This is the second installment of “The Passover” series. It is recommended that you read the first article!
This post will detail the tenth and final plague of God against Egypt. It is usually seen as the grimmest and most mysterious of all ten plagues.
The Final Plague: The Death of all Firstborn
“4 Then Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; 5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals. 6 Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again. 7 But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the LORD does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” (Exodus 11:4-7 NKJV)
“12 Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for his household. 4 And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.” (Exodus 12-1-7 NKJV)
“12 ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. 13 Now 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 the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
Why the firstborn?
In ancient Israel, the firstborn son of a household was considered to be special. He would receive a double share of his father’s inheritance. The daughters of a man would not get an inheritance because they would usually marry and share what their husband received from his parents. (However, if a couple had only a daughter, she would receive the inheritance instead, as long as she remained unmarried)
Furthermore, Israel is called God’s firstborn among the nations.
“22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.” ‘ “ (Exodus 4:22-23)
The verse above is self explanatory of why God chose to kill the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. It is also worth noting that Pharaoh benefited from murdering the newborn children of the Israelites to keep their numbers low at the start of the Book of Exodus. It is no surprise that God would deliver the same blow back to Pharaoh.
Why lamb’s blood?
The lamb has been used throughout the Bible from cover to cover. Its significance begins in Genesis 22, when Abraham is told to sacrifice his son — Isaac, the son God had promised he would one day have, through his wife who was completely barren — on the altar, to God. There is so much that could be taught from this small piece of history alone. For our purposes though, we will look at what this means in terms of sin and humankind.
Isaac was laid on the altar. And in this instance, Isaac represents us, humans, who are cluttered and corrupted by sin. Abraham then represents God, who is heartbroken over having to destroy H/his son in the name of purity and righteousness. Abraham is ready to strike Isaac through the heart, spilling his blood to God, but just before he brings his blade down, God stops him and tells him that this was merely a test of his faith. Then, Abraham hears a rustling behind him and finds a ram. He unties Isaac and uses the ram in place of the boy as a sacrifice.
The ram, or lamb, is used as a substitution for the sinner. The sins of a man are transferred onto the animal and the animal is then killed. For centuries after Abraham and Isaac, the Jews would find their best, purest, fattest lamb and present it to a priest, who would kill it on their behalf in the presence of God, and their sins would be forgiven.
Now, let’s look at how this relates to Exodus and the final plague. But first we will have to look at it’s significance in the New Testament, before we can understand that.
Jesus is called the “Lamb of God” throughout the NT. Specifically in John 1:29, where it says:
“29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJV)
Jesus, then, is used as our substitute. Because without the shedding of His blood on the cross, we would be punished severely for our sins in hell. This is where we get the imagery of Jesus as the Lamb of God. Blood must be shed in order to repay sin, however God is merciful enough that He has fixed it so that it doesn’t have to be our own blood, but we can pass our spiritual debt onto something else. In this case, Jesus’ blood was spilled to save us from complete and total suffering and punishment.
If a person is covered in the blood of Christ, they are then identified as God’s people and saved from punishment. They are cut out, separated from the rest of the world and spared. The presence of the blood marks them as God’s.
In the same way, when the Israelites covered their doors with blood, it identified them as God’s. It showed that they were forgiven of their sins and let the wrath of God know to pass over them, not to kill them along with the rest of the worldly sinners. Not only to spare them, but to liberate them from Egyptian oppression — as this last plague finally persuaded Pharaoh to release the Israelites from captivity.
How does this affect me?
“6 just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ 7 Therefore, know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”
You may ask yourself, “well, I’m not an Israelite. And if the blood marked Israel as God’s people, how can it mark me?”
One of the biggest issues in the New Testament — specifically the Book of Acts — was the salvation of the Gentiles (any non-Jewish person). It was eventually decided by God that men of any nation, language, heritage, etc. could be saved through faith in Jesus. And in having faith, you are technically considered a descendant of Abraham. Abraham’s descendants are considered the firstborn of the earth, and thus will be saved. Furthermore, as John the Baptist is preaching to the Pharisees, he warns them of God’s wrath, and says:
“9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Matthew 3:9 NKJV)
In conclusion, the Ten Plagues of Egypt did three things: combat ungodliness, identify God’s people, and liberate them from bondage. From the story of the Passover we can learn thousands of lessons, many of which I could never get to in a single article. And it is from all of this that we get the thousand-year-old holiday, and from it we can better understand Christ and what His sacrifice means to us.