Dispensationalism is defined as a method of interpreting history that divides God’s work and purposes toward mankind into different periods of time. According to scholars, there are seven major dispensations that God initiated throughout history. The seven famous Feasts of Passover mentioned in scripture are found in three of these dispensations, spanning the ages from 1876 BC to the present. The seven major dispensations are:
- Dispensation of Innocence – Starts with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and ends with their expulsion from the garden.
- Dispensation of Conscience – Starts with Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and ends with the Great Flood.
- Dispensation of Human Government – Starts with the exodus from Noah’s ark and ends with the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. Humanity is commanded by God to enact the death penalty during this time.
- Dispensation of Promise – Starts with God’s covenant with Abraham regarding ownership of the land of Canaan and ends with the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt.
- Dispensation of Law – Starts with the giving of the 10 Commandments and statutes to Moses at Mt. Sinai and ends with the giving of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples on the day of Pentecost.
- Dispensation of Grace – Starts with the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (start of the Church) and ends with the Rapture of the Church.
- Dispensation of the Millennial Kingdom – Starts with Jesus’ initiation of His Millennial Kingdom after the Great Tribulation and ends 1,000 years later when a new earth and heaven are created.
THE PRE-PASSOVER – GOD’S COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM
The first major biblical event (that we know of) that occurred on the 14th day of the first month of spring was when God made His covenant with Abraham in 1876 BC. The reason we know this is the correct year is because of Exodus 12:40-42. “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel (who dwelt in Egypt) was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years – on that very same day – it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” The Hebrews left Egypt on the night of the original Passover on Abib/Nisan 14, 1446 BC. 430 years earlier (to the day – Hebrew calendar) would be on the first full moon of spring in 1876 BC, which is Nisan 14 on the modern Jewish calendar.
This Godly event is not included as one of the 7 Passovers in this article because, as I mentioned in part I, it is really not a Passover but a pre-Passover or a foreshadowing of the Passover to come in Egypt. The Feast of Passover represents the covenant relationship with God. Abraham and the patriarchs represent the dispensation of Promise or the Abrahamic covenant, which started in 1876 BC and ended 430 years later on Passover, Nisan 14, 1446 BC (AM 1885) with the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt.
The date on the Julian calendar for God’s covenant with Abraham was April 15, 1876 BC, according to the modern (metonic 19-year calculated cycle) Jewish calendar as figured by the calendar converter, 360calendar.com Calendar Converter. Remember, the modern Jewish calendar is extremely accurate in determining new and full moons. New moons occur on the 1st of every month, and full moons occur on the 15th of every month. The only difference between the modern and the original Jewish calendar is if the crops weren’t ready for harvesting, an extra month would be added to the calendar; otherwise, they both go by the lunar cycles. Generally, the rule of thumb is if the modern Jewish calendar comes before the vernal equinox, there was probably an extra month added to the calendar that year.
For proof of the accuracy of this calendar, we will verify the first full moon of spring (which falls on Nisan 15 – within a day) by looking at NASA’s website page, Five Millennium Catalog of Lunar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000 (nasa.gov). For the year 1876 BC, we find a lunar eclipse on April 7th (Julian calendar), which would have been Nisan 16, AM 1885 on the modern Jewish calendar. Two days earlier would have been Nisan 14, AM 1885 on the modern Jewish calendar or April 5, 1876 BC on the Julian calendar. This is the most likely date for God’s promise/covenant to Abraham concerning his (and descendants) ownership of the land of Canaan.
This is the formula we will use for proving the dates for the 7 famous Passovers in this article.
THE FIRST PASSOVER IN EGYPT
The original Passover was instituted in the land of Egypt and occurred simultaneously with the 10th plague against Pharaoh and the Egyptians and the subsequent Exodus by the children of Israel, led by Moses. The Passover is described in detail in Exodus 12. The rules and regulations for the Feasts of spring Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits are given in Leviticus 23:4-14 and Numbers 28:16-31. Since I have already discussed this Passover and how it foreshadowed the death of Christ, I will just concentrate on the date for this God-intervening event. According to the calendar converter, Abib/Nisan 14. AM 2315 (the date for the Passover) occurred on March 24, 1446 BC.
Proof: NASA’s records show there was a lunar eclipse (during a full moon) on February 24, 1446 BC (Julian), which was Adar 15 on the Jewish calendar. This is still considered winter as it is before the spring equinox, so we must determine the first full moon of spring. One month later (29.5 days until next full moon phase) would place the date on Nisan 15 or March 25, 1446 BC. One day earlier would be Nisan 14, AM 2315 for the Passover (modern Jewish calendar), and the date on the Julian calendar would be March 24, 1446 BC. This is the most likely date for the original Passover in Egypt.
THE SECOND PASSOVER – IN THE WILDERNESS
The second Passover mentioned in the Bible is found in Numbers 9 (1-14). “Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of Egypt, saying: Let the children of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its rites and ceremonies you shall keep it” (Numbers 9:1-3). Moses and the children of Israel obeyed the Lord and kept the Passover on the 14th day of the first month (Abib/Nisan), at twilight, in the Wilderness of Sinai. The date on the Jewish calendar was April 10, 1445 BC.
Proof: NASA’s website shows a lunar eclipse on February 13, 1445 BC, which was Adar 1, 14, AM 2316 on the Jewish calendar. The next full moon would occur approximately 29.5 days later on Veadar 14, or March 13, 1445 BC. Evidently, since this is still too early for spring (vernal equinox), an additional 30-day month (embolismic/intercalary) was added, making that year contain 13 months.
The next full moon would occur 29.5 days later on Nisan 14 or April 10, 1445 BC. This was the second Passover in the Bible. It occurred in the Wilderness of Sinai on the 14th day of the first month of the second year after leaving Egypt. This was the only Passover that is recorded in the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness by the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land.
THE THIRD PASSOVER – ENTERING THE PROMISED LAND
The third Passover that the Bible mentions occurred after the children of Israel had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years (from 1446 – 1406 BC). When Joshua and the people finally reached the border of Canaan, they encountered the Jordan River. Joshua told the people, “Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5). He gave directions for crossing the Jordan; the Levites would enter the river first bearing the ark of the covenant, and then the people would follow.
The Lord said unto Joshua, “This day will I begin to magnify you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. And you shall command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When you are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, you shall stand still in Jordan'” (Joshua 3:7-8).
The people and the priests obeyed the words of Joshua and came to the Jordan’s banks. “And as they that bare the ark came into Jordan, and the feet of the priests were dipped in the brink of the water (for Jordan overflows all his banks at the time of harvest), that the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam; and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people passed over right against Jericho. And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all people were passed over Jordan” (Joshua 3:15-17).
The people passed over first while the priests remained in the midst of the Jordan. When the priests came up out of the river, the waters of Jordan returned unto their place and flowed over all his banks, as they did before. “On that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (Joshua 4:14). The children of Israel came up out of Jordan on the 10th day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho. This was almost 40 years to the day (minus 4 days) when the Israelites left Egypt.
When God gave Moses regulations for celebrating the Passover (as He did with Abraham before him), He reconfirmed that no male could participate in the Feast of Passover unless he had been circumcised. None of the male children born during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness were circumcised. All of the older males (that were already circumcised) had died by this time, except for Joshua and Caleb, because they had not obeyed the voice of the Lord.
“And Joshua made him sharp knives and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins” (Joshua 5:3). When they were done with this painful event, they abode in their places in the camp until they were whole. And the Lord said unto Joshua, “This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day” (Joshua 5:9).
On the evening of the 14th day of the first month (Abib/Nisan), the Israelites celebrated their first Feast of Passover in the Promised Land. “And they did eat of the old corn of the land after the Passover (on Nisan 15), unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. And the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten of the old corn of the land (Nisan 16); neither had the children of Israel manna any more” (Joshua 5:11-12). The following day was the 17th of Nisan, the Feast of Firstfruits (the day Jesus would be resurrected 1,438 years later). With no more manna available, the people began to eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year – the firstfruits of the Promised Land.
Imagine their joy at eating the land’s fruits and vegetables after their forty years in the desert eating only manna and quail. The date of this Passover was Nisan 14, AM 2355 (Jewish) or April 1, AD 1406 (Julian), according to the calendar converter.
Proof: The closest lunar eclipse (during a full moon) occurred on June 29, 1406 BC or Tammuz 14 on the Jewish calendar. To find the first full moon of spring, we must deduct 88.5 (29.5 x 3) days or three full moon phases to get to Nisan 14, AM 2355 or April 1, 1406 BC on the Julian date. This is the most likely date for the first Passover in the Promised Land.
THE FOURTH PASSOVER – HEZEKIAH KEEPS THE PASSOVER
Hezekiah became king of Judah when he was 25 years old after his father Ahaz died. Ahaz was an evil king who walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and made molded images for the Baals. He burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. Hezekiah, however, did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his ‘father’ David had done. In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them” (2 Chronicles 29:2-3). He told the priests and Levites to sanctify themselves and sanctify the house of the Lord God and carry out the rubbish from the holy place. Hezekiah recognized the sins of his predecessors, including his own father, Ahaz.
King Hezekiah decided to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel and serve Him only, that His fierce wrath might turn away from his people. The priests and Levites cleaned out the Temple of the Lord and brought out all the debris that they found in it. They started on the 1st day of the 1st month (during the new /crescent moon). It was too late for the Jews to keep the Passover, and also because a significant number of priests had not consecrated themselves, nor had the people gathered together at Jerusalem. The king, his leaders, and all the assembly in Jerusalem had agreed to keep the Passover in the 2nd month (Lyyar 14).
Hezekiah even sent letters to the northern kingdom of Israel that they should come to keep the Passover to the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem since they had not done it for a long time in the prescribed manner (2 Chronicles 30:50). “The children of Israel kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread, seven days with great gladness and agreed to keep the feast an additional seven days. Hezekiah gave to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep. The leaders gave to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep.
“So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon, the son of David king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:26). This verse is probably referring to the dedication of the new Temple in Jerusalem that occurred on a Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 15 – first full moon of fall).
Hezekiah kept the Passover in the first year of his reign in the year 715 BC. The Passover was delayed for one month and observed in the 2nd month on Lyyar 14, AD 3046. The date was May 10, 715 BC on the Julian date.
Proof: According to NASA’s five-millennium catalog of lunar eclipses, there was a lunar eclipse on May 11, 715 BC, which would be Lyyar 15, AM 3046 on the Jewish calendar. In other words, this proves the modern (metonic cycle) Jewish calendar is accurate in its determination of new and full moons as the Feast of Passover is always on a full moon. The 2nd full moon of spring occurred on the 15th day of the 2nd month (Lyyar). One day earlier, on Lyyar 14, AM 3046 (May 10, 715 BC – Julian), Hezekiah, king of Judah, kept the Feast of the Lord known as Passover. Even though this Passover was delayed an extra month, this was one of the greatest celebrations of Passover (and the Feast of Unleavened Bread) in Israel’s history (better late than never!). It even lasted an extra seven days.
THE FIFTH PASSOVER – KING JOSIAH KEEPS THE PASSOVER
Josiah was one of only a few righteous kings of Judah. He was the son of an evil king of Judah, Amon. Amon was the son of the most evil king in Judah’s history, Manasseh, who used witchcraft and sorcery and caused his sons to pass through fire as burnt sacrifices. Manasseh took after his evil grandfather, Ahaz. Manasseh’s father, however, was King Hezekiah, one of the greatest and most righteous kings in Judah’s history. Josiah began to reign when he was only eight years old, and he reigned 31 years in Jerusalem. “And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his “father’ David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (2 Chronicles 34:2). He took after his great grandfather, Hezekiah.
When Josiah was 16, he began to seek the God of his ‘father,’ David. When he was 20, Josiah ordered the cleansing and repair of the Temple, which had been neglected or misused by his predecessors (including his own father and grandfather). During the restoration, Hilkiah the priest found a book/scroll of the law of the Lord given by Moses. When the book was read to the king, he took it and read it to the people. He was moved and captivated by the sacred words. You could say it was a Holy Spirit moment. “And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the Lord and to keep His commandments, and His testimonies, and His statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book” (2 Chronicles 34:31).
One of the first things that Josiah did in obedience to God (and His commandments/statutes) was to celebrate the Passover Feast on the 14th of Nisan. “And the children of Israel who were present kept the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days. There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet; and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites all Judah and Israel who were present and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the 18th year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept” (2 Chronicles 35:17-19). Josiah became king of Judah in 640 BC, so he kept the Passover in the year 622 BC. The date was Nisan 14, AM 3139 on the Jewish calendar.
Proof: The closest lunar eclipse that I can find is on Sivan 16 or June 2, 622 BC (Julian). Sivan is the 3rd month in the Jewish calendar, so we must deduct two months or 59 days to get to Nisan 16 and the first full moon of spring. The date on the Julian calendar was April 4, 622 BC. Two days earlier would be Nisan 14. The date for the Passover that Josiah kept occurred on April 2, 622 BC on the Julian calendar. It was one of the greatest Passover celebrations of all time.
THE SIXTH PASSOVER – THE DEDICATION OF THE SECOND TEMPLE
The next mention of the Passover Feast is found in the book of Ezra. The Jews had been in captivity in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar and his army destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple and defeated the army and kingdom of Judah in 586 BC. The Medes and Persians defeated the Babylonians in 539 BC and made Babylon their headquarters to rule the kingdom from. They treated the Jewish people well, and in 538/537 BC, their king, Cyrus, in the first year of his reign, issued a decree for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Shesbazzar, the prince of Israel, leads the Jewish exiles from Babylon back to Jerusalem in 537 BC. Construction of the Jewish Temple began in the year 536 BC. After several years, they stopped construction due to opposition from neighboring nations.
The work on the Second Temple remained dormant for well over a decade until God called the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to urge the people to complete the project. Haggai wrote his book in 520 BC, the same year Zechariah began to preach. The work on the Temple resumed under Darius, the King of Persia, at that time. The foundation of the Second Temple was laid on Kislev 24, 520 BC. The Second Temple’s construction was finished in the 6th year of King Darius in 516 BC.
“And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover of the fourteenth day of the first month. And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the Lord made them joyful, and turned the heart of the King of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel” (Ezra 6:19,22). The dedication of the Second Temple occurred on Nisan 14, AM 3245 on the Jewish calendar.
Proof: NASA’s website of lunar eclipses shows a lunar eclipse on March 3, 516 BC, which is Adar 16, AM 3246 on the Jewish calendar. This is too early in the year for the first full moon of spring, as it is before the vernal equinox (and is still considered winter). However, one complete full moon cycle later or 29.5 days later, the first full moon of spring would occur on April 3, 516 BC, which is Nisan 16 on the Jewish calendar. Two days earlier would be the Passover on Nisan 14, AM 3245 or April 1, 516 BC. This is the most likely date for the Dedication of the Second Temple.
THE SEVENTH PASSOVER – THE PASSOVER SUPPER AND CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS
The ultimate fulfillment of the Feast of Passover occurred when Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. By the grace of God, all those who accept Jesus’ substitution for their sins and place their faith in Him as Lord and Savior will be saved. As the children of Israel were set free from their life of slavery after the ‘original’ Passover was initiated by God during the time of Moses and the Exodus, so will all those who trust in Jesus be set free from a life of slavery to sin. They will not be judged and condemned to death and hell as the idol-worshipping Egyptians were. The blood of the Lamb of God, when applied to the entrance of your dwelling place, your body (more specifically your heart) will protect you from eternal death.
According to my research (and others), Jesus was crucified on Nisan 14, AM 3793 on the Feast of Passover. The date on the Julian calendar was April 2, AD 33. For more details, see the first part of this article: Seven Famous Passovers in Scripture: Part 1 :: By Randy Nettles – Rapture Ready
There are a few Passovers located in scripture that are briefly mentioned. Jesus attended at least three Passovers during his three-year ministry: John 2:13, John 6:4, and John 11:55-57. Many scholars believe the ‘feast’ mentioned in John 5:1 was a fourth one. When Jesus was young, we know Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover (and probably Pentecost and Tabernacles) according to Luke 2:41. One such Passover is described in Luke 2:42-49 when the boy, Jesus, was 12 years old: “Now it was that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:46-47).
In the future Millennial Kingdom of Jesus (the 7th dispensation of God), the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits shall be observed according to Ezekiel 45:21-24. The Feast of Tabernacles shall also be observed (Ezekiel 45:25). The Feasts of Pentecost, Trumpets, and Atonement are not mentioned.
“Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, Who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Behold, He comes with the clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:4-7).