God had repeatedly given Pharaoh signs through the plagues of His great power over all things including His power and authority over the gods of Egypt. Each plague was more severe than the last and challenged the belief in the Egyptian gods. In spite of the fact that these gods were helpless before Yahweh, Pharaoh’s heart grew harder as he continued to reject the God of Moses. The tenth and final plague was the death of the first-born and was so severe that Pharaoh would finally agree to let the Hebrews leave Egypt.
At midnight the angel of death would pass over Egypt striking dead all the first born sons of every family including all the first born livestock. Many would die and there would be wailing and mourning over the loss of loved one. Pharaoh’s first-born son would die. God had told Moses exactly what would happen.
Exodus 11: 6-7 “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel”.
The Hebrews who followed God’s instructions would once again would be spared from the plague. All for the purpose of bringing glory to God. (Exodus 11: 9 The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.”)
God had also instructed Moses to tell His people to gather articles of silver and gold from their Egyptian neighbors:
Exodus 11: 1-2 Now the Lord had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” (The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)
And so they did. They went to their Egyptian neighbors and asked for gold and silver. The Egyptian people gave freely of their personal possessions. Perhaps they were afraid of Moses’ God. They had witnessed the terrible plagues and saw how their Egyptian gods were powerless against Him. To the Hebrews, these gifts were considered payment of debt for the many years they had worked as slaves for the Egyptians. God’s people would use this material wealth on their long journey to the Promised Land and in the building of the tabernacle.
The Lord’s Passover
God gave Moses detailed instructions for His people to follow in order to avoid the coming plague. Read Exodus 12: 1-11 below:
Exodus 12: 1-11 “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.”
The final plague would take place after the Passover meal was eaten. On this night the angel of death would pass over the home of the Hebrews provided they had followed the instructions given by God recorded in Exodus 12: 12-13:
Exodus 12: 12-13 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
Those that followed the instructions of God and placed lamb’s blood on the door frames were spared from death. From that day forward, God’s people were to remember what God had done in sparing their lives. God gave them specific instructions for honoring this special time of celebration in Exodus 12: 14-16 and Exodus 12: 17-20.
Exodus 12: 14-16 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.
Exodus 12: 17-20 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”
This Passover observance was to be practiced by their descendants from this time forward as a remembrance of the great power Yahweh had shown in bringing them out of bondage. They would tell the story to their children who would in turn tell the story of the Exodus to their children. Passover is still practiced today by the Jewish faith.
Exodus 12: 24-28 ‘Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.
The Final Plague
Exodus 12: 29-30 “At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.”
It took a great disaster and great sorrow to get Pharaoh’s attention. Not a household was spared. In every house, someone was dead. God had brought judgement on Pharaoh and the Egyptian gods. And as God had told Moses, Pharaoh would finally agree to let His people leave Egypt taking with them Egyptian riches that would sustain them on their journey and beyond.
Exodus 12: 31-36 “During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.”
Exodus 12: 37-42 “The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. Many other people went up with them, and also large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds.With the dough the Israelites had brought from Egypt, they baked loaves of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt. Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come.”
God’s care for His people continued as they left Egypt. Their stay in Egypt had been 430 years. Notice there were many other people who went with the Israelites as they left. Some no doubt were convinced the Hebrew God Yahweh was indeed the one true God because of His great power through the plagues. Others may have thought leaving Egypt would be better than staying where life was so harsh. Some of these who did not believe were soon separated from the Hebrews after crossing the Red Sea. God gave specific instructions concerning foreigners. slaves, temporary resident or hired worker concerning the Passover meal.
Exodus 12: 43-51“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal: “No foreigner may eat it. Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him,but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it.“It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.“A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”All the Israelites did just what the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.”
Dedication of the Firstborn
Before the Israelite nation left Egypt, God gave instructions concerning the dedication or consecration of their firstborn sons and their firstborn animals. God tells them that every firstborn male child belongs to Him. After they have reached the Promised Land during the month of Abib (after the Babylonia captivity this month has known as Nisan) and about the time of the Northern spring equinox usually March 21, they were to follow God’s instructions and commemorate this day year after year. During this time they were to eat nothing containing yeast, eat the unleavened bread for seven days and repeat the story of how the the Lord brought them out of Egypt with His mighty Hand. Because every firstborn of human and animal in Egypt was slain when the angel of death passed over, the Hebrews were commanded to sacrifice the first male offspring of every animal and dedicate every firstborn son to God in remembrance of how God delivered them.
Exodus 13: 1-16 The Lord said to Moses,“Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.”Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast. Today, in the month of Aviv, you are leaving. When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony in this month: For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to the Lord. Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.“After the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your ancestors, you are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons.“In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
Crossing the Red Sea
The shortest distance from Egypt to the Promised Land was through the Philistine country but God, knowing His people, knew they would desert Him if they had to fight a war. He also knew that this rag tag bunch of people needed more teaching to grow their faith. So God lead them through the desert. It ended up being a forty year trip mainly because of their unbelief and disobedience. By day, God led them with a pillar of cloud and by night a pillar of fire so they could travel both day or night. The cloud never left its place in front of the people. God continued to show them His glory and His power by this marvelous heavenly display of His grace and protection for them.
One other thing to note in this passage is the sworn promise fulfilled to Joseph. He had made his brothers swear an oath to return his bones to the Promised Land when they left Egypt 430 years before this day. Joseph believed the promise God had given to Abraham in Genesis 15: 13-16. And they carried the embalmed body of Joseph with them just as their ancestors had promised to do 430 years earlier.
Exodus 13: 17-22 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
“Without the Passover there would have been no Exodus”
Christ in the Passover
John 1: 29 “The next day John (the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
The Passover ceremony is rich in symbolism of Jesus Christ the Messiah who became our Passover Lamb, a sacrifice for sin:
- The sons of Jacob became slaves and God brought them out of bondage using the final plague. His mighty Hand of deliverance protected them from death through the blood of a lamb. Jesus Christ became our Passover Lamb slain for our sins. His blood brought us out of the bondage of sin.
- God saved those who applied the blood of the lamb to the doorpost. God used the blood of the Lamb of God Jesus Christ to save those who believe in Him. Passover is a picture of the cross of Jesus.
- Man has always lived under the penalty of death because of rebellion against God. Only God could make the way for our relationship to be restored by applying the blood of the Lamb of God to the hearts of man.
- The Passover lamb was slain for the sins of the nation of Israel. The Lamb of God was slain for the sins for those who believe He is who He said He was.
- The Passover lamb was slain at 3:00 pm as the priest blew the shophar (ram’s horn). At precisely 3:00 pm as the shophar blew, Jesus declared “It is finished” and died.
- The Passover lamb was a “male without defect” and none of His bones were to be broken. Jesus was described as a lamb without blemish or defect and whose bones were not broken on the cross. 1 Peter 1:18-19 “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” John 19:33 “But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.”
Jews for Jesus presents The Passover
For Christians, the Passover has symbolism reflecting the coming of Jesus Christ and the His cross. For further detail, watch this explanation of the symbolism of Christ in the Passover.
1. After the Angel of death passed over Egypt, Pharaoh permits Moses to take God’s people out of Egypt. He tells them to leave and take their flocks and herds and go. Then he said something unusual: “And also bless me”. Why would Pharaoh ask for a blessing?
2. What significance does the blood of the lamb hold?
3. Describe the regulations for participating in the Passover found in Exodus 12: 43-49.
4. What things did the Israelites take with them when they left Egypt and why?
5. Why had Joseph make his brothers swear an oath (see Genesis 50: 24-25) to remove his body when they left Egypt? Did they fulfill their oath?
6. Describe the types of Christian symbolism that is found in the celebration of the Passover.