THE TWO HEBREW EVENINGS
If evening be taken as the close of the day at the decline of the sun, through twilight and dusk until darkness, the entire transition merges into one and presents no problem to those whose defined day runs from midnight to midnight. But when the defined day runs from sunset to sunset as in Hebrew, the term "evenings" is ambiguous. For that portion before sunset belongs to one day and that portion after sunset belongs to the day following.
The word bru has a basic meaning of "co-mingling", hence the use of bru for "evening" implies the mingling of light and darkness. Benjamin Davies' Students Hebrew Lexicon, p.490, states "The dual occurs only in the phrase sybruh /yb 'between the (2) evenings' Exod. 12.6., the time for killing the paschal lamb Lev. 23:5., and for offering the daily evening sacrifice Exod. 29:39-41., probably the interval between sunset and dark (cf. Deut. 16:6.), as the Karaites and Samaritans hold ; or perhaps the time between the sun's declining (deilh prwia) and its actual setting (deilh oyia), as the Pharisees insisted and the Jews now hold." (Charles on "Jubilees" confirms this). The forms deilh prwia (early evening) and deilh oyia( ovjna (late evening) do not occur in the N.T.
It can be seen at once that the quoted Samaritan view of "between the evenings" would mean that the Paschal Lamb was slain at the immediate close of the 13th Nisan on the threshold of the 14th. On the other hand the Pharisaic view would mean that their lambs were not slain until late afternoon of the 14th Nisan. As both groups would presumably adhere to eating the passover meal at night, this means the Pharisees would eat their passover during the night of the 15th Nisan, twenty-four hours later than the Samaritans.
The form bru (EREB) occurs in Genesis for the "evening" which was the first part of Day One, which thus makes it relate to evening after sunset. The form bru (ARAB) occurs only three times ; but in Judges 19.9 and 1Sam. 17.16. it clearly indicates the fading of daylight and thus the end of the Hebrew day approaching sunset. "Between the (2) evenings" then is after ARAB but before EREB, or around sunset.
It may be noted that the LXX commonly represents EREB as espera, but this of itself cannot be taken as authoritative or final. The obvious link to the evening star, Hesperus, i.e. the planet Venus, tends to confirm the equivalence of EREB to HESPERA ; since Venus is only visible after sunset for an hour or so. (Venus, of course, is also the 'bright morning star' appearing at times before sunrise). The only NT verse to actually confirm this identity is Acts. 4.3. This meaning must then be applied to Acts 28.23, showing that Paul's discussion in Rome extended into the following day (just as at Troas !).
An argument dependent on vowel points is not satisfactory in that the original text did not incorporate them. But the matter can be resolved apart from this by consideration of the dual form, which indicates that two types of 'evenings' were treated as a pair. Thus the day had two spells of fading light, each called an 'evening', a readily deducible and obvious fact. It has been shown that one of these evenings is that following sunset and until entire darkness arrives : the other necessarily is that when the daylight fades prior to sunset.
Now the fact that one continuous evening is not envisaged but rather a pair of evenings implies that there is something that divides them. The two possible claimants for this division, are :-
Case A In the course of a particular day the first evening would be that after sunset followed by the ensuing night and subsequent daytime prior to the second evening which closed that day.
Case B The evening that ended one day at sunset was followed in continuity by the evening that began the next day.
As has been stated, the Passover Lamb was to be slain "between the evenings"; and the Pharisees (as recounted by Josephus) held that Case A was what applied, so allowing them several hours in the late afternoon of 14th Nisan to slay their lambs.
The Samaritans, the Karaites and the Saducees held that Case B was the right view of "between the evenings", which meant that only a brief interval immediately after sunset was available for slaying the lamb.
So who was right ? Can we at this remote point in time hope to resolve such a problem ? Yes, in fact we can do so with certainty. And Case B is correct. This makes the Pharisaic and most subsequent Jewish practice wrong, though the lamb was slain on the 14th Nisan whether under Case A or Case B. The difference, however, is that under Case A the passover meal was eaten on the night of the 15th, while under Case B the meal was eaten on the night of the 14th.
The slaying of the Paschal Lamb as instructed in Lev. 23.4. and the sacrificing of the daily evening lamb as set out in Exod. 29.41. were both required to take place "between the evenings" using an identical phrase in the Hebrew. Inasmuch as there was also a daily morning lamb, the slaying of which was necessarily "between the evenings" as under Case A it is evident that only Case B would meet the requirement for the evening lamb.
So the Samaritan view must be the correct one, as intended by Moses.
Note 1. Subsequent correspondence with Rosemary Harthill (BBC), who visited a Samaritan community at Nablus in 1984, confirmed that today the Samaritans still keep Passover the day before the Jews do.
Note 2. The Jewish writer Immanuel Velikovsky, in his "Worlds In Collision" p.75, comments : "It appears that the Israelites originally celebrated Passover on the eve of the 14th. Aviv.
Maurice Lloyd. Glasgow. 1999.
(1) Strongs [6153}, Young (4280).
(2) Strongs , Young (4275).
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