by Glenn Harris | January 01 1970
The parasha for this Shabbat is entitled Bo, meaning “Go!” and takes us from Exodus chapters 10 through most of 13. Despite God’s repeated warnings to Pharaoh, all of which went unheeded, and despite dire plagues poured out on Egypt, Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his heart and reneged on his word. By now the entire nation knew the reason for the plagues, and you know Pharaoh’s approval rating had to be pretty low when during the horrible plague of locusts his own servants admonish him, saying,
“How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?”
Pharaoh admits his sin to Moses and pleads with him to ask God to remove the locusts. But there’s a pattern of behavior here – no sooner are the locusts are removed, than Pharaoh changed his mind and refused to let Israel go. Here in chapter 10 we read that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. One might be tempted, then, to place the blame with God. But realize that this was now the eighth plague, meaning Pharaoh had already hardened his heart and broken his promise seven times. It is a frightening thought, but if you stubbornly persist in your sin, God may very well leave you to it. There is a Talmudic saying that God does not design evil toward anyone, but when He turns His gaze away from a man, that man thereby goes to ruin. We must learn to humble ourselves before the living God. If we do so, we will be blessed.
Meanwhile, Pharaoh’s pride brought the ninth plague upon the land: darkness; not merely the absence of light, but a darkness so thick it could be felt! Each of the plagues poured out on Egypt demonstrated the superiority of the Lord God over the false gods of Egypt. Chief among those gods was Amen Ra – the sun god. Ra was no match for Adonai, and the people of Egypt had no light whatsoever; though the Jewish people living in Goshen had light. Imagine you’re an Egyptian, and you’re in complete darkness – you cannot even see your own hand in front of you, and the only light in all of Egypt is in the city where the people of Israel live. Some Egyptians were beginning to get the picture. Pharaoh, however, was not one of them. He was engaged in a losing battle of wills with the Lord God of Israel, and all of Egypt was paying the price; and they would soon pay the ultimate price.
In chapter twelve God instructed our people, each family, to select a lamb; it had to be a male lamb one year old (just in the prime of its life), and it had to be completely free of any blemishes or imperfections. We were to bring it into our homes on the 10th day of the month of Nisan. For four days that lamb would live in our midst – ample time to detect a flaw if there were any. God commanded us to sacrifice that lamb at twilight on the 14th of Nisan, and apply its blood to our doorposts, both to the top post and to the sideposts. We were commanded to roast that lamb, and to eat it in a state of readiness to depart hastily from Egypt, literally with our sandals on our feet and our staffs in our hands. None of the lamb was to be left over until morning. We were commanded to eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs with it. And we were to take care that not a single bone of the lamb be broken. This was the Lord’s Passover, and it would be a perpetual observance in Israel – wherever we live, in every generation, we were to commemorate Passover, the night when through the blood of a perfect lamb, God set our people free from bondage.
That same night God went throughout Egypt, and any home that did not have the blood of a perfect lamb covering its doorway suffered the death of the firstborn of that family. Can you imagine the sound of wailing coming from the homes of hundreds of thousands of people all at the same time? The outcry of Egypt, we are told, would be unprecedented in all of history. Nothing like it had ever happened before, nor would it happen again. And mighty Pharaoh was not exempt from this plague. The false gods of Egypt had been humbled. Pharaoh may have imagined himself a god, and now he too was humbled. His firstborn was dead as well. Finally Pharaoh tells Moses and Aaron and all of Israel to depart from Egypt.
At God’s instruction, our people had requested articles of gold and silver and changes of clothing from our Egyptian neighbors, who were only too glad to part with them if it would mean the end of the plagues and the departure of the Jewish people. Scripture says we thus plundered the Egyptians. I don’t know how much gold and silver it takes to pay the back wages for 400 years, but Israel would not leave Egypt empty-handed. On the basis of the redemption of Israel’s firstborn, our people were commanded from that day forward to redeem every first-born son with a lamb.
Passover is a graphic picture of what would be required to redeem mankind. About 1,400 years later, at Passover, the blood of a perfect, flawless Lamb was shed, though not a bone of His was broken. And by that one sacrifice – the death of Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, we have been redeemed. We too have been set free from slavery – slavery to sin. Death has once again passed over us, those of us who have by faith applied that blood to the doorposts of our hearts.
Have you come under Messiah’s covering, or are you still in bondage in your own Egypt?
Note: Each Torah portion is named from the first word or first few words of the portion of scripture. This portion is called Bo.