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How and When to Keep the Second Passover (Part 1)

There are two passages in the Bible which deal expressly with the “second Passover.” It is first introduced in Numbers 9:1-14, where we read:

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: ‘Let the children of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight [literally, “between the two evenings,” designating the time between sunset and nightfall], you shall keep it at its appointed time. According to all its rites and ceremonies you shall keep it.’ So Moses told the children of Israel that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, in the Wilderness of Sinai, according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did.

“Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day [compare Numbers 5:2; 19:11-12]; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. And those men said to him, ‘We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the LORD at its appointed time among the children of Israel?’ And Moses said to them, ‘Stand still, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you.’

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying, “If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the LORD’s Passover. On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it.

“‘”But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and ceases to keep the Passover, that same person shall be cut off among the people, because he did not bring the offering of the LORD at its appointed time, that man shall bear his sin. And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the LORD’s Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land.”‘”

In the Old and the New Testaments, the Passover was to be observed as a memorial once a year. In our free booklet, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days“, we state:

“We read in 1 Corinthians 11:26: ‘For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.’ Many have interpreted this Scripture to say, ‘Take it as often as you please.’ But this is not what the Scripture teaches. By reading in context, we learn that Paul was reminding the disciples of the events that happened on the ‘same night in which He (Christ) was betrayed’ (verse 23). Paul stated that on that night, Christ took the bread and the wine, gave it to His disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat…do this in remembrance of Me… This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’ (verses 24, 25)…

“Christ commanded His converted disciples to partake of the symbols of bread and wine ‘in remembrance’ of ‘the Lord’s death.’ This is clearly a memorial—as the first and last Days of Unleavened Bread are memorials—and memorials of momentous occasions are always observed annually—once a year—on the anniversary of the event they commemorate. It should be noted that God specifically denotes seven ANNUAL Sabbaths or Holy Days to be observed in their appointed times. These annual Holy Days are either memorials of events that have already taken place, or they foreshadow events that will still occur. It is during these annual observances that we are instructed to keep exactly what God has commanded.

“Christ and His disciples were keeping the Passover—an annual celebration of the time when Old Testament Israel was spared from death… the Israelites had to take some of the blood of the Passover lamb and put it on the two door posts and on the lintel of the houses where they ate the lamb (Exodus 12:7–8). God had promised to ‘pass over’ the Israelites when He saw the blood (Exodus 12:13, 23). The entire service was called the ‘LORD’S Passover’ or the ‘Passover sacrifice’ (Exodus 12:11, 27).

“Luke 22:15 tells us that Christ had ‘desired with fervent desire to eat this Passover.’ We read in Matthew 26:17–20 that the disciples had prepared the Passover, and that Christ and His disciples ate it—the Passover lamb—’when evening had come’ (Matthew 26:20; notice also Mark 14:12–18, 22). Christ changed the symbols that night from the flesh and the blood of a lamb, to the bread and the wine of the true ‘Passover Lamb’—Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7)…

“By partaking of the bread and the wine on the Passover night, Christ’s disciples symbolically partake of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ for the continued forgiveness of their sins, as well as for their physical and spiritual healing, eventually leading to eternal life (John 6:58). So we see that it was the night of Jesus’ last Passover supper that He introduced the new symbols. Note that the Passover symbols were changed, not WHEN, or how often, Passover itself was to be observed.

“The Passover was kept once a year—’as a memorial.’ On the night when Christ was betrayed, He kept the Passover. The Passover was, at that time, celebrated as a supper—that is why it is called in Scripture ‘the Lord’s supper.’ Christians are today to continue keeping the Passover, but not as a meal—not as ‘the Lord’s Supper.’ They are only to partake of the symbols of bread and wine on the Passover night. They do not eat a full meal during the Passover service… Christians are told that they must ‘discern the Lord’s body’—they must distinguish the symbols of bread and wine from an ordinary meal (1 Corinthians 11:29). 1 Corinthians 11:20, 34 tells us, ‘Therefore when you come together in one place, it is NOT to eat the Lord’s Supper… But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home.’ (As an aside, nowhere does the Bible describe the Passover service as ‘communion,’ when we are to partake of bread and/or wine)… Paul did NOT say in 1 Corinthians 11 that Christians should partake of the ‘Lord’s Supper,’ and that they can do so ‘as often as they please.’ Rather, they are partaking of the New Testament Passover symbols of bread and wine once a year—during the Passover service—in memory of and as a memorial of Christ’s death and sacrifice. Every year, when they do so, they proclaim Christ’s death until He returns.”

The introduction of the second Passover does not change anything in regard to what is stated above. Those who are allowed to observe the second Passover did NOT keep the first Passover. Those who have kept the (first) Passover would not keep it again one month later. That means, the Passover is still being kept only once a year.

As Israel forsook God and His laws, they also forgot to keep the Passover and the Seven Days of Unleavened Bread, which follow the Passover. In due time, King Hezekiah of Judah restored the proper worship temple service in Judah, and in the process, he told the Jews and those from the house of Israel who had not been taken away by the Assyrians to keep the Passover (2 Chronicles 30:1, 6). However, as “they could not keep it at [the] time [of the first Passover], because a sufficient number of priests had not sanctified themselves, nor had the people gathered together at Jerusalem” (verse 3), the king, his leaders and all the congregation in Jerusalem had agreed to keep the Passover in the second month (i.e., to keep the second Passover) (verse 2). Many of the remnant of the house of Israel refused to come to Jerusalem for the second Passover, but some “humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem” (verses 10-11). Some of those who assembled had not “cleansed themselves” “according to the purification of the sanctuary”, even for the second Passover, they “ate the Passover contrary to what was written.” Hezekiah prayed for God’s forgiveness for them, and God healed them (verses 18-20).

God had decreed that the Seven Days of Unleavened Bread were to be kept in the first month, following the (first) Passover. The king and the people proceeded to keep them however in the second month, following the second Passover (2 Chronicles 30:13, 21-22). And because of the restored feelings of gladness and joy, it was decided to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread for another seven days (verse 23). We read that “since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem” (verse 26).

We note that the first Passover was not observed because there were not sufficient priests who had [ritually] sanctified themselves “because the cleansing of the temple was not finished until the sixteenth day, see 2 Chronicles 29:17 and… because the priests had not sanctified themselves sufficiently; that is, a sufficient number of them were not sanctified, to slay all the passover lambs” (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible); and because the people had not gathered together in Jerusalem which “they could not do, because neither was the matter agreed upon, nor were the people summoned thither, till the proper time was past” (Benson Commentary).

In addition, we read that there were those who ate the second Passover even though they had not cleansed themselves. They were not ceremonially clean, but God forgave them upon the prayer of Hezekiah.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary explains that the priests slaughtered the Passover lamb for those who were ceremonially unclean (see verse 17), stating: “This was a deviation from the established rules and practices in presenting the offerings of the temple. The reason was, that many present on the occasion having not sanctified themselves, the Levites slaughtered the paschal victims… for everyone that was unclean. At other times the heads of families killed the lambs themselves, the priests receiving the blood from their hands and presenting it on the altar. Multitudes of the Israelites, especially from certain tribes (2Ch 30:18), were in this unsanctified state, and yet they ate the [second] passover—an exceptional feature and one opposed to the law (Nu 9:6); but this exception was allowed [better: it was not held against them] in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer (2Ch 30:18-20).”

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds the following comments to verse 17: “For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified,…. Or purified from uncleanness, contracted either by idolatry, or through such things which, according to the ceremonial law, made them unclean, and from which they had not now time to cleanse themselves according to the law: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for everyone that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the Lord; this they did for the masters of families, who were ceremonially unclean, who otherwise might have killed their passover lambs themselves, see Exodus 12:6, but now the Levites did it for them, that their passovers might be sanctified and consecrated to the Lord; for, as Philo the Jew says… one day in a year the whole sacrificed, everyone acted as a priest, and brought and slew his own sacrifice, meaning at the passover.”

The Benson Commentary adds this in commenting to verse 18:

“A multitude of the people had not cleansed themselves — Either they did not know, after such a long night of ignorance and superstition, what ceremonies were required, in order to their purification, or they had not time to use them. Yet having an eager and pious desire to commemorate their wonderful deliverance out of the Egyptian bondage, they were permitted, in their uncleanness, to eat the [second] passover, lest they should be discouraged if they were denied it, in this their return to the true religion. But Hezekiah prayed for them — It was his zeal that had called them together in such haste, and he would not that they should fare the worse for being straitened for time in their preparation. He therefore thought himself concerned to be an intercessor for those that ate the [second] passover otherwise than it was written. And he had confidence that God was so gracious that he would not, on account of the omission of some prescribed ceremony, be wroth with men whose hearts were upright before him.”

We need to emphasize that the second Passover is still to be observed today with the new symbols introduced by Jesus, but ONLY by those who did not and could not partake of the first Passover. We note that in Old Testament times, the second Passover was observed exactly in the same way as the first Passover, only that it was kept exactly one month later, but still on the 14th day of the (second) month, “at twilight” (between the two evenings of sunset and nightfall); with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; and with Passover lambs which were not to be kept until morning, and the bones of which were not to be broken. (Of course, blood was not put on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses during the first or the second Passover, as this was strictly done during the very first Passover night. That part of the original ceremony was not carried out during subsequent first and second Passover celebrations.)

We should also note that Numbers 9:10-12 does not say anything about observing Seven Days of Unleavened Bread AFTER the observance of the second Passover. We will discuss in the next installment as to how we are to understand and apply today the events described in 2 Chronicles 30.

In addition, we read that only those could observe the Old Testament Passover (both the first and the second Passover) if they were physically circumcised (compare Exodus 12:48). This fact has important ramifications for the observance of the New Testament Passover as Paul warns against partaking of it in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27, 29). In ancient Israel, a foreigner could not partake of the Passover if he was not physically circumcised, and from this, the Church of God has concluded and teaches that a person must be “spiritually” circumcised in order to partake of the Passover.

Note this from our free booklet, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days,” regarding the Passover:

“The Old Testament demands that no male who was uncircumcised was to participate at the Passover… Even though physical circumcision is no longer a requirement for New Testament Christians, they are circumcised spiritually (Colossians 2:11–12; Romans 2:26–29). This can only occur through the indwelling Holy Spirit, which God gives us after proper baptism. Christ’s disciples had been baptized (even though, in the extraordinary case of the eleven apostles, they had not yet received the Holy Spirit—they would receive it, however, on the Day of Pentecost)…

“No male was allowed, in Old Testament times, to partake of the Passover, unless he was circumcised. True Christians are circumcised spiritually, in the heart, by and through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, after proper baptism. Therefore, only properly baptized members of the spiritual body of Christ—the Church—who don’t hold grudges against anyone, and who do not have hate toward others in their hearts, are to partake of the annual symbols of bread and wine. In doing so, they reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. This teaching is supported by the fact that Jesus waited until Judas had left them, before He introduced the New Testament symbols of bread and wine…”

As there is, in spiritual application, “neither male nor female” in God’s Church today (Galatians 3:28), the requirement of having been “spiritually circumcised” by having been properly baptized and having received the gift of the Holy Spirit in order to partake of the Passover symbols applies to both men and women.

We should take note of the fact that the second Passover was for those who could not take the first Passover because, among other reasons, they were ritually unclean or defiled by having touched a corpse. When they became ritually clean, they could take the second Passover. In the next installment, we will discuss if and under what circumstances the spiritual analogy might apply when a person who is spiritually unclean and therefore prevented from taking the first Passover, as he or she would take it unworthily, would be able to take the second Passover after he or she has become spiritually clean. In this context, we will also address the important point that the men who were not able to keep the first Passover due to ritual uncleanness asked Moses why they should be deprived from presenting the offering of the LORD on Passover. Finally, we will explain how eligible participants should observe the second Passover.

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link