First of all, notice that the first Passover demonstrates the conflict between the power of Yahweh’s word and righteousness and the power of Pharaoh’s word and righteousness, just like we saw yesterday. Pharaoh declared, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live” (Exodus 1:16). “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live’” (Exodus 1:22). Years later, through His Hebrew servant whom He had protected in the midst of Pharaoh’s house, Yahweh declared to Pharaoh, “Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’ If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son “(Exodus 4:22-23). Now Yahweh underlines this conflict between two authorities again when He says, “I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD (Exodus 12:12). On Passover night, we will see who really has power to impose his word.
Second, notice that the Passover reveals in much greater detail one of the main themes of the whole Bible, a theme that we first saw in Genesis 3 through Adam and Eve and later with Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22: the sacrifice of a substitute to preserve one’s own life. Notice that the description of the Passover sacrifice in Exodus 12 focuses on the importance of blood as evidence for the sacrifice: “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:13). Blood has an essential part in the celebration of the first Passover and in almost all the sacrifices that are yet to take place. As the New Testament tells us, “Under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). There is no redemption from slavery, no forgiveness of sins, no purification, no propitiation of Yahweh’s just wrath against sin, no freedom nor life in communion with God, if there is no blood.
Third, notice how much space is dedicated to the instructions for Passover and its annual celebration in comparison with the narrative of the event itself. The death of the Egyptian firstborn is summarized in a single verse (Exodus 12:29); its discovery by the Egyptians in one other (Exodus 12:30). The Israelites are expelled from Egypt in three verses (Exodus 12:31-33), and within five more verses, everyone has left the country. That tells us how quickly everything happened, in only one night.
But there are also long passages explaining the preparation of the lamb and the blood, who can participate in the meal and who may not, the consecration of future firstborn sons and instruction on the significance of the Passover for coming generations. All of this explanation reveals to us another main theme of the Bible: the instruction of future generations so that they may walk according to Yahweh’s righteousness just like their forefathers had. The Bible tells us impressive stories, but its intention is never just to inform or entertain us but to teach us to keep Yahweh’s commandments and to train us in how to walk in a living and grateful relationship with Him. In a few days, we will enter a section of the Bible where the teaching purpose stands out more than in any other we have seen to this point in our reading.