The Passover

Reading: Exodus 11

After God had sent the ninth plague - total darkness throughout Egypt for 3 days - Pharaoh flew into a rage.
"Get out of my sight!" he shouted at Moses. "I never want to set eyes on you again!"

"You won't" replied Moses angrily, "but because you will not change your mind, God is going to bring one more plague on Egypt. After it you will let the people go for, God says, 'At midnight I shall go through the land of Egypt and the firstborn of every family will die - from the richest to the poorest. And all the firstborn of cattle will die. There will be a great crying in Egypt.'" Then Moses left Pharaoh for the last time.

Now God had told Moses that the Israelites would be kept safe from this last and worst disaster, just as they had been from others. But this time they had to follow God's instructions which Moses would give them. If they did as God said then their firstborn would be safe.

Moses and Aaron passed on God's instructions to the Israelites. Each family had to choose the best male lamb from their flock - one that was in perfect condition - and kill it. Then they were to smear the top and the side posts of their doors with its blood. After that they had to roast and eat the lamb with bitter herbs and with bread that had no leaven, or yeast, in it. The bread was called unleavened bread.

All this, God said, they had to do on a certain night. Everybody had to stay indoors and not go out. They also had to eat the meal in a hurry, with their outdoor clothes and shoes on, and their staffs in their hands, ready...

Ready for what? Well, outside all was quiet that particular night. The Egyptians might have seen lights burning in the Israelite homes but no-one was out and about. At midnight, and silently, the angel of God moved in, passing over every house marked with blood, but entering every unprotected Egyptian house.

All the firstborn (the eldest child) of every Egyptian family and all the firstborn of the Egyptian animals died. At last Pharaoh could take no more! The Israelites had to go! "Get up" he commanded, "and get out of my country and away from my people. And take your animals with you."

No wonder the people had to be ready. They were to start their journey to the Promised Land that very night! The Egyptians were not sorry to see them leave. Indeed, they were so eager to be rid of them that they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for - bracelets, earrings, silver, gold, and more besides. Nothing was refused.

With hardly a backward glance, the huge crowd of Israelites set out with Moses in the lead...

So important were the events of that night, when God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, that the Israelites were told to remember the occasion at the same time every year in the future and to eat the lamb and the unleavened bread in the same way. The annual celebration was to be called the Feast of the Passover because the angel of God passed over the blood-marked houses of the Israelites. And when the children asked their parents what it all meant they were to be told "It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians and delivered our houses".


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