35. Passover – The Quails

In this particular post further evidence will be presented to help us uncover the true and correct definitions of the terms “evening” and “between the evenings” as used in Scriptures.

Also,  as we continue our investigation, it will become obvious that the cloud of confusion hanging over the Festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread is dissipating.

The most important evidence for the ancient concept of “בערב (within arab; evening)” as equal to “בין הערבים (between/among the arabim; evenings)” comes in Exodus 16:1-35.

This citation not only proves that these phrases are two ways of referring to the same general period of twilight but that both concepts represent the beginning of a legal scriptural day.

The Quails
In this story Yahweh provides the rebellious people of Israel a method by which they can recognize the correct observance of the Sabbath day.1

He gives them a sign of his power by providing them quails to eat “בערב (within arab; evening)” and manna for bread “בבקר (within baqar; dawn).”2

Yahweh tells the Israelites that they would eat quail meat “בין הערבים (between/among the arabim; evenings)” and “within baqar (dawn) be satisfied with bread.”3

These verses clearly equate “within arab” with “between/among the arabim,” exactly as done in the records dealing with the time of the Passover sacrifice. The two terms differ only in the timing of the events.

The quail came and were harvested at arab (evening; twilight) yet they were consumed byn ha-arabim (within the arabim; evenings)!

To demonstrate, for six days Yahweh left manna upon the ground as dew around the camp so that it could be gathered during baqar (dawn), gathering “a matter of its day within its day.”4 On the sixth day a double portion was provided.

But on the Sabbath day Yahweh gave them no manna, for it was a day of rest and the people were not to go out and gather (harvest) it. The double supply of bread that was given on the sixth day took care of both the sixth and seventh day’s needs.5

And it came to pass, on the sixth day, they gathered a double portion of bread (manna), two of the omer for one; and all the leaders of the Assembly came and reported to Moses. And he said to them, “That is what Yahweh said, Tomorrow is a rest, a sacred sabbathon to Yahweh; what you will bake, bake, and what you will boil, boil; and lay up all that is left over for yourselves to keep until the dawn. And they laid it up until the dawn as Moses had directed; and it did not stink and no maggot was found in it. And Moses said, Eat it this day, for this day is a Sabbath for Yahweh. Today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it and on the seventh day is a Sabbath. None shall be in it (the field).6

Notice that Moses spoke the words “this day is a Sabbath” during baqar, which in the previous day was the time for gathering the manna. It is important to note that baqar means “dawn,” i.e., just before sunrise. This is our first indication that the Sabbath day begins before sunrise.

When some of the Israelites tried to look for the manna on the Sabbath day (which they normally collected during dawn), Yahweh became angry. They were accused of failing to keep his commandments and laws.7

Interestingly, Philo also recognized this sequence of six days followed by the Sabbath and compared it with the six days of creation.8 He writes:

This sign was as follows: the shower of food from the air was less on the first days, but on a last day was doubled; and on those first days anything left melted and was dissolved till, after turning completely into moisture, it disappeared; but on the last day it admitted no change and remained just as it had been. . . . Now the greatness of the wonder was shown not only by the double supply of food and its remaining sound contrary to the usual happening, but by the combination of both these occurring on the sixth day, counting from the day on which the food began to be supplied from the air; from which day the most sacred number of seven began to be counted. And therefore consideration will show the inquirer that the food given from heaven followed the analogy of the birth of the world; for both the creating of the world and also the raining of the said food were begun by the deity on the first day out of six.9

The provision of quail and manna served to teach the Israelites Sabbath day keeping. One was allowed to go out and harvest food during the six regular days of the week but forbidden on the Sabbath.

With the understanding that this exercise was meant to teach the observance of the Sabbath day, it is important to consider the fact that the quail was given over to be harvested “בערב (within arab)” and was followed within dawn by the first manna for the first day’s supply of bread.10

According to the book of Numbers, manna always came down when dew was being formed during “the night.”11 This order of events is not only evident in the Hebrew text but was understood this way as well by the first century C.E. Jewish priest Josephus.

After writing that the birds came from the Arabian gulf and settled in the Hebrews’ camp, he adds:

And they (the Israelites), collecting them as the food devised for them by the deity, assuaged their hunger; while Moses addressed his thankful prayers to the deity for sending succor so prompt and in keeping with his promise. But DIRECTLY AFTER THIS FIRST SUPPLY OF FOOD, the deity sent down to them A SECOND. For, while Moses raised his hands in prayer, a dew descended, and, as this congealed about his hands, Moses, surmising this too was a nutriment come to them from the deity, tasted it and was delighted.12

The manna was given once a day for six days of the week, followed by a Sabbath day.13 Therefore, it is clear from the descriptions of these events that the quail, which were provided be-arab (= byn ha-arabim), were given just after the beginning of the first day of the week, for if it had been provided any earlier it would have been given for harvesting upon the Sabbath day of the previous week.

Yahweh’s comments clearly show that he would not have provided them food to harvest upon a Sabbath day, for what then would have been the point of the entire exercise?

Since the meat was provided “בערב (within arab),”14 yet eaten—obviously after being cleaned and cooked—“בין הערבים (between/among the arabim),”15 it is established that the first arab begins at sunset and the last arab follows it in time. Between these two extremes of arab the quails were consumed.

Further, since the quails are put into contrast with the manna, which was given as a second sign and within the period of dawn on the same day, the last arab of the byn ha-arabim period has to be a time prior to dawn. Also, since arab is a time of intermixing of light and dark, the complete darkness of night itself is excluded.

These parameters leave no doubt that the first arab comes at sunset and the last is the final intermixing of light and dark which occurs just before full darkness.  The expression בערב (within arab), in turn, means “within twilight.”

It is also evident, since quails were provided “within arab” and eaten “between/among the arabim,” the time described as “within arab” is the period of twilight following sunset, and “between/among arabim” refers to a period between sunset and full dark.16

This data proves beyond any doubt that both expressions “בערב” (within arab) and “בין הערבים” (between/among the arabim) originally referred to the beginning period of a 24-hour legal day, the period of twilight after sunset. It could not refer to the afternoon or latter part of the 12 hours of daylight.

Scholars Agree
Scholars have known for some time that the Pharisaic (Talmudic) tradition of using “בין הערבים” (between/among the arabim) for the period from the ninth hour until sunset, even though the idea has been used by Jewish orthodoxy for centuries, is neither adequate in its explanation nor consistent with the original Hebrew thought of arab (the intermixing of light and dark).

On the other hand, the Sadducees (who represent the old Jewish line of Aaronite high priests) and the Samaritans (an independent nation from the Jews whose priests also descended from the line of Aaron), were both groups whose history and traditions originated prior to the Pharisees.

Further, their use of the expression “בין הערבים” (between/among the arabim) to denote “between sunset and dark”17 does fit the earlier Hebrew meaning of arab.

Scholars recognize this agreement and have given the nod to the Sadducees, not because they agree with the Sadducees on various points of doctrine but because in this particular instance they followed the earlier priestly practice.

They were also supported by the Samaritans, whose own views on the subject showed that they had likewise received the concept from a period preceding the rise to Pharisaical power and Greek influence in Judaea.

The Interpreter’s Bible, for example, recognized that the Samaritans and Sadducees used the original concept of arab. It states:

In Jewish orthodoxy the time of the slaughter, between the two evenings, is specified as the after­noon, before sunset; especially, the time of approach­ing sunset. The Mishnah implies that any time after noon was valid for the slaying (Pesahim 5:3). Samaritans, Karaites, and Sadducees specify the time as after sunset and before darkness. THE LATTER PROBABLY DESIGNATES THE MORE ARCHAIC PRACTICE.18

A Commentary on the Holy Bible, edited by J. R. Dummelow, states, “lit. ‘between the evenings,’ i.e. probably between sunset and darkness. Darkness was supposed to begin when three stars became visible.”19

Roland de Vaux similarly writes that this expression “denotes the time between the sun’s disappearance and nightfall, that is to say, twilight, which in the East is very short.”20

In Exodus 12:6, the support by modern-day translators for the more archaic understanding of the expression “בין הערבים” (between/ among the arabim) is revealed in the following English translations:

  • “At sunset” (George Lamsa, Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts Containing the Old and New Testament).
  • “At dusk” (The Holy Scriptures, According to the Masoretic Text, vol. 1).
  • “Between dusk and dark” (New English Bible, with the Apocrypha).
  • “Between sunset and dark” (James Moffatt, A New Translation of the Bible).
  • “Between the dusks” (Fenton Bible).

Some explain the expression “between the arabim” by means of a footnote:

  • Joseph Rotherham, Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, n. f., “I.e.: at dusk—Kalisch. Prob. between sunset and dark—(The Oxford Gesenius) Cp. (compare) chap. xvi. 12; and esp. Nu. xxviii. 4; Deu. xvi. 6.”
  • Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible, p. 79, n. * “‘at dusk’ or between sunset and dark.”

Many use the term “twilight” (the subdued light just after sunset…the period from sunset to dark)21 as a translation. For example:

  • “Twilight” (J. Smith and Edgar Goodspeed, The Bible, An American Translation).
  • “At twilight” (New American Standard Bible).
  • “Twilight” (New International Version).
  • “At twilight” (New Jerusalem Bible).

With Part III we have pretty much resolved the confusion regarding the terms arab and byn ha-arabim.

Yet, we still must confront another challenge brought by those who want to stubbornly cling to the Pharisaic viewpoint.

We will next address the passage in Leviticus 23:26-32 regarding the interpretation of the Day of Atonement.

Be on the lookout for 36. Passover – Atonement on the 9th?.

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 Exod. 16:4, 23, 27-30.
2 Exod. 16:6-8, 13; cf.Num. 11:7-9, the manna fell when the dew formed at night; PhiloMoses, 1:36 §200, it fell “about daybreak,” §208, “at dawn they collected what fell.”
3 Exod. 16:12.
4 Exod. 16:4.
5 Exod. 16:13-26.
6 Exod. 16:22-25.
7 Exod. 16:26-30.
8 Gen. 1:1-2:3.
9 Philo, Moses, 2:36.
10 Exod. 16:13.
11 Num. 11:7-9.
12 Jos. Antiq. 3:1:5-6.
13 Exod. 16:22-30.
14 Exod. 16:13.
15 Exod. 16:12.
16 Either two “arabs,” one at each end, or possibly an entire series of intermingling of light and dark; cf., the plural expression “shamayim (heavens),” singular shameh, with Deut. 10:141 Kings 8:27Ps., 68:34; and the Greek of 2 Cor. 12:2, “the third heavens”; Eph. 4:10, “above all the heavens.”
17 See FSDY, 1, Part II, Intro. Sec. I, and chap. xiv.
18 IB, 1, p. 919.
19 A Commentary on the Holy Bible, ed. by J. R. Dummelow, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1955, p. 58.
20 Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., 1997, p. 182.
21 WNWD, p. 1574.

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