After the ninth plague of darkness, furious Pharaoh threatened Moses with death if he ever saw his face again. Before leaving, Moses warned of one, final plague in Exodus 11:4-8. At midnight, every firstborn son in Egypt would die. Cries of sorrow would echo through the land. Moses said Pharaoh’s officials would come, bow down, and beg for him to leave. Seeing defiance in the king’s face, the Bible says in Exodus 11:8, “Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.”
The final plague is troubling for the modern reader. Why would a loving God take the lives of the firstborn in Egypt? We must not forget the horrendous crimes committed by Pharaoh and the Egyptians against Israel. Back in Exodus 4:22, as Moses crossed the wilderness back to Egypt God said, “Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son…’” God in love chose Israel to be his firstborn. But Pharaoh, who’s heart was hard with pride, racism, and hatred, tried to kill God’s firstborn by throwing every Hebrew baby boy into the Nile like chum for the crocodiles. Then there was the brutality and abuse of 430 years of cruel slavery, and the refusal to hear God’s call to change.
The day of reckoning had come at last for the Egyptians, but also the Israelites. The tenth plague stands apart from the others because this time, Goshen would not be spared. Israel had forgotten the stories of faith passed down from their father, Abraham. Many turned from God and embraced the idols of Egypt. They no longer believed God’s promises.
But in his mercy, God made a way of escape if they would only believe. To set the stage, God said in Exodus 12:2, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” Everything in their calendar would orient itself around this historic moment. The current month of Aviv would now be the first month of their year.
God went on to give the exact instructions for the first Passover festival. Of primary importance was the selection of a lamb. On the 10th of Aviv each family in Israel chose a lamb. No sick, lame, old, blind lambs. Only spotless, white, yearlings, the best of the best for this occasion.
The second step was the application of the blood. On the fourteenth day of Aviv, each family slaughtered their lamb at twilight. Taking a hyssop brush, they applied the lamb’s blood on both sides of the door frame and also over the top. In Exodus 12:13, God said, “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
Finally, there was a meal. The lamb was roasted over a fire and consumed in the home along with a plate of bitter herbs and unleavened bread. No wasting the lamb. Smaller families shared with neighbors. They were not to lounge around and chill, but eat the meal with cloaks, sandals, and staffs in hand. A great opportunity was in the making, and they had to be alert, ready, and swift. After hearing God’s instructions on that all-important day, Exodus 12:28 says, “The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.”
While they ate, sheltered behind blood-stained doors, the plague of death came. Every home marked with blood was spared. As for the Egyptians, the Bible says in Exodus 12:30, “Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.”
Pharaoh, believed to be the son of Ra, the god of the sun, called for Moses and said in Exodus 12:31-32, “Up! Leave! Go, and also bless me.” (Exodus 12:31-32) Again, we see the darkness of his soul. At this hour of sorrow, all he cared about was a blessing for himself.
Finally, their liberation was accomplished. By God’s power alone, helpless slaves broke the iron chains of their cruel master. Moses and the Hebrews walked out and into a new beginning. The impossible became possible.
The first Passover on that 14th of Aviv was their July 4th, their most important day of the year. As they left, about 2 million strong, the Egyptians gave them their silver and gold to the point of plundering the land. When moving day came, God sent them out with everything they needed and more.