Exodus 12:6, “…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.”
There’s a very deep dive (four posts worth) into our family’s understanding of biblical timing here. The rest of this short article is based on the assumptions I explain more fully there. There’s also a short secular scientific article on how the full moon relates to the sun set here, in case you want to nerd-out a little.
The Hebrew phrase בֵּין הָעַרְבָּֽיִם (beyen ha erevim) is often translated as “at twilight” or simply “at even”, but both of those miss the unique aspect of Pesach night. Every day and night the sun and the moon follow the same general ellipse (eastern to western path in the sky) but both of these signs of YHWH’s clock rise and set in slightly different spots throughout the year. Even if the moon is “new” and can’t be seen, it’s still there, following the same predictable path. For most of the year “rising in the east, and setting in the west” are ballpark terms, since only two specific times per year is that phrase technically true–nearest the Spring Equinox and nearest the Autumn Equinox. In the spring, the full moon nearest the Spring Equinox is called the “pascal moon”, pascal being Latin for Pesach.
For the rest of the year, the moon and sun are “off” either to the north or south. They are at the extremes of “off” during the Summer and Winter solstices. If you thought Christmas was a little “off”, now you know why. YHWH does not have His appointed times during the “off” season–only when the alignment is perfectly balanced and the beautiful symmetry is visible to the naked eye.
Only on the evenings of the Pesach meal and at the start of Sukkot (exactly 6 months later) does the sun set exactly in the West, while the moon is rising exactly in the East. Only on these nights can you stand in one spot and see the sun halfway below the horizon, and turn around (exactly 180 degrees) and see the moon halfway above the opposite horizon. This is the moment of beyen ha erevim, between the evenings. This is the beauty of the Hebrew soli-lunar calendar, and how easy it can be to tell Holy time, even without (gasp) the internet.
There are other soli-lunar coincidences that occur throughout the year. For example, any full eclipse of the sun anywhere in the world can only happen on day 1 of a biblical month. Any total eclipse of the moon can only happen on the 15th of a biblical month. This is why freaking out and buying ammo whenever there is a “blood moon” on a feast day is a hilarious over reaction. A “blood moon” is simply a scary sounding name for a lunar eclipse, and there’s a 1 in 6 chance that any given eclipse will happen on one of the two major High Days of YHWH’s schedule. It’s not lottery odds–it’s not even Yahtzee odds–it’s the simple roll of a single die odds.
The very end of a biblical month (usually day 26, 27, or 28) is also beautiful and often ignored, even by people who subscribe to the solar-lunar celestial signs. In the pre-sunrise hours just before the month ends, the thin sliver of the last light of the months’ moon appears in the eastern sky, just a few minutes before the light of the rising sun overpowers it. The morning following this event, there will be no moon visible at all for 24-48 hours (depending on where you are on earth, and other factors). This dark moonless period marks the beginning of a biblical month. An evening later, the third lunar witness appears symmetrically on the opposite side of the sky–the very first sliver of the next moon cycle, just minutes after the sun sets. Beautiful, symmetrical, and chiasticly wonderous.
Using darkness (the lunar conjunction) as a “witness” seems counterintuitive, but we are told that we “walk by faith and not by sight.” Starting things in darkness is actually a pattern that starts very early in scripture and repeats like a drum-beat till the very end.
We know all of creation began in darkness, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2
Even before the sun and moon were made, YHWH declared that a day begins with darkness. “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Genesis 1:5
After the flood, Noah releases the raven first, then the dove. Raven in Hebrew is the same word as “evening“.
The Abrahamic Covenant happened in darkness. “When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.” Genesis 15:17
Just as darkness preceded all of creation, the plague of darkness proceeded the creation of the people of Israel. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” Exodus 10:21
Keeping that pattern going, the covenant with Israel, remembered each Shavuot (Pentecost) began with darkness. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” Exodus 20:21
Solomon’s temple was suddenly filled with darkness upon it’s inauguration. “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. Then Solomon said, “YHWH has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.” 1 King 8:10-12
Darkness is not a place where YHWH wants us to dwell, but it does give us a daily reset with the sunset, and a monthly reset with the moon phase. The annual reset is this two weeks from Rosh Chodesh (day 1, month 1) to Pesach (between the evenings).
“He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light.” Job 12:22
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:5