IS “BETWEEN THE EVENINGS” LITERAL?
In this section, we answer a critic who asserts that a literal understanding of “between the
two evenings” answers all questions.
The Israelites had to sacrifice the Passover before they could roast and eat it. It could
not be the other way around. Considering the instructions in Exodus 12:10, how can the
sacrifice be slain in the afternoon, as was Christ, and properly fulfill a literal theory of
“between the evenings”? Rather than answering both sides of the argument, this theory
rearranges the various parts of the Passover. You eat the Passover before it is slain and
then you slay the Passover. This is not very logical to say the least.
It is true that a literal understanding of "between the evenings" solves some of the
<apparent> Passover problems, if you are clinging to the early 14th Passover. However,
a literal understanding also creates some problems that require human reasoning to
circumvent, even according this erroneous view of when we are to keep Passover.
What we should desire is an understanding that does not need human reasoning to get
around the problems. There is really no difficulty with the scriptures in connection with
Passover; the difficulty only exists in the minds of men. As E.W. Bullinger put it, "We
believe what we have received from man; and we do our best to get it confirmed by the Bible. When
we are unable to get the confirmation we are in search of, then we find what we call a "difficulty."
But the difficulty is not in the Word of God itself; it is in our own minds. The real difficulty is in
giving up our own views because we fail to make the Bible conform to them. It does not, at first,
occur to our minds that we may have to abandon some of our views if we would get rid of the
In the past, we have focused on the term "between the evenings" in order to properly
understand the timing of Passover. This has led us down many different paths; only to
find that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. What we need is a fresh approach
which does not even require the term "between the evenings" to understand the timing of
Our critic gave two literal phrases to explain his theory. The two examples were #1)
between the pillars, taken from the story about Sampson (Judges 16:25) and #2) between
her breasts, taken from Hosea 2:2.
Answer: Between two pillars, would presumably be between two pillars within the same
building, not between a pillar in one building and a pillar in another building, as required
for the literal theory of “between the evenings”. It is obvious that Sampson could only
reach arms length. Therefore, we have something intimately close. In other words, we
have proximity. “Between my breasts” is even more obvious. It would not be between
the breast of one person and that of another person, but between the breasts of the same
person. Again, it is something close by. It is the same with "between the two evenings."
The evenings are in close enough proximity to have meaning. One question we would
have to ask, "If the Passover was slain between the evening of one day and the evening of
the next day, which two evenings are being referenced? There are two evenings in each
day. So, which two evenings are we speaking of? Furthermore, as the two evenings of
one day are in close proximity as the pillars and breasts, why would we opt for something
farther away without clear instructions to do so?
We might further point out that neither of these examples are dual-plurals – the basis for
our critic’s argument for literal understanding of “between the evenings”. The first
example, `~ydIWM[;h' !yBe “between the pillars” is masculine plural and the second,
`h'yd,v' !yBemi “from between her breasts” is actually feminine singular.
The bible says, "Genesis 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And
the evening and the morning were the first day." There are two ways of looking at this – John
11:9 "Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he
stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world."
In the first scripture, we see that a day has an evening and a morning. In the second
scripture, we see that there are 12 hours in a day. This is obviously speaking of a day that
begins with sunrise and ends with sunset. There were also 12 hours in the night divided by
watches of 3 hours each. Mt 14:25, "And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them,
walking on the sea." The fourth watch would have been between what we call 3AM and
6AM, when Christ came to them on the sea.
1Ki 18:26, "And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the
name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any
that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made."
In other words, morning ends at noon. Will anyone argue that morning extends beyond
noon? Therefore, we see from the bible that the evening of the day is from noon until
sunset. However, this is only one way to look at these scriptures. There is a 24-hour
day. If Gen. 1:5 is referring to the 24-hour day, we see that <evening> and <morning>
make up the entire 24-hour day. This means that once we remove morning – from
daybreak until noon – the rest of the day is the <evening> of day. The 24-hour view
seems intended as the bible mentions <evening> first. If Moses intended the 12-hour day
it would seem that he would have stated it this way, "morning and evening were the first
Regardless of which of these two ways one prefers to understand Genesis 1:5, from noon
until sunset is evening.
The reason we cannot accept the view that "between the evenings" is from one sunset to
another sunset is because it flies in the face of other scriptures.
Numbers 33.3, "And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the month;
<on the morrow after (#4283) the Passover> the Children of Israel went out with an high hand in the
sight of all the Egyptians."
In the past, we have not understood that this word #4283 must mean the daylight portion
of the 15th day when the Israelites went out of Egypt. We have thought it could refer to
the entire 24-hour day of the 15th. That is just not the case. The only period of time
which can be called "the morrow after the Passover" is the daylight period which falls
after the Passover is slain in the afternoon of the 14th, eaten in the beginning of the 15th,
the leftovers burned before daybreak of the 15th, and the Israelites leaving at daybreak
of the 15th.
The literal approach to "between the two evenings" also creates a problem with the
Exodus 12:10 And ye shall let nothing of it (the Passover) remain until the morning; and that which
remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.
Ex 12:22, "And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike
the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and <none of you shall go out at
the door of his house until the morning>"
Exodus 34:25 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of
the feast of the Passover be left unto the morning.
If the literal approach is correct, we have a contradiction in the bible. These scriptures
demand the lamb to be slain, eaten, and its remains burned, before daybreak of the 15th
day. The literal approach would teach us that the lamb could be slain even after the
Israelites had to burn it – impossible!
We need to understand what an idiom really is. To say that an idiomatic expression had to
first have a literal meaning is missing the point entirely. An idiomatic expression always
has a literal meaning. However, only those who know the literal meaning of the idiom
they use understand what they are really saying. According to the dictionary, "An idiom is
a speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot
be understood from the individual meanings of its elements." An idiomatic expression originates
with literal language and continues to have literal meaning, which the uninitiated cannot
understand. We say, "Turn the corner left, at the first street light." That is an idiom,
because we do not take hold of the corner and turn it, but we go around the corner.
However, one clearly understands the idiom if he has grown up with its usage. The idiom,
“between the evenings” literally means “between the beginnings of the two evenings”.
Notice how the Septuagint expresses it, “between the evening times”. We can
understand this as “between two blocks of time” or “between the beginnings of two
blocks of time”. As no time exists between the two evenings understood as two blocks of
time, we must accept that the literal express for “between the evenings” is “between the
beginnings of the two evenings”.
Leviticus 23:5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evening times is the
We cannot understand “between the evenings” literally – it is not expressed in a clear
non-idiomatic way – therefore, it is a metaphor. It has a peculiar understanding
established sometime in the dim past, today some groups understand it as “from noon to
sunset” and other groups understand it as “from sunset to dark”.
Much of our difficulty with this expression’s difficulty comes from a lack of understanding
the Hebrew Language. Moreover, some are unwilling to accept the Hebrew Lexicon
definition because it flies in the face of what they have come to believe – their traditions.
What creates more of a problem is that there is some slight controversy about this
expression among the Jews. However, we have hardly understood even that
controversy. Some of the Jews understand “between the evenings” is between sunset and
dark. However, the vast majority of the Jews understand this expression as the
afternoon of a day. Moreover, no Jew would suggest slaughtering the Passover at the
beginning of the 14th between sunset and dark based on the expression “between the
Grabbe and Kuhn, who did an extensive research on this subject while in the employ of
Worldwide, came to the following conclusion, "We have examined all the major sources for how
the Jews have kept Passover down through history. Not a single one of them so much as suggest that
the Passover was ever offered at the beginning of the 14th. They are all completely unified in seeing
the Passover as belonging to the end of the 14th."
Anytime one is first approached with this literal understanding of the elements of
"between the two evenings," it somewhat dazzles you because it is a new perspective you
have not had time to think through. However, on reflection, it proves to be an impossible
conclusion. It has no history to back it up. It makes a farce of the timing of the evening
sacrifice, a daily afternoon occurrence. In other words, if "between the evenings" can be
anytime from one sunset to the next sunset, the priests could have offered the evening
sacrifice anytime during the 24-hour day. The Jews are being consistent with their
understanding of this term. While they could have become confused about an annual
sacrifice, it is impossible that they could have become confused about a daily sacrifice.
Can you imagine sacrificing the evening sacrifice, which was done "between the two
evenings" right at dark, on a daily basis, in a society which had no gas or electric lights?
If the Levites could have offered the evening sacrifice anytime between the sunset of one
day and the sunset of the next day, it could have presumably been a morning sacrifice!