Abridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger
Model Four: Moses and the Passover – Exodus 12 – 1200 (?) B.C.
What a man Moses has proved to be! Moses, as the author of the Pentateuch, is the first man to hand down to us the revelations which God made to mankind. Hence Moses is the “Father of the Bible” in a sense. Moses gathered the incidents of the Lamb of God theme which we have looked at so far. Now Moses becomes the one chosen by God to be the principle actor in the Passover episode: First, he taught Pharaoh and the Israelites of the might and power of God and then led the Israelites out of bondage to the Promised Land. Moses led 600,000 men plus women, children and flocks for 40 years. Imagine the logistics of such a feat. Moses is another great prototype of the True Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
Having seen the development of the Lamb of God theme from the sacrifice of Abel through the expanding of it in the sacrifice of Abraham and the substitute animal, we now consider in more detail that event in Jewish history which is the forerunner of our Paschal Lamb and the Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Saturday Easter Vigil of the Resurrection.
Time-wise: Scholars agree that the “Passover” Sacrifice of the Lamb of God is the culmination of the 10th plague which caused the Egyptians not only to free their Hebrew slaves but to load them down with all kinds of gifts and practically drive them out of their country. Therefore, the word “Passover” has a much broader meaning when you include its effects; namely, their freedom from slavery, their receipt of gifts of great wealth, their passage through the Red Sea (a type of Baptism, according to Paul in I Cor. 10), their reception by Moses of the tablets of the Law on Mt. Sinai followed by the great Theophany of a new covenant, and finally their eventual arrival at the Promised Land (a Promised land that Moses was not permitted to enter – having failed God’s test at Meribah and Massah).
Growth and Development of the Israelites: Historians have assigned names to certain ages of time. Hence we can ask: When did Moses live? When did the Passover occur? The answer is sometime between the Bronze Age (3500 B.C. to 1200 B.C.) and the Iron Age (1200 B.C. to 537 B.C.) or roughly between 1300 and 1200 B.C. Likewise, we could ask how the Israelites came to be in Egypt.
The Israelites became exiled in Egypt when there was a famine in the Middle East and Egypt; the Egyptians having stored grained by the command of Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob and the brother that was sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph had gained power and favor with the Pharaoh. So he saved his tribe from starvation and they remained in Egypt and multiplied.
Thus, by the time Moses was born, the Israelites were seen by the Egyptians as a growing threat and were therefore being shamefully harassed. Slavery imposed the heaviest labor upon them, restricted their movements and inhibited their education. Even genocide was imposed by Pharaoh who ordered the Hebrew mid-wives to watch: if a baby delivered to a Jewish mother was a boy, they were to kill him and if a girl, they could let her live.
God saved Moses by having Pharaoh’s daughter rescue him from the bull rushes where he had been hidden. She adopted him and with the help of a Jewish woman (actually Moses’ real mother), she saw to his upbringing. Thus Moses grew up in favor with both the Egyptians and Israelites.
When fleeing for his life after saving one of his own tribe, Moses was called by God from the burning bush and told to lead his people out of slavery of Egypt. In order to overcome Moses’ fear, God revealed His name to him saying, “I am.” “Tell Pharaoh: ‘I am who am’ orders that he let you go!”
When Pharaoh balked at losing the Israelites as slaves, he was warned of the plagues which would come upon his kingdom if he did not free them to go out and adore their God. It is with the tenth plague that our theme is concerned and came to be called “The Passover.”
The Tenth Plague: From reading the 12th chapter of Exodus you will learn that this was a terrible threat that struck at the heart of every Egyptian family. God used this severe means to accomplish His promise to Moses that He would free the Israelites. Certainly the death of the firstborn of every Egyptian family was a most painful blow, accompanied by the loss of the firstborn of their flocks. Like a whip, it drove them to obey the requests of the Israelites; going so far as heaping gifts of pots and pans, gold and jewelry on the Israelites so that they would leave. “if only these Jews would leave,” they thought, “our suffering would stop.”
By driving out the Israelites, the Egyptians deprived themselves of their slaves and freed Moses to lead his people across the Red Sea.
The Blood of the Lamb: God’s instructions to Moses were clear: each family was to take a year old male lamb, without blemish, from either the sheep or the goats and sprinkle its blood upon the lintel and doorposts of their homes. They were then to gather together enough people to eat the entire animal, bringing in neighbors if necessary.
The Effect of the Sprinkled Blood: In this obedience to God’s command, the Hebrews were not only spared the loss of their own “firstborn,” but were enriched beyond their wildest imagination:
- God’s loving care for their firstborn not only freed them from pain and sorrow but filled their hearts with joy and happiness and with great confidence in Moses.
- They found these slave drivers not only giving them treasure but even begging them to take more and to go; enriching them beyond measure.
- Their enslavement gave way to “enforced freedom” loaded down with riches heaped on the backs of their animals as the Hebrews followed Moses not only through the parted waters of the red Sea but all the way to the Promised Land.
How precious it was for them to recall these events in the annual celebration of the “The Passover,” which came to be linked with another Jewish Feast called that of the “Unleavened Bread.” (Cf. Ex. 12:34 & 39, Deut. 16:3 and Jos. 5:10-12) Even in modern times the Jews gather for this celebration in what has come to be called “The Seder Meal.”
The Passover not only enabled the lineal descendants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to believe but also every person who seeks the truth. Truth is “the conformity of the mind with the reality outside of itself.” Look at these Mosaic events as overlays for the future picture of the Messiah, born of Mary. Jesus Christ claimed to be that Person, the promised Redeemer. (Cf. Jn. 4:26)
John, “the Elijah to come,” called Jesus by that name: “Behold the Lamb of God!” Let us apply the events of Moses’ day as a housewife would apply a dress pattern to a piece of cloth. Remember, God takes His time between revealed prophecy and the reality which fulfills it. This is how the good God prepared His Chosen People some 12 to 13 centuries before He actually came among them in Bethlehem, as Isaiah was to prophesy: “Emmanuel, God with us.: (Is. 76:14)
|The Paschal Lamb Pattern Given to Moses||Jesus Christ: the fulfillment of the Pattern|
|v5- Sacrificial animal was a male, lamb, without blemish||God with an assumed human nature, male, firstborn of Mary and of the Father, without sin|
|v6- 14th Day of Nissan – an evening sacrifice||Jesus became a sacramental sacrifice at the Paschal Meal, the Last Supper|
|v7- Blood sprinkled at each home on the door posts and lintels||On Good Friday His Precious Blood poured down upon the earth from the Cross|
|v3, 4- Everyone was to partake; sharing with each other||Jesus came for Jew and Gentile alike: for “the many”|
|v8- The avenging angel “passed over” those who sprinkled blood on their door posts and lintels||John 6:55- “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life.”|
|The Israelites were to eat the flesh of the lamb for food||John 6:54- “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.”|
|They were to eat the meal with “unleavened bread” –the Feast of Unleavened Bread became bound up with the new feast of the “Passover”||Christ gives Himself to us as the “Lamb of God Sacrifice” given under the appearance of “unleavened bread”|
|They were to eat bitter herbs to remember their time in captivity||We should remember the bitterness of being held captive to sin|
|After nine failures, Moses’ request was realized with the 10th plague||Perseverance in prayer is necessary – Luke 11:5-13|
|Moses was to change the calendar to make the Passover month the first month of the Jewish year||Our calendar was changed to begin with the year of Jesus birth: A.D. – Anno Domini: the year of our Lord|
Summary: The Lamb of God theme, as developed from Abel through the “Passover,” consolidated the Chosen People and strengthened them in their confidence in Yahweh for the 40 year pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It gave a new dimension to both the idea of giving thanks (thanksgiving for God) and the idea of a familial sacrifice (the family of God). Not only did their fidelity to the Passover regulations anneal their spirits in the crucible of the Exodus, but it enabled them to preserve faithfully Moses’ Pentateuch and to hand on to our generation all the Sacred Books of the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament. The Passover for the Jewish people is the glue that has held these people together ever since that joining together of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover Meal. We too, find that the glue of our faith is bound up in the celebration of the unleavened bread, now offered after the priest’s consecration: the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, in the Eucharist of Thanksgiving (our “Lamb of God Sacrifice”), for our food and our eternal salvation.