THE PASSOVER

By: Gary L. Rodgers

(Exodus 12)

** There is so much to write with regard to the Passover that I feel inadequate to properly cover this tremendous portion of scripture. I will give it my best attempt and pray that God will bless my efforts and keep me doctrinally in line with scripture and thought.                          Gary L. Rodgers

In the earlier chapters of Exodus we find:

  • Chapter one – The beloved people of God the Jews, are in Egypt where they are oppressed. Egypt in this sense is a figurative type for the world. God yearns to bring us out of the world by saving us and then sanctifying us, setting us apart from the world. We were once held in bondage in this world under the law. But thanks be to God that we were set free from the world and the condemnation of the law through Christ our Redeemer.
  • In Chapter two we find the birth of Moses. The meaning behind Moses name (drawn out) was given to him by Pharaoh’s daughter who raised him as her son and named him such because she drew him out of the water. (Exodus 2:10)
  • Exodus chapters two and three, we find that Moses eventually became a fugitive because he slew one of the Egyptians whom he found beating a Hebrew. Later Moses is drawn out or called of God to lead God’s people Israel out of Egypt.
  • In chapters five through eleven, Moses confronts Pharaoh and demands that Pharaoh let Israel go so that they may serve the Lord. But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and would not let the people go. So God passed judgment upon Pharaoh and all of Egypt with nine plagues and the tenth was about to be pronounced in chapter twelve.

This tenth plague would call upon the death angel to go through the land of Egypt and kill the first-born of both man and beast. The Jews were instructed by God to prepare the Passover and the Death Angel would pass over the house where the blood was applied to the door posts and lintel with hyssop.[1] In the tenth[2] day all of Israel was to take a lamb for a house. The lamb was to be without blemish, a male of the first year and they were to keep it until the fourteenth[3] day of the month. Jesus Christ our Passover Lamb knew no sin and was delivered up for the world as the payment for all of our sins.[4]

The entire Passover experience speaks of our deliverance from bondage to the world under the law[5] through our salvation in Christ. When the blood of the Passover Lamb was applied to the door posts and lintel it formed a cross to the entry of the home. In the same way when the blood of the true Passover Lamb Jesus Christ is applied to the door posts and lintel of our hearts through our accepting him as our Lord and Savior, the judgment of God will pass over us. By faith the children of Israel obeyed God and applied the blood as they were commanded to do. By faith they remained in their house under the protection of the blood. By God’s acceptance of the blood his judgment passed over the believer. This is a beautiful picture of our salvation through faith in Christ who met the requirement for the payment of sin through his shed blood so that we may become the children of God redeemed from the bondage of sin under the law. [6] In verse eight they were instructed to eat the flesh, unleavened bread and bitter herbs.[7]

TRADITIONAL JEWISH PASSOVER CUSTOM

The Jewish Passover or Pesach has some most interesting customs that I wish to note in the body of the study. An Internet link from “My Jewish Learning” is provided for those who wish to study this subject in-depth. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Passover/Passover_101.shtml?HYJH

In theory as a means of bonding with each other and with their ancestral roots during the Passover celebration every Jew is to consider their self as personally being an exile from Egypt.

The first step taken in this celebration is to do a thorough cleaning of the home. This must be done to remove all traces of leaven[8] (Chametz) including the removal and disposal of all containers and utensils used in the storage and preparation of foods containing leaven.  Typically these items are sold to a non-Jew and can be purchased back after the Passover Celebration.[9] Traditionally, Jews do a formal search for remaining Chametz after night fall on the evening before Passover using a candle, feather and wooden spoon. All traces of leaven and any utensils used to gather up the fragments are burned the next day. Once all leaven has been removed then the festive meal would be prepared called the Seder.

The Seder would typically contain the following:

  • Karpas – a green vegetable, most often parsley or celery is used. Typically it represents the initial flourishing of the Israelites during the first years in Egypt before slavery began. The dipping of the Karpas by some Jews symbolizes the dipping of Joseph’s coat of many colors into the blood of a goat by his brothers as they tried to cover up to their father Jacob the selling of their brother to the Ishmaelites. Karpas is done at the beginning of the Seder just as the dipping of Joseph’s coat into blood began the Israelite descent into Egypt.
  • Haroset – Is used to represent the mortar that the Israelite slaves used in Egypt to bond bricks together. This is typically a mixture of fruits, wine or honey, and nuts.
  • Maror – Was most likely a bitter lettuce (romaine) or possibly a root such as chicory. It was eaten as a reminder to their life in Egypt. When they first arrived Joseph was head of affairs for Pharaoh and things went well for Israel, and then the latter outcome was to slavery under Rameses. The lettuces and roots taste sweet when one first bites into them, but then become bitter as they eat more.
  • Z’roa – Is a roasted lamb or goat shank bone that symbolizes the Passover Lamb that the Jewish people sacrificed in the Temple in Jerusalem. The z’roa does not play an active role in the Seder, but serves as a visual reminder of the Pesach sacrifice that the Israelites offered immediately before leaving Egypt and that Jews continued to offer prior to the destruction of the Temple. Vegetarians will generally substitute a roasted beet, both because the red of the beet resembles the blood of the sacrifice and because the Talmud mentions beets as one of the vegetables sometimes dipped during the Seder.[10] The Z’roa is not eaten nor handled during the Seder.
  • Beitzah – A roasted egg that symbolized the Hagigah sacrifice which was a festival sacrifice made in biblical times in addition to the Passover Lamb. The idea was that one would consume the Hagigah sacrifice to a point where they would not fill or gorge themselves on the Paschal Lamb.  This was offered on every holiday (including Passover) when the Temple stood. In some Jewish circles the egg represents different things. To some the roundness of the egg represents the cycle of life, even in the most painful of times there is always hope for a new beginning; the egg is also symbolic of the season of Spring. To others it symbolized mourning for the loss of the Temple. After the destruction of the Temple neither the Hagigah sacrifice nor the Passover Lamb would be offered until the Temple would again be rebuilt.[11]

Placement

There are a few traditions regarding the arrangement of items on the Seder plate. Most commonly, the maror is placed in the middle of the plate. The hazeret is at the six o’clock position followed by, moving clockwise, karpas (seven o’clock), beitzah (11 o’clock), z’roa (one o’clock), and haroset (five o’clock).

On the Table

In addition to the items on the Seder plate, the Seder table should also have three pieces of matzah[12] (Unleavened Bread) known as the bread of affliction,[13] wrapped or covered in a cloth and a container of salt water or vinegar[14] in which to dip the karpas. Some Seder plates have a compartment for matzah underneath, or include space for salt water among the other symbols. In most cases though, matzah and salt water or vinegar sit near, but not on, the Seder plate. The head of the household breaks the middle Matzah in half and places the smaller part back between the two whole Matzos. The larger portion is wrapped up and is saved for later use as the Afikoman.[15] In some Jewish circles the Afikoman Matzah is placed on their shoulder briefly to symbolize that Israel left Egypt in a hurry carrying their matzos on their shoulders and recite these words “In haste we went out of Egypt.”

Some Jews place an olive on the Seder plate to signal hope for eventual peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

A script is followed from a book called the Haggadah[16] that tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt and also gives explicit instructions on how they are to carry out various parts of the celebration. Wine is also a big part of their ritual during Passover.[17] Four cups of wine are used as part of the celebration.

The biblical readings for the Passover would include the following:

First Day

In the Torah reading (Exodus 12:21-51), Moses gives instructions to the elders of Israel with regard to all of the laws of the Passover. All generations following this period of time are to observe the traditions of the Passover. The children of all succeeding generations are to be taught at Passover the significance of this celebration and how it originated.

The Haftarah is a series of select readings taken from the books of the Prophets (Nevi’im[18] and Ketuvin[19]) out of the Hebrew Bible (Tanach). From the book of Joshua 5:2 through 6:1 and 6:27 was taken the account of the first Passover celebration in the Promised Land that was observed in Gilgal after the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River.

Isaiah 43:1-15 is the prophetic reading for the first day of Passover which gives reference to the crossing of the Red Sea and God’s[20] role as Redeemer.

Second Day

The reading from the Torah, (Leviticus 22:26-23:44) Moses instructs the Israelites regarding the Sabbath and festivals.

The Haftarah for the second day of Passover, (II Kings 23:1-9, 21-25) gives the account of a great Passover that was celebrated after the reformation of King Josiah. In the 18th year of his reign a scroll of the Torah (possibly the book of Deuteronomy) was discovered during some repairs to the Temple. The King was so moved by the message that he rid the Temple of all idolatry

The Intermediate Shabbat (Sabbath) of Passover

(Exodus 33:12-34:26) After Israel worshipped the golden calf, Moses had taken the two stone tablets which God had given him on Mount Sinai and cast them down and broke them in his anger against the idolatry of Israel. Moses then ascends Mount Sinai and receives a second set of tablets which God gave him; and Moses then descended from the Mount and gave the Children of Israel the Ten Commandments.

The Haftarah is taken from the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:1-14). The prophet finds himself in a valley of dry bones and God asked him to prophesy to the dry bones. Ezekiel did as God commanded him and the dry bones took on flesh and life. Ezekiel understood the vision to mean that God will again make Israel a nation.

In Jewish tradition the Passover symbolizes past deliverances and looks forward to a future redemption and a resurrection of the dead that will take place during Passover and this is what determined the choosing of this passage as the Haftarah for the Intermediate Sabbath of Passover.

The Song of Songs – (םירישה ריש / Shir Hashirim)

During the Intermediate Sabbath of Passover it is a Jewish Custom to read the biblical book Song of Songs. Rabbinic tradition interprets the book as a love song between the “beloved’ which is taken to mean God and “the bride” (the chosen of Israel). This tradition has made the Song of Songs particularly appropriate for reading during Passover because metaphorically speaking it speaks of a courtship between God and Israel that becomes finalized in a wedding at Mount Sinai when the children of Israel accepts the Torah.

Another reason given for the reading of the Song of Songs on Passover is that it is a song of the season of Spring which is identified with hope and happiness. The hope of Israel lies in their freedom and attachment to the law of God for which the children of Israel have fought for since they left the bondage of Egyptian rule and authority. This is the solemn message which Israel wishes to convey to the world.

The Seventh Day

The reading from the Torah (Exodus 13:17 to 15:26) gives an account of Israel’s experiences following the Exodus from Egypt. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart again and Pharaoh gathers his armies of chariots and horsemen and pursues after Israel. When Moses and the children of Israel reach the Red Sea the angel of God removed himself from leading the people and went behind them and stood between the children of Israel and the pursuing Egyptians in a pillar of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God instructs Moses to raise his rod over the sea and the waters of the Red Sea open up and the children of Israel cross over on dry land and are miraculously saved. When the Egyptians try to cross over they become bogged down in mud and through God’s instructions to him, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the waters came together and destroyed the armies of Egypt.[21] Moses and the children of Israel then sing a song of thanksgiving unto the Lord.

The Haftarah is taken from II Samuel 22 which connects to the theme of the song of thanksgiving as given in the Torah reading. In this portion of scripture we find King David singing a song of praise for the many times that God gave victory to David and spared him from his enemies. The Haftarah concludes with a sentence that is also found in the conclusion of the prayer after meals which is found in verse 51 of II Samuel 22.  “A tower of salvation of His king, who shows mercy to His anointed, to David and to his heirs forever”

The Eighth Day

The reading from the Torah for the eighth-day of Passover is taken from Deuteronomy 15:19 to 16:17 which deals with a multiplicity of laws including laws related to tithes, the year of release, release of slaves, and a complete description of the three pilgrimage feasts.

·        The feast of Unleavened Bread – Passover

·        The feast of weeks

·        The feast of tabernacles

The Haftarah is taken from the Book of Isaiah 10:32 to 12:6 which begins with a promise from God that Assyria will fall and that the Jewish people will gather from the four corners of the earth and again they shall return to Israel and be a nation.

The Haftarah also contains the famous great vision of the Messianic Era when peace and harmony will reign supreme among all people. Because the Haftarah contains several allusions to the redemption from Egypt, it was especially chosen to be chanted on the last day of Passover.

THE INVITATION

Won’t you come to the Passover Lamb (Jesus Christ) and allow Him to apply His blood to the doorposts and lintel of your heart?

2 Corinthians 6:2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation.)

This could be your last chance! None of us have a guarantee that we will see tomorrow. Death is no respecter of persons at any age, whether they are an infant, youth or the elderly. Do you know for sure that you have another tomorrow?

All of this information above points to a person and that person is Jesus Christ. He is shown over and over again in scripture types such as this, from the way that the animal sacrifices were conducted to the way that the Tabernacle and the Holy of Holies was constructed, even to the rock that was struck in the wilderness and issued forth life saving waters. Can any of us afford to gamble away another day? If you wake up in eternity tomorrow where will your eternity be, Heaven or Hell? It’s your choice and no one can make it for you. It’s a sad thought but Hell is full of good people who had good intentions, but they never prayed to God and acknowledged that they were a hopelessly lost sinner needing a Savior. If they would have only asked His forgiveness, and trusted in Him as their Lord and Savior. If they would have believed that he died to pay their penalty for their sin and resurrected as a living Savior. If they would have only asked Christ to wash away all of their sin with His blood. If they would have opened up their heart so that the Holy Spirit could come in and be a part of their lives. Then they could say that they were a joint heir with Christ. Then they could rightfully call God, Abba; Father. “If only!” Two words that a lot of people are saying in Hell today. Will you be the next to utter those words?

If you have prayed and asked Jesus to save you then you should write down the:

Date: _______________________

Time: __________________________

Place: __________________________________________________

of your decision. Record this information in your Bible as a record of that decision. It is part of your testimony.

Please contact us through Myerstown Baptist Church, 59 N. Ramona Road, Myerstown PA. 17067, or visit our website at http://www.myerstownbaptistchurch.com/ to let us know that you have made a decision for Christ so that we can pray for you and rejoice with you. We would like to send you some information to help you get started in your Christian walk and too answer any questions that you may have.

Thank you, and may the Lord richly bless you!


[1] Hyssop was used in scripture in different ways.

  • It was used in Leviticus 14:1-6, 49-52 to cleanse lepers and to cleanse their house.
  • It was used in the sacrifice of the Red Heifer. Numbers 19:6 and the ashes were used as purification for sin. Numbers 19:17
  • David asked the Lord to purge (cleanse) him with Hyssop. Psalm 51:7
  • A sponge was soaked in vinegar and put onto a branch of hyssop and put to the mouth of Christ when he cried out from the cross and said “I thirst.” John 19:28-30

An interesting side note regarding Hyssop. It has many medicinal qualities. I once heard a message from Dr. J. Vernon McGee where he said that penicillin will grow on hyssop.

[2] Ten stands for responsibility intensified, signifying the measure of responsibility and its judgment or reward. Under the law man was responsible to obey the commandments and bear a testimony for God by keeping the law. Ten is made up of the sum of the numbers for the world (4) and the number for man (6).

[3] Fourteen is the number for Deliverance or Salvation. The children of Israel were delivered from bondage under Egypt on the 14th day of the first month Nisan. Three (three is the number for bodily resurrection.) days later the Children of Israel passed through the Red Sea (the Red Sea passing is a picture of resurrection from this life into the land of promise, Heaven) and were delivered from the hand of Pharaoh, 14 + 3 = 17 the number for victory. And it was on the 14th day of Nisan that we were delivered from the bondage of sin and the law by Jesus Christ at Calvary. Three days later He resurrected from the grave (17 – The number for victory).

[4] John the Baptist the forerunner for Christ in the book of John 1:29 & 36 announced “Behold the lamb of God”, signifying that this was the innocent Lamb prepared as the perfect (without spot or wrinkle) sacrifice for the sins of the world.

[5] In Romans 3:19 we find that the law was given to prove that the entire world is found guilty before God. We are saved by the grace (unmerited favor) of God and as a result of this sin would no longer have its condemning power over those that receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Romans 6:14 We could not fulfill the law in order to redeem ourselves from the penalty of the law. Christ came because he was the only one that could.

[6] Galatians 3:13, 4:3-7

[7] I Cor. 10:16-18 communion of the blood and body of Christ, Deut 16:3-8 eat unleavened bread for 7 days)

[8] Exodus 12:15, Matthew 16:5-12 and Luke 12:1 Jesus warns his disciples to beware of the leaven (doctrine/hypocrisy) of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Malice and wickedness, I Corinthians 5:8.

[9] I have also read where these items by some were not actually transported from the home; instead they were covered up and tied with a string until the celebration was completed and the items purchased back. I don’t understand how this would be justified when in Exodus 12:15 it says that “ye shall put away leaven out of your houses:” If a person offends in one point of the law is he not guilty of all? James 2:10 and Deuteronomy 27:26.

[10] I am surprised that the whole point of the Passover Lamb has become of little significance in the Jewish celebration and has not been eaten since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. The Passover lamb was to be whole and if too large for a household than it would be shared by a second household. Not a bone of the sacrifice was to be broken. Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12 One would think that the entire Passover Celebration would have continued to center around the Paschal Lamb and would have remained as the focal point of the seder. (Exodus 12:8-10)

Jesus Christ our Passover Lamb shed his blood which was applied to the lintel and door posts of the sinner’s prayer that opened to the halls of heaven where the hissing sound of the cross could be heard from the Garden of Eden all the way to the Millennial Kingdom. The guilt of our sin was transferred to this innocent Lamb who suffered the pain and agony of God’s wrath while he experienced the fear of separation from God the Father.

As he looked down from the cross he gazed upon the multitudes that had their eyes fixed on him and he could see the faces of all mankind. He saw my face and he saw yours, and in his eyes you could see a love beyond measure that he had for each of us as if to say that there was no limit to what he would willingly suffer in our stead.

And when he cried “it is finished” we knew in our heart of hearts that his blood paid the full penalty for all past, present and future sin. That we were released from being enslaved to this world (Egypt) as we are led by the Holy Spirit (pillar of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night) through that doorway of salvation (the Red Sea) into a new life (Heaven – God’s Promised Land) freed from the penalty of sin.

When God looks at our sin all wrapped up in the package of salvation and tied with the ribbon of Christ’s blood he will pass over our sin and we will stand guiltless and clean before him. I am amazed that God loves us that much when we justly deserve an eternity in hell.

Christ gave his life for those that beat him, tore his beard from his face, spat on him and mocked him and then nailed him to a cross. How do you explain that kind of love? I can only think of one word. GRACE! The grace of God goes beyond all human comprehension and human words do not suffice when trying to define its meaning.

[11]  The sacrifices will again be offered up at the Temple in Jerusalem.  In the middle of the Tribulation period the Antichrist who has set himself up in Jerusalem as God will cause the sacrifices to cease. See Daniel 12, Matthew 24, Mark 13, and II Thessalonians 2:3-9

[12] http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Passover/The_Seder/Matzah.shtml

The three pieces of Unleavened Bread – two are used traditionally for the Sabbath and Festivals and is used as a reminder of the double portion taken up of the manna from heaven in Exodus 16:22. Under Jewish tradition this number three has some symbolic significance.

  • Genesis 18:6 three measures of fine meal were used to make cakes for Abraham and his three angelic visitors.
  • Three categories of Jews – 1) Kohen  2) Levi  3) Yisrael
  • Three Patriarchs 1) Abraham  2) Isaac  3) Jacob

[13] In Jewish tradition the matzah is used to symbolize the meager sustenance given to the slaves as well as the hurried food of the Jews as they were leaving out of Egypt.

[14] The salt-water and vinegar is used to symbolize the tears shed by Israel when they were slaves in Egypt.

[15] The Afikoman portion is used at the very end of the Seder. Nothing else is to be eaten once the Afikoman has been taken. The breaking of the Matzah is symbolic of Israel’s breaking away from the tyranny of Egypt and they are now free and look forward to a future redemption when the Passover will again be celebrated as in the days of old in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. As a demonstration of their freedom the Jewish community celebrates the Passover in a relaxed reclined position on their left side. The Afikoman is a symbol of the Korban Pesach/Paschal Lamb and is prepared during Yachatz which is the fourth part of the Seder.

[16] Haggadah–“the telling”–[is] the book containing the passages dealing with the theme of the Exodus recited at the Passover Seder. The reading of the Haggadah is based on the verse, “You shall tell your son on that day: it is because of what the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:8).

[17] I was reading in the Haggadah a section where a bit of the wine is removed from the cup as each of the plagues is mentioned. A side note regarding this ritual really struck me when I read it and I wanted to note it word for word. “Some wine is removed from the cup in compassion for the Egyptians. Although they oppressed us, we must not rejoice at the suffering of other humans.” I cannot help but too greatly admire the sensitivity of these people who have faced such brutality throughout history and yet show compassion on those that have wronged them so terribly. It brings to mind Matthew 5:44. The fourth cup of wine used in the Passover celebration is referred to as the cup of Elijah, the door is opened during a recital from the Haggadah to indicate the readiness of the people to receive the Prophet Elijah.

[18] Books of the Prophets

[19] Known as the Writings

[20] I found it most interesting and I greatly admire the way that the Jewish people reverence the name of God. A number of times when I have read articles written by Jews I have noticed that they so revered the words God and Lord that they would write it thusly. (G-d or L-rd) It is my understanding that they so fear mispronouncing the name of God that they would write it in this fashion and in some cases even substitute the word Adonia in its place. Adonia meaning “My Lord is Jehovah.”  The word HaShem is also widely used which means “The Name”.

[21]  Oh the greatness of our God! When we as a slave to this world leave behind the power that this world has over us by deciding to follow the Lord; God will send his Holy Spirit to lead us and bring us to the shores of salvation where he will protect us on all sides as we cross over by faith into the Promised Land through the Red Sea (signifying blood) that was shed by Christ Jesus for every one of us. When our God leads he will always pave the way for us to follow. It’s that step of faith that God looks for in each of us. May we as believers look to the heavens for the return of the true Manna; Jesus Christ the bread of life, (John 6:33-35 and 47-58) who came down from heaven to deliver us from the bondage of sin and death.

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