Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
New Light from an Ancient Source
PASSOVER and the Book of Jubilees
With much argument raging over the correct date and understanding of Passover, amongst the end-time branches of the Church of God, it behooves us to look at new evidence from an old source which has been overlooked and ignored, to shed light on this vitally important subject.
by HOIM Staff
Amongst the earliest extra-Biblical literature of the Jewish people is an incredibly important book called "the book of Jubilees." This ancient text was written by a Levitical priest who lived circa 100-150 B.C., and who most likely was among the God-fearing, Torah observant Jewish Hasidim of that time. Scholars tell us:
"The Book of Jubilees is an account of matters revealed to Moses during the forty days that he spent on Mount Sinai (Ex. 24:18). In the first chapter God describes to Moses the apostasy and ultimate restoration of his people, which will take place in the future. The remaining chapters (2-50) contain an extended revelation to Moses by an angel of the presence" (The Old Testament Pseudopigrapha, vol. 2, p. 35).
There are many fascinating aspects to the historical book of Jubilees, particularly the insights it provides us into the thinking of orthodox Judaism of the time 100-150 years before Yeshua the Messiah was born. This was the period shortly after the Maccabees, who revolted against the Hellenistic influences and government of Antiochus Epiphanes, who desecrated the temple of YEHOVAH God in 167-164 B.C. The Maccabees overthrew the Syrian forces, and restored the temple, and became the rulers of Judea beginning in that time frame.
R. H. Charles describes the book as "Primitive History Rewritten from the Standpoint of Law." Says James H. Charlesworth, "The most important source which the author used in writing his account was the biblical text, but he supplemented it with a considerable amount of traditional material which came to him in either written or oral form" (p. 37). The book of Jubilees reveals that there was a body of secret lore which was passed down in the family of Levi, which became the family of the priesthood in Israel. The book emphasizes the need to obey all the Law of YEHOVAH God, the entire Torah. It preserves knowledge known from no other source, such as the fact that Adam and Eve spent seven years in the Garden of Eden, before sinning and being cast out of the garden. It also preserves a fascinating account of Noah observing the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot, shortly after the Flood, and Abraham observing the Feast of Tabernacles, the Festival of Ingathering, by living in succoth or booths, for seven days. It also tells us the fascinating details of the war between Jacob and his sons against Esau and his sons, shortly after the death of Isaac.
Authorship, Origin and Dating
The book of Jubilees, as to its major themes and historical statements, rings with the tone of truth. Although it is not Scripture, as such, it was highly valued amongst the Jewish people during the time of the Messiah. It is not the final authority, of course, for determining doctrinal truth and practice. However, as a significant historical source that originated long before the Pharisees and Sadducees became prominent, and before the Essene community later developed, in Judea, it gives us a clear insight into normative Jewish religion of the time one hundred to one hundred fifty years before the Messiah. Says Charlesworth, "The author of the book may have been a member of a relatively small band of Hasidim, but there is no reason to believe that his group had yet broken sharply away from the larger Jewish community" (p. 38).
In many ways, the book of Jubilees appears to be an early type of "commentary" and Midrash on the Torah, the book of the law, dealing with the history from creation to Moses. "It may be regarded as a continuous interpretation of Genesis 1 through Exodus 12. It may also be understood as a Midrashic reflection on Exodus 24:18" (p. 39). Declares Charlesworth, "Jubilees was probably produced by someone within priestly circles who drew freely upon analogous instructive materials from an earlier generation" (p. 40).
The book of Jubilees is mentioned among the Dead Sea scrolls found at Qumran -- the earliest known reference to their existence -- in a very favorable light. The writer refers to them as an accurate account of Israel's periods of blindness which may be found in "The book of the divisions of the times according to their jubilees and their weeks." The Ethiopic version of the text of the book states: "This is the account of the division of days of the Law and the testimony for annual observance according to their weeks (and) their jubilees throughout all the years of the world."
How old is the book? The earliest published fragment from Qumran is dated to the late Hasmonaean period (75-50 B.C.). VanderKam has reported that two unpublished fragments have been dated by F. M. Cross to 125-75 B.C., with circa 100 as the preferred date. Charlesworth points out that since the book discusses a certain "wicked priest," and a dispute over the high priesthood, the reference may be to Jonathan who was appointed high priest in 152 B.C., or Simon, who was appointed in 140 B.C., depending on the identity of the "wicked priest."
Interestingly, the book of Jubilees confirms the book of Malachi, which tells us that Levi, the son of Jacob, was himself chosen by YEHOVAH God to be the high priest and head of the priestly family in Israel. In fact, the book of Jubilees is essential for us to understand the book of Malachi. It provides essential background material for us to grasp the importance of Levi, and the tribe which descended from him, in YEHOVAH's plan.
Malachi on Levi
In Malachi YEHOVAH God says: "And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him for life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips; he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity" (Malachi 2:4-6).
Notice! These words apply to the person of Levi himself -- an individual. This was hundreds of years before YEHOVAH God chose the tribe of Levi in the days of Moses!
The book of Jubilees confirms this fact, adding details we would know from no other source. Says Charlesworth, "In the supplemental material which he brings to the Genesis account, Levi is given priority over the sons of Jacob (chs. 30-32), even being set before Judah (31:12f). Levi is also the one who is entrusted with a LIBRARY of books (45:16) containing heavenly lore revealed to Jacob (32:21-26) and sacred traditions passed down from earlier patriarchs. One of the duties of Levi was to preserve and renew the books. If the author [of Jubilees] defines his own vocation at any point, it must be here. He undoubtedly saw himself as part of a continuous chain of priestly writers going back to Levi" (p. 45).
Just as YEHOVAH God Himself attested to the faithfulness of Levi in Malachi, so the author of the book of Jubilees, undoubtedly a descendant of Levi and very likely belonging to a priestly family, is also very concerned about apostasy of the people, and the widespread disregard of the laws of YEHOVAH God. He abhors Gentile practices, and insists upon obedience to YEHOVAH's commands in a time of apostasy. Declares Charlesworth, "The priestly author of Jubilees presents his theological work with the authority of one who understands himself to be representing the 'normative, orthodox' position" (p. 48).
How did the writers of the New Testament regard the book of Jubilees? Says Charlesworth, "Evidence for the use of data appearing in Jubilees by writers of the New Testament is conveniently summarized by Charles. On the basis of the evidence which he provided, it is clear that Paul, and the authors of Luke-Acts, James, Hebrews, and 2 Peter were familiar with expressions and ideas that appear in Jubilees" p. 49).
With this background in mind, therefore, let us take a careful look at the 49th chapter of the book of Jubilees (which, ironically, has 50 chapters -- a "Jubilee" of chapters!).
The Passover Question Reviewed
In chapter 49, the author of Jubilees discusses the Feast of Passover, and its institution and observance. Remember, he wrote about 100-150 B.C., before the conflicts arose between the Essenes and mainstream Judaism, before the rancorous disputes between the Sadducees and Pharisees. He wrote as a member of the priestly tribe of Levi, as one who was a "guardian of the truth" and the sacred texts and ancient histories of the Jewish people. He was direly concerned about the apostasy in Israel, and his remarks are an exhortation to get back to observing the laws, statutes and commandments of YEHOVAH God, without compromise.
Notice his powerful, exhortative, authoritative statements:
"Remember the commandment which the LORD commanded you concerning Passover, that you observe it in its time, on the fourteenth of the first month, so that you might sacrifice it before it becomes evening and so that you might eat it during the night on the evening of the fifteenth from the time of sunset. For on this night there was the beginning of the feast and there was the beginning of joy. You continued eating the Passover in Egypt and all of the powers of Mastema were sent to kill all of the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh to the firstborn of the captive maidservant who was at the millstone and to the cattle. And this is the sign which the LORD gave to them in every house where they saw the blood of a year-old lamb upon its doors so that they would not enter into the house to kill, they would pass over so that all who were in the house might be saved because the sign of the blood was on its doors" (Jubilees 49:1-3).
Notice carefully. This passage clearly states that the Passover lambs were to be slain on the fourteenth of the first month, "before it becomes evening" -- that is, before sunset. It also states that the Passover lambs were to be eaten "during the night on the evening of the fifteen FROM the time of sunset." Since the Jews regard the day as beginning and ending "at evening," at the time of sunset (Lev.23:32), the lambs were slain in the late afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, and then eaten, after roasting them, on the beginning part of the 15th of Nisan. How plain!
"Between the Evenings"
Let us now continue:
"And the host of the LORD did everything which the LORD commanded them. And they passed over all the children of Israel. And the plague did not come upon them to destroy any life from them whether cattle or men or dogs. And there was a very great plague in Egypt. And there was no house in Egypt in which there was no corpse and weeping and lamenting. And all of Israel remained eating the flesh of the Passover and drinking wine, and praising and blessing and glorifying the LORD the God of their fathers. And they were prepared to depart from the yoke of Egypt and from evil slavery.
"And you, remember this day all of the days of your life and observe it from year to year on its day according to all of its law and you will not delay (one) day from (its) day or from (one) month to (another) month. For it is an eternal decree and engraved upon the heavenly tablets for all of the children of Israel that they might observe it in each and every year in its day once per year in all of their generations. And there is no limit of days because it is ordained forever" (Jub. 49:4-8).
Notice that the emphasis is placed on observing the Passover at precisely, explicitly, exactly the RIGHT TIME! It must not be delayed a single day. This would also mean that it must not be observed a day early, either! The Passover must be observed without any delay, or without any advancing the day or time! It must be killed in the late afternoon of Nisan 14 (when there was a Temple, so that it could be killed), and it must be eaten that same night -- which would be on Nisan 15!
To have eaten the Passover on the 16th of Nisan would have been delaying it one day -- and would have constituted egregious SIN. And to have eaten it after the 13th, at the beginning of the 14th, would have been advancing the date-- changing the date -- and would have been tantamount to grievous SIN!
Continuing the amazing 49th chapter of Jubilees, we read on:
"And (as for) the man who is purified and does not come so that he might observe it on its appointed day to bring a gift which is acceptable before the LORD and to eat and to drink before the LORD on the day of his feast, that man who is purified and nearby shall be uprooted because he did not bring a gift of the LORD in its (appointed) time. That man shall lift up sin upon himself. So that the children of Israel will be ones who come and observe Passover on its appointed day on the fourteenth of the first month between the evenings from the third (part) of the day until the third (part) of the night because two parts of the day are given for light and one third for evening. This is what the LORD commanded you so that you might observe it between the evenings" (Jub. 49:9-11).
Here we really get down to the nitty-gritty. The author of the book of Jubilees plainly says that anyone who is able to observe the Passover -- correctly, on its proper date -- but who neglects to do so, he will be "uprooted" -- cast out of Israel -- cut off -- because he did not obey YEHOVAH God's commandment.
But even more, the author then goes on to explain in clear terms, without any ambiguity or vagueness, that the Passover must be observed "on its appointed day on the fourteenth of the first month between the evenings from the THIRD (PART) of the day UNTIL THE THIRD (PART) OF THE NIGHT because two parts of the day are given for light and one third for evening." How plain! "Between the two evenings," then, means the "third part of the day."
The daylight portion of the day is from sunrise to sunset -- twelve hours. A "third part" of it would be four hours. The final "third part" of the day would therefore be from 2:00 PM in the afternoon until 6:00 PM -- the four hours when the sun does most of its "going down" until it finally "sets." This is the "evening" portion of the day, the time when the Passover was commanded by YEHOVAH God to be sacrificed (Exodus 12:6). It was the time of the "going down of the sun" (Deut. 16:6).
How plain! Here is an ancient, priestly, Levitical-Jewish authority who explains for us in plain language EXACTLY what the expression "between the evenings" refers to -- and who clarifies in precise language exactly WHEN the Passover was to be killed, and precisely WHEN the Passover was to be EATEN!
"A Third (Part) of the NIGHT"
But the author of Jubilees makes it even plainer. Notice! Going on:
"And it is not fitting to sacrifice it during any time of light except during the time of the border of evening. And they shall eat it during the time of evening until a third of the night. And what is left of all its flesh from the third of the night and beyond, they shall burn with fire. And it is not fitting that they should boil it in water. And they shall not eat it raw but roasted in the fire, cooked with care, its head with its inner organs and with its feet. They shall roast it in fire without breaking any of its bones within it because no bone of the children of Israel will be broken. Therefore the LORD commanded the children of Israel to observe the Passover on its appointed day. And it is not fitting to break any bone from it because it is the day of the feast and it is the day of the command. And there is no passing over or from month (to) month because it shall be observed on the day of the feast" (Jub. 49:12-14).
It would seem that YEHOVAH God inspired this instruction, from the ancient Levitical priesthood of the time of the Maccabees and shortly thereafter, containing information and revelation that goes back to the time of Moses, for our admonition and edification, today, who live in the END times -- this final END-time generation!
There is no need for confusion. There is no need for further doubt, hesitancy, or ambiguity. The case is clear. The evidence is clear-cut. The proof is overwhelming.
In this passage, our Levitical friend in the priesthood tells us in even more precise language that the Passover must be killed during the time of "the BORDER of the evening" -- that would be the hours before sunset, on the 14th of Nisan! The term "border" is quite clear. Furthermore, he states that it -- the Passover -- must then be eaten "during the time of evening UNTIL a third of the night." Evening here would be from sunset forward, till one third of the night passed! Therefore, from approximately 6:00 PM (sunset) the Passover would be eaten and consumed, UNTIL one third of the night passed. The "night" in a general sense would be the 12 hours from sunset until sunrise, even as the "day" is the 12 hours from sunrise until sunset. Therefore, the THIRD of the night would be the 4 hours from 6:00 PM until 10:00 PM.
Clearly this was the accepted practice understood and taught by the Levitical priesthood and the Jewish authorities in Israel from soon after the time of the Maccabees, following the teachings and traditions that came down through Ezra from the time of Moses.
Notice also, the author plainly says that the Passover meal or dinner itself -- which the Jewish people call the "seder," which simply means "setting forth" -- was to be "OBSERVED ON THE DAY OF THE FEAST" (v. 14). What day is that? Why, the 15th of Nisan, of course! The FEAST of Unleavened Bread begins with Nisan 15: "And on the fifteenth day of the same month IS THE FEAST of unleavened bread" (Lev. 23:6). "And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it A FEAST by an ordinance for ever. Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread: even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses..." (Exo. 12:14-16).
"In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month AT EVEN ["evening," the final third part of the day, remember], ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month AT EVEN [the final part of the 21st day, or the close of Nisan 21]" (Exo. 12:18).
The Passover then begins with the sacrifice of the lambs in the late afternoon of Nisan 14, and the Passover lambs were eaten at the beginning of Nisan 15 (the first "watch"), and the Feast continues on for seven days, called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is a seven day festival. It is also called "the Feast of Passover." YEHOVAH God told Ezekiel the prophet, "In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the PASSOVER, A FEAST OF SEVEN DAYS; unleavened bread shall be eaten" (Ezek. 45:21). Notice! It is NOT a Feast of EIGHT days -- but of SEVEN days! It lasts from the end of Nisan 14 through the end of Nisan 21 (Exo. 12:18).
The Jews never forgot this Biblical and Levitical admonition and instruction, as some suppose. They never got it mixed up. They never changed the date for the Passover.
Even in the time of Yeshua, the Jews were still observing Passover at the Biblically appointed time. Says the Critical Experimental Commentary by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown:
"In the early period of their history the Hebrews had no proper divisions of time, and accordingly periods of the day were indicated in a very loose and general manner...'Between the evenings' is a phrase of similar import, denoting the part or the day between the declining and the setting sun, or between NOON AND SUNSET. As the slaughtering of the numerous victims required would of necessity occupy a consider- able time, no particular hour was specified...But in order to be within the limits defined, it was necessary that it should be begun and completed between the commencement of the first and the termination of the second evening...In later times a controversy arose in reference to the time thus marked. The Samaritans and Karaites considered it as the interval between sunset and darkness. But the Pharisees and Rabbinists, who maintained that the first evening began after noon, and the second with the sunset, taught that the paschal lamb was to be killed in the interval between the ninth and eleventh hour, which, at the time of the equinox, corresponded to one, three and six o'clock P.M. Josephus states that such was the practice of the Jews in the time of our Lord" (vol. 1, p. 310).
Further evidence of this truth concerning the Passover comes to us from the New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. It tells us about Passover:
"Passover. Heb. pesah from pasah (to pass over in the sense of sparing)...It was instituted in Egypt to commemorate the culminating event in the redemption of the Israelites (Ex. 12;1, 14, 42; 23:15; Deut. 16:1,3). That NIGHT was to be much observed to the Lord, when he smote ALL the firstborn in the land of Egypt, but passed over the houses of the Israelites where the blood had been sprinkled and the inmates were standing, staff in hand, awaiting the deliverance promised by the Lord. The Festival began on the 14th of Abib AT EVENING, THAT IS, IN THE BEGINNING OF THE 15TH DAY, with the sacrificial MEAL (Leviticus 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, Josephus, Wars of the Jews, vi .9, 3)..." ("Passover," p. 705).
When we put it all together, it fits like the interlocking pieces of a carefully constructed jigsaw puzzle -- with not a single piece left out or unaccounted for!
The Passover and Divine Protection -- TODAY!
The book of Jubilees continues:
"And you command the children of Israel to observe the Passover in their days in every year, once per year, on its appointed day. And it will come as an acceptable memorial from before the LORD. And the plague will not come to kill or to smite during that year when they have observed the Passover in its (appointed) time in all (respects) according to his command. And it is not fitting to eat it outside of the sanctuary of the LORD, but facing the sanctuary of the LORD. And all the people of the congregation of Israel will observe it in its (appointed) time. And all the men who come on its day will eat it in the sanctuary of your God before the LORD, whoever is twenty years or older, because thus it is written and decreed that they shall eat it in the sanctuary of the LORD" (Jub. 49:15-17).
Note here that this is a command to every generation. And the promise is to every generation. Those who observe YEHOVAH's command implicitly, carefully, studiously, according to its proper application, "in all respects," have YEHOVAH's promise of protection during that year -- "the plague will not come to kill or to smite during that year when they have observed the Passover in its appointed time in all respects according to His command."
That promise of protection is from YEAR TO YEAR! Those who fail to observe and to keep YEHOVAH's true Passover at the appointed time will suffer the PLAGUES sent by YEHOVAH God upon the wicked!
Obviously, this is very important "business" to YEHOVAH God! To YEHOVAH God, it DOES matter which day -- or which night -- we observe the PASSOVER! Those who don't keep the Passover at the correct, appointed time will suffer the plagues and wrath of Almighty GOD!
Continuing, the Levitical priest sums up the matter, once again reminding us that the Passover was to be sacrificed "at evening when the sun is setting on the third (part) of the day." We read on in the book of Jubilees:
"And whenever the children of Israel enter into the land which they will possess, into the land of Canaan, they will set up the tabernacle of the LORD in the midst of the land, in one of their tribes, until the sanctuary of the LORD is built upon the land. And it will come to pass when they come and observe the Passover in the midst of the tabernacle of the LORD that they will sacrifice it before the LORD from year to year. And in the days when a house is built in the name of the LORD in the land of their inheritance, they shall go there and they shall sacrifice the Passover AT EVENING WHEN THE SUN IS SETTING ON THE THIRD (PART) OF THE DAY. And they shall offer up its blood on the threshold of the altar. And its fat they shall place on the fire which is above the altar. And they shall eat its flesh cooked in fire within the court of the house which is sanctified in the name of the LORD" (Jubilees 49:18-20).
To use an old saying, "That is as PLAIN AS DAY"!
This tells us the Passover was to be sacrificed in the evening, during the time when the sun is setting, on the third part of the day -- which is one third of the day, the third just before sunset -- or, from 2:00 PM till 6:00 PM. And this was ordained to be a commandment of YEHOVAH God "FOREVER." As the author stated in verse 8: "And there is no limit of days because it is ORDAINED FOREVER."
Therefore, it stands to reason that if we desire YEHOVAH's protection and deliverance from the plagues to come during the Day of the Lord, and if we desire to be delivered from YEHOVAH's Wrath which is soon to be poured out on this wicked, corrupt world, then we had better get serious and begin to celebrate YEHOVAH GOD'S PASSOVER AT THE CORRECT, APPOINTED TIME, DAY, AND HOUR!
"Let Them Not STRAY..."
Now let us continue:
"And they shall not be able to observe the Passover in their cities or in any district except before the tabernacle of the LORD or before his house in which his name dwells. And let them not stray from after the LORD. And you, Moses, command the children of Israel so that they shall keep the ordinance of the Passover just as it was commanded to you so that you might relate to them its annual (occurrence) each year, both its period of days and the feast of unleavened bread so that they might eat unleavened bread for seven days so that they might observe its feast, and so that they might bring its gift, day by day, during those seven days to rejoice before the LORD upon the altar of your God. For this feast you observed with nervousness when you went out from Egypt until you entered into the wilderness of Sur because you completed it on the shore of the sea" (Jubilees 49:22-23).
In this passage, just as we read in Deuteronomy 16, YEHOVAH God commands that there be no sacrificing of the Passover lambs outside of the city or place where He put His name -- that is, Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount. This puts the "lie" to the practice some have attempted, that is, to sacrifice a Passover lamb today in their own backyard, whether it be in Texas or Pennsylvania, or some other location other than the true place where YEHOVAH God has set His name -- Jerusalem, Israel.
Notice that YEHOVAH God gives us a final WARNING -- a final "shot across the bow," so to speak -- telling us that we must keep the Passover correctly, and that we must not "STRAY" from the commandments of the LORD!
Yet, when we survey the situation, today, in the remnant generation of the Churches of YEHOVAH God, we find perplexity, confusion, and chaos, when it comes to the Passover -- with some arguing for observing it a night early, in a clandestine, secretive, funereal setting. Some want to keep TWO nights -- the traditional night they inherited from the Worldwide Church of God, AND the night commanded in the Scriptures.
Some seem to think that Yeshua the Messiah CHANGED the time of observance of Passover, as well as the manner. Yet the Messiah himself said he did not come to change -- alter or destroy -- one single iota, jot or tittle, of the commandments and Law of YEHOVAH GOD (Matt. 5:17-19). Yeshua the Messiah is "the same, yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8). He doesn't change -- and he never changed YEHOVAH God's Law relative to the Passover!
What about you? Are you still confused? Isn't it about time we all begin to "straighten up, and fly right"?
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