What Does the Word Passover Mean?


Pharaoh of Egypt held the people of Israel in slavery, but when they began to cry out to God, He raised up Moses to initiate ten plagues upon the Egyptians. Each plague grew progressively worse, but Pharaoh stubbornly held the Israelites and would not release them to worship the Lord. The tenth and last plague was the death of all firstborn children throughout Egypt. God told Moses He would protect the Israelite firstborn if they would slay a lamb as a substitute and put the lamb's blood upon the lintel and sides of the doorframes of their houses.


12"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13The 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 (Exodus 12:12-13).


God required faith in the substitutionary blood of the Passover lamb. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The Israelites took a bunch of the hyssop plant and dipped it in a bowl of the blood from the sacrificed lamb. The hyssop plant was then used to strike the lintel and each side of the doorframe. God wanted to leave the Israelites with the image of a cross over the door. Can you imagine listening to the screams from neighboring houses that just lost their firstborn? There is more to this than first meets the eye. For many years, I thought God was the One passing by the household of those who had faith in the shed blood of an innocent sacrificial lamb, but I no longer believe this to be the case. The Lord gives us a picture of what happened in Isaiah 31:5:


Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will 'pass over' it and will rescue it" (Isaiah 31:5).


The context of the above passage from the prophetic books is one of protection for the city of Jerusalem. God describes Himself as hovering over the city and shielding the occupants from harm. Ceil and Moishe Rosen, in their book Christ in the Passover, have this to say about the word that is translated as "pass over:"


“The verb “pass over” has a deeper meaning here than the idea of stepping or leaping over something to avoid contact. It is not the common Hebrew verb, a-bhar, or ga-bhar, frequently used in that sense. The word used here is pasah, from the noun pasha, translated into English as Passover. These words have no connection with any other Hebrew word, but they do resemble the Egyptian word pesh, which means "to spread wings over" that He may protect us."


The picture is that of the Lord protecting us from harm. It brings new light to the passage where Jesus was grieving over the city of Jerusalem when He said: "O Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34). The God we have come to know and love wants to bring us close to His heart and wrap His arms around us as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings and protect them. With fresh light on what is happening in the Book of Exodus, let’s now look at what happened that terrible night:


When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down (Exodus 12:23).


The Lord is our protection and help. As a destroying angel went through the land, God hovered over the household of the faithful, covered by the innocent blood of the substitute lamb over their door. The Israelites had to walk in obedience to what God told them. The Lord Himself came close and wrapped His arms around His people, protecting them and binding them to Himself, not permitting the destroyer to enter their houses. The Passover celebration reminds the Israelites of their deliverance from bondage and slavery. What happened in the book of Exodus was just a picture of what God wanted to do through Jesus becoming our Passover Lamb. He is our Substitute in whom we are to trust and obey. Pharaoh is a picture of Satan, who held us under cruel slavery to our sins. Egypt is a picture of the world system in which we live. Christ is our sacrificial Lamb who has laid down His life to deliver us if we place faith in His shed blood applied to the door of our hearts. God wants His presence over the homes of our hearts and to live with us for eternity. Keith Thomas


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