Pascha (Passover) and the Exodus from Egypt

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By: Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy
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Pascha (Passover) and the Exodus from Egypt

Moses returned to Egypt. At that time another pharaoh was ruling. After speaking with the elders of the Hebrew people, Moses and Aaron went to the Egyptian King and in God’s name demanded of him that he let the Hebrews leave Egypt.

Pharaoh replied, “I do not know your God and will not let the Hebrew people go.” He then commanded that the Hebrews be more severely burdened.

Then Moses, at God’s command, brought down upon Egypt, one after another, ten plagues, so that Pharaoh would agree to release the Hebrew people from the land of Egypt. At the word of Moses, the water in the rivers, lakes and wells was turned into blood; hail and locusts destroyed all the plants; a three-day darkness covered the whole of Egypt. In spite of such misfortunes, Pharaoh still did not let the Hebrews go. Beginning with the second plague, every time he called Moses, he asked him to pray to the Lord to put an end to the misfortune and promised to let the Hebrews go. However, as soon as the plague passed, Pharaoh again hardened his heart and refused to let them go. Then the final, tenth and most frightful plague came down.

Before the tenth plague, the Lord commanded the Hebrews to choose for each family a lamb that was one year old, slaughter it, cook it and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, without breaking any of its bones. They were then to smear the blood of the lamb onto the lintel and doorposts of their houses. The Hebrews did as God commanded them.

On that night the angel of the Lord struck down all the first born (the first male offspring) in Egypt, from men to the cattle. He passed over only those houses on whose doors the mark with the blood had been made. Lamentation went up from every part of Egypt. Pharaoh summoned Moses and commanded him to leave Egypt with the Hebrew people as soon as possible.

Six hundred thousand men left with Moses, not counting women and children. Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, as Joseph himself had instructed in his last will. As soon as the Hebrews left Egypt, a pillar appeared before them in the form of a cloud in the daytime and fire at night. It guided them in their journey.

The day of the Hebrews’ deliverance from bondage in Egypt forever remained in their memory. On this day the Lord established the main feast of the Old Testament, which He called Pascha. The word Pascha means “passing by,” “passover,” or “deliverance from misfortune” — the angel of death passed over the Hebrew dwellings. Every year on the evening of this day the Hebrews slaughtered and prepared the Paschal lamb and ate it with unleavened bread. This feast lasted for seven days.

The Paschal lamb, by whose blood the first born of the Hebrews were delivered from death, foreshadowed the Saviour Himself, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, Who took upon Himself the sins of the world, Whose blood delivers all the faithful from eternal death.

The Old Testament Hebrew Pascha prefigured our New Testament Christian Pascha. In the Old Testament Pascha, death passed over the dwellings of the Hebrews. They were liberated from bondage in Egypt and given the Promised Land. Thus also in the Christian Pascha, the Resurrection of Christ, eternal death has passed over us. The Risen Christ, having freed us from the slavery of the Devil, has given us eternal life.

Christ died on the Cross on the day when the Paschal lambs were slain, and He rose immediately after the Hebrew Pascha. This is why the Church always celebrates the Resurrection of Christ after the Jewish Passover and calls the feast Pascha.

Note: See Exodus, chap. 4:29-31; chaps. 5-13.

(from: The Law of God

by Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy)