Sun | Nov 18, 2018

What is the Passover? Part I - The Bible story

Published:Saturday | May 26, 2018 | 12:36 AMPaul Willaims

Every April Jews all over the world observe and celebrate Passover, one of the most important religious festivals on the Jewish calendar. This celebration, the research has shown, has been going on since about 1300 BC, and it includes the Feast of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) to commemorate the release of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.

The story, as told in the biblical book of Exodus, is that Pharaoh enslaved the children of Israel for over 210 years. When Pharaoh refused to free the Israelites, God promised to unleash 10 plagues upon Egypt, Pharaoh's kingdom.

All the waters in Egypt turned to blood. The fishes in the River Nile died and a great stench came from the river. Then there were frogs all over the place, scaring and alarming the people, who, along with the animals, were subsequently infested with lice, which evolved from the dust. There were more critters, when swarms of flies invaded Egypt, and buzzed into Pharaoh's palace and the house of his officials.

The Egyptians almost were driven to starvation when all their livestock died, after which boils erupted all over their bodies. From the sky hail pelted Egypt, killing people, animals and plants. After that devastating hailstorm, a swarm of locusts devoured whatever plants survived. The ninth plague was in the form of darkness. For three days the sun did not shine. It is to be noted that the Israelites were not affected by the plagues.


The 10th plague, the plague of the first-born, was to be the catalyst for the release of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

It was told that an avenging angel would go from door to door killing every first-born son of the Egyptians. Those of the Israelites would be spared. But, for the angel to know which first-born to spare, the houses of the Israelites would have to be identified, and so the Israelites were given specific instructions.

Each Israelite home was to get a perfect male lamb, nurture it, and slaughter it at twilight four days later. The blood of the lamb should be daubed on the door frames. The avenging angel would recognise the homes to be those of the Israelites, pass over them, spare any first-born son within them, thus the term, Passover. The meat of the lamb was to be roasted, and eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. All of the meat was to be eaten, and the bones burnt to dust.

When the avenging angel arrived, at midnight, every Egyptian first-born son, from that of Pharaoh, to the firstborn males of the livestock, was killed by the angel. Egypt was thrown in state of terror and angst. The people begged Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.

Pharaoh summoned Moses and demanded that he remove the Israelites immediately from Egypt. The Israelites took their unleavened bread with them and fled. They were to survive on their bread in what is referred to as their Exodus.