by Rav Richard Aharon Chaimberlin
THE VERY FIRST PASSOVER was observed in Egypt in approximately 1490 BCE. It is the first of the annual holy days. It remains one of the most popular holidays in Judaism, and is increasingly popular in Christian circles, primarily because of all the Messianic symbolism to be gleaned in the Passover seder. Christians also recognize that the "Last Supper" celebrated by Yeshua and His talmidim (disciples) was a Passover seder.
Most of the invitations we have received to speak in Christian churches have been to teach about Passover or to do a Passover seder. The holidays in Leviticus 23 are normally considered "the Jewish festivals." However, Leviticus 23:2 calls them moedei YHWH (the appointed times of YHWH), or "the feasts of the LORD." Biblically, these are not "Jewish Feasts;" these are "the feasts of the LORD."
In Exodus 12, we find the instructions for the very first Passover. While some elements of that first Passover are still used in our celebrations today, there are other elements of that first Passover which were only for that one time, about 3500 years ago. Why?
In Exodus 12:2, we read, "This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you." According to the Rabbis, the first day of Tishrei (normally in late September) was the day in which Adam was created, on the sixth day of Creation, Yom Shishi ("Friday"). Therefore, the Jewish New Year ("Rosh HaShanah") is observed on the first day of Tishrei, as the annual "birthday of Creation." However, when it comes to the celebration of the Holy Days as found in Leviticus 23, the month of Aviv (Nissan) in early spring is the first month of the year. This is the month we celebrate Passover.
An unblemished male lamb or goat one year old would be brought into the home on the tenth day of Aviv (Nissan). My grandmother had a pet lamb that she kept in her home. They can become rather endearing. Thousands of years ago, it wasn't unusual to allow farm animals in the house, as dirt floors were the norm. The lamb (or goat) would be kept in the home from the 10th day until the 14th day of Aviv and then was slaughtered. This would be a difficult sacrifice, after the family had become attached to the animal after four days.
In 2 Peter 3:8, we learn that "with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The crucifixion of Yeshua took place approximately 4000 years after the Creation account found in Genesis 1, symbolically four days after Creation, as God might reckon time. Yeshua was with his Father for 4000 years. Then He was sent to Planet Earth, to die for the sins of the world. This was not something that HaShem would do lightly. He loved His son. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
The entire animal (lamb or goat) was to be roasted and eaten that night. It was to be eaten as if in haste, with sandals on their feet, a staff in their hand, with their loins girded. In Exodus 12:12, we learn that the plagues were judgments against the Egyptian gods. They worshipped the Nile River; it became blood. There were various deities in the shapes of cattle, scarab beetles, even frogs. The various plagues were designed to mock the deities of Egypt. Curiously, many of these ancient plagues will occur once again, as described in the Book of Revelation.
Verse 13 is an important key in understanding that very first Passover. "And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you shall live; and when I see the blood, I shall pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt." Passover (Pesach) commemorates the angel of death passing over the homes that had the blood applied to the homes.
On that first Passover, they were to apply the blood of the lamb to their mezuzot (doorposts) and lintel, using a bunch of hyssop for the application. As the man of the house applies the blood, swishing the hyssop in the basin, and then striking the doorposts on the side and the lintel at the top, it would look much like a Catholic priest making the sign of the cross. We also know about the wounds to Yeshua's head and hands. This is an additional picture of the crucifixion of Yeshua that would take place about 1500 years after that first Passover.
Yeshua spilled His blood on the cross at Golgotha almost 2000 years ago, to pay the penalty for our sins. For those who have accepted this blood of atonement, God sees this blood. Yeshua paid the penalty for our transgressions of the Law (Torah). The Torah is still God's standard of righteousness. The NT definition of sin remains what it was in the Tanakh (OT): "Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the Law (Torah), for sin is the transgression of the Torah (1 John 3:4)."
Passover is an Ordinance Forever!
In Exodus 12:14, Adonai tells us, "And this day (Passover) shall be a memorial to you, and you shall keep it as a feast to YHWH throughout your generations, to celebrate this festival as a permanent ordinance." I presume that "throughout your generations" and "permanent ordinance" means exactly that! God didn't say, "until Jesus comes." He meant "forever"! See Matthew 5:17-19.
In Exodus 12:15, we read, "Seven days you shall eat matzot (unleavened bread), but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel." In Jewish homes around the world, this is the time of "spring cleaning," as homes are meticulously cleansed at least a day before Passover, so that when Passover comes, the home is clean of all chametz, yeast or products containing yeast or other leavening agents.
In Exodus 12:16, we read that both the first day of Pesach and the seventh day of Pesach are days of "holy assembly" in which no work is to be done, except for the preparation of food. Christians have a habit of dividing Passover up into multiple holidays. They consider Passover to be the first day, and the days afterwards to be the days of "Unleavened Bread." Then on the Sunday during Passover week is considered the "Feast of First Fruits." However, every Jewish calendar considers all these days to be Passover.
The Newer Testament agrees. Luke 22:1 says, "Now the feast of unleavened bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching." Mark 14:1 concurs. Passover and Unleavened Bread are the same, not separate holidays. We eat matza (unleavened bread) for all seven days. The Feast of First Fruits (for the barley harvest) occurs on Yom Rishon ("Sunday") during Passover week.
When something is important, God repeats Himself. In verse 17, He reminds us to observe this festival "throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance." This confuses Dispensational Christians, who feel that God doesn't really mean what He says, because they feel that all these things were "done away with" at the Cross.
Other Christians might consider that Passover should still be observed, but only by Jews. However, Exodus 12:49 tells us, "The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you." Numbers 15:15-16 says the same thing.
Another common assumption is that Passover is the first of what is often called "The Feasts of Israel." More accurately, my KJV Bible calls them "the feasts of the LORD," in Leviticus 23:2. The very first of these feasts is Shabbat - the Sabbath. As our readers know, the Sabbath was never changed to Sunday. Sunday was the day set aside to honor the Sun god. In no place of the NT was the Sabbath changed to any other day of the week besides the seventh day.
Shabbat begins Friday at sunset, and ends on "Saturday" at sunset, as it has been since Creation. "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because on it He had rested from all His work which God created and made (Gen. 2:3)." This began about 2000 years before the birth of Abraham, before there were any Jews. This was the day that would have been observed by Adam and his descendants. Shabbat is also a memorial of Creation.
After that very first Passover, Pharaoh commanded the children of Israel to leave Egypt, with their flocks and herds. Pharaoh had seen the power of the God of Israel manifested with the Ten Plagues. However, it was the final plague - the deaths of the first-born - that convinced Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.
In Exodus 12:38, we learn that the Israelites did not go out of Egypt by themselves: "And a mixed multitude (eirev rav) also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock." We don't know how many Gentiles went out with the Israelites. However, a large number apparently attached themselves to the children of Israel and their God. Later, the Israelites entered the Land of Canaan, which was divided up amongst the Twelve Tribes. There wasn't any separate section for the "tribe of mixed multitude." It is apparent that these strangers were adopted into the various tribes of Israel.
Exodus 12:48 tells us that no man who is uncircumcised would be allowed to eat of the Passover. The Passover refers to the Passover lamb. Today, there is no longer the sacrifice of the Passover lambs. When the Temple in Jerusalem was built, that became the place of sacrifice (Deut. 16:1-2). Since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE (AD), there is no place to sacrifice. There is no longer a Passover lamb at the meal. Therefore, even the uncircumcised may attend the Passover seder. It was only on that first Passover that the lambs were sacrificed at home.