THE ruler of Egypt would have been much more troubled if he could have known about the woes to come shortly. God instructed His people through Moses to ask their Egyptian neighbors to pay for the many services the friendly Israelites had provided them over the years. Most Egyptians were generous in this matter. They freely gave of their jewels, gold and silver. Their liberality reflected the esteem with which they regarded Moses, who was remembered for his former days as a high-ranking Egyptian officer and later respected for his sensible dealings in behalf of his people.
Israel Observes the Passover
Gathering some wealth was only a small part of preparations to leave. Pharaoh yet had to be in favor of it. Moses relayed God's remarks about what to do. On the tenth day of that first month, named Abib (Ex. 12:3), every family was to pick a healthy lamb to be roasted so that it could be eaten on the fourteenth day. When it was killed, its blood was to be smeared on the doors of the Israelites' residences to protect the firstborn males from the death angel God would send to take the lives of all Egyptian firstborn males. This was to be the tenth plague. "Henceforth the fourteenth day of this month will be known as the Passover," God told Moses. "It will show My mercy toward the people I have chosen to carry out a plan I have for people on Earth. It will prove to the Egyptians that I am the all-powerful God." God explained further that Passover would become a memorial to be observed forever. On the fifteenth day they were to observe an annual Sabbath. Also, no leavening was to be in their homes for a week. "The last day of that week shall be another holy day for you," God continued. "On that twenty-first day you shall do no work. except prepare food." (Verses 15-20.) God went on to explain that leavening symbolized sin, and abstaining from it was like being free of idol-worshiping Egypt. (Ex. 13:3-10.) He made it plain that anyone, Israelite or not, who used leavening during the time of unleavened bread, would not be allowed to go with the chosen people to freedom in a land prepared for them. On learning these things, the Israelites prepared for the holy days to come. Thousands of families prepared the lambs. If they didn't have lambs, they were allowed to use young goats. Their homes were marked with blood for the Passover. As the fourteenth day of the month began, they were dressed for sudden travel, as instructed, and then hastily ate their dinners of meat and vegetables.
What the Passover Represents
God's Son, often spoken of as the Lamb of God, was also slain as a sacrifice on the Passover many hundreds of years later. And as God had made the weekly Sabbath a holy day, He did the same now for the annual Sabbaths. These holy times were and are signs between God and the people chosen to carry out His plans. For centuries there have been disobedient kings, priests, ministers, politicians, dictators and other leaders who have sought to change or blot out the days made special by their Creator. Many have succeeded in misleading people by convincing them that it isn't necessary to obey God in these matters.
Most people today don't know what the Passover is. Some think it is some kind of Jewish custom that developed into an Easter service. What these people don't know is that the Jews, as a separate nation, didn't come on the scene in the Bible until long after the Passover started. The first scriptural reference to the Jews speaks of them being at war with their brother nation Israel. (II Kings 16:6.) The word Easter was never written in the original text of the Bible, but is incorrectly found in some old English translations. Translators felt or were told long ago that Passover should be connected with pagan worship of the ancient Germanic goddess of spring, Oester.
Obedient Christians follow Christ's example by observing the date of the first Passover on that same date Christ was killed. They eat broken, unleavened bread, which stands for the sinless body of Christ, broken by whipping. Wine is used as a symbol of His blood, spilled so our sins would be blotted out. God gives understanding to those who seek to please Him. Gradually He opens their minds to grasp special knowledge and wisdom. They learn how important and rewarding it is to observe God's sacred times and customs. His plan for a wonderful future will then be more plainly revealed to them. One would think that that plan would be taught in most churches that claim they are Christian, but it isn't. The fact that it isn't fits into God's way of working. Of the more than four billion people in this world, only a few score thousand know how God is using them to help prepare much of humanity for glorious things to come.
God Again Punishes Egypt
During the night of the Passover, the Israelites stayed in their homes behind blood-marked doors. (Ex. 12:23.) The night passed with nothing unusual happening to them. But there was great misery among the Egyptians. All their first-born dropped dead. (Verse 29.) There was soon loud mourning in the land. This awakened other people, who got out of their beds to find their firstborn males dead. The custom was to wail when there was a death. The wailing spread everywhere, making Egypt the most mournful nation in the world. As for Pharaoh, he was stunned when he found his oldest son lifeless in bed. If he could have considered Moses and Aaron responsible, he would have demanded their lives, but he fearfully realized this was God's doing. At last he was ready to act sincerely.
Israel Ordered Out of Egypt
"Send my swiftest messenger to Moses and Aaron with my command for all Israelites to leave Egypt at once with their animals!" Pharaoh barked at an aide, who wheeled and hurried out. "Wait!" Pharaoh called after the man. "Tell the messenger to tell Moses and Aaron to pray to their God to have mercy on me!" (Verses 31-32.) A mounted messenger rode swiftly up to Moses' home, who was waiting to see what would develop. Moses' face brightened as the messenger spoke to him. "This is it!" Moses called to a gathering of elders. "Get word to our people to assemble as we have planned! We should be on our way out of Egypt as soon as possible!" The departure wasn't made with hasty disorder. Moses, Aaron and many leading Israelites, at God's direction, had worked out details of the start of the Exodus. Because of being dressed for travel, they were almost ready to leave. This tenth and last plague was too much for the Egyptians, many of whom had previously asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Even the firstborn of their animals fell dead. This further troubled an animal worshiping nation. Many Egyptians urged the Israelites to leave hurriedly before another woe developed. This the Israelites were already starting to do. They loaded their animals with what they could hold, and the people carried what they could. This included the treasures the Egyptians
had furnished as well as unleavened bread dough. They moved promptly toward the Goshen city of Ramses. By nightfall of the fifteenth of Abib they arrived at points east of the city. That night they held a joyous festival, as God told them they should. It was a tremendous encampment. There were about six hundred thousand men plus their families and the people of other nationalities who wished to join them. All these added up to at least two and a half million persons. It had been a great day for the weary Israelites. They were at last on their way to being free. It was four hundred and thirty years since God had made His covenant with Abraham, their ancestor, that his descendants would inherit a land of their own. They had much to thank God for on that eventful night of the fifteenth day of Abib, the first annual Sabbath that was long to be remembered. God told them that they should tell their descendants about it down through their generations, so that the Israelites wouldn't forget how He had miraculously freed them. (Ex. 13:3-10.) Centuries later, the people of God's Church around the world still observe that evening. The Israelites divided themselves into their twelve tribes, formed rough ranks, and started on their way. With them were taken the bones of Jacob and his twelve sons, according to Jacob's wish many years previously.
Toward the Red Sea
Instead of taking the most direct route northeastward to Canaan, the travelers went on eastward. God directed them toward a longer route because He didn't want His people troubled by unfriendly Philistines who lived close to the shorter route. (Verse 17.) That morning a miraculous thing occurred. A small, vertical cloud moved from the eastern sky to grow larger and descend toward the Israelites. It could plainly be seen by all at both ends of their ranks, which were several miles apart from front to rear. The people were awed to learn that this cloud was to be their guide! When it moved, they were to move. When it halted, they were to do the same. (Verses 21-22.) Never before or since has there been the sight of over two million people led by a cloud that seemed to stand on one end. It didn't move faster than the small children, flocks, herds and loaded animals could travel. By the end of the day the vast column had moved past the area of green vegetation and into a more arid region. There, near sundown, the cloud ceased moving. This was the signal to halt and encamp. Thus ended the first day of a journey that was going to last much longer and be more eventful than the people imagined.