by Tad Lindley
God had struck Egypt with 9 plagues: blood, frogs, lice, flies, beef, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness. After each plague, Pharaoh (the name for the Egyptian king), refused to let Moses and the Israelites leave their life of slavery. And so the Lord prepared the tenth plague. Even though all of this happened several thousand years ago, it is so important, because it has everything to do with that day in about 29 AD when Jesus was tied to the whipping post and then hung up on a cross naked before the universe. But I am getting ahead of myself. Why don’t we start with the tenth plague, the death of all the firstborns.
Who are the firstborns?
Imagine that my wife woke up tomorrow morning and both me and my son were cold and dead where we lay down the night before. She would no doubt call family first, but they would already be on the phone, because Tom didn’t wake up either, and neither did my dad. She might call the Bethel PD, but the line would be busy, because up and down my street and all over the subdivision, it was the same story, some of the males in the household did not arise from sleep. Not only that, some of the officers didn’t show up for work that morning. It would be later revealed that they too had mysteriously died in the night. It seems unlikely, but this is exactly what happened in ancient Egypt. It even happened in Pharaoh’s palace.
What the Egyptian police detectives discovered
It would take a few weeks to piece it all together, but eventually as death swept over the land, and the dead of every town and village were buried in mass graves (there were so many bodies), some common features were revealed. Those that died, to a man, were always the oldest male born to their mother. Not only that, but it was discovered that there were certain houses where nobody had died, not even the firstborn males. The detectives fairly quickly realized that those houses had some things in common with each other. 1. The houses were abandoned the morning after the death plague, 2. Every single house had what appeared to be blood smeared all over the door jamb (forensics would reveal that it was not human blood, but sheep’s blood), 3. All the woodstoves all had the charred remains of a young male lamb skeleton, and 4. Perhaps the most important commonality, almost all of the houses had been the homes of the enslaved Israelites.
Israelites escape the Death of the Firstborn
Well before the Lord went through the land of Egypt killing the firstborn in every household, he had explained to Moses what people had to do in order to escape the plague of death. The exact instructions can be found in Exodus 11-13. Here is a synopsis:
1. On the 10th day of the month, take an unblemished lamb into the home
2. On the 14th day of the month, kill the lamb, collecting its blood in a basin
3. Take the blood and the paint door frames of the house with it
4. Roast the lamb with bitter herbs (do not boil it)
5. Get dressed in your traveling clothes
6. Eat the lamb with crackers
7. Burn up any of the leftover lamb
For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:12-13 NKJV) Because the Lord “passed over” the homes of those who followed the instructions above, the celebration of that night by Jewish people is referred to as “Passover”. You need to know this to fully understand the cross.
The first Passover
Not only were the Israelites protected from the plague of the death of the firstborn, but the next day, they were set free from slavery! And they set out on foot with all of their animals and their possessions and headed back to the land of Israel, exactly 430 years from the day that their ancestors had arrived in Egypt as free men and celebrities.
Watch for next week’s paper in which I will explain how all of these events relate to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Reverend Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.