On the fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Nissan (which falls out in Spring), Jewish people begin celebrating an eight-day festival called Passover. For seven days they eat no leavened foods, they have a festive meal on the first night called a Seder and celebrate the redemption of their ancestors from ancient Egypt. What exactly happened there in Egypt? Let’s tell you all about it…
“Way, way back many centuries ago, not long after the Bible began…”
So goes the song from “The Prince of Egypt” which is based on the Exodus. And indeed, at the end of the first book of the Bible, Genesis we read that Jacob travelled with his family to the area of Egypt so as to escape a famine in the Holy Land. Over the next couple of centuries, Jacob’s descendants become very numerous and enjoy a good standard of life. a new Pharaoh rose to power who heard from his star-gazers that there would be a Jewish boy who would lead a rebellion against Egypt. In response he enslaved the Hebrews and when he noticed that this wasn’t helping he decreed that all Jewish male babies be thrown into the river.
The Leader Moses
There was a Jewish baby born called Moses and in order to escape Pharaoh’s harsh decree his mother hid him in the river in a basket and appointed his older sister, Miriam to hide nearby and to make sure that nothing happens to him. Along came Pharaoh’s daughter walking by the river who spots Moses’ basket and discovers the little baby inside. She takes Moses back to the palace with her and there the Hebrew child is raised as an Egyptian prince.
Moses grows up and one day as he takes a walk outside he sees an Egyptian guard killing a Hebrew. Moses then kills the Egyptian and once word gets out of his actions he runs away to the desert in fear of his life. in the desert he comes across the family of the Midianite priest Jethro and takes his daughter as a wife. He shepherds Jethro’s flock and it happened that one day when out tending the flock he sees a burning bush and when he draws close to inspect the phenomenon, G-d’s voice calls out to him and tells him that he will be the one to lead His people out of Egypt, with his brother Aaron as his aide.
Let My People Go!
Moses approaches Pharaoh with G-d’s message that he must let the Hebrew go but Pharaoh refuses and as a result G-d brings ten plagues upon Egypt;
- Blood – All the waters in the country turn to blood. As a result all the fish die and the water is unfit for use.
- Frogs – Frogs swarm over the entire land.
- Lice – Lice attach themselves to the Egyptian people and property.
- Wild Animals – Wild animals attack the Egyptian people and homes.
- Pestilence – All the livestock in Egypt is struck by disease.
- Boils – Painful boils cover all of the Egyptian people’s bodies.
- Hail – Hail destroys all Egyptian crops.
- Locusts – Any remaining crops or food were eaten by swarms of locusts.
- Darkness – The entire land of Egypt is covered by darkness for three days.
- Death of the Firstborn – The firstborn in every Egyptian family dies, including the firstborns of Egyptian animals. The name of the festival- Passover- is actually derived from the tenth plague whereby the Angel of Death “passed over” Hebrew homes, sparing their firstborns.
Following the tenth plague a frantic Pharaoh lets the Hebrews go. The people were in the middle of making bread for the journey but were in such a rush to leave that their bread didn’t rise and they were left with unleavened bread which is why this is what Jews eat for all seven days of the festival.
Soon after he lets them go Pharaoh regrets his decision and sends his army after the people. As the Hebrews reach the Sea of Reeds, the Egyptian army closes in on them from behind. The waters of the sea split, allowing the Hebrews to pass through unharmed and the waters come crashing down on the Egyptian army. Once they crossed the sea the Hebrews began their forty year journey to the Holy Land.
Hope you enjoyed the story!
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