The Real Story of the Passover

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“Are you going to tell us about Easter today?” Ginny looked up eagerly as Shirlee struggled into the room, her heavy pocketbook falling from her shoulder and dragging on the floor.

“No, dear. Easter is next week, and we’ll talk about it then. This week, we’re going to talk about the Passover. Can anyone tell me what the Passover is?”

Mark put up his hand. “It’s when you don’t eat your Brussels sprouts, and instead pass them over to the dog!” Everybody laughed . . . everybody except Shirlee, that is. She glowered.

“Mark, would you like to spend today’s class time in the supply closet, considering your relationship with Jesus?”

Mark considered this option briefly, then remembered the mouse (or whatever) that was in the closet and chose to participate in class instead.

“After Easter, we’re going to start on the Exodus. The Passover is an important part of the Exodus, but we have limited time today so I won’t go through everything. The short version is that hundreds of thousands of Israelites were slaves in Egypt. God told Moses to ask Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, and performed several miracles, such as tossing his staff on the ground and having it turn into a snake. Pharaoh was unmoved. So, God sent ten plagues upon Egypt to show Pharaoh that He was serious.”

“Why ten plagues?” asked John. “Wouldn’t one or two be enough?”

“That’s a good point, John,” said Shirlee. “The first few plagues, it seems that Pharaoh saw the trouble, things like plagues of frogs and lice and flies, and agreed to let the Israelites go until the plague was removed, then changed his mind. But after the plague of the boils, the Bible tells us that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart; also He did so after the plague of the locusts.”

“So . . . Pharaoh agreed to do what Moses asked, in exchange for no more plagues, and then God make Pharaoh change his mind?”

“That’s right, John. In Exodus 9:12 and Exodus 10:20-27.”


Mark chimed in, “Because God wanted to make a big impression on Egypt and make a name for Himself. He said so in Exodus 7:1-5. And he even hardened Pharaoh’s heart after Moses did the rod-snake magic trick, in Exodus 7:10-13.”

“Very good, Mark! You’ve been reading your Bible!” Shirlee was positively glowing. Finally, Mark was taking Sunday School seriously!

“Yes, Shirlee, and I know what God’s going to do to make a real impression on Egypt.” Looking ominously at his classmates, he slowly intoned, “The Passover.”

“That’s right, though I’m not sure why you say it like it’s a bad thing. In Exodus 11 and 12, God tells Moses the plan. He directed Moses to tell all the Israelites to go to their Egyptian neighbors and borrow silver and gold jewelry. That way, when He did His special trick, they could take all that silver and gold with them (Exodus 12:35-36). And then they should set aside a lamb for each household until the 14th of the month. At that time, they should all sacrifice their lambs, and splash the blood on the doorposts of their houses and cook and eat the lambs. God even gave them a recipe for this special dinner, and told them what to wear! (Exodus 12:3-11)”

“He told them how to cook it and what to wear while eating?” John laughed. “Is this God, or Martha Stewart? I mean, she is impressive and all, but . . .” The rest of the room joined in the joke, except for Mark and Shirlee.

“If you’re all finished giggling,” Shirlee continued, “I can tell you the rest. Or maybe you would like to, Mark?”

“Um, sure,” stammered Mark. He was expecting Shirlee to put some positive spin on this story, but she was handing it over to him. That didn’t smell right. But, what was he going to do? Back down? “God needed them to put the blood on their houses because, even though He is all-knowing, He couldn’t tell which houses were the Israelites’ houses without it.”

“Maybe his GPS was broken!” laughed John.

Mark chuckled, but didn’t sound very amused. “You know, it’s kind of rude to interrupt like that. May I finish? Thank you. After all, I’m going to tell you about . . . THE PASSOVER!”

A couple of the kids looked a bit taken aback. Good, thought Mark, it was a scary story.

“Late that night, after the Israelites had made their houses look like a scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, smeared with blood, God came to visit Egypt. If a house was all bloody, he ‘Passed Over’ it. If the house was not bloody–that is, the homes of all the Egyptians, whether Pharaoh and his advisers, or the poorest Egyptian peasant who couldn’t have cared less if the Israelites left and had no say in the matter anyhow–He entered the house and killed every firstborn in the household. Humans, and animals too. Every mother’s firstborn child of any age and species died.”

The class was silent for a moment. Ginny raised her hand.

Shirlee spoke up. “Yes, Ginny? Ask Mark your question.”

“Why . . . babies and lambs and . . . But why? They didn’t do anything but be Egyptian, and the babies were even too young to pick a religion yet!”

“God wanted to make an impression on Pharaoh and make a name for Himself in Egypt, Ginny. And He did,” answered Mark.

Shirlee sat back in her chair, satisfied. Not only had Mark learned what it’s like to be interrupted by a smart aleck, but he’d also quite accurately explained the Passover.

“Oh, and Ginny,” Mark added, “No, I don’t know why there’s no reference in any Egyptian records of these plagues, or of there being hundreds of thousands of Israelite slaves ever in Egypt to begin with, and why there’s no archaeological evidence of them spending 40 years wandering in the desert traveling to Israel.”

“That’s quite enough, Mark, thank you very much,” snapped Shirlee. “Are there any serious questions about the Passover?”

John raised his hand. “Are there any memorial services for all the poor, murdered Egyptians? I mean, first they all got tortured with these plagues, and then had their children killed off, all because their king was having his head played with by God.”

Shirlee paused. “But John, they were holding the Israelites, God’s People, as slaves! And God is all-knowing, so He knows what they deserved. But modern Jews and many Christians do celebrate this wonderful victory of the Lord over the Egyptians and their gods.”

John rubbed his chin. “Knows what they deserved . . . Shirlee, that sounds an awful lot like Karma. You said Karma was evil.”

“We’re not getting into that again, John. Listen, it’s the church bell! Must have been a short sermon today.”

“I didn’t hear any bell,” said Ginny.


“OK, now I hear it.”

You can learn all about the rituals associated with Passover here!

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