The Passover (2 Chronicles 30)

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Observance of Passover is tied to the deliverance of God’s people from the plague of the Egyptian firstborn and the Israelite’s subsequent exodus from  Egypt. The feast was to be celebrated on the fourteenth day of the first month (called Abib and later Nisan, spanning late March and early April, Exodus 12:2, 13:4) and was combined with the Feast of Unleavened Bread observed from fifteenth to the twenty-first day (Exodus 12:18). An alternate date, one month later, was provided  for anyone who had been unclean or otherwise unavailable to celebrate on the primary date (Numbers 9:11).

Passover was one of three annual pilgrim feasts that required attendance at the central sanctuary (Deuteronomy 16:5-6). Every circumcised male was to observe the feast, including resident aliens and purchased slaves but excluding foreigners, temporary residents and hired servants. National sacrifices were offered on the fourteenth and twenty-first days of the month, and no labour could be performed on those two days.

The original celebrants – still in Egypt – were to be clothed for travel, with shoes on their feet and staffs in their hands, demonstrating that they were ready to depart from the land of their slavery. A first-year lamb, selected on the tenth day, was to be guarded by each household until its slaughter on the evening of the fourteenth day. Its blood was to be sprinkled on the door frame with a hyssop brach, signalling to the “destroyer” to “pass over” that home. The lamb was eaten roasted (not raw or boiled) within a single home in one night; leftovers were burned on the following morning. The meal included bitter herbs and unleavened bread, symbolizing affliction and haste.

Passover observance is recorded only a few times in the Bible: in the days of Moses, Joshua, Hezekiah, Josiah and Zerubbabel. This does not imply that the feast was not celebrated at other times, although the commemoration does seem to have been neglected during periods of apathy and apostasy, especially during the pre-exilic period. Passover is mentioned in the Elephantine papyri (fifth century B.C.) and in the Temple Scroll of Qumran.


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