For a large part of the material in this study, I would like to acknowledge the following source:
The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread by Richard Booker, 1981 – Destiny Image Publishers
Exodus 12:1-14 NKJV 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 a 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. (8) Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. (9) Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire–its head with its legs and its entrails. (10) You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. (11) And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. (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. (14) ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.
God instructs every man to select for his household a lamb without spot or blemish on the 10th day of the first month of the year. He is to observe the lamb for five days to make sure there is nothing wrong with him.
On the 14th day of the month, he is to bring the lamb to the doorstep and kill it. As he kills the animal, he catches the blood in a basin at the foot of the doorstep.
He then takes a hyssop bush, dips it into the blood, and sprinkles the blood on both sides of the doorpost and then above the doorpost. There will be blood at the foot of the door, both sides of the door, and at the top of the door. The entire entrance to the house will be covered by blood.
This is to be done on the evening of the 14th. The Hebrew day begins at 6:00 in the evening. So, they had to kill the lambs around 3:00 in the afternoon of the 14th day in order to eat the meal by 6:00. When 3:00 arrives, Hebrew knives flash against the Egyptian sun, as the lambs are killed, and the blood applied. The family then enters the house through the blood-stained door. Safe inside, they roast the lamb and eat it as they wait for the final plague of death to move through the land.
Remember, there are literally tens of thousands of people killing lambs and sprinkling the blood, ALL AT THE SAME TIME!
Can you imagine what it would be like and smell like if all of the residents of a city with a population of approximately 2 million people decided to go out in the back yard and grill steaks. You could smell the steaks and see the smoke for miles.
As the scent of the smoke ascended, it reached the very nostrils of God. It was the evidence to God that the blood, representing the covenant relationship with Abraham’s descendants, had been applied.
Then the covenant meal was consumed to celebrate the communion of that covenant.
Exodus 12:46 NKJV (46) In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.
In preparing the meal, not one bone of the lamb was to be broken and the whole lamb was to be consumed. Nothing could be left over until the next day. Anything that the family could not eat was to be burned immediately.
Along with the lamb, the family also ate bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The bitter herbs were to remind them of their bitter times in bondage under Pharaoh. The unleavened bread would remind them they were eating on the run and did not have time to properly prepare the bread with all the ingredients.
They ate the meal fully clothed with staff in hand ready to depart.
While the family was in the house, they could not see the blood covering, but they had the faith that God would save them because of it.
As they ate their meal, the angel of death swept through the land. As he passed from house to house and door to door, he sought to enter the house. If the entrance was covered by the blood, the death angel could not get in but had to pass over that house. The blood was a seal protecting the people inside. If the entrance was not covered by blood, judgment would come upon that house and the first-born died.
As the Hebrew nation walked out of Egypt, each family had in them a whole lamb. Every individual family member had feasted on the same lamb, and he was in each of them.
When the Hebrews offered up the blood of the lamb to God, they believed they were symbolically offering their own life to God. They knew the life of the flesh was in the blood. In this time of deliverance, the blood-sprinkled doorpost became their altar, and the lamb took their place.
The Covenant Meal
God established the Passover Meal as an ordinance to be kept year after year, from generation to generation. It would be an everlasting memorial to their deliverance from bondage in Egypt.
The House Cleaning
Before the Passover could begin, all the leaven was to be removed from the Hebrew’s house. The leaven represented their old life in Egypt. Their house had to be purged of the leaven because there could be no leaven present as they communed with God.
The Head of the House would take a lit candle and diligently search through every nook and cranny of the house looking for the leaven. If they found any it must be removed from the house immediately.
The modern Hebrew practices this same tradition as someone spreads crumbs of unleavened bread around the house. The Head of the Household then takes a candle and searches the house for the leaven. When he finds it, he is careful not to touch it. He has a feather and brushes it into a wooden spoon. Once all the leaven is found, he puts the spoon, feather and candle in a cloth bound by string and burns it. Now the household is purged from all the leaven.
Partaking of the meal
The family reclines at the table seated in order around the head of the house. The Head is responsible for explaining the meaning of Passover to the children. When they ask, he replies,
Exodus 12:27 NKJV (27) that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’ ” So the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
Cup #1 – The Cup of Sanctification – the head of the household would hold up this cup and bless it. (I Will Bring Out)
Bitter Herbs Dipped in Salt Water – reminded them of their bitter suffering and tears in Egypt.
Cup #2 – The cup of plagues – then the telling of the story of the plagues and judgments on Egypt (I Will Deliver)
Instead of putting unleavened bread on the plate, they began to put it in a small bag embroidered with gold thread. Three pieces of unleavened bread were placed in three compartments in the bag, one in each compartment.
During the meal, the host would take out the middle piece of bread, break it and pass it around the table. Each member would then break off a piece and eat it. They believed that this center piece symbolized Isaac who was sacrificed although they never fully understood it because he was never sacrificed.
Cup #3 – The cup of Redemption (I Will Redeem)
Cup #4 – The cup of Praise (I Will Take)
When God made His covenant with Abraham, He made three promises:
- Many Descendants,
- Descendants would possess the land,
- There was a seed of Abraham that was coming Who would be a blessing to whole world.
Cup #5 – The Cup of Blessing
The “coming one” would not only be their king, but somehow in a way that they did not fully understand, he would be “God living among them.” He would be their God and they would be His people.
After they possessed the land, they began to look for the fulfillment of that last promise.
They anticipated His coming.
They placed a cup at the end of the table called the “cup of blessing.” According to tradition, when he would come, he would drink of “the cup” and cut a new covenant with is people. So, they left a place looking forward to this time.
The family would then recite the following prayer: “How long, O Lord, how long wilt your anger not be turned away from your people Israel and will you have mercy and restore us again to your favor? Behold our sufferings: we are scattered among the heathen and they mock us saying: ‘Where is your God, and where is the promise of his coming?’ We grow faint, yet we hope…”
One of the children was taught to ask the following questions of the Seder or head of the household:
- Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either leavened bread or matza, but on this night we eat only matza?
- Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?
- Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip [our food] even once, but on this night we dip them twice?
- Why is it that on all other nights we dine either sitting upright or reclining, but on this night we all recline?
The question about reclining substitutes for a question about eating roasted meat, that was present in the mishnah but removed by later authorities due to its inapplicability after the destruction of the temple:
- Why is it that on all other nights we eat meat either roasted, marinated, or cooked, but on this night it is entirely roasted?
Roasted sacrifices were no longer possible after the destruction, and roasted meat was therefore disallowed on seder night, to avoid ambiguity.
The questions are answered with the following:
- We eat only matzah because our ancestors could not wait for their breads to rise when they were fleeing slavery in Egypt, and so they were flat when they came out of the oven.
- We eat only Maror, a bitter herb, to remind us of the bitterness of slavery that our ancestors endured while in Egypt.
- The first dip, green vegetables in salt water, symbolizes the replacing of our tears with gratitude, and the second dip, Maror in Charoses, symbolizes the sweetening of our burden of bitterness and suffering.
- We recline at the Seder table because in ancient times, a person who reclined at a meal was a free person, while slaves and servants stood.
- We eat only roasted meat because that is how the Pesach/Passover lamb is prepared during sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem.
Later when the temple was built, instead of killing the lambs at the doorpost, they would bring them to Jerusalem and kill them at the temple. It became a time of great joy and celebration.
The Levites would lead the people in singing as they sacrificed at the Temple.
When the Hebrew came to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, he could buy a lamb already set aside for sacrifice. It was a lamb that had been closely inspected and without spot or blemish. It was a lamb that they found no fault in because it was born to die as a Passover Lamb.
In Jesus’ Day – Arriving for Passover the Killing of the Lambs
You arrive at Jerusalem, and you see the temple off in the distance.
There is a lot of activity as people are preparing for Passover.
Josephus the Jewish historian recorded that there would be about 265,000 Passover lambs that would be sacrificed.
Imagine at 3:00 on the 14th day, all of those lambs being killed for the next couple of hours.
The Levites would line up in rows with a basin in his hand to catch the blood, just like the threshold in the original Passover.
You would then prepare the Passover meal as instructed and receive it.
The New Covenant
John 1:26-29 NKJV John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. (27) It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” (28) These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (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!
On the 10th day of the Passover month, Jesus makes His entrance into Jerusalem.
John 12:12-16 NKJV The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, (13) took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ The King of Israel!” (14) Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: (15) “FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SITTING ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” (16) His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.
For five days, the religious leaders observe Him and find nothing wrong with Him. He is spotless and without blemish. They find no fault because He was born to die as the Passover Lamb.
On the evening of the 14th, a room is prepared and Jesus and His disciples receive the Passover meal together.
Jesus picks up the bag with the bread in it and pulls out the middle piece and breaks it and gives it to His disciples.
Luke 22:13-20 NKJV So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover. (14) When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. (15) Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; (16) for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (17) Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; (18) for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (19) And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (20) Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
The bread does not represent Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as originally thought, but rather for God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Jesus reaches in and takes out the bread in the center compartment of the bag and breaks it and gives it to the disciples.
Jesus then reaches over and takes “the cup” (The cup of blessing) and drinks of it and serves the disciples from it.
Luke 22:20 NKJV Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
At 9:00 that morning, as the lambs were being prepared for the sacrifice, Jesus was nailed to a cross. The third hour was 9:00 in the morning.
At 3:00 as the people sang praises to God, the lambs are slaughtered. As the shouts of hallelujah and praise the lord ring out, on Calvary Jesus died. Just like the doorpost back in Egypt, the blood of the lamb covered the cross.
Not one bone of His body was broken just as the instructions were in the Passover.
The entire lamb was consumed in the fires of judgment of God as He was our sin substitute.
The Jews, not knowing that they were fulfilling another prophecy, hurriedly took down His body before 6:00, so that there would be nothing left the next day.
The hyssop bush carries water though its stem. When the blood was applied, water and blood would flow together so the entrance of the house was actually sealed with blood and water.
The High Priest would have to pass by the blood of the altar and the water of the laver.
When the Temple was built, blood drained in basins underneath the altar. Water flowed through these basins carrying the blood outside the Temple so that the people could see that their sacrifice had been accepted.
When they pierced Jesus’ side, water and blood flowed out.
Remember, just as in days of old, Passover was a time of celebration.
Our Communion remembrance should be a time of celebration and examination – not like a funeral!
Just as the lamb had to be consumed and the remains burned, Jesus’ body could not remain on the Cross as the Sabbath approached. They must take His body down. That is why there was such a hurry to find a tomb and place His body there.
When Did the Sacrifices at the Temple Cease?
FYI – The Jews led a revolt and occupied Jerusalem in 66 CE initiating the first Roman-Jewish war. In 70 CE the Romans reclaimed Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple with only a portion of the western wall remaining (though recent archeological discoveries date portions of the wall to later periods).