Monday, January 17

What Is Passover?

Each spring, Jews all around the world celebrate the Passover. The Passover appears several times in The Bible, beginning with its origins, and linking the importance to Jesus Christ during Passover. What is Passover? How and when did it begin? Why is celebrated, and what connection does Passover have with Jesus? We will examine these questions in this entry of, "The Truth." (Photo credit to: JesusISLord a Worshipping Christian's Blog, Wikipedia)

The Passover began c.1440s-1200s BC in Egypt. After suffering nine plagues, Pharaoh still would not allow the Hebrews to leave Egypt with Moses. God said to Moses, "I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely." (Exodus 11:1) Moses conveyed to the people the rest of God's message.

God told Moses that he would "passover" Egypt about midnight, and that the firstborn males of Egypt would die, including Pharaoh's son. Though some believe this sounds harsh, you would think that snakes, frogs, blood-filled Nile, burning hail, darkness that can be felt, locusts, boils, what have you, would grab Pharaoh's attention and that he would let the Hebrews goes. He refused each time.

Then God said to Moses, "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat." (Exodus 12:1-4)

After giving Moses specific instructions on how to prepare the lamb, God said, "This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord's Passover. On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt." (Exodus 12:11-13)

Then God commanded the Hebrews (also called Israelites) "Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants." (Exodus 12:24) The Israelites obeyed. "At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead." (Exodus 12:29-31)

When this had passed, Pharaoh let the Israelites go, and the Exodus took place. Those who were once captives in a foreign land were now free. This took place to fulfill what the Lord had said to Abraham over 300 years before. "Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.... in the fourth generation your descendants will come back here..." (Genesis 15:13-14, 16)

As put in the Zondervan Handbook to The Bible, "A new feast instituted, and a new (religious) year has begun. (The time is March/April) The Passover lamb or kid, barbecued over an open fire in a pit, speaks of God's protection and provision for his people - Israel is God's firstborn. The bitter herbs remind them of all their suffering in Egypt. The flat unleavened bread recalls the haste of their departure (no time to use yeast, 'leaven,' and wait for the bread to rise)... But they do not go empty-handed. The years of slavery are in some measure paid for by the clothes and jewelry heaped upon them by the Egyptians, now only too anxious to see them go."

The first Passover, which took place around March/April, occurred as a plague in Egypt, but a protection for the Israelites. The lamb's blood protected them, and after this, the captives were let go, and were finally free from their bonds. Passover is considered the most important event in Judaism. It is celebrated over a period of eight days, with no bread, nor cake, only matzah, which is flat, crisp slices of tasteless unleavened bread - in remembrance of their time in Egypt.

There are compensations, for example, the first night, Seder (meaning Service) is a celebration of God-given freedom. Many believe this was the setting of the Last Supper in Jesus' day. The service lasts around four hours. It revolves around a book called the Haggadah (the telling), which recounts the story of the Passover. Each major festival is celebrated using red wine, which is placed at the table. Typically, four cups are drank. The child asks four questions, each about the Passover, in regards to why it is celebrated - the remaining time is taken by the reading.

Moses is not mentioned in the story. Later on, after singing Psalms 113-114 and a second cup of wine, bitter herbs are eaten. A special guest is given the bitter herb first, as a dish containing a mixture of nuts, apples, and wine is passed around. Jesus gave this first to Judas Iscariot. After this, men wash their hands (likely when Jesus washed his disciples feet), and dinner ensues. After dinner, singing follows, and ends with the fourth cup of wine. 

There is also a "Second Passover." (called Pesach Sheni) It takes place on the fourteenth of Iyar, mentioned in Numbers 9:6-13. It is a make-up day for those people who were unable to offer a pesach sacrifice at the appropriate time due to "ritual impurity," or distance from Jerusalem. As it is on the first Pesach night, it is prohibited to break bones from the second Paschal offering (see Numbers 9:12) or leaving meat over until morning. (see Numbers 9:12)

Matzo (Unleavened bread)
It is nearly impossible to ignore the parallels between the Passover and Jesus. Indeed it was important that Christ died during Passover. The third cup used during Passover is the third cup, the "cup of blessing." "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not sharing in the blood of Christ?" (1st Corinthians 10:16) This is likely the cup which Jesus used to represent his blood. This, however, is not necessarily the most prominent parallel. Consider the Passover during Moses' day. The Passover occurred so that Pharaoh would free the Israelites (the captives). 

Lambs were consumed; their blood was shed and used for protection. God passed over His people, and what occurred that night over 3000 years ago allowed His people to be free. Now consider this: Jesus died and was raised during Passover. Jesus is equated to a lamb several times in the New Testament. His blood was shed for all people, for protection - and salvation. Through the Lamb of God, his death led to our salvation.

When Christ died, he allowed us, by accepting him, to be free from our bonds, free from Satan - captives under Satan. During the Passover of Moses day, a lamb was used - both the lamb and the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, shed blood. Both were used for protection - yet Jesus' blood was also used for salvation, and is how we are saved. Both occurred during Passover, and through the chain of events surrounding both occurrences, the captives are led into freedom.

Passover is celebrated because of the God passing over the Israelites, leading to their freedom from Egypt over 3000 years ago. It is usually celebrated in March/April. In 2011, it is celebrated from the sunset of April 18 to nightfall of April 25/26. In 2012, it is celebrated from the sunset of April 6 to nightfall of April 13/14. Jesus is linked to the Passover in several ways: He died and rose again during Passover, He was the lamb that was slain, he set the captives free.

Troy Hillman

Various Authors. "Zondervan Handbook To The Bible." Zondervan, 1999. 1st ed. Print. 164, 574-575.

Various Authors. "Passover." Wikipedia, 2011. Web. < >


  1. Do you understand the 4th Cup?

    After the beginning of Jesus' Last Passover Supper (Seder) Judas Iscariot left to do what he had to do. The twelve left in the room were at the point where the second of four traditional cups was about to be drunk.

    (The first is at the beginning of the Seder meal.) Jesus took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to them and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes."

    More of the lamb meal was consumed. During that He took a loaf of unleavened bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to His disciples saying, "This IS my body given for you; do this to recall me." ("Recall" is a better translation of the Greek "anamnesis" than "remember".)

    After the supper He took the third cup saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This IS my blood of the NEW and everlasting covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

    A hymn was sung, which is a combination of several psalms called The Great Hillel, and they went out to the Mount of Olives.

    What happened? The Passover ceremony and ritual was not complete. There was no fourth cup. There was no announcement that it was finished. Could it be that Jesus was so upset with what He knew was about to happen that He forgot? Doubtful!

    Not only Jesus, but also the 11 others had participated in the Passover Seder every year of their lives. No, this was done on purpose. The last supper of Jesus was not over.

    On the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples slept while Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done."

    He prayed that three times. Then Jesus was arrested, illegally put on trial by the Sanhedrin, then by Pontius Pilate, sentenced and crucified.

    While on the cross He wept. Jesus, who was in excruciating agony, was so merciful that He prayed for the forgiveness of His executioners. He was offered some wine with a pain killer, myrrh, in it. He refused it.

    "Later, knowing that all was now complete, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled and the kingdom established, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.'" A man dipped a sponge into sour wine; he placed it on a hyssop branch and lifted it up to Jesus lips.

    He drank. (We recall that it was the hyssop branch which was used to paint lambs blood around the Hebrew's door for the Passover of the angel of death.)

    It was then that Jesus said, "It is finished." He then bowed His head and gave up the spirit to His Father.

    The fourth cup now represented the lamb’s blood of the first Passover, a saving signal to the angel of death.

    The Lamb of God was now sacrificed. The last Passover supper of Jesus Christ was now complete with the fourth cup. It was finished.

    The tie in with the Passover is unmistakable.

    The Lamb of God was sacrifice and death was about to be passed over come Easter day.

    The promise of eternal life for many was about to be fulfilled.

    Christ’s Passover was finished, but His mission was not until he rose from the dead.

  2. Michael,
    Thank you for your comment! I always enjoy reading comments like yours. I believe you have commented before regarding the fourth cup, but repetition leads to retention, and this is certainly something that ought to be known. It is something that slipped into the recesses of my mind, yet it is very important and I appreciate you bringing this to light. I wholeheartedly agree. May God bless you.

  3. Great article...Yes absolutely Passover is one of the most important festivals in the Jewish year. At this time Jewish people remember how the children of Israel left slavery behind them when they were led out of Egypt by Moses over 3000 years ago.