The Passover in Egypt will be the first time Israel as a nation “served” God. And, this last plague involved them, too. They were not going to be exempted this time. The Lord is going to require Israel to take a sheep or a goat and to bring it into their homes for four days. Sheep and goats were Egyptian deities. Then the Lord said they were to slaughter the lamb or goat and to put the blood on the lintels and doorposts of their houses. If they failed to do that, the first-born of that household would die.
Now, to the Egyptians, this was an act of defiance against polytheism and false gods. Fohrman says it was like saying, “Egypt stops at this door. Withing this house, monotheism reigns.” Israel was choosing Yehovah over Pharaoh by doing this. This was putting monotheism right out there in the midst of polytheism. Israel would leave Egypt that night and would begin a long journey. They were going to Sinai first to be given the Torah and the Mishkan. This would enable the kedusha on Mount Sinai to travel with them as they went into the land.
Being first-born is a life of service to the family. In Israel’s case, the family of all mankind. When this status becomes about them, like saying, “I am better than you because I have this special status and relationship and you don’t,” then the first-born has failed. Israel, at times, has done just that. They looked down on the non-Jews and said they could not be saved unless they became Jewish. They would not associate with the non-Jews, nor were allowed to enter the house of the non-Jews. Not all Jews believed this way, but the ruling class, especially the Pharisees of the House of Shammai, gained legislative power in the Sanhedrin and passed what is known as the 18 Edicts of Shammai in 20 BC. The House of Hillel, another group of Pharisees, opposed these edicts but to no avail. They became Jewish law for about 80 years.
When the first-born does not recognize the other children and proudly exalts their status, they are undermining the Father’s plan. Israel’s relationship to the Lord only makes sense when they realize that God is the God of all mankind and he is interested in a relationship with not only the sons of Israel, but the non-Jews as well. When Israel neglects that fact it goes against why they were the first-born to begin with. The killing of the first-born is not the end of the story. There will be one more event that will show the world that there is a creator God who has total control of all things. That is the event we call the the Crossing of the Red Sea.
If the center of the Exodus is the revelation of Yehovah to the world, then this event, though tragic, will shout that message out for all time. We still talk about it and whenever this story is told, it is always included. After the killing of the first-born plague, Pharaoh sends Israel out “as you have said” (Exo 12.31), which means for three days. However, in less than three days he is after them in full pursuit.
Israel is backed up to the Gulf of Suez and 600 chariots are in front of them. Then another miracle happens. The pillar of fire holds the Egyptians back and the sea opens up and it forms walls on both sides. Israel passes through to the other side but Pharaoh and his chariots come after them. They are caught in the sea when the walls collapse and the water comes down on top of them. That is the story everyone knows, but there is so much more to this story.
Where have you heard this before? Are the events at the sea similar to another scene in the Scriptures? Now, we know a great east wind came and blew over the waters all night (Exo 14.21). Where have we heard about another wind of God blowing over the water in the dark? Gen 1.2 says, “Darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God (ruach/wind) was moving over the surface of the waters.” This describes the world before God created “light.” The world was shrouded in darkness and a “wind” of God was “blowing” over the waters.
Gen 1.2 gives us the same three things we have at the parting of the sea: darkness, wind and water. Then the Lord brought forth light and it separated between the light and the darkness (Gen 1.3-4). At the sea, a pillar of light separated Israel from the Egyptians and it would not allow the Egyptians to get any closer (Exo 14.19-20). There was a cloud and darkness, and it lit up the night (v 20). Rashi, a famous rabbi, says that the pillar separated Egypt from Israel and it was darkness to the Egyptians and darkened the already black night, but Israel had light on the other side. God separated light and darkness, just like he did in creation.
On the second day of creation, God said in Gen 1.6-7, “Let there be an expanse (sky) in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters (above) from the waters (below). And God made the expanse and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so.” In other words, the waters were parted. Now, there was an expanse (sky) of breathable air between the waters in heaven and the earth. The word for “heaven” in Hebrew is “shamayim” which means “sham” (there is) and “mayim” (water), or “there is water.”
At the sea, God separated the waters from the waters to make a path of breathable air for Israel to pass through. Exo 14.22 says, “And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” There are more similarities between the creation story and the crossing of the sea. Genesis 1.9 says, “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so.” This happened at the sea also. The waters go back and dry land appears.
The word for dry land is “yabashah” and it is only used here in Gen 1, in references to the Exodus story, and the story of Jonah. The dry land in Genesis was where human and animal life would be. At the sea, it served to give life to human and animal life. As we have said, we have been using the book called “The Exodus You Almost Passed Over” by Rabbi David Fohrman as a source and on outline for this study of the Exodus. We highly recommend that you get not only this book, but all of his books.
This ends our study of the Concepts in Exodus. Now we move on to Concepts in Leviticus. It is customary to end a section of study with the saying, “Chazak, Chazak, v’nitchazek” which means “Be strong, be strong, let us be strengthened.” We include it here because it includes one of the words we have studied with Pharaoh, “chazak.” Then we say, “You have received instruction from the Book of Exodus. Be strong, apply what you have learned, and rise up to the next level.