The Passover

by Joseph Hunting

Nowhere in the annals of human history has there been an event that has had such far-reaching effects as those associated with the Passover and Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt 3,500 years ago.

Never before or since has there been such an epic march to freedom as that undertaken by the entire nation of Israel under the leadership of Moses. I never fail to be thrilled and spiritually stimulated by the contest between Moses who was described in the Bible as one of the meekest of men and Pharaoh, arrogant, and the most powerful man of his time. Pharaoh had all the power of an absolute monarch at his disposal and his army stood poised to carry out his command. He held the fate of the Hebrews in his hand, and already he had implemented a programme of genocide that would finally exterminate the Hebrew race.

On the other hand, Moses was rated lower than even a rabble-rouser in Pharaoh's sight; he represented those despised Hebrew slaves. He even stammered and stuttered when he spoke. Furthermore, he was demanding the release of the Hebrews in the name of their God. What kind of a God was this? The Hebrews themselves had never seen Him, and was He not the God of a nation of slaves who were being exterminated? Was it any wonder that Pharaoh exclaimed: "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go." (Exodus 5:2)

But Pharaoh was soon to be humbled by this unknown God of the Hebrews and the gods of Egypt utterly humiliated in a frightful contest of power, for the LORD declared: "Against all the gods of Egypt will I execute judgement."


Moses' confrontation with Pharaoh developed into a head-on collision between the gods of Egypt and the God of the Hebrews. On the one hand Moses and Aaron represented the God of Israel, and Pharaoh with his wise men and sorcerers represented the deities worshipped by the Egyptians. Let us mingle with the interested observers and see how Israel's God systematically destroyed the power and the prestige of the Egyptian deities.


The Nile River was worshipped as were certain of its denizens. Moses stretched forth his rod over the waters of the Nile and its waters turned to blood. The fish died and the river stank. Thus was the Nile god humiliated before all Egypt.


HEKT was an Egyptian goddess with a frog's head. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched forth his hand over the waters of Egypt; and frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt." (Exodus 8:6-7) Finally Pharaoh entreated Moses to call upon the God of Israel. "And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields. And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank." (Exodus 8:13-14) Thus was HEKT humiliated before all Egypt.


SEB was the Egyptian earth God. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt." (Exodus 8:16) Following this Divine command, "There was lice upon man and beast." One does not need a vivid imagination to realize the intense discomfort and humiliation this caused the Egyptians.


THE SCARAB was worshipped by the Egyptians. It will be noted that the expression 'of flies' is in italics (verses 20-32). This indicates that the expression 'of flies' has been supplied by the translators. The text literally reads: "If thou wilt not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms upon thee." (Exodus 8:21) This judgement was in all probability in the form of a small beetle known as the sacred Scarabaeus which was worshipped by the Egyptians. Thus was another Egyptian god humiliated.


APIS, the sacred Egyptian bull was the target for the fifth judgement. "And the Lord shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel. And the Lord appointed a set time saying, Tomorrow, the Lord shall do this thing in the land. And the Lord did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died; but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one." (Exodus 9:6) Thus was Apis humiliated before the eyes of the Egyptians.


TYPHON, the evil genius of the Egyptians, and NEIT, the goddess of health were worshipped. "And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, Take to you handfuls of the ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it towards heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt." This plague was directed against the Egyptians only. (Exodus 9:11)


A hail storm in Egypt would be rare indeed, and the seventh judgement was directed towards the humiliation of SHU, the god of the atmosphere. "Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even unto now . . . And Moses stretched forth his rod towards the heaven: and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground: and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt . . . Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail." (Exodus 9:18,23,26)


SERAPIA was the god the Egyptians worshipped for the protection from devastating plagues of locusts. The eighth judgement exposed the impotence of this deity. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left . . . And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such . . . they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left, and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field throughout all the land of Egypt. (Exodus 10:12,14,15)


RA, the sun god of Egypt was next in line for Divine humiliation. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thy hand toward heaven that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days; but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings." (Exodus 10:21-23)


DIVINE STATUS WAS ATTRIBUTED TO PHARAOH, and the last plague finally convinced Pharaoh of the mighty power of Israel's God and brought him to his knees. The death of the first-born had particular significance because the first-born of the Pharaoh was given equal status with Pharaoh himself. This plague was also directed against the first-born of cattle and therefore it again exposed the impotency of Apis, the sacred bull, together with Hathor, the goddess with the head of a cow. This judgement was frightful in the extreme. God had to break the iron will of Pharaoh in order to release the children of Israel from the harsh Egyptian bondage. "And all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maidservant that sitteth behind the mill; and all the first-born of the beasts . . . for I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born of the land of Egypt, both man and beast, AND AGAINST ALL THE GODS OF EGYPT WILL I EXECUTE JUDGEMENT: I AM THE LORD." (Exodus 11:5; 12:12)


After the devastating and shattering judgements upon the gods of Egypt Israel's God gave Moses the blueprint of Divine redemption. So let us observe a family at the time of the first Passover in Egypt 3,500 years ago.

STEP 1. While Egypt was still reeling from the effects of the first nine plagues God gave to the Hebrews the first of the commands which were to be implicitly obeyed. They were told to commence a new calendar regardless of the one currently being observed by the Egyptians. "This month shall be the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you." (Exodus 12:2) A redeemed people have a new beginning with the pastlessness of a newborn babe.

STEP 2. Each Hebrew home was commanded to take home a male lamb (or goat) without blemish on the 10th day of this new month. The lamb was to be observed until the 14th day, and was to be slain 'between the evenings' (roughly mid afternoon) on the 14th day.

STEP 3. Every Hebrew family had to splash the blood of the slain lamb on the lintel and side doorposts of their homes and then roast the lamb and eat it. Even though they might not understand the reason for this strange command there was no time to lose. Moses had commanded them to eat the lamb with haste. Even the bread could not be leavened.

STEP 4. At last they saw the reason for the strange acts they had just carried out. Moses again spoke: "It is the LORD's Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all 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 where ye 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.

"And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever." (Exodus 12:11-14)

This magnificent deliverance from slavery was wrought by a miracle. Israel didn't have to lift a finger against the Egyptians. Indeed they were TOLD to depart. Furthermore, the Egyptians sent them on their way with an abundance of precious stones, silver and gold. There was only one factor that was their contribution to their redemption -- their faith and obedience to God's commands.


An incident which occurred centuries later has a familiar ring to it. A prophet called John the Baptist saw the Messiah coming towards him and declared: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." (John 1:29)

Was it a coincidence that Messiah entered Jerusalem on the 10th day of the first month riding upon a donkey's colt? Many in the city on that day recognized the significance of the event as they recalled Zechariah's prophecy: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." (9:9)

Was it merely coincidence that on the 14th day, as the Passover lambs were being prepared for sacrifice, He offered himself as the Lamb of God? His blood was shed, providing atonement not only for Israel but for all mankind. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).