When Did Israel Leave Egypt?
There is a debate as to when exactly Israel was brought out of Egypt. Let us examine the issue. We will read from King James’ version of the Bible.
Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night. (Deu 16:1 KJV)
שָׁמֹורWatch אֶת־חֹ֣דֶשׁnew moon of הָאָבִ֔יב the Aviv וְעָשִׂ֣יתָ and to do פֶּ֔סַח Pesach לַיהוָ֖ה for Yehovah
אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ your Elohim
כִּ֞י because בְּחֹ֣דֶשׁ in the month הָאָבִ֔יב the Aviv הֹוצִ֨יאֲךָ֜ brought you out
יהוה Yehovah אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ your Elohim מִמִּצְרַ֖יִםfrom Egypt לָֽיְלָה night.
Let us examine a few key words on this verse which may help us out understand the text. The first word is shamar:
שָׁמַר sha-mar, to guard, to watch, as seen in Psa 127:1 where shamar is used with both of its meanings to guard and to watch.
חֹדֶשׁ cho-desh, month but more literally new moon, as seen in Isa 66:23 and Eze 46:1.
אָבִיב aviv, agricultural term indicating the stage of barley before being ripe, as seen in,
And the flax and the barley were smitten, for the barley was aviv and the flax was in bud. (Exo 9:31)
Before the first month arrives, in the last month of the year, Israel is to watch and guard that barley should be fit for the aviv ripening (capable of producing ripe ears of barley) to offer up in it the omer meal offering. And if the barley is not aviv, a leap year is to be proclaimed until the barley ripens.
פֶּסַח peh-sach, the Passover lamb; comes from pasach which means to pass over, as seen in Exo 12:13, but more literally to protect, to deliver as it couples with נָצַל natsal, to snatch away, to deliver, as one delivers something by snatching it away.
It is the Passover (pesach) slaughtering of Yehovah, who passed over (pasach) the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians and delivered (natsal) our households. (Exo 12:27)
In the Tanak Pesach or “Passover” is the name of a lamb sacrifice; it is not a name of a day. This sacrifice is slaughtered for the appointed time called Hag HaMatzot or “Feast of Unleavened Bread”.
מִצְרַיִם mitsrayim, Egypt, but literally it means “troubles.” Mitsrayim is the son of Ham, son of Noach, as seen in Gen 10:6, Gen 10:13, and 1Ch 1:8.
Therefore, from the verse above we see that Israel went out of Egypt at night. However, six verses down we read that they left at the going down of the sun which can only mean: at twilight by still the fourteenth of the first month:
but at the place where Yehovah your Elohim chooses to make His Name dwell, there you slaughter the Passover in the evening, at the going down of the sun, at the appointed time you came out of Mitsrayim. (Deu 16:6)
Therefore, it seems like Israel went out of Egypt at the going down of the sun on the fourteenth and at night on the fifteenth (bear in mind that the Biblical day begins with the sunset when it is completely dark).
To make it even more complicated did they not go out by day, as it is said, on the morrow of the Passover the children of Israel went out… (Num 33:3)? However, since during the night Pharaoh gave them permission to leave, as it is said, Then he called for Mosheh and Aharon by night and said, Rise up, go out from among my people… (Exo 12:31). Therefore, here it says at night.
How can we reconcile all these verses which, by the way, are all true? The answer is very simple. In Hebrew there are no punctuation marks. In Deu 16:6 if we replace the comma between at the going down of the sun and at the appointed time with a full stop, or even remove all punctuation marks, at the going down of the sun and at the appointed time will become two different statements and everything comes into place:
but at the place where Yehovah your Elohim chooses to make His Name dwell, there you slaughter the Pesach in the evening, at the going down of the sun. At the appointed time you came out of Egypt.
So, the sequence of events looks like this: (1) the pesach lamb was slaughtered at twilight on the fourteenth of the month of the aviv (Deu 16:6). (2) They ate the pesach at night on the fifteenth, the first day of Unleavened Bread. (3) At night of the fifteenth Pharaoh permitted Israel to leave (Exo 12:31). (3) Israel left on the morrow (next day) as related to the slaughtering of the pesach (Num 33:3).
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.