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Query #72 January 2021

The Pass Over ritual change


Why did God give detailed instructions for the Passover ceremony in Exodus 12 and then change them entirely in Deuteronomy 16?



We have been told that, “I am the LORD, I change not . . .”  Malachi 3:6.

This opens up before us a plethora of questions, not the least of which is, “Why would the Son of God change His mind over such an important point of ritual/doctrine when He says that He never changes?” and, “Why has the controversy taken so long (6,000 years plus)?”

Let’s see if we can unravel at least a small portion of those two and the others which are implied along with them. I do not claim to have all the answers, and in fact, the thoughts I am going to suggest now are radical and may be entirely wrong!  If so, I would be pleased if someone can convince me from the Scriptures that that is so!!

We have read in Exodus 12 that the Pass Over meal was to take place in the homes of the people, with enough people to ensure that the whole body was eaten with no waste; that it was the blood on the doorposts that had the outward significance, and which protected all the people inside the house whether they believed or not; that it was the eating of the flesh that protected the individual and this was an internal result.  And, most important of all, that only those who are circumcised (a picture of the removal of the old heart), could partake of it.

The basics of these rituals regarding the symbols of conversion, were repeated in the Book of the Law, Leviticus 23:5-8, where it is plainly stated that the Pass Over and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were two separate routines, not one eight-day system. [See note 2.]  We are told that the Pass Over day was a working day full of activity, and that it was the first and last of the next seven days of Feast of Unleavened Bread that were to be observed as ceremonial sabbaths, or holy (holi)-days.

Leviticus 23:

5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even [sunset] is the LORD's Pass Over [meal.] 

This could fall on any day of the week and in practise meant that the animal was killed on the afternoon of the 13th day to allow it to be cooked in time for a meal after sunset, which would be the beginning of the 14th day.  In Christ’s time this was the Thursday night before the crucifixion.

6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month [sunset on Friday that year. 

It was also a weekly Sabbath, a “high day”] is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD: seven days you must eat unleavened bread [from the 15th to the 21st.] 7 In the first day you shall have a holy convocation [a ceremonial sabbath]: you shall do no servile [ordinary] work therein.

8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD seven days:

in the seventh day is an[other] holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein [either.]   For more information click here.

Yet the following is also written about 40 years later to a generation who had never kept the Pass Over, for it was suspended while they wandered.[1]

{Patriarchs and Prophets 406.2}

During these years the people were constantly reminded that they were under the divine rebuke.  In the rebellion at Kadesh they had rejected God, and God had for the time rejected them.  Since they had proved unfaithful to His covenant, they were not to receive the sign of the covenant, the rite of circumcision.  Their desire to return to the land of slavery had shown them to be unworthy of freedom, and the ordinance of the Passover, instituted to commemorate the deliverance from bondage, was not to be observed.  {PP 406.2}

Here are the new rules given as they neared the end of the wandering:

Deuteronomy 16:

1 Observe the month of Abib [our March/April as the first month of the ceremonial year] and keep the Pass Over to the LORD your God [on the 14th day]: for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you forth out of Egypt by night [i.e. set you free.]

2 You shall therefore sacrifice the Pass Over to the LORD your God, of the flock and the herd, [on the 13th day] in the place which the LORD shall choose to place His name there. 3  [This time] you shall eat no leavened bread with it.

[After that, for the next] seven days shall you eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction: for you came forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. 4 And there shall be no leavened bread seen with you in all your coast [country} seven days;[2] neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which you sacrificed the first day at even [this is ambiguous, but see note 1 again], remain all night until the morning.

5 You may not sacrifice the Pass Over within any of your gates [at home anymore], which the LORD your God gives you: 6 but at the place which the LORD your God shall choose to place His name in, there you shall sacrifice the Pass Over at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that you came forth out of Egypt.

It is no longer to be used as a picture of the personal experience, but has become a church ordinance.

7 And you shall roast and eat it in the place which the LORD your God shall choose: and you shall [stay there all night and] turn in the morning, and go to your tents  8 Six days you shall eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God: you shall do no work therein.

The most obvious changes are: The meal could now consist of beef as well as lamb; it was not to be partaken of in the home, but had to be where the Son of God said it should be – that being where the sanctuary/temple was.  Next it mentioned that the bread to be eaten with it was now to be unleavened, the same as for the next seven days which was to be known as the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” which was an entirely separate festival.  There is no mention of the requirement of circumcision.

Another change was that the participants were to stay overnight in the sanctuary/temple which is most strange considering the number of mature males in Israel at that time would have been over a million! But, of course, only the dedicated ones, or the locals, actually attended.

So many changes – but there were more to come!

In the SDA Bible Dictionary, it is claimed that this led to another shift in the procedures.

Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, page 817, Article Passover.

. . . “Later the Passover was celebrated only at the central sanctuary, eventually at Jerusalem (Deut.16:2, 5,6.)  Although only adult males were required to attend (Ex. 23:14-17), the families might go voluntarily, as in the case of Joseph, Mary, and the child Jesus (Luke 2:41-43). 

In the time of Christ, the Passover lambs were killed by the priests at the Temple on the afternoon of the 14th and their owners then took them home for roasting.  [So the ritual was changed again dramatically.] 

This meant that the meal took place after sunset, on the 15th!!  How could this happen?  The Jews were so used to Roman time in that age that they now changed the dates at midnight (as we do today).

By that time the procedure was prescribed in detail, including the ritual search of the house [or lodging place] for any remaining bits of leaven. Then [the] kind and order of the dishes at the supper, the number of cups of wine, the hymns, the recital of the exodus story, and the prayers [were all set out.]

The participants no longer girded themselves as for a journey and they were sitting or reclining instead of standing, since these signs of haste were not appropriate after they were no longer strangers and wanderers but were dwelling in their own land.” 

Words fail me at this point!!  Not only did the Son of God through Moses, change the law of ritual, but it seems that the church at some later date or dates, changed it even further! 

We need to see something that has been missed for millennia!  

Maybe we are starting our teaching of the sanctuary services at the wrong ritual? 

(Where is there even a word from God which says that Christ died for our sins at Calvary?)

The answer to the top query appears to be based on a very fundamental fact of religious history.  When the LORD is faced with an absolute refusal by His people to do what He asks, then He has to go along with their desires or else lose them altogether.  This principle is so important and yet one that is regularly overlooked by readers of the Bible.  It is sometimes called by men “the permissive will of God”.  But it is an extremely dangerous way because God then has to wait till we realise that we are doing the wrong thing (usually when we or someone we love is hurt by it).  Then we may repent and learn that His way is the ONLY way.  But the men of the exodus never did!

Hebrews 3: [Psalm 78:40-41]

16 For some, when they had heard [the good news], did provoke [God the Spirit]: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was He grieved forty years? [Ephesians 4:30.]  Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? [Hebrews 3:10-11]

18 And to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not?

19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. 

In this case, sometime between the start of the exodus (Exodus 12) and the end of the 40 years wandering (Deuteronomy 16) which would be when all the first generation were dead (Numbers 14:26-35) and it was their children and grandchildren whom God through Moses was addressing, the people had wanted a smoother ritual.

Why this happened is not important EXCEPT that we need to take it into consideration when we read of the new rules (or any other apparent contradiction in the Bible).  The people had entirely lost the idea signified in the Pass Over meal, which showed the process of the new birth and instead had changed it into “just a routine” that God wanted.  

But we can see from the reply of Nicodemus (a learned man of the Pharisees, a Doctor in the Law, a PhD in our terms), in John 3:1-4 that by the time of Jesus they were thinking entirely in the physical realm and not in the spiritual.[3]  Jesus, however, had the Bible as His only authority and therefore He kept to the original word.  Sola Scriptura. [4]


Maybe this will lead us to investigate more deeply when we read our Bibles?


 Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.  Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library. Recognition is not always given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.

 Next query. To be discussed from 1st February 2021


What is a tare and what is its purpose in the church?

For contact:

mail to:  nonconformist@mail.com  or ron_pars@hotmail.com

To see past queries and my responses, click here.



 Note 1:

The wandering experience.

{Patriarchs and Prophets 374.1 to 406.2}

The building of the tabernacle was not begun for some time after Israel arrived at Sinai; and the sacred structure was first set up at the opening of the second year from the Exodus [on the anniversary of its occurrence.] 

This was followed by the consecration of the priests, the celebration of the Passover, [the last one for the remainder of the wandering], the numbering of the people, and the completion of various arrangements essential to their civil or religious system, so that nearly a year was spent in the encampment at Sinai.  Here their worship had taken a more definite form, the laws had been given for the government of the nation, and a more efficient organization had been effected preparatory to their entrance into the land of Canaan. {PP 374.1} . . .

They were ready to go into the Promised Land after only two years of preparation!

A distance of only eleven days’ journey lay between Sinai and Kadesh, on the borders of Canaan; and it was with the prospect of speedily entering the goodly land that the hosts of Israel resumed their march when the cloud at last gave the signal for an onward movement. 

Jehovah [He who keeps His word] had wrought wonders in bringing them from Egypt, and what blessings might they not expect now that they had formally covenanted to accept Him as their Sovereign, and had been acknowledged as the chosen people of the Most High?  {PP 376.3}  . . . 

But it was here that they rebelled again and again right on the border, until at last they forced God to rescind the ceremonies and give them time to repent.

In their unbelief they limited the power of God and distrusted the hand that had hitherto safely guided them.  And they repeated their former error of murmuring against Moses and Aaron.  “This, then, is the end of our high hopes,” they said.  “This is the land we have traveled all the way from Egypt to possess.” They accused their leaders of deceiving the people and bringing trouble upon Israel.  {PP 388.2}  . . .

The Lord [had] promised to spare Israel from immediate destruction; but because of their unbelief and cowardice He could not manifest His power to subdue their enemies.  Therefore in His mercy He bade them, as the only safe course, to turn back toward the Red Sea.  {PP 391.1}

In their rebellion the people had exclaimed, “Would God we had died in this wilderness!”  Now this prayer was to be granted.  The Lord declared: “As ye have spoken in Mine ears, so will I do to you: your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness, and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward [shall die there].... 

“But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.” And of Caleb He said, “My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed Me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.” As the spies had spent forty days in their journey, so the hosts of Israel were to wander in the wilderness forty years.  {PP 391.2}

When Moses made known to the people the divine decision, their rage was changed to mourning.  They knew that their punishment was just.  The ten unfaithful spies, divinely smitten by the plague, perished before the eyes of all Israel; and in their fate the people read their own doom.  {PP 391.3}

Now they seemed sincerely to repent of their sinful conduct; but they sorrowed because of the result of their evil course rather than from a sense of their ingratitude and disobedience [towards their Saviour.] 

When they found that the Lord did not relent in His decree [for it was based on THEIR choice], their self-will again arose, and they declared that they would not return into the wilderness.  In commanding them to retire from the land of their enemies, God tested their apparent submission and proved that it was not real. 

They knew that they had deeply sinned in allowing their rash feelings to control them and in seeking to slay the spies who had urged them to obey God; but they were only terrified to find that they had made a fearful mistake, the consequences of which would prove disastrous to themselves. 

Their hearts were unchanged, and they only needed an excuse to occasion a similar outbreak.  This presented itself when Moses, by the authority of God, commanded them to go back into the wilderness.  {PP 391.4}   . . .

For nearly forty years [actually 38 years] the children of Israel are lost to view in the obscurity of the desert.  “The space,” says Moses, “in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them.  For indeed the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from among the host, until they were consumed.” Deuteronomy 2:14, 15.[5]  {PP 406.1}

During these years the people were constantly reminded that they were under the divine rebuke.  In the rebellion at Kadesh they had rejected God, and God had for the time rejected them.  Since they had proved unfaithful to His covenant, they were not to receive the sign of the covenant, the rite of circumcision. [Joshua had to circumcise all the males of the nation after they had crossed over.  Joshua 5:1-7.] 

Their desire to return to the land of slavery had shown them to be unworthy of freedom, and the ordinance of the Passover, instituted to commemorate the deliverance from bondage, was not to be observed.  {PP 406.2} [It was not resumed until after they were in Canaan.  Joshua 5:10.]


I plead with you to go back and read every word from the opening paragraph to this last one (PP374 to PP406) and see why for that forty years there was very little communication by ceremonies between God and the people. 

The sanctuary existed and the daily was performed but nothing showing the act of conversion occurred for that whole time!! 

This is a fact that has been conveniently “forgotten” by our church.  Yet these ceremonies show the “HOW” of conversion (how to become a Christian) and therefore what the LORD expects of us.  This means that since 1863 the majority of SDA’s have been baptised INTO THE CHURCH and very few into Christ.  Truly does He tell us, “. . . you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are . . .  naked.” Revelation 3:17.   BACK    BACK#2!       



Note 2:

It is no wonder that the Pharisees and the Jews thought of the Pass Over day as the first of an eight-day festival, like the Feast of Tabernacles.  It was therefore changed to suit their requirement.   One thing we can be sure of, that Jesus, who gave them the original instructions back in the exodus, knew which was the correct day when He selected the Thursday sunset for His Pass Over meal thus making the Friday (the day of the crucifixion) a working day. 

Then He rested on the Sabbath and arose Sunday bringing the other firstfruits with Him.[6]   

In the Law it is written:

Leviticus 23:

5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD's Pass Over. 

6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD: seven days you must eat unleavened bread [for seven days]. 7   In the first day you shall have a holy convocation [a ceremonial sabbath]: you shall do no servile work therein. 8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD seven days: in the seventh day [the 21st] is a holy convocation [a ceremonial sabbath]: you shall do no servile [ordinary] work therein. 

9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 

10 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you be come into the land which I give to you, and shall reap the [first] harvest [of the year] thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest: 11 and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD [up high to be seen by the peoples of the universe], to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the [ceremonial] sabbath [the 16th day of the month] the priest shall wave it.

12 And you shall offer that day when you wave the sheaf a he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering to the LORD.[7]    BACK




[1] They had leavened bread for first Pass Over meal for it was a “normal” day in Egypt and they had baked on the 13th.  There was only one more Pass Over meal observed with LEAVENED bread because after the first anniversary ALL the preliminaries leading to the sanctuary rituals were suspended. (See also note 1.)  It was AFTER they had left Sinai that Moses was told that the ritual had been altered.

[2] Leaven (yeast) is often used as a symbol of sin in the Bible, so this signifies that the LORD wanted the people to have a sinless life from that moment on.

[3] It is the same today in many of our Colleges.  I have in my library a book produced by twelve leading persons at Andrews University in 2018 and they never mention the rebirth with any understanding of its significance.  They see only natural humans as Christians.

[4] This means the Bible, and the Bible only, has authority.

[5] He waited patiently till the last one of them died as a result of their lifestyles.

[6] It was a picture of His resurrection, and theirs.  Leviticus 2:12; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Matthew 27:51-53.

[7] In a burnt offering ALL of the animal is consumed on the altar, and the blood is sprinkled about its base.  Leviticus 1:5 and 9.