Passover: Part 1 – Torah for Today

Original Broadcast Date: April 4, 2015

Click the arrow to listen to the broadcast.

Torah for Today Transcript for Passover: Part 1

Beerman:

I am excited by this particular section contained in Exodus 12 and 13 that we are going to look at. What do we call this section here, this Parashat?

Bolotnikov:

This is a part of the Parashat and we are doing it because we have “Pesach.”

Beerman:

Which is?

Bolotnikov:

“The Passover” and that is why I want to wish everybody, “Hag Same’ach.”

Beerman:

Which means?

Bolotnikov:

The word ‘Hag’ is not the English word hog; it means holiday, and Same’ach means happy. So that is how we wish everybody on good holidays. Happy holidays. Hag Same’ach. It is easy to remember because of the ‘hog.’

Beerman:

Then it has nothing to do with pigs at all. Let’s start taking the look at this, starting in Exodus chapter 12. Most Bible believers are sort of familiar with the term Passover, and of course associate it with the passion weekend, but its origins go way back to the time of the Exodus.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, it is important to see the origins of everything and where it comes from. Yes it starts here in Exodus 12.

Beerman:

Yes, it talks in verse 2 of chapter 12 that the month this was celebrated in, this festival, this celebration, is the beginning of months, initially starting on the 10th of the month and celebrated on 14th of the month. What month is this, and was this kind of like a religious new year that was instituted here, or what really this is?

Bolotnikov:

Actually, we have to understand that the calendar we are using today is based on the Roman system, which is a solar calendar. By the way, that doesn’t work very well on agriculture in any country. I remember my mother-in-law, who lives in the Ukraine and owns a patch of land on which she does her gardening and stuff. Many Ukrainians do this. Those who live in cities own a patch of land in the countryside. They go there, and they work there and grow vegetables. They have their paper which they call (it’s actually a Brazilian name) “fazenda” which means plantation if you translate it into English. It always has a calendar for sowing and that calendar is based on lunar months. This is the lunar system, and in the lunar system the month is exactly the period when the moon turns around the earth, and that is how we have these lunar months in Bible with the specific Middle Eastern name. The first one is ‘Nissan.’ It has nothing to do with the car. It also has other names ‘Aviv’ which just generally spring but it response on March/April. You have to look at the Jewish calendar to see exactly, but at this point, it is April the 4th.

Beerman:

Does this have religious significance in terms of the spiritual sort of kick off for the year or is actually purely more civil and agricultural lunar whatever.

Bolotnikov:

Actually, it is kind of interconnected. It’s actually has agricultural significance and spiritual significance, and when we study the chapter on the festivals which we find in Leviticus 23 down the road during our Torah study, we will see how the God uses the agricultural cycle to tie it in with the spiritual significance.

Beerman:

Okay, we will going to explorer that in little bit more detail shortly or maybe in next segment. We notice right after off the bat in the first few verses here, there is a focus on the lamb, the lamb’s involvement with this spiritually event. The 10th of the month, this is verse 3. “Every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father a lamb (here it is repeated again) for a household and if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lambs. Your lamb shall be without blemish.” So there is a really strong emphasis here on the lamb, isn’t there?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, that is very important here. It goes up on until verse 11, discussing how they are supposed to eat the lamb, and then it says, “It (it meaning the lamb) is the Lord’s Passover.” So the Passover is the lamb.

Beerman:

It is the lamb. It isn’t so much what it does; it is the lamb.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, in this context, it is very clear that the Passover is the lamb. It’s not a festival. It’s not a ritual. It’s the lamb, and it explains why, because the next thing it says is, “I will pass through the land of Egypt, and whoever doesn’t have the blood of that lamb, their first born will be killed.” So that Passover is your ticket to safety. That lamb is your ticket to safety, and this is the significance of it. For Christians, and I keep saying it over and over, Jesus and Calvary and his sacrifice is taken for granted. For Jews, it is not obvious. A Christian just reads it, it is Jesus. And the Jew is reading it. Where do you see Jesus?

Beerman:

Where is that? We see lamb, but we don’t see that.

Bolotnikov:

What we see here very clearly is the fact that if the lamb is killed and his blood is applied to the door post, the first born will survive. The lamb is what makes God bypass or pass over that house so this first born child is going to be alive.

Beerman:

What is the significance? We know this is important in the Old Testament. We pick it up all the time and of course it is repeated in the New Testament, but what is the significance of the first born? Why the firstborn? Why can’t it just be any child or any person within the household?

Bolotnikov:

God hits where it hurts, because you have to remember in the Middle East the clan is your society. This is not an individualistic society where you put your farm in the middle of North Dakota and your neighbors 20 miles away from you.

You walk into any of today’s Arab’s countries. Especially, Arab countries like Jordan. They are patriarchal societies. There you walk in. you will see certain grouping of the houses. You talk to people in one house, and you realize that one lives to next door is his brother and then his cousin. The clan lives together. The first born is like the beginning of your family. If you don’t have continuation of your family, if your clan is not continuing to multiply, that’s bad.

Beerman:

That’s very bad.

Bolotnikov:

That is why for Abraham it was so important. He left his family, and here he is childless. So he sees his life as absolutely meaningless because he is rich, but he doesn’t know what it’s for. This is why God hit the firstborn. He hit where it’s going to hurt badly.

Beerman:

So there was going to be pronounced. They would notice if the firstborn was lost. So in this case, the Egyptians, and I suppose it could happen to Israelites as well if they didn’t comply with the conditions here of having the lamb, would lose their first born. Is there any significance in Exodus 12:6 to the death at twilight? They are going to kill the lamb at twilight, right at the eve there.

Bolotnikov:

The couple of things we need to notice here. The day begins with the evening in the Bible.

Beerman:

Just like in the creation stories. It is evening then its morning.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, day begins with sundown. So they kill the lamb at twilight, and they have this night where they eat the lamb, so that in the morning they would leave.

Earlier, you read the statement there saying that if a family is too small to share the lamb, they have to join together. So this is a collective event. the Passover is not an individualistic thing. For Passover you had to get together as a community. You eat this lamb all together, because the next thing you are going to do is start walking. It’s a 500 mile journey—less on a straight run (it is about 200 or something)—but they ended up going the Southern route across the Red Sea, so it was a good 500–600 miles which they needed to cover.

Beerman:

Yes, a significant distance they had to go.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, and they depend on each other. They are all close together.

So this lamb is not just a ticket to save your first born, which is a beautiful explanation of a substitutionary death. They don’t see Jesus; they don’t see cross; they don’t see Calvary. It’s not there, but the fact of the substitutionary death is just staring at you in this chapter.

Beerman:

It is a beautiful picture. It really is, and it shows God’s saving purpose for his people if they have the lamb. In the New Testament, we connect this with Christ. Where would we go to really put that together?

Bolotnikov:

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul is very specific, and he is rightly so, he says, “Our Passover is Christ who died for us, who is crucified for us.”

Beerman:

Really puts his finger on the lamb again.

Bolotnikov:

This is not about the festival, even though the festival is around this. What our listeners need to understand about the event described in Exodus 12 is that it is a unique one-time-in-history event. I know there are some well-meaning Christians who are trying to explore and identify with their roots and what they try to do, they try to duplicate the ritual described in Exodus 12, and it’s not going to work.

Beerman:

Not a perfect correlation there.

Bolotnikov:

No, because I mean are you going to kill the lamb in your own home? I mean, yes, if you are farmer and if you have experience as a butcher, and if you don’t mind your children watching the gruesomeness of killing the lamb, go ahead and do it, and then you have to take and smudge the blood at your door post. But believe me, that night the angel destroyer is not going to show up.

Beerman:

That’s right. So it was just the onetime event.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, it was a onetime event that is why I insist the term is Passover, the Lord’s Passover. That particular lamb is only a one time event. It died on the eve of the 14th of Nissan and was killed in their houses. What happens later in the book of Deuteronomy 16? God says, “You can’t do this anymore. Just bring it to the temple.” In fact Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy, both books in the Torah, establish what is called a commemorative celebration of that event. As a part of this commemorative celebration, they offer a Passover sacrifice at the temple, which is a little different because it is not in a house, no blood is applied, no angel destroyer comes. Sacrifices at the temple as the way of remembering things is very typical for Levitical law. They are different. What is described and prescribed in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy differs from Exodus 12 because it is a commemorative event.

When you look at Leviticus 23 you discover this lamb is actually offered at the end of the day on Nissan 14. It is interesting. When we take a look at the Gospel of Luke, we are able to actually trace all the steps of Jesus’ crucifixion narrative. He gives the hours. These are special hours—the Mishnah hours. The countdown starts at sundown and then at sunrise. So zero is the sunrise, and the death of Jesus at Calvary corresponds exactly with the timing of the lamb being sacrificed as the commemorative Passover offering at the temple.

Beerman:

A perfect symbol being fulfilled right there on Passover weekend according to the Lamb of God.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, Jesus died exactly at the time. At the time of his death, there was an earthquake. Some sources say that this sacrifice at the temple did never even took place because of the earthquake. So it’s really true that the type—the lamb—met its anti-type here in the year 31 AD.

Beerman:

Powerful stuff in the symbol of fulfillment. I want to move from this now, Sasha, to relating what happened then and what we see Christ did on that Passover weekend and that fulfillment to how we apply it today? How is it applied in the Christian community and for Bible believers? How do we understand this? Passover sometimes is associated with the resurrection. Is that a fair correlation or is there another correlating application for us today?

Bolotnikov:

It is very important, because in English there are two words for Passover—Passover and Easter. They stand separate. Passover is associated with the Old Testament and most often with Jewishness, and Easter is totally Christian and associated with Sunday.

But in many languages the word for Passover is “Paskha,” which is the Aramaic term. This term is associated with both the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus in the Christian community and with Passover in the Jewish community.

We are looking at the typology of the passage, and we see no hint to the resurrection of Jesus. The Passover is about the substitutionary death of Jesus. What happened was this. Back in the early 300s AD, the church fathers had their big council, and they made two fundamental decisions for the Christian church. The first fundamental decision was the introduction of the theology of the rising Son, and that is why they instituted a celebration of Sunday, the first day of the week in place of the Biblical Sabbath. The second decision they made was to move the Christian community away from retaining any connection in regard to their Jewish roots. They specifically said, “We need to do away with the Jewish Passover and institute a Christian celebration in its place.”

Beerman:

So that becomes associated with Sunday, with Easter and consequently with the resurrection, just to keep that separation between the two traditions.

Bolotnikov:

Yes exactly. That is why you have this new celebration introduced, new wordings and everything. Sunday is associated with sun and Easter—Ēostre in theGermanic tradition associated with the east. So the idea of Christ as our risen sun replaces the Jewish Torah, and I see no Biblical mandate for the church fathers to have done it.

Beerman:

It just comes out of a historical situation.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, it is the historical situation. It is antagonism and very unfortunate. It is the result of an antagonistic approach which both communities had. The Jewish community was antagonistic at the beginning and then the Christian community became very antagonistic afterwards. That is not right.

Beerman:

These are helpful clarifications. One question. We are running out of time. Is there anything in the Old Testament symbol related to Passover the points towards the resurrection at all?

Bolotnikov:

If we look at the Old Testament, we see in Leviticus 23 a festival of the first sheaf. It’s a waving of the sheaf. When people come after the Sabbath. Early there was a big discussion between the Pharisees and Sadducees. “What is the Sabbath? Is it right after the Passover?”

Beerman:

The Passover Sabbath per ce versus the 7th day Sabbath.

Bolotnikov:

Yes. I personally believe Passover is not the same as the Sabbath, so it does refer to a 7th day Sabbath for a very simple reason. Are you going to do a harvest on Sabbath if Passover falls on Friday? Nevertheless that first day of week is usually when they bring the sheaves to indicate the harvest—the victory harvest—and that is when Jesus rose, exactly on that day, so that is the symbol of the resurrection back in the Old Testament Levitical law.

Beerman:

So Jesus is that wave sheaf essentially.

Bolotnikov:

Yes.

Beerman:

Thank you so much for sharing these interesting facts about Passover and also what we normally understand as Easter.