent editors, they argue, enriched this material by providing further ritual parameters and explanation of Yahweh's actions: all Israelite families must participate in consuming a one-year-old male lamb; the lamb should be flame-broiled, entirely consumed by the morning after Passover, and eaten quickly; and Yahweh will skip over or shield the Israelite households who put the lamb's blood on the doorpost from a destructive force killing their firstborn. Exodus 12:27, a response to the question concerning the purpose of celebrating Passover in future generations, best demonstrates the association between Passover and the killing of every firstborn in Egypt: “It is a Passover sacrifice for Yahweh, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when smiting Egypt; but he rescued our homes.” In other words, Passover was intended to be a performance and remembrance of Yahweh's act of protecting the firstborns of Israel while in Egypt, itself a sign of Yahweh's devotion to the Israelites.

Though Passover is often perceived as a unified, traditional ritual, biblical passages describe divergent rituals & reflect changes in the historical context.

Second, the rituals concerning the actions on Passover develop throughout the Hebrew Bible. One example will suffice. In Exodus 12:9, Moses commands the Israelites to roast with fire the Passover lamb sacrifice, explicitly indicating they should not boil it with water. Yet, Deuteronomy 6:7 includes the command “you shall boil” the Passover sacrifice. Noticing the incongruity between Exodus 12:9 and Deuteronomy 16:7 in terms of proper ritual action, the author of Chronicles creatively combined the required ritual actions: “So, they boiled the Passover-lamb with fire according to the ordinance” (35:13). As subsequent generations received the Passover ritual traditions, they adjusted it in order to deal with contradictions in the traditional ritual texts.

Third, texts in the Hebrew Bible adjust the date of Passover for distinct reasons. Numbers 9:1-14, for example, offers provisions for Israelites who may have missed their opportunity to participate in Passover due to ritual uncleanliness (9:7, 10). Alternatively, Yahweh communicates through Moses that a second Passover celebration is possible. Instead of celebrating on the 14th day of the first month, they should celebrate on the 14th day of the second month. There remains an assumption, though, that all Israelites should celebrate Passover: "But the man who is pure, not on a journey, and neglects to perform the Passover, that person should be cut off from his people because he did not bring the offering of Yahweh at its appointed time" (Numbers 9:13).

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Finally, Exodus 12 presents Passover as a celebration restricted to the households of Egypt (Exodus 12:1-13). By contrast, though using similar language for the ritual parameters, Deuteronomy 16 indicates that Passover should be celebrated not at the home: “and you shall sacrifice a Passover-offering to Yahweh, either a sheep or a cattle, at the place which Yahweh will select as a dwelling for his name” (Deuteronomy 16:2), specifically clarifying in Deuteronomy 16:5 that the sacrifice should not be offered locally. While Exodus 12 and Deuteronomy 16 are both concerned with the proper practice of Passover, they reflect different historical contexts. When Exodus 12 was composed, Passover was practiced in local towns and households; by contrast, when Deuteronomy 16 was composed, Passover was more regulated, imagined to be practiced in a central temple or sanctuary.

Though Passover is often perceived as a unified, traditional ritual within Judaism, biblical passages describe divergent rituals, reflect the growth of the Passover tradition, and illuminate changes in the historical context.

Reception of Passover

Early Judaism (c. 5th century BCE - 1st century CE)

Though a wide variety of early Jewish texts discuss Passover, two will be sufficient here. In a group of texts called the Elephantine Papyri, written by members of the 5th-century BCE Jewish colony of Elephantine, Egypt, Passover is mentioned multiple times. They indicate that Jews at Elephantine practiced some form of Passover, however, they do not “provide enough information to reconstruct the history of its observance” (Silverman 1973, 386). Unlike the biblical texts, the Elephantine Papyri can be more precisely dated, and as such, they demonstrate undoubtedly that Passover was a social practice among some Jews in the 5th century BCE.

Composed in the 2nd century BCE, the Book of Jubilees is a rewritten version of Genesis and Exodus. One goal of Jubilees is to clarify the Jewish calendar for celebrating festivals. The book of Genesis narrates a story about how Yahweh tested Abraham by commanding him to kill his only son, providing a ram at the last minute. Jubilees 19:18, though, additionally describes how Abraham celebrated a festival for Yahweh after Yahweh provided a ram in lieu of having to sacrifice Isaac, his firstborn. The festival is the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is typically associated with Passover, occurring the seven days following Passover. In doing so, Jubilees establishes that the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and implicitly the Passover, was established prior to the Israelite exodus out of Egypt.

Early Christianity (c. 1st century CE to 3rd century CE)

Passover plays a central role in the growth of Christianity as a distinct religious tradition from Judaism. By the 1st century CE, Josephus and the Gospels indicate that Passover drew large crowds of Jews to Jerusalem, the central cult site for the celebration of Passover. New Testament authors leverage Passover traditions in order to support their theological claims because, though the exact nature of Jesus is unclear from a historical perspective, he was a practicing Jew who lived in the 1st century CE.

For example, in John 19:31-36, the author portrays Jesus as a Passover lamb, whose sacrifice would ultimately cause God to redeem humanity. Likewise, Paul explicitly describes Jesus as a Passover lamb as he extends the imagery of unleavened bread metaphorically into the realm of morality (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Similar depictions of Jesus appear in 1 Peter 1:19 and Revelation 5:6. Broadly construed, the association of Jesus' death with the Passover sacrifice “points to an understanding of the sacrifices of the Passover lamb as the remembrance of God's past act of redemption that foreshadowed the sacrifice of the Lamb of God as God's ultimate act of redemption” (Mangum 2016). Early Christians, who perceived themselves as practicing Jews, reframed the traditional narrative of Passover in order to highlight Jesus' legitimacy as a redemptive figure for all of humanity.

Rabbinic Judaism (c. 1st century CE to 7th century CE).

Rabbinic Judaism developed, in part, as a response to the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. Without the temple, Jews could no longer offer sacrifices. It is from this context which Rabbinic Judaism emerged, providing ways to worship God and perform the various ritual festivals even though the Jewish temple was no longer standing. Rabbinic Judaism sought to establish “that the Passover celebration can and should continue even without the paschal lamb,” that is the Passover lamb (Bokser 1984, 48). Although ancient Israelite and Judean religion, along with Early Judaism, perceived the temple to be central to their worship, the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 CE forced the Rabbis to reconsider how they would perform their ancient rituals. They did so through creative readings of their holy texts and by drawing on other Rabbinic traditions.

For example, the Tosefta, a Rabbinic Jewish text of codified traditions and laws (3rd century CE), discusses the role of unleavened bread and bitter herbs, two foods mentioned in Exodus 12:8: “They shall eat the flesh that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs” (Exodus 12:8; 1985 JPS Translation). Because this passage indicates that three things are eaten together, namely the Passover lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread, the Rabbis equated bitter herbs and unleavened bread with the Passover sacrifice (Bokser 1984, 39). They essentially figured out a way to celebrate the Passover ritual without requiring a proper sacrifice at a temple.

Ancient Near Eastern Context

Passover as a festival is reflective of its broader ancient Near Eastern context in the use of blood at the entrance of the house and with regard to the firstborn. One of the fundamental aspects of Passover is putting the blood of the Passover lamb upon the gateposts of the household, that is the front entrance:

They shall take from the blood of the Passover lamb and put it upon the two doorposts and upon the upper-cross piece of the door upon the house within which they will eat it among them. (Exodus 12:7)

Applying the blood onto the door of the household served an apotropaic function, meaning that it warded off negative influences. In the context of Exodus 12, the “negative influence” is the destructive force which kills every firstborn.

Likewise, the Arslan Tash amulet, an amulet from the 7th century BCE discovered in Syria, includes a reference to “doorposts” in one of the incantations: “And let him not come down to the door-posts.” Here, the “doorposts” are the boundary into the home, the location where the amulet was possibly placed for preventing negative influences on the household. Though the Arslan Tash amulet and the Passover blood on the doors are distinct in terms of the broader social, religious, and cultural norms, the similarities between the two texts highlight a broader cultural concern in the ancient Near East with regard to negative forces entering a household through the doorposts.

Additionally, a ritual called zukru, from a text discovered in Emar, Syria, shows remarkable similarities to Passover. First, both festivals began on the 14th day of the 1st month, lasting seven days. Second, the ritual for Passover and zukru both involve the smearing of blood on posts – the posts in Passover are to the house, the posts in zukru are at the city gates. Third, zukru is primarily a festival of “(the offering of) the (firstborn) male animals” to Dagan, a deity (Cohen 2015, 336). Likewise, Exodus 34:19 associates Passover with the offering of firstborn animals. The speaker, Yahweh, says: “All first-born of a womb are mine, as well as your male livestock, the first born of cattle and sheep.” Though these ritual actions were accomplished for different purposes, to different deities, and in distinct contexts, they demonstrate that Passover rituals are similar to broader ancient Near Eastern traditions.

Conclusion

Passover draws on a singular traditional narrative; however, texts speaking of Passover reflect different traditions, standards, rituals, and expectations depending on the historical contexts of their compositions. Such developments of Passover rituals appear to this day. In the 1980s CE, Dr. Susannah Heschel spoke at a Jewish community during Passover. One of the young girls was a lesbian. In order to express the marginalization of lesbians within Judaism, she placed leavened bread on her ritual plate. Essentially, the young girl equated the prohibition of leavened bread with the Jewish cultural convention prohibiting lesbians. Though inspired, Dr. Heschel realized that bread on the ritual plate made the plate impure, according to Jewish law. So, the next year, she placed an orange on the ritual plate, commenting: “I chose an orange because it suggests the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life.” In many Jewish communities, the practice of placing an orange on the ritual plate is practiced to this day.

Thus, rituals surrounding Passover have historically developed on the basis of cultural concerns and historical context. So, Dr. Heschel did not simply add a new element to the ritual of Passover; rather, she continued the tradition of adapting, adjusting, and enriching Passover rituals. In doing so, she provided a voice and place for lesbians and gay men. One can only wonder: what other aspects of Passover will be enriched in order to provide a voice for marginalized people groups, new ideas, and cultural conventions in the 21st century CE?


Passover

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Passover, Hebrew Pesaḥ or Pesach, in Judaism, holiday commemorating the Hebrews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt and the “passing over” of the forces of destruction, or the sparing of the firstborn of the Israelites, when the Lord “smote the land of Egypt” on the eve of the Exodus. Passover begins with the 15th and ends with the 21st (or, outside of Israel and among Reform Jews, the 22nd) day of the month of Nisan (March or April). On these seven (or eight) days, all leaven, whether in bread or other mixture, is prohibited, and only unleavened bread, called matzo, may be eaten. The matzo symbolizes both the Hebrews’ suffering while in bondage and the haste with which they left Egypt in the course of the Exodus. Passover is also sometimes called the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

Passover is often celebrated with great pomp and ceremony, especially on the first night, when a special family meal called the seder is held. At the seder, foods of symbolic significance commemorating the Hebrews’ liberation are eaten, and prayers and traditional recitations are performed. Though the festival of Passover is meant to be one of great rejoicing, strict dietary laws must be observed, and special prohibitions restrict work at the beginning and end of the celebration. See also matzo seder.


Passover in the Hebrew Bible - History


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

pas'-o-ver (pecach, from pacach, "to pass" or "spring over" or "to spare" (Ex 12:13,23,17 compare Isa 31:5]. Other conjectures connect the word with the "passing over" into a new year, with assyr pasahu, meaning "to placate," with Hebrew pacah, meaning "to dance," and even with the skipping motions of a young lamb Aramaic [

paccha', whence Greek Pascha whence English "paschal." In early Christian centuries folk-etymology connected pascha with Greek pascho, "to suffer" (see PASSION), and the word was taken to refer to Good Friday rather than the Passover):
1. Pecach and Matstsoth
2. Pecach mitsrayim
3. Pecach doroth
4. Matstsoth
5. The `Omer
6. Non-traditional Theories
7. The Higher Criticism
8. Historical Celebrations: Old Testament Times
9. Historical Celebrations: New Testament Times
10. The Jewish Passover
1. Pecach and Matstsoth:
The Passover was the annual Hebrew festival on the evening of the 14th day of the month of 'Abhibh (Abib) or Nisan, as it was called in later times. It was followed by, and closely connected with, a 7 days' festival of matstsoth, or unleavened bread, to which the name Passover was also applied by extension (Lev 23:5). Both were distinctly connected with the Exodus, which, according to tradition, they commemorate the Passover being in imitation of the last meal in Egypt, eaten in preparation for the journey, while Yahweh, passing over the houses of the Hebrews, was slaying the firstborn of Egypt (Ex 12:12 f 13:2,12 ff) the matstsoth festival being in memory of the first days of the journey during which this bread of haste was eaten (Ex 12:14-20).
2. Pecach mitsrayim:
The ordinance of pecach mitsrayim, the last meal in Egypt, included the following provisions: (1) the taking of a lamb, or kid without blemish, for each household on the 10th of the month (2) the killing of the lamb on the 14th at even (3) the sprinkling of the blood on doorposts and lintels of the houses in which it was to be eaten (4) the roasting of the lamb with fire, its head with its legs and inwards--the lamb was not to be eaten raw nor sodden (bashal) with water (5) the eating of unleavened bread and bitter herbs (6) eating in haste, with loins girded, shoes on the feet, and staff in hand (7) and remaining in the house until the morning (8) the burning of all that remained the Passover could be eaten only during the night (Ex 12:1-23).
3. Pecach doroth:
This service was to be observed as an ordinance forever (Ex 12:14,24), and the night was to be lel shimmurim, "a night of vigils," or, at least, "to be much observed" of all the children of Israel throughout their generations (Ex 12:42). The details, however, of the pecach doroth, or later observances of the Passover, seem to have differed slightly from those of the Egyptian Passover (Mishna, Pesachim, ix.5). Thus, it is probable that the victim could be taken from the flock or from the herd (Dt 16:2 compare Ezek 45:22). (3), (6) and (7) disappeared entirely, and judging from Dt 16:7, the prohibition against seething (Hebrew bashal) was not understood to apply (unless, indeed, the omission of the expression with water" gives a more general sense to the Hebrew word bashal, making it include roasting). New details were also added: for example, that the Passover could be sacrificed only at the central sanctuary (Dt 16:5) that no alien or uncircumcised person, or unclean person could partake thereof, and that one prevented by uncleanness or other cause from celebrating the Passover in season could do so a month later (Nu 9:9 ff). The singing of the Hallel (Psalms 113 through 118), both while the Passover was being slaughtered and at the meal, and other details were no doubt added from time to time.
4. Matstsoth:
Unleavened bread was eaten with the Passover meal, just as with all sacrificial meals of later times (Ex 23:18 34:25 Lev 7:12), independently perhaps of the fact that the Passover came in such close proximity with the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 12:8). Jewish tradition distinguishes, at any rate, between the first night and the rest of the festival in that the eating of matstsoth is an obligation on the first night and optional during the rest of the week (Pesachim 120a), although the eating of unleavened bread is commanded in general terms (Ex 12:15,18 13:6,7 23:15 34:18 Lev 23:6 Nu 28:17). The eating of leavened bread is strictly prohibited, however, during the entire week under the penalty of kareth, "excision" (Ex 12:15,19 f 13:3 Dt 16:3), and this prohibition has been observed traditionally with great care. The 1st and 7th days are holy convocations, days on which no labor could be done except such as was necessary in the preparation of food. The festival of matstsoth is reckoned as one of the three pilgrimage festivals, though strictly the pilgrimage was connected with the Passover portion and the first day of the festival.
During the entire week additional sacrifices were offered in the temple: an offering made by fire and a burnt offering, 2 young bullocks, 1 ram, 7 lambs of the first year without blemish, together with meal offerings and drink offerings and a goat for a sin offering.
5. The `Omer:
During the week of the matstsoth festival comes the beginning of the barley harvest in Israel (Menachoth 65b) which lasts from the end of March in the low Jordan valley to the beginning of May in the elevated portions. The time of the putting-in of the sickle to the standing grain (Dt 16:9) and of bringing the sheaf of the peace offering is spoken of as the morrow after the Sabbath (Lev 23:15), that is, according to the Jewish tradition, the day after the first day, or rest-day, of the Passover (Mend. 65b Meg Ta`an. 1 Josephus, Ant, III, x, 5), and according to Samaritan and Boethusian traditions and the modern Karites the Sunday after the Passover. At this time a wave offering is made of a sheaf, followed by an offering of a lamb with a meal and drink offering, and only thereafter might the new grain be eaten. From this day 7 weeks are counted to fix the date of Pentecost, the celebration connected with the wheat harvest. It is of course perfectly natural for an agricultural people to celebrate the turning-points of the agricultural year in connection with their traditional festivals. Indeed, the Jewish liturgy of today retains in the Passover service the Prayer of Dew (Tal) which grew up in Israel on the basis of the needs of an agricultural people.
6. Non-traditional Theories:
Many writers, however, eager to explain the entire festival as originally an agricultural feast (presumably a Canaanitic one, though there is not a shred of evidence that the Canaanites had such a festival), have seized upon the `omer, or sheaf offering, as the basis of the hagh (festival), and have attempted to explain the matstsoth as bread hastily baked in the busy harvest times, or as bread quickly baked from the freshly exempted first-fruits. Wherein these theories are superior to the traditional explanation so consistently adhered to throughout the Pentateuch it is difficult to see. In a similar vein, it has been attempted to connect the Passover with the sacrifice or redemption of the firstborn of man and beast (both institutions being traditionally traced to the judgment on the firstborn of Egypt, as in Ex 13:11-13 22:29,30 23:19 34:19,20), so as to characterize the Passover as a festival of pastoral origin. Excepting for the multiplication of highly ingenious guesses, very little that is positive has been added to our knowledge of the Passover by this theory.
7. The Higher Criticism:
The Pentateuch speaks of the Passover in many contexts and naturally with constantly varying emphasis. Thus the story of the Exodus it is natural to expect fewer ritual details than in a manual of temple services again, according to the view here taken, we must distinguish between the pecach mitsrayim and the pecach doroth. Nevertheless, great stress is laid on the variations in the several accounts, by certain groups of critics, on the basis of which they seek to support their several theories of the composition of the Pentateuch or Hexateuch. Without entering into this controversy, it will be sufficient here to enumerate and classify all the discrepancies said to exist in the several Passover passages, together with such explanations as have been suggested. These discrepancies, so called, are of three kinds: (1) mere omissions, (2) differences of emphasis, and (3) conflicting statements. The letters, J, E, D, P and H will here be used to designate passages assigned to the various sources by the higher criticism of today merely for the sake of comparison. (1) There is nothing remarkable about the omission of the daily sacrifices from all passages except Lev 23:8 (H) and Nu 28:19 (P), nor in the omission of a specific reference to the holy convocation on the first day in the contexts of Dt 16:8 and Ex 13:6, nor even in the omission of reference to a central sanctuary in passages other than Dt 16. Neither can any significance be attached to the fact that the precise day is not specified in Ex 23 (E) where the appointed day is spoken of, and in Lev 23:15 (H) where the date can be figured out from the date of Pentecost there given. (2) As to emphasis, it is said that the socalled Elohist Covenant (E) (Ex 23) has no reference to the Passover, as it speaks only of matstsh in Ex 23:15, in which this festival is spoken of together with the other reghalim or pilgrimage festivals. The so-called Jehovistic source (Jahwist) (Ex 34:18-21,25) is said to subordinate the Passover to matstsoth, the great feast of the Jehovistic history (JE) (Ex 12:21-27,29-36,38,39 13:3-16) in Dt (D) the Passover is said to predominate over matstsoth, while in Lev (P and H) it is said to be of first importance. JE and P emphasize the historical importance of the day. Whether these differences in emphasis mean much more than that the relative amount of attention paid to the paschal sacrifice, as compared with matstsoth, depends on the context, is of course the fundamental question of the higher criticism it is not answered by pointing out that the differences of emphasis exist. (3) Of the actual conflicts, we have already seen that the use of the words "flock" and "herd" in Dt and Hebrew bashal are open to explanation, and also that the use of the matstsoth at the original Passover is not inconsistent with the historical reason for the feast of matstsoth--it is not necessary to suppose that matstsoth were invented through the necessity of the Hebrews on their journey. There is, however, one apparent discrepancy in the Biblical narrative that seems to weaken rather than help the position of those critics who would ascribe very late dates to the passages which we have cited: Why does Ezekiel's ideal scheme provide sacrifices for the Passover different from those prescribed in the so-called P ascribed to the same period (Ezek 45:21)?
8. Historical Celebrations: Old Testament Times:
The children of Israel began the keeping of the Passover in its due season according to all its ordinances in the wilderness of Sinai (Nu 9:5). In the very beginning of their national life in Israel we find them celebrating the Passover under the leadership of Joshua in the plains of Jericho (Josh 5:10). History records but few later celebrations in Israel, but there are enough intimations to indicate that it was frequently if not regularly observed. Thus Solomon offered sacrifices three times a year upon the altar which he had built to Yahweh, at the appointed seasons, including the Feast of Unleavened Bread (1 Ki 9:25 = 2 Ch 8:13). The later prophets speak of appointed seasons for pilgrimages and sacrifices (compare Isa 1:12-14), and occasionally perhaps refer to a Passover celebration (compare Isa 30:29, bearing in mind that the Passover is the only night-feast of which we have any record). In Hezekiah's time the Passover had fallen into such a state of desuetude that neither the priests nor the people were prepared for the king's urgent appeal to observe it. Nevertheless, he was able to bring together a large concourse in Jerusalem during the 2nd month and institute a more joyful observance than any other recorded since the days of Solomon. In the 18th year of King Josiah, however, there was celebrated the most memorable Passover, presumably in the matter of conformity to rule, since the days of the Judges (2 Ki 23:21 2 Ch 35:1 ff). The continued observance of the feast to the days of the exile is attested by Ezekiel's interest in it (Ezek 45:18). In post-exilic times it was probably observed more scrupulously than ever before (Ezr 6:19 ff).
9. Historical Celebrations: New Testament Times:
Further evidence, if any were needed, of the importance of the Passover in the life of the Jews of the second temple is found in the Talmud, which devotes to this subject an entire tractate, Pecachim on which we have both Babylonian and Israel gemara'. These are devoted to the sacrificial side and to the minutiae of searching out and destroying leaven, what constitutes leaven, and similar questions, instruction in which the children of Israel sought for 30 days before the Passover. Josephus speaks of the festival often (Ant., II, xiv, 6 III, x, 5 IX, iv, 8 XIV, ii, 2 XVII, ix, 3 BJ, II, i, 3 V, iii, 1 VI, ix, 3). Besides repeating the details already explained in the Bible, he tells of the innumerable multitudes that came for the Passover to Jerusalem out of the country and even from beyond its limits. He estimates that in one year in the days of Cestius, 256,500 lambs were slaughtered and that at least 10 men were counted to each. (This estimate of course includes the regular population of Jerusalem. But even then it is doubtless exaggerated.) The New Testament bears testimony, likewise, to the coming of great multitudes to Jerusalem (Jn 11:55 compare also 2:13 6:4). At this great festival even the Roman officers released prisoners in recognition of the people's celebration. Travel and other ordinary pursuits were no doubt suspended (Compare Acts 12:3 20:6). Naturally the details were impressed on the minds of the people and lent themselves to symbolic and homiletic purposes (compare 1 Cor 5:7 Jn 19:34-36, where the paschal lamb is made to typify Jesus and Heb 11:28). The best-known instance of such symbolic use is the institution of the Eucharist on the basis of the paschal meal. Some doubt exists as to Whether the Last Supper was the paschal meal or not. According to the Synoptic Gospels, it was (Lk 22:7 Mt 26:17 Mk 14:12) while according to John, the Passover was to be eaten some time following the Last Supper (Jn 18:28). Various harmonizations of these passages have been suggested, the most in genious, probably, being on theory that when the Passover fell on Friday night, the Pharisees ate the meal on Thursday and the Sadducees on Friday, and that Jesus followed the custom of the Pharisees (Chwolson, Das letzte Passahmal Jesu, 2nd edition, Petersburg, 1904). Up to the Nicene Council in the year 325, the church observed Easter on the Jewish Passover. Thereafter it took precautions to separate the two, condemning their confusion as Arianism.
10. The Jewish Passover:
After the destruction of the temple the Passover became a home service. The paschal lamb was no longer included. Only the Samaritans have continued this rite to this day. In the Jewish home a roasted bone is placed on the table in memory of the rite, and other articles symbolic of the Passover are placed beside it: such as a roasted egg, said to be in memory of the free-will offering a sauce called charoceth, said to resemble the mortar of Egypt salt water, for the symbolic dipping (compare Mt 26:23) the bitter herbs and the matstsoth. The cedher (program) is as follows: sanctification washing of the hands dipping and dividing the parsley breaking and setting aside a piece of matstsah to be distributed and eaten at the end of the supper reading of the haggadhah shel pecach, a poetic narrative of the Exodus, in answer to four questions asked by the youngest child in compliance with the Biblical command found 3 times in Exodus and once in Deuteronomy, "Thou shalt tell thy son on that day" washing the hands for eating grace before eating tasting the matstsah tasting the bitter herbs eating of them together the meal partaking of the matstsah that had been set aside as 'aphiqomen or dessert grace after meat Hallel request that the service be accepted. Thereafter folk-songs are sung to traditional melodies, and poems recited, many of which have allegorical meanings. A cup of wine is used at the sanctification and another at grace, in addition to which two other cups have been added, the 4 according to the Mishna (Pecachim x.1) symbolizing the 4 words employed in Ex 6:6,7 for the delivery of Israel from Egypt. Instead of eating in haste, as in the Egyptian Passover, it is customary to recline or lean at this meal in token of Israel's freedom.
The prohibition against leaven is strictly observed. The searching for hidden leaven on the evening before the Passover and its destruction in the morning have become formal ceremonies for which appropriate blessings and declarations have been included in the liturgy since the days when Aramaic was the vernacular of the Jews. As in the case of other festivals, the Jews have doubled the days of holy convocation, and have added a semi-holiday after the last day, the so-called 'iccur chagh, in token of their love for the ordained celebration and their loathness to depart from it.
Nathan Isaacs Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'passover'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE 1915.

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Passover |Old Testament Timeline

The Passover Feast, or Pesach, celebrates the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as recorded in the Book of Exodus. During Passover, Jews also commemorate the birth of the Jewish nation after being freed by God from captivity. Today, the Jewish people not only remember a historical event on the first Passover but also celebrate in a larger sense, their freedom as Jews. The first Passover, according to the Biblical Timeline, occurred on May 4, 1451 B.C.

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The Hebrew word Pesach means, “to pass over.” During the Passover celebration each year, Jews take part in a meal known as the Seder, which features the retelling of the story of Exodus and God’s liberation from their slavery in Egypt. Each partaker of the Passover Seder experiences in an individual way, a national celebration of freedom through God’s divine intervention and deliverance. Hag HaMatzah or the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Yom HaBikkurim or Firstfruits are both mentioned in Leviticus 23 as separate feasts. However, today Jews observe all three feasts as part of the eight-day Passover celebration.

Today, Passover begins on day 15 of the Hebrew month of Nissan, which falls in March or April and continues for 8 days. In Biblical times, Passover began at twilight on the fourteenth day of Nissan, and then the next day, day 15, the Feast of Unleavened Bread would begin and continue for seven days.

The Passover Story

Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, after being sold into slavery in Egypt, was protected by God and greatly blessed. Ultimately he was put into a high position—second-in-command to Pharaoh. In time, Joseph moved his entire family to Egypt to be near him and help them. This happened in 1706 B.C. By the time of the Exodus, 215 years later, the Israelites had grown into a people numbering over 2 million. In fact, there were so many Jews in Egypt that the new Pharaoh, who had no memory of what the good Joseph had done for his land, was afraid of their power. To retain a feeling of control, he forced the Israelites into slavery, oppressing them with harsh labor and brutal treatment.

However, God had a plan to rescue his people, through a man named Moses. At the time Moses was born, Pharaoh had ordered the death of all Hebrew males, but God spared Moses when his mother hid him in a basket along the banks of the Nile River. Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby and decided to adopt him. Later Moses fled to Midian after killing an Egyptian he had witnessed brutally beating a Hebrew slave.

There God appeared to Moses from within the flames of a burning bush and said:

“And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters for I know their sorrows” Exodus 3:7-10 KJV

And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now, therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt

After making some excuses, Moses finally obeyed God and confronted Pharaoh.

Moses and Aaron repeatedly appeared before Pharaoh to demand in the mighty name of God:

“Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness”

However, Pharaoh continued to refuse. Moses sternly warned him that God would smite Egypt. Pharaoh remained unyielding. God begins to send a series of horrific plagues upon the Egyptians. In the midst of each plague, Pharaoh promises to let the Children of Israel go, always with some conditions, but he retracts the offer once the affliction has ended.

  • All the waters throughout Egypt turn to blood.
  • Swarms of frogs overrun the land.
  • Lice infest all the men and beasts.
  • Hordes of wild animals invade the cities.
  • An epidemic kills the domestic animals.
  • Painful boils afflict the Egyptians.
  • Fire and ice combine to descend from the skies to form a ravaging hailstorm.
  • A devastating swarm of locusts demolishes all the crops and greenery.
  • A thick, tangible darkness shrouds the land.
  • All the firstborn of Egypt are killed at the stroke of midnight of the 15th of the month of Nissan.

With the final plague, God promised to strike dead every first-born son in Egypt at midnight on the 15th day of the month of Nissan. However, to Moses, the Lord provided instructions so his people would be spared. Each Hebrew family was to take a Passover lamb, slaughter it and place some of the blood on the doorframes of their homes. When the destroyer passed over Egypt, he would not enter the homes covered by the blood of the Passover lamb:

“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

In addition, they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side-posts and on the upper doorpost of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. In addition, they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread and with bitter herbs, they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s Passover.”

The first nine plagues only served to dishearten the Pharaoh briefly but were unable to make him completely submit to the will of God. Finally, God ordered the Hebrew slaves to make a sacrifice of a lamb and mark their doors with the blood of the lamb, as an indication to the God to ‘pass over’ their houses while slaying the first-born males of the Egyptians. The Hebrews followed the word of God and thus, their first-born males were saved from the tenth plague. ‘Pesach’ means ‘passing over’ or ‘protection’ in Hebrew. This final calamity was a final blow to the Pharaoh, and he ordered Israelites to be set free immediately and allow their passage put of Egypt.

In their hurry to finally be able to live free lives, Israelites did not even wait to let their dough rise and bake bread but took raw dough instead to bake in the hot desert sun as hard crackers called Matzos on their journey. Moses led them through the desert. The angry Pharaoh changed his mind and led his army to chase after and kill them all. However, through the divine grace of God, the Jews managed to reach the Red Sea, where they seemed trapped by the vast stretch of water. Moses called upon God for help, and all of a sudden, the Red Sea parted to give way to the Israelites, and thus, they safely passed over to the other side on dry land. They were protected forever as the waves closed over the shocked army of the Pharaoh and drowned the whole army at once.


Passover In The Bible

Passover is the oldest and most important religious festival in Judaism, commemorating God's deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and His creation of the Israelite people. The festival of Passover begins at sunset on the 14th of Nisan (usually in March or April) and marks the beginning of a seven-day celebration which includes the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The highlight of Passover is a communal meal, called the Seder (which means "order," because of the fixed order of service), which is a time to rejoice and celebrate the deliverance for the Hebrews that God accomplished through the exodus.

The New Testament Passover is a memorial of the suffering and death of Jesus. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8). Passover is in early spring to remind how God spared His people from death in Egypt. Learn more from our list of Scriptures mentioning Passover in the Bible.


Passover in the Hebrew Bible - History

1 sacrifice of Passover, involving communion-meal, hence a species of peace-offering (compare I. זֶבַח II. 2 ), ׳ הוא לי ׳ זֶבַח פ Exodus 12:27 (J), compare Exodus 12:11 (P) ׳ זָבַח פ Deuteronomy 16:2,5,6 ׳ אבל הפ 2Chronicles 30:18 the special feature lay in the application of blood to homes to consecrate them: compare simile Babylonian rite of purification Zim ib. ii. 126-7.

2 the animal victim of the passover: ׳ שׁחט פ Exodus 12:21 (J) 2 Chron 30:15 35:1 35:6 35:11 Ezra 6:20, compare 2Chronicles 30:17 באשׁ ׳ בשׁל הפ 2Chronicles 35:13 לפסחים 2Chronicles 35:7,8,9. [Passover animals (compare Br Hex.206 ) were צאֹן flock Exodus 12:21 (J), שֶׁה Exodus 12:3 Exodus 12:4 Exodus 12:5, including כֶּבֶשׁ and עֵז Exodus 12:5 (P) צאן ובקר Deuteronomy 16:2 large numbers of all these ( שֶׂה not used) in Josiah's Passover, active to 2Chronicles 35:7,8,9, but evident mingling of whole burnt-offerings for the passover with special passover victim.]

3 festival of the passover : ׳ חג הפ Exodus 34:25 (J) ׳ (ה)פ Leviticus 23:5 Numbers 28:16 Numbers 33:3 Joshua 5:11 (P) Ezekiel 45:21 ׳ חֻקַּת הפ Exodus 12:43 Numbers 9:12,14 (P) ׳ עשׂה פ Exodus 12:48 Numbers 9:2,4,5,6,10,13,14 Joshua 5:10 (P) Deuteronomy 16:1 2 Kings 23:21,22,23 2Chronicles 30:1,2,5 35:1,16,17,18 (twice in verse) 2Chronicles 35:19 Ezra 6:19 it was held in month הָאָבִיב Deuteronomy 16:1, בָּעָ֑רֶב Deuteronomy 16:6 on 14th day Joshua 5:10 (P), of 1st month Ezekiel 45:21 בֵּין הערבים (Exodus 12:6) Leviticus 23:5 Numbers 9:5 (P) if impossible at that time, then on 14th of 2nd month Numbers 9:10,12. [No reference to מֶּסַח in E J subordinates it to מַצּוֺת (the great feast of J E) in D it predominates over מצות P makes it first in importance (Br Hex.195f. )].]

From pacach a pretermission, i.e. Exemption used only techically of the Jewish Passover (the festival or the victim) -- passover (offering).

Exodus 12:21
HEB: לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתֵיכֶ֖ם וְשַׁחֲט֥וּ הַפָּֽסַח׃
NAS: and slay the Passover [lamb].
KJV: and kill the passover.
INT: to your families and slay the Passover

Exodus 12:27
HEB: וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֡ם זֶֽבַח־ פֶּ֨סַח ה֜וּא לַֽיהוָ֗ה
NAS: you shall say, 'It is a Passover sacrifice
KJV: of the LORD'S passover, who passed
INT: shall say sacrifice Passover he to the LORD

Exodus 12:43
HEB: זֹ֖את חֻקַּ֣ת הַפָּ֑סַח כָּל־ בֶּן־
NAS: is the ordinance of the Passover: no
KJV: This [is] the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger
INT: likewise is the ordinance of the Passover all manner afflicted

Exodus 12:48
HEB: גֵּ֗ר וְעָ֣שָׂה פֶסַח֮ לַיהוָה֒ הִמּ֧וֹל
NAS: with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD,
KJV: with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD,
INT: A stranger and celebrates the Passover to the LORD be circumcised

Exodus 34:25
HEB: זֶ֖בַח חַ֥ג הַפָּֽסַח׃
NAS: of the Feast of the Passover to be left over
KJV: of the feast of the passover be left
INT: is the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover

Leviticus 23:5
HEB: בֵּ֣ין הָעַרְבָּ֑יִם פֶּ֖סַח לַיהוָֽה׃
NAS: at twilight is the LORD'S Passover.
KJV: at even [is] the LORD'S passover.
INT: at twilight Passover God

Numbers 9:2
HEB: יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶת־ הַפָּ֖סַח בְּמוֹעֲדֽוֹ׃
NAS: observe the Passover at its appointed time.
KJV: also keep the passover at his appointed season.
INT: the sons of Israel the Passover appointed

Numbers 9:4
HEB: יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לַעֲשֹׂ֥ת הַפָּֽסַח׃
NAS: of Israel to observe the Passover.
KJV: that they should keep the passover.
INT: of Israel to observe the Passover

Numbers 9:5
HEB: וַיַּעֲשׂ֣וּ אֶת־ הַפֶּ֡סַח בָּרִאשׁ֡וֹן בְּאַרְבָּעָה֩
NAS: They observed the Passover in the first
KJV: And they kept the passover on the fourteenth
INT: observed the Passover the first four

Numbers 9:6
HEB: יָכְל֥וּ לַעֲשֹׂת־ הַפֶּ֖סַח בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֑וּא
NAS: not observe Passover on that day
KJV: not keep the passover on that day:
INT: could observe Passover day they

Numbers 9:10
HEB: לְדֹרֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם וְעָ֥שָׂה פֶ֖סַח לַיהוָֽה׃
NAS: he may, however, observe the Passover to the LORD.
KJV: yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD.
INT: of your generations observe the Passover to the LORD

Numbers 9:12
HEB: כְּכָל־ חֻקַּ֥ת הַפֶּ֖סַח יַעֲשׂ֥וּ אֹתֽוֹ׃
NAS: the statute of the Passover they shall observe
KJV: of it: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep
INT: to all the statute of the Passover shall observe

Numbers 9:13
HEB: וְחָדַל֙ לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת הַפֶּ֔סַח וְנִכְרְתָ֛ה הַנֶּ֥פֶשׁ
NAS: to observe the Passover, that person
KJV: to keep the passover, even the same soul
INT: neglects to observe the Passover shall then be cut person

Numbers 9:14
HEB: גֵּ֗ר וְעָ֤שָֽׂה פֶ֙סַח֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה כְּחֻקַּ֥ת
NAS: you and observes the Passover to the LORD,
KJV: among you, and will keep the passover unto the LORD
INT: an alien and observes the Passover to the LORD to the statute

Numbers 9:14
HEB: לַֽיהוָ֔ה כְּחֻקַּ֥ת הַפֶּ֛סַח וּכְמִשְׁפָּט֖וֹ כֵּ֣ן
NAS: according to the statute of the Passover and according to its ordinance,
KJV: according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner
INT: to the LORD to the statute of the Passover ordinance so

Numbers 28:16
HEB: י֖וֹם לַחֹ֑דֶשׁ פֶּ֖סַח לַיהוָֽה׃
NAS: month shall be the LORD'S Passover.
KJV: month [is] the passover of the LORD.
INT: day month Passover shall be the LORD'S

Numbers 33:3
HEB: הָרִאשׁ֑וֹן מִֽמָּחֳרַ֣ת הַפֶּ֗סַח יָצְא֤וּ בְנֵֽי־
NAS: after the Passover the sons
KJV: on the morrow after the passover the children
INT: of the first the next the Passover started the sons

Deuteronomy 16:1
HEB: הָאָבִ֔יב וְעָשִׂ֣יתָ פֶּ֔סַח לַיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ
NAS: and celebrate the Passover to the LORD
KJV: and keep the passover unto the LORD
INT: of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God

Deuteronomy 16:2
HEB: וְזָבַ֥חְתָּ פֶּ֛סַח לַיהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ
NAS: You shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD
KJV: Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the LORD
INT: shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God

Deuteronomy 16:5
HEB: לִזְבֹּ֣חַ אֶת־ הַפָּ֑סַח בְּאַחַ֣ד שְׁעָרֶ֔יךָ
NAS: to sacrifice the Passover in any
KJV: not sacrifice the passover within any
INT: allowed to sacrifice the Passover any of your towns

Deuteronomy 16:6
HEB: תִּזְבַּ֥ח אֶת־ הַפֶּ֖סַח בָּעָ֑רֶב כְּב֣וֹא
NAS: you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening
KJV: in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even,
INT: in it shall sacrifice the Passover the evening down

Joshua 5:10
HEB: וַיַּעֲשׂ֣וּ אֶת־ הַפֶּ֡סַח בְּאַרְבָּעָה֩ עָשָׂ֨ר
NAS: they observed the Passover on the evening
KJV: and kept the passover on the fourteenth
INT: Gilgal observed the Passover four teen

Joshua 5:11
HEB: הָאָ֛רֶץ מִמָּֽחֳרַ֥ת הַפֶּ֖סַח מַצּ֣וֹת וְקָל֑וּי
NAS: On the day after the Passover, on that very
KJV: on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes,
INT: of the land the day the Passover unleavened and parched

2 Kings 23:21
HEB: לֵאמֹ֔ר עֲשׂ֣וּ פֶ֔סַח לַֽיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֑ם
NAS: Celebrate the Passover to the LORD
KJV: Keep the passover unto the LORD
INT: saying Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God


Passover Origin

The first reference to Passover has been found in the Book of Exodus and then in the New Testament of the Bible. According to Exodus 12, King James Version, about 3000 years ago, God promised the people of Israel to free them from the slavery in Egypt and unleash the tenth plague that was to 'Smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.' To be sure that Israelites didn't fell prey to his wrath, he instructed them to mark their door posts with lamb's blood, stating: "and when I see the blood, I will pass over you." The book was later translated to English in William Tyndale. Thus, the name 'Passover' came into vogue for this celebration. Since the original word in the Hebrew Torah for 'pass over' was 'Posach', the celebration is also known as 'Pesach'. Follow up the writing to know and understand why Passover is an important festival for Jewish and the whole history behind Passover celebration.

Origins Of The Passover Feast
History Of Passover
The origin of Passover or Pesach relates back over 3,000 years ago as told in the first fifteen chapters of the exodus to remember the astonishing and miraculous events that god performed for the Hebrews that led to their freedom. God commanded Moses and the Hebrews to eat slaughtered and roasted paschal lamb that symbolizes Passover sacrifice and to eat with bitter herbs and matzah. Along with this, god also instructed the Hebrews to spread the blood of the paschal lamb on the doorposts and on the lintel above the door of the houses in which they will eat the paschal lamb. This act was god's sign to pass over the Hebrews' homes during the 10th plague, which was to kill the firstborn sons of the Egyptians as a punishment for enslaving the Hebrews. "He" also instructed the Hebrews to have matzah for the whole seven-day period of the Passover festival and to clear their house from leavened items by the first day of the Passover. Also stated that the first and seventh day of Passover were to be the sacred holidays for the Hebrews which are to be spent in sustaining themselves with food. It means a person should work only one work that is assigned to him and no other work should be permitted for any reason. Since the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. (Common Era or A.D. to Christians) by the romans, the slaughter of the paschal lamb was replaced by the roasting of a hard-boiled egg and the shank-bone, which are the two of the symbolic foods on the Passover Seder plate. However, even today there are certain groups who still follow slaughtering lambs for Passover as instructed in the Book of Exodus by God.

Passover References
There have been references, which confirm that the parts of this feast were observed even in earlier times. In Genesis 19:3 talks about 'unleavened bread' while in Maimonedes has a short commentary saying - "It was Passover". Though there have been no particular reasons stated for eating unleavened bread, but the best guess is that people used to be in such a hurry to serve the angels that they did not have enough time to let the dough rise and prepare proper, leavened bread. Besides the two main commandments of eating matzoh and prohibiting leavened foods on the days of Pesach, one of the ancient rituals still followed by Samaritans was to offer sacrifice of a lamb in the evening on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan (or Abib). These commandments are now clubbed together as observing Seder or the special Passover feast on the first two evenings of the holiday.

Passover Celebration
Originally, Passover was celebrated for seven days and first day being the day the Israelites left Egypt, to seventh when they came to the Yam Soof, which is the Hebrew phrase for "Sea of Reeds". As a result of these events it is celebrated for seven days in isreal. As the jewish calendar goes by the cycle of the moon, jewish scholars in biblical times added the extra day to compensate for the different times the moon appeared in places outside of Israel, but only for seven days in Israel.


Passover

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement. [N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary
Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Passover'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.

the name given to the chief of the three great historical annual festivals of the Jews. It was kept in remembrance of the Lord's passing over the houses of the Israelites ( Exodus 12:13 ) when the first born of all the Egyptians were destroyed. It is called also the "feast of unleavened bread" ( Exodus 23:15 Mark 14:1 Acts 12:3 ), because during its celebration no leavened bread was to be eaten or even kept in the household ( Exodus 12:15 ). The word afterwards came to denote the lamb that was slain at the feast ( Mark 14:12-14 1 Corinthians 5:7 ).

A detailed account of the institution of this feast is given in Exodus 12 and 13. It was afterwards incorporated in the ceremonial law ( Leviticus 23:4-8 ) as one of the great festivals of the nation. In after times many changes seem to have taken place as to the mode of its celebration as compared with its first celebration (Compare Deuteronomy 16:2 Deuteronomy 16:5 Deuteronomy 16:6 2 Chr 30:16 Leviticus 23:10-14 Numbers 9:10 Numbers 9:11 28:16-24 ). Again, the use of wine ( Luke 22:17 Luke 22:20 ), of sauce with the bitter herbs ( John 13:26 ), and the service of praise were introduced.

There is recorded only one celebration of this feast between the Exodus and the entrance into Canaan, namely, that mentioned in Numbers 9:5 . (See JOSIAH .) It was primarily a commemorative ordinance, reminding the children of Israel of their deliverance out of Egypt but it was, no doubt, also a type of the great deliverance wrought by the Messiah for all his people from the doom of death on account of sin, and from the bondage of sin itself, a worse than Egyptian bondage ( 1 Corinthians 5:7 John 1:29 19:32-36 1 Peter 1:19 Galatians 4:4 Galatians 4:5 ). The appearance of Jerusalem on the occasion of the Passover in the time of our Lord is thus fittingly described: "The city itself and the neighbourhood became more and more crowded as the feast approached, the narrow streets and dark arched bazaars showing the same throng of men of all nations as when Jesus had first visited Jerusalem as a boy. Even the temple offered a strange sight at this season, for in parts of the outer courts a wide space was covered with pens for sheep, goats, and cattle to be used for offerings. Sellers shouted the merits of their beasts, sheep bleated, oxen lowed. Sellers of doves also had a place set apart for them. Potters offered a choice from huge stacks of clay dishes and ovens for roasting and eating the Passover lamb. Booths for wine, oil, salt, and all else needed for sacrifices invited customers. Persons going to and from the city shortened their journey by crossing the temple grounds, often carrying burdens. Stalls to change foreign money into the shekel of the temple, which alone could be paid to the priests, were numerous, the whole confusion making the sanctuary like a noisy market" (Geikie's Life of Christ).

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely. [N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary
Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Passover". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .

the first of the three great annual festivals of the Israelites celebrated in the month Nisan (March-April, from the 14th to the 21st. (Strictly speaking the Passover only applied to the paschal supper and the feast of unleavened bread followed, which was celebrated to the 21st.) (For the corresponding dates in our month, see Jewish calendar at the end of this volume.) The following are the principal passages in the Pentateuch relating to the Passover: ( Exodus 12:1-51 13:3-10 23:14-19 34:18-26 Leviticus 23:4-14 Numbers 9:1-14 28:16-25 16:1-6 ) Why instituted . --This feast was instituted by God to commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and the sparing of their firstborn when the destroying angel smote the first-born of the Egyptians. The deliverance from Egypt was regarded as the starting-point of the Hebrew nation. The Israelites were then raised from the condition of bondmen under a foreign tyrant to that of a free people owing allegiance to no one but Jehovah. The prophet in a later age spoke of the event as a creation and a redemption of the nation. God declares himself to be "the Creator of Israel." The Exodus was thus looked upon as the birth of the nation the Passover was its annual birthday feast. It was the yearly memorial of the dedication of the people to him who had saved their first-born from the destroyer, in order that they might be made holy to himself. First celebration of the Passover . --On the tenth day of the month, the head of each family was to select from the flock either a lamb or a kid, a male of the first year, without blemish. If his family was too small to eat the whole of the lamb, he was permitted to invite his nearest neighbor to join the party. On the fourteenth day of the month he was to kill his lamb, while the sun was setting. He was then to take blood in a basin and with a sprig of hyssop to sprinkle it on the two side-posts and the lintel of the door of the house. The lamb was then thoroughly roasted, whole. It was expressly forbidden that it should be boiled, or that a bone of it should be broken. Unleavened bread and bitter herbs were to be eaten with the flesh. No male who was uncircumcised was to join the company. Each one was to have his loins girt, to hold a staff in his hand, and to have shoes on his feet. He was to eat in haste, and it would seem that he was to stand during the meal. The number of the party was to be calculated as nearly as possible, so that all the flesh of the lamb might be eaten but if any portion of it happened to remain, it was to be burned in the morning. No morsel of it was to be carried out of the house. The lambs were selected, on the fourteenth they were slain and the blood sprinkled, and in the following evening, after the fifteenth day of the had commenced the first paschal meal was eaten. At midnight the firstborn of the Egyptians were smitten. The king and his people were now urgent that the Israelites should start immediately, and readily bestowed on them supplies for the journey. In such haste did the Israelites depart, on that very day, ( Numbers 33:3 ) that they packed up their kneading troughs containing the dough prepared for the morrows provisions, which was not yet leavened. Observance of the Passover in later times . --As the original institution of the Passover in Egypt preceded the establishment of the priesthood and the regulation of the service of the tabernacle. It necessarily fell short in several particulars of the observance of the festival according to the fully-developed ceremonial law. The head of the family slew the lamb in his own house, not in the holy place the blood was sprinkled on the doorway, not on the altar. But when the law was perfected, certain particulars were altered in order to assimilate the Passover to the accustomed order of religious service. In the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of Exodus there are not only distinct references to the observance of the festival in future ages (e.g.) ( Exodus 12:2 Exodus 12:14 Exodus 12:17 Exodus 12:24-27 Exodus 12:42 Exodus 13:2 Exodus 13:5 Exodus 13:8-10 ) but there are several injunctions which were evidently not intended for the first Passover, and which indeed could not possibly have been observed. Besides the private family festival, there were public and national sacrifices offered each of the seven days of unleavened bread. ( Numbers 28:19 ) On the second day also the first-fruits of the barley harvest were offered in the temple. ( Leviticus 23:10 ) In the latter notices of the festival in the books of the law there are particulars added which appear as modifications of the original institution. ( Leviticus 23:10-14 Numbers 28:16-25 16:1-6 ) Hence it is not without reason that the Jewish writers have laid great stress on the distinction between "the Egyptian Passover" and "the perpetual Passover." Mode and order of the paschal meal . --All work except that belonging to a few trades connected with daily life was suspended for some hours before the evening of the 14th Nisan. It was not lawful to eat any ordinary food after midday. No male was admitted to the table unless he was circumcised, even if he were of the seed of Israel. ( Exodus 12:48 ) It was customary for the number of a party to be not less than ten. When the meal was prepared, the family was placed round the table, the paterfamilias taking a place of honor, probably somewhat raised above the rest. When the party was arranged the first cup of wine was filled, and a blessing was asked by the head of the family on the feast, as well as a special, one on the cup. The bitter herbs were then placed on the table, and a portion of them eaten, either with Or without the sauce. The unleavened bread was handed round next and afterward the lamb was placed on the table in front of the head of the family. The paschal lamb could be legally slain and the blood and fat offered only in the national sanctuary. ( 16:2 ) Before the lamb was eaten the second cup of wine was filled, and the son, in accordance with ( Exodus 12:26 ) asked his father the meaning of the feast. In reply, an account was given of the sufferings of the Israelites in Egypt and of their deliverance, with a particular explanation of ( 26:5 ) and the first part of the Hallel (a contraction from Hallelujah ), Psal 113, 114, was sung. This being gone through, the lamb was carved and eaten. The third cup of wine was poured out and drunk, and soon afterward the fourth. The second part of the Hallel, Psal 115 to 118 was then sung. A fifth wine-cup appears to have been occasionally produced, But perhaps only in later times. What was termed the greater Hallel, Psal 120 to 138 was sung on such occasions. The Israelites who lived in the country appear to have been accommodated at the feast by the inhabitants of Jerusalem in their houses, so far its there was room for them. ( Matthew 26:18 Luke 22:10-12 ) Those who could not be received into the city encamped without the walls in tents as the pilgrims now do at Mecca. The Passover as a type . --The Passover was not only commemorative but also typical. "The deliverance which it commemorated was a type of the great salvation it foretold." --No other shadow of things to come contained in the law can vie with the festival of the Passover in expressiveness and completeness. (1) The paschal lamb must of course be regarded as the leading feature in the ceremonial of the festival. The lamb slain typified Christ the "Lamb of God." slain for the sins of the world. Christ "our Passover is sacrificed for us." ( 1 Corinthians 5:7 ) According to the divine purpose, the true Lamb of God was slain at nearly the same time as "the Lords Passover" at the same season of the year and at the same time of the day as the daily sacrifice at the temple, the crucifixion beginning at the hour of the morning sacrifice and ending at the hour of the evening sacrifice. That the lamb was to be roasted and not boiled has been supposed to commemorate the haste of the departure of the Israelites. It is not difficult to determine the reason of the command "not a bone of him shall be broken." The lamb was to be a symbol of unity--the unity of the family, the unity of the nation, the unity of God with his people whom he had taken into covenant with himself. (2) The unleavened bread ranks next in importance to the paschal lamb. We are warranted in concluding that unleavened bread had a peculiar sacrificial character, according to the law. It seems more reasonable to accept St, Pauls reference to the subject, ( 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 ) as furnishing the true meaning of the symbol. Fermentation is decomposition, a dissolution of unity. The pure dry biscuit would be an apt emblem of unchanged duration, and, in its freedom from foreign mixture, of purity also. (3) The offering of the omer or first sheaf of the harvest, ( Leviticus 23:10-14 ) signified deliverance from winter the bondage of Egypt being well considered as a winter in the history of the nation. (4) The consecration of the first-fruits, the firstborn of the soil, is an easy type of the consecration of the first born of the Israelites, and of our own best selves, to God. Further than this (1) the Passover is a type of deliverance from the slavery of sin. (2) It is the passing over of the doom we deserve for your sins, because the blood of Christ has been applied to us by faith. (3) The sprinkling of the blood upon the door-posts was a symbol of open confession of our allegiance and love. (4) The Passover was useless unless eaten so we live upon the Lord Jesus Christ. (5) It was eaten with bitter herbs, as we must eat our passover with the bitter herbs of repentance and confession, which yet, like the bitter herbs of the Passover, are a fitting and natural accompaniment. (6) As the Israelites ate the Passover all prepared for the journey, so do we with a readiness and desire to enter the active service of Christ, and to go on the journey toward heaven. --ED.) [N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Passover,'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.

pas'-o-ver (pecach, from pacach, "to pass" or "spring over" or "to spare" (Exodus 12:13,23,17 compare Isaiah 31:5. Other conjectures connect the word with the "passing over" into a new year, with assyr pasahu, meaning "to placate," with Hebrew pacah, meaning "to dance," and even with the skipping motions of a young lamb Aramaic [

paccha', whence Greek Pascha whence English "paschal." In early Christian centuries folk-etymology connected pascha with Greek pascho, "to suffer" (see PASSION), and the word was taken to refer to Good Friday rather than the Passover):


PASSOVER AND THE FOUR CUPS

Trying to fully grasp the modern Passover can be an intimidating task to any believer who has not experienced the unique perspective of a Jewish upbringing. Although of Jewish heritage on my father’s side, like many “Samaritans”, I was raised in a church-going home. I had no inkling of what it was like to be brought up Jewish. My father’s experience with the synagogue didn’t extend beyond his childhood. A few years after my salvation as a teenager, I headed off to Bible College in order to prepare for the ministry the Lord had called me to. By the spring of my junior year, I had become part of a small group of students who were interested in Jewish ministry. Then came the question. “Hey, you’ve got a Jewish background, right? Could you lead us in a Passover Seder?”

“You’re kidding, right?” was my thought.

Sure enough, no one was kidding. Like any young preacher-boy, I whole-heartedly stepped up to the plate (although I had no idea what I was doing). One of the students gave me a Haggadah (literally “showing forth”) that shows the Passover from a Jewish–Christian perspective. This small booklet was the order of service for the Passover Seder.

Upon returning to my dorm room, with a very small window of time with which to acquaint myself with this ancient Jewish feast, I began thumbing through the Haggadah like a student “cramming” for finals. My pace soon slowed as I began to discover the deep meanings behind this incredible night. One of the greatest discoveries I made that day, was that of the meaning of the four cups of wine.

During the Seder, the cup of each participant is filled, and drank four separate times. I found that each of these cups, with their own order, blessing, and name, symbolize a part of God’s four-fold promise of redemption found in Exodus 6:6, 7.

“Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.Emphasis added

The tradition of the four cups of wine were not in place when the Hebrew slaves experienced the first Passover, but it was definitely practiced by the first century.

After the lighting of the candles and the blessing that corresponds, the command to keep the Passover is read from Exodus 12 – then comes the first cup, the cup of sanctification. Ask most Bible-believing Christians what sanctification means, and you will likely receive a response along the lines of “being made holy” or “set-aside.” That would also be true of this cup. The cup does not make us holy, or separate, but rather, it sets aside this night as special. It characterizes this night as different from all other nights of the year. None of the meanings of these cups should be derived apart from the main event of the first Passover – the slaying of the lamb, and the spreading of his blood on the doorposts to stay the Lord’s hand from taking the life of the first-born within that house. That was a very special night – as was the night in which our Lord was betrayed. In that same night, He and His disciples celebrated this historic event. It was set apart. As the promise stated, “I will bring you out”. God would separate His people from the Egyptians through the Passover. The Lord sanctifies those who know Him as Lord and Savior from those who do not.As Hebrews states, “…we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” 1

The second cup comes much later in the Seder. It is known as the cup of Praise, or Hallel. It can be found just after the reading of Psalms 113 and 114 in what is known as the Hallel. The participants are encouraged to praise the Lord for what he has done through the Passover. This cup corresponds to the phrase “I will rid you out of their bondage.” 2 One may ask, “Isn’t that the same thing as bringing you out from under their burdens?”

Well, no. The Lord wouldn’t have said it the way that He did, if it was supposed to mean the exact same thing as the first promise. It is similar, but carries with it an amazing truth. The first promise was to be brought out from under their burdens. You and I were born sinners. Through our life we carried a burden, a load of sin with its guilt and consequences on our shoulders. Through salvation, the Lord has brought us out from under that load – but that’s not all He did. Are we in bondage anymore? No!

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” 3

That is the point of this second cup, and our reason to praise Him! We are not simply out from under the burden of sin, but He has rid us of its bondage! Praise the Lord!

Following the meal, and the breaking of bread (which is referred to as the Afikomen), the third cup is poured. What is special about this cup? If one would search the Gospel account of the Lord’s Supper, they would find that the Afikomen was signified by Jesus to symbolize His body, the wine of this, the third cup, His blood. This is the cup of Redemption.

This cup in its origin was based upon the phrase from Exodus 6, “I will redeem you.” As we read in the above mentioned Galatians passage, the primary role of the Messiah was to redeem. God told Moses to tell the Children of Israel, “וְגָאַלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם” (and I will redeem you). The Hebrew verb ga’al “to redeem” literally means to reclaim as one’s own. 4 The Lord was reclaiming ownership of His people from Pharaoh and the Egyptian taskmasters. He brought them out of slavery through the Passover.

Mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike, are in bondage and are under a curse. That curse holds a tighter grip on humanity than Pharaoh and his armies ever could. It is the curse of sin, of imperfection, of falling short of God’s standard of holiness. The Law, although perfect and good, only amplified this imperfection. Like a powerful microscope to cancerous tissue, the Law pinpoints our problem. We need redemption.

When Jesus raised that third cup, He said “Drink ye all of it for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” 5

With that statement Jesus made an incredible connection between an event that took place 1,400 years before His birth and a prophecy that was penned 600 years before. The event was the Passover. The prophecy was from Jeremiah.

“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 which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 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 31:31-34emphasis added

When Jesus made that statement in the upper room, He equated His own blood with that of the Paschal lamb. It was His blood that would make possible all of the promises of Jeremiah 31. The average Christian may read Jesus’ statement from Matthew 26, and conclude that this was simply the institution of the Lord’s Supper as a memorial. It was certainly that, but so much more! This was the culmination and connection of centuries of tradition, prophecy, and hope. This was redemption, and it all centered around the third cup.

There remains yet one last cup in the Passover Seder, the cup of Acceptance. The phrase that this cup is based on “I will take you to me for a people,” 6 interestingly parallels a phrase from the New Covenant prophecy in Jeremiah “(I)will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 7 Although the literal fulfillment of this exact prophecy in its context leads us to Zechariah 12:10 and 13:9, where Israel sees Jesus at His second coming, and accepts Him as their Messiah, one cannot deny the fact that believers are now “accepted in the beloved.” 8 Nor can we ignore the passage in which Peter stated that “ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.” 9 This cup is quite possibly the cup Jesus referred to when he told His disciples that He would not drink of it until He was with them again in His Father’s kingdom. 10

As nervous as I may have been in leading the first Seder I had ever been to, I was greatly calmed by the incredible truths that I found in my study of the four cups. Everything went as it was supposed to, and I was greatly blessed by the rich connections between the first Passover in Egypt, and the Passover celebrated by our Savior the very night He was arrested, to shortly thereafter shed His own blood as our Passover. May Passover, with Christ as THE Passover Lamb, also be your blessing!

4 William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Kohler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 52.


Jewish (Hebrew) Calendar - Origin And History

The Jewish calendar - also known as the Hebrew calendar - and its history is described on this web page. The Jewish calendar - including the Hebrew months and the Jewish calendrical system of calculating dates - traces its origins to the Babylonian calendar. Regarding Jewish calendar month names, with some rare exceptions, the Hebrew Bible does not mention any months by name instead it mentions the month by number which is the reason for the "Month Number" column. The months of Cheshvan and Kislev are determined by calculations that depend on which day of the week that the first day of the month of Tishri (or Tishrei) would occur in the following year and on what time of day when the full moon would occur in the month of Tishri in the following year.

Note: Regarding all dates on this Jewish calendar / Hebrew calendar web page, see the footnote near the bottom of this web page.

Why is the Jewish Calendar a Lunisolar Calendar? (Lunisolar = follows the cycle of the moon I.E. lunar, and sun I.E. solar)

The Hebrews needed an understanding of astronomy in order to fix the dates of the festivals. The biblical commandment in the Hebrew Bible to "Keep the month of Aviv" or "Keep the month of Abib" (Devarim or Deuteronomy 16:1) made it necessary to know the position of the sun. In addition, the biblical commandment to "Also observe the moon and sanctify it" (Shemot or Exodus 12:1-2), also made it necessary to know the phases of the moon, hence the need for a lunisolar calendar.

Who originally obtained the exclusive authority to fix the date for Jewish festivals prior to the establishment of the Jewish calendar?

Before the establishment of a Jewish calendar, the identification and designation of Rosh Hodesh ("new moon" in Hebrew) for a given month was critical in fixing the dates for Jewish festivals for that month. The Jewish high court in Judea, known as the Sanhedrin, based in Jerusalem during Temple times, retained its centralized and exclusive authority for fixing the date of Rosh Hodesh as well as for adding an extra month when it deemed necessary, based on the condition of crops at the end of the 12th month. The Sanhedrin based its authority on the fact that if it didn't have the exclusive authority to fix new moon dates, then different Jewish communities would potentially celebrate festivals on different days.

When Does A Jewish Day Begin And End In The Jewish Calendar?

The Jewish day in the Jewish calendar begins at sundown and ends at nightfall on the following day. By extension, the Jewish Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday and ends with the appearance of three stars of the second magnitude on Saturday evening, which is estimated to occur when the sun is seven degrees below the horizon. This rule of seeing three stars also applies to all holy days, and the Talmud bases its support of this rule on the biblical Creation story where at the end of each day, the Hebrew Bible states: "And it was evening and it was morning", in that order (Examples are: Bereshit or Genesis 1:5, 1:8, and 1:13). An exception to this rule is found in rabbinic law, where it states that one can usher in the holy day before the onset of sundown since one can always "add from the secular to the holy" (the secular in this case being a non-holy day).

When Does The Jewish Year Begin?

In Judaism, that depends on the "new year" you are talking about! Say what? Yes, there are four - count'em four "new years"! What're you talking about, you might be saying? (Let's assume you are). Well, in Judaism, the "new year" begins on different dates for different purposes in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar. What is the source for what you are saying, you might be asking? (again, I'm assuming you might be asking that) The source stating that there are four "new years" is Tractate Rosh Hashanah in the Mishnah of the Talmud (Mishnah Rosh Ha-Shanah 1:1 or in other words, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1) which states that there are four new years: (1) 1st day of Nissan or Nisan = The New Year For Kings, Festivals, and Months, this is the date when a king's reign begins, this is also the date for the beginning of the year for the religious calendar described in the Mishnah of the Talmud as the "regalim", meaning the three "pilgrimage festivals" in Hebrew (Pesach/Passover, Shavuot/Shavuoth/Shavuos, and Sukkot/Sukkoth/Succos), since the year's cycle of festivals begins with the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Pesach/Passover. The festivals were said to have started with the first festival after the first of Nisan, which is Pesach/Passover on the 15th day of Nissan or Nisan. If someone promised to bring a sacrifice or an object to the Temple in Jerusalem within the year, the year was calculated from Pesach/Passover to Pesach/Passover. Only after the three festivals had passed in the order Pesach/Passover, Shavuot/Shavuoth/Shavuos, and Sukkot/Sukkoth/Succos, could the individual be held culpable of withholding the sacrifice or the donation and be punished. This was the case even if the promise was made any time after Pesach/Passover. The punishment was only effected after the three festivals had passed, starting with Pesach/Passover. The 1st day of Nissan or Nisan is also the date for the first month of the Hebrew/Jewish calendar, in other words, months in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar are numbered beginning with the month of Nissan or Nisan as explicitly stated in the Torah of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, in the Book of Shemot, otherwise known as the Book of Exodus (Shemot 12:1-2 or Exodus 12:1-2) where it says about the month of Nissan or Nisan: "Hashem (G-d) said to Moshe and Aharon in the Land of Egypt, 'This month shall be for you the beginning of the months it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.'" (Shemot 12:1-2 or Exodus 12:1-2). In fact, the title "First of the Months" ("Rosh Hodashim" in Hebrew) is reserved in the Torah for the month of Nissan (Shemot 12:2 or Exodus 12:2). Why is Nissan or Nisan the first month in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar? It is because of the momentous transformation, from slavery to physical liberation, of B'nei Yisrael I.E. the Hebrews, after the Exodus from Egypt, that Nissan or Nisan is also referred to as the first month as told in Shemot 12:2 or Exodus 12:2 . In fact, according to the "Ramban", the acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman Gerondi, also known as "Nahmanides" (1194 - circa 1270, born in Girona, Catalonia, died in Israel, who was a Catalan rabbi, philosopher, Kabbalist and biblical commentator), in his commentary to the Torah or Five Books of Moses, he explains the meaning of the verses of Shemot 12:1-2 or Exodus 12:1-2 as follows:

"The verses mean that this month should be counted first. And beginning with it, should the count proceed to the second, the third, and so on, till the end of the sequence of months with the twelfth month. For the purpose that this month should be a commemoration of the Great Miracle (I.E. Exodus from Egypt). For every time we mention the months, the Miracle will be alluded to. It is for that reason that the months do not have names in the Torah, but rather they are identified by number. "

"And it is similar to the way that days are referenced with reference to the Day of Shabbat (Sabbath) for example, the First Day of Shabbat (for Sunday), and the Second Day of Shabbat (for Monday), as I will explain in the future. Thus, when we call the Month of Nisan (or Nissan) "the first" and Tishrei (or Tishri) "the seventh," the meaning is the first with reference to the Redemption (I.E. Exodus from Egypt) and the seventh with reference to it. ".

Based on the above explanation from the Ramban, all months in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar are stated with reference to the Exodus from Egypt that occurred in the month of month of Nissan or Nisan, for instance, the month of Iyar or Iyyar is the "second" month with reference to the Exodus from Egypt that occurred in Nissan or Nisan, the month of Sivan is the "third" month with reference to the Exodus from Egypt, and so on (2) 1st day of Elul = New Year For Tithing Animals or New Year For The Herds, a day for bringing tithes from one's flock and herd for the Levites ("Levi'im" or "Leviim" in Hebrew) and the Priesthood ("Kohanim" in Hebrew), whose dedication to holy service prevented them from working on the land like the other Hebrew tribes (3) 1st day of Tishri or Tishrei = New Year For Years (I.E. this is the date for when Creation occurred in Jewish tradition, that is, the creation of the world and of Adam and hence is the date for when the year number changes in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar), that is, just as the 1st day of Nissan or Nisan is the date from when months are counted in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar, the 1st day of Tishri or Tishrei is the date from when the years are counted in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar [the creation of the universe, the sun, and the moon occurred 6 days earlier on the 25th day of Elul 1 BC, with "BC" in this context meaning "Before Creation"], this is also the date for calculating the release year (I.E. the "Shemittah" or "Shemitta" year, which means "Sabbatical" year, which is every 7th year in the 49-year cycle that governed the Kingdom of Israel (10th century B.C.E. to 8th century B.C.E.) and Kingdom of Judah (10th century B.C.E. to 6th century B.C.E.) in biblical times I.E. the 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, 35th, 42nd, and 49th years), and the date for calculating the Jubilee year (a Jubilee year or "Yovel" year in Hebrew is the year after the 49-year cycle that governed the Kingdom of Israel and Kingdom of Judah in biblical times I.E. the 50th year), this is also the date for plantation, the 1st day of Tishrei or Tishri was also the date that determined the beginning of the year when it came to the three years that a tree must be left ungleaned (Vayikra 19:23 or Leviticus 19:23), and the 1st day of Tishrei or Tishri was also the date for (the tithe of) crops I.E. vegetables for the Levites ("Levi'im" or "Leviim" in Hebrew) and the Priesthood ("Kohanim" in Hebrew), whose dedication to holy service prevented them from working on the land like the other Hebrew tribes and (4) 1st day of Shevat (according to Rabbi Shammai) or the 15th day of Shevat (according to Rabbi Hillel by whose ruling Jewish people abide) = The New Year For Trees, when tithes from the fruit of trees must be brought for the Levites ("Levi'im" or "Leviim" in Hebrew) and the Priesthood ("Kohanim" in Hebrew), whose dedication to holy service prevented them from working on the land like the other Hebrew tribes.

Since there were originally four new years, at what point did the Jewish people begin to celebrate only two of those new years, which has since been the case up to this day? Since the time of the exile of most of the Jews who lived in the Kingdom of Judah by the conquering Babylonians in either 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. (secular scholarly dates Jewish religious scholars state that the exile occurred in either 423 B.C.E., 422 B.C.E., 421 B.C.E., or 420 B.C.E.), both the New Year For Kings and Festivals on the 1st day of Nissan or Nisan and the New Year For Tithing Animals or New Year For The Herds on the 1st day of Elul were discontinued, leaving only the New Year For Years, for plantation and for (the tithe of) crops I.E. vegetables, for calculating Sabbatical and Jubilee years on the 1st day of Tishrei or Tishri, and the New Year For Trees on the 15th day of Shevat as the remaining two new years that are still commemorated by the Jewish people.

The Hebrew/Jewish calendar has a relationship both to natural phenomenon and an inherent connection to the agricultural seasons of Eretz Yisrael ("Land of Israel" in Hebrew) as evidenced by the Torah's reference to the timing of the Pesach/Passover festival in Deuteronomy 16:1 which states that the Hebrews should "Observe the month of the Spring". From this, it is also possible to interpret the reference to the "Tree" in its seasonal context. Tu Bi-Shevat, which is the "The New Year for Trees" in Hebrew, appears in the Second Temple period as the date for calculating the agricultural year in Jewish time. In the Torah, Numbers Chapter 18, the People of Israel are commanded to deduct a tithe of their agricultural produce for the Levites and the Priesthood whose dedication to holy service prevented them from working on the land like the other Hebrew tribes. This is how the rabbinical authors of the Mishnah of the Talmud decided what would be done with agricultural produce and to which year it belonged that is to say, to the outgoing year or to the new year. The Mishnah refers to the "animal tithing", "planting" and "vegetables" to be tithed by the landowner.

When does the month of Nissan or Nisan occur in the Gregorian calendar? According to the original, purely lunar calendar of the Hebrews, when only the cycle of the moon was followed I.E. the lunar cycle or moon cycle (as opposed to the solar cycle which follows the cycle of the sun), twelve lunar months would add up to about 354 days while the solar year is about 365 days. Therefore, the month of Nissan or Nisan in the 354-day Hebrew/Jewish lunar calendar would have "drifted" backwards in the purely solar 365-day Gregorian calendar (or previous to the Gregorian calendar which came out in 1582, the Julian calendar). To minimize this "drift" and keep it balanced with the Gregorian calendar, according to a popular tradition, Hillel II in 358 C.E. or 359 C.E. developed a 19-year cycle lunisolar calendrical system (the word "lunisolar" combines the words "lunar" and "solar" since this new calendrical system used both the cycle of the moon and the cycle of the sun in its calculations) which added an extra month - called Adar II - every 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th year of the cycle, beginning at the epoch of the modern Jewish calendar. Hillel's calendar would prevent the month of Nissan or Nisan from constantly "drifting" back, first in the Julian calendar and later on after 1582 in the Gregorian calendar, and keep the month of Nissan or Nissan balanced, first in the Julian calendar, and after 1582, in the Gregorian calendar, by having the month of Nissan or Nisan occurring in either in March or April, first in the Julian calendar, and after 1582, in the Gregorian calendar. The current 19-year cycle began at the start of the Jewish year of 5758 (1 Tishri 5758), which corresponds to the Gregorian date of October 2, 1997.

Originally, the Civil New Year occurred on the 1st of Nissan or Nisan, when the reign of kings was dated beginning on the 1st day of Nissan or Nisan. Later on, after the exile of most of the Jews who lived in the Kingdom of Judah to Babylonia by the conquering Babylonians in either 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. (these are the secular scholarly dates religious scholarly dates state that this event occurred in either 423 B.C.E., 422 B.C.E., 421 B.C.E. or 420 B.C.E.), the practise of observing the New Year For Kings and Festivals on the 1st day of Nissan or Nisan was ended and the Civil New Year was changed from the 1st day of Nissan or Nisan to the 1st day of Tishrei (or Tishri), that is, on Rosh Hashanah. The Civil New Year is known as the "head of the year" or "Rosh Ha-Shanah" in Hebrew when the Jewish year number increases and this occurs in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, the Hebrew month of Tishri (or Tishrei), which occurs in either in September or October in the Gregorian calendar. Note that although Hillel II is reputed by tradition to have developed the modern Hebrew calendar, no mention of this exists in the Talmud, which itself was completed around 500 C.E. Hai Gaon (969-1038), the head of the Pumbeditia, Babylonia Jewish academy of learning in the 11th century was the first person to mention that Hillel had formed the modern Hebrew calendar. In addition, it is impossible to apply modern Jewish calendrical rules to post-Talmudic dates (beyond 500 C.E.). Instead, based on the evidence, it is now widely believed that the arithmetic rules for calculating dates in the modern Jewish calendar were developed in the 7th to 8th centuries in Babylonia by the heads of the Jewish academies of learning, known as the Geonim. Based on the account of the Muslim astronomer al-Khwarizmi, it is also believed that most of the modern arithmetic rules were in place by about 820 C.E. However, the epoch (the start of Year 1 of the Common Era), was placed one year ahead compared with the epoch year in the modern Hebrew calendar. In 921 C.E. or 922 C.E., a person named Aaron ben Meir tried to bring the authority for the Jewish calendar to Israel from Babylonia by asserting an arithmetic argument in favor of Israel being the center for the Jewish calendar which would have resulted in the authority of the Jewish calendar being moved to Israel. However, the Babylonian Jewish academic leader Sa'adiah Gaon opposed him based on his version of the calendrical rules for the modern Jewish calendar and finally, all Jewish communities ignored his opinion. This controversy proved that the rules for the modern Jewish calendar were in place by 921 C.E. or 922 C.E., except for the rules for calculating the year. Finally, in 1178 C.E., Maimonides described in full all of the rules for the modern Jewish calendar, including the rules for determining the modern epochal year.

What is the epochal year in the modern Jewish calendar? The epoch of the modern Hebrew calendar is 1 Tishri AM 1 (AM = anno mundi = in the year of the world), which in the proleptic Julian calendar is Monday, October 7, 3761 B.C.E., the equivalent tabular date (same daylight period). This date is about one year before the traditional Jewish date of Creation on 25 Elul AM 1. A minority place Creation on 25 Adar AM 1, six months earlier, or six months after the modern epoch. Thus, adding 3760 to any Julian/Gregorian year number after 1178 will yield the Hebrew year number beginning in autumn (add 3759 for that ending in autumn). Due to the slow drift of the Jewish calendar relative to the Gregorian calendar, this will be true for about another 20,000 years.

Why are there 29 or 30 days in a month? Since the Jewish calendar is primarily a lunar calendar, the arrival of the new month ("Rosh Hodesh" in Hebrew) is determined by the appearance of the new moon. This is the time when the moon's position in the sky passes that of the Sun. Soon after the moon passes the Sun, one begins to see a sliver or thin crescent of the moon in the sky just after sunset. Although it takes a little over 27 days for the moon to circle the Earth, the Sun also changes its position as well - it takes one year for the Sun to circle the sky. This creates a situation where the moon is "chasing" the Sun from the Earth's viewpoint, and it takes the moon an extra 2 days to catch up with the Sun. Adding the 2 days onto the 27 days means that it takes 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and a fraction to go from one new moon to the next new moon. This means that each Jewish month alternates between 29 and 30 days, for instance, the month of Adar I can be 30 days, followed by Adar II which will be 29 days, followed by Nissan being 30 days, then Iyar being 29 days, then Sivan being 30 days and so on, except that the months of Cheshvan and Kislev have to be adjusted through complex calculations because of the extra 44-plus minutes and for other additional adjustments. There are Hebrew calendar software programs that perform these calculations in order to determine when a new month will begin.

Here's the Jewish calendar or Hebrew calendar:

Name of Month Month Number Length of Month Gregorian Equivalent
Nissan 1 30 days March-April
Iyar 2 29 days April-May
Sivan 3 30 days May-June
Tammuz 4 29 days June-July
Av 5 30 days July-August
Elul 6 29 days August-September
Tishrei 7 30 days September-October
Cheshvan 8 29 or 30 days October-November
Kislev 9 29 or 30 days November-December
Tevet 10 29 days December-January
Shevat 11 30 days January-February
Adar 12 29 or 30 days (30 in leap year) February-March
Adar II 13 29 days March-April

Notice that the days are fixed from the first month of Nissan to the seventh month of Tishri? Here is an interesting fact: from the first major Jewish holiday to the final major Jewish holiday in the Hebrew calendar the number of days are the same, meaning that the time from Passover in the month of Nissan - the first major Jewish holiday - to the final major Jewish holiday - the festival of Sukkot in the month of Tishri - is always the same, regardless of calendar calculations based on the moon.

According to the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, there was a civil Hebrew calendar from Genesis 1:1 (Creation) until Exodus 12:1. In Exodus 12:2, G-d said to Moses that because of the Passover event, the month that Passover occurred shall be the "head month", or first month of the Hebrew calendar, so since Passover occurred in the Springtime, the month name that was later assigned by Ezra and identified with the Passover event was the month of Nissan.

Here is a table comparing the Hebrew/Jewish civil calendar and civil month number with the Hebrew/Jewish religious calendar and religious month number, respectively:

Civil Calendar Month Number Religious Calendar Month Number
Tishri 1 Nisan or Nissan
(Aviv = "Spring" in Hebrew)
1
Heshvan or Cheshvan 2 Iyar 2
Kislev 3 Sivan 3
Tevet 4 Tammuz 4
Shevat 5 Av 5
Adar 6 Elul 6
Nisan or Nissan (Aviv) 7 Tishrei 7
Iyar 8 Heshvan or Cheshvan 8
Sivan 9 Kislev 9
Tammuz 10 Tevet 10
Av 11 Shevat 11
Elul 12 Adar 12

Who chose the names of the Hebrew months? Following his return from exile in Babylonia, Ezra chose the names of the Hebrew months. As mentioned, with rare exceptions, the Hebrew Bible does not refer to months by name, it only refers to months by number such as "the first month", "the eighth month", and so on. Ezra chose the Hebrew month names from the names of the months in the Babylonian calendar in Babylonia where Ezra and many other Jews had been exiled following the Babylonian conquest of the Kingdom of Judah in 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. After the Persians conquered the Chaldeans who ruled Babylonia in 539 B.C.E. (alternate date claims: 538 B.C.E., 537 B.C.E., and 536 B.C.E.), King Cyrus the Great of Persia allowed Ezra, Nehemiah and the other exiled Hebrews to return to Jerusalem where Ezra established the names of the Hebrew months. While in Babylonia, the exiled Jews spoke Aramaic, the language of Babylonia and a sister language of Hebrew, and so they chose the Babylonian month names based on their understanding and familiarity with that calendar.

Here are the names of the months in the Babylonian calendar, starting from the first to the final month, followed by the Hebrew month equivalent, and the order of the Hebrew months. Notice that the Babylonian month of Shabatu comes before Tebetu, whereas in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar, Tevet comes first, then Shevat:

Babylonian Month Name Month Number Hebrew Month Name Month Number
Nisanu 1 Nissan 1
Ayaru 2 Iyar 2
Simanu 3 Sivan 3
Du'uzu 4 Tammuz 4
Abu 5 Av 5
Ululu 6 Elul 6
Tashritu 7 Tishrei 7
Arach-Samna 8 Cheshvan 8
Kislimu 9 Kislev 9
Shabatu 10 Shevat 11
Tebetu 11 Tevet 10
Adaru 12 Adar 12

The names of the Babylonian months come from the Akkadian language, a Semitic language which originated in the city of Akkad, in northern Babylonia. Akkadian was spoken in Babylonia before the 10th century B.C.E. By the late 10th century - early 9th century B.C.E., Aramaic replaced both Akkadian and Hebrew as the spoken language in Babylonia. By about 600 B.C.E., Babylonian astronomers had identified the ecliptic, meaning the sun's apparent course around the earth, and they divided this course into 12 parts (meaning they divided this course up into 12 months), each named for a constellation in which the sun rose during that period. The sun determined the length of the year by its passage through the 12 parts, with the moon passing through all of them in 29 1/2 days. Our horoscope is a direct descendant of the Babylonian system of calculation since the day, which was a 24-hour period, was broken up into 12 segments, the 12 segments into periods of 30-degree segments each, and those, in turn, broken down into 60 minutes and finally further divided into 60 seconds. The Babylonian astronomers based their division of the ecliptic course of the sun around the earth into 12 parts and the day into two sets of 12 hours, one set of 12 hours for the day, and the other set of 12 hours for the night on their base 60 I.E. "sexagesimal" counting system in which the number 12 is divisible into the number 60. The Babylonian year began at the first New Moon (actually the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox. Later on, the Greeks adopted this method of dividing up the heavens and time, calling this set of 12 calendrical constellations, the zodiac ("zodion" means "animal figure" in Greek). The beginning of the Babylonian month in the Babylonian calendar was determined by the direct observation by priests of the young crescent moon low on the western horizon at sunset after the astronomical New Moon. This custom is remembered in Judaism and Islam with the principle that the new calendar day begins at sunset.

The practice of sighting the first visible crescent of the first New Moon after the Vernal Equinox resulted in the Babylonian calendar running out of step with the solar calendar. In order to keep the Babylonian calendar aligned with the solar calendar, extra months had to be added, so the king of Babylonia originally chose which month had to be added and when it had to added, but this only served to add greater confusion to the calendar. After Babylon was captured by the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C.E. (alternate date claims: 538 B.C.E., 537 B.C.E., and 536 B.C.E.), priestly officials took over from the Babylonian astronomers. The priestly officials now started to look for a standard procedure for the addition or intercalation of months. It was introduced in 503 B.C.E. by Darius I the Great (if not earlier) and contained 7 leap years in a 19-year calendrical cycle. An extra month called "Addaru II" was added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, and 19th years of a 19-year calendrical cycle. This accounted for 6 leap years. The 7th leap year contained an extra month in the 17th year of the 19-year cycle called "Ululu II", and its length was 29 days. By doing this, the cycle came out even with the solar calendar year, and the first day of the month of Nisanu - New Year's Day in the calendar - was never far off from the Vernal Equinox (the first day of Spring), resulting in the civil calendar and the seasons never being out of step.

After it was discovered (or perhaps borrowed from the Babylonians and Persians and developed) by the Greek mathematician, astronomer, and engineer Meton of Athens in 432 B.C.E. who worked closely with another Greek astronomer, Euctemon, that 235 lunar months are almost identical to 19 solar years (the difference is only 2 hours), a lunisolar calendrical system of adding months to a lunar calendar to align it with the solar calendar based on this discovery was created and called the "Metonic Cycle". From the Metonic Cycle, priestly officials in Persia gradually developed astronomical rules over time so that a 19-year calendrical cycle was established in the 4th century B.C.E. in Persia for the purposes of aligning the months of the Babylonian lunar calendar (about 354 days) with the solar calendar year (about 365 days). The Persian priestly officials concluded that seven out of nineteen years should be leap years containing an extra month. The king still announced that an extra month had to be added, but now he based his announcement on the advice of a priestly official/astronomer.

The Babylonians actually had two calendars: a lunar calendar which was used for religious purposes and a solar calendar which was used for astronomical purposes. Both calendars utilized a 12-month system, and the Babylonian day began at sunset. As mentioned, the Jewish calendar and Islamic calendar also followed suit, beginning their day at sunset and also adhering to the Metonic Cycle established by Meton of Athens.

The week is a cycle that is purely artificial: it is not based on natural planetary movements or changes in the environment, as is the yearly cycle. The week is purely based on mathematical logic: the cycle of the week repeats itself indefinitely. The week is not attuned to the other divisions of time rather, it intersects with other divisions of time. An example of this is that the 365-day year has 12 full months but not a full number of weeks instead, the 365-day year has 52 weeks plus another day or two. Many reasons exist as to the origin of this rhythm of 52 groups (usually of 7) among different peoples in the case of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there were religious motives. Other cultures based the system of 52 weeks on economic reasons, divinatory cycles, and even the operation of a market economy. The 7-day week originated in Mesopotamia, perhaps going as far back as the 15th century B.C.E. The Babylonian astronomers named the seven days of the week for the sun, moon, and five planets that were known to them.

Besides the different order of the months in the Babylonian and Hebrew calendars, one can see from the previous chart that the Babylonians seemed fond of the letter "u" in their month names. Other differences include the three Babylonian months containing the letter "m" were replaced by the Hebrews with the letter "v" (or "w"), the Babylonian month name of Du'uzu was replaced with the month name of Tammuz, and the Babylonian month of Arach-samna was replaced with the month name of Marcheshvan, and this month name was eventually shortened to Cheshvan.

The Jewish people were the first people to organize their life around the weekly cycle. They justified the seven day week on the basis of the verse from the Book of Genesis, where it is stated that G-d created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested. While in captivity in Babylonia, the Jews began a strict observance of Shabbat, or the Sabbath, which is the period of rest on the seventh day. Since the exiled Jews in Babylonia were unable to pray in their Temple in Jerusalem, it having been destroyed by the Babylonians when they conquered the Kingdom of Judah in 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E., and deporting most of the Jews to Babylonia, the Jews created in time what they lost in space: giving the seventh day of the week (Saturday) to G-d in the form of Shabbat, or the Sabbath. In fact, Shabbat is so holy to the Jewish people that in the Jewish calendar, the days are designated by their position in relation to Shabbat I.E. the sixth day before Shabbat, the fifth day before Shabbat, and so on. Exodus 20:8-11 reflects how the week is deeply embedded in Biblical tradition. The "day of rest", the seventh day, is in fact part of the 10 Commandments: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the L-rd thy G-d in it thou shalt not do any work. For in six days the L-rd made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day: wherefore the L-rd blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:8-11).

Here is a chart outlining the Hebrew name for the days of the week, its Gregorian calendar equivalent, and the meaning of each Hebrew name for the days of the week. As mentioned, the Hebrew names for the first six days of the week remind us that the spiritual goal of the week is the day of unity and wholeness - Shabbat or the Sabbath. Each day of the week reminds us that we are preparing for the "peace" - the "shalom" in Hebrew - meaning unity and wholeness - of Shabbat or the Sabbath:

Hebrew Name For The Days Of The Week Gregorian Name For The Days Of The Week Meaning of Hebrew Day Name
Yom Rishon B'Shabbat Sunday the first weekday of the approaching Shabbat
Yom Sheini B'Shabbat Monday the second weekday of the approaching Shabbat
Yom Sh'lishi B'Shabbat Tuesday the third weekday of the approaching Shabbat
Yom Revi'i B'Shabbat Wednesday the fourth weekday of the approaching Shabbat
Yom Chamishi B'Shabbat Thursday the fifth weekday of the approaching Shabbat
Yom Shishi B'Shabbat Friday the sixth weekday of the approaching Shabbat
Shabbat Saturday Sabbath

The Hebrew calendar has had three forms: (1) Biblical times: the first form, dating from the time before the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. by the Romans, was a calendar based on observations (2) Talmudic times: the second form, in effect during the Talmudic period (about 10 B.C.E. to about 500 C.E.), was based on observations and calculations and (3) Post-Talmudic times: the third form, was based solely on calculations that defined rules for a calendar initially described in full by Moses Maimonides in 1178 C.E. From 70 C.E. to 1178 C.E, there was a gradual transition from the second to the third form, with more and more calendrical rules being adopted over that period. The rules that were developed attained their final form either before 921 C.E. or before 820 C.E. However, because the modern lunisolar Hebrew calendar had to add extra months to synchronize itself with the Christian solar calendar, starting with three consecutive years that were given extra months in the 2nd century C.E. according to the Talmud, the modern Hebrew calendar cannot be used for determining Biblical dates because new moon dates may be in error up to four days and months may be in error up to four months.

The Tanakh ("Hebrew Bible" in Hebrew) for the most part mentions the Hebrew months by number only. Exceptions are as follows: Nissan or Nisan is mentioned in Nehemiah 2:1 and Esther 3:7 Kislev is mentioned in the following verses: Zechariah 7:1 and Nehemiah 1:1 Elul is mentioned in Nehemiah 6:15 Tevet is mentioned in Esther 2:16 although its meaning is obscure Shevat is mentioned in Zechariah 1:7 Sivan is mentioned in Esther 8:9 and Adar/Adar II is mentioned in Ezra 6:15, as well as eight times in the Book of Esther (Esther 3:7, 3:13, 8:12, 9:1, 9:15, 9:17, 9:19, and 9:21). The word Tammuz is used once in the Hebrew Bible in Ezekiel 8:14. However, it is not used in the context of a month name, but as the name of an idol. Also, Joshua 15:3 mentions and describes the name and geographical location called "Adar" or "Addar" (meaning "high" in this context in Hebrew) that runs along the southern boundary of Judah. Another biblical reference to the name and geographical location of Adar or Addar - also known as "Hazar-addar" - is referenced in Numbers 34:4. In another context referenced in the Hebrew Bible, "Adar" or "Addar" - meaning "mighty one" in Hebrew in this context, is a male, who is the son of Bela (1 Chronicles 8:3), and who is also known as "Ard" (Numbers 26:40).

In Pre-Exilic times (meaning prior to 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E., before the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah), the names of four months are mentioned: Aviv or Abib (first), Ziv (second), Eisanim or Ethanim (seventh), and Bul (eighth). However, these four names are actually derived from the Canaanites and at least two of these names are Phoenician names. All four references to these month names are mentioned in the account of Solomon's relation with the Phoenicians and their assistance with the construction of the First Temple (1 Kings 6:1, 6:37, 6:38 8:2). In fact, in 3 of the 4 instances in which they appear, the Biblical text goes out of its way to translate them into Torah month names with the formula: "in the month [Foreign name], which is the [Torah name] month." Thus we read, "in the month Ziv, which is the second month", "in the month Eisanim (or Ethanim), which is the seventh month", "in the month Bul, which is the eighth month". Each of the other foreign-named months that would have had their Hebrew month mentioned in the form of a numerical equivalent according to the aforementioned formula were simply not recorded in the Hebrew Bible (unless you believe in Torah codes and the like, then perhaps they can be discovered via that route!). Furthermore, in the Hebrew Bible, there are descriptive names for each of the four Pre-Exilic months mentioned that reference historical meanings for each of the four respective Pre-Exilic months: Nissan is called the month of Aviv or Abib: "Spring" (Exodus 13:4, 23:15, 34:18 Deuteronomy 16:1) Iyyar is called the month of Ziv: "Radiance" (I Kings 6:1, 6:37) Tishri is called the month of "Eisanim" or "Ethanim": "Natural Forces" (I Kings 8:2), and Cheshivan or Heshivan is called the month of the "Bul": in reference to the bountiful harvests associated with the season (I Kings 6:38). The distinction between the four Pre-Exilic months and the current Post-Exilic Hebrew month names is that the latter were derived from Aramaic scribal practices for denoting Babylonian month names (Aramaic was the language of Babylonia when the exiled Jews were there) while the former were derived from Caananitic and Phoenician month names. When the Jews in the Kingdom of Judah were conquered by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. and mostly transported into Exile to Babylonia, while in Babylonia, they adopted Babylonian names for the months. The Babylonian calendar, in turn, was a direct descendant of the Sumerian calendar. However, not all Jews consistently adopted the Babylonian calendar from that point on. The Jewish sect known as the Essenes - the creators of the Dead Sea scrolls - had adopted a solar calendar for the final two centuries before the Common Era. This solar calendar may have been the 364-day solar calendar mentioned in the non-canonical books of Enoch and Jubilees. Intercalations (adding an extra month) would have had to be used to keep this solar calendar aligned with the 365 1/4-day standard solar calendar. In addition, the Samaritans and the Sadducees each had their own calendars. The Samaritan calendar fixes the first day of the month by the conjunction of the moon with the sun, not by the new moon, and their months are numbered, not named. Although the Samaritan calendar adds an extra month for leap years seven times in a 19-year cycle like the Jewish calendar, unlike the Jewish calendar, months are not added or intercalated at set intervals. Even the Jews of certain communities didn't always follow the calendrical rulings of rabbis. For instance, the Syrian Jews of Antioch from 328 C.E. to 342 C.E. always celebrated Pesach or Passover in March, regardless of rabbinical calendrical rulings in Israel. Within Israel itself, the Karaites followed Muslim practice and returned to observing and determining the date of the new moon. This practice continued among Karaites until the 11th century C.E., when a branch of the Karaites, the Crimean Karaites, decided to adopt mathematical rules for calculating their calendar, similar to what was done for the rabbinical calendar, and these calculations were to be a supplement, rather than a replacement, for the Karaite calendar, which again, was based on observations. The calendar of the Ethiopian-Jews, or Beta Israel, uses a lunisolar system, with a leap year every fourth year.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, when the Jews were permitted to return to Judea after the Persians conquered the Babylonians in 539 B.C.E. (alternate date claims: 538 B.C.E., 537 B.C.E., and 536 B.C.E.), they retained the Babylonian month names as a reminder of the redemption from Babylon, which resulted in the rebuilding of the Second Temple. The ancient Rabbis mention that the names of the months returned with us to the Land of Israel from Babylon (see: Jerusalem Talmud, Rosh Hashanah Chapter 1, halakhah 2). Prior to being deported to Babylon, for the most part, the Hebrew month names were each known by a number in relation to and in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt I.E. "the first month from Nissan" (the month of Nissan is when the Exodus occurred), the "second month from Nissan", and so on. But after returning from Babylon, and seeing that the scriptural saying came to pass from the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 16:14-15): "Assuredly, a time is coming - declares the Eternal - when it shall no more be said, 'As the Eternal lives who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt,' but rather, 'As the Eternal lives who brought the Israelites out of the northland, . ", the Jews switched to referring to the Hebrew months by their Babylonian names in order to remember that we were there and that Blessed G-d brought us up from there. With the switch to calling the Hebrew months by their Babylonian names rather than by a number in relation to the Exodus from Egypt (recalling the first redemption of the Hebrews), we are remembering the second redemption (or Exodus) of the Hebrews/Jews from Babylonia in this manner.

As mentioned earlier, according to a popular tradition, the current Hebrew calendar was established in 358 C.E. or 359 C.E. by Hillel II who was president of the Jewish court of the Sanhedrin, but many Jewish scholars now believe that the current Hebrew calendar was established by the Geonim of Babylonia in the 7th and 8th centuries C.E. The modern Hebrew calendar or Jewish calendar is a religious calendar (as opposed to the civil Hebrew or Jewish calendar) that is now the official calendar of Israel. The Hebrew calendar is lunisolar, meaning that it tries to use both a solar calendar in years and lunar calendar in months. It tries to use the lunar months to approximate one solar or tropical year. This means that a lunisolar calendar attempts to keep the months closely aligned with lunar cycle - or cycle of the moon around the Earth - and at the same time keep the year closely aligned with the seasonal cycles. In practice, this calendar is more successful when tracking and keeping pace with the seasonal cycle in comparison with the lunar cycle. A tropical or solar year has its own months, but they have little if any connection to the lunar cycle. The seasons and years in a purely tropical or solar calendar are usually tied to astronomical systems and begin at or near a fixed point in a season such as the vernal equinox. An example of a purely solar calendar is the Gregorian calendar that is currently in use in the U.S. and many other countries. In a lunisolar calendar, the tropical year is divided up into 12 lunar months. However, the total number of days in 12 lunar months are about 11 days shorter than one tropical year, so a leap or intercalary month is added about every 3rd year to keep the calendar aligned with the seasons, so that the seasons do not 'drift' backwards in the calendar. An additional reason for aligning the lunar year with the solar year is that the biblical festivals are connected to the agricultural seasons of the 365-day solar year, so the difference of 11 days between the lunar calendar and the solar calendar has to be made up. In Temple times, the additional month was added periodically, after an examination of the condition of the crops I.E. the agricultural produce, at the end of the 12th month. Later on, when the 19-year cycle of the Jewish calendar was established, the extra month was added automatically, seven times in the 19-year cycle.

As just mentioned, the Hebrew calendar goes by a 19-year cycle that includes leap years in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle, meaning in those years, an extra month is added to the Jewish calendar to keep it aligned with the solar calendar. The current 19-year cycle began on October 2, 1997 in the Gregorian calendar which is the Hebrew year of 5758. So what do the Hebrew calendar years look like through the 19-year cycle? There are three types of years: (1) a Deficient Year ("Haser" means "deficient" in Hebrew). This is a year in which the months of Cheshvan and Kislev both have 29 days (2) a Regular Year ("Kesidrah" means "regular" in Hebrew). This is a year in which the month of Cheshvan has 29 days and the month of Kislev has 30 days and (3) a Complete Year ("Shelemah" means "complete" in Hebrew). This is a year in which the months of Cheshvan and Kislev both contain 30 days.

Another opinion concerning the formation of the Jewish calendar / Hebrew calendar came from the great biblical and Talmudic commentator, Rashi [1040-1105, born in Troyes, in northern France. Rashi is the acronym for Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (or: Shlomo Yitzhaki or Shlomo Yitzchaki)]. He stated that the 7 days of creation were each 24 hours long, regardless of the date of the creation of the sun. Many Jewish scholars agree with this assertion. However, the opinions of other noted scholars such as the "Rambam" [Rabbi Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204, born in C rdova (or C rdoba), Spain] and the "Ramban" (Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman, 1194-1270, born in Gerona, Spain) differed with Rashi's assertion.

The following table shows the three types of Hebrew years that occur in the 19-year cycle. The civil Hebrew calendar is used, but this can also apply to the religious Hebrew calendar as well. Non-leap years have either 353, 354, or 355 days, while leap years have either 383, 384, or 385 days:

Month Number and Name Deficient Year
This is a year in which the months of Cheshvan and Kislev both contain 29 days.
Regular Year
This is a year in which Cheshvan has 29 days and Kislev has 30 days.
Complete Year
This is a year in which the months of Cheshvan and Kislev both contain 30 days.
1. Tishrei 30 30 30
2. Cheshvan 29 29 30
3. Kislev 29 30 30
4. Tevet 29 29 29
5. Shevat 30 30 30
Adar II
This month only occurs in a Leap year
30 30 30
6. Adar I 29 29 29
7. Nissan 30 30 30
8. Iyar 29 29 29
9. Sivan 30 30 30
10. Tammuz 29 29 29
11. Av 30 30 30
12. Elul 29 29 29
Total: 353 days or 383 days 354 days or 384 days 355 days or 385 days

Regarding the naming of the two months of Adar, note that some Hebrew calendars may say Adar and Adar I, while others may say Adar I and Adar II, while still others may say Adar and Adar II. These are all different ways of saying the same thing: that there are two months used for the month of Adar when a leap year occurs. In non-leap years, the month of Adar is most often simply called Adar. A final point is that members of the committee in the Jewish court of the Sanhedrin where the lengths of the Jewish months were fixed as well as the intercalation of months were calculated for the Hebrew calendar on a yearly basis did not rely solely on calculations, but also on observations. They added the extra month of Adar if they observed that the harvest was not yet ripe (for instance, if the earing of barley was not yet ready to be harvested), the winter rains had not yet stopped, the fruit on the trees did not grow in the usual way, the lambs were not ready to be slaughtered for Passover, if there was not an adequate number of lambs to be slaughtered for the Passover / Pesach festival at the Temple in Jerusalem, the condition of the roads were not yet dried up for the Passover pilgrims and families to come to Jerusalem to observe the Passover / Pesach festival, and even if young pigeons were not flying after a certain point in time. In addition, the day for the new moon (known as "Rosh Hodesh" in Hebrew, meaning "head of the month" in Hebrew) - and hence new month - was determined when specially appointed eyewitnesses of the Sanhedrin - the Jewish "Supreme Court" and legislative body which was composed of 71 Jewish Sages and based in Jerusalem - would see the first crescent of the new moon and report this sighting to the Sanhedrin which accepted testimonies from two independent, reliable eyewitnesses. The members of the Sanhedrin would also use calculations in conjunction with the accounts of the two eyewitnesses to determine the new moon. A special court of three members of The Sanhedrin (not the entire membership of The Sanhedrin, which was led by a Patriarch) met on the 29th of each month to await the report of the two eyewitnesses. If the two eyewitnesses arrived on the 29th day or 30th day of the month, then the two eyewitnesses were individually cross-examined by the members of the Sanhedrin in order to verify their testimony. If both their accounts were consistent with each other - meaning there were no contradictions in the testimonies from both eyewitnesses - and each testimony was individually correct and were in agreement with the calculations made to determine the expected new moon by the members of the Sanhedrin, then the new moon would be officially confirmed and a new month would be established. If, however, the individual accounts by either or both of the eyewitnesses were either false, inconclusive, or no witnesses had arrived by the 30th day of the current month to report their sighting of the first crescent of the new moon, then the new moon and hence new month was determined solely on the calculations made by the members of the Sanhedrin. Since a Jewish lunar month contained either 29 days or 30 days, if the eyewitnesses arrived on the 30th of the month and testified that they had seen the first crescent of the new moon, then that day became the first day of the new month and the previous month was declared to be 29 days in length. If no eyewitnesses arrived at the Sanhedrin on the 30th day of the month to report the sighting of the first crescent of the new moon, then the previous month was declared to be 30 days in length and the next month would begin on the 31st day. Once the two individual testimonies of the eyewitnesses were accepted by the Sanhedrin court based on their own calculations in comparison with these observations, the members of the Sanhedrin would then send out messengers to declare the date of the new month to the Jewish people as well as the date or dates for any Jewish holiday and/or Jewish festival that was commemorated during the new month. Initially, the date of the new month and date or dates for any Jewish holiday and/or festival for that month were announced by carrying torches that were used to light signal fires on mountaintops that were located near the main Jewish communities that lived beyond Israel's borders. This included the Jewish communities which were located west of Israel in Egypt and the Jewish communities which were located northeast of Israel and which extended all the way to Babylon, then the capital city of Babylonia (now in present-day Iraq) as well as other major Jewish communities in Babylonia. The signal fires were first lit on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and, as mentioned, extended both westward to Egypt and northeastward all the way to distant Babylon, but the Samaritans, Sadducees, and Boethusaeans or Boethusians (either an outgrowth or related group to the Sadducees) began to light false fires, and so the Sages of the Sanhedrin instead chose to use special messengers that were sent to first inform the people of Jerusalem of the date for the new month and the date or dates of any Jewish holiday and/or Jewish festival for that month, then the rest of Israel was informed, and then finally the outlying Jewish communities beyond Israel were informed. The Hebrew months which contained a Jewish festival include the Hebrew month of Nissan or Nisan for the festival of Pesach/Passover, the Hebrew month of Sivan for the festival of Shavuot/Shavuoth/Shavuos, and the Hebrew month of Tishri or Tishrei for the festival of Sukkot/Sukkoth/Succos. However, these messengers could not reach all the Jewish communities outside Israel either within one day to report the sighting of the new moon for the upcoming month and hence the date for the start of the new month or in the case of reporting the date of a festival and/or holiday in that month, by the date of the festival or holiday, so in the case of the festivals, to eliminate potential uncertainty among Jewish communities outside of Israel concerning the date for a festival within that month, the Sages of the Sanhedrin instituted a second day for celebrating the festivals for the Jewish communities outside of Israel to ensure that no mistake would be made concerning when to start celebrating a festival. In the case of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, since it begins on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishri or Tishrei (source for observing Rosh Hashanah is in the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, in Leviticus 23:23-25), and because of the uncertainty over when the new moon and hence 1st day of the new month would be officially announced by the Sages of the Sanhedrin which depended on the arrival of the two witnesses to the Sanhedrin by the 30th day in the month in Jerusalem to report their sighting of the first crescent of the new moon, not to mention it being almost impossible to relay that information to all Jews who lived beyond Jerusalem let alone beyond Israel, an extra day was added to Rosh Hashanah by the Sages of the Sanhedrin to ensure that Rosh Hashanah would be commemorated on the appropriate day, making Rosh Hashanah a two-day holiday both for Jews living inside and outside Israel, the only Jewish holiday that is celebrated for two days by Jews living both inside and outside Israel. Thus, Rosh Hashanah has been a two-day holiday for Orthodox Jews and Conservative Jews since the late Second Temple period (1 C.E. until 70 C.E.) when the Sanhedrin decree making Rosh Hashanah extend for two days was established. In the case of Rosh Hodesh, meaning the first day of the new month, an extra day was added by the Sanhedrin Sages for upcoming months in which the eyewitnesses did not appear at the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem on the 30th day of the previous month to report sighting the new moon.

There is, however, a difference between the holiness of the two-day festival holidays of Pesach/Passover, Shavuot/Shavuoth/Shavuos, and Sukkot/Sukkoth/Succos that are observed outside Israel and the two-day holiday of Rosh Hashanah that is observed both inside and outside Israel. The holiness of the second day of the two-day festival holidays that are celebrated by Jews living outside Israel is not considered a rabbinical addition rather, the two-day holiday of Rosh Hashanah is officially considered by rabbinical tradition to be one long day or holy-day I.E. holiday. This applies to Jews living both inside and outside Israel.

At the time when this web page was started, the year in the Hebrew calendar was 5763 (2003 in the Gregorian or Christian calendar). The big question is (drum roll please!): what is the origin of the numbering of years in the Hebrew calendar? The answer is that the year number in the Hebrew calendar represents in the number of years since the beginning of the Creation of the World (Genesis 1:1). This number is determined by adding up the ages of people in the Hebrew Bible since Creation. More specifically, the birth of Adam on the 6th day of Creation is the actual starting point for counting the years in the Hebrew calendar. At first glance, given the year 5763, this would mean that the world began in either 3761 B.C.E. (if one applies the Hebrew/Jewish calendar to either the Gregorian calendar, which in its traditional version, has no Year 0, or before 1582, the Julian calendar which preceded the Gregorian calendar, which also has no Year 0) or 3760 B.C.E. (if one applies the Hebrew/Jewish calendar to the modern Gregorian calendar which includes a Year 0), and that either 3761 B.C.E. or 3760 B.C.E. was Year 1 in the Hebrew calendar. However, the meaning of what a "day" is in the Hebrew bible is not what we think a day means in the sense of a 24-hour day. Even the concept of a "day" in the seven days of creation does not represent a 24-hour day according to Orthodox Jews since they point out that the Sun did not appear until the 4th "day". Until the 4th "day", they reason, the idea of a 24-hour "day" would be meaningless. Therefore, the Hebrew year number is not necessarily supposed to represent a scientific fact.

Want a list of the entire Jewish calendar and its religious events and holidays complete with the days of their observance in the Jewish calendar? I compiled all of them just below here for you to check out:

I also have a table outlining the Jewish calendar months in relation to the harvest schedule in Israel at the following link:

As well, I have a comparison chart of the Jewish calendar months - both Pre-Exilic and Post-Exilic - with the origin of the Jewish calendar month names and their meanings at the following link:

Special Sabbaths, or Special Shabbatot, dot the Jewish calendar. These Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot set the mood for upcoming festivals or holidays in the Jewish calendar. The following link on my website contains a list of the Special Shabbatot or Special Sabbaths in the Jewish calendar.

Finally, if that isn't enough for you, I have developed a chart listing the Jewish calendar month names (Pre-Exilic and Post-Exilic), the Babylonian month names, the zodiac sign or constellation sign corresponding to each month name, and the reference(s) to each Jewish calendar month name, if it exists or they exist, in the Hebrew Bible at the following link:

Fast Facts About The Jewish Calendar

  • Jewish calendar needed to synchronize solar year (365 1/4 days) with the lunar cycles (29 1/2 day months).
  • The Jewish calendar has 12 lunar months (from crescent to crescent) of 29 or 30 days each (1 Kings 4:7).
  • One embolismic month is added to the Jewish calendar (called: Adar II) in 7 out of every 19 years to synchronize the solar calendar cycle with the lunar cycles.
  • Adar II is added in years 3,6,8,11,14,17, and 19 of the 19-year cycle
  • The Jewish religious year begins with the month of Aviv/Nisan, which is in either March or April in the Gregorian calendar (Exodus 12:1-3, Exodus 13:3-4, Exodus 23:15, Exodus 3:7)
  • The four Pre-Exilic month names (Aviv, Ziv, Eisanim or Ethanim, and Bul) are of Canaanite (and possibly Phoenician) origin, Post-Exilic month names (Nisan or Nissan, Iyar or Iyyar, etc.) are the Hebrew equivalent of the Babylonian month names.
  • The Jewish civil year begins with the 7th religious year month, which is Eisanim or Ethanim/Tishrei or Tishri, and is in either September or October in the Gregorian calendar (Exodus 23:16, Exodus 34:22).
  • The civil year reckoning originated prior to the religious year reckoning.
  • The civil year also marked the beginning of argricultural, sabbatical, and jubilee years.
  • Agricultural year - autumn (early rains), winter (rains), spring (latter rains), summer (long, hot, dry).
  • Sabbatical years (every 7th year).
  • No sowing or reaping (Leviticus 25:2, 25:7, 25:20, 25:22).
  • Cancel debts (Deuteronomy 15:1).
  • Fellow Hebrew servants released (Deuteronomy 15:12).
  • Jubilee years (after 7 weeks of years, 50th year) (Leviticus 25:8-12).
  • Land returns to original owners (Leviticus 25:13-17, 25:23, 25:24).
  • Biblical days go from sundown to sundown (Genesis 1:5, 1:8, 1:13, 1:19, 1:23, 1:31 Leviticus 23:27, 23:32 Numbers 19:16, 19:19).
  • 1 hour = 1/12 the period from sunrise to sunset.
  • Example hours: 1st = 6-7 P.M., 3rd = 8-9 P.M., 6th = 11 P.M. - Midnight, 9th = 2-3 A.M., 12th = 5-6 A.M.
  • Note that Roman hours started from midnight, rather than from sundown.
  • The night was divided into 3 watches of 4 hours each.
  • 7 day weeks with the 7th day (Saturday) being the weekly Shabbat or Sabbath.
  • Note that there is no physical cycle of 7 days, it came from G-d in Eden (Genesis 2:2-3 Exodus 20:8-11) and is based on mathematical calculations.
  • All dates are based on the Jewish religious calendar (where 1/1 is first day of Aviv/Nisan or Nissan)
  • There were 7 special annual ceremonial events I.E. sacred assemblies, feasts (Leviticus 23:1-44)
  • The 7 special annual ceremonial events are: Festival of the Passover (I.E. lamb) Offering, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Omer Offering [the day of the Omer (sheaf of barley) Offering was the 1st day of the Counting of the Omer], Shavuot, Rosh Ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.
  • These events included 7 special days that were considered Sabbaths because of their work restriction.
  • These 7 special days are, by the Jewish religious calendar: 1/15, 1/21, 3/6, 7/1, 7/10, 7/15, and 7/22.
  • The ceremonial Sabbaths were distinguished from the weekly Sabbaths of the Ten Commandments (Leviticus 23:1-4, 23:37, 23:38).
  • Where in the Hebrew Bible is the date of Passover mentioned? Answer: Exodus 12:1-14, 34:25, Leviticus 23:5, Numbers 28:16, and Deuteronomy 16:1-8, 16:12.
  • Where in the Hebrew Bible does it mention the length of the Passover festival? Answer: Exodus 23:15, Exodus 34:18, Leviticus 23:6-8, Numbers 28:17-25, and Deuteronomy 16:3, 16:4, 16:8.
  • Festival of the Passover (I.E. lamb) Offering: 1/14 (Exodus 12:1-14, Exodus 34:25, Leviticus 23:5, Numbers 28:16, Deuteronomy 16:1-8,12)
  • Slaying of the Passover lamb: Lamb slayed in late afternoon (just before sunset) (Exodus 12:6, Deuteronomy 16:5,6)
  • Hebrew phrase is literally "between the two evenings" (Biblical days begin at sunset and end at sunset).
  • Qualifier "when the sun goes down" (Deuteronomy 16:6) indicates the period of the day just prior to sunset.
  • Lamb eaten after sundown of 1/14 (early hours of 1/15) (Exodus 12:6-8).
  • Feast of Unleavened Bread: 1/15 - 1/21 (seven days) (Exodus 23:15, Exodus 34:18, Leviticus 23:6-8, Numbers 28:17-25, Deuteronomy 16:3,4,8)
  • 1/15 and 1/21 are ceremonial Sabbaths.
  • Omer Offering: 1/16, the day after the 1/15 ceremonial Sabbath (Leviticus 23:10-14 compare Leviticus 23:6 and Leviticus 23:14)
  • A sheaf of the first fruits of the barley harvest is waved before the L-rd.
  • Shavuot (Feast of Harvest, Feast of Weeks): 3/6, 7 weeks (50 days inclusive) starting from the Day of the Omer Offering or the Day of Wave Sheaf (2nd evening of Passover/Pesach) (Exodus 23:15-21, Exodus 34:22, Leviticus 23:15,16, Numbers 28:26-31, Deuteronomy 16:9-11)
  • 3/6 is a ceremonial Sabbath.
  • Offering of new grain from the wheat harvest.
  • Shavuot is known as Pentecost in the New Testament, from the Greek word meaning "fiftieth".
  • Rosh Ha-Shanah: 7/1 (Leviticus 23:23-25, Numbers 29:1-6).
  • 7/1 is a ceremonial Sabbath.
  • Announcing the imminent arrival of Yom Kippur I.E. the Day of Atonement, signaling the people to prepare for judgement.
  • Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement): 7/10 (Leviticus 16, Leviticus 23:27-32, Numbers 29:7-11).
  • 7/10 is a ceremonial Sabbath.
  • Most solemn day of year - Judgement (Leviticus 16:21,22).
  • Any person who does not afflict his soul is cut off (Leviticus 16:29, Leviticus 23:27-30).
  • Cleansing of the sanctuary and the genuine people of G-d (Leviticus 16:17,30,33).
  • Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles, Feast of Ingathering)
  • 7/15 - 7/21 (seven days) (Exodus 23:16, Exodus 34:22, Leviticus 23:33-43, Numbers 29:12-38, Deuteronomy 16:13-15).
  • 7/15 and 7/22 (eight day) are ceremonial Sabbaths.
  • Gather in (ingathering) vintage and olive crops at the end of the agricultural year (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 23:39).
  • Threshing floor, winepress (Deuteronomy 16:13).
  • Simchat Torah: Rejoicing, joy complete (Leviticus 23:40, Deuteronomy 16:14,15).
  • Shemini Atzeret: The closing assembly of the annual festival cycle (Leviticus 23:36,37)

If you're interested in generating a calendar of Jewish Holidays online for any year between 0001 and 9999, you can go to an Interactive Jewish Calendar. If you would just like to convert dates from Gregorian to Hebrew or from Hebrew to Gregorian, you can go to a Hebrew Date Converter.

Footnote regarding the dates on this Jewish calendar / Hebrew calendar web page: all dates discussed on this website are based on the modern Gregorian calendar, however, these dates are but one secular scholarly deduction there are many other secular scholarly deductions as well as traditional Jewish chronological dates in addition to modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar dates regarding the timeline of events in Jewish history. To see a table of some important events in Jewish history discussed on this website and their various dates deduced from traditional Jewish sources, the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar, and secular historical timelines, check out our Jewish History Timeline web page.

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