by Tony Badillo
Previously we saw that in the Sin Offering:
But at the first Passover things were very different:
Notice that 1) the Passover lamb’s blood is not related to expiation, 2) and its flesh does not symbolize sin, 3) nor does its fat and smoke signify the spirit. In fact, no fat or smoke are even mentioned. For this reason the Passover animal is nowhere called a Sin Offering (Leviticus 4:1- 35). However, the lamb’s blood still acts as separator between life and death, as in the Sin Offering; for by it the Israelite firstborn lives, and for lack of it the Egyptian firstborn dies. Moreover, it is not until after the blood is dashed against the doorposts that Israel is allowed to totally depart –separate from – Egypt.
Judaism has long asserted vis-a-vis its sister religion, Christianity, that the Passover lamb itself was not an expiatory offering for sin, for nothing is said of expiating sin, separating lamb’s flesh and fat, of burning fat to create a “pleasing aroma” or burning the flesh outside Israel’s camp. But they did drain its blood and pour it into basins, Exodus 12:22, for striking on the doorposts, implying their homes stood in place of an altar. Hence, Israel herself – not the lamb’s fat – symbolizes the spirit*, and her departure from Egypt is the smoke’s ascension to Paradise (Canaan). But both views may be somewhat recon-ciled if one regards expiation as separation (blood is the separator), while also agreeing that the whole Passover lamb does not qualify as a Sin Offering in accord with the later Sinai Levitical model.
with the arrival of a new Pharaoh, we are told how different these two
peoples are from each other. Beginning in Exodus 1:8, 9, sharp
distinctions are drawn: The Israelites were exceedingly fruitful, the
Egyptians are not, it is implied, v.v. 6-9, while v.v. 10, 11 promote an
‘us’ against ‘them’ viewpoint, with the Egyptians described as cruel
taskmasters and the Israelites as an oppressed slave nation. Then,
beginning in chapter five and forward, Moses appears and acts as a
liberator. And as the narrative continues the concepts of distinctions
and/or separation in various modes become more apparent: Moses calls down
plagues but they fall on Egypt, not Goshen, Israel’s camp. In 8:21-23 it
states specifically that a plague of flies invades Egyptian soil and
Egyptian households, v. 21; but the land of Goshen ‘where my people dwell’
is ‘set apart,’ v. 18 (EV. v. 22). And even more emphatically, v. 19 (EV.
v. 23) we are told that the Lord will make a ‘distinction’ between Israel
and the Egyptians, making the theme of distinctions or separation
compellingly clear. He even makes a difference between the Egyptian and
Israelite cattle when hail falls, 9:4; 26, and also when Egypt is
enveloped in darkness, 10:21-23. Finally, the most powerful blow is
struck: The death of the firstborn, so it may be known that ‘the Lord
makes a difference between the Egyptians and Israel,’ 11:7. This is
the final point of distinction and separation; all that remains is for
Israel to depart Egypt for Canaan (graphic, upper right ), which is
likened to an earthly Paradise, as we will see in the next article.
The Knife that Causes Separation
The knife against
Egypt is the ten plagues collectively – including, the death of the
firstborn – and they are called judgments in Numbers 33:4 and
Exodus 6:6, 7:4; 12:12. It is this knife that makes a “distinction” (separation)
between Israel and Egypt and relates, therefore, to the knives later used
in the Tabernacle and Temple to slay the animal offerings and separate
their flesh and fat. Hence, the Lord himself acts as High Priest Supreme
wielding the sacrificial knives (the plagues) to separate the two peoples
into flesh and spirit (compare to the ten fingers of
the hands and the Ten Commandments). Thus: the Egyptian magicians exclaim
of the plagues, “This is the finger of God!” in Exodus 8:15,
EV 8:19. And later at Mount Sinai the Ten Commandments are written by
“God’s own finger,” Ex. 31:18; Deut. 9:10. The hand (and
sometimes arm) symbolizes power and/or skill.
hands are depicted by the ten wheeled water lavers – one for each finger –
posted outside Solomon’s Temple (see
the Meaning of Solomon’s Mystical Sea of Bronze).
Should we be surprised? I think not, for this idea of distinctions was foreshadowed in the separation of Isaac, son of Sarah; and Ishmael, son of Hagar the Egyptian woman, Genesis 21:8 -12. In this instance, it is Hagar who is the servant or slave woman, linking her to Egypt, where Israel is later enslaved. Hence, it is Hagar and Ishmael who must be cast out – separated from – the house of Abraham and Sarah. Yet Ishmael was also the son of Abraham, patriarch of the Jews. These symbolize spirit-fat and sin-flesh. But someone must be cast out, for sin cannot abide with the spirit. In other words, Egypt mirrors Israel’s sinful self. But putting away one’s own sins is not easy, is it? – for we love our own, don’t we? Therefore, it grieved Abraham to dismiss Ishmael (v.v. 10, 11) and Hagar – who later obtains an Egyptian wife for her son, Genesis. 21:21. Egypt likely depicts all the Arab nations because the 12 princes allowed Ishmael, Genesis 17:20, seem to reflect the 12 tribes Israel ultimately became. Yet remarkably, in the Passover story their roles are reversed and it is Israel who is cast out of Egypt into the Sinai Wilderness (Exodus 19:1, 2), relating to Hagar and Ishmael being cast out earlier by Abraham into the Beer-sheba Wilderness, Genesis 21:14. This is possilby a foretelling of the Levitical offerings, of the separating of fat from flesh, of spirit from sin. Moreover, separation (of the Jews from the Gentile world) is a key theme in Judaism even today, possibly linked to ideas of Jewish chosenness which, when wrongly promoted, create hostilities. But the Torah seems to say, rather, that it is separation of the spirit from sin that truly matters.
How may we be more certain that Egypt symbolizes sin? Note that Exodus 8:18 (EV verse 22) says that Goshen is the place ‘set apart where My people dwell,’ plainly suggesting that Goshen is viewed – for purposes of Passover symbolism – as a temporary ‘camp of Israel,’ meaning that the remainder of Egypt is outside that camp. Later when the tabernacle is set up, the sacrificial flesh of the Sin Offering is removed and burned ‘outside the camp,’ while the fat was ‘turned into smoke’ atop the Altar that was, of course, within the camp. Hence, Egypt is the ‘flesh’ outside the camp and is – symbolically – sin consigned to destruction. Yet Egypt was likely not much worse than Israel. In Ezekiel 9:3, 10:1- 4; 10:18-19;11:12, 23 the ‘glory of the Lord” departs in several stages from the Temple after Jerusalem is judged morally and religiously corrupt; and this time it is the Jews, not the Egyptians, who depict sinful flesh.
Here, though, is how Egypt symbolizes sin in the Exodus story:
1) It is the
oppressor, Exodus 1:1-4.
Concerning item five, above, it is suggested verses 9:27, 34 be read in the Jerusalem (Jewish) Bible, The Stone Edition Tanach or Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah. Unfortunately, the Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh, in this case, is too mildly phrased.
Since the Pharaoh (symbol of all Egypt ) ) is described as adamantly resisting God’s will, that country’s symbolism as sin or sinful flesh is fitting. Contrarily, no such portrait of Israel emerges in the Passover narrative. This does not mean Israel was good (see Ezekiel 20:6-8, for instance) but, rather, that the story had to be told in a manner that would draw sharp distinctions between these two peoples.
We have seen that Israel is repeatedly distinguished from Egypt and later totally separates from it; and this must surely indicate that she symbolizes something different than Egypt. Further, in the Passover account nowhere is Israel accused of disobedience, only Egypt is.
But more to the point, see Genesis 45:18 where the first Pharaoh assigns the best and ‘fat’ territory of Egypt to Israel. And what was this fat territory? – Goshen! And fat is translated from Hebrew word cheleb, the same one applied numerous times to the fat of sacrificial animals that was ‘turned into smoke’ on the Altar, Leviticus 1:9, 13; 3:5; 4:10, and was a ‘sweet aroma’ to the Lord, 1:9, 2:2, 3:5, 4:16, 6:15, etc. This closely links the Goshen Israelites with the fat of the land, while the Egyptians outside of it are surely not. Does this not imply Israel depicts the spirit, therefore?
UNLEAVENED BREAD - Or again, they ate the Passover lamb with unleavened bread that “same night,” Exodus 12:8. And upon departure, they took unleavened dough with them, Exodus 12:15, 34, implying strongly that the leavening was left behind in Egypt, where else? Since in Judaism leavening portrays sin, the twelve tribes exited as leaven-free loaves, symbolizing a people separated from sin (Egypt) and who later appear as twelve unleavened “showbread” loaves (Leviticus 24:5) inside the Tabernacle, a symbolization that was continued in Solomon’s Temple.
While Israel symbolizes the human spirit, this spirit alone cannot very well subdue sin (because it has been undermined by sin’s inclinations), except when fused to the Divine spirit, depicted by the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds). Just as Noah’s flood waters judged against a wicked world, so too the Red Sea waters judged against the Egyptian army. When this happens within each of us, the Sinful Inclination begins dying – thus, the Egyptian army is shown drowning and dies. In this way, the power of Egypt (sin) is subdued. But observe that the army was not ordered to destroy Israel, but only to bring them back into bondage, i.e., back into the servitude of sin. The Egyptians said, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” (Exodus 14:5), and they mounted 600 chosen chariots for pursuit, v.v. 6, 7. We all know the rest of the story, and this event is a symbolical, biblical way of setting forth a goal, death to sin, life to the spirit.
Yet amazingly, after the Red Sea crossing, and during and after the Sinai law and along the way to Canaan, the Goshen Israelites under Moses disobey and anger the Lord God so often that he threatens to slay them all, but instead consigns them to roaming the Sinai desert 40 years until they die and none – except for a remnant – obtain the Promised Land for which they had originally departed Egypt! Why?
Because although they crossed the Sea with Moses, they did not actually receive the Divine spirit at that time, they only symbolized doing so. This should be self-evident from the sin of the Golden Calf and the other immoral acts that followed while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Law. They even gave credit to the calf for bringing them out of Egypt! (Exodus 32:1-6). Moses himself says the first generation was rebellious “from the day (they) departed Egypt,” Deuteronomy 9:7; as does God himself, II Kings 21:15; while Joshua 24:14 and Ezekiel 20:7, 8 record that Israel worshiped – perhaps secretly – the gods of Egypt while in that land. But in clear and very sharp contrast, the second generation of Israelites under Joshua receive the Divine spirit as they cross the River Jordan. Then they enter the Land and take it and are later noted for their life-long obedience, Joshua 24:31. What made the difference? – a spark of the Divine spirit from above, not human effort alone.
Summary – Passover is not simply an account of how slave Israel was freed from slavemaster Egypt. It is, rather, a portrait of how man’s spirit must first be separated from sin (flesh) by Divine action before entering Paradise. Finally, since all persons are flesh and spirit, the whole world is Egypt-Israel symbolically, no matter race or nationality. Separation from sin, therefore, is Passover’s universal message for all peoples and nations everywhere.