The Jewish people started practicing the Passover feast as a religious requirement from Yahweh. It was one of the primary methods they had to adapt on the eve of their exodus from Egypt. From the beginning of this tradition to the current day scenarios, the Jews have passed on this tradition even to the Christians.
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Once upon a time, the Jewish people became slaves of the Egyptians (Crisp 119). They suffered for over four hundred years until they prayed to God for salvation. God used Moses, a Jewish son, but an Egyptian prince to deliver Jews (Esala 318). He had to cause ten plagues in the land to convince the Egyptians that the power of God was greater than their gods. The last plague resulted in the death of every firstborn of the Egyptians from animals to human beings. The Jews had to slaughter a male ram of the first year. They had to choose the ram or goat in the tenth month and sacrifice it on the fourteenth day. Each family had to smear the blood on the two doorposts and the beam (Aloian 212). They would eat the meat from the ram. They were to burn any remains of the flesh by morning.
At night they were to eat while standing and wearing their shoes. They were to have their staff in the hands and gird their loins in readiness for their journey. During the night, God passed through the land and only spared the firstborns of every family if there was blood on the doorposts. Pharaoh allowed them to go and worship their God but changed his mind later. He sent an army to capture them, but they died at the Red Sea. The sea parted for the Israelites to pass but consumed Pharaoh’s men. Over 600,000 Jews traveled from Egypt heading to Canaan. Questions arise how an all powerful God could not just save them without having to go through the painstaking ten plagues. Egyptians had many gods. The reason for all these steps was for the Jews to know that God alone could deal with all the gods and goddesses of any nation.
They would always do this in remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt but with some adjustments. They would consecrate seven days for the purpose of the Passover. On the first day, the Israelites were not to do any work (Lerner 9). They were also to abstain from any leaven in their households. They would eat unleavened bread on the day of the Passover.
Some scholars have discovered a similar practice that occurred among the Canaanites. There existed an apotropaic rite where the family or clan sought to protect its members from evil. They used Hyssop to spread the blood of the sheep on the door posts and lintels to keep any demonic attack away from the home. But the Jewish people adapted to a priestly code (Tuckett 183). It is, therefore, surprising to imagine that a holy nation would change to a pagan rite.
In the book of Numbers and Deuteronomy, Jews continued to practice the weeklong feast with some rituals and traditional meals such as Seders (Esala 318). They also removed leavened products from their homes, exchanged matzo for bread and retold the story of the exodus. The vegetarians exchanged beets for the shank bone on the Passover Seder plate. The book of Leviticus reveals the instructions to the Jewish people concerning the Passover. It had become a conventional practice and symbol.
The Jews choose the unblemished lamb on the 10th of Nisan. They slaughter it at dusk on 14th Nisan so that they can roast and eat it the following day (Crisp 119). They roast and eat it without removing the internal organs. The delicacy involves the unleavened bread known as the matzo and bitter herbs which are known as maror. They should burn any remains of the meal before the sun rises on the 15th of Nisan.
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The Jews observe the Judaism laws and must sacrifice in Jerusalem. But the Samaritans sacrifice on Mount Gerizim. While in the wilderness, the Jews had to sacrifice the lamb at the door of the tabernacle. They did not have to apply any blood. Only the people with the right to offer sacrifice could eat the Passover meal because it was sacred. The apostate, servants, uncircumcised men, and people in ritual impurities could not partake of the Passover. Also, non-Jews could not participate in this practice (Morgan 126). The Levites sang Hallel and the priests performed the divine services. Women also participated in the Passover feast. It was a contradiction in itself. The question is how they could celebrate freedom and still have slaves working for them. The slaves lacked the rights that they enjoyed after freedom. The change to make it sacred for a few people was not relevant. On the Passover night in Egypt, there was no discrimination against anyone. All Jewish families took part in the practice.
In the New Testament, Jews continued to observe the Passover feast. It occurred fifty days after the day of Pentecost. Just in the middle of the preparations for the Passover, the Jews wanted to arrest Jesus while he was still in the city to observe the Passover (Lerner 9). The gospel books of Mathew and John records Jesus preparing his disciples for the last supper. He sent some of his disciples to prepare the meal in the upper room. As they pondered on how different the Passover commemoration was, he broke bread and gave them to share as his body. He also gave them wine to drink from the same cup in remembrance of his blood.
Sometimes it is hard to understand how the Jews continued to celebrate the Passover even during their suffering. During Hitler’s time and the anti-Semitic period, there was still the observance of Passover. It means the celebration of freedom was uncalled for when the suffering continued to hamper that freedom.
But today the Jews do not have a temple. They commemorate it in their homes while reciting the Passover verses in the evening of Nissan 14. They also have a form of Seder food which is a roasted shank bone (Tuckett 183). No one should own any Chametz during the Passover. If the Passover feast is supposed to occur in the temple, they should strive to rebuild the temple to keep with the tradition. But the current border and political problems cannot allow it to happen. It means that they have not yet achieved the essence of the Passover.
The Passover is composed of the Jewish traditional beliefs. But Christians have taken up the event as an example of Jesus salvation for all sinners. The New Testament apostles took up the practice to the Gentiles as an act of remembering Jesus’ salvation. Modern Christians have only acquired the bread and wine artifacts. It remains a Jewish tradition with traditional rituals.
Passover is an essential part of Jewish custom. It reminds them of the power of God over any other gods. It also teaches them about God’s love. It has also become part of the Christian faith. But it represents salvation by Jesus Christ.
Aloian, Molly. Passover. New York, NY: Crabtree Pub. Co, 2009. Print.
Crisp, S. “Manuscripts, Textual Variants, and Bible Translators.” The Bible Translator 64.2 (2013): 118-127. Print.
Esala, N. “Implementing Skopostheorie in Bible Translation.” The Bible Translator 64.3 (2013): 300-323. Print.
Lerner, M. “The Tikkun Passover Supplement.” Tikkun 29.2 (2014): 9-12. Print.
Morgan, R. “C.K. Barrett and New Testament Theology.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 38.2 (2015): 120-126. Print.
Tuckett, Christopher M. “What is ‘New Testament Study’? The New Testament and Early Christianity.” New Testament Studies 60.02 (2014): 157-184. Print.