Do Scriptures actually reveal that the Festival of Passover is the first of the 7 days of Unleavened Bread lasting from Abib 14-20?
During the process of finding out the truth of the matter, the evidence from 33. Passover – Evening Begins the Day has firmly established that the Hebrew term ערב (arab; evening) begins at sunset, the period of twilight, and is the first part of a new day.
Our attention will now turn to the expression “בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim; i.e., between, among, in the midst of, or within the arabim (often translated “evenings”).1
For those who are seeking the clarity of Yahweh’s truth of the matter, the following investigation will prove to be quite revealing.
Characteristics of Byn ha-Arabim
There are several characteristics of the expression בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim) which must be considered.
First, the phrase בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim) is very ancient and in Scriptures is only found in the Pentateuch (five books of Moses).2
This fact alone explains why so many Hasidic Jews, belonging to generations far removed from the days of Moses and from the time when the Hebrew term בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim) was in vogue, became confused as to its true meaning.
Second, the term בין (byn) means, “interval, midst . . . between, among, within.”3
Meanwhile, the term ערבים (arabim) is a collective noun, and like the term “family” represents two or more things standing together as one.
The word ערבים (arabim) is commonly believed to be a dual, meaning “the two evenings,”4 but it is also just as easily read as “among” or “in the midst of” several arab periods.
In either case, byn ha-arabim represents the period of time in the midst of or between different periods of arab that are standing together as a unit.
In this regard, the relationship between the collective noun form ערבים (arabim) and its parent form ערב (arab) is no different than numerous other examples in Hebrew.
Indeed, the interchangeable use of the singular and collective noun forms for saying nearly the same thing was commonly employed in Hebrew usage. The following are some examples:
- שמים (shamayim; heavens) and the singular שמי (shamay).5
- יערים (Yarim; forests) and יער (yar; a forest).6
- חמם (khamam; to be hot) and חם (kham; hot).7
- מסבים (mesibbeem) and מסב (mesib), both mean “a divan (as enclosing the room).”8
- פורים (purim) and פור (pur), both mean “a lot (as by means of a broken piece).”9
- אלהים (eloahim; deities) and אלה (eloah; deity), both used to describe Yahweh.10
- פנים (penim) and פנ (pen), both mean “face”.11
- בעלים (Baalim) and בעל (Baal), the Lord cult.12
- שערים (seorim; barley grains) and שער (seor; barley).13
If only a simple plural was intended—reflecting two or more independent or unrelated periods, such as two periods separated by hours of time—the form ערבי (arabi) would have been sufficient.
In turn, this detail shows that the two (or more) periods in the expression הערבים (ha-arabim; the arabim) stood together as one unit. They were not periods separated by hours.
The Aramaic Targum Onqelos translates the Hebrew בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim) throughout to mean “בין שמשיא (byn shemeshya; between the suns), an expression which was explained as referring to the time between sunset and the coming out of the stars, i.e., the period of twilight.14
The Greek of the LXX, meanwhile, renders the term byn ha-arabim differently:
• LXX Exod. 29:39, 41, gives δειλιόν (deilinon), contracted form of δειελινός (deielinos), “belonging to evening . . . late evening.”15
• LXX Exod. 30:8, gives ὀψὲ (opse), “(through the idea of backwardness); (adv.) late in the day; by extens. after the close of the day:—(at even, in the end)”;16 “late in the day, at evening, opp. to πρωί.”17 (πρωί [proi] means “at dawn”).18
• LXX Num. 28:4, 8, gives πρὸς ἑσπέραν (pros esperan), “at twilight.”
πρὸς (pros), “Prep. with gen., implying motion from a place; with dat., abiding at a place; with acc., motion to a place… of Time, towards or near, at or about”19 Whether the reference is to “toward” or “at” twilight is dependent upon the context.
In each of these cases the expression byn ha-arabim is made to be the late part of the daylight, i.e. twilight, being the opposite of πρωί (proi; dawn).
With regard to understanding the correct definition of “בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim)” those advocating System A, System C, and to some degree System D, clearly have the upper hand.
The evidence from Scriptures demonstrates that if הערבים (ha-arabim) is a dual, the first arab begins at sunset and the last ends with dark. As a dual the expression בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim) is best translated as “between the arabim.”
On the other hand, if הערבים (ha-arabim) is a multiple, it represents several points of arab in succession covering the entire period between sunset and dark. In this latter case the words בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim) would best be rendered as “among the arabim.”
Further, the Passover victim was sacrificed at byn ha-arabim, the Passover supper followed while it was still night, and the remains of the meal were required to be burned at dawn.20
It is clear from these details that the expression byn ha-arabim, which is a collective noun, cannot refer to a period lasting from the arab that ends or starts one day, including the night and dawn, until the next arab period beginning 24 hours later.
In that case, each arab period would belong to a separate day and would not be part of a collective unit. As a result, since byn ha-arabim is the time of the sacrifice, and full night follows, it is clear that any understanding must make both arab periods (or the multiples of arab) come after a previous dawn, before the following night, and belong to the same day.
Arab Equals Byn Ha-Arabim
What has been ignored in this debate over the meaning of “בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim),” regardless of its original shades of meaning, is the fact that this expression became for all practical purposes nothing less than another way of saying “בערב (be-arab),” the two phrases being synonymous.
An important verification that the terms “בערב (be-arab)” and “בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim)” are two ways of saying the same thing comes with the parallel accounts of when to sacrifice the Passover.
For example, in Deuternomy 16:4, 6 and in Joshua 5:10, the Passover victim is said to be prepared and sacrificed “בערב (within arab).”
The LXX renders “בערב” in Deuteronomy 16:4, 6 as ἑσπέρας (hesperas; twilight).
In Joshua 5:10 it states that the sons of Israel kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the moon ἀφ ἑσπέρας (aph hesperas).
The Greek term ἀφ (aph), a form of ἀπο (apo), means, “OF TIME, from, after”;21 that is, they kept the Passover festival beginning from ἑσπέρας (hesperas; twilight) on the 14th until after twilight ended.
Meanwhile, parallel accounts found in Exodus 12:6, Leviticus 23:5, and Numbers 9:3 and 5 (cf., v. 11), all state that the Passover victim was to be prepared and sacrificed “בין הערבים (between/among the arabim).”
The LXX translates the Hebrew as follows:
• In Exodus 12:6 and Numbers 9:3, 11 (not translated in v. 5) it gives πρὸς ἑσπέραν (pros hesperan), “at” or “toward twilight.” This translation was loose enough so that each side of the debate (Hasidic and Aristocratic) could read into it their own view.
• At Leviticus 23:5, on the other hand, it was rendered ἀναμέσον τῶν ἑσπερινῶν (anameson ton hesperinon). The word ἀναμέσον (anameson) means, “interior,”22 therefore, “in the interior of the time of hesperas (twilight).” There can be no doubt here that “within twilight” is meant.
Accordingly, the Passover lamb is described in these parallel accounts as being sacrificed both “between/among the arabim” and “within the arab.”
This evidence proves that the two expressions were actually two ways of saying exactly the same thing.
Byn ha-arabim is merely a more archaic usage, its shading of difference with be-arab having lost its significance over the centuries.
Since the first arab begins at sunset and the second (or multiples of) arab follows, it is established that the entire period of twilight is both arab (a mingling of light and dark) and arabim (more than one degree of mingling of light and dark).
So far the evidence continues to mount while further establishing the clear and concise understanding of the terms arab and byn ha-arabim.
There is much more to discuss regarding the term byn ha-arabim in our next installment titled 35. Passover – The Quails. In this post we will tackle the issue of Exodus 16 and the quail.
Note: Adapted from a chapter from the forthcoming publication by Qadesh La Yahweh Press titled The Festivals and Sacred Days of Yahweh Vol. II.
Click this link for Bibliography and Abbreviations.
1 HEL, p. 33; SEC, Heb. #996–997.
2 See YAC, p. 309, s.v. Even, for the citations.
3 HEL, p. 33; CHAL, p. 39; SEC, Heb. #996–997.
4 GHCL, p. DCLII.
5 SEC, Heb. #8064; cf. 1 Kings, 8:27.
6 SEC, Heb. #3297, 3293.
7 SEC, Heb. #2552, 2525.
8 SEC, Heb. #4524.
9 HEL, p. 16.
10 SEC, Heb. #6332.
11 HEL, p. 210.
12 YAC, p. 65.
13 SEC, Heb. #8184, 8188.
14 Targ. Onq., Exod. 12:6, 16:12, 29:39, 30:8; Lev. 23:5; Num. 9:3, 5, 11, 28:4, 8; and see B. Shab., 34a-b; cf., B. Ber., 2a-b. Also see S. R. Driver’s comments (BE, p. 89).
15 GEL, p. 176.
16 SEC, Gk. #3796.
17 GEL, p. 582
18 SEC, Gk. #4404.
19 GEL, p. 684.
20 Exod. 12:6-10.
21 GEL, p. 94.
22 GEL, p. 58.