The History of Passover

Abraham's son Isaac was the father of Jacob whom God named Israel which means "he who strives with God." (Genesis 32:28) God renewed His promise to Isaac and Jacob, and continued the covenant with them that He had made with Abraham.

Jacob had twelve sons who became the leaders of the twelve tribes or houses of Israel. The sons of Jacob sold their youngest brother Joseph into slavery in Egypt. With the help of God, Joseph gained the favor of the Egyptian pharaoh and became a great man in Egypt. In a time of famine, Joseph's brothers came to Egypt for food. Joseph recognized them and brought all of the people of Israel into Egypt with him. When Joseph died, the people of Israel were put into slavery by the Egyptians for four hundred years. (See Genesis 24-50)

God raised up Moses to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt. He appeared to Moses in the burning bush and revealed His Name to him.

Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?"

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Say to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'The Lord (Yahweh), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations." (Exodus 3:14-15)

Moses returned to Egypt and after many trials with the Egyptian pharaoh and after many plagues, which God sent upon the Egyptians, he led the people of Israel out of slavery. The exodus, which means the escape or the departure, from Egypt took place on the night called the passover.

God, through Moses, ordered the Israelites to select lambs, to kill them and place some blood on the two doorposts and the lintel of their houses. Standing up, clothed and ready to escape, they were to eat the lambs in the night.

In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat in haste. It is the Lord's passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. This day shall be a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance forever. (Exodus 12:11-13)

Thus, the passover and exodus took place. At midnight the Lord slew the Egyptian firstborn. The houses marked with blood were spared when the Lord passed over. During the tumult, the Israelites began to escape. They made their exodus through the Red Sea. By this time, the Egyptian horsemen were in pursuit. ;kt the sea, Moses prayed to God. He lifted his rod over the waters and "The Lord drove the sea back by a strong East wind all night, and made the sea dry land . . ." (Exodus 14:21) The Israelites passed through the sea on foot. The pursuing chariots of the Egyptians were caught in the waters and were drowned.

And Israel saw the great work, which the Lord did against the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord; and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses. (Exodus 14:31)

In the wilderness on the other side of the sea, the people of Israel began to complain. There was no food and drink in the desert. Moses prayed to the Lord, Who provided water for the people to drink and manna, the "bread from heaven," for the people to eat. (Exodus 15-16) God led the people through the desert by a cloud and a pillar of fire.

On Mount Sinai, Moses received the Ten Commandments and the laws of morality and worship from the Lord Who "used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." (Exodus 33:11 Moses was allowed to behold the glory of the Lord in the smoke and clouds on the mountaintop and he himself shone with the majesty of God. (Exodus 34:29)

Moses was not granted to cross the Jordan and to enter the promised land. He died and was buried near Mount Nebo in the land of Moab. This is where he had looked across the Jordan River into the land where his successor Joshua would lead the people.

The passover and exodus was the central event in Israelite history. It has been  remembered in all generations as the great sign of God's fidelity and favor to His People. It has been sung about in the psalms and recalled by the prophets. It has been celebrated annually as the chief celebration of the People of God.


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