by Rabbi Jeffrey Adler
After a tenure of 4 centuries of slavery in Egypt, the time finally came for Israel’s deliverance. Adonai had told Avram during the reaffirmation of His covenant in Genesis 15, that “your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. But, I am going to judge the nation that they will serve. Afterward, they will go out with many possessions.” (Genesis 15:13-14) Then, in Exodus 3:7-10, “Then He (Adonai) said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their slave masters, for I know their pains. So, I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, to bring them up out of that land into a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey, into the place of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Now, behold, the cry of Bnei- Yisrael has come to Me. Moreover, I have seen the oppression that the Egyptians have inflicted on them. Come now, I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people Bnei- Yisrael out from Egypt.’”
God then sent a series of devastating plagues upon the Egyptians. These plagues demonstrated the power and holiness of Adonai, while bringing Pharaoh, his people, and his “gods”, to their knees. Now, in Exodus 12, Adonai informs Moses of a 10th, and most cataclysmic, plague. After informing Moses that this coming event will change the calendar and mark a seachange in the history of Israel, He tells him that every household is to select a 1-year old male lamb or kid, keep it for 3 days, then kill it on the 14th day, splash its blood onto the doorframe, roast it and eat it. The residents of the home were to eat it with matzah (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs, generally horseradish, while standing, dressed to travel, in expectation of the day of release. This was to happen at twilight. Nothing of the lamb was to be leftover till morning; anything leftover was to be completely burned up.
Exodus 12:12 states, “For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night and strike down every firstborn, both men and animals, and I will execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt. I am Adonai,”. The Lord was now going to carry out the judgments that He had promised to Avram in Genesis 15. He uses the hiphil stem of “nacah”, “to be struck down”, “hikkeyti”, in this text. All the 10 plagues, and, in particular, this 10th one, are not random occurrences of nature, but, specific action on the part of God. Though He hates to do it, Adonai does punish sin, and, He was doing so with Egypt’s sins.
Then, in verse 13, God goes on to say, ”The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. So, there will be no plague among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” In Hebrew, God states, “Raiti et-hadam, uphsachti aleychem”, “I will see the blood, and, I will pass over you.” “Raiti” is the perfect tense of the verb, seeing the action as very concise and definite. Where there is the commanded and required blood on the doorposts, He will not miss it, but, will definitely notice and respond. The blood of those lambs pointed to the ultimate blood of the ultimate promised Lamb, Messiah, Who, in the words of Isaiah 53:7, would be led as a lamb to the slaughter… When His blood is splashed onto our lives, over our sins, God will not miss it and will definitely forgive our sins. “Pasachti aleychem”, “I will pass, or leap over you”. This verb is also in the perfect tense, again implying that there is no question or doubt about it. This is nothing short of miraculous, a sense conveyed by the text’s description as an “ot”, generally a miraculous sign, as in Isaiah 7’s description of Yeshua’s virgin birth. It is a miracle that the Holy God would provide a substitute for sinful men, but, he did and does. Tragically, it would have been so simple for the Egyptians, who had seen God keep His word and do everything that He had previously said, to believe Him now, slaughter lambs, and place blood on their doorposts, sparing their own firstborn. Sadly, it appears that they didn’t. Verse 30 says, “Then Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants, and all the Egyptians, and there was loud wailing in Egypt. For, there was not a house where someone was not dead.”
Israel believed and was spared; Egypt did not believe and suffered greatly.
Lastly, Adonai instructed Moses that this celebration was to be a perpetual observance. Why? Verses 26-27, “Now, when it happens that your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ you are to say, ‘It is the sacrifice of Adonai’s Passover, because He passed over the houses of Bnei- Yisrael in Egypt, when He struck down the Egyptians, but spared our households,’”… How important it is that our children know the truth about God’s judgement of sin and the loving and divine remedy of His provided blood atonement!
Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is president of the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.