Rivqah Yahsepha (Rebekah J.) Coover, 01-07-5768 (03-27-2007)
I was reading from the Song of Solomon, and my heart rejoiced to see the familiar words: "For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land." (Song of Solomon 2:11-12) Yes, it's that time of year again, and with Spring's arrival comes an eager anticipation for the Spring Feasts, the first of which is the week of Passover and Unleavened Bread. As is usually the case though, different people hold different views as to how the Passover is to be held, when it is to be held, and whether or not Passover and Unleavened Bread are one and the same festival. I would like to invite us all to reexamine the Passover topic with a fresh mind, in hopes that we can discover the Heavenly Father's true desires in regards to the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
First of all, I would like to focus on the Scriptural requirements for how to observe the Passover Seder. Exodus 12:8-9 ~ "And they shall eat the flesh (of the lamb or goat) 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 pertinence thereof." When Yahweh instructs that "they" shall eat of the lamb, that "they" includes all believers, regardless of nationality, as is clarified in Exodus 12:49 ~ "One law shall be to him that is home born, and unto the stranger that sojourneth with you."
There are several important points that are focused on in these instructions regarding the Passover meal. One is that the lamb is to be roasted with fire. This is very significant. Yahweh made it clear that cooking it in water would not suffice. We find the significance of this in Isaiah 48:10 where we read, "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." This furnace of affliction is further defined in Jeremiah 11:4 ~ "... I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and do [the words of this Covenant], according to all that I command you....." The iron furnace, the fiery furnace of much affliction, is Egypt, out of which Israel was delivered during the Passover, and out of which we are all symbolically delivered upon Yahshua's passing over of our sins. Thus, roasting the lamb with fire paints a clear picture for us of the suffering of our people and of the destruction that would certainly be ours if it were not for the atoning blood of the Lamb of Yahweh.
Another thing which is brought to our attention is that the Passover lamb is to be eaten with bitter herbs. Once again, this recalls the trials which our people have endured, the trials which we have and will endure, and the price which was paid with bitter pain for our transgressions.
The next thing I would like to point out that the Passover Seder (as well as all of the Feast of Unleavened Bread) involves just what the name suggests: unleavened bread. This is a parable for us of ridding our lives of unnecessary "filler", or whatever would crowd out the actual nutrition and meat of Yahweh's Word. Yahweh wishes us to be pure and unleavened, unadulterated, humble, and filled with His Spirit, not with the pleasures, distractions, and unsound doctrines of the world. Matthew 16:6 ~ "Then Yahshua said unto them, ‘Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.' " He further clarifies: " ‘How is it that you do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?' Then understood they how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." (verses 11-12) From these verses we see that the essence of the matter is not the flat bread. That is simply a tool which Yahweh uses to draw our attention to the fact that in order for Him to pass over the sin which has heretofore been in our lives, those transgressions must be REMOVED. Psalm 103:12 ~ "For as far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us."
Notwithstanding, the physical unleavened bread is still important, as every command breathed by Yahweh, no matter how small, is given for a purpose. Let us then seek to find out just what Yahweh meant when He specified "unleavened bread". Did He mean only that we should not use yeast? Or was He referring to all leavening agents?
First of all, let's look at the Hebrew word unleavened bread, that being # 4682 in the Strong's ~ hxm (matzah), meaning, "sweetness; concr. sweet (i.e. not soured or bittered with yeast); spec. an unfermented cake or loaf". While yeast is one method of fermenting and thus leavening, this definition also focuses on the difference between sweet bread (unleavened) and sour bread (leavened). We've all heard of sour dough, right? Regardless of the fact that this does not involve yeast, it does ferment the bread and puff it up, as well as souring it. This definitely reveals that there is more to leavening than simply yeast.
Another thing I wish to draw attention to is the fact that prior to modern baking methods, baking powder and baking soda were not even an option. There wasn't any such thing as throwing out the yeast and opening up the baking powder. Nowadays, baking soda and baking powder are used for practically everything, with the usage of yeast being very rare. This means that, IF these two ingredients are acceptable for Unleavened Bread use, our diet really doesn't have to change during the week of Unleavened Bread at all. But this does not seem to line up with the Heavenly Father's intentions. Just because a quicker method of leavening has arisen does not erase Yahweh's desire that our bread be flat during the Passover festival.
What about eggs? This is another technique which man has discovered. By beating egg whites, we can produce a light and fluffy cake with absolutely no baking powder, baking soda, sourdough, or yeast. This means that we can all feast on angel food cake every day of Unleavened Bread, right? If that's the case.... if that literally fits the definition of unleavened bread.... then we can replace the flat bread that we use during the Passover Seder with angel food cake too. After all, it certainly fits the definition of "sweetness" that we read in the Strong's for "matzah". But nobody would stand for that. That would be unScriptural. Do we see a double standard prevailing? If angel food cake does not count as Unleavened Bread for the Seder, how can it suffice as unleavened for the rest of the week? This is not consistent, and we know that Yahweh is consistent.
Should somebody present to me a table filled with delicious cookies, cakes, muffins, and breads, I would not be able to look at them and decide which ones were leavened with yeast, which ones with eggs, which ones with baking powder, etc. What is the difference? Paul tells us that "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." (1 Corinthians 5:6) We can philosophically debate the meaning of "leaven", but logic tells us that "A little baking powder, egg whites, or baking soda leaveneth the whole lump", producing as a finished product about the same result as when "A little yeast leaveneth the whole lump". When we are eating puffed up baked goods, what our senses tell us is that they are light and fluffy and pleasant to eat. Our tongue does not define for us whether it is eggs or baking soda or yeast that produced this effect. When Yahweh tells us to eat unleavened bread for the Passover / Unleavened Bread Festival, He means just what He says. He's not looking for a loophole that we can somehow justify as OK. He's looking for childlike obedience, not fleshly strategies of getting our own way while still feeling that we are technically obeying the letter of the Law. Yahweh said, "Do not commit murder." Is it OK, then, if we hate our brothers? We're really not murdering them; we're only desiring to murder them. NO, that is not OK, as Yahshua plainly tells us in Matthew 5:21-24, and later reiterates through the words of the disciple John in 1 John 3:15. Yahweh said, "Do not commit adultery." Is it alright then if we just entertain the thought of adultery, think of it as pleasant, and play games verging on adultery? NO. The definition of such practices is "ADULTERY" (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 5:27-28) Yahweh is looking for complete obedience, not just partial obedience, and the riddance of leavening from our bread is one tool He uses to teach us to get rid of sin. If we only want to go half way on the physical leavening, I have to wonder where our hearts are at in regards to spiritual leavening.
The last issue I want to cover as far as HOW we keep the Passover is the issue of feet washing. John 13:2-5 ~ "And supper being ended..... Yahshua knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from Elohim, and went to Elohim, He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments, and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that, He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash His disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded." Several questions arise. One is: Did Yahshua right at that time institute the feet washing? And secondarily: Is the feet washing required?
Something that is important to realize is that Yahshua did not come to earth to establish a new system of worship, a new religion, or a new covenant. ( See the booklets, "Yahweh's Covenants" and "Secrets Of The B'rit Chadasha", by Brother Mattithyah Coover, available for purchase or free download over the Real Messiah online store.) Yahshua is a part of Yahweh, One with the Father, and His entire mission on earth was to uphold His Father's plan and draw men back to the true worship of Yahweh. There are two opposing views to this. The first is that Yahshua came to tear down and disintegrate the Law, replacing it with something new. This is obviously not true, as Yahweh proclaimed, "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto [Moses], and will put MY WORDS in His mouth, and He shall speak unto them ALL THAT I SHALL COMMAND HIM" (Deuteronomy 18:18), and Yahshua Himself declared, "I am NOT come to destroy [the Law]" (Matthew 5:17) and "[Ye shall] know that I AM He, and that I do nothing of Myself, but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things." (John 8:28) While these Scriptures are understood by many Hebraic believers, there is another side of the fence that people get caught on which suggests that Yahshua came to actually make the Law better, or perfect it. This is not the case either, as Yahshua is an aspect of Yahweh, and Yahweh states, "I am Yahweh, I change not" (Malachi 3:6), and again in Hebrews 13:8 ~ "Yahshua Messiah, the same yesterday and today and forever." Yahweh does not start out at ground level and progress with time. Yahweh's Law has been perfect from the very beginning. Psalm 119:160 ~ "Thy Word is true from the beginning, and every one of Thy righteous judgments endureth forever." It is man who starts at the ground and must progress to higher levels. It is man that Yahweh has been perfecting, and whom He sent Yahshua to perfect, NOT THE LAW. (For a more in depth study on this, refer to the article "Did Messiah Come To Perfect The Law?", by Rivqah Coover.) In short, Yahshua's mission is not to institute new things, but to renew His people and their hearts. Did He initiate the feet washing as a new thing then? If we will examine the Scriptures, we will see that it had been in place for thousands of years already. 1 Samuel 25:41 ~ "And [Abigail] arose and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, ‘Behold, let thine hand maid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my master.' " From the context, it appears as though it was a common practice for a servant to wash the feet of the tired and dirty laborers. We see this again in 1 Timothy 5:9-10 ~ "Let not a widow be taken into the number, under three score years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for her good works, if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the set-apart ones feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work." As in 1 Samuel, washing of another's feet is recorded as common-place practice. A most beautiful example of washing feet is found in Luke 7:37-38 ~ "And behold, a woman in the city which was a sinner, when she knew that Yahshua sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him, weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment." When confronted about this, Yahshua told her accusers, "Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet: but she hath washed My feet with tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head." His host was scolded for giving Him no water with which to wash His feet. Besides washing others' feet, it was also a hospitable practice to provide water with which one could wash his own feet. See Genesis 18:4, 19:2, 24:32, 43:24, and Judges 19:21. What can we say? Did Yahshua institute the feet washing immediately preceding His death? Certainly not. Since the beginning of time, it has been Yahweh's desire that His children should have the hearts of servants. Yahshua looked upon His people and saw an increase of selfishness and a lack of humility and servanthood, and "reminded us how to do it", so to speak.
So is footwashing required? In Deuteronomy 30:19 we read the following: "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore, CHOOSE LIFE, that both thou and thy seed may live." In a sense, nothing is required. It all really comes down to a personal choice. Notwithstanding, we SHALL reap the results of our choices. Yahweh has clearly revealed which way we are to choose, and if we rebel, the consequences will be negative. This is depicted for us in John 13:6-8 ~ "Then cometh [Yahshua] to Simon Peter, and Peter saith unto Him, ‘Master, doth Thou wash my feet?' Yahshua answered and said unto him, ‘What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.' Peter saith unto Him, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet.' Yahshua answered him, ‘If I wash thee not, THOU HAST NO PART WITH ME." It is up to each one of us to make the choice. Do we desire to please Yahshua? Do we want to be like Him? Are we earnestly seeking to "have part with Him"? Then why wouldn't we choose to follow His instructions?
Having thoroughly covered the how's of keeping Passover and Unleavened Bread, now we will shift to discussing the when.
Let's talk about first things first. "And Yahweh spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, ‘This month (that is, Abib) shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.' " (Exodus 12:1-2) In order to reach the proper date, we need to know when this first month is and how to determine its beginning. There are several points in Scripture which are very clear.
1. The first month is in the beginning of Spring, which is indicated by the name of the month, that being ABIB. "Abib" literally means "barley", and we know that barley is a Spring time harvest. In Exodus 9:31, shortly before Israel's departure from Egypt, we read that "the barley was in the ear", which means that it was almost ready to be harvested.
2. Each month begins with the renewed (or new) moon. "New moon" is defined in "Thayer's Hebrew Lexicon" as "1) the new moon, month, monthly a) the first day of the month b) the lunar month". "The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible", under Hebrew word # 2320, tells us that the Hebrew word "chodesh" means "month; new moon, new moon festival". This word is translated "new moons" eleven times and "new moon" nine times, but it is also rendered "month" 216 times, "months" 37 times, "every month" two times, and "monthly" once. Thus we see that the new (or renewed) moon and the month go hand in hand, obviously because the renewed moon is the first day of the month.
3. This renewed moon is more specifically a visible crescent. This is brought to our attention simply by its name. After the sky has been dark for several nights, the moon is renewed, once again shining as a bright beacon to us, and announcing, "A new month has begun." This is affirmed in Scripture, which tells us, "It is the moon that marks the changing seasons, governing their times, their everlasting sign. From the moon comes the sign for festal days, a light that wanes when it completes its course. The renewed moon, as its name suggests, RENEWS ITSELF; how marvelous it is in this change, a beacon to the hosts on high, shining in the vault of the heavens." (Sirach 43:6-8) (For a much more detailed documentary on all of this and much more, see the booklet "The Quest For The Calendar", by Brother Mattithyah Coover, available for purchase or free download over the Real Messiah online store.
As Scripture leaves no question about when the month begins, let us determine when a Scriptural day begins, going back to the beginning of time to do so. "In the beginning, Elohim created the heaven and the earth..... And the evening and the morning were the first day..... And the evening and the morning were the second day....." (Genesis 1:1, 5, 8) This evening and morning scenario continues through all the days of creation. Clearly, Yahweh begins a day in the evening, which is defined as "at the going down of the sun" in Deuteronomy 16:6.
Now that we have covered when the month begins and when the day begins, let us proceed to which day of the month the Passover and Unleavened Bread observance is to begin on.
Exodus 12:3-8 ~ "Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house. And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls: every man according to his eating shall make your count for the 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 congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood and strike it on the two side posts, and on the upper door post of the houses wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire and unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs they shall eat it." There is an ongoing disagreement as to what is meant by "in the evening", as the Hebrew reads, "between the evenings". It is important to note that the Hebrew expression "between the evenings" was used in this case because of the fact that Yahshua was not literally slain in the evening on the fourteenth, but in the afternoon on the fourteenth, which still falls under the category of "between the evenings". It is interesting to pay attention to the fact, however, that Yahweh caused darkness to fall over the whole land during the time of Yahshua's death (Matthew 27:45), which indicates that the Passover lamb was to be slain at eventide, when the sun was setting and the day was darkening. Several other things which back this up are:
1. Exodus 12:6 ~ "And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month...." The lamb is to be kept up UNTIL the fourteenth, not up THROUGH or PARTIALLY THROUGH the fourteenth.
2. Exodus 12:8 ~ "And they shall eat the flesh in that night...." This passage no where references the fifteenth, but clearly tells us to keep the lamb up until the fourteenth, and to eat the flesh in THAT NIGHT.
3. Exodus 12:18 ~ "In the first month, ON the fourteenth day of the month at even (that is, literally "IN the evening", in the Hebrew), ye shall eat unleavened bread until the one and twentieth day of the month at even (in the evening)." When Exodus 12:6 commands that the Passover lamb be slain "between the evenings" on the fourteenth, IF it means that the lamb is to be slaughtered "in the late afternoon" on the fourteenth, with the Passover meal not being eaten until the evening bringing in the fifteenth, then unleavened bread does not begin to be eaten UNTIL THE FIFTEENTH. Yet, in Exodus 12:18, we are commanded to begin eating unleavened bread in the evening ON THE FOURTEENTH.
4. Deuteronomy 16:6 ~ "But at the place which Yahweh thy Elohim shall choose to place His Name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the Passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt." In spite of the fact that Exodus 12:6, Leviticus 23:5, and Numbers 9:5 poetically and prophetically read "between the evenings", Deuteronomy 16:6 reads "in the evening" in the Hebrew, and further clarifies for us that this "evening" is "at the going down of the sun". Again, in Joshua 5:10, we read that "the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even (Hebrew: IN THE EVENING), in the plains of Jericho."
All of this being detailed, when did Yahshua keep the Passover? We all know that it was on the evening of the fourteenth. Was this just a mock run because of the fact that He would not be alive to participate in a real Passover Seder on the fifteenth, as some will tell us? Let's see. Mark 14:12 ~ "And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover, his disciples said unto him, ‘Where wilt thou that we go and prepare, that Thou mayest eat the Passover?' " This verse points out several VERY important things.
1. This is referenced as "the first day of unleavened bread".
2. Again, it is referred to as "the Passover".
3. Even though Yahshua's disciples were still protesting the fact that Messiyah was going to die (See Mark 9:31-32, Luke 9:44-45, and Matthew 16:21-22), they had the timing for the Passover observance down, and knew exactly when they were going to keep it.
None of this seems to indicate that this was just a pseudo-Seder to replace the real one that Yahshua would be missing out on. On the contrary, it reveals exactly the opposite.
The last thing we should touch base on is whether Passover and Unleavened Bread are two separate observances or one joint festival.
Let's return to Exodus 12. Verse 14 ~ "And this day (that is, Passover) shall be unto you for a memorial, and you shall keep it a Feast to Yahweh throughout your generations: you shall keep it a Feast by an ordinance forever." With no differentiation as to another Feast being spoken of, verse 15 continues: "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread, even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread, from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. 16) And in the first day there shall be a set-apart convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be a set-apart convocation to you: no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. 17) And ye shall observe the feast of Unleavened Bread: for in this self same day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt; therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations, by an ordinance forever." Now we reach a very significant verse, that being Exodus 12:18 ~ "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." While the Passover lamb is partaken of on the fourteenth, the fourteenth is included among the seven days of Unleavened Bread. As verse 19 clarifies, "SEVEN days shall there be no leaven found in your houses...." If we keep the Passover as a separate day from the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the result is eight days, while Exodus explicitly tells us that it is to be seven. Also, if Passover is observed on the fourteenth, and then seven subsequent days are kept as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Festival week ends at the evening of the twenty-second, rather than the evening of the twenty-first as commanded in Exodus 12:18. Moreover, if one keeps a fifteenth Passover, as has been widely suggested and observed, followed by seven more days of unleavened bread, the Unleavened Bread week ends at the evening of the twenty-third. Obviously, none of these methods match up with Scripture.
Let's conclude this topic by turning to Mark 14:12 ~ "And the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover, His disciples said unto Him, ‘Where wilt Thou that we go and prepare, that thou mayest eat the Passover?' " A verse could not be clearer in regards to
1. This occasion literally being the Passover, not a mock run, as we mentioned before.
2. Passover and Unleavened Bread composing one Feast, that being the seven-day Festival commanded in Exodus.
As we have discussed, there is much rich meaning in the Passover emblems and practices. As well, Yahweh's timing is precise and important, Yahshua being in obedience to that timing when He was on earth as well. Last of all, it is clear from Scripture that in order for our dates to synchronize with our Heavenly Father's, our Passover and Unleavened Bread observance must constitute one seven-day period. In summary, Scripture is very clear in its directions regarding how and when to keep the Passover and Unleavened Bread, and the fact that both of these are aspects of one Festival. As Yahweh said in Deuteronomy 30:11, 14 ~ "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. But the Word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." Let us aspire then with the whole heart, soul, mind, and life, to DO IT. Blessings be upon each of you.
This article is gratefully dedicated to my father, Charlie Coover. Thank-you, Dad, for instructing me in the narrow path, for standing unwaveringly on the truth, and for passing on to me a legacy of steadfastness and a heritage of being unafraid to stand alone. I love you, Dad. Faithfully yours, Rivqah
I would also like to extend a thank-you to my mother Ameliyah (Amy), my sister Lydiyah, and my brother and sister-in-law, Mattithyah and Lindsey, as well as my father, for proofreading "The Passover and Unleavened Bread Debate" and offering their insights and thoughts on it.
And lastly, I cannot forget to thank My Heavenly Father for the gift of His Son, the ultimate Passover Lamb and goal of the Torah. My deepest appreciation is due to Him.