The Plague of the Firstborn and the Passover
Deuteronomy 5:15, ESV
You shall remember that you were a slave
in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God
brought you out from there with a
mighty hand and an outstretched arm...
in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God
brought you out from there with a
mighty hand and an outstretched arm...
Exodus 11:1-10, NIrV
1 The Lord had spoken to Moses. He had said, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you and your people go. When he does, he will drive every one of you away. 2 Tell the men and women alike to ask their neighbors for things made out of silver and gold.” 3 The Lord caused the Egyptians to treat the Israelites in a kind way. Pharaoh’s officials and the people had great respect for Moses.
4 Moses told Pharaoh, “The Lord says, ‘About midnight I will go through every part of Egypt. 5 Every oldest son in Egypt will die. The oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, will die. The oldest son of every female slave, who works at her hand mill, will die. All the male animals born first to their mothers among the cattle will also die. 6 There will be loud crying all over Egypt. It will be worse than it’s ever been before. And nothing like it will ever be heard again. 7 But among the Israelites not even one dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord treats Egypt differently from us. 8 All your officials will come and bow down to me. They will say, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that, I will leave.” Moses was very angry when he left Pharaoh.
9 The Lord had spoken to Moses. He had said, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will multiply the amazing things I will do in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these amazing things in the sight of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh stubborn. He wouldn’t let the people of Israel go out of his country.
Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let the Israelites go, so the people of Egypt suffered through nine miserable plagues. God let Moses know that Pharaoh would not speak another “No” to him. After the tenth plague, God gave a promise: Pharaoh would actually beg the Israelites to get out! How could another plague change the stubborn mind of the king of Egypt? After all, plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, dead animals, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness had failed! Because, after the dreadful tenth plague, the firstborn son in every single family (including Pharaoh’s) would be dead!
+ What did God tell the Israelite slaves to ask the Egyptians to give them? (vs. 2-3)
+ What would happen to the Israelites during the tenth plague? (vs. 7)
Exodus 12:21-23 and 28, NIrV
21 Then Moses sent for all the elders of Israel. He said to them, “Go at once. Choose the animals for your families. Each family must kill a Passover lamb. 22 Get a branch of a hyssop plant. Dip it into the blood in the bowl. Put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you can go out of the door of your house until morning. 23 The Lord will go through the land to strike down the Egyptians. He’ll see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe. He will pass over that house. He won’t let the destroying angel enter your homes to strike you down.
28 They did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.
As the Egyptians suffered through nine plagues, the Israelites enjoyed God’s protection. And God promised to protect his people from the dreadful tenth plague, too. But this time, he gave them a job to do. It would show that they believed his words. Before the plague began, each Israelite family needed to decorate their doors: not by hanging flowers or lights, but by painting with the bright red blood of a lamb! That night, the Lord God would visit every house in Egypt. If he saw blood on the door’s edges, he would “pass over” that house and the firstborn son inside would be saved.
+ After putting blood on their doors, what did Moses tell the people not to do? (vs. 22)
+ After hearing Moses’ instructions, what did the people of Israel do? (vs. 28)
Exodus 12:29-32, NIrV
29 At midnight the Lord struck down every oldest son in Egypt. He killed the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne. He killed all the oldest sons of prisoners. He also killed all the male animals born first to their mothers among the livestock. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials got up during the night. So did all the Egyptians. There was loud crying in Egypt because someone had died in every home.
31 During the night, Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron. He said to them, “Get out of here! You and the Israelites, leave my people! Go. Worship the Lord, just as you have asked. 32 Go. Take your flocks and herds, just as you have said. And also give me your blessing.”
In his foolish battle with the Lord God of Israel, Pharaoh answered God’s nine plagues with nine No’s. But after the tenth plague, Egypt’s stubborn king finally admitted this was a fight he could never win. As he promised, God sent his destroying angel to visit every home in Egypt. When the angel's work was finished, every Egyptian firstborn son was dead, including Pharaoh’s. The midnight cries of thousands of moms and dads must have been a horrible sound to hear! Now that the dreadful tenth plague had struck inside his own home, it seemed stubborn Pharaoh had finally run out of No’s.
+ In Egypt, how many houses had someone die that night? (vs. 30)
+ Why did the destroying angel “pass over” the houses of the Israelites? (vs. 23)
Exodus 12:33-41, NIRV
33 The Egyptians begged the people of Israel to hurry up and leave the country. “If you don’t,” they said, “we’ll all die!” 34 So the people took their dough before the yeast was added to it. They carried it on their shoulders in bowls for kneading bread. The bowls were wrapped in clothes. 35 They did just as Moses had directed them. They asked the Egyptians for things made out of silver and gold. They also asked them for clothes. 36 The Lord had caused the Egyptians to treat the Israelites in a kind way. So the Egyptians gave them what they asked for. The Israelites took many expensive things that belonged to the Egyptians.
37 The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about 600,000 men old enough to go into battle. The women and children went with them. 38 So did many other people. The Israelites also took large flocks and herds with them. 39 The Israelites brought dough from Egypt. With it they baked loaves of bread without yeast. The dough didn’t have any yeast in it. That’s because the people had been driven out of Egypt before they had time to prepare their food.
40 The Israelites lived in Egypt for 430 years. 41 Then all the Lord’s people marched out of Egypt like an army. That happened at the end of the 430 years, to the exact day.
How quickly could you pack up everything you own and get out of town? That’s exactly what the Israelites had to do the morning after the tenth plague. God’s people finally had Pharaoh’s permission to go, but they needed to leave the land of Egypt before the stubborn king changed his mind again! They were in such a hurry that they didn’t even have time to finish making that morning’s bread dough. The people of Israel hurriedly snatched up everything they owned and left town. With God’s help, they exited Egypt like a conquering army, taking anything from the Egyptians that they wanted.
+ What did the Israelites do with their half-finished bread dough? (vs. 39)
+ How many men, not counting women and kids, left Egypt? (vs. 37)
+ How long had the people of Israel been in Egypt? (vs. 40-41)
Exodus 12:1-11, NIRV
1 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in Egypt. 2 He said, “From now on, this month will be your first month. Each of your years will begin with it. 3 Speak to the whole community of Israel. Tell them that on the tenth day of this month each man must get a lamb from his flock. A lamb should be chosen for each family and home. 4 Suppose there are not enough people in your family to eat a whole lamb. Then you must share some of it with your nearest neighbor. You must add up the total number of people there are. You must decide how much lamb is needed for each person. 5 The animals you choose must be males that are a year old. They must not have any flaws. You may choose either sheep or goats. 6 Take care of them until the 14th day of the month. Then the whole community of Israel must kill them when the sun goes down. 7 Take some of the blood. Put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where you eat the lambs. 8 That same night eat the meat cooked over a fire. Also eat bitter plants. And eat bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat when it is raw. Don’t boil it in water. Instead, cook it over a fire. Cook the head, legs and inside parts. 10 Do not leave any of it until morning. If some is left over until morning, burn it up. 11 Eat the meat while your coat is tucked into your belt. Put your sandals on your feet. Take your walking stick in your hand. Eat the food quickly. It is the Lord’s Passover.
The Exodus from Egypt (Exodus means “exit”) was such an important day for the Israelites that God changed their calendar. The month they exited Egypt now became the first month of their year! And every year, on the tenth day of that month, God ordered them to celebrate a new holiday: the Passover. They would eat special foods as reminders of God’s rescue story. Bitter-tasting herbs would remind them of their sad days as slaves. Flatbread would remind them how they had to leave in a hurry. And roasted lamb would remind them of the lamb’s blood spread on their doorposts.
+ Re-read verse 11. How would doing this remind them of how they left Egypt?
+ Why was this new special day called “the Passover”? (see 12:23 for a clue)
Luke 22:14-20, NIRV
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles took their places at the table. 15 He said to them, “I have really looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you. I wanted to do this before I suffer. 16 I tell you, I will not eat the Passover meal again until it is celebrated in God’s kingdom.”
17 After Jesus took the cup, he gave thanks. He said, “Take this cup and share it among yourselves. 18 I tell you, I will not drink wine with you again until God’s kingdom comes.”
19 Then Jesus took bread. He gave thanks and broke it. He handed it to them and said, “This is my body. It is given for you. Every time you eat it, do this in memory of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup. He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. It is poured out for you.
God wanted his people to never forget their stunning rescue from the land of Egypt. That’s why he gave them the Passover. By eating that meal once a year, the Israelites and their children (and their children’s children) would always be reminded of the terrifying and true tale of their rescue from a miserable life of slavery in Egypt.
For 1,400 years, the Israelites ate the Passover meal once a year. They drank wine and ate food like flat bread, bitter-tasting plants, and the roasted meat of a lamb. Each bite of food and sip of wine was a different way for God’s people to remember the special night God saved their ancestors.
When Jesus came to earth to save us, he was born into an Israelite family. That made him an Israelite, too. Every year of Jesus’ life, he shared the special Passover meal with his friends and his family.
Shortly before he was arrested and nailed to the cross, Jesus ate his last Passover meal with his disciples. During that meal, he broke the 1400-year-old pattern of his people. Instead of telling his disciples to remember their rescue from Egypt, Jesus told his disciples to remember something new: him!
Changing what God’s people had done for centuries? That seems like a humongous no-no! But if anyone had the right to change God's Passover meal into something new, it was God’s Son Jesus!
We have a special name for the new meal Jesus created. We call it the “Lord’s Supper" because it's the meal the Lord Jesus gave us to eat. Like the Passover, the Lord’s Supper was a meal designed to help people remember a rescue mission.
As they ate the flattened Passover bread, Jesus told his disciples to remember his body. Soon, it would be beaten and bruised in order to pay for our sins. During the meal, he also gave them a cup of wine to share. As they drank it, they were to remember blood: not the blood of the Passover lamb that was spread on their doors, but the blood of Jesus. Soon, his blood would spill to the ground as his hands and feet were nailed to the cross.
Both the Passover and the Lord’s Supper are special memory-making meals thousands of years old. God gave the Passover meal to the Israelites so they would never forget how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt. And God gave the Lord’s Supper to the church to remind us of something even better: how Jesus gave up his body and shed his blood to save the whole world from their sins!
+ Why do Christians eat bread and drink wine during the Lord’s Supper? (vs. 19-20)
+ What other foods would Jesus and his disciples have eaten at their meal? (see Ex. 12:6-8)