Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Ben Ha Arbayim -- "Between the Two Evenings" -- Just What Does This REALLY Mean?
Some proponents of observing the Passover insist that the Hebrew expression Ben Ha Arbayim -- translated literally as "between the two evenings" -- has to refer to dusk or twilight, the period of time after sunset and before dark. The Jews, rabbis, and orthodox Judaism, however, maintain that this expression refers to the period between noon, when the sun begins to go down, and sunset, when it has gone down. Which is the truth? Since the Passover lamb was killed "ben ha arbayim" this question is of vital importance in determining when Passover should be observed!
In Exodus 12:6, YEHOVAH God commands Israel, "And you shall keep it [the Passover lamb] up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening " Many have been perplexed by this expression, "in the evening." The margin of my National Bible says, "from the ninth to the eleventh hour." In Israel, the day had twelve hours, beginning around 6:00 AM our time as the first hour. Therefore, the ninth to the eleventh hour would have been from 3:00 PM in the afternoon till 5:00 PM.
However, another Bible I have has a marginal rendering of this expression, saying, "Hebrew, between the two evenings." The question is, does this period of time refer to the afternoon of Nisan 14, especially from 3:00-5:00 PM? Or does it refer to the BEGINNING of Nisan 14, which begins about 6:00 PM the previous evening, from the time the sun sets until dark sets in -- a period of about forty minutes or so?
Some who observe "Passover" at the beginning hours of Nisan 14, shortly after sunset, claim this expression means twilight, between sunset and dark. Is this really true? In his newly self-published book entitled The Christian Passover, Fred R. Coulter, former minister of the Worldwide Church of God, asserts that this expression is "the vital key to understanding." He claims to "prove" that the Scriptural meaning of ben ha arbayim is the period of time after sunset, normally referred to as dusk or twilight -- definitely NOT "late afternoon"! Coulter simply rejects out of hand Jewish explanations and exegesis on this expression, as well as the studies of most scholars. Seemingly, he is going to "reinvent the wheel," and produce "new" evidence from the Scriptures themselves to define this important term.
Coulter claims that the traditional Jewish explanation of this term, such as that of Rabbi Rashi, a renown scholar of the Torah, simply contradicts Exodus 12:8, which, he claims, shows that the entire Passover was to be kept on the 14th of Nisan, and the Passover lambs were to be eaten on the night of the 14th, not the 15th!
These are very strong words. Coulter claims that Exodus 16 is the KEY PROOF that he is right, and all the rabbis and scholars are wrong. He accuses various scholars, including Robert Kuhn and Lester L. Grabbe, formerly with the Worldwide Church of God, of "either ignoring or overlooking the plain commands of God which were given in the original Passover and which have been preserved in His Word" (p. 28, The Christian Passover).
After slamming and blasting Kuhn and Grabbe, referring to their "so-called scholarly methods," and accusing them of "SUCH ARROGANT AND IMPIOUS HANDLING OF HIS WORD OF TRUTH" (emphasis Coulter's, p. 29), he goes on to claim that he will "prove from Scripture" that the statements of Kuhn and Grabbe, defending the traditional Jewish explanation and that of most scholars, are "UTTERLY FALSE! " Of course, just because he boasts that he will do so, and virtually SHOUTS with uppercase letters, this does not prove that he will succeed in his attempt. It is only a claim.
What is his "proof" which he refers to? He says the whole "key" is Exodus, chapter 16.
The Mystery of the Quail
Claims Coulter, the Hebrew term generally translated "evening," or "even" -- ba erev -- means "sunset." Therefore, according to him, all the common Bible translations are IN ERROR, AS WELL AS STRONG'S CONCORDANCE, EVERY HEBREW LEXICON!!! He does not bother to "prove" that ba erev should be translated "sunset." He simply asserts it is so, saying dogmatically, without providing evidence, "This is proved by its usage in the Scriptures . . ." This statement is pure hyperbole, and pure poppycock. To accept this statement, you must put the authority and "scholarship" of this mysterious Fred Coulter before ALL Hebrew scholars, rabbis, and authorities.
Says Coulter, "the meaning of ba erev is without controversy," and means "sunset." Is this true? The Jews and rabbis most emphatically do NOT agree with this. According to them, the term ba erev simply means "evening," and the first "evening" begins when the sun begins to go down in the sky, and the second "evening" is sunset. Says Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon,
"The Pharisees . . . and the Rabbinists considered the time when the sun began to descend to be called the FIRST EVENING (Arabic 'little evening'; when it begins to draw towards evening); and the SECOND EVENING to be the REAL SUNSET" (p. 652, #6153).
Thus Fred Coulter, it appears to me, seriously misrepresents in his book, claiming agreement with the Jews which simply does not exist -- not even over the term ab erev! How much else can we believe of what he states, declares, and claims? His book must be read with extreme CAUTION. If one chooses to read his book, he should BEWARE -- and take NOTHING AT FACE VALUE -- but check up and prove ALL things -- EVERY statement! Otherwise, if you do not watch yourself, you become fodder for the wolves, a spiritual "Little Red Riding Hood" face to face with a big, bad wolf!
Coulter, having asserted that ba erev means "sunset," then proceeds to the next step in his explanation: He states that there is "legitimate, Biblically sound, chronologically defined, Scripturally documented way to prove, beyond any shadow of doubt whatsoever, that ben ha arbayim originally meant the time period from sunset to dark" (p. 37). He says this "proof" is in Exodus 16. Let's take a look.
On page 41 of his book, Coulter quotes Exodus 16:6, "And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, AT EVEN, then shall ye know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt." Coulter inserts in parentheses, after the words "AT EVEN," the following interpolation: " ba erev, or sunset-ending that Sabbath on which this message was given." Notice! HE defines ba erev as "sunset." But that is merely his opinion and since it is merely an opinion, it proves NOTHING! It goes against the weight of ALL scholarly and historical opinion and research, particularly that of the Jews, to whom were entrusted the "oracles of God" (Rom. 3:1-2).
But Coulter is building a "case." Once he gets you to accept this "re-definition" of the expression ba erev, he has you at his mercy. For he then refers to verse 8 of Exodus 16. Notice, once again: "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, AT EVEN [Heb. ben ha arbayim, "between the two evenings"] ye shall eat flesh . . ." (verses 11-12). "And it came to pass, AT EVEN [ba erev] the QUAILS came up, and covered the camp" (verse 13).
Coulter says YEHOVAH God sent the quail at ba erev, which he says is "sunset." Therefore, since the quails came at sunset, and were EATEN at ben ha arbayim, "between the two evenings," Coulter reasons that this "PROVES" that ben ha arbayim must refer to DUSK, AFTER "sunset."
How convenient! Do you see what he has done? He has "loaded the dice." He has "marked the cards." He has pre-defined the words to suit his case, and so naturally, the outcome would validate his claim -- IF "ba erev" truly meant "SUNSET"!
BUT IT DOESN'T! It merely means "evening," and the Jews clearly say that it begins at noon, when the sun begins to go down, and lasts till nightfall -- the hours before sunset being the ''first evening," and the hours after sunset being the "second evening." Therefore, this passage is Exodus 16, which is the whole KEY to Coulter's case -- falls flat on its flimsy face! He has proved nothing. Says The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible:
"It [the daylight portion of the day] was divided into morning, noon, and evening (Psa. 55:17; cf. Dan. 6:10)" ("Day," p. 214).
This authority adds:
"The festival [Passover] began on the 14th of Abib at EVENING, that is, in the beginning of the 15th day, with the sacrificial meal (Lev. 23:5-6). A lamb or kid was slain between the evenings, that is, TOWARD SUNSET (Exo. 12:6; Deut. 16:6; cf. between the 9th and 11th hours . . ." ("Passover," p. 705).
The quail came flew into the camp of Israel in the "evening." What does this mean?
The real picture we see in Exodus 16 is that the quail flew into the camp late on the Sabbath day, just before sunset -- late afternoon -- and settled in to roost for the night. After the sun set, the people went forth to gather them for food!
Rather than be misled by Coulter's definition of "at even," let's see what the Scriptures themselves tell us about this expression.
Letting The Bible Interpret "At Even"
In Leviticus 23:27 we read: "Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement. . ." There is no question that the Day of Atonement is the tenth day of Tishri -- nobody argues otherwise. But now notice how YEHOVAH God Himself delimits and defines this period of time! Notice how YEHOVAH God uses the term "at even" to refer to the END of a day rather than the beginning hours!
In Leviticus 23:32 we read, ". . . in the ninth day of the month AT EVEN, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath [the Day of Atonement]." The expression "at even" here is obviously used to mean the ENDING portion of the ninth day. Thus the Day of Atonement starts after the concluding portion of the ninth of Tishri. It lasts until the concluding portion of the tenth of Tishri. The "evening" of the 9th would be the afternoon, up until sunset; the evening of the 10th would be the afternoon of the 10th, until sunset. A grade school student could see that principle. The Day of Atonement begins at sunset, when the 9th day of Tishri ends, but the Biblical expression to state this fact is, "in the ninth day of the month, AT EVEN . . ." Clearly the "AT EVEN" refers to the ending of the ninth day, NOT ITS BEGINNING! Even so, the Passover was to be sacrificed on Nisan 14, "AT EVEN" (Exodus 12:6), which means the ENDING of Nisan 14, and not its beginning!
Another Biblical example of this truth is found in the instructions YEHOVAH God gives on when to keep the days of Unleavened Bread. Notice! We read: "In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month AT EVEN, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even" (Exodus 12:18). If "at even" here meant the beginning of Nisan 14, then this verse would be saying the 14th of Nisan is the first Day of Unleavened Bread, and we should therefore be observing the Feast from Nisan 14 to Nisan 20 -- not Nisan 15 to Nisan 21! Obviously, "on the fourteenth . . . AT EVEN," refers to the END of Nisan 14 and the beginning of Nisan 15! Even those who argue that Passover should be observed at the beginning of Nisan 14 admit that the Feast of Unleavened Bread is from Nisan 15 to 21. Their own admission, therefore, contradicts their claim that the "even" of Nisan 14 means the beginning of Nisan 14, when it comes to the Passover!
Letting the Bible interpret the Bible, then, "on the fourteenth day AT EVEN" plainly means at the END of the fourteenth -- as Exodus 12:18 says. The Bible is consistent. YEHOVAH God does not contradict Himself "The Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). Therefore, the rule of consistency proves that the same phrase used in both Exodus 12:18 and Exodus 12:6 means the same thing in both verses -- that is, the word "even," as used in verse 6, which deals with the slaying of the Passover lambs, also means at the ENDING PART of Nisan 14!
Thus the Passover lambs were slain late in the afternoon of Nisan 14, just before the beginning of Nisan 15, when the Passover meal itself was always eaten. During the time of the Messiah, the Jews were slaying their Passover lambs at the Temple of YEHOVAH God -- about 250,000 lambs at each Passover celebration during the first century, as Josephus the Jewish historian relates:
"So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour to the eleventh, but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice . . . and many of us are twenty in a company, found this number of sacrifices was two hundred and fifty six thousand five hundred which, upon the allowance of no more than ten that feast together, amounts to two million seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure and holy" (Wars of the Jews, Book VI, 9:3).
Even as these sacrificial lambs were being slaughtered at the Temple, in 31 AD, YEHOVAH's own True Passover Lamb, Yeshua the Messiah, was being slain for all of us who accept his shed blood for the forgiveness of our sins (II Cor. 5:20; I Cor. 5:7-8). Thus Yeshua the Messiah fulfilled the TYPE of the Passover lambs PERFECTLY -- RIGHT ON TIME, exactly on schedule! If the lambs were sacrificed the previous evening, as come claim, then Yeshua missed the correct time by twenty hours -- and did not fulfill the type of the Passover perfectly! If that were true, then he could not be our SAVIOR! He would be an impostor! But Yeshua fulfilled EVERY Scripture that prophesied of his coming TO THE MOST INFINITE DETAIL, in every respect -- PERFECTLY in all points!
Evidence from Deuteronomy
When is, then, "between the two evenings"? Clearly the Jews say it refers to the afternoon. Coulter himself admits this fact. But in addition to their testimony, we have plain and clear proof FROM SCRIPTURE ITSELF that this is so!
Notice Deuteronomy 16:4. This verse shows that the Passover is a part of the days of Unleavened Bread, leading right into them. We read: "And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day AT EVEN, remain all night until the morning." Here the 14th of Nisan is called "the first day." That is because it is the late afternoon of the 14th that the Passover was sacrificed, leading right into the First Day of Unleavened Bread that same sunset!
This shows, too, that the ''first day" when all leaven was to be put out of the houses of the Israelites was Nisan 14 (Exodus 12:15; compare Deut. 16:4 and Exodus 12:18-19). From the end of Nisan 14 they ate unleavened bread until the end of the 21st day of Nisan.
Now, notice verse 6 of this chapter. Here is the key! Here Moses is told by YEHOVAH God, "But in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the Passover AT EVEN, at the GOING DOWN of the sun . . ."
Letting the Bible interpret the Bible, then this expression ba erev or "evening" when the Passover was killed, was also the same moment or time period as "the going down of the sun." Literally, the expression "at the going down of the sun" can only mean when the SUN DESCENDS IN THE SKY -- that is, from the time the sun BEGINS to DESCEND, till it has descended or disappeared behind the horizon! Notice! It is the "going down" -- present progressive tense -- showing the action of the sun moving down in the western sky. This period of time must be, has to be, by scientific analysis, from the moment after HIGH NOON, at the earliest, and lasting until the sun disappears behind the horizon, or the actual moment of SUNSET! Once the sun has "set," it is no longer "going down" -- it has, rather, "GONE DOWN"!
This period of time from noon till sunset, then, is the broad space of time during which the Passover lambs HAD TO BE SLAIN! Isn't this perfectly crystal clear?
The expression "at the going down of the sun" means "as the sun goes down" -- showing it was during the action of the sun moving down in the sky toward the western horizon. In English, this is the present progressive tense. If YEHOVAH God had meant to convey the idea that the lambs were to be killed AFTER the sun went down, that is, after sunset, then He would have stated it differently. He would have said, "AFTER the sun goes down," or, "After the sun HAS GONE down." The sun "goes down" until it "sets." After it "sets," it has technically "gone down." YEHOVAH God commanded that the lambs be slain as the sun sinks in the western sky -- not after it has already plunged beneath the horizon! The Jews have always faithfully done this, as long as the Passover was sacrificed, throughout their history.
The command is plain that the lambs had to be slain ON THE FOURTEENTH of Nisan, in the late afternoon. But if they were not slain till AFTER SUNSET of the 14th, they would have been slain on the FIFTEENTH! That would have been a violation of the commandment! Also, if they were slain at the beginning of the 14th, after sunset of the 13th of Nisan, that would not have been during the "going down" of the sun. Could anything be plainer? Even a small child can understand this truth! Why is it that so many cannot grasp these plain and simple Spiritual, Biblical truths? Why is it so hard for so many to admit it when they have been wrong?
Proof of the "Daily Sacrifices"
This proof should be enough for most of us, especially since Fred Coulter has offered or presented NOT ONE SHRED of proof to support his spurious claims -- only a battery of opinions and baseless arguments.
But now notice an amazing proof which has generally been overlooked. It is the proof of the "daily sacrifice." Most of us understand that the children of Israel were commanded to offer a daily sacrifice. The actual command is given in Numbers 28, where we read:
"And thou shalt say unto them, This is the offering made by fire which ye shall offer unto the LORD; two lambs of the first year, without spot DAY BY DAY [margin, Hebrew, "IN A DAY"], for a continual burnt offering. The one lamb shalt thou offer in the MORNING, and the other lamb shalt thou offer AT EVEN [Heb. ben ha arbayim, "between the two evenings"] . . ." (Numbers 28:3-4).
Notice! In this plain passage of Scripture, we are told that the DAILY SACRIFICE involves both a morning and an "evening" sacrifice, and the "evening" sacrifice occurs "between the two evenings." Yet this passage says plainly that these two sacrifices were "IN A DAY." The morning sacrifice, which was done first, was in the SAME DAY as the "evening" sacrifice, which was made that same day, "between the two evenings"! Since the day ENDS at sunset, this expression ben ha arbayim HAS to refer to late AFTERNOON! If it referred to dusk, or twilight, AFTER sunset, as Fred Coulter claims, then it would be THE NEXT DAY! Even he admits that sunset is the delineation between one day and the next. Therefore, this passage buries in the grave Coulter's exegesis and claims -- once and for all!
How clear it all is, when we simply let the Bible interpret the Bible! It is really NOT complex at all. It's simply a matter of following the Bible and not a man, EVEN if that man happens to some self-appointed minister or self-serving, self-proclaimed "scholar." The question is, will we follow the INSPIRED WORD OF YEHOVAH GOD -- or will we follow the opinions of a man, regardless of who that man happens to be?
Yeshua the Messiah -- Perfect Passover Lamb, Perfect Proof!
Yeshua the Messiah was killed at 3:00 PM in the afternoon of Nisan 14, according to Scripture. At the ninth hour, when the Jews began killing their Passover lambs, Yeshua himself hung on the tree. "And at the NINTH HOUR Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? . . . And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God" (Mark 15:34-39).
Matthew's gospel states, "Now from the sixth hour [noon] there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour [3:00 PM]. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias [Elijah]. And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost" (Matt. 27:45-50).
Yeshua the Messiah, the Savior, YEHOVAH God's Anointed One, the "Lamb of God" (John 1:36), IS YEHOVAH's suffering servant who gave his life for the sins of the world, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, who wrote:
"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are HEALED.
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a LAMB to the slaughter [the Passover lamb!], and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was CUT OFF from the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
"And he made his grave with the wicked [the two robbers slain with him], and with the rich in his death [he was given Joseph of Arimathea's tomb]; because he hath done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make HIS SOUL [LIFE] AN OFFERING FOR SIN, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days [be resurrected!], and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand" (Isaiah 53:4-10).
As Paul put it plainly: "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (I Cor. 5:7-8). Yeshua the Messiah fulfilled the symbolism of the ancient Passover lambs perfectly. He was YEHOVAH's "lamb without blemish." He died at 3:00 PM, at the very time the Jews were slaying their Passover lambs at the Temple of YEHOVAH God, by the thousands, one per family. Josephus the Jewish historian of the first century relates that over 250,000 lambs were being killed at the Passover, during his time.
Certainly Yeshua the Passover Lamb had to be slain at the proper time! Those who claim that the Passover was observed at the BEGINNING of Nisan 14, and that the lambs were slain shortly after sunset of Nisan 13 have a very serious problem. According to their chronology, Yeshua was therefore not slain until some twenty or twenty four hours LATER than they claim the Passover was commanded by YEHOVAH God to be slain! If this were indeed the case, then Yeshua the Messiah died TOO LATE to fulfill the perfect Passover typology! If that were the case, then he could not truly be our Savior, YEHOVAH's Passover Lamb -- he would be a fraud, an impostor, a FAKE!
The Messiah was the PERFECT fulfillment of the Passover. Therefore, he had to be slain at the VERY MOMENT the Passover lambs were being slain at the Temple of YEHOVAH God! He had to be slain at the VERY TIME YEHOVAH commanded for the Passover to be killed "between the two evenings"!
Therefore, looking at this question from the reverse angle, since the gospels plainly show that Yeshua was killed at precisely 3:00 PM on the afternoon of Nisan 14, then THAT IS THE PRECISE TIME THE PASSOVER LAMBS HAD TO BE KILLED -- and, by further deduction, this means that the expression "between the two evenings" MUST REFER TO LATE AFTERNOON, ABOUT 3:00 PM -- THE VERY TIME YESHUA THE MESSIAH DIED FOR OUR SINS AS OUR PASSOVER!
Here, then, is proof positive -- the example of Yeshua the Messiah himself, who was our Passover lamb! HE was slain at 3:00 PM in the afternoon; and he HAD to fulfill the commandment to be slain "between the two evenings" (Exodus 12:6). Therefore, ben ha arbayim, "between the two evenings, " MUST INCLUDE 3:00 PM IN THE AFTERNOON!
All the Bible unites to prove this point, as a unity, a complete whole. If the Pharisees were wrong in sacrificing the Passover in the late afternoon, then Yeshua would have been wrong to say they sit in Moses' seat and that we are to follow their interpretation of the Law (Matt. 23:1-3). If they were wrong, then the apostle Paul LIED when he said he kept the law of YEHOVAH God "blamelessly" as a Pharisee (Phi. 3:6). Both Yeshua and Paul endorsed the teachings of the Jews, and the Pharisees, on this vital matter.
Who are we to disagree, and to supplant the Word of YEHOVAH God with our own human opinions?
-- Edited By John D. Keyser.
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