National Association of Christian Ministers Summary Series: Theology

In the Old Testament, the Festival or Feast of the Passover is described in the Book of Exodus (Exodus 12:1-28) and other related passages. Here is an overview of the key elements of the Passover as outlined in the Old Testament:

1. The Origin and Purpose: The Passover commemorates the events leading to the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. God commanded the Israelites to observe the Passover as a perpetual ordinance to remember their deliverance and to teach future generations about God’s faithfulness.

2. The Passover Lamb: The central feature of the Passover was the sacrifice and consumption of a lamb. On the tenth day of the first month (Nisan), each Israelite household was to select a year-old, unblemished lamb and keep it until the fourteenth day. The lamb would then be slaughtered at twilight.

3. The Blood on the Doorposts: The Israelites were instructed to take some of the lamb’s blood and apply it to the doorposts and lintel of their houses. This act served as a sign for the Lord to “pass over” those homes and spare the firstborn from the final plague that struck the Egyptians—the death of the firstborn.

4. Roasted Lamb and Unleavened Bread: The lamb was to be roasted and eaten together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The unleavened bread symbolized the haste with which the Israelites left Egypt, as there was no time for the dough to rise. The bitter herbs represented the bitterness of slavery.

5. Eating in Haste: The Israelites were instructed to eat the Passover meal dressed and ready to leave. They were to eat it quickly, with their loins girded, sandals on their feet, and staff in hand, signifying their readiness to depart from Egypt.

6. The Feast’s Observance: The Passover was to be a sacred assembly, a time of rest and devotion to God. It marked the beginning of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, during which all leavened bread was to be removed from the Israelites’ homes.

7. Annual Remembrance: God commanded the Israelites to observe the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread each year as a perpetual statute. They were to teach their children the meaning of the festival, passing down the story of God’s deliverance from generation to generation.

The Festival of Passover in the Old Testament was a significant event in the history of the Israelites, commemorating their liberation from slavery and the beginning of their journey toward the Promised Land. It served as a powerful reminder of God’s faithfulness and deliverance throughout subsequent generations.