Ezra 7-10: Pleading of the High Priest

Chapter 7

The events leading up to chapter 7 have been providing a background to Ezra’s (the name means “help”) involvement in the restoration of Israel, a context and culture in which Ezra operated as the LORD’s key servant in re-building of the Temple.  This is the same Ezra whose lineage is traced directly back to Aaron, the chief priest – as a reminder that it is the High Priest who re-built the temple, and no mere “layman”, pointing towards Jesus the High Priest who is the one who destroyed the temple and also built it up in three days (John 2:19).  Not only is it refreshing to know that this son of the high priest Aaron is the key catalyst behind the Second Temple, but he is also a “scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD the God of Israel had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him”.  Indeed, his faithful walk with Christ has led those around him to grant him favour and understand the ways of the LORD as well.  Therefore, this man is equipped, and ready to leave Babylonia to Israel for the purpose of teaching the LORD’s statutes and rules in Israel (v.10), knowing that the previous six chapters provided the context of the return of the exiles as summarised in v.7-9 of this chapter.  The LORD effectively uses King Artaxerxes to provide Ezra (the refrain, again – “a man learned in matters of the commandments of the LORD and his statutes for Israel” – repeated previously in v.6 and v.10) with the resources (i.e. all the silver and gold that Ezra shall find in the whole province of Babylonia, v.16, the money used to purchase bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, v.17) to do all that is necessary, “according to the will of your God” (v.18).  It is clear from v.11-20 that the king, too, is well-versed in the necessities of Temple maintenance.  What a contrast in v.24 for Artaxerxes to command the treasurers to not impose a tribute, custom or toll on anyone of the specified servants of the house of God (c.f. Rehum and Shimshai’s lies in Ezra 4:11-15).

This chapter ends with a first person commentary of Ezra – indeed, blessed be the LORD who put such a thing as this into the heart of the non-Israelite king, to beautify the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem.  Whilst the book of Ezra focused primarily on theology than chronology, we saw Zerubbabel and Jeshua’s work on the Second Temple completed by chapter 6; and in the remaining chapters of Ezra, we shall see this scribe of the LORD focus on the community of Israel and the issues of their hearts as revealed later.

Chapter 8

Ezra therefore left Babylonia with a number of exiles to return to rebuilt Jerusalem – yet, his primary concern is the presence of the sons of Levi (v.15), despite the lengthy detail given to the returning exiles in v.1-14.  It is from Iddo that Sherebiah (“heat/flame of the LORD”) (with his sons and kinsmen, sons of Mahli the son of Levi), Hashabiah (“whom God regards”), and Jeshaiah (“salvation of the LORD”) (of the sons of Merari, with his kinsmen and their sons) were appointed, these men (and their kinsmen/sons) making up the 12 leading priests (v.24).  In the same vein, Ezra continues to rely on the LORD for protection by fasting and imploring Him for safety at the river Ahava (meaning “water/essence“), relying not on Artaxerxes’ band of soldiers and horsemen which would otherwise be reliable in worldly eyes.  Most importantly is Ezra’s pronouncement that these men are “holy to the LORD”, a refrain often used as a reminder of the priesthood, the setting apart of Israel from other nations and the Sabbath rest (c.f. Exodus 28:36, 30:37, 31:15, 35:2, 39:30; Deuteronomy 7:6).  This is key, given the events in chapters 9 and 10.

Symbolically, Ezra’s return is timed to a meaningful date in the Israelite calendar.  Where chapter 3 began with the Feast of Booths in the 7th month (Tishri) of the ecclesiastical year, this chapter focuses on the Passover, occuring between the 15th to the 21st of the month of Nisan (the 1st month).  Therefore, whilst under Zerubbabel and Jeshua’s re-institution of the Temple the Feast of Booths and other offerings were kept (fitting in the context of the Feast reminding them of the tent-centric life of Abraham and the saints as we look forward to new creation), under Ezra the re-institution began with the Passover, an equally fitting reminder of the separation of the Israelite community from the captivity of the Egyptians, just as the community is now restored after 70 years of Babylonian captivity.  To conclude this chapter with the words of Matthew Henry as the churches finally entered (a temporary) rest:

“That will be dispensed with when we want opportunity which when the door is opened again will be expected from us. It is observable, … That among their sacrifices they had a sin-offering; for it is the atonement that sweetens and secures every mercy to us, which will not be truly comfortable unless iniquity be taken away and our peace made with God… That the number of their offerings related to the number of the tribes, twelve bullocks, twelve he-goats, and ninety-six rams (that is, eight times twelve), intimating the union of the two kingdoms, according to what was foretold, Ezek. xxxvii. 22. They did not any longer go two tribes one way and ten another, but all the twelve met by their representatives at the same altar.
…That even the enemies of the Jews became their friends, bowed to Ezra’s commission, and, instead of hindering the people of God, furthered them, purely in complaisance to the king: when he appeared moderate they all coveted to appear so too. Then had the churches rest.”

Chapter 9

Throughout chapter 8, the theme of being “holy to the LORD” (taking us back to Exodus and Deuteronomy) has been briefly explored – and immediately Ezra is faced with the challenge of spiritual purity of the returned Israelites.  “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations” – language which is directly lifted from the Deuteronomic law (chapters 13, 14, 17, 18, 22-27).  What beauty then, that in spite of our sins, that the LORD is merciful.  Look at Ezra’s humility as he stood on behalf of Israel before the LORD, praying as if he himself was the High Priest mediating on behalf of the nation, as if it was Christ mediating between Israel and His Father.  The words in v.6-15 could be lifted from the lips of Christ as he bore our sins on the cross – that he should be counted as a worm whilst the burden of the Fall was on His shoulders (Psalms 22:6), pleading in relation to man’s heaven-high guilt (v.6), the nation given into captivity for its iniquities (v.7), that the LORD has not forsaken them in their slavery (v.9), that they still break His commandments (v.10), that they have inter-married against the commandments of the prophets (v.11-14; c.f. Exodus 34; Deuteronomy 7:3).  Ezra recognises that His grace and His steadfast love is still on this remnant of Israel (v.15), preserved as this remnant hides in Christ.

Chapter 10

It is telling that the first person to confess the sin of inter-marriage is from Shecaniah (the name aptly means “dweller with Jehovah or intimate with Jehovah”) son of Jehiel (“God lives”), of the sons of Elam (“eternity”).  It is because of his first confession that the nation is on its first steps to heart-felt recovery, rather than that of the mere infrastructure.  The restoration of the Temple, though centre to the lives of the Israelites, would be meaningless in face of a rebellious remnant.  It would take a man, intimate with Christ, to proclaim the living and eternal God through true repentance by separation from their wives, as Ezra calls for in v.9-11 (though not universally agreed by the Israelites – v.15).  Symbolically, this begins in the 9th month (Kislev – commonly known as the month of “hope”, during the autumn season), lasting until the first day of the first month (v.17 – i.e. Tishri, the month of “beginnings”) – that in this period of refining, Israel would not only hope to be restored but is given a new beginning (and, especially, that even the sons of Jeshua, son of Jozadak (v.18), the Levites (v.23) would be purified from their sins the same way as the other “laymen” of Israel, a reminder that the Israelites are all but sinners, with Ezra standing as the typological mediator between them and the LORD). 

The book interestingly ends on this “census” of those who have sinned and inter-married – a bittersweet mixture of a new beginning under Ezra’s leadership of the community, having established the re-institution of the Temple in the earlier chapters under Zerubbabel and Jeshua; yet time with tell as to whether these sons of intermarriage (v.44) would have a role to play in the first coming of the Messiah and whether they cling to the Promised Seed or become the seeds of Satan, leading Israel astray.

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Ezra 7-10: Pleading of the High Priest

2 Chronicles 28-30: Renewing the Kingdom

Chapter 28

The civil unrest in Israel is summed up in the words of prophet Oded – “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven.  And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves.  Have you not sins of your own against the LORD your God?  Now hear me, and send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.” (v.9-11; and see v.19).  Ahaz the son of Jotham walked “in the ways of the kings of Israel” (v.2) – yet, the LORD used Israel to enact judgment on Judah (v.5-8).  It is therefore clear that the covenant made with the house of David, leading Judah, means that the Davidic lineage is held to a higher responsibility for upholding the promise of the Messiah – especially in the actions of the king.  It does not matter in the same way that Israel is making metal images for the Baals; making offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burning one’s sons as an offering; for it is the house of David which should define the whole of Israel.  If the king of Israel falls, the king of Judah should uphold the Christ-like example.  This is why the level of civil unrest in this chapter outweighs all that had gone before it.

In response to Oded’s proclamation, Azariah (whom Jehovah helps), Berechiah (blessed by Jehovah), Jehizkiah (Jehovah strengthens) and Amasa (burden) complied with the words of the prophet (v.12-15), and grace was bestowed on the people of Israel, that they were brought to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees.  What shame, that the house of David forgot the Wisdom by Whom Solomon walked (Proverbs 8), He who upholds the true king of Israel; instead, the chiefs of Ephraim reminded Judah of this fundamental truth.  Neither the king of Israel, nor the king of Judah, are the focus of this chapter – but the followers of Christ, the chiefs and the prophet and those who remember the grace of God. Even Ahaz’s petition to the king of Assyria for help has turned into an opportunity for Tiglath-pileser to exploit Judah’s predicament – all within the LORD’s allowance (v.19), to humble Judah, even so far as to remind Ahaz that he is but a shadow of the Elected King Jesus, and that the house of the LORD (v.21) is also but a shadow of the LORD’s heavenly dwelling, its portion bearing no significance if even the kings of Judah / Israel have forsaken its significance.

Yet, the LORD’s methods of humbling Ahaz have not been received with a circumcised heart, and Ahaz’s idolatry deepens as he sacrifices to the gods of the neighbouring nations – a king who does not even deserve to be buried in the tombs of the kings of Israel (v.27).

Chapter 29

Yet, Hezekiah turned the tide back to Christ (v.2), following Christ the way his forefather David did.  While Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the temple, shutting the doors of the temple and making himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem (chapter 28:22-24) – in blasphemy to the temple’s true purpose, Hezekiah opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them (v.3).  He also re-initiated the Levitical order (v.4-11), re-confirming the role of the king of Judah in keeping this covenant with the LORD, whose steadfast love endures forever.  The very fact that he prioritizes the reparation of the temple and the utter importance of the priests are both indicators that Hezekiah understands fully what Israel, as a nation, is in God’s eye – and their purpose as priesthood to other nations (Exodus 19:6), a role sorely forgotten time and time again.  What the priests have done in v.12-19 are a renewal of what Ahaz the Christless king has done; just as Christ will renew our bodies, the temples of the LORD (1 Corinthians 6:19) through the renewal and resurrection of his own (John 2:21).  The raping of Judah by its own and by the various nations (Edomites, Philistines, Assyrians, etc) is but a shadow of the crucifixion of Christ, before His glorious resurrection and renewal of His body in Hezekiah’s reformation.  The sons of the anointed Kohathites, Merarites, Gershonites and the sons of Elizaphan (whom God protects), and of the sons of Asaph (collector), all special clans of the Levites (c.f. their roles in Numbers).  These chosen Levites therefore cleaned the temple, and taking all uncleanness to the brook Kidron (v.16), the symbolic place of David’s flight (2 Samuel 15:23) and also the place of testing as Christ walked to the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1) – it is here that Christ was truly tested and made his decision to walk in accordance with the Father’s will, where our uncleanness was forever removed.

The beauty continues, as the temple restoration could not be complete without making a sevenfold sin offering for the kingdom, sanctuary and for Judah (v.21); the blood of the bulls, rams, lambs thrown against the altar (v.22) with the goats being the sin offering (in the manner of Leviticus 16:21 – the Day of Atonement).  With sacrifice, comes worship – our first response to Christ’s work on the cross, not being one of working to gain his trust or to gain his love, but a response of His service towards us, His love for us.  Worship (v.25-30) – to sing praises with gladness, the whole assembly worshipping (v.28) until the burnt offering was finished – the entire act edified as the kingdom truly rejoiced despite Ahaz’s idolatry in chapter 28.  This worship in conjunction with the national burnt offering, the effective Day of Atonement, was immediately followed by thank offerings (v.31-36), so much that like the day of Solomon, overflowed beyond all expectations (c.f. 2 Chronicles 7:7).

Chapter 30

Despite Manasseh’s attempt to unite Israel (v.1-9, 12) under the Passover, taking people back to the basics, back to the day when Israel could be called a large nomadic tribe (c.f. Exodus) no longer under the yoke of the Egyptians but now bondservants of the LORD, the invitation to unite was met with scorn (v.10).  However, some humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem (v.11).

Because of the suddenness of the reformation of Hezekiah (chapter 29:36), the priests and the Levites were ashamed at the speed of which the humbled Christians acted (v.15, v.17; c.f. chapter 29:34).  Yet, their consecration was set aside, for many had not cleansed themselves but rushed to be united with the house of David (v.18-19), rushed to set his heart to seek God (v.19).  The people were thus healed (v.20), after a sequence of renewing the temple, of renewing the sacrifice, of renewing the worship, of uniting the circumcised in the heart under the banner of the Passover Lamb – all but a shadow of the unity and renewal we will receive on the day of the Wedding Supper (Revelation 19:6-9).  Such rejoicing, that it extended beyond the 7 days for another 7 days (v.23), such unprecedented worship and healing – an indication of the everlasting healing by the leaves of the tree of life (Revelation 22:2) and such glorious everlasting Sabbath rest, for the first time typified from the time of Solomon (v.26), ending on the positive note:

Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.(v.27)

 

2 Chronicles 28-30: Renewing the Kingdom

1 Samuel 6: Who can stand before the Father?

The Old Testament is rife with examples of foreign nations speaking of Israel as light to the nations.  Does any nation have the privilege of Israel being the receivers of the Torah?  Does any nation have a God who is defined by salvation, the Hebrew action and noun by which His Son is named in His incarnation (Yeshua; c.f. Daniel 3:29)?  And here this truth is highlighted amongst the Philistines, who look back on the Exodus and Passover with fear.  “Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharoah hardened their hearts?  After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed?” (v.6).

Yet this is half the gospel – the gospel is the punishment of the Father towards the Son, and the love of the Father towards the Son (Isaiah 53:5; John 17).  What they saw was the death of the firstborn, and they only saw Yahweh as a mere God of Israel (v.5).  Their purpose was to provide golden images of creatures to save themselves (Exodus 20:23), just as the Israelites had created the golden image of the calf as the gods (Exodus 32:1) of their salvation.  They did not see the God of Rahab, she who preached the God of heavens and the earth; the God who saved, chose and loved, Israel and gave them Canaan (Joshua 2) the land of Promise, the nation which was given the law to display their transgressions after they were saved from Egypt (Galatians 3).  Their guilt offering is not a covenant enacted and purified by blood (v.3, v.8; c.f. Hebrews 9:20-22), but a guilt offering provided of golden idols.  What blasphemy it is to place images of pestilence next to the Ark of the Covenant which is also laden with gold!  This is why the Philistines, even having the Ark of the Covenant within their midst for seven months, is the subject of wrath – just as the beauties of His creation in the heavens and earth are poetry proclaiming Christ in the eyes of Israel (Psalm 19), but is exclaiming His wrath to all those standing outside of Christ (Romans 1:18-32).  Just as we are destined to walk into the Holy of Holies in Christ, yet the Philistines will forever stand their distance and refuse to join to Israel even after witnessing the joy of the Israelites when the throne of God is in their midst (v.16).  Instead of joining under the tent of the House of the Sun (Beth-shemesh; Malachi 4:2), they return to the House of eradication (Ekron).  Though they know it is not a coincidence (v.9), yet they fail to trust in the object of the true blood-guilt offering of the milk cow on which there has never come a yoke.

And so the Israelites carefully retrieved the ark by the hand of the Levites, the priests who are ordained and anointed to be privileged with this duty; and by the Stone of the House of the Sun in the field of Joshua, the chief typological Saviour between Moses and Samuel, these burnt offerings were truly given to the LORD in rejoicing (v.13) rather than in trembling fear.  These Philistines returned to Ekron, only to await their true eradication by the hands of the King of Israel, for even in the time of Joshua the five lords of the five cities (Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, Ekron) were already the subject of wrath awaiting to be devoted to destruction (Joshua 13:3).  This true destruction is symbolized in the return of the Ark after seven months, intimating the seventy years after the Babylonian captivity whereupon the LORD will send the staggering cup for these nations to drink where the Philistines, amongst others, are to drink the cup which Christ has drunk (John 18:11):

Jer 25:12-27  Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste.  (13)  I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations.  (14)  For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”  (15)  Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.  (16)  They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.”  (17)  So I took the cup from the LORD’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it:  (18)  Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day;  (19)  Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his officials, all his people,  (20)  and all the mixed tribes among them; all the kings of the land of Uz and all the kings of the land of the Philistines (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod);  (21)  Edom, Moab, and the sons of Ammon;  (22)  all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastland across the sea;  (23)  Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who cut the corners of their hair;  (24)  all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed tribes who dwell in the desert;  (25)  all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media;  (26)  all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another, and all the kingdoms of the world that are on the face of the earth. And after them the king of Babylon shall drink.  (27)  “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.’

Therefore, it is this same cup in which we are crucified in Him; it is this same cup in which the world is condemned through His mediation of creation (Colossians 1).  Yet our sacramental communion provides also the bread of life upon Whom we feed, and until then, the wrath of the Father will continue to impartially display His wrath upon all those standing outside of Christ (v.19).  Indeed, “who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?  And to whom shall he go up away from us?” which is an echo of Job’s question (Job 33:23).  The answer has always been Christ Jesus, the commander of the LORD’s army; but it is seen for now through the actions of David, the typological mediator who worships the LORD at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 110) – he is the only one, not Saul, nor Samuel, to take the Ark back from Kiriath-jearim to the city of David in Jerusalem, the city of Peace.

1 Samuel 6: Who can stand before the Father?

Leviticus 23-24:9: The Progression of, not towards, Christ – in the Jewish Feasts

We’ve considered many new things since the Day of atonement in Leviticus 16, all of which can be under the banner of cleanness to holiness of both the layperson and the priest to enjoy the only true privileges of being part of the church of Israel.  The progression is indeed intentional: and the progression of Christ through the layout of the gospel story so far in the first three books of Moses, rather than the progression towards Christ (as if Christ was not preached nor revealed until the New Testament) is again embodied by the famous Jewish festivities.

Many non-Christian cultures celebrate special days and events – and today, the Gregorian calendar (the calendar we use in the majority of the world today) is filled with all types of random days commemorating significant moments in history; from Jimi Hendrix’ birthday, which is coincidental to mine (November 27th), to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles to remember the end of the First World War on the 11th of November, 1918, to the catastrophic September 11th.

Each day is thus filled with its respective significance and the western calendar used today is therefore a mark of western anthropology; just as the Chinese lunar calendar’s timing of the Mid-Autumn festival is a time of celebrating the Chinese myth of the love story between a damsel on the rock orbiting the earth.  The calendar itself speaks of culture and ideology.  The Chinese calendar marks the myths, superstitions and religions of the Eastern Orient; the Gregorian now speaks of post-modernism, relativism and a global cultural melting pot.

What of the Jewish calendar which the LORD established?  Here, we find one of the most engaging and interesting aspects of Christianity, and how much the Calendar, the dates, and the feasts reveal the progression OF Christ.

Progressive Revelation of, not towards Christ in the Feasts

Just a cautionary note and perhaps a little bit of side-tracking: the title of this post is “The Progression of, not towards, Christ”.  The reason I say this is because of the relatively modern establishment of the concept of ‘progressive revelation’, which speaks of Christ as if the saints only, over time, knew that the God they trusted in was actually the Son of God.  The implications behind this, is that Adam had no idea he believed in the Son of God, and believed (as far as he is concerned) in a mono-theistic God; then David, in Psalm 110, had spiritual foresights and glimpses into the Trinitarian behaviour, but they are merely glimpses; Isaiah, only when he is filled with the Spirit, was literally possessed by the Spirit when he wrote his book – the clarity of the Trinity was not apparent to Him even as he was writing the verses about the future non-acceptance of Christ in Jerusalem (thus the common phrase: “they wrote better than they knew”); and only until the time of the gospel writers, no one had the clearest and most revealed concept of Jesus Christ as Son of God and mediator in the Trinity.

With much respect to those who struggle or hold strongly to this view, the progression towards Christ seriously frustrates me on many levels.  Primarily, the arrogance of our assumption that Adam had no faith in Christ.  Let me explain: Adam had faith in the Seed (Genesis 3:15), called his woman Eve (the mother of all living despite being cursed with death in the same chapter!), who in turn called their son Cain the LORD-man (mistakenly and prematurely, which simultaneously reveals their mentality of their faith).  If anything, his faith isn’t in the generic God – his faith is in the Seed considered as LORD-man, manifested through the burnt offerings which he taught his sons Cain and Abel as well (although the former forsook it).  I am not opposed to progression per se, because I am not saying that Adam knew where exactly Christ is born, what exactly Christ’s name is.

What I am proposing however is the progression of Christ, which is an important distinction.  The progression towards Christ, is a progression towards allowing Christ the role he plays – that being the Redeemer and Mediator between us and the Father (and himself, for the matter, for both are our Judges).  This makes the assumption that in the Old Testament, none knew consciously they needed a mediator – their concepts were vague at best, but not explicit.  This simply has no scriptural warrant (Job 19:25).  What progression of Christ means the different manifestations of God’s sacraments towards man; the different expressions of God towards man (be they Noah’s ark; rainbow; circumcision; Passover; manna; Tabernacle; Mosaic Law), they continue to express the same Mediator, the same Truth, the same Redeemer – Christ.  Thus, there is a progression of Christ towards his incarnation, and these expressions, shadows and signs have always pointed towards the fulfillment of the incarnation.

This means that Jesus is clearly known, through these teaching tools.  The people did not only trust in the signs and shadows – they trusted in what the signs and shadows pointed towards, being Christ!  The New Testament is therefore not a book of ‘revelation’ – it is a book of fulfillment of the work of the Anointed One.  It is what the Old Testament had always pointed towards.  These feasts are simply a good way to express what the sacrifices could not – a school teacher if you will, like the rest of the Mosaic law.

What makes the feast stand out is for this reason:  it is tempting to look at the animal sacrifices and literally think they save them.  It is even tempting to think you are saved by your physical circumcision, and your diligence in obeying the law, despite the constant reminder from Moses not to be tempted to think so (c.f. Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6).

But where is such a temptation when you’re looking at the Jewish Calendar?  What can YOU possibly do about these calendar dates?  They are absolutely external to us; these days were established from the LORD alone; and ALL of them pointed towards Christ and his work on the cross.  Like the sacrament of the rainbow, let this calendar speak of the extra nos (outside of ourselves) of Christ’s work.  However, this did not stop people from being self-righteous from the observing of the days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:10) – and Paul is exactly making the same point I am making about the spiritual significance of these significant periods.

This is a great opportunity dive into the Jewish calendar which I’ve touched briefly upon in Exodus chapters 23 and 34.

1.  Introduction to the Jewish Calendar

2.  The feasts (Leviticus 23)

3.  Oil and bread (Leviticus 24:1-9)

4.  Progression of Christ and the Three Pilgrimage Festivals

1.  Introduction to the Jewish Calendar

Taken from here:

Hebrew English Number Length Gregorian Equivalent
Nissan (in Hebrew) Nissan 1 30 days March-April
Iyar (in Hebrew) Iyar 2 29 days April-May
Sivan (in Hebrew) Sivan 3 30 days May-June
Tammuz (in Hebrew) Tammuz 4 29 days June-July
Av (in Hebrew) Av 5 30 days July-August
Elul (in Hebrew) Elul 6 29 days August-September
Tishri (in Hebrew) Tishri 7 30 days September-October
Cheshvan (in Hebrew) Cheshvan 8 29 or 30 days October-November
Kislev (in Hebrew) Kislev 9 30 or 29 days November-December
Tevet (in Hebrew) Tevet 10 29 days December-January
Shevat (in Hebrew) Shevat 11 30 days January-February
Adar (in Hebrew) Adar I (leap years only) 12 30 days February-March
Adar II (in Hebrew) Adar (called Adar II in leap years) 12 (13 in leap years) 29 days February-March

Now, we must not look at the Jewish calendar is if it is identical to the Gregorian one which we use.  Although there are parallels to be made in identifying the corresponding Gregorian month to the Jewish month, there are additional months added in leap years (or literally, pregnant years).  The beginning of the month is normally established from observing the first teal of the moon, after the darkened moon – and therefore, each month is approximately 20-30 days, hence the discrepancy in some of the months.  However, the period between Nisan and Tishri are stable and unchanging: which means that the feasts and festivals and days of remembrance remain the same throughout those months.

Secondly, the ‘first’ month may be Nisan on the ecclesiastical year, but the actual first month of the Jewish year starts on the ‘seventh’ month – Tishri/Tishrei.  This is akin to the ‘school year’ of the Gregorian month, which begins often in September; for the Jews, Tishri is the ‘first month’ of the year – it is often referred to as a month of many significant days, from Rosh Hashanah on the 1st and 2nd of Tishrei (marking the beginning of the Jewish civil Year, as opposed to Nisan being the beginning of the Jewish ecclesiastical year), to Yom Kippur on the 10th (Day of Atonement), to the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) beginning on the 15th.

The 1 Tishri is very significant.  It marks the same day where Adam and Eve were created; the sending of the dove after its return with the olive branch on Noah’s ark; the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22.  With such a small taster of the significance of the day, each day bears its own significance in preaching the truth of Jesus.

With this background knowledge, we can turn to the feasts.

2.  The feasts (Leviticus 23)

The progression of the festivals/feasts is as follows:

Feast/Festival

Hebrew Name

Dates

Christological sign

Passover

פֶּסַח, Pesach

14th of Nisan

Blood and death of Christ

Unleavened Bread

מצּה, Matstsah

15th– 21st of Nisan

The need for redemption, and that we are in the world but not of it

Firstfruits/Weeks

שבועות, Shavuot

6th of Sivan

Resurrection of Christ

Pentecost

Πεντηκοστή (the word ‘Pentecost’ is actually from the Greek, not Hebrew), and seen as a continuation of the harvest – Shavuot

50 days after 6th of Sivan

Giving of the Holy Spirit

Trumpets

זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה, zichron teruah; ראש השנה Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Yr)

1st of Tishri

The return of Christ and the victory revealed

Day of Atonement

וֹם כִּפּוּר, Yom Kippur

10th of Tishri

Renewal of the entire creation

Tabernacles/Booths

סוכות, Sukkot

15th – 21st of Tishri

Waiting for this new creation

Sabbath (23:3)

“Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.”

Before the festivals and the feasts, we begin with the remembrance of the first creation of 6 days (Exodus 20:11), ending with the seventh day of Sabbath, reminding Israel of the initial rest which the LORD took, before undertaking the work of new creation from the 8th day (John 5:17) onwards.  A new week, a new start. Deuteronomy 5:15 explains that this model of 6 days, then the seventh, is a model of our salvation as symbolised through the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.

The Sabbath is therefore a symbol of looking forward to the peace, the resting, of New Creation.  Do you take your Sabbath seriously?  Do you over-spiritualise it, and work every day without remembering that the LORD is in complete control and that our work is temporary on earth, for what-ever work we undertake is of two natures: the curse of Genesis 3 (the toil); or the Godly work of bringing people to the House of the Redeemed?  The former is temporary, and the latter is merely something we partake – for it is His work entirely, and not ours.  If even He rests on the Sabbath, what right do we have to work on the Sabbath?

Passover (23:4-5)

Lev 23:4-5  “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.  (5)  In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover.

So the first month of the ecclesiastical year begins with the Passover – but remember that the Jewish year begins with Tishri, not with Nisan – month number 7 is the ‘first month’ of a new year, not month number 1. This is the day that Christ went to the cross and died, and significantly so.  I have already considered the importance of the Passover in my exposition of Exodus 12.

Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:6-8 )

Lev 23:6-8  And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  (7)  On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (8 )  But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”

I’ve already looked at the importance of the feast of the unleavened bread, where one’s waiting of leaven is the symbolism of one’s attachment to the world (during the Exodus of Israel – Exodus 12:39).  This is a period of the onlooking hope of full-redemption by arriving at the spiritual Canaan (1 Corinthians 5:8 ).

Firstfruits (23:9-14)

Lev 23:9-14  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (10)  “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest,  (11)  and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.  (12)  And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD.  (13)  And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin.  (14)  And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

This is a time of harvest; and the very first of the harvest is offered to the LORD as they waited for the full harvest to be gathered later on.  This is a reminder of birth of the new life through the seed; the day of the seed, the third day (and also Day 3 of creation – Genesis 1:11-13), on which Jesus rose again is a perfect example of new life (John 12:23-24).  Jesus is the Seed which gives life to the firstfruits (2 Thess 2:13).

Feast of Pentecost (23:15-22)

Lev 23:15-22  “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.  (16)  You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.  (17)  You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD.  (18 )  And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.  (19)  And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings.  (20)  And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.  (21)  And you shall make proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.  (22)  “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”

Out of the ecclesiastical year, this is the first feast which is so fulsome –

(a) a grain offering (v.16)

(b) two loaves of bread to be waved, baked with leaven as firstfruit (v.17)

(c) seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bullock and two rams (as burnt offering v.18 )

(d) male goat for sin offering, two male lambs a year old as sacrifice as peace offering (v.19)

So this feast is one representative of the arrival at the Promised Land – for now, there is time to use yeast!

The Firstfruits marked the beginning of the harvest, as Pentecost marks the end of it; the firstfruits looked at salvation of those from the beginning of the world until Christ’s second advent – and every Christian in this period is seen as ‘firstfruits’.  However, the Pentecost looks at the fulness of this redemption – the revealing of all the sons of God in new creation (Romans 8:19).

However, how are we made the firstfruits?  By the power of the Spirit – which, unsurprisingly, is the day on  which the Spirit was given to Gentile and Jew alike in Acts 2.  Now, and not later, do we have the intimacy and fellowship with God in Christ.  We may not ‘feel’ it, or ‘experience’ it daily, but we taste the firstfruits of it.  The true intimacy we will experience with our new bodies in New Creation, but now we already know God because he knew us first (John 17:3); we already love God because he loved us first (1 John 4:19).

Out of all the feasts, this is the only one that required fellowship/peace offering.  Let’s work through the progression: first burnt offering, then sin offering, then peace offering – it is tracing the work of salvation.  Christ’s propitiatory work on the cross as burnt offering, his blood as our sin offering, and then the Spirit given as peace and fellowship offering.  Only by the power of the Spirit do we now that true communion with God, and this fellowship consists in the form of eating with God (hence the feast of Pentecost).  That is why we are a son of God, through the Sonship of Christ.

This does not end the analogy, for the latter parts of Acts 2 displays a sharing of the property of the believers.  “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need”.  This is a parallel to v.21 – 22.  Do not do any work, as a mark of rest; and you shall not reap to the edge of the land as a form of provision to the poor and the sojourner.

Day of Trumpets (23:23-25)

Lev 23:23-25  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (24)  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.  (25)  You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”

This marks the coming of Christ, as the trumpet blast has signified so often throughout both OT and NT.  The ram’s horn was sounded in Exodus 19; then again in Joshua 6:13, v. 16, v. 20; Isaiah 18:3, 27:13; Ezekiel 33:5; 1 Thess 4:16; Revelation 11:15.

Note in the references above that the trumpet is a two-fold sign: a sign of rejoicing for those in Christ, but a sign of dread and punishment for those without Christ – rightly so; are we going to be under God’s wrath, or hiding in the cleft of the Rock?

Day of Atonement (23:26-32)

Lev 23:26-32  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (27)  “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD.  (28 )  And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.  (29)  For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people.  (30)  And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people.  (31)  You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.  (32)  It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”

Some observations about this day –

(a)  No work (v.28 )

(b)  Who does not deny himself will be cut off (v.29)

(c)  Who works on that day will be destroyed (v.30-32) as a Sabbath.

It is quite clear that the Day of Atonement is a day of rest, combined with the significance of the Day of Atonement as a symbol of the death, resurrection and primarily the ascension of Christ, as well as the second advent of Christ (the High Priest’s return from the Holy of Holies).  This is a hope of new creation, with no regular work – it is a celebration of Sabbath rest for the whole of creation – this theme is repeated consistently between v.26-32.

Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-44)

Lev 23:33-44  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (34)  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD.  (35)  On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (36)  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (37)  “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day,  (38 )  besides the LORD’s Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides all your vow offerings and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD.  (39)  “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.  (40)  And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.  (41)  You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month.  (42)  You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths,  (43)  that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”  (44)  Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the LORD.

v.37-38 acts as summary verses for chapter 23, and now we move on to the Feast of Tabernacles.

On the eighth day they hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD – it is a solemn assembly without ordinary work.

In many ways, this feast of tabernacles focuses on the lifestyle of the church on earth as we await the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, which prophesies the truth of the life of the True High Priest. Starting on the 1st day with solemn rest, and 8th day with solemn rest (therefore beginning both weeks with rest).  Additionally, one should take the fruit of splendid trees, with branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and rejoice before the LORD for seven days (v.40).  Then, they will dwell in the tents (v.42) for those seven days – and all native Israelites shall dwell in booths to remind the surrounding nations that the sign of the booth is significant.

Firstly, the importance of the solemn rest is again a concurrent theme throughout the festivals and feasts: but then the offering is one of fruit, branches, boughs, willows.  They are all related to the trees. Numbers 33:6/1 Kings 6:32/John 12:13/Revelation 7:9 indicate that palm trees are associated with life and victory; leafy trees is also a sign towards new life (Ezekiel 20:28 ).

What of the significance of living in tents/booths for seven days?  Hebrews 11:8-10 explains it away:

Heb 11:8-10  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  (9)  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  (10)  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

3.  Oil and Bread (Leviticus 24:1-9)

Lev 24:1-9  The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (2)  “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly.  (3)  Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the LORD regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.  (4)  He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly.  (5)  “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf.  (6)  And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD.  (7)  And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD.  (8 )  Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever.  (9)  And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.”

The oil of the lamp is that of the Spirit, who burns regularly.  The twelve loaves of bread, representing the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles.  The frankinsence and gold (Isaiah 60:6), an indication of the coming King!  If this is a food offering to the LORD, then the gifts given to Christ in Matthew 2:11 is an indication of an offering to Christ as LORD, as God.  This, following on from the Feast of Tabernacles, is a forward looking prophecy of the coming of Christ in his office as High Priest, and the sustenance of the Holy Spirit as our deposit throughout the end of the ages.

4.  The Progression of Christ and the Three Pilgrimage Festivals

I wrote in my post on Exodus 22-24 that out of these festivals, there are three where the all males are required to attend, namely the progression of Passover/Pesach, to Pentecost/Shavuot, to Sukkot/Tabernacles/Booths. I also mentioned in that post that the Passover represented the Son.  The Pentecost the Spirit.  The Sukkot, the Father – for it is a reminder that we may have both the Son and the Spirit, but the Father remains unseen except through the Son.  We are still in necessity of a Mediator Christ, and of his power the Spirit.  The Sukkot, therefore, reminds us that we are not yet in new creation, and are looking forward to it.

Let’s look at all these festivals in their progression – the ecclesiastical year therefore begins with the Passover, the death of Christ.  Our trust in the Passover leads us to be on our spiritual Exodus from this world to the new creation (Hebrews 13:13) signified by the Unleavened Bread, looking towards the fulfillment of Christ’s resurrection displayed through the Firstfruits.  The Pentecost, the giving of the Spirit, is the progression of Christ’s death on the cross on Passover, then resurrection on the 8th day of the week (New Creation), third day since he was dead (day of the creation of seeds), and became the firstfruit of creation as we are in him, by the power of the Spirit which he gave 50 days after Firstfruits.

All Christians of all ages therefore looks forward to the sounding of the trumpet, announcing the destruction of the reprobate and the salvation of the faithful, where the Day of Atonement, akin to the Day of Resurrection, will see the full renewal of our bodies and entire creation.

This is where the sign and blueprint of God’s plan throughout the OT to the NT is displayed – and this is the progression of Christ, not towards Christ.  For if we are speaking of towards Christ, then these ‘signs’ and calendars make no sense.  They are but extremely vague shadows, and cannot be given the Christological significance Christ tells us they deserve (John 5:39).

Which is why, AFTER the establishment of these signs, God however brings us back to our current state and establishes the feast of tabernacles after telling us of these important annual dates.  He reminds us essentially to wait for the fulfillment of these signs.  Wait for the progression of Christ from these signs to the future fulfillment.  This, therefore, should be a source of hope for the Christians in the Old Testament.

But remember the Jewish civil calendar as opposed to the ecclesiastical calendar.  The year essentially began in Tishri – and Tishri is the month starting with Trumpets and Yom Kippur.  Thus, the Jewish year begins on a joyous note of VICTORY!  Just as the new week starting on the 8th day is the day that Christ rose, so the new year represented new creation!  And the end of the Jewish year also ends joyously with the Pentecost, looking forward to the day when we eat bread with leaven in New Jerusalem, established by the trumpet blast.  The Tabernacles, Passover and Unleavened Bread are almost insignificantly sandwiched between – but it is Christ who has always been the alpha and the omega (Revelation 1:8 ) – even displayed through the Jewish Year!

Leviticus 23-24:9: The Progression of, not towards, Christ – in the Jewish Feasts

Exodus 22-24: The law and the gospel

1.  Restitution – the Penal Substitution on the cross (Exodus 21:33-Exodus 22:16) – commandments 6 (murder) and 8 (stealing)

2.  Social Justice – God’s responsibility (Exodus 22:16-31) (a mixture of commandments 7 (adultery), commandment 2 (no other god and loving those who love him), commandment 8 (stealing), commandment 1 (I am the God who saved you out of Egypt)…

3.  No False Report (Exodus 23:1-9) – commandment 9 (do not bear false witness)

4.  Eating with God (Exodus 24)

1.  Restitution – the Penal Judgment on the cross (Exodus 21:33-Exodus 22:16) – commandments 6 (murder) and 8 (stealing)

The last bits of Exodus 21:33-36 thus goes on to explain God’s character, and his methods of shattering the idols in our minds by going into the most intricate detail of His law.

This includes the detail of opening a pit (in Hebrew “bowr” which means cistern, but commonly used term for prison/dungeon); there is restitution for that as well.  We understand that God himself had made a dungeon, his own ‘pit’ where he holds the fallen angels.  He himself is responsible for this duty; similarly, if a man opens a pit (v.33) – he needs to be responsible for what goes in or comes out.  God is, on a macro-level, in charge of the eternal pit.

v.35-36 maintains man’s rule over animals – “if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past” – and it is of course up to the man to regulate the animal’s character; and as the animal, as the beast’s master, anything done by the beast shall be repaid by the master, not the beast himself.  This is perhaps something quite different from how men restores things for themselves and for their beasts, whereas beasts clearly have no power to repay anything.

Exodus 22 begins on an interesting note: if a man steals an ox/sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox.  Amazing!  He is to give back more.  Just as Jesus taught the disciples to forgive seventy times seven more, so also the man is taught about grace through restitution.  v.3-4 continues this theme of graceful restitution – from selling oneself if the bloodguilt is on the murderer of the thief in broad daylight; to providing double for a stolen possession (v.4); to making restitution from the best in his own field and vineyard (v.5)… full restitution (v.6) if not more is required in many circumstances.

2.  Social Justice – God’s responsibility (Exodus 22:16-31) (a mixture of commandments 7 (adultery), commandment 2 (no other god and loving those who love him), commandment 8 (stealing), commandment 1 (I am the God who saved you out of Egypt)…

Now, the commandments get increasingly mixed up.  v.16 refers to a man seducing a non-betrothed virgin/a girl of marryable age, and that he is to give a bride-price for her; or pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins even if her father refuses to let her marry him.  This is the better way to do it; not through circumcision as was the tragedy of Simeon and Levi in Genesis!  The bride-price is important as it symbolises the man’s responsibility to the woman.  For seducing the virgin, it comes with a cost!  God does not allow pre-marital relations because it shouts out pre-mature intimacy; in the same way that we have the firstfruit of that intimacy with God by the seal of the Spirit (Eph 1), so also there should be a deposit money equal for the bride-price for such unwarranted intimacy with the Church if the man should treat her as if she is his church.

v.18 is strict liability as well – you shall not permit a sorceress to live.  Is this a contradiction to the law against murder (commandment 6)?  It would, if God did not define the confines of murder; but because he did, the 10 commandments are not statements to be loosely interpreted as to allow paradoxes to arise.  This is to directly contrast two points: firstly, that the LORD’s works and miracles are not that of sorcery (let alone of Moses’ sorcery!); and secondly, that the sorcerers and sorceresses of Egypt deserve death for meddling with dark arts which is an outlet for Satan to bewilder people and distract them from the gospel.  God doesn’t want miracles to be adored; he wants miracles to point to Him. Thus, the 10 commandments must be exegetically explained by God himself!  We will come back on this in just a sec.

v.19 – again, this act of ‘adultery’ shows how a man shall not lie with a non-woman; similarly, a woman shall not lie with a non-man.  There is nothing to portray Christ and the Church in either imagery, except to show that Christ is bonding with beast; and Church bonding with beast – this is a clear heresy of subverting the hierarchical chain of God to Man to Beast, to Beast to Man to God.

v.20 -26 – this is sculpted by the 1st commandment, because the people of Israel themselves have been mistreated in Egypt; but this is no excuse for them to exact similar revenge on other people – for [the Israelites] were sojourners themselves (v. 21) in Egypt!  Why should the Israelites then do the same disgusting thing to the sojourners in their land?  God detests such hypocrisy.

v.28 – this is charged with the flair of Romans 15 – respecting authority.

v.29-30 – like Abraham’s tithing of his 10% to Melchizedek, Jesus Christ, so also we are called to sacrifice not the lowest but the best 10%.  What does it mean though “the firstborn of your sons you shall give to me”?  What does it mean “seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me”?  The meaning is as I’ve mentioned concerning the cross; on the 8th day Christ rose again, after the Sabbath!  Justin Martyr on the eighth day:

The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.

This displays that the giving of the firstborn, as well as the sign of the circumcision, both serve to provide this imagery of God the Father’s firstborn son being cut and raised again on the 8th day, the first day after the Sabbath; and same for oxen and sheep, for they too are saved (Jonah 3 – the beasts repented as well!).  Such is the significance of the 8th day.

3.  No False Report (Exodus 23:1-9) – commandment 9 (do not bear false witness)

v.1-3 is almost a reflection of Psalm 24: “Give me clean hands” when this Christological Psalm speaks of Jesus asking for clean hands from His Father in heaven. v.1-9 in general has a heavier judicial undertone, explaining the absolute solemnity of speaking the truth rather than perverting the judicial system (v.6).  It is quite clear that our God is just, and he is the one who defines this justice.

4.  Sabbath laws and festivals (Exodus 23:10-19)

Again, this is a repeat of what has already been spoken of earlier – the number seven connotes Sabbath, according to the order of the creation of the heavens and the earth (v.10-12).  V.13 re-iterates commandment 2, and then he speaks of three appointed times of the year according to the Jewish ecclesiastical calender:

(i)  Feast of Unleavened Bread: also known as the ‘Passover‘ (Pesach) in the first month (15th to 21st day), the month Nisan/Abib (v.15); the Paschal Lamb killed on the 14th, and the Paschal feast from 15th to 21st

(ii)  Feast of Harvest: 6th day of Siwan/Sivan, the third month of the ecclesiastical calender (this is also known as Shavuot/the Pentecost/Firstfruits of Wheat Harvest)

(iii)  Feast of Ingathering:  known as Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles (firstfruits of wine and oil) occuring from 15th to 21st of the month Tishri, the seventh ecclesiastical month

These are the three memorable days where all the males appear before God.  Unsurprisingly, these three festivals mark important dates in Scripture: the year opens with the reminder of Jesus’ death on the cross; followed by the Pentecost in the middle of the year, reminding us of the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit given to all men (Acts 2) which also occured on the Shavuot.  This being in the sixth month, on the sixth day, is the mark of man equipped and blessed by the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel, and also to be sanctified (as day six represents that of the creation of man and woman, just as the Spirit is given to all men and women.  For six days shall man labour; and so for six days shall we labour with the Holy Spirit for God’s Holy Work of salvation.  This is closely followed by the seventh month, symbolising a time of reaping of rewards, the firstfruits of wine and oil, and unlike the Feast of Weeks, this is similar to the Passover, a seven-day celebration.

Interestingly, following the Feast of Ingathering there is approximately 5 months before the next Passover… and this contributes to the seasonal cycle of Scripture – through death, comes life, and returns to death again, comes life again.  This is no Buddhist samsaric realm (as cherishable as the Buddhist anthropological view is) – rather, this is an observation of our life on earth.  Just as we are made from dust, we are given the firstfruits of new life by the Spirit; then we return to dust.  But we will rise again, breaking away from all seasons in new creation, and will eternally live in the Feast of Tabernacles where there is eternal wine and oil of gladness, where there is the eternal Tabernacling of the Lamb with us in New Jerusalem.

Perhaps there is something more I’d like to note:  Three times the male appears.  Why?

The first festival relates to CHRIST

The second festival relates to the SPIRIT

The third festival… relates to the FATHER – whom we will no longer conceive as invisible, but visible when we are given new bodies.

5.  Conquest of Canaan by the Name in the Angel (Exodus 23:20-Exodus 24)

v.20-21 speaks of the divine archangel which Philo considered to be God the Father’s chief messenger, and no doubt, Jesus is the Father’s chief and foremost messenger.  The Angel of the LORD, who has the name of GOD himself, has the power of pardoning one’s transgressions.  The Father tells Moses to relay to the Israelites that this Angel must not be disobeyed (v.22).

v.23-24 relates to the essence of all theology – v.24: “you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces”.  Indeed, Christ, the angel, is the one who brings the victory – God the Father is the one who blots them out (v.23), but WE are the ones who decide to destroy the idols according to the victory won.  Is faith inactive?  Of course not!  Let’s not rely on inactive faith, but readily active response to the victory won!  Glen has written another great post on faith here.

And that fight of faith, by the victory of the cross and the power of the Spirit has explained by the festivals, shall result in the symbolic treasures of Canaan.  The land will be enlarged, the people will no longer be barren… but v.33 ends on a sombre note: “They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”  So that is the truth – STRAIGHT after Moses speaks to the Father, Israel is already serving their self-made calf.  Will the Israelites ever inherit such blessings?  Surely God knows they won’t if they relied on themselves: look at what happened with the quail and manna and water, and their inability to not whine.  The irony of Exodus 24v.3: “And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.'”  The immediate hypocrisy.

Clearly, the only way one can even do any of those things completely is in Jesus Christ alone.  What is the meaning of the law?  It is to explain that Christ alone can do these things.  What is the meaning of the law?  It is to explain God’s character, and the character of the Seed God-man.  What is the meaning of the law?  To display how utterly fallen we are, and our utter incapability of fulfilling it by ourselves, except in Christ alone.  Yet, if we understand the law, and keep the covenant undefiled by the power of the Spirit, then we will truly inherit the spiritual truths behind the blessings of v. 23-32.

Conclusion of the Law and the Gospel (for now)

This is of course a preliminary conclusion, given the next three books of the Bible elaborates on the Mosaic law.  Just a few things to point out:

(a)  The 10 commandments are essentially undergirded by the first two; without the first two, the other 8 do not make much sense

(b)  This is the reason why it is difficult to separate one law from another, to purely classify one as a law concerning ‘adultery’ and another concerning ‘theft’.  The analysis above shows that God intentionally mixes the commandments together to show that they are all undergirded by the first two truths, and cannot be pedantically analysed in themselves.

(c)  The detail given in these few chapters show God’s theological method – he decidedly smashes the pre-Christian thinking in our head, our pre-conceptions of ‘justice’, of ‘honouring one’s parents’, of social justice… and each of them speak the truth about God’s justice over evil by sending Christ to the cross

(d)  Noticeably, this justice system is one of mediation:  Exodus 21:22, and 22:8 are the more obvious examples.  There is no indication that one is to strive for restitution by themselves, and there is in some sense a mediator between two parties.  Restitution is still followed, and the punishment normally matches the crime, but where an intended crime is committed, the punishment is even greater (Exodus 22:1).  God therefore doesn’t look on the physical act, but on the heart of the person.  This system of mediation however teaches us that we do not strive for justice alone; but we need a third person for objectivity: which also means that as Christians, until the Judge comes to provide justice, we fully understand that restitution is owed to Christ when we offend him.  And any non-Christian offending us, who are in Christ, is effectively offending Christ himself.

(e)  Remember, this law so far is related to the land of Canaan.  This is what Dev has to say about the Old Covenant established on Mt. Sinai:

Now in Hebrew a covenant is something that must be sealed in blood, it can only be ‘cut’ or ‘cut-off’. Thus the ‘new’ (or ever-new, renewed) covenant, renewed time and time again with Abraham, Noah, Adam, etc, is always commemorated with a sacrifice, but the sealing blood of that covenant lies in the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world (Luke 22:20, Rev 13:8). The ‘old’ (or passing away) covenant, distinct from the new covenant, is then sealed on top of the Mount Sinai that is in Arabia, in the desert, outside the Promised Land (Deut 33, Gal 4), with the blood of goats and bulls (Ex 24, Heb 10). Deut 5:2-4 “The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. 4 The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire”. On top of Mount Sinai, the Jews seal a wedding vow, a covenant with the law – Exodus 24:3 “Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

We’ll leave it at that, until we come to the new covenant… which is not mentioned of course only in the New Testament.  The new covenant will come around as soon as Moses shatters the tablets of the law and the commandment, and the new tablets have slight alterations which really aren’t so slight.

4.  Eating with Jesus (Exodus 24)

v.4 – “He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel”

After which he offered burnt offerings/peace offerings – half of the blood in basins, half of blood on the altar – and everyone heard the law and said they will obey (v.7).  The blood in the basin is then thrown onto the people:

“Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Such is the blood of Christ that has been thrown on us to redeem us and to cleanse us of our sins.  The Israelites are not ignorant of this imagery, as already shown by the blood on the lentils and the doorposts in Egypt.

What happens in the next few verses is awesome: v.9 –

9Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and(DF) seventy of the elders of Israel(DG) went up, 10and they(DH) saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of(DI) sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and(DJ) ate and drank.

What an amazing and humbling picture this is.  The seventy elders, Nadab, Abihu (the oldest and second oldest son of Aaron), Aaron and Moses went up to the mountain of God and effectively SAW God.  Remember John 1:18 – no one has revealed the Unseen God except for the seen God Christ himself.  They saw the sapphire stone, the throne in heaven!  (Ezekiel 1:26, 10:1).  They ate and drank before JESUS!  This is truly prophetic of what we will be doing with God in New Jerusalem, that we will be eating and drinking with Him at the wedding feast (Matthew 22).  And what a fitting time it is to establish this wedding feast, when the wedding vow was entered between God and the Israelites (when Moses read the Covenant out to the Israelites, whereupon they responded in Exodus 24:3) – and after the wedding vow of course comes the wedding feast on the holy hill.

Finally, the LORD tells Moses to seek him after six days of the cloud covering the mountain (v.15), and going in on the seventh day (v.16); Moses lasted there for forty days and forty nights neither eating bread nor drinking water (Genesis 7:12; Numbers 13:15; Deuteronomy 9:9; Jonah 3:4; Mark 1:13).  This pattern of forty-days and forty-nights is not only seen as a time of testing, but it is seen as also a time of anticipation – and either victory or destruction results from these forty days and forty nights.  Indeed – will Israel be judged for their obedience in Christ?  Or will Israel turn away and worship other gods?  Will Jesus ascend to the higher throne, the holy hill?  Or will he buckle to Satan’s temptation by just the bow of His knee?

Joshua

Perhaps an important though small detail to note.  Moses chose Joshua as his assistant (Exodus 24:13).  Joshua who later conquers Canaan.  Joshua who won against the Amalekites.  Joshua who later meets the Angel of the LORD.  Joshua, whose name was given by Moses (previously it was Hoshea) at the Conquest of Canaan.  Joshua, whose Hebrew name is Yeshua.

Exodus 22-24: The law and the gospel

Exodus 10-12: The Ten Plagues (pt.2) and the Passover Lamb of God

1.  The Ten Plagues (pt. 2) (Exodus 10-11, 12:29-32)

2.  The Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:1-28, 43-51)

1.  The Ten Plagues (pt. 2) (Exodus 10-11, 12:29-32)

Plagues

Scripture

Christological Interpretation

8. Locusts

10:1-20

The ESV translation says the ‘wind’ brought the locusts, but this is an overly limited translation, not giving the semantic range which the Hebrew word ‘ruah’ offers. Instead, it is the Spirit who brings the locusts (the ‘east wind’ is characteristic of the judgment/disciplinary side of the Holy Spirit – Genesis 41:6, 23; Psalm 48:7; Isaiah 27:8; Ezekiel 17:10, 19:12, 27:26, Hosea 13:15, Jonah 4:8). Note in v. 13 that Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt again. As a result of this, all the plants and fruits of trees which the hail did not destroy was further destroyed by this plague – “not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt”.

For the first time Pharoah responds positively, albeit for a short moment. V.17 –“Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the LORD your God only to remove this death from me.” Indeed, the Pharoah in v. 11 had only allowed the men of Israel to go, but this is unacceptable (look at God’s response in v.12). Clearly, God wanted all to leave, not just men. The LORD however still hardened Pharoah’s heart in v.19 – and Pharoah still didn’t let the people of Israel go.

9. Darkness

10:21-29

This darkness is very unusual, a one that can be felt. Egypt has, by now, become fruitless, treeless, dark, barren, ruined. This is the result of rejecting him, the 10-step approach in God’s judgment on the apostate. We are now approach the 10th judgment, the death of the firstborn in Egypt, with the darkness covering the land for 3 days. When the firstborn of God the Father died on the cross, darkness covered the land for 3 hours (Matthew 27:45), and darkness throughout Scripture has been a sign of God’s judgment (day 1 of creation; 1 Samuel 2:9; Proverbs 4:19).

For this action, he stretches out his hand to the heaven.

10. Death of the firstborn

11:1-10; 12:29-32

After 9 plagues, Moses is now hot with anger (v.8). There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again (v. 6) – such is the magnitude of the 10th plague.

Unlike the previous 9 plagues where Moses is asked to stretch his hand/staff or throw soot from a furnace into the air, he is instead told to take cover. This plague is very different and seems to be a culmination of the damage and what the previous 9 plagues had been testifying to.

The Angel of the LORD strikes at midnight, in the darkest of night. But even this does not bring about total destruction – only the firstborn are killed on behalf of the nation. This gives Exodus 4:22 the sort of weight that we did not perceive on first reading; the Angel knew that the 10th plague symbolized the death of the firstborn of God, Israel. But who is the true firstborn of God the Father, besides Jesus Christ himself, which Israel (not “Jacob”) is only a type of? Israel, the Church, is God’s firstborn by adoption, but the Angel is God’s firstborn (Psalm 89:27) who the church is molded after.

This prophetic message of the death of God’s son is prophesied in Genesis 3:15, in the global flood, in the rainbow, in the circumcision, and especially detailed in Genesis 22.

Some interesting things about these 10 plagues may be found in the 7 plagues in Revelation 16:

Plagues

Scriptures

1. Harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast.

16:2

2. Bowl poured into the sea, and became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.

16:3

3. Bowl into rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. The explanation of this is that the non-Christians have shed the blood of saints and prophets (v.8).

16:4-7

4. Poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire, scorched with fierce heat.

16:8-9

5. Bowl poured onto the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness.

16:10-11

6. Bowl poured over great river Euphrates, and its water dried up, and out of the dragon, beast and false prophet came three unclean spirits like frogs, which are demonic spirits, performing signs, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.

16:12-16

7. “It is done” – flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, great earthquake… great city split into three parts, cities of nations fell… great hailstones, about one hundred pounds (a talent in weight) fell from heaven on people.

16:17-21

The following plagues were repeated in Revelation: Water into Blood (1), Frogs (2), Boils (3), Hail (4), Darkness (5).  Here is what Glen has to say in his sermon on Revelation 15-16:

In Exodus, Pharaoh and his household is hardened against the LORD through these plagues.Though actually we learn elsewhere that many Egyptians do end up joining the Israelites. In the same way in Revelation 16 the unbelievers who face these plagues are hardened in unbelief as a whole, though from elsewhere in Scripture we know that many unbelievers do turn to Christ in these circumstances. The emphasis in both these places though is on the madness of unbelief and the hardness of the human heart.

So it’s very Exodus like but Revelation 16 is telling us that this will be a cosmic Exodus.Judgement falls on v2 – the land, v3 – the sea, v4 – fresh water, v8 – the sun, v10 – the throne of the beast, v12 – the Euphrates, v17 – the air. Here is a worldwide judgement and it culminates with an almighty earthquake in v18.

And it is a fearful judgement. Verse 2: “ugly and painful sores broke out on the people.” Verse 8, people are scorched with fire. Verse 9: they are seared by intense heat. Verse 10: “Men gnawed their tongues in agony.”

Can you imagine the pain that would make you gnaw your own tongue? Can you imagine (v21) 100 pound hailstones falling on you?

Now does this mean there will be literal hailstones – well no, not necessarily. Verse 13 describes frogs gathering together the armies of the nations. This is pictorial language but we mustn’t miss the intensity of it. Whatever these images are describing is no less intense than the scorching of the sun or the pounding of these hailstones.

These are preliminary judgements on the unbeliever – not hell, not the final judgement but preliminary judgements straight from the throne of heaven

What can be said about the plagues in general is this – the plagues in Egypt is a microcosm of the plagues to come, preliminary judgment on unbelievers – not hell, not the final judgment but preliminary judgments from the throne of heaven.  All the 10 plagues are repeated in some shape or form, although not in the same sequence, in the book of Revelation (not just chapters 15-16, but also the other chapters e.g. chapter 9:1-12 for the locusts).

The only judgments without the staff, hand or direction of Moses is the Flies, Death of Livestock, and Death of the Firstborn.  Unsurprisingly, these are the only plagues unrepeated in Revelation – suggesting their limited shelf-life in the prophetic role of either the judgment on the cross, or the judgment on all people in the future.  What think you?

2.  The Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:1-28, 43-51)

Jesus himself was crucified at the very Feast of Passover. Without chapters 11-12 and Exodus, the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross is debilitated since the New Testament does not offer any new explanation.  As it is spoken in Luke 22, the bread and wine were there, but the Lamb was not provided for the Passover except for Christ himself.

I remember reading a review on the Prince of Egypt film a few years back (with the famed Mariah Carey/Whitney Houston duo “When You Believe”), a hugely negative comment on how one can even believe in a God who kills the firstborn of Egypt despite the atrocity on the Hebrew slaves.  The thing is, God is indeed extremely pained that he had to go to such lengths; I’ve already shown that it is the Pharoah who hardens his own heart until the latter plagues when the LORD hardens him as the epitome of evil in this history of salvation.  Above all, although it is the Angel who wrecks the judgment on Egypt, it is he himself who will be the very object of sacrifice on the cross.  These atrocities are only a type of the true salvation on the cross, a type of mediation and propitiatory work that was a result of our choice to side with darkness than the Light of lights.  So, when we read these seemingly negative chapters of Exodus, we must remember that our righteous God is pained, but he goes to these lengths to show us a picture of true redemption, because of our utter fallenness.

The LORD instructs each Israelite household to kill a lamb and place its blood on the door-frame of the house.  Exodus 12:12-13 explains the Festival of Passover because the LORD would effectively ‘pass over‘ any house marked with the blood of the lamb, and “not one of [the Israelites] shall go out the door of his house until morning” (v.22), the morning being a symbolism of the inevitable and awesome coming of the LORD on the great judgment Day.

Note what is so awesome about this passover meal and testimony is that it is NOT for strangers – but the same law “applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you” (Exodus 12:48-49).  This is a message of evangelism, it is a witness that even those who sojourn with the Israelites shall partake in this sign, just as they should partake in the sign of Genesis 17.  And those who do sojourn with the Israelites will no longer be strangers of God, for this is a holy priesthood, the firstborn Church – and only one law (Exodus 12:49) suits both Israelites and Gentiles, the same law which reveals the personality and covenant of God with men.

To quote Spurgeon on this:

I. First, then, THE BLOOD ITSELF. In the case of the Israelites it was the blood of the Paschal Lamb. In our case, beloved, it is the blood of the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.
    1. The blood of which I have solemnly to speak this morning, is, first of all, the blood of a divinely appointed victim. Jesus Christ did not come into this world unappointed. He was sent here by his Father. This indeed is one of the underlying ground-works of the Christian’s hope. We can rely upon Jesus Christ’s acceptance by his Father, because his Father ordained him to be our Saviour from before the foundation of the world. Sinner! when I preach to thee the blood of Christ this morning, I am preaching something that is well pleasing to God; for God himself did choose Christ to be the Redeemer; he himself set him apart from before the foundation of the world, and he himself, even Jehovah the Father, did lay upon him the iniquity of us all. The sacrifice of Christ is not brought to you without warrant; it is not a something which Christ did surreptitiously and in secret; it was written in the great decree from all eternity, that he was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. As he himself said, “Lo I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will O God.” It is God’s will that the blood of Jesus should be shed. Jesus is God’s chosen Saviour for men; and here, when addressing the ungodly, here, I say, is one potent argument with them. Sinner! You may trust in Christ, that he is able to save you from the wrath of God, for God himself has appointed him to save.
    2. Christ Jesus, too, like the lamb, was not only a divinely appointed victim, but he was spotless. Had there been one sin in Christ, he had not been capable of being our Saviour; but he was without spot or blemish—without original sin, without any practical transgression. In him was no sin, though he was “tempted in all points like as we are.” Here, again, is the reason why the blood is able to save, because it is the blood of an innocent victim, a victim the only reason for whose death lay in us, and not in himself. When the poor innocent lamb was put to death, by the head of the household of Egypt, I can imagine that thoughts like these ran through his mind. “Ah” he would say, as he struck the knife into the lamb, “This poor creature dies, not for any guilt that it has ever had, but to show me that I am guilty, and that I deserved to die like this.” Turn, then, your eye to the cross, and see Jesus bleeding there and dying for you. Remember,

“For sins not his own, he died to atone;”
Sin had no foothold in him, never troubled him. The prince of this world came and looked, but he said, “I have nothing in Christ; there is no room for me to plant my foot—no piece of corrupt ground, which I may call my own.” O sinner, the blood of Jesus is able to save thee, because he was perfectly innocent himself, and “he died the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.”

What is therefore most important, is that we understand what the Lamb points towards when we take our communion.  We are still the watchmen of Israel (Exodus 12:40-42), and it is still a night of watching kept to the LORD when the LORD will come back like a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43).  Until then, we will keep this witness of the Sacrament of the Communion, of this Eucharist “throughout [our] generations” (Exodus 12:42).

Some interesting views by Justin Martyr on this:


“The mystery, then, of the lamb which God enjoined to be sacrificed as the passover, was a type of Christ; with whose blood, in proportion to their faith in Him, they anoint their houses, i.e., themselves, who believe on Him. For that the creation which God created–to wit, Adam–was a house for the spirit which proceeded from God, you all can understand. And that this injunction was temporary, I prove thus. God does not permit the lamb of the passover to be sacrificed in any other place than where His name was named; knowing that the days will come, after the suffering of Christ, when even the place in Jerusalem shall be given over to your enemies, and all the offerings, in short, shall cease; and that lamb which was commanded to be wholly roasted was a symbol of the suffering of the cross which Christ would undergo. For the lamb, which is roasted, is roasted and dressed up in the form of the cross. For one spit is transfixed right through from the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to which are attached the legs of the lamb…


…And the blood of the passover, sprinkled on each man’s door-posts and lintel, delivered those who were saved in Egypt, when the first-born of the Egyptians were destroyed. For the passover was Christ, who was afterwards sacrificed, as also Isaiah said, ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter.’ And it is written, that on the day of the passover you seized Him, and that also during the passover you crucified Him. And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also the blood of Christ will deliver from death those who have believed. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ.”

While I have my reservations about how the lamb is laid out, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it is apocryphal whether the lamb is laid out in the shape of the cross or not.  Indeed, even such details should proclaim some truth about Jesus and reveal a practice of the Passover meal during the global church father period.

Given Martyr’s minute detail of how the lamb is laid out, let’s go through the commands in Chapter 12.

(a)  Tell all the congregation (Gk: συναγωγην, Hebrew:‘edah, synagogue/church) of Israel

(b)  This is now the first month of the year for you. 10th day of this month, a lamb for each household, each shall taking according to how much he can eat (v.1-4)

(c)  Lamb without blemish, a male a year old

(d)  You may take it from the sheep or from the goats

(e)  Keep it until the 14th day of the month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight (between the two evenings)

(f)  Eat the flesh roasted on the fire, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs

(g)  Do not eat any of it raw, boiled in water, roasting its head/legs/inner parts.  None should remain until the morning (v.9-10) – and burn any that is left in the morning.

(h)  Eat with belt fastened, sandals on your feet, staff in your hand, eating in haste.

(i)  Blood on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses (v.7)

(j)  The day shall be a memorial day, as a feast throughout all generations, as a statute forever – 7 days of eating the unleavened bread (v.14-15)

(k)  On the first day the leaven shall be removed, and if anyone eats of the leaven in those 7 days he/she shall be cut off from Israel.  This takes place from the 14th to the 21st of the first month.

Let’s summarise the 11 sub-points above.  The message of the Passover is to the (a) church of Christ, symbolised by the congregation/synagogue/assembly which is synonymous to the new Testamental usage of the term ekklesia, meaning the global church.  On the 10th day of the first month of the year should we retrieve a lamb for each household ((a) and (b)) to symbolise the death of the firstborn as the 10th plague on Egypt.  What is very interesting is that the month of Nisan/Aviv, the original name of the 1st month of this Hebrew calendar, during this period is the time when the barley ripens; and such is the hope and new life given by the Passover Lamb.

Note, each household has to take the initiative; even though you are in the physical Israel, if you do not partake in the physical communion you will be considered as merely part of the physical, and not the spiritual and saved Israel; and everyone is expected to eat and partake in the Eucharist.  (c) – this Lamb is sinless, a year old (1 Peter 1:18-19), in the prime of the lamb’s life (Job 29-30) when he is killed at twilight.  This lamb is taken from the sheep or from the goats, difficult to distinguish on the outside just as Christ should incarnate and become one of us sheep (d).

From the 10th day to the 14th day the Lamb is kept.  Why?  Why for four days?  Because our Lamb of God entered five days before the Passover, and inspected for four days (John 11-19) before being slain on the Passover (e).  On that 14th day, he was slain on the cross, nailed to the tree, and punished by God – the offering given up to God as the Passover Lamb was roasted on fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  There is nothing tasty nor joyful about the death of this lamb; it is a bitter and solemn crucifixion (f).

The entire lamb should be consumed with the judgment of fire and water (roasted and boiled) (g) until the day of his return on the Judgment Day, which the morning symbolises.  It is interesting how the detail of boiled in water is included; Jesus, after he was resurrected, at broiled fish (Luke 24:42).  Why?  While the fish was heated until it is good to eat, just as the raw meat is boiled in water just until it is good to eat; and so we are disciplined and refined until we are good to eat by Christ (Hosea 7:8 – a cake fully turned, not half-baked!), so that when Christ consumes us after his resurrected self, we should take part in his body, just as we partake in His body when we eat of his boiled flesh.

Much of it should be eaten hastily (h) after the Passover, such as we are after the death and resurrection and ascension of Christ.  We are not yet comfortable in our life in this world; we are in the world, but not of it — there is no reason for us to settle comfortably when the judgment day is still coming.  The staff in hand carries the symbolism of both shepherding and judgment; just as we take the role of the steward of Christ, discipling, rebuking and building up the sheep (2 Timothy 3:16). (i)  The blood being painted on the lintel and the doorposts is akin to the blood painted in the shape of a cross; why wasn’t the blood painted on the door?  Why wasn’t the blood spread on the doorstep?  But the blood is painted in the shape of a cross, protecting the heart which is the door through which Jesus enters by the blood of the cross (Revelation 3:20).  (j) and (k) – And thus, any apostate should eat leavened bread during these seven days symbolises their comfort in this world, although new leaven is made after the 7th Day, the day of the Sabbath.

Conclusion

In the same way, we are looking forward to the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lamb, followed by the period of unleavened bread.  But we must wait; we must wait until the 7th day, the day of the Sabbath, before we can fully be comforted and fully partake in the newly re-created world.  Yes, we may be saved after eating the flesh of the Paschal lamb, but we are only saved spiritually; our fleshly body is awaiting true redemption.  Thus, the Old Testament saints were in the period of the unleavened bread, and the working of the leaven into the bread after the Pentecost is a full symbolism that the New Testament period is a time of the End of Days when the giving of the Spirit to Jews and Gentiles alike is a symbol of the full-redemption to come!

Exodus 10-12: The Ten Plagues (pt.2) and the Passover Lamb of God