One Lamb in the Morning
At this time of the year the thoughts of the Christian are often on the death of our Lord Jesus and one attempts for some moments at least to reflect upon the hours on the cross, the pain and getting to the point of death. Mark, the first of the gospels to be written records (15:25) "it was the third hour, and they crucified him". This is a plain statement from someone who it seems likely lived around Jerusalem and watched the events in real time. From verse 33 of the same chapter its clear there was darkness from the sixth hour to the ninth hour and at the ninth hour Jesus cried out uttering the words "my God, why hast thou forsaken me" was given a sponge of vinegar to drink and shouted once more and expired.
This account provides the most detailed account of the time of the crucifixion and the time he died. Is there any parallel in the Old Testament?
Exodus 29:38‑39 records when two lambs were to be sacrificed every day, it says "Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even."
This pair of sacrifices are mentioned later on in the Bible such as in Num.28:3‑4. In the days of King David before Solomon’s Temple the morning and evening sacrifices are recorded as taking place while Zadok the priest officiated where the ark of the covenant was (1 Chron.16 39‑40).2 Chron.13:11 establishes it was still being respected in the days of King Jeroboam and King Abijah. However it was necessary for King Hezekiah to appoint priests for the morning and evening sacrifices which indicates that it was not respected all the days of the kings. (2 Chron.31:3) The destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the 70 years of captivity would have removed this pair of sacrifices. This was not to last and Ezra (3:3) records the restoration of the altar and the burnt offerings of the morning and evening sacrifices.
What time of day were these made? In Biblical times in places much closer to the equator each day remains about the same length of daylight. The first hour then would have begun at 6 o’clock in the morning. Unlike time in Britain where sunrise in London can be as late as 8:06 a.m. (G.M.T.) in winter to 3:42 a.m. (G.M.T.) and sunset can be as late as 9:21 p.m. when the sun sinks slowly during British Summer or Daylight Saving Time.
Josephus says, it was about the ninth hour, or three o’clock in the afternoon, that the daily sacrifice was offered. Others record that the evening lamb was slain at about 2:30 p.m. and placed on the altar at 3 p.m. as Mark records. This matches the time that Jesus died on the cross. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
The paschal lamb according to Exodus 12:5‑6 (RSV) was a lamb without blemish, a male a year old from the sheep or from the goats and it was kept until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel would kill their lambs in the evening. Josephus says they slew the Passover lamb from the ninth to the eleventh hour. The RSV footnote says that means in the Hebrew "between the two evenings". Gill states this as between when the sun begins to decline and when it sets. The sun begins to decline at noon and sets at 6 p.m. Therefore this means at about 3 p.m.
But what time was the morning sacrifice? Adam Clarke in his notes in his Bible in 1832 states the morning sacrifice was at 9 o’clock in the morning. This corresponds with the time stated by Mark that Jesus was lifted up on the cross.
Therefore this suggests a symmetry between the times the morning and evening sacrifice were placed on the altar with the time Jesus was placed on the cross and when he died on the cross as a sacrifice.