Pesakh: The PASSOVER

To Pass Over: pasakh, verb (Strong’s 6452); “the Passover”: pesakh, masculine noun (Strong’s 6453).

Root: פסח

Sounds like: pa-sawk/ pey-sawk

The First Passover

Passover is the first feast of the Jewish liturgical year. It’s a strange combination of solemnity and joy. It remembers a great loss (the firstborn of an entire enemy nation) and a great victory (saving lives and giving them freedom). The Festival was equally about dying and living. It called for a sacrificial death and it celebrated a life saved from servitude. 

To see how it all began we’ll start by reading about the first Passover event:

Exodus 12:1-14, 21-27, 42-51

Now YHWH said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year for you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are, each one, to take a lamb for themselves, according to the fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbour nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; in proportion to what each one should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to slaughter it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall completely burn with fire. Now you shall eat it in this way: with your garment belted around your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in a hurry—it is YHWH’s Passover  [Pesakh hu YHWH]. For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and fatally strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the human firstborn to animals; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am YHWH. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over [u-pasakh’ti] you, and no plague will come upon you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Now this day shall be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to YHWH; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance… 

…Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slaughter the Passover (lamb) [ha-pasakh]. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.

For YHWH will pass through to strike the Egyptians; but when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, YHWH will pass [u-pasakh YHWH] over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to strike you. And you shall keep this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. When you enter the land which YHWH will give you, as He has promised, you shall keep this rite. And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ then you shall say, ‘It is a Passover [pesakh] sacrifice to YHWH because He passed [pasakh] over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped…

…It is a night to be observed for YHWH, for having brought them out of the land of Egypt; this night is for YHWH, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.

And YHWH said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover [ha-pasakh]: no foreigner is to eat it; but as for every slave that someone has purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat it. A stranger or a hired worker shall not eat it. It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring any of the meat outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. But if a stranger resides with you and celebrates (the) Passover [pasakh] to YHWH, all of his males are to be circumcised, and then he shall come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised male may eat it. The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who resides among you.”

Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as YHWH had commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day YHWH brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their multitudes.

This was the first Passover… a night of miraculous salvation and really, the birth of a new nation. This gave the people their identity. They were no longer a nation of slaves; they were God’s chosen people, saved by His merciful hand. Death passed over them, but it did not take them. They were under YHWH’s dominion!

Pasakh, The Verb 

This first account of the Passover included the noun pesakh (indicating the name of this new Fesival, Passover), but this name was based on the verb, pasakh, which showed up for the first time in the Passover story event when YHWH said:

Exodus 12:13

[YHWH:] The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over [u-pasakh’ti] you, and no plague will come upon you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”

This verb has been translated in various ways: to pass over, to spring about, to leap, to limp, to be lame. 

When Elijah faced off against the priests of Ba’al he admonished the people, saying:

1 Kings 18:21

“How long are you going to struggle with the two choices?  (literally: spring/pass [pos’khim] between the two opinions?) If YHWH is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” 

Almost comically, in response, the priests of Ba’al actually leaped around in an effort to get their god to respond. They were leaping around their non-responsive choice:

1 Kings 18:26, 29

Then they [the priests of Ba’al] took the ox which was given them and they prepared it, and they called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about [wai-pas’khu] the altar which they had made

…When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.

The Ba’al worshippers passed over YHWH, but they leaped around for their own god. In response, their god did nothing for them. But YHWH did everything for His people! The prophet Isaiah spoke of God passing over His people, like a bird, and rescuing them:

Isaiah 31:5-7

Like flying birds so YHWH of armies will protect Jerusalem.

He will protect and save it; He will pass-over [paso’akh] and rescue it.

Return to Him against whom you have been profoundly obstinate, you sons of Israel. For on that day every person will reject his silver idols and his gold idols, which your hands have made for you as a sin.

Second Passover, in the Desert

After Moses led the people out of Egypt, they went into the wilderness to make their way to the Promised Land. They celebrated the second Passover in the dessert:

Numbers 9:1-14 (see also Deuteronomy 16:1-8)

Now YHWH spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Now the sons of Israel are to celebrate the Passover [ha-pesakh] at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall celebrate it at its appointed time; you shall celebrate it in accordance with all its statutes and all its ordinances.” 

So Moses told the sons of Israel to celebrate the Passover [ha-pasakh]. And they celebrated the Passover [ha-pasakh] in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai; in accordance with everything that YHWH had commanded Moses, so the sons of Israel did. 

Purity laws dictated that people deemed unclean (such as being in contact with a dead person) were unable to celebrate Passover. This seemed rather unfair to those who were exempt because of bad timing, so they asked Moses to clarify:

Numbers 9:6-12

But there were some men who were unclean because of contact with a dead person, so that they could not celebrate the Passover [ha-pesakh] on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron on that day. Those men said to him, “Though we are unclean because of a dead person, why are we kept from presenting the offering of YHWH at its appointed time among the sons of Israel?” 

Moses then said to them, “Wait, and I will listen to what YHWH will command concerning you.”

Then YHWH spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If any one of you or of your generations becomes unclean because of a dead person, or is on a distant journey, he may, however, celebrate (the) Passover [pesakh] to YHWH. In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight, they shall celebrate it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall not leave any of it until morning, nor break a bone of it; they shall celebrate it in accordance with the whole statute of the Passover [ha-pesakh]

Exceptions to the timing of Passover could be made. They could celebrate on the fourteent day of the second month. But for those who were clean, and chose not to celebrate Passover, there was a warning:

Numbers 9:6-13

But the person who is clean and is not on a journey, yet refrains from celebrating the Passover [ha-pesakh], that person shall then be cut off from his people, because he did not present the offering of YHWH at its appointed time. That person will bear the responsibility for his sin.

Strangers (non-Jews) who wanted to celebrate Passover to YHWH were also welcome to join in the celebrations as long as they did not stray from the Passover rules:

Numbers 9:14

And if a stranger resides among you and celebrates (the) Passover [pesakh] to YHWH, according to the statute of the Passover [ha-pesakh] and its ordinance, so he shall celebrate it; you shall have the same statute, both for the stranger and for the native of the land.’”

Notice, you don’t have to be Jewish to celebrate Passover! Everyone of us can celebrate YHWH’s redeeming love, Jew and Gentile.

First Passover in the Promised Land

The rules were set, the exceptions were sorted, and the Passover tradition was rooted. When the people finally passed into the Promised land they celebrated Passover, on the appointed day (14th day of the first month):

Joshua 5:10-12

While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they celebrated the Passover [ha-pesakh] on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. Then on the day after the Passover [ha-pesakh], on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and roasted grain. And the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.

This celebratory meal ended their time of manna. There would be no more “bread from heaven”. YHWH had provided what He had promised… a land full of milk and honey.

We have no indication that the celebration of Passover stopped here. We know that they celebrated Passover in the time of the judges (2 Kings 23:22) and they also celebrated in the days when Samuel was a prophet (2 Chronicles 3:18). But it appears that the scale of the celebration may have waxed and waned.  We don’t get another description of a Passover event until long after King David’s reign.

Returning to the Practise of Passover

Over time, memory fades and traditions can change. After King Solomon and the splitting of the kingdoms, Israel and Judah went through many tumultuous years with more bad kings than good ones. Many forgot (or chose not) to celebrate their freedom from Egypt and God’s hand of Salvation. They turned to foreign gods and adopted new festivals.

One of the rare good kings of Judah was Hezekiah. He faced the threat of the Assyrians, but he wanted his people to celebrate the feasts of YHWH. However, there was a problem. They weren’t ready for the Festival when the first month came around. But over and over the Bible reminded the people of the date of Passover:

  • In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is YHWH’s Passover [pesakh YHWH] (Leviticus 23:5)
  • YHWH’s Passover [pesakh YHWH] shall be on the fourteenth day of the first month.” (Numbers 28:16)
  • “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall have the Passover [ha-pasakh], a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten.” (Ezekiel 45:21)

It seemed like that date was set in stone but, as we have seen, there were exceptions to this rule. Hezekiah knew his people couldn’t participate in the Festival in the first month, so he decided to celebrate Passover in the second month:

2 Chronicles 30:1-5, 13-20

Now Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of YHWH in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover [pesakh] to YHWH God of Israel. For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover [ha-pesakh] in the second month, since they could not celebrate it at that time, because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem. So the decision was right in the sight of the king and all the assembly. So they established a decree to circulate a proclamation throughout Israel from Beersheba to Dan, that they are to come to celebrate Passover [pesakh] to YHWH God of Israel in Jerusalem. For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as was written

…Now many people were gathered at Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, a very large assembly. They got up and removed the altars which were in Jerusalem; they also removed all the incense altars and threw them into the brook Kidron. Then they slaughtered the Passover [ha-pasakh] (lambs) on the fourteenth of the second month. And the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves, and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the house of YHWH. They stood at their stations following their custom, according to the Law of Moses the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood which they received from the hand of the Levites. 

For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves; therefore, the Levites were in charge of the slaughter of the Passover [ha-p’sakhim] (lamb) for everyone who was unclean, in order to consecrate them to YHWH. For a multitude of the people, many from Ephraim and Manasseh, and Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover [ha-pasakh] contrary to what was written. For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good YHWH pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, YHWH God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” So YHWH heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

This is quite a significant passage. Was God mad that they had the Festival in the second month? No! It appears that the rules weren’t all that important to God. As we saw earlier, God made an exception and allowed those who were unclean (according to Levitical laws) in the first month to celebrate a month later (14th day of the second month). Hezekiah would have remembered that story.

But God also allowed a second exception in Hezekiah’s Passover. Even those who were deemed “unclean” could celebrate Passover with everyone in the second month (they didn’t have to wait for a third month). Their bodies may have been “unclean” but their hearts were pure… and that’s all God wanted. 

This passage gives us a glimpse of God’s character: He cares so much more about the sincerity of hearts than the following of rules.

A few decades after Hezekiah was king, Josiah became king of Judah. The two kings before him (Manasseh and Amon) were terrible leaders. They abandoned YHWH and turned to pagan gods. But Josiah turned back to YHWH and reinstated the celebration of Passover:

2 Kings 23:21-23 (see also 2 Chronicles 35:17-19)

Then the king commanded all the people, saying, “Celebrate (the) Passover [pesakh] to YHWH your God as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” 

Truly such a Passover [ca-pesakh] had not been celebrated since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover [ha-pesakh] was celebrated to YHWH in Jerusalem.

Twelve years after Josiah’s reign Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem. The people were taken hostage and sent into exile to Babylon. They could no longer celebrate Passover.

Image by Jeff Jacobs (

Passover in the Second Temple

When the people were finally allowed to return to Israel they rebuilt the Temple. It was completed in time to celebrate Passover:

Ezra 6:19-21

The exiles held the Passover [ha-pesakh] on the fourteenth of the first month. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were pure. Then they slaughtered the Passover [ha-pesakh] (lambs) for all the exiles, both for their brothers the priests and for themselves. And the sons of Israel who returned from exile and all those who had separated themselves from the impurity of the nations of the land to join them, to seek YHWH God of Israel, ate (the Passover)

This new Temple in Jerusalem meant that all the sacred Jewish Festivals could be reinstated. The people would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate not just Passover (Pesakh), but also the high festivals of Shavuot and Sukkot.

Yeshua and the Passover 

Yeshua was no exception to Jewish festival customs. The only time we read of Yeshua being in Jerusalem was when He was there for the Festivals, including Passover (Pesakh):

Luke 2:41-42

His (Jesus’) parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover [Pascha]. And when He was twelve years old, they went up there according to the custom of the feast. 

John 2:13

When the Jewish Passover [Pascha] was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Yeshua’s last days took place during the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He knew his end would come during Passover:

Matthew 26:1b-2

He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover [Pascha] is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” 

Yeshua had quite a reputation by this time. Every good Jew was expected to go to Jerusalem for Pesakh, but many wondered if the notorious Rabbi, Yeshua, would come to Jerusalem. 

John 11:55-57

Now the Passover [Pascha] of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country prior to the Passover, in order to purify themselves. So they were looking for Jesus, and saying to one another as they stood in the temple area, “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might arrest Him.

This would be the perfect time to arrest Yeshua. Undoubtedly He would show up for the Festival.

John 13:1

It was now just before the Passover [Pascha] Feast, and Jesus knew that His hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the very end.

This was supposed to be a celebration of escaping slavery and entering into the Promised Land. The irony wasn’t lost on Yeshua. He didn’t get to escape slavery; He became a slave to death so that we could enter our true Promised Land and return to the Father, purified and redeemed. He was the Passover Lamb, sacrificed to free the people.

But before He would go and fulfill His destiny as the slaughtered lamb, He would celebrate His last Passover feast with His disciples:

Mark 14:12-26

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover (lamb) [Pascha] was being sacrificed, His (Jesus’) disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover [Pascha]?” 

And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover [Pascha] with My disciples?”’ And he himself will show you a large upstairs room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” 

The disciples left and came to the city, and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover [Pascha].

When it was evening He came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me.” 

They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?” 

But He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, the one who dips bread with Me in the bowl. For the Son of Man is going away just as it is written about Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, Take it; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, This is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again, until that day when I drink it, new, in the kingdom of God.

And after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

In the story of the 10 plagues of Egypt, death was the final plague. It devoured the unprotected first-borns. Yeshua, the first-born of YHWH, would die. He would not escape the curse of the final plague. But He would defeat it. Only Yeshua could fulfill God’s promise of eternal life. And the only way to defeat death was to succumb to it. He laid His life down, and the rose up and conquered the curse.

John 10:14-18

I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice; and they will become one flock, with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it back. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it back. This commandment I received from My Father.”

You may celebrate Passover; you may celebrate Easter. Whatever you celebrate, remember the sacrifice made for you. But more importantly, remember that God wholeheartedly believes that you were worth dying for!

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Shalom, one and all.

Next week: Learning Psalm 68:19

2 thoughts on “Pesakh: The PASSOVER”

    MAY !!!!!!!HASHEM OR YHWH!!!!!!! HELPS ME TO ABSORB !!!!!!!HISWORD!!!!!!! WITHOUT LIMITS!!!!!!! IN THE NAME OF !!!!!!!YESHUA HAMASHIAH!!!!!!! AMEN!!!!!!! AMEN!!!!!!!
    POSTED !!!!!!! HOWEVER , PERMIT ME TO SAY I, ” I GIVE ALL THE GLORY TO !!!!!!!YHWH!!!!!!! AMEN!!!!!!! AND AMEN!!!!!!!


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