The Passover – no foreigner may eat of it

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.  Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbour, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.  The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.  Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.  That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.  Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire–head, legs and inner parts.  Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.  This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover. On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn–both men and animals–and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance.  For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast (Exodus 12:1-15).

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.  Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”  We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did–and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.  We should not test the Lord, as some of them did–and were killed by snakes.  And do not grumble, as some of them did–and were killed by the destroying angel.  These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:1-13).

Every year millions of Jews throughout the world celebrate the Passover, which was intended to be a celebration and reminder of how the LORD set the Hebrew slaves free from their slavery in Egypt. However, as Paul taught, the whole generation of Israelites who came out of Egypt, (apart from Joshua and Caleb), did not enter the Promised Land but perished in the desert on account of their unfaithfulness.

It is an irony that to this very day, in celebrating their freedom from bondage in Egypt, many Jews, figuratively speaking, remain enslaved in Egypt and Babylon. Even the earthly city of Jerusalem is figuratively referred to as “Sodom and Egypt” in the book of Revelation chapter 11 verse 8.

Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (John 8:21-47).

Notice how they said to Jesus, “We have never been slaves of anyone”. The Passover was to serve as a reminder that their forefathers had been slaves in Egypt – and the lesson of their deliverance was intended to point ahead to the coming of the “Prophet like Moses” who would set them free from their slavery to the sinful nature.

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt (Deuteronomy 24:22).

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: No foreigner is to eat of it. Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it. It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate it. An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you” (Exodus 12:43-49).

Let us consider certain details concerning the Passover. The LORD made promises to Abraham that he would make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and that Abraham would become the heir of the world (Romans 4:13). Abraham believed God’s promises and acted in obedience to the word of the LORD and followed the LORD to the place he was leading him to. And as we know -Abraham’s faithfulness was credited to him as righteousness.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:8-10).

All these people [the people of faith] were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Over four-hundred years after the LORD had called Abraham, the descendants of Abraham had become slaves in Egypt. In their miserable slavery they cried out to the LORD to deliver them according to his promises made to Abraham. (The lesson is that those who acknowledge their sin and recognize their bondage to the sinful nature – and who call upon the Name of the LORD, will be saved (Romans 10:13 and Joel 2:32).

As Paul taught, it was only 430 years later, after the LORD had made his promises to Abraham, that the Law was then given through the covenant made at Mount Sinai…:

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise (Galatians 3:15-18).

The promise to Abraham was that the inheritance would be an everlasting inheritance – which also means that it must be received in the resurrection from the dead with the assurance of eternal life.

“We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus (Acts 13:32-33).

To qualify as an heir to inherit what God has promised, cannot be earned because it must be received only by faith – that is by simply believing what God has promised in his word to accomplish.

The generation who were miraculously delivered from their slavery in Egypt, did not enter the Promised Land and they did not receive the promised inheritance because they did not believe God’s promise. Their unfaithfulness was recorded as a warning and lesson for us. They died in the desert in their sin of rebellion and unbelief.

Paul also taught that Abraham first demonstrated faithfulness by believing God’s promise before he was subsequently circumcised in the flesh. The point, which was also often emphasized by Moses and the prophets (see for example Jeremiah 9:25-26 quoted below), is that to only be circumcised in the flesh while not being faithful to God’s word, really amounts to being uncircumcised. To be truly circumcised – is a circumcision of the heart done by the LORD. Being circumcised was intended to be a sign of the covenant – and to be God’s covenant people meant that a person completely believed and trusted in the Word of the LORD believing that they were heirs to the promise.

Paul also taught very clearly that: A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh– 26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart (Jeremiah 9:25-26).

And as previously noted, concerning the celebration of the Passover: An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it.

The generation of Israelites who were delivered from Egypt – and who celebrated the very first Passover – and who passed through the Red Sea, were circumcised in the flesh, but proved by their rebellious grumbling against Moses and the LORD that they did not believe God’s promises and that they instead longed to return to their slavery in Egypt – and for that reason they died in their unbelief in the desert. Although they were circumcised in the flesh, they were uncircumcised in their hearts.

And as already noted, this all happened and was written down – to serve as an example and as a reminder for us…: …to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did–and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did–and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did–and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:6-11).

In the passage which we read above, where Jesus said that he had come to set people free from sin to which the people said that they had never been slaves (John 8:21-47), it says in verse 31 that Jesus spoke to Jews who had believed in him – no doubt because of the miracles which they had seen him perform. However, when Jesus said that he was the Son of God, who existed from the time before Abraham was even born – and that he had come, like the prophet Moses, to set them free from their slavery to sin, they then revealed the rebellious tendency of their hearts and their lack of faith. With their self-righteous national and religious pride, being assured that they were chosen – as Abraham’s descendants, they claimed that they were not slaves to anyone and that they did not, therefore, need Jesus or anyone else, to set them free.

They failed to learn the lesson from their own history – that it is not enough to be set free politically, but really to be set free from their slavery to sin and unbelief – and from a world which is arrogantly and defiantly in rebellion against the kingdom of God…

To be circumcised was intended to be a mark in the flesh indicating that they are Abraham’s children having the same faith as Abraham – a faith which comes from believing the word of God of the redemption and inheritance through his son born of the promise. Circumcision is a circumcision of the heart – otherwise, it is figuratively speaking, to continue in unbelief and to still be enslaved in Egypt. Ironically, because the Jews had rejected the Word of God who had appeared among them in the flesh – and because they had handed the Redeemer over to the Romans to be crucified, judgment came first upon Jerusalem on account of their unbelief – and the earthly city of Jerusalem is now figuratively compared to Sodom and Egypt – from which the people were required to flee.

It still remains that no uncircumcised person may eat the Passover – because to be circumcised is to have the sign that one belongs to God’s chosen covenant people – and that they are heirs of his promise – along with Abraham the father of those who believe. In this regard, Paul taught quite plainly that those who believe in Jesus – are circumcised in their hearts by the Holy Spirit and that they are Abraham’s children – children of the promise, like Isaac.

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith (Galatians 3:6-9).

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:29).

it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—(Philippians 3:3).

The lesson is very clear: many ate of the first Passover – but their eating was not combined with genuine faithfulness and repentance for they demonstrated that they loved the security of the world and they grumbled about every trial which God caused them to encounter. They really trusted in the supply of the Nile River in spite of their slavery in Egypt and they longed to return to their worldly comforts rather than endure trials and persevere in the desert trusting in God’s provision. God deliberately led them into various trials in order to test their faithfulness to him, to see whether or not they truly believed his Word or not – and to teach them that man does not live by bread alone but by the word of God.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does (James 1:2-8).

The lesson from the first Passover celebration and the peoples’ subsequent unfaithfulness – is that religious ritual counts for very little if it is not combined with genuine faithfulness.

For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith (Hebrews 4:2).

The celebration of the Passover under the old covenant included the week of unleavened bread. The people were to get rid of all yeast, which was symbolic of the sinful nature inherited from one generation to the next. Paul links faithfulness, i.e. examining our hearts to ensure that there is nothing unclean within us, including any thoughts which are contrary to the word of God, with that of celebrating the real Passover:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.  Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Those who doubt the word of God may doubt on account of their own sin and rebellion. However, their doubting also demonstrates that they have not really trusted in the atonement through the shedding of Jesus’ blood through which we, who confess our sins, are washed and cleansed. It is in knowing that although we were once sinful, rebellious and unbelieving – and although we had become slaves to sin in this fallen world –  when we call upon the Name of the LORD to save us, he sets us free by the power of the Word of Christ – and we are truly set free by passing through the waters of baptism by which it is counted as if we have died to the world and the world to us.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:19-23).

It is only through celebrating the Passover in genuine faith, a faith that only comes by believing the Word of Christ which is living and active and able to set us free from sin, that we also celebrate it in a worthy manner which gives glory, honour and praise to our Father in heaven – knowing and trusting that Jesus came to set us free from sin – the sin that so easily entangles us if we take our focus off Christ our Saviour and Redeemer.

To participate in the Passover according to the new and better covenant – is to – by faith – participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb who was slain in order that we may be set free.

The Israelites were to completely consume the Passover lamb. This was to illustrate how we are required to completely consume the Word of God manifest in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, by obediently living according to everything he said. Symbolically, we remind ourselves of our covenant obligation when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, which is the new covenant celebration of the Passover through which we have been set free from sin and death. It still remains that no uncircumcised person may eat of it – but we have now seen that it is the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit that is required by God.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:23-32).

The next generation of those who had been miraculously delivered from their slavery in Egypt – and who had seen the unfaithfulness of their fathers who, after forty years wandering in the desert and through many trials, perished on account of their unfaithfulness – were privileged in that they could learn from the mistakes of others. The generation who had been born in the desert were uncircumcised in their bodies, but hopefully, by learning the lessons of true faith through many trials, they were circumcised in their hearts…

Before they entered the Land Joshua firstly circumcised them which was symbolic of our being circumcised by Christ in our hearts – and only then did they celebrate the Passover (see Joshua 5:1-12). The place where they were circumcised was called “Gibeah Haaraloth” which literally means “hill of foreskins”.

This happened to figuratively illustrate how we are circumcised in our hearts by Jesus Christ – so that through genuine faith we may also celebrate the Passover – and that through this celebration, we may be assured that together with Abraham, through the resurrection of our bodies, we may be spared from the second death and receive our eternal inheritance in the heavenly city.

All people die physically – but the Passover we celebrate is to be set free from the second death…because we count ourselves as having died with Christ and we through faith in him as our Passover and through his resurrection, we participate in the first resurrection – because the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead has raised us to new life in him:

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you (Romans 8:11) .

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death (Revelation 2:11).

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him… (Revelation 20:6).

…death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14).

Under the old covenant, all the things which happened with Israel, including the circumcision, the Passover and the entering into the Land of Canaan, were really all shadows and types written down so that we may learn and understand genuine faithfulness…

But the reality has come through Jesus Christ and the new covenant…

The Promised Land which we shall enter by participating in the Passover of Jesus Christ is the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness:

…in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13)…into which we enter now by faith.

The important thing to learn from Israel’s history is that faith precedes that of receiving of the things which are promised. Genuine faith is, therefore, like that of actually taking hold of the things which are promised. In other words, it is not so much a case of – we will one day enter, but rather that we enter now by believing God’s word. This is why the writer to the Hebrews wrote that we have come to Mount Zion – not that we will come in the future. We are now circumcised and we are now citizens of the heavenly city. (Some sceptics call such faith an “over realized eschatology” but the promises are received by faith.)  We have now been raised to new life through faith in Jesus by the Spirit who raised him – so that when we die, we shall continue living – as Jesus said:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

No uncircumcised foreigner was allowed to partake of the Passover. The Passover is no longer celebrated as it was under the old covenant for the old covenant has become obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). The new covenant circumcision is done by Christ (Colossians 2:11) and the new covenant Passover is to partake of the symbolic bread and wine representing Jesus and his atoning blood, for he is our Passover Lamb who was sacrificed.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ….


19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household (Ephesians 2:11-13;19).

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20).

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm;  to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them,  because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.”  The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”  But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,  to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?  At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:18-29).