What Does the Word Passover Mean?

On Passover night, God told Moses that He would protect the Israelites if they would slay a lamb as a substitute and put the blood of the lamb upon the lintel and sides of the doorframes of their houses. It had to be a life for a life.

12“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 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 12:12-13).

God was requiring faith in the blood of the Passover lamb. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The Israelites were to take a bunch of hyssop plant and dip the hyssop in a bowl of some of the blood from the sacrificed lamb. The word that is translated into English as bowl is the word sap. It is a word rooted in the Egyptian language meaning the threshold or ditch that was dug in front of the doorways of houses in Egypt to avoid flooding. The blood was shed from the lamb on that night and collected in the sap, the gulley or bowl at the foot of the door. The hyssop plant was dipped in the blood and used to strike the lintel and each side of the doorframe. God wanted to leave the Israelites with an image of a cross over the door. Can you imagine listening to the screams from neighboring houses that had just lost their first-born? “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). There is more to this than first meets the eye. For a number of years, I thought that it was God who was passing by the household of those who had faith in the shed blood of an innocent sacrificial lamb, but this is not the case. The Lord describes what is actually happening in Isaiah 31:5:

5Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it” (Isaiah 31:5).

The context of this passage is one of protection to the city of Jerusalem. He describes Himself as hovering over the city and shielding them from harm. Ceil and Moishe Rosen, in their book Christ in the Passover, has this to say about the word that is translated “pass over:”

The verb “pass over” has a deeper meaning here than the idea of stepping or leaping over something to avoid contact. It is not the common Hebrew verb, a-bhar, or ga-bhar, which is frequently used in that sense. The word used here is pasah, from which comes the noun pasha, which is translated Passover. These words have no connection with any other Hebrew word, but they do resemble the Egyptian word pesh, which means “to spread wings over” in order to protect.

The picture we are to hold on to is that of the Lord protecting us from harm. It brings new light to the passage where Jesus was grieving over the city of Jerusalem when He said: “O Jerusalem! Jerusalem…How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). The God we have come to know and love wants to bring us close to His heart and to wrap His arms around us as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings and protect them.

23When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down (Exodus 12:23).

God Himself is our protection and help. As a separate destroying angel goes through the land, God was hovering over the household—those who had faith in the innocent blood of the substitute lamb over the door. There had to be an element of obedience to God in what He had told them. He comes close, wrapping His arms around His people to protect them and bind them to Himself, not permitting the destroyer to enter their houses. This is what the Passover celebration meal is all about. It is to remind the Israelites of their deliverance from bondage and slavery. What happened in the book of Exodus was just a picture of what God wanted to do through Jesus becoming our Passover Lamb, the substitute that we are to place our faith in. Pharaoh is a picture of Satan, who has had us under cruel slavery to our sins. Egypt is a picture of the world in which we live. Christ is our sacrificial Lamb who has lain down His life to deliver us, if we will place faith in His shed blood applied to the door of our hearts. God wants to presence Himself over the homes of our hearts and to live with us for eternity. Keith Thomas

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