THE PENTATEUCH PART II: EXODUS
Exodus chapters 10:21-12:20
The Plague of Darkness and God's Instructions to Moses for Israel's Salvation from the Tenth Plague
Lord of Power and Might,
In the Exodus narrative each of the nine Egyptian plagues were followed by Your merciful acts of redemption sending a reprieve from the suffering to allow the Egyptian Pharaoh and his subjects the opportunity to turn away from their sins and their false gods and to turn to You. These acts of mercy, in the midst of judgment, remind us that Your judgments are meant to call men and women to repentance and to restoration of fellowship with You. As St. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote to the Universal Church, You are patient with us "wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance (2 Pt 3:9). It is a teaching also voiced by Your inspired writer St. Paul when he wrote to St. Timothy, affirming that "...he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:3). May the story of the Egyptian plagues inspire each of us, Lord, in the desire to turn away from sin, to be restored to Your fellowship in our repentance and in the yielding of our hearts softened by the work of Your Holy Spirit in our lives. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
For their foolish and wicked notions which led them astray into worshipping mindless reptiles and contemptible beetles, you send a horde of mindless animals to punish them and to teach them that the agent of sin is the agent of punishment. Wisdom 11:15-16
He struck the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike, he sent signs and wonders into the heart of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his officials. Psalm 135:8-9
Look, I am against you, Pharaoh, king of Egypt "the great crocodile walling in his Niles who thought: My Nile is mine, I made it. Ezekiel 29:3 (the word "crocodile" is tannin, the same word found in Exodus 7:9-10).
How are we to interpret the Exodus narrative and the record of the ten plagues? There are three views:
The first interpretation can be rejected on the basis that it shows no appreciation for the historical relevancy of the biblical text. The historical relevancy of the Exodus is a theme passed down through the succeeding generations of Israelites and is repeated throughout the other Bible books. The Exodus experience of Israel was the theological pattern for every descendant of the Exodus generation's journey to redemption and salvation. And for New Covenant believers the sacrifice and redemption under the sign of the blood of the lamb in the Exodus narrative prefigured the sacrificial death and salvation mission of the Jesus the Messiah, which remains the theological pattern for every New Covenant believer's journey to redemption and salvation (1 Cor 5:7-8).
As for the second interpretation that reduces the miracles of the plagues to natural disasters, there is evidence within the narrative and in the observation of similar natural occurrences in the region which supports the conclusion that these occurrences were not natural but were instead a series of supernatural events:
The seventh plague occurred at the time the barley was in ear and the flax in bud, but the wheat was unharmed (Ex 9:31-32). In Egypt flax was normally sown in the beginning of January and was in bloom three weeks later, while barley was planted in August and harvested in February (The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus, page 47; Davis, Studies in Exodus, page 126). The information in the narrative that the barley grains had already formed and that the flax blossoms were already in bud suggests that the seventh plague probably occurred in late January or very early in February. Since the sacrifice of the Passover victim took place on the 14th of Abib with the sacred feast of the Passover victim on the 15th (Ex 13:4; Lev 23:5-6; Num 28:16-17) on the lunar calendar, occurring after the first full moon of the vernal equinox, each of the last four plagues had to have been spaced not more than two weeks apart.(3) We cannot know the elapse time between the first and sixth plagues, but the first plague probably occurred during or after the annual Nile flood. The narrative recorded that the bloody Nile waters filled every waterway and estuary. The Nile inundation reached its height in September/October (The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus, page 39).
While the Exodus experience and the Egyptian plagues are remembered in the other books of the Old Testament: in the Psalms, the histories and the books of the prophets, in the New Testament the Plague Judgments are only referred to in two Bible books. St. Paul wrote about the Plague Judgments in the context of God's justice in the hardening of the Pharaoh's heart in Romans 9:14-17. The second reference to the Plague Judgments is found in the last Bible book, in the Book of Revelation, where the Trumpet and Chalice Judgments in Revelation can be compared to the Egyptian Plague Judgments in the Book of Exodus. The Chalice Judgments in Revelation chapter 16 are repeats, with variation, of the Trumpet Judgments in chapters 8-9. Since the Trumpet Judgments were essentially warnings they took only a third of the Land; with the Chalices, however, the destruction was total. In the Chalice Judgments the refusal of the people to repent and give God glory is expressed in the phrases:
These passages in Revelation recall the refusal of the Pharaoh and his people to repent and to give Yahweh glory.
The similarities between the Chalice and Trumpet Judgments in Revelation and the Plague Judgments against Egypt in Exodus is an example of the continuity of God's divine plan for man's salvation presented to us in Sacred Scripture. The repetition should make us ask Why is the vision (or the plague) repeated; what is the connection? See the study on the Book of Revelation chapter 8.
Judgments in Revelation
Judgments in Revelation
PLAGUES ON EGYPT
in the Book of Exodus
|1. On the Land; 1/3 earth, trees, grass burned (8:7)||
becoming sores (16:2)
(6th plague: Ex. 9:8-12)
2. On the sea;
1/3 sea becomes blood,
1/3 sea creatures die,
1/3 ships destroyed (8:8-9)
2. On the sea,
becoming blood (16:3)
|Nile waters became blood (1st plague: Ex 7:17-21)|
3. On rivers and springs;
1/3 waters become wormwood (8:10-11)
|3. On rivers and springs, becoming blood (16:8-9)||Nile waters became blood (1st plague; Ex 7:17-21)|
|4. 1/3 of sun, moon, & stars darkened (8:12)||
4. On the sun,
causing it to scorch (16:8-9)
(9th plague: Ex. 10:21-23)
|5. Demonic locusts tormenting men (9:13-21)||
5. On the throne of the Beast,
causing darkness (16:10-11)
(8th plague: Ex 10:4-20); darkness
(9th plague: Ex 10:21-23)
|6. Army from Euphrates kills 1/3 of mankind (9:13-21)||6. On the Euphrates River, drying it up to make way for the kings of the east; invasion of frog-demons = Armageddon (16:12-16)||
Invasion of frogs from the Nile River
(2nd plague: Ex. 8:2-4)
|7. On the air, causing storm, earthquake, hail & the Great City splits into 3 parts (16:17-21)||
Hail, thunder (voices) and lightening
(7th plague: Ex. 9:18-26)*
* the word thunder in the 7th plague is in
Hebrew the word for voices.
M. Hunt Â© 2000 www.agapebiblestudy.com
However, in this section of our study our focus should be the examination of God's reason for inflicting the Plague Judgments on the Egyptians, and in five of the plagues, on the Hebrews of Goshen. Yahweh's acts of judgments against the false gods of Egypt were meant to bring about the release of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. God's great and terrible signs were also meant to bring the Pharaoh, the Egyptians, the Israelites, and future generations to the knowledge of the One True God and acknowledgment of His sovereignty and authority over the destiny of man and creation. But it cannot be overlooked that each plague judgment was followed by a merciful reprieve and redemption from the suffering of each plague. This is the theme of judgment and salvation in the midst of chaos that began in the Genesis narrative (the Great Flood), and it is a theme that will continue throughout the Pentateuch.
In the Exodus narrative the ten plagues, like all God's acts of judgments, are meant to be redemptive, and in the cycle of each plague God gave the Egyptians and their king the opportunity to confess their sins and to receive His forgiveness. It wasn't only Israel that could have benefited from Yahweh's liberation, but the Egyptians had the opportunity to be liberated from their enslavement to false beliefs and to embrace the worship of Yahweh. At the end of the Plague Judgments it will be a liberation Israel will accept, but the Egyptians, despite the mighty works of God they witnessed, will in the end reject the God of the Israelites. It is the same choice all of us will face up to the moment we take our last breaths: to accept God's gift of salvation and to be freed from bondage to sin and death or to reject the gift and rely on our own proud spirits of self-sufficiency, attempting to be masters of our own destinies apart from God.
Please read Exodus 10:21-29: The Ninth Plague: The Darkness
10:21Yahweh then said to Moses, Stretch out your hand toward heaven, and let darkness, darkness so thick that it can be felt, cover Egypt.' 22So Moses stretched out his hand towards heaven, and for three days there was thick darkness over the whole of Egypt. 23No one could see anyone else or move about for three days, but all the Israelites did have light where they were living. 24Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, Go and worship Yahweh, but your flocks and herds are to stay here. Your wives and children can go with you too.' 25Moses said, But now you must give us sacrifices and burnt offerings to offer to Yahweh our God. 26And our livestock will go with us too; not a hoof will be left behind; for we may need animals from these to worship Yahweh our God; for until we get there we ourselves cannot tell how we are to worship Yahweh.' 27But Yahweh made Pharaoh stubborn [hardened the heart of Pharaoh], and he refused to let them go. 28Pharaoh said to Moses, Out of my sight! Be sure you never see my face again, for the next time you see my face you die! 29Moses then said, You yourself have said it. I shall never see your face again.'
[..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 168).
The ninth plague was delivered without warning and there was an ominous connection between the duration of the plague and Moses' repeated request for Israel to be allowed to go into the wilderness to worship Yahweh.
Question: How long did the darkness last? How many times is this repeated? What is the connection to Yahweh's instructions to Moses in Exodus 3:18 and the requests Moses made to the Pharaoh in Exodus 5:3 and 8:23/27?
Answer: The darkness lasted three days, which is repeated twice in 10:22 and 23. Moses' original request to Pharaoh, repeated twice, was that he let the Israelites make a three-day journey into the wilderness to worship Yahweh.
Question: What other plague/plagues lasted a specific length of time? What might be significant about the number of days in the first plague and last plagues?
Answer: The first plague is interpreted as lasting seven days from the beginning of the plague to the redemption from the plague according to many Bible translations. The Creation event was a seven day period from the mighty acts of creation to God's rest on the seventh day. Three and seven are two of the so-called perfect numbers, signifying perfection, fulfillment and/or importance in God's divine plan.
Question: See the chart below or handout #2 for this lesson. The plague of darkness was given without warning. How many of the previous plagues were given without warning? What is interesting about the order of these plagues which came without warning?
Answer: The 9th plague is the third plague given without warning. The other two were the plagues of mosquitoes/gnats (3rd plague) and the plague of boils (6th plague). The plagues without warning form a pattern. If the nine plagues are divided into threes, the plagues without warning are all the third in every tri-part pattern.
Question: Were the Israelites in Goshen spared the darkness? What does this suggest? How is the darkness described in the narrative?
Answer: Yes, Goshen had light. It could not have been a natural disaster like volcanic ash obscuring the sun or some other natural phenomena like a severe dust storm, or even an eclipse of the sun since only Goshen had sunlight and the rest of Egypt was in total darkness for three days "a darkness so thick it could be felt (10:21).
Question: This plague, like the other eight, was a judgment against the false gods of Egypt (Ex 12:12). What gods would have been discredited in this plague? See the handout on the gods and goddesses of Egypt from Lesson 5.
Answer: This plague would have been an attack on Egypt's most powerful gods: Ra (Re), the sun-god who was a national god and whose worship came to be combined with Amun (Amon), the principal god of the 18th Dynasty Theban kings. Aten (Aton) the defied sun-god of Lower (northern) Egypt also failed to protect the Egyptians. Another important god associated with the sun was the god Horus, depicted as either a falcon-headed man or as a winged sun-disk. Horus was a god intimately associated with the Pharaoh and his heir. This plague struck at the heart of Egyptian belief.
Question: How would you sum up the demonstration of Yahweh's power in producing the plagues and what knowledge of Yahweh the plagues presented to the people who experienced them? Hint: two key words are sovereignty and authority "words that still express our knowledge of Yahweh in the New Covenant order.
Answer: The power of Yahweh expressed in the Egyptian plagues demonstrated His sovereignty over creation and the nature world and his authority to intervene in the affairs of man.
Please notice that the ten Egyptian plagues not only have a pattern of linking pairs, i.e. plagues 1 and 2 in the Nile, 3 and 4 are insects, 5 and 6 are diseases, 7 and 8 are plagues that came from the sky, and the final paring in plagues 9 and 10 was darkness and the ultimate darkness "death. But, as we have already mentioned there is also a tripartite pairing in plagues #1 " #9 in which there is a pattern of three groups each comprising three plagues, with the climactic 10 plague possessing a judgment message that God will command is to be commemorated/ re-experienced down through the generations.
Question: What patterns do you see in the origins and order of the plagues?
The Patterns in the Egyptian Plagues
|Scripture Passage||The Plague and the Redemption||
1. Water of the Nile turns to blood
(after seven days: 7:25)
in the morning (7:15)
|Ex 7:26-8:10 (8:1-14)||
2. The plague of frogs
(next day: 8:6/10)
|Ex 8:12-15 (8:16-19)||
3. The plague of mosquitoes/gnats
|Ex 8:16-28 (8:20-32)||
4. The plague of the mixture +
(next day: 8:25/29)
in the morning; plague the next day (8:16/20)
5. The plague of the death of the Egyptians' livestock +
(next day: 9:5-6)
plague next day (9:1)
6. The plague of the boils
7. The plague of the hail +
(same day: 9:29)
in the morning, plague the next day (9:13, 18)
8. The plague of the locusts
(same day: 10:18)
plague next day (10:1)
9. The plague of darkness +
(after three days: 10:23)
10. The plague of the death of the firstborn +
|Advanced warning Pharaoh and to Israel; plague at midnight (11:1-8)||
M. Hunt Â© copyright 2009
+ = plagues not experienced in Goshen
Exodus 10:24-26: 10:24Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, Go and worship Yahweh, but your flocks and herds are to stay here. Your wives and children can go with you too.' 25Moses said, But now you must give us sacrifices and burnt offerings to offer to Yahweh our God. 26And our livestock will go with us too; not a hoof will be left behind; for we may need animals from these to worship Yahweh our God; for until we get there we ourselves cannot tell how we are to worship Yahweh.'
The end of the three days brought the eighth plague redemption. In this audience with Moses, the Pharaoh attempted to make another compromise.
The Pharaoh's four compromises:
In the previous (3rd) compromised the Pharaoh attempted to keep the women and children as hostages, but now he was willing to release them so long as the livestock remained behind.
Question: Why did he agree to release all the Israelites so long as the livestock remained in Egypt?
Answer: He probably saw the Israelite's herds and flocks as just payment for the plague of the livestock and the hail which severely diminished the remaining Egyptian livestock, but he was willing to be rid of the troublesome Israelites. He also probably felt he needed some shred of victory he could show his people to save his reputation.
Each time he failed to release the Israelites Moses became harder in his demands. In this game Moses knows he is holding all the winning cards!
Question: What was Moses' counter to the Pharaoh's fourth compromise?
Answer: Moses will not compromise:
Exodus 10:27-29: 27 But Yahweh made Pharaoh stubborn [hardened the heart of Pharaoh], and he refused to let them go. 28 Pharaoh said to Moses, Out of my sight! Be sure you never see my face again, for the next time you see my face you die! 29 Moses then said, You yourself have said it. I shall never see your face again.'
The tension between the adversaries has reached the boiling point. In anger Pharaoh threatened Moses' life and Moses responded in anger saying: You yourself have said it. I shall never see your face again. However, that Moses should never see Pharaoh's face again was not God's plan "not yet at least. There had to be a final warning before the climax of the judgments on Egypt and after the tenth plague there had to be one final confrontation. Therefore, before Moses left the palace God must have given him the final warning, sending Moses back face the Pharaoh to deliver the prediction of the last, deadly plague.
Please read Exodus 11:1-10: The Final Warning
11:1Yahweh then said to Moses, I shall inflict one more plague on Pharaoh and Egypt, after which he will let you go away. When he lets you go, he will actually drive you out! 2Now instruct the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman hers, for silver and golden jewellery.' 3And Yahweh made the Egyptians impressed with the people, while Moses himself was a man of great importance in Egypt in the opinion of Pharaoh's officials and the people. 4Moses then said, Yahweh says this, At Midnight I shall pass through Egypt, 5and all the first-born in Egypt will die, from the first-born of Pharaoh, heir to his throne, to the first-born of the slave-girl at the mill [every pair of the millstones = plural], and all the first-born of the livestock [behemah = large quadruped, meaning cattle] . 6And throughout Egypt there will be great wailing, such as never was before, nor will be again. 7But against the Israelites, whether man or beast, never a dog shall bark, so that you may know that Yahweh discriminates between Egypt and Israel. 8Then all these officials of yours will come down to me and, bowing low before me, say: Go away, you and all the people who follow you! After which, I shall go. ' And, hot with anger, he left Pharaoh's presence. 9Yahweh then said to Moses, Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that more of my wonders may be displayed in Egypt.' 10Moses and Aaron worked all these wonders in Pharaoh's presence, but Yahweh made Pharaoh stubborn [hardened Pharaoh's heart], and he did not let the Israelites leave his country.
[..]= literal translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, page 169).
Question: What three things did Yahweh tell Moses about the next plague? See Exodus 11:1-2.
God told Moses to tell the Israelites to ask for the jewellery. They will freely give their possessions because the Egyptians will be impressed by Moses and his people who worshipped such a powerful God. This event was prefigured in Abraham and Sarah's Egyptian adventure (Gen 13:1-2) and was prophesized by God to Abraham (Gen 15:14) and to Moses (Ex 3:21).
Question: In the final warning what did Moses tell the Pharaoh? See Exodus 11:4-8
Answer: The plagues only took the livestock in the fields; the cattle in enclosures were spared. More cattle were probably also imported from vassal territories. The Egyptians worshiped bulls and heifers as animals sacred to various false gods and two bulls were worshiped as manifestations of gods in Memphis and Heliopolis (On): the Apis bull and the Mnevis bull. The death of these bulls always produced national mourning. The ninth plague was another judgment on the Egyptians and their gods.
Question: Why is the death of Pharaoh's son and heir specifically mentioned?
Answer: Both the Pharaoh and his heir were considered to be of divine origin and were worshiped as gods. The prediction of this final plague directly affected the Pharaoh's family and the continuation of his royal line.
This is the second plague that caused death among the human population "the plague of the hail and fire also killed people. The mention of the pair of millstones in 11:5 is a historically accurate detail. The instrument for grinding flour in ancient Egypt was the quern and muller type millstones in which the grain was placed between two pieces of stone. The upper stone was smaller and was moved by hand forward and backward over the larger stone which remained stationary. This tedious method of producing flour was usually performed by slave girls and captives (JPS Commentary: Exodus, page 52).
Question: Why were even the lowest stations of Egyptian society to suffer from this judgment?
Still feeling the rage he felt in the heated exchange when the Pharaoh threatened his life (10:28), once again Moses stormed out the audience chamber: And, hot with anger, he left Pharaoh's presence. That Moses' anger had not lessened is evidence that the exchange in Exodus 11:4-8 closely followed the previous exchange in Exodus 10:28. Those listening in the audience chamber should have been shocked by the prediction of the tenth plague. The firstborn was a title of the eldest son in the families of ancient Near Eastern cultures. The firstborn was usually the first-born son in birth order, but more importantly he was also the firstborn son in rank. He was the son who had the privilege the father's authority over his siblings, and he was acknowledged as the designated heir.(5) A daughter, even if she was born before a brother, was never designated as the firstborn (see Ex 4:23; 22:29). God will require that every firstborn male of man and beast be dedicated to Him (Ex 13:11-12, 15); this willing sacrifice will be a reminder of the unwilling sacrifice of Egypt's firstborn sons and cattle.
9Yahweh then said to Moses, Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that more of my wonders may be displayed in Egypt.' 10Moses and Aaron worked all these wonders in Pharaoh's presence, but Yahweh made Pharaoh stubborn [hardened Pharaoh's heart], and he did not let the Israelites leave his country. Once again Yahweh warned Moses that the Pharaoh's heart would remain hardened and he would not heed the terrible final warning of the plague that would take the lives of the first-born sons of men and the firstborn of the cattle.
Question: The warning of the death of the firstborn sons was both the first and the final plague warning that Moses received from God. When did God first tell Moses to give the Pharaoh the prediction of the death of his firstborn son?
Answer: In Exodus 4:23 God told Moses: You will say to Pharaoh, This is what Yahweh says: Israel is my first-born son. I told you: Let my son go and worship me; but since you refuse to let him go, well then! I shall put your first-born son to death.
Please read Exodus 12:1-7: God's Instructions to Moses
and Aaron for the Selection of the Passover Sacrifice
12:1Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 This month must be the first of all the months for you, the first month of your year. 3Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock for his family: one animal for each household. 4If the household is too small for the animal, he must join with his neighbor nearest to his house, depending on the number of persons. When you choose the animal you will take into account what each can eat. 5It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may choose it either from the sheep or from the goats. 6You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter it at twilight [between the twilights = bein ha- arbayim]. 7Some of the blood must then be taken and put on both door-posts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten.
In the instructions for the observation of the Passover sacrifice and the eating of the sacrifice in a sacred meal that will be known as the Feast Unleavened Bread there is a seven times repetition of the Hebrew stem smr, which can be translated to guard, preserve, protect, or observe (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, pages 170-175; JPS Commentary: Exodus, page 53). You may remember that this same Hebrew verb (samar) was part of God's covenant command to Adam to guard/protect the garden Sanctuary in Genesis 2:15. Another significant repetition is the phrase the whole community of Israel in Exodus 12:3 and verse 47.
The literal translation of the Hebrew phrase in Exodus 12:6, bein ha- arbayim is between the twilights (JPS Commentary: Exodus, page 55) often translated as between the two evenings, or between the two settings (-im is a plural ending; Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, page 788). See the same phrase in Exodus 16:12; 29:39, 41; 30:8; Lev 23:5; Num 9:3, 5, 11; 28:4, 8. The phrase has generated much scholarly debate as to its precise meaning:
Since one day ended and the next began at sunset, evening for the Israelites is what we consider to be the afternoon. Deuteronomy 16:6 commands: but in the place where Yahweh your God chooses to give his name a home; there you must sacrifice the Passover, in the even in the going down of the sun, at the hour when you came out of Egypt (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 504-505). According to the Mishnah (book that records the sacred traditions of sacrifice and worship at the Jerusalem Temple for the Old Covenant people), the sacrifice was to take place during the liturgical service of the afternoon Tamid sacrifice at the Temple (Num 28:23).(6) Normally the sacrifice of the afternoon Tamid lamb was at 3PM. However, on the 14th of Nisan the congregation assembled for the worship service that began at 12 noon ( between the twilights of dawn and sunset), and the Tamid sacrifice was offered an hour earlier. When the sun began to descend from its zenith, from 3-5 PM, the Passover lambs were sacrifice in groups according to households (Mishnah: Pesahim). That this was the practice is confirmed by the 1st century AD Jewish priest/historian Flavius Josephus who recorded that the Passover victims were sacrificed beginning at 3PM (Wars 6.9.3). After the sacrifice the animals were skinned, the fat was burned on the Temple altar of Burnt Offerings and the whole body of the animal was taken to the various homes or banquet rooms to be roasted for the sacred meal that began at sundown.(7)
Exodus 12:1:Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, This month must be the first of all the months for you, the first month of your year.
The month is the spring month of Abib (Ex 13:4), March/April by our seasonal calendar. Previous to this turning point in salvation history the month of Ethanim, also known as Tishri in our September/October seasonal time frame, was the beginning of the year for the Israelites. The month of Tishri was believed to be the first month of the Creation event and was to remain the beginning of the civil calendar, but from the event of the first Passover sacrifice the liturgical calendar was to begin in the spring in the month of Abib/Aviv (Ex 13:4; 23:15; 34:18; Dt 16:1) which would be known as the month of Nisan after the Babylonian captivity (Est 3:7; Neh 2:1). See the Israelite calendar of months in the appendix to this lesson.
Exodus 12:3:Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock for his family: one animal for each household. The Hebrew word seh refers to a lamb or a kid as it does in Exodus 12:5 and Deuteronomy 14:4.
Question: You may remember that in Exodus 8:22/26 Moses refused to sacrifice within the boarders of Egypt for fear of a violent Egyptian reaction. What has changed? What is the physiological impact of sacrificing animals sacred to the Egyptians within their borders?
Answer: Previously God had not commanded a sacrifice within the borders of Egypt but a sacrifice in the wilderness. However, the command to sacrifice within the borders of Egypt will now break the code of fear the Egyptians enforced over the Israelites and will prepare the people to make the physiological break that will allow them to leave the land of Egypt.
Question: In verses 1-7 what specific instructions did God give to Moses concerning the selection of the sacrificial animal victim and in offering it in sacrifice?
*The lamb or kid was to be not older than a year and not younger than 8 days (Ex 22:29; Lev 22:27). According to Flavius Josephus a minimum 10 people and not more than 20 was defined as a household (Wars 6.9.3), and according to the instructions for the Passover sacrifice in the Mishnah, the households and the animals were divided into three divisions and into groups of no fewer than 30 people each (Mishnah: Pesahim, 64b).
Please read Exodus 12:8-13: Instructions to Moses for the Eating of the Sacred Meal
12:8That night, the flesh must be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with the head, feet and entrails. 10You must not leave any of it over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you must burn. 11This is how you must eat it: with a belt round your waist, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. You must eat it hurriedly: it is a Passover in Yahweh's honor. 12That night, I shall go through [pass over the land of] Egypt and strike down all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike, and shall execute justice on all the gods of Egypt, I, Yahweh! 13The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are. When I see the blood I shall pass over you, and you will escape the destructive plague when I strike Egypt.
Question: What was the purpose of the tenth plague judgment? Quote the significant verse.
Answer: To execute God's judgment on the false gods of Egypt in which the Egyptians would offer up the unwilling sacrifice of the firstborn: That night, I shall go through [pass over the land of] Egypt and strike down all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike, and shall execute justice on all the gods of Egypt, I, Yahweh!
Question: How was the sacrifice to be prepared and what were the other commands God gave to Moses concerning the sacred meal of the Passover victim which was to be offered in Yahweh's honor in celebration of Israel's coming redemption? See Exodus 12:7-11.
Question: While the families were eating the sacred meal of the sacrifice, what would be happening throughout Goshen and Egypt?
Answer: Those not protected under the sign of the blood sacrifice of the spotless victim would be struck down, every firstborn man and all firstborn male cattle.
In the Gospel of St. John the countdown to the Passover sacrifice in 30AD is given in John 12:1-2: Sixth days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there. The next day, after the dinner (Jn 12:12), Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem "it was Palm (Passion) Sunday (Jn 12:12-19); therefore the dinner with friends in Bethany was on Saturday, the Sabbath.
Question: Remembering that the ancients counted the first day of any series of days as day #1 (this is why Scripture records that Jesus was in the tomb three days from Friday to Sunday), and that six days from the dinner at Bethany was the 14th of Abib/Nisan, the date God commanded for the commemoration of the Passover:
Jesus had dinner with His friends on Saturday, the Sabbath: day #1, He rode into Jerusalem on Sunday: day #2, the next day was day #3: Monday, the day after was day #4: Tuesday, the next day was day #5: Wednesday, and Thursday was the 6th day after the dinner at Bethany and the day of the Passover sacrifice. The 7th day was the Feast of Unleavened Bread that began at sundown on the day of the Passover sacrifice.
That Thursday was the day of the Passover sacrifice agrees with the Synoptic Gospels.
Question: Jesus, the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29) rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the 10th of Abib/Nisan. What was the significance of the 10th of Abib/Nisan in salvation history?
Answer: It was the day the Passover victims were selected for sacrifice in the first Passover and it was the same day Jesus the Messiah, the Lamb of God, rode into the city of Jerusalem to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
The Venerable Bede (672-735 AD) wrote about the link between the Pascal victim being chosen on the 10th of Aviv/Nisan, five days before the Passover sacrifice and Jesus coming into Jerusalem on the 10th of Abib/Nisan: It was commanded that the paschal lamb, by whose immolation the people of Israel were freed from slavery in Egypt, should be selected five days before the Passover, that is, on the tenth day of the month, and immolated on the fourteenth day of the month at sundown [the end of the day]. This signified the one who was going to redeem us by his blood, since five days before the Passover (that is today), accompanied by the great joy and praise of people going ahead and following, he came into God's temple and he was there teaching daily. At last, after five days, having observed up to that point the sacraments of the old Passover, he brought them to perfect fulfillment, and he handed over the new sacraments to his disciples to be observed henceforth.* [Then], having gone out to the Mt. of Olives, he was seized by the Jews and crucified [the next] morning. He redeemed us from the sway of the devil on the very day when the ancient people of the Hebrews cast aside the yoke of slavery under the Egyptians by the immolation of the lamb (Homilies on the Gospels 2.3).
In this passage from the Blessed Bede's homily, he referred to the victim of the first Passover being chosen five days before the Passover sacrifice just as Jesus presented Himself to the people on the 10th of Nisan (the name of the month in the 1st cent. AD) five days before the sacrifice of the Passover victims on the 14th day of Nisan (in the significance of numbers in Scripture five is the number of grace). The Bede taught that Jesus brought the old sacraments of the first Passover to fulfillment at the Last Supper (Lk 22:14-20), establishing the new sacrament of the Eucharist which was to be celebrated from then on. He also pointed out that Jesus was crucified on the very day the Israelites were freed from Egyptian bondage, the 15th of Nisan, the morning after the Last Supper "His sacrifice making possible our liberation from sin and death. Please notice that the Bede used the ancient method of counting a series of days with the first day in the series being day #1.
What an amazing continuity in salvation history that the first and last unblemished Passover victims were selected on the 10th of Abib/Nisan. St. Paul called Jesus our Passover sacrifice in 1 Corinthians 7:7. In the spring of 30 AD Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the very day the Passover victims were commanded to be selected in Exodus 12:3 and from Sunday to Thursday, for five days as the ancients counted, He was present in Jerusalem for everyone to view His perfection as the unblemished Lamb of God, just as the first Passover victims were selected and kept in view before their sacrifice for five days (as the ancients counted) from the 10th to the 14th. On the 14th Jesus kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread in an upper banquet room in Jerusalem with His disciples and offered Himself: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the first Eucharistic banquet. It was the beginning of His walk to the altar of the Cross. He was the Passover victim which all previous Passover victims prefigured,
In the first Passover, the blood of the sacrificial victim on the doorposts and lintels of the houses represented the safe entry and protection of those under the sign of the blood. It was also a sign that visually illustrated the price of redemption and salvation and symbolically pointed forward in salvation history to the sacrificial death of Jesus, the Lamb of God (see 1 Pt 1:2; Rom 5:8-9; Heb 9:13-14; 13:12). Jesus' precious blood was smeared on the cross beams and upright support of the Cross, becoming a sign of salvation and redemption, just as the blood of the first Passover victims was smeared on the doorposts and lintels of the Israelite houses as a sign of salvation and redemption from the tenth plague. The entire event of the first Passover and the salvation of the Israelites prefigured the Passover of our Lord and the salvation of humanity.
Please read Exodus 12:13b-20: God's Instructions to Moses
Concerning the Seven Day Commemorative Feast of Unleavened Bread
12:13bThis day must be commemorated by you, and you must keep it as a feast in Yahweh's honor. 14You must keep it as a feast-day for all generations; this is a decree for all time. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. 15On the first day you must clean the leaven out of your houses, for anyone who eats leavened bread from the first to the seventh day must be outlawed from Israel. 16On the first day you must hold a sacred assembly, and on the seventh day a sacred assembly. On those days no work may be done; you will prepare only what each requires to eat. 17You must keep the feast of Unleavened Bread because it was on that same day that I brought your armies out of Egypt. You will keep that day, generation after generation; this is a decree for all time. 18In the first month, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day, you must eat unleavened bread. 19For seven days there may be no leaven in your houses, since anyone either stranger or citizen of the country, who eats leavened bread will be outlawed from the community of Israel. 20You will eat nothing with leaven in it; wherever you live, you will eat unleavened bread. '
12:13bThis day must be commemorated by you, and you must keep it as a feast in Yahweh's honor.
14You must keep it as a feast-day for all generations; this is a decree for all time. "For seven days you must eat unleavened bread".
The Hebrew word zikkaron means more than to "commemorate" or to "remember"; it requires action and means to memorized by re-living the event (JPS Commentary: Exodus, page 57). The Israelites were commanded to relive and experience the event of the Passover redemption in every generation. Jesus' command at the Last Supper of the Jewish Passover, which became the Christian Eucharist, was the same command "the experience had to be re-lived and re-enacted by the faithful.
Question: Are Christians faithful to the command to relive both the first Passover and the Last Supper?
Answer: The Last Supper "the Eucharistic sacrifice and sacred meal "is what the first Passover prefigured. When New Covenant believers receive Christ in the Eucharist the sacrifice of the Lamb of God is present before us on the altar, and we relive what the Apostles experienced in the Upper Room in Jerusalem in the spring of 30 AD. In obedience the Church keeps this sacred feast of Jesus, our Passover sacrifice, and offers in thanksgiving His sacrificial sacred meal of the Eucharist to all generations of New Covenant believers until the end of time as we know it. Some but not all professing Christians are faithful to this divine command. The Old Covenant Passover has been fulfilled according to Jesus' words from the Cross: tel te lestai "it is fulfilled" (Jn 19:30). It is now the Eucharistic banquet that we memorialize and keep as a feast "in Yahweh's honor."
Question: What instructions did God give to Moses concerning the Feast of Unleavened Bread that began in eating the sacred meal of the Passover victim after sundown?
Initially Passover and Unleavened Bread were intended to be ritually celebrated as two separate feasts. Before and after the return from the Babylonian exile it was the obediently observed custom to keep the two festivals separate (see Ez 45:21 and Ezra 6:19-22). However, in the 1st century AD it was the custom to celebrate the one day of the Passover sacrifice and the seven days of Unleavened Bread as one eight-day feast (Mt 26:17; Mk14:12; Lk 22:7-8). Today the Jews no longer keep the Passover on the 14th. With the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD they can no longer offer the Passover sacrifice. Instead, they celebrate beginning on the 15th with a meal and call the next seven days the Passover.
At sunset on the beginning of the 15th of Nisan (Abib) in 30 AD, Jesus celebrated the sacred meal of the Passover victim with His friends in Jerusalem. Later that night He was arrested. At dawn the next morning, after being tried and found guilty of blasphemy by the Jewish Law Court (Sanhedrin), He was taken to the Roman governor who reluctantly condemned Jesus to crucifixion.
Question: That Friday of Jesus' crucifixion was the morning of the 15th of the month of Nisan (Abib). Where were all the faithful Jews of the Sinai Covenant including most of Jesus followers when Jesus was forced to walk the Way of Sorrows to the hill of Golgotha? See Exodus 12:16.
Answer: They were at the Jerusalem Temple attending the sacred assembly of the covenant people as required by the Law of the Sinai Covenant.
Question: In the first Passover, were the Israelites to be spared the death of the tenth plague? Were there conditions under which they could be saved?
Answer: Yes, but only if they followed the plan of salvation that God gave Moses "being protected under the sign of the blood and eating the sacred meal.
Question: Is there a way for each of us to avoid eternal death and to receive the gift of salvation? Have we received a warning?
Answer: Yes. Jesus and the writers of the New Testament letters warned both Old and New Covenant believers many times about the judgment that would decide man's destiny for eternity. There is a way to avoid the judgment of eternal death but only if we follow the plan of salvation that God gave mankind through Christ Jesus.
Question: Has God given us a plan for our salvation? Are there many roads/paths to salvation? What did Jesus teach about the way to salvation? What did St. Peter tell the Jewish crowds on Pentecost Sunday and the members of the Jewish Law Court? Quote the significant passages. See Matthew 7:14; John 10:9; Acts 2:38; 4:11b-12; CCC 432, 452, 1507.
Answer: Yes, there is a plan. No, there are not many different roads to salvation. Jesus called the plan of salvation the Narrow Gate/Road: Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Mt 7:14). Jesus also said: I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: such a one will go in and out and will find pasture (Jn 10:9). St. Peter told the Jews who asked him how could they be saved: ...every one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38); he also told the Jewish Law Court (Sanhedrin): Only in him [Jesus] is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved (Acts 4:11b-12).
Questions for group discussion:
Question: Did the final plague judgment extend even into Goshen? Why? What does this plague judgment prefigure? See CCC 608, 1038-1041.
Answer: In this plague God's judgment was universal throughout Egypt just as it will be in the Final Judgment when all of mankind will face the Judgment Throne of Yahweh-God. In Goshen the Israelites had the opportunity for salvation under the sign of the blood of the sacrificial victim just as all humanity will have the opportunity for salvation under the sign of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Question: Compare the plan of salvation for the Israelites that God gave Moses to the plan of eternal salvation that God gives each of us. Are there specific requirements? If the Israelites just smeared the blood of the sacrificial victim on the door but didn't eat the sacred meal would they have been saved ? See 1211, 1225, 1324-27.
Question: Why will there be a Final Judgment in God's plan of salvation? What is God's message to us in the announcement of an impending Final Judgment ? See CCC 1041.
Israel's Liturgical and Civil Calendar
|Month||Liturgical year order||Civil year order||Modern equivalent||
Feast days & agricultural
season (+ = God ordained feast;
* = national feasts)
+Unleavened Bread 15-21st (sacred assemblies on first and last day)
+Firstfruits on Sunday of Unleavened Bread holy week. Spring equinox 15th.
The Latter rains : flood season, beginning of barley and flax harvest
|Ziv (Iyyar)||2||8||April/May||Dry season: apricots ripen|
|Sivan||3||9||May/June||+Weeks (Pentecost) 50 days from Firstfruits as ancients counted; wheat harvest, dry winds; early fig harvest, grapes ripen|
|Tammuz||4||10||June/July||Hot, dry season: grape harvest|
|Ab||5||11||July/Aug.||Hot: olive harvest|
|Elul||6||12||Aug./Sept.||Dates and summer figs|
|Ethanim (Tishri)||7||1||Sept./Oct.||+Trumpets = 1st , +Day of Atonement = 10th +Booths (Tabernacles) 15th -21st with a sacred assembly on the 22nd Fall equinox 15th, Former (early) rains, plowing & seed time|
|Bul (Heshvan)||8||2||Oct./Nov.||Rains, winter figs, wheat and barley sown|
|Chislev||9||3||Nov./Dec.||*Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication); winter begins|
|Tebeth||10||4||Dec./Jan.||Coldest month: rains and snow in mountains|
|Sebat||11||5||Jan./Feb.||Growing warmer: almond trees in bloom|
|Adar||12||6||Feb./March||*Purim; spring: Latter rains begin; citrus fruit harvest|
|+ Seven annual feasts are God ordained feasts (Ex 12:1-28; 43-51; 13:1-10; Lev 23:5-44; Num 28:16-39); *Hanukkah and Purim are national feasts proclaimed by the people and are not God ordained feasts (1 Mac 4:36-61; 2 Mac 10:1-8; Esther 9:20-32). The Feasts of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles fell respectively on the spring and fall equinoxes.|
|M. Hunt Â© copyright 2009 www.AgapeBibleStudy.com|
1. The New Jewish Publication Society translation of Exodus connects Ex 7:25 with the next two verses announcing the second plague: 25 When seven days had passed after the LORD struck the Nile, 26 the LORD said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh and say to him, Thus says the LORD: Let My people go that they may worship Me. 27 If you refuse to let them go, then I will plague your whole country with frogs, implying that the second plague followed the first by a week (The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus, page 40).
2. The Egyptians worshiped more false gods than any other nation in the ancient Near East. It has been estimated that they worshiped at least eighty gods and goddesses (Davis, Studies in Exodus, page 94).
3. Philo of Alexandria: And there is another festival combined with the feast of the Passover, [...]. This month being the seventh [in the civil calendar] both in number and order, according to the revolutions of the sun, is the first in power; on which account it is also called the first in the sacred scriptures. And the reason, as I imagine, is as follows. The vernal equinox is an imitation and representation of that beginning in accordance with which the world was created. [..]. And again, this feast is begun on the fifteenth day of the month, in the middle of the month, on the day which the moon is full of light, in consequence of the providence of God taking care that there shall be no darkness on that day (Special Laws, II. 150-155).
4. This is the same Hebrew word (tse'akah) in Ex 11:6 that was used to express Israel's misery under Egyptian enslavement in Ex 3:7 (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, pages 145, 169). It is God's judgment that the oppressors should feel the pain of those they have oppressed.
5. A first-born son could be dispossessed of the title of firstborn if he proved to be morally unfit as in the case of Reuben the first-born son of Jacob (see Gen 49:3-4); if he was not the son of the legal wife (Ishmael was first in birth order but was not designated "firstborn"; see Gen 17:18-19; 22:2), or if he sold his birthright as when Esau sold his birthright as firstborn to his brother Jacob (Gen 25:29-34).
6. The daily sacrifice of the Tamid lambs, one lamb offered in the morning at about 9 AM and the second in the afternoon at 3 PM for the sins and salvation of the covenant people as long as the covenant endured, was the single most important sacrifice of the Sinai Covenant. This sacrifice took precedence over all other sacrifices including the Passover sacrifice (Num 28:23-24). It was the only single unblemished male lamb (between 8 days and 1 year old) sacrifice, other than the sacrifice offered on the Feast of Firstfruits. The Passover sacrifice could be a lamb or a kid (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:3-8) and other feasts required multiple male lambs for a single festival sacrifice; i.e. seven lambs daily with other animal sacrifices for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Num 28:19-24). The morning of Nisan the 15th, 30 AD in the Sacred Assembly of the first day of Unleavened Bread (Num 28:18) the single morning Tamid male lamb was the sacrifice in the Temple at 9 AM (the third hour Jewish time) when Jesus was nailed to the Cross and the second Tamid lamb was sacrificed at 3 PM (the ninth hour Jewish time) when Jesus gave up His life on the Cross (Mk 15:25; 33). The day of the sacrifice of the single male lamb for the celebration of the Feast of Firstfruits in the spring of 30 AD was the day Jesus arose from the dead.
7. Philo of Alexandria (1st century AD) recorded: And after the feast of the new moon comes the fourth festival that of the Passover, which the Hebrews call pascha, on which the whole people offer sacrifice, beginning at noonday and continuing till evening (Special Laws II. 26 ). Josephus (1st century AD) recorded: So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh ... (Wars 6.9.3). The ninth hour Jewish time is 3 PM and the eleventh hour is 5 PM.
8. The bitter herbs were a tangible symbol of the bitterness of Egyptian slavery (Ex 1:14), and the unleavened bread symbolized their haste in the preparation of the sacred meal and their departure from Egypt (Dt 16:3-4). Leaven was also a symbol of sin and the absence of leaven the sign of a holy people (Ex 12:15; 13:3-7; Mt 16:6).
Catechism references for Exodus lesson 6:
|Jesus the way to salvation||432, 452, 1507|
|The Final Judgment||1028-41|
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.