The Bible’s answer

The Passover is the Jewish celebration of God’s liberating the Israelites from Egyptian slavery in 1513 B.C.E. God commanded the Israelites to remember that important event each year on the 14th day of the Jewish month Abib, which was later called Nisan.​—Exodus 12:42; Leviticus 23:5.

Why called the Passover?

The word “Passover” refers to the time when God spared the Israelites from the calamity that killed every firstborn in Egypt. (Exodus 12:27; 13:15) Before God carried out this devastating plague, he told the Israelites to splash the blood of a slaughtered lamb or goat on their doorways. (Exodus 12:21, 22, footnote) God would see this sign and “pass over” their homes and spare their firstborn.​—Exodus 12:​7, 13.

How was the Passover observed in Bible times?

God gave the Israelites instructions on how to celebrate the first Passover. * Some features of Passovers mentioned in the Bible include the following.

  • Sacrifice: Families selected a one-year-old lamb (or goat) on the tenth day of Abib (Nisan), and on the 14th day, they slaughtered it. On the first Passover, the Jews splashed some of its blood on their doorposts and the upper part of their doorway, roasted the animal whole, and ate it.​—Exodus 12:​3-9.

  • Meal: In addition to the lamb (or goat), the Israelites ate unleavened bread and bitter greens as part of the Passover meal.​—Exodus 12:8.

  • Festival: The Israelites celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days after the Passover, during which time they did not eat leavened bread.​—Exodus 12:17-​20; 2 Chronicles 30:21.

  • Education: Parents used the Passover to teach their children about Jehovah God.​—Exodus 12:25-27.

  • Travel: Later on, the Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.​—Deuteronomy 16:​5-7; Luke 2:​41.

  • Other customs: In Jesus’ day, wine and singing were included in the Passover celebration.​—Matthew 26:19, 30; Luke 22:15-​18.

Misconceptions about the Passover

Misconception: The Israelites ate the Passover meal on Nisan 15.

Fact: God commanded the Israelites to slaughter a lamb just after sunset on Nisan 14 and to eat it on the same night. (Exodus 12:​6, 8) The Israelites measured their day from sunset to sunset. (Leviticus 23:32) Thus, the Israelites slaughtered the lamb and ate the Passover meal at the start of Nisan 14.

Misconception: Christians should celebrate the Passover.

Fact: After Jesus celebrated the Passover on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., he introduced a new observance: the Lord’s Evening Meal. (Luke 22:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:20) This meal replaced the Passover, since it commemorates the sacrifice of “Christ [the] Passover lamb.” (1 Corinthians 5:7) Jesus’ ransom sacrifice is superior to the Passover sacrifice in that it frees all people from slavery to sin and death.​—Matthew 20:28; Hebrews 9:​15.

^ par. 7 As time passed, however, some adjustments needed to be made. For example, the Israelites observed the first Passover “in a hurry” because they needed to be ready to leave Egypt. (Exodus 12:11) However, once they arrived in the Promised Land, the Israelites no longer had to celebrate in haste.