Passover Twilight


“Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it [the Passover lamb] at twilight” (Exodus 12:6 NKJV).

The Passover lamb was killed “at twilight”, which began at evening, or around 6 PM. Yet Jesus clearly died at the “ninth hour”, or around 3 PM: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice … And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last” (Mark 15:34-37 NKJV). How can these be reconciled?

The Passover lamb was killed “at twilight”. The word translated as “evening” means “the time of the day immediately PRECEDING AND FOLLOWING the setting of the sun” (‘ereb OT:6153 Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words [author’s emphasis]). The Hebrew uses the DUAL form ‘arbaayim to describe the time of day the Passover sacrifice was to occur. This is the dual form of the Hebrew word ‘ereb translated as “twilight.” The passage is literally “between the evenings”.
•    The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states “In Exodus 12:6, the Hebrew reads literally, ‘between the two evenings’, likely ‘twilight’, the time interval between sunset and darkness in which there is a state of illumination.” (OT:4628 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)
•    The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary states “Between the evenings’ is a phrase of similar import, denoting the part of the day between the declining and the setting sun, or between noon and sunset. Since the slaughtering of the numerous victims required would of necessity occupy a considerable time, no particular hour was specified, further than that the operation should be performed `between the evening.’” (Exodus 12:6 Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)
•    Fausset's Bible Dictionary states, “The ancient custom was to slay the Passover shortly after the daily sacrifice, i.e. three o'clock, with which hour Christ's death coincided.” (“Passover” Fausset's Bible Dictionary)
The evening sacrifice occurred at the ninth hour or three in the afternoon
•    “The man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.” (Daniel 9:21 NASU) 
•    Barnes’ Commentary states, “The evening sacrifice. This was at the ninth hour of the day, or about three o'clock in the afternoon.” (Daniel 9:21 Barnes’ Notes)

The priests would wait until twilight to offer the Passover sacrifice. Yet on that specific Passover on which Jesus was killed, the twilight began at 12 noon: “By this time it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o'clock.” (Luke 23:44 NLT) Imagine the difficulty for the priests that afternoon as they experienced three hours of darkness, followed by the regular afternoon light, followed by a regular sunset, followed by the darkness of night. The suddenness that the darkness arrived and the duration of that darkness may have made it impossible to determine the exact hour “between the evenings”.

“You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you; but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt. And you shall roast and eat it in the place which the LORD your God chooses, and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents.” (Deuteronomy 16:5-7 NKJV)