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* These computations, being derived from official documents, can scarcely have been much exaggerated. Indeed, Josephus expressly guards himself against this charge.
Those who lodged within the walls were gratuitously accommodated, and in return left to their hosts the skins of the Passover lambs and the vessels which they had used in their sacred services. In such festive 'company' the parents of Jesus went to, and returned from this feast 'every year,' taking their 'holy child' with them, after He had attained the age of twelve--strictly in accordance with Rabbinical law (Yoma, 82a)--when He remained behind, 'sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions' (Luke 2:41-49). We know that the Lord Himself afterwards attended the Passover feast, and that on the last occasion He was hospitably entertained in Jerusalem, apparently by a disciple (Matt 26:18; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7- 13), although he seems to have intended spending the night outside the city walls (Matt 26:30,36; Mark 14:26,32: Luke 22:39; John 18:1).
The Preparations for the Passover
But the preparations for the Passover had begun long before the 14th of Nisan. Already a month previously (on the 15th of Adar), bridges and roads had been repaired for the use of the pilgrims. That was also the time for administering the testing draught to women suspected of adultery, for burning the red heifer, and for boring the ears of those who wished to remain in servitude--in short, for making all kinds of preliminary arrangements before the festive season began. One of these is specially interesting as recalling the words of the Savior. In general, cemeteries were outside the cities; but any dead body found in the field was (according to an ordinance which tradition traces up to Joshua) to be buried on the spot where it had been discovered. Now, as the festive pilgrims might have contracted 'uncleanness' by unwitting contact with such graves, it was ordered that all 'sepulchres' should be 'whitened' a month before the Passover. It was, therefore, evidently in reference to what He actually saw going on around Him at the time He spoke, that Jesus compared the Pharisees 'unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness' (Matt 23:27). Then, two weeks before Pesach, and at the corresponding time before the other two great festivals, the flocks and herds were to be tithed, and also the Temple treasury- chests publicly opened and emptied. Lastly, we know that 'many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves' (John 11:55). It is this practice which finds its spiritual application in regard to the better Passover, when, in the words of St. Paul (1 Cor 11:27,28), 'whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.'
The Custom of Modern Days
The modern synagogue designates the Sabbath before the Passover as 'the Great Sabbath,' and prescribes particular prayers and special instruction with a view to the coming festival. For, according to Jewish tradition, at the original institution of the Passover (Exo 12:3), the 10th of Nisan, on which the sacrifice was to be selected, had fallen on a Sabbath. But there is no evidence that either the name or the observance of this 'Great Sabbath' had been in use at the time of our Lord, although it was enjoined to teach the people in the various synagogues about the Passover during the month which preceded the festival. There is also a significant tradition that some were wont to select their sacrificial lamb four days before the Passover, and to keep it tied in a prominent place within view, so as constantly to remind them of the coming service.
The Three Things
We have already explained that according to the Rabbis (Chag. ii, 1; vi. 2), three things were implied in the festive command to 'appear before the Lord'--'Presence,' the 'Chagigah,' and 'Joyousness.' As specially applied to the Passover, the first of these terms meant, that every one was to come up to Jerusalem and to offer a burnt-offering, if possible on the first, or else on one of the other six days of the feast. This burnt-offering was to be taken only from 'Cholin' (or profane substance), that is, from such as did not otherwise belong to the Lord, either as tithes, firstlings, or things devoted, etc. The Chagigah, which was strictly a peace- offering, might be twofold. This first Chagigah was offered on the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Passover sacrifice, and formed afterwards part of the Passover Supper. The second Chagigah was offered on the 15th of Nisan, or the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. It is this second Chagigah which the Jews were afraid they might be unable to eat, if they contracted defilement in the judgment-hall of Pilate (John 18:28). In reference to the first Chagigah, the Mishnah lays down the rule, that it was only to be offered if the Passover day fell on a week-day, not on a Sabbath, and if the Passover lamb alone would not have been sufficient to give a satisfying supper to the company which gathered around it (Pes. vi. 4). As in the case of all other peace-offerings, part of this Chagigah might be kept, though not for longer than one night and two days from its sacrifice. Being a voluntary offering, it was lawful to bring it from sacred things (such as tithes of the flock). But the Chagigah for the 15th of Nisan was obligatory, and had therefore to be brought from 'Cholin.' The third duty incumbent on those who appeared at the feast was 'joyousness.' This expression, as we have seen, simply referred to the fact that, according to their means, all Israel were, during the course of this festival, with joyous heart to offer peace-offerings, which might be chosen from sacred things (Deut 27:7). Thus the sacrifices which every Israelite was to offer at the Passover were, besides his share in the Passover lamb, a burnt-offering, the Chagigah (one or two), and offerings of joyousness--all as God had blessed each household. As stated in a PREVIOUS SECTION, all the twenty-four courses, into which the priests were arranged, ministered in the temple on this, as on the other great festivals, and they distributed among themselves alike what fell to them of the festive sacrifices and the shewbread. But the course which, in its proper order, was on duty for the week, alone offered all votive, and voluntary, and the public sacrifices for the whole congregation, such as those of the morning and the evening (Succah v. 7).
The special preparations for the Passover commenced on the evening of the 13th of Nisan, with which, according to Jewish reckoning, the 14th began, the day being always computed from evening to evening. *
* The article in Kitto's Cyc. (3rd edition), vol. iii. p. 425, calls this day, 'the preparation for the Passover,' and confounds it with John 19:14. But from the evening of the 14th to that of the 15th is never called in Jewish writings 'the preparation for,' but 'the eve of, the Passover.' Moreover, the period described in John 19:14 was after, not before, the Passover. Dean Alford's notes on this passage, and on Matthew 26:17, suggest a number of needless difficulties, and contain inaccuracies, due to a want of sufficient knowledge of Hebrew authorities. In attempting an accurate chronology of these days, it must always be remembered that the Passover was sacrificed between the evenings of the 14th and the 15th of Nisan; that is, before the close of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th. The Passover Supper, however, took place on the 15th itself (that is, according to Jewish reckoning--the day beginning as the first stars became visible). 'The preparation' in John 19:14 means, as in verse 31, the preparation-day for the Sabbath, and the 'Passover,' as in 18:39, the whole Passover week.
Then the head of the house was to search with a lighted candle all places where leaven was usually kept, and to put what of it he found in the house in a safe place, whence no portion could be carried away by any accident. Before doing this, he prayed: 'Blessed art Thou, Jehovah, our God, King of the Universe, who hast sanctified us by Thy commandments, and commanded us to remove the leaven.' And after it he said: 'All the leaven that is in my possession, that which I have seen and that which I have not seen, be it null, be it accounted as the dust of the earth.' The search itself was to be accomplished in perfect silence and with a lighted candle. To this search the apostle may have referred in the admonition to 'purge out the old leaven' (1 Cor 5:7). Jewish tradition sees a reference to this search with candles in Zephaniah 1:12: 'And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with candles.' If the leaven had not been removed on the evening of the 13th, it might still be done on the forenoon of the 14th of Nisan. The question what substances constituted leaven was thus solved. The unleavened cakes, which were to be the only bread used during the feast, might be made of these five kinds of grain--wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye--the cakes being prepared before fermentation had begun. Anything prepared of these five kinds of grain--but only of these--would come within range of the term 'leaven,' that is, if kneaded with water, but not if made with any other fluid, such as fruit-liquor, etc.