Understanding The Passover

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Understanding the Passover

Rick Moffett​​ 

Note –​​ All quoted scripture is from the New American Standard version of the​​ Bible unless otherwise noted.​​ 



The Passover Feast


The feast of Passover is foundational​​ for the seven​​ Jewish feasts. All of the other six build on this one. It begins on the fourteenth of Nisan (March-April)​​ (Lev. 23:5). This feast starts the religious year for Israel. As with the other six feasts of the Lord, this one also coincides with Israel’s spring and fall agricultural seasons. These seven feasts​​ are "types" or "pictures" of​​ the sequence, timing, and significance of the major events of the Lord’s redemptive​​ acts.​​ Of course,​​ there was only one Passover and that occurred just prior to the children of Israel leaving​​ Egypt after​​ 430 years of bondage. All other celebrations of​​ the Passover​​ are memorials to this great event which God commanded the Israelites to observe forever​​ (Exodus 12:14).


God was very specific about how the original Passover was to take place. The details are recorded in​​ Exodus​​ 12.​​ Let’s take a look -​​ ​​ 



V1 Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,​​ 


God gives instructions to Moses and Aaron while they were in Egypt​​ seeking the release of the "sons of Israel" from Pharaoh​​ (Ex. 3:10).​​ 



V2 "This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.​​ 


The release of the people of Israel from Egypt would mark a new time in their history. God instructed Moses and Aaron that this would be the first month of the religious calendar for Israel. It was​​ also​​ to be the first month of the year for them.​​ 



V3- 4​​ "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household.  'Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons​​ in them;​​ according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb.


Each household was to take a lamb​​ for his family on the tenth day of​​ this month (named "Nisan").​​ If the family was too small to eat the entire lamb, they could share it with a neighbor's family.



V5​​ 'Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.


A white goat standing in a field of yellow flowers

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The lamb was to be a male without defect​​ and it could be either sheep or goat.​​ Jesus is spoken of as a lamb without blemish or defect​​ (1 Peter 1:19).​​ Each family was to care for the lamb until the Passover which was on the fourteenth of Nisan. This​​ four-day​​ period is said to be a time for the family to​​ become​​ attached​​ to​​ and​​ observe​​ the lamb to assure it was fit.​​ During this process​​ the lamb was no longer just a lamb, but their very “own lamb".​​ This is a picture of Jesus, our Passover lamb. Although he died for the sins of the whole world, we must receive him individually as our “own Savior”.​​ 


And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for​​ the sins of​​ the whole world.​​ 1 John 2.2 (KJV)



V6 'You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.


The lamb was then to be killed publicly by the whole assembly so that all would be​​ responsible for its death; just as we today, because of our sin,​​ are all​​ *responsible for the death of Jesus.


Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men,​​ because all sinned—​​ Romans 5.12​​ 

Note:​​ The Greek past (aorist) tense occurs in all three verbs in this verse. So the entire human race is viewed as having sinned in the one act of Adam’s sin.​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Bible Knowledge Commentary


The slaughter would take place at twilight​​ when the first full moon of the Israelite year rose.


V7​​ 'Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.


A drawing of a door with red paint

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Each person had to apply the blood to the doorpost of their own house​​ as a visible sign of faith in the Lord.​​ ​​ As mentioned, the lamb is a picture of Jesus Christ,​​ our sacrificial lamb. And though​​ *we all are responsible​​ for​​ the death of​​ Jesus,​​ we can be redeemed by personally placing our faith in Him as the one who paid our sin​​ debt.


*Note –​​ Jesus indeed​​ died in order to bring salvation to all mankind. His death was required to pay the sin debt of us all, however, Jesus willingly went to the cross as a demonstration of his love for all people.​​ This was always God’s plan. It was never a reaction to what man did.​​ 


17​​ “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.​​ 18​​ “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."​​ John 10.17-18​​ 


this​​ Man,​​ delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put​​ Him​​ to death.​​ Acts 2.23​​ 


But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.​​ Romans 5.8​​ 



V8-10 'They shall eat the flesh that​​ same​​ night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  'Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire,​​ both​​ its head and its legs along with its entrails.  'And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.


There were three foods that were to​​ be​​ prepared and​​ eaten​​ in a specified manner​​ on Passover night.​​ 


First, the lamb​​ which​​ depicted innocence. It was a picture of​​ Jesus​​ who also​​ was innocent and without sin. The roasting of the lamb over the fire is a picture of the judgment it​​ (the​​ lamb)​​ was taking in place of the firstborn. Jesus also took the judgment we deserve.​​ God always judges sin.​​ ​​ 


He made Him who knew no sin​​ to be​​ sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.​​ 2 Corinthians 5.21​​ 



Second, the​​ Matzah (unleavened bread) was also to be eaten. This was to symbolize the purity of the sacrifice. Leaven is​​ frequently a representation​​ of sin in​​ the bible.


And finally, bitter herbs were to be eaten to remind the people of the suffering lamb and of the suffering they endured while slaves in Egypt.



V11 'Now you shall eat it in this manner:​​ with​​ your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD'S Passover.



The children of Israel were to eat the Passover meal fully dressed and ready for travel. This​​ is​​ a​​ picture​​ of​​ faith in the Lord; faith that He would deliver them as He said.​​ They were to be ready​​ and expecting deliverance at any time. We too​​ should be​​ living​​ with that same​​ confident​​ expectation.​​ 



V12​​ 'For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD.


The Lord said that on that same night,​​ He would pass​​ through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn, both men and animals; and execute judgment on the gods of Egypt.​​ 



V13​​ 'The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy​​ you​​ when I strike the land of Egypt.


However, the blood,​​ which had​​ been applied​​ in faith to the doorposts of the Israelite homes,​​ would be seen by the Lord and​​ thus​​ protected.​​ This verse​​ says that when the Lord sees the blood he will​​ “pass over”​​ you. This is often understood​​ to​​ mean​​ that​​ the Lord’s destroyer would pass over that house​​ and not destroy​​ those inside.



Word Meanings


Upon closer examination of​​ Exodus 12.13, we see a clearer understanding of this​​ verse and a beautiful picture of our salvation.​​ 


The​​ word​​ translated​​ “pass over”​​ in​​ v13​​ is the Hebrew​​ word​​ pasah.​​ It​​ is​​ a​​ different​​ Hebrew word​​ from the word translated​​ pass through​​ (abar)​​ in​​ v12.​​ 


Note –​​ In v12,​​ the King James bible translates​​ the​​ Hebrew word​​ abar​​ as​​ “pass through”, while the NASB translates it “go through.


The word​​ abar​​ in​​ v12​​ is a verb​​ that​​ primarily​​ refers to spatial movement​​ – to “moving over”, through, or away from.​​ Vines Expository Dictionary


In​​ v13​​ the​​ Hebrew​​ word​​ pasah​​ is defined as​​ -​​ a primitive root; to​​ hop, i.e. (figurative)​​ skip​​ over (or​​ spare); by implication to​​ hesitate; also (literal) to​​ limp, to​​ dance: -​​ halt, become lame, leap, pass over.​​ Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary


A more accurate understanding of​​ v13​​ is that the Lord didn’t pass over the house, but that he “hopped​​ or skipped​​ over” the threshold of the door that was smeared with blood, thus entering​​ into​​ the house and protecting the occupants,​​ who in faith,​​ had applied the blood to the door posts.​​ Is this not a picture of what Jesus does in the individual who receives​​ Him​​ by faith?​​ 


This understanding is more clearly worded in​​ v23​​ where these​​ Hebrew​​ words​​ are​​ also​​ used​​ ​​ 


"For the LORD will pass through​​ <abar>​​ to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over​​ <pasah>​​ the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite​​ you.​​ Ex 12.23​​ Words in the chevron < > supplied by this author



Threshold Covenant



This act by the Lord​​ (Ex 12:23)​​ appears​​ to be an example of​​ the​​ Threshold Covenant. While the​​ Bible never uses the phrase​​ threshold covenant, those​​ with an​​ understanding of the ancient​​ customs among primitive peoples all over the earth​​ and of the earliest historical​​ records of the human race​​ have pointed out the observance of this covenant throughout the​​ Bible.​​ 



If you study the​​ Bible​​ very much, you will notice that it​​ is a book of covenants.​​ Even the word​​ “testament”​​ (as in Old Testament and New Testament) could correctly be translated​​ as​​ “covenant”, thus the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, which is much more descriptive of the content of the​​ Bible than “Old and New Testaments”.​​ God has always related to his people on the basis of blood covenants.



In the East, covenants​​ were a way of life and people took them​​ very​​ seriously (as does God).​​ Breaking a blood covenant would be avoided at all costs, even if it meant​​ giving​​ one’s life.​​ 



Before I explore this further, a better understanding of the word translated “basin” in​​ Exodus​​ 12:22​​ is in order.​​ 



"You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the​​ basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the​​ basin​​ to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.​​ Ex 12.22



basin​​ ​​ from the Hebrew word​​ –​​ sap.​​ 

In its original sense of​​ containing; a​​ vestibule​​ (as a​​ limit); also a​​ dish​​ (for holding blood or wine) -​​ bason, bowl, cup, door (post), gate, post, threshold.​​ Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary



Here is a picture of a doorway. Note the basin​​ that is cut into the threshold.​​ 


sap​​ -​​ threshold, sill, door.​​ Designates the threshold, whether of a house​​ (Judges 19:27), palace​​ (1 Kings 14:17), or the temple​​ (2 Chron. 3:7). The keeper of the threshold​​ (1 Chron. 9:19, 22)​​ held an important office. Theologically, it becomes a symbol of God's presence in holy power​​ (Isaiah 6:4)​​ or judgment​​ (Amos 9:1; Zeph. 2:14).​​ Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament


This Hebrew word​​ sap​​ occurs at least​​ ten​​ other times in the Bible and is almost always translated “threshold”, or “door” or “door-post”, or “gate”​​ and​​ could properly be done in​​ v22​​ as​​ well.



Threshold Covenant​​ Background


The primitive altar of the family​​ was​​ the threshold, or door-sill, or entrance way of their​​ home or dwelling place. This is based on surviving customs in the East and elsewhere among primitive peoples.​​ Sacrifices for the family were at or near the entrance to the family domicile.



In​​ Eastern Culture, when a guest who is worthy of special honor is to be welcomed to​​ someone’s​​ home, the blood of a slaughtered, or a “sacrificed” animal is shed on the threshold​​ of that home as a means of adopting the newcomer into the family, or of making a covenant union with him.​​ The blood was contained in the basin in or near the threshold.​​ The more valuable the sacrifice, the more worthy or honorable the arriving guest was considered. Similar customs exist all over the world.​​ The blood represented the life of the host.​​ 



Crossing the​​ threshold or​​ entering the door of a house is in itself an implied covenant with those who are within. He who goes in by the door must count​​ himself and​​ must be recognized as a guest, and thus​​ subject to the strictest​​ laws of hospitality.​​ When a guest entered a person’s home they were treated with honor and to be protected​​ at all costs. Likewise, the guest would never do any harm to those who lived in the home.​​ Stepping over​​ the threshold into someone’s home was an act of acceptance of this implied threshold covenant of hospitality.​​ However, to​​ step on​​ the threshold was considered​​ not only​​ an insult to the host of the home but also a curse on one’s self.​​ 



If a person enters a​​ house in some other way, not crossing the threshold, there is no such implied covenant.​​ That person may steal from or even kill those in the house without breach of the law of hospitality. Similar customs and laws​​ centered around​​ the threshold of a house or building​​ exist all over the world. Consider this when​​ reading​​ what Jesus said in​​ the gospel of​​ John​​ ​​ 



"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.​​ John 10.1​​ 


7​​ So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.​​ 8​​ “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.​​ 9​​ “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.​​ 10​​ “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have​​ it​​ abundantly.​​ John 10:7-10 (NASB)​​ 



As you may know, marriage is also a covenant. In the East, the groom pours​​ out the most costly blood he can​​ afford onto the threshold. Then he carries​​ his bride across the threshold,​​ which is​​ a demonstration of​​ his vow to love and protect her. In​​ Western culture,​​ it is also a tradition for the groom to carry his new bride across the threshold​​ upon entering their home for the first time.​​ Sadly, most people​​ here in the West​​ have no reason why that tradition exists.​​ ​​ 



Additional Scriptural References


The threshold, doors, doorways and gates,​​ and entranceways​​ have always​​ been a sacred and or honorable place throughout scripture. Some examples are:​​ 


1.​​  'Thus says the Lord GOD, "The gate of the inner court facing east shall be shut the six working days; but it shall be opened on the sabbath day and opened on the day of the new moon.  "The prince shall enter by way of the porch of the gate from outside and stand by the post of the gate. Then the priests shall provide his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate and then go out; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening.​​ Ezek. 46.1-3


​​ 2.​​  "Then you shall say to them, 'Any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, and does not bring it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to offer it to the LORD, that man also shall be cut off from his people.​​ Lev. 17.8-9


3.​​ ​​ In the same day I will punish All those who leap over the threshold, Who fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit.​​ Zephaniah 1.9 (NKJV)​​ 





There is so much more,​​ but suffice it to say,​​ this threshold rite clearly goes back to the beginning of family life.​​ Could it​​ be that God, in announcing his desire for his people to welcome Him by a blood sacrifice, spoke​​ of His “pass over” in​​ terms of​​ a familiar custom? Most, if not all of the Bible is best understood by having an understanding of the customs, traditions, and rituals that were common​​ at​​ the time of its writing.​​ 



In welcoming God into their homes, there was covenant protection. It was the blood​​ on the door-posts​​ that set God’s chosen people apart from the Egyptians and it is the blood of Jesus that separates God’s chosen people today.​​ We know that the Passover​​ was​​ a picture of that which​​ was to come. For it is only by the blood/death​​ of Jesus​​ that our sins​​ can truly be forgiven;​​ and only then can we enter into​​ an​​ everlasting covenant with our Heavenly Father​​ (Luke 22:19-20).


He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.​​ Psalm 91:1​​ 


The Passover feast is​​ the​​ oldest continuously observed feast known today. It has been observed for over 3500 years. Interestingly this observance should serve to raise questions in the minds of the​​ Jewish​​ children that are participating​​ (Ex.12:26).​​ And as they are told the meaning of the Passover, the Lord should be glorified in all​​ that he has done for us! And,​​ as we reflect back to what Jesus has done,​​ we​​ too​​ should respond in worship to Him.​​ Amen.


In light of what you have read above, think about this verse –


“How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”​​ Hebrews 10:29 (NASB)



Return to​​ Topical​​ Index





1.​​ The Threshold Covenant;​​ Trumbull, H. Clay; 1896


2.​​ The Feasts of the Lord;​​ Kevin Howard, Marvin Rosenthal; 1997​​ 


3.​​ The Blood Covenant (tape series);​​ Craig Hill


4.​​ Strong’s Talking Greek Hebrew Dictionary


5.​​ Vine’s Expository Dictionary


6.​​ Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament