Pesach - Evolved Or Revealed

by George F Spall

Some people are compulsive readers as others are compulsive eaters. Indeed, there are those who can be both at once, like the man who devours the reading material on the outside and the inside of the cereal packet as he eats his breakfast.

I am an avid reader myself, though never at breakfast. I am drawn to the rich treasures of Jewish literature, but even here, not all that is written is as gold. However, as we read about Pesach or Passover we find it a fascinating theme and we dig into the past as we study it with deep affection.

But we may be pardoned for wondering how far back is the past. I suspect that some of what is alleged to be of great antiquity is rather less than that, in spite of the confident claims. Ever since Darwin first advanced the theory of evolution there has been something of a revolution in the literary world as well. The belief that the Holy Scriptures are of supernatural character, or even that they are only the opinions or records of men like Moses, Samuel and others, has been jettisoned. Instead, self-styled scholars 'discovered' that words were interpolated here and phrases inserted there. They 'found' that some of the pages of Scripture were from one author and another section was written by a pious fraud who took another's name to cover his anonymity. All those occasions when the writer of Genesis and Exodus and the other books of Moses said "And the Lord spoke unto Moses saying" were just more pious myths.

As a young student I accepted the lecturer's assurances that the Torah is just simply reporting the evolution of religious thinking, until one day I began to think for myself and to research the Biblical account of its own 'evolution'.


Abraham began it all when he left Chaldea at seventy-five years of age. He was for twenty-five years a nomad when Isaac was born, and Isaac was sixty years old when Jacob was born -- 25 + 60 = 85. Jacob was a shepherd for one hundred and thirty years, which was his age when he went into Egypt as guest of Joseph and Pharaoh -- 85 + 130 = 215. And we recall that he was no longer young after his hasty get-away to Laban his brother-in-law, and his at least twenty years' servitude with that crafty old relative.

There is a lot of detail given in the account of the patriarchal history. It even tells us that there were just seventy males who went into Egypt with him together with their retinues, when Jacob was one hundred and thirty years old. Thus we can account for only 215 years in Egypt. Israel was domiciled in Egypt for only four generations. Moses tells us that and he was only seven generations from Abraham himself. He tells us that too. So in spite of our respect for 'imagination' and 'literary licence' as it is sometimes euphemistically described, we raise incredulous eye brows and turn with pleasure to the Torah itself. At least, it adds up -- literally.


Using the data provided by the Tenach (Old Testament) we can tabulate Jewish history like this:

Adam to the Flood 1656 years

Flood to the covenant with Abraham 430 years

The covenant to the Exodus 430 years

Exodus to the "cutting off of the Messiah" 1656 years

How central a place then is the covenant with Abraham? It is clear that it stands right in the centre of Jewish history.

When Moses told Pharaoh that the Lord God of Israel said he was to "let my people go" , which he did on several occasions, the purpose was that they might keep the Passover. Moses left us this: "And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

"Speak unto all the congregation of Israel saying: In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house. And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next to him take it according to the number of souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

"Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; you shall take it out from the sheep or from the goats: and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation shall kill it between the evenings.

"And they shall take of the blood and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses wherein they shall eat it. And they shall east the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs shall they eat it. Eat now of it raw, or sodden at all with water, but roast with fire ... and you shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remains of it till the morning you shall burn with fire.

"And thus shall you eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord's Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and I will smite the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgement: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses were you are: and when I see the blood I WILL PASS OVER YOU, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:1-13).

So we may safely conclude that the idea of all this being a sample of literary evolution is rather an example of revolution -- a revolt against the authority of the Lord God of Moses and of Israel.