This is long, but bear with me. There’s a discussion payoff at the end.

The Three Annual (Required) Festivals for Israelites in the Book of Exodus are:

  • Passover / Unleavened Bread (the month of Abib was renamed to Nisan during exilic times)
  • Harvest (qatsir)
  • Ingathering (asif)

14 ?”Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15 ?You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of ?Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. ?None shall appear before me empty-handed. 16 You shall keep ?the Feast of Harvest (qatsir), of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the ?Feast of Ingathering (asif) at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17 ?Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God.

If you thought you’d be reading about Passover, “Weeks”, and “Booths” you are already mentally prepared for what’s coming – those names for the festivals come from Deuteronomy, and are NAME CHANGES that resulted from a different time period for the three festivals. But let’s start with what we have in Exodus.

Passover Unleavened Bread in the Book of Exodus 12

Instructions or the Passover (12:1-13)

1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 ?”This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb ?according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be ?without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the ?fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the ?two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with ?unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but ?roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And ?you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with ?your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. ?It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For ?I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on ?all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: ?I am the Lord. 13 ?The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

Instructions about the Feast of Unleavened Bread (12:14-20)

14 “This day shall be ?for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a ?statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15 ?Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, ?that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a ?holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for ?on this very day I brought your ?hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. 18 ?In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 ?For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, ?that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, ?whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.”

More Instructions (Summary) about the Passover Sacrifice/Meal (12:21-28)

21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves ?according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of ?hyssop and ?dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch ?the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. ?None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 ?For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on ?the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and ?will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. 24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25 And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, ?as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26 And ?when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ?‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ ” And the people ?bowed their heads and worshiped.

So What Do We Learn in Exodus 12?

  • Exodus 12:1-20 ordains that the Passover sacrifice be roasted whole over an open fire, with no bones broken and no sectioning of the lamb (or sheep or goat).
  • The Passover sacrifice was not to be eaten raw or boiled (Hebrew, bashal) in water
  • No altar was used at all.
  • According to Exodus 12:21-28, the Passover sacrifice that initiates the festival of Unleavened Bread is to be offered by Israelite families in their homes.
  • The sacrifice was to be offered in the early evening
  • No person is to leave his house after the Passover sacrifice until morning.

What else do we know?

  • The Passover / Unleavened Bread festival began on the New Moon of the month just preceding the hardening of the barley (Nisan-April). It lasted seven days, and on the seventh day the pilgrimage took place. A sacrifice was to be offered outside one’s home on the eve of the first day of the festival. Matsot were to be eaten and leaven avoided for all seven days.
  • The harvest reaping festival (qatsir) occurred when reaping started, sometime near the beginning of lyyar-May (according to the Gezer Calendar). The pilgrimage lasted one day.
  • The festival of ingathering (asif) occurred on the full moon of the former two-month season of the month of ingathering (Tishrei-September; again according to the Gezer Calendar). The pilgrimage lasted one day.

Now let’s go to Deuteronomy 16 (note the underlining)


16 1 “Observe the ?month of Abib and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for ?in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock or ?the herd, ?at the place that the Lord will choose, to make his name dwell there. 3 You shall eat no leavened bread with it. ?Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction-for you came out of the land of Egypt ?in haste-that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. 4 ?No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days, ?nor shall any of the flesh that you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning. 5 You may not offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, 6 but only at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt. 7 And you shall cook (Hebrew, bashal) it and eat it at the place that the Lord your God will choose. And in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. 8 For ?six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be ?a solemn assembly to the Lord your God. You shall do no work on it.

The Feast of Weeks

9 ?”You shall count seven weeks. Begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. 10 Then you shall keep ?the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with ?the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give ?as the Lord your God blesses you. 11 And ?you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. 12 ?You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.

The Feast of Booths

13 ?”You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. 14 ?You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. 15 For ?seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

16 ?”Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. ?They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. 17 Every man ?shall give as he is able, ?according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.

Before we get into the differences, it is important to note that the traditional view of the authorship of Exodus 12 and Deuteronomy 16 is that they were written:

  • By Moses
  • 40 years (roughly) apart
  • Prior to the existence of a temple or any central sanctuary (and there was ONLY one of those, to whom all Israel was to come for festivals – THE temple)

So now for the differences:

  • Deuteronomy 16 reveals that the spring barley harvest festival was deferred seven weeks and its name was changed from “the Pilgrimage Festival of Reaping (qatsir),” to “a Pilgrimage Festival of Weeks (shab’ot).” This occasion could no longer appropriately be called qatsir because it was not to be celebrated at the beginning of the grain harvest.
    • The reason for the postponement was practical. When (in former days, prior to having a temple) pilgrimage had been only a short trip to a nearby worship center a farmer could manage the brief absence from his fields at the beginning of the grain harvest. Once a longer journey to a central Temple was involved (“the place where God would set his name”), leaving the fields became virtually impossible. The spring harvest festival was necessarily postponed. One counted seven weeks from “when the sickle is first put to the standing grain” (Deut. 16:9) and then celebrated the pilgrimage festival-at a time when absence from the fields was possible.
  • Deuteronomy deals in much the same way with the old Festival of Ingathering (asif). In Deuteronomy 16:13-17 we read that the third required feast was now a seven-day pilgrimage festival. It is not called asif, “ingathering,” but rather, “the Pilgrimage Festival of Booths (sukkot).”
    • The third feast was no longer celebrated when produce was first brought in from the field. It was delayed until after the produce had been processed on the threshing floor and the vat. Once the spring harvest festival had been postponed for practical reasons, it became necessary to postpone the autumn pilgrimage as well.
    • We do not have the precise date during the year of the Deuteronomic Sukkot festival, but its new name is readily understandable. Once the festival was extended to seven days to be celebrated in the religious capital (Jerusalem, where the Temple was), it became necessary to provide temporary housing for pilgrims in and around the city. Huts (sukkot) were erected for this purpose. Nehemiah 8:13-18 provides a description of such a Sukkot celebration in postexilic times.
  • The most transparent problem created by Deuteronomy’s restriction of sacrificial worship to one central Temple concerned the Passover offering and the matsot festival.
    • The Passover sacrifice could no longer be offered in one’s home. Not only rescheduling, but restructuring the entire celebration was called for. Israelites would have to arrive at the religious capital before the eve of the matsot festival and then remain there, in most cases, until the seventh day of the festival, when the pilgrimage was celebrated. They therefore might not have time to get home and back in a period of six or seven days.
    • It was therefore ordained in Deuteronomy 16:1-8 that the paschal sacrifice be offered later in the evening: “in the evening when the sun sets.”
    • In this way, the Passover sacrifice could also serve as the sacrifice of the first day of the matsot festival. This explains why, according to Deuteronomy 16:8, matsot must be eaten for six days, not for seven, as in earlier laws in Exodus. The Passover sacrifice counted as part of the pilgrimage, which now occurred on the first, not the seventh, day of the festival, thus leaving only six remaining days. The morning after the paschal sacrifice an Israelite returned “to his tent” (the temporary booth set up because now the festival had to take place away from one’s home – in Jerusalem, where the temple was).
    • In effect, Deuteronomy transformed the Passover sacrifice into the pilgrimage sacrifice, and in so doing, prescribed the same mode of sacrifice as obtained for a normal zeva?, “sacred feast.” This is why it could not be boiled (bashal) in pots (this was prohibited in Exodus 12) and might consist of large or small cattle.?? The paschal sacrifice did double duty in commemorating the Exodus, as before, but also in representing the offering required on the pilgrimage day.

So what is the point for this lengthy excursus with respect to our inspiration and inerrancy discussion? This example was prompted by a reader/commenter’s request that I show an example of how ne portion of Scripture was altered or changed by another. Done with that now (and this was the second example, and more could be offered). The REASON for the request was that it came out of an objection to my denial that God “gave” the words of the Scripture to the authors in some way – either aural dictation or some other means by which the author did not come up with the words himself. That is my view, and is why I call the human authors the immediate source of Scripture, while God is the ultimate, providential source (and approver of the results). What we have here with Passover and the feasts are obvious changes, and changes that ONLY make sense if Deuteronomy is much later (hundreds of years), when Israel is in a new situation – they are in the land, have Jerusalem as a capital, and have a temple. This means that Moses did not write Deuteronomy 16, but some later unnamed priest or scribe did. I have no problem with that, since God can use an unnamed individual (and also because the phrase “law of Moses” no more consistently means “came from Moses” than the phrase “psalm of David” means “came from David” – many psalms very obviously did not).

This prompts the question to the commenter: If God “gave” the words of Exodus 12, why would he “give” the words of Deuteronomy 16 that altered the words of the prior revelation? Couldn’t he make up his mind on the procedures or the times of year?

This is easily explainable when dealing with finite humans living at different times. When an omniscient God is giving the very words, it appears odd.  Why not give one set in anticipation of later times? And in case one wants to argue that the wordings of Deuteronomy are “a prophecy” of later Passover times, that doesn’t work for a simple reason. Consider the Israelite living at the time of Moses who received BOTH sets of commands. Since for that Israelite could construe “the place that God set is name” was the Tabernacle, and since he lived in close proximity to the tabernacle, he COULD obey the Deuteronomy commands, but then he’d be disobeying the Exodus commands (and vice versa). Either way he is violating something in the Law. Also, how could that Israelite observe the right liturgical calendar. Either way he’s in violation. It’s far more coherent to see Deuteronomy 16 as later. And since the chronological displacement is coherent, we don’t have a contradiction problem – different rules for different times is understandable; different rules for the same (pre-temple) time is contradictory.

In fairness to the commenter, though, there is an answer that (sort of) lets him keep his inspiration argument – but which would perhaps require him to change it elsewhere: surrender Mosaic authorship for Deut. 16. That way, God can be “giving” the words to separate authors. But that in turn requires rethinking a lot of other things in Deuteronomy that appear much later than Moses.

And again, for the record, I do not subscribe to JEDP. It is a classic example of observing the obvious (non-Mosaic material in Deuteronomy, like this Passover example) and then using that to extrapolate to the unnecessary – JEDP documents). Redaction, overseen by a providential God who is the ultimate source of the text, is much more coherent than the patchwork quilt idea offered by the critics.

I hope you are all seeing this subject is SO much deeper than the simplistic statements given in systematic theologies by those who work only in the English Bible (and often without OT context).