Exodus 12:22, “None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning.”
Combine that idea with this verse:
Exodus 12:42: “It was a night of watching by YHWH, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to YHWH by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.”
“Watching” is the Hebrew word shimmorim (Strongs H8107) which is uniquely used only in this one verse. The KJV translates it as “observe” but that could be a misleading term. The root is shamar (Strongs H8104), a much more common word meaning to keep, to guard, or to protect. Because the words “observe” and “keep” are both terms applied to the Sabbath, for instance, we know the root idea doesn’t simply mean to see it with our eyes. “Keeping” the Sabbath means to protect it, to order your week around it, to make sure sure nothing interferes with it. “Keeping” the Sabbath, doesn’t just happen on the Sabbath, it occurs throughout the entire week. “Keeping” the Sabbath becomes a lifestyle and a daily act of worship–it’s the to-do list that we are focused on for the other six days that we are protecting the Sabbath from.
Shimmorim, referring to “watching” all night on Pesach, is just as active of a process. For me and my house, after we paint our doorway red, and after we eat our meal in haste, we then stay awake until the sun comes up–with no one leaving the house, until the sun rises the next morning. Throughout the night, as the full moon crosses the sky from horizon to horizon, we actively watch for YHWH to do what He always does.
(There is precedence for YHWH doing some of His best work overnight, as I’ve written about here.)
Messiah himself connects watching to staying awake:
Mark 13:33, “Be on guard, stay awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: stay awake.”
Although the context of that conversation seems to be about Yeshua’s second coming, just one chapter later, he uses the same language in the overnight hours leading to Pesach!
Mark 14:27-34, “And Yeshua said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Yeshua said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times. But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray. And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”
37-41, “And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come.””
Staying up all night is not easy, especially after spending the previous day preparing, but in my experience, it’s always worth the struggle. Gethsemane, where Messiah successfully watched, is a place at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane means “oil press” in Hebrew. This may mean that our “watching” on this night will result in our insides coming out (in a good way). Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, maybe the press is an allusion to a life-changing work of the Holy Spirit that is waiting for those who rise to this level of devotion on Pesach, rather than just drinking wine and going through the ritualistic motions. Maybe this is an aspect of the pressing is referenced in 2 Corinthians 2:4, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are hard pressed, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;”
Of course “sleep” is commonly used in scripture as a euphemism for death and “waking up from sleep” is a metaphor for being resurrected. Ephesians 5:14, “Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead, and Messiah will shine on you.” Our resurrection is not the focus of Pesach (but it is the theme of YHWH’s fifth Appointed Time, Yom Teruah). We don’t need to wait for the resurrection to live as free Israelites. We start that new life in the morning when we leave the house after a sleepless night. It’s thematically appropriate that we don’t sleep (and therefore don’t wake up) on Pesach. Because the Lamb of God died, we live.
Practically speaking, what we choose to do overnight depends on our situation. One year, only the men stayed up, encouraging one another and sharing life advice. Another year we slept in shifts, with only one designated watcher watching until dawn. The children seem to be the ones most enthusiastic about this object-lesson in faithfulness and steadfastness, but that’s likely due to the chocolate covered Matza left out all night. This is a great time for the heads of each family to lay hands on their children to bless them for this new year. If you’ve had trouble scheduling a good old-fashioned “family meeting” to discuss attitudes or fresh direction, here’s a slot that’s suddenly open with no excuse. We did a song-writing workshop overnight one Pesach that was inspiring enough that several of the youth who attended are still writing and recording worship music, years later. As with each element of Pesach, the more you intentionally invest in it, the more YHWH will return. Following our Father isn’t a religion, it’s a walk. Each year may look entirely different–what’s important is our engagement and our devotion. The specifics are between your family and YHWH.
1 Thesselonians 5:6 “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.”
Luke 12:37, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.”
Luke 12:38, “If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!”
Luke 21:36, “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
YHWH’s own sleeplessness is showcased in Psalm 121:1-8:
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from YHWH, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
YHWH is your keeper; YHWH is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
YHWH will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
YHWH will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.