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From Slavery to Freedom: Israel Celebrates Passover

April 19, 2024

by: Ilse Strauss

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Passover unleavened bread, named matzah and wine

Friday, 19 April 2024 | The story of Israel’s ancient Exodus from Egypt has all the elements required for an epic tale. There is the cruel and merciless taskmaster, a people oppressed and an Almighty God who liberates His people “with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders” (Deut. 26:8).

As sundown on Monday ushers in the festival of Passover, Israel will commemorate God’s redemption of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. This holiday marks the birth of a nation forged in the desert, and it rejoices in His leading the Children of Israel into the Land of His promise.

The Exodus took place around 1,400 BC—some 3,300 years ago. Today, as the descendants of the Children of Israel prepare to celebrate their miraculous deliverance, they remember that the very first Passover dawned quite dramatically.

After decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, God raised up Moses to lead the Jewish people from Egypt to the Promised Land. Moses approached pharaoh with a message from God: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me” (Exod. 9:1). Pharaoh refused. Nine plagues followed. Yet pharaoh’s heart remained hardened.

Then came God’s message to Israel: “About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die…” (Exod. 11:4). The firstborn from the nation of Israel would, however, remain untouched—if the people followed God’s instructions.

God commanded the Children of Israel to choose an unblemished lamb for each Jewish household. The Passover lamb was then to be slaughtered and its blood spread across the doorposts and lintels of each household. God’s reason for the seemingly strange instructions was simple: “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exod. 12:13).

Things happened just as God said. “And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt…” (Exod. 12:29)—except the households where there was blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts.

Pharaoh relented, and 600,000 men plus many more women and children left Egypt on that Passover day to begin the journey as the nation of Israel to the land which God promised to their forefathers.

Tonight the descendants of the Children of Israel remember these epic events as Passover begins. For seven days, they will eat only unleavened bread, or matzah, in obedience to the biblical commandments (Exod. 12:14–16, Lev. 23:5–8).

The main celebration occurs at home among family and friends with a traditional feast called a seder (literally “order”). The meal takes place in a very specific order, which is meant to transport everyone on their own journey from slavery to freedom. It includes the reading of the Haggadah (“the telling”), which recounts the Exodus story.

The seder is a joyous celebration with songs, prayers and questions. Everybody participates in recalling and retelling the story. Passover, more than any festival, is about remembering and passing that story of deliverance on to the next generation, just as God commanded: “So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance” (Exod. 12:14).

More than 3,000 years later, Israel still keeps that commandment. The nation’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, explained it this way: “More than 300 years ago, a ship by the name of the Mayflower left Plymouth for the New World. It was a great event in American and English history. I wonder how many Englishmen or how many Americans know exactly the date when that ship left Plymouth, how many people were on the ship, and what was the kind of bread the people ate when they left Plymouth.”

“Well, more than 3,300 years ago, the Jews left Egypt…and every Jew in the world knows exactly the date we left. It was on the 15th of [the month of] Nisan. The bread they ate was matzah. Up to today, all the Jews throughout the world on the 15th of Nisan eat the same matzah, in America, in Russia. [They] tell the story of the exile from Egypt; all the sufferings that happened to the Jews since they went into exile. They finish [with] these two sentences: ‘This year we are slaves; next year we will be free. This year we are here; next year we will be in Zion, the land of Israel.’ Jews are like that.”

As the people of Israel mark the Passover celebration this year, they once again find themselves crying out for freedom, this time from a modern-day pharaoh: Hamas, as the terrorist group continues holding hostages in the Gaza Strip.

It has been more than half a year since Hamas terrorists enacted their brutal massacre on October 7, killing more than 1,200 people and taking some 240 hostages back to Gaza. Since then, the people of Israel have been echoing Moses’s cry from millennia ago: “Let my people go!”

Nonetheless, Israelis defeat terrorism and death by continuing to live their lives with the motto that encompasses the spirit of all the national holidays: “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.”

This year will be no different, as Jerusalem and cities across Israel hold different events to mark the occasion, culminating in the yearly traditional Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Thursday, April 25.

Thousands of Jewish people are expected to attend the event, which in addition to the traditional blessings will include prayer for the return of the hostages from Gaza, for the Israeli soldiers as they fight to protect the nation on multiple fronts, for healing for the injured and for the well-being of the Jewish state.

From Bridges for Peace, Happy Passover, and may you join us in remembering what a powerful God we serve and asking Him to once again set His people free from bondage.

Posted on April 19, 2024

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 19, 2024)

Photo Credit: Eczebulun/

Photo License: Wikimedia