Pesach vs. Passover (Part 1)

As you may have noticed, I’ve vacillated between the terms Passover and Pesach when writing this series.  Obviously, Passover is the traditional and popular term, certainly in English speaking countries and related Bible translations for Jews and Christians alike.  The goal of this and the proceeding articles in this sub-series is to prove how that word is a gross mistranslation of the Hebrew word pesach.  Seeing the true meaning and underlying pattern in pesach will uncover important truths about both the gospel and the Holy Day.  

Any English translation of any book comes, by definition, with the cultural and doctrinal biases of the translator.  Furthermore, we have to recognize that even the Hebrew script used in most Bible-study tools and lexicons is not identical to the written language used by Moses and the Patriarchs.  The more ancient written Hebrew language, made up of word-pictures similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics, allows us to blow much dust off of the traditions of our elders, and gives us another way to test our understanding of scripture.  It allows us to glimpse at the Torah in a way consistent with the worldview and imagination of the authors.  It lets word pictures illustrate simple but profound truths in simple 2 and 3 letter parables.  It forces us to take our modern language and translations and bend them back into a shape consistent with the intentions of the original.  Taking that extra step backwards often shows us profound Messianic mysteries, and proves that our ancient forefathers knew more about being “saved by grace through faith” than many modern Christian denominations and Jewish sects.

In this particular study, I want to deepen our understanding of key biblical terms related to Pesach.  It will be somewhat slow going, but not tedious, as we need to take each individual letter of each word to explore how Hebrew words get their meaning.  We will quickly learn how difficult it is to assign one clear English word to a set of Hebrew letters. However, by seeing the Word through the eyes of Moses, rather than King James, our walks should never be the same.

The very word Pesach itself reveals how much depth and truth can come out of a single word, and we’ll find that the translation of Pesach to “Passover” is very incorrect.  We’ll also soon see that the English word, “Passover” is actually an entirely different Hebrew word that doesn’t share a single letter with Pesach.  That being said, the true Hebrew word abar that actually means “passover” is one of the most important words in all of Scripture!   (We’ll focus on abar in part 3.)

Note that many Hebrew words do not contain vowel sounds, so several separate words may be pronounced differently, but be inseparably linked by the pictures contained in their consonants.  Let’s start with the 2-letter root pas (Strong’s H6446).

Genesis 37:3, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors.” (KJV)  Yes, the word translated as “many colors” is the Hebrew word pas, which is the root of the word Pesach. Contrary to the traditional image of Joseph’s coat in our heads, there is nothing that infers “many colors” in the word pas.  The clear meaning is a long coat that covered Joseph right up to the wrists and the ankles.  The Hebrew word for “coat” is ketonet (Strongs H3801).  Joseph was given a unique covering, hand-crafted by his father, that covered him fully, a ketonet pas (Strongs H6446).  The Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) has it better than most, ”And Israel hath loved Joseph more than any of his sons, for he is a son of his old age, and hath made for him a long coat;”  Pas is simply the adjective that describes the coat, the ketonet.  The importance of the spiritual understanding of clothing cannot be over-emphasized.  For example, we consistently see the tearing (rending) of clothing as an act of despair.  We see putting on sackcloth to represent sorrow and grief.  On the other hand, here are some key verses that describe salvation and righteousness as a garment.

2 Chronicles 6:41, “let thy priests, O YHWH Elohim, be clothed with salvation, and let thy saints rejoice in goodness.”

Job 29:14, “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.”

Isaiah 61:10, “I will greatly rejoice in YHWH, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Romans 13:14, “But put on the Messiah Yeshua, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”  

Ephesians 4:22-24, “you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”  

This importance on the symbolism of clothing in scripture is the foundation on which Joseph’s story is built.  His pas katonet is so unique that the phrase only appears 5 times in all of scripture, 3 of them right here in this story.  However, even ketonet, the word translated for Joseph’s “coat”, is no ordinary covering—it’s only used one other time in scripture prior to Joseph’s–in the garden:

Genesis 3:21, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did YHWH Elohim make coats [ketonet] of skins, and clothed them.”

The writer of Genesis is showing us that Adam and Eve’s home-made fig leaves were not sufficient to restore their condition.  Only a covering provided by Yah Himself was sufficient to take them out of hiding and bring them back into relationship with Him.  He didn’t restore them to their “naked and unashamed” condition, but instead he shed the blood of an animal and covered them.  The death of a sinless animal, the first death recorded in scripture, was the price of their covering.  Of course, this was the basis of the sacrificial system eventually instituted in the Tabernacle.  Sin is never forgiven by the Father without a price being paid.
The consequences of their sin still stood; they had to be separated from the Tree of Life, and expelled from the garden, but their relationship to YHWH was repaired.  Wearing a ketonet changes a person’s status in the eyes of YHWH.  However, the ketonet for Adam and Eve was not a full-covering—it was not a Ketonet Pas, like Joseph’s.  It was not a permanent, nor a sufficient covering to fully restore them nor their decedents.

To further connect the solution provided in the garden with a similar remedy provided by YHWH in the Tabernacle, the High-Priest was also given a ketonet to wear.  Exodus 28:4, “And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat [ketonet], a miter, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.”

So, a ketonet is specifically a holy or royal garment.  In the Torah, it’s ONLY worn by Adam and Eve, and subsequently the Levitical priesthood.  A ketonet pas is a very rare and specific garment that elevates a person’s status to a royal priesthood by covering them fully.  It is also related with death, blood, and a high price.  When Israel gave Joseph a ketonet pas, it wasn’t just a pretty jacket.  Remember the point here, pas is the root of the word pesach.  So through the language we can see that the story of Joseph’s coat is intrinsically woven into the basic themes and meaning of the Holy Day of Pesach.  

Genesis 37:28-33, “Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver.  Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.  Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit ; so he tore his garments. He returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?” So they took Joseph’s tunic [ketonet], and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic [ketonet] in the blood and they sent the varicolored tunic [ketonet pas] and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic [ketonet] or not.” Then he examined it and said, “It is my son’s tunic [ketonet]. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” 

The literal translation of that last phrase is “torn — torn is Joseph!’”

Joseph’s brothers had left him for dead in a pit.  On the day he entered the pit, an animal was slaughtered, and the ketonet pas (the royal covering) was dipped in blood.  Notice that Israel equates the coat with Joseph himself.  “Torn—torn is Joseph!”  In just a few sentences, YHWH is giving us very specific allegorical clues to the nature of his plan for redemption. The ketonet that mankind needs would not be like Adam and Eve’s, or even like the High Priest’s.  It had to be a ketonet pas…a FULL covering, given by the Father to his beloved Son.  The Son would have to die (enter into the pit) and blood would have to be shed.  The one to die would not just be wearing a ketonet pas, but must BECOME the ketonet pas.  This is another allusion to our Messiah, the true Pesach, the one and only true ketonet pas, the one who entered the grave, and whose shed blood is enough to free us from the pit, and elevate us into a royal priesthood!  

We don’t just believe in Messiah, or just obey Messiah, we PUT ON Messiah. (Romans 13:14)

There is still more to the story of Joseph’s garments.

Now that Joseph had lost his coat, was declared dead by Jacob, and had entered into Egypt, his more humble garments (now described by the Hebrew word, beged (Strongs 898) become the focus of his story.  In another wardrobe malfunction, Potiphar’s wife takes off Joseph’s “garment”.  Although beged is a more common word than ketonet, it is used 7 times related to Joseph specifically.  Whenever a Hebrew word appears 7 times in close succession in one biblical event it is designed to draw our attention to it as spiritually important.

Genesis 39:12-15, “And she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me’, and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, that she called unto the men of her house, and spoke unto them, saying, ‘See , he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried , that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.’”

A brief but intentional link to Pesach is made in the gospels when, on the morning of the 14th of Aviv (on Pesach), Yeshua, like Joseph, is falsely accused and arrested.  Mark 14:50-52, “…and they all forsook him, and fled.  And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body, and the young men laid hold on him. And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.“  In a powerfully subtle Hebraic way, Luke is linking Yeshua’s experience with Joseph’s and reminds us in the Gospel that Joseph is a ‘type’ of Messiah.  Just like Joseph was falsely accused, arrested, and stripped of his status in the eyes of man, so was Messiah. 

But the story of Joseph’s beged isn’t over.

Genesis 41:42, “And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck.”

Beged is now translated as “vestures” in the KJV.  This is the 7th and final use of beged in Joseph’s life. 

We see both in Joseph and in Yeshua how YHWH works all things together for good, how who is last shall be first, and who is the most humbled will be the most exalted. The scriptures tell us these truths all through the metaphor of clothing.

There is another hidden word-play during Pesach that connects the garments of Adam and Eve, Joseph, and even Jacob. During the 9th plague, the one that just proceeds the night of Pesach itself, the supernatural darkness is described using a rare word: mashash (Strongs H4959), translated as “darkness that can be felt.” Mashash is actually a verb that describes the darkness of the blind, and is only used before this to describe the ‘feeling around’ in his blindness that Isaac did to determine which son would get his blessing in Genesis.  This is a very relevant connection as both the darkness of Isaac’s blindness and the darkness in Egypt are both further distinguishing between the chosen seed and the common seed, and between the firstborn son who will inherit the promise and the one who had a chance to embrace YHWH but did not.  The same word that is used to “disguise” Jacob in Esau’s “skins”, labash (Strongs H3847), is also the verb used to “clothe” Adam and Eve, and “array” Joseph in royal vestures.  In the rest of the Bible labash is only used in the context of a priest being “covered” by a ketonet.

Let’s shift the focus back to the ketonet pas, the very specific garment that is related to Pesach.  As we’ve discovered, A ketonet pas is a garment that sets the wearer apart and covers a priesthood or royalty. There is a price to be paid to wear it (shed blood and death). Just as YHWH’s Kingdom opposes the kingdom of the world, wearing a ketonet pas will draw the attention of the enemy.  In fact, King David’s daughter Tamar was the only other person in Scripture to wear a ketonet pas (a unique coat like Joseph’s). The English translation of ketonet pas is underlined below.

2 Samuel 13:14-19 “However, he [Amnon] would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.  Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up, go away!”  But she said to him, “No, because this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you have done to me!”  Yet he would not listen to her.  Then he called his young man who attended him and said, “Now throw this woman out of my presence, and lock the door behind her.”  Now she had on a long-sleeved garment; for in this manner the virgin daughters of the king dressed themselves in robes. Then his attendant took her out and locked the door behind her.  Tamar put ashes on her head and tore her long-sleeved garment which was on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.”

Listen to the similar hateful tone of Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 37:18, “When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer! ‘Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!”

Apparently, being adorned with a ketonet pas automatically comes with mocking abuse from the world.  When you read these next verses from Matthew, remember the second letter in the word pas (the letter samech), means both a hedge of protection and a circle of thorns.

Matthew 27:28-31, “They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand ; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.”

Messiah tells us that we, those redeemed by His blood on Pesach, those who accept the blood of his sacrifice and “put Him on” as our Katonet Pas, will face similar scorn. (Romans 13:14)

John 15:18-25, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is no greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’”

In part two of this word-study we’ll focus on the fullness of the word Pesach.

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