“Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time.” Numbers 9:2 ESV
Our family Passover preparations are now in full swing as we prepare to host a Seder at our home with family and friends in just a couple of days. Passover begins this year on Friday evening, April 6th. Today we are busy finalizing our guest list, grocery shopping, studying, rehearsing, writing this blog and doing plenty of Spring cleaning (which also means we have to drink up all the beer in the fridge really soon – it’s not that much I promise:-)!
Last week I wrote about The “Egyptian Passover” and gave a brief history of that very first Passover event and what made it unique in comparison to all others after it. For this post, I originally wanted to take a quick look at the post-Exodic (not “exotic”, but “exodic” as in after the Exodus) Passover up until the time of the Men of the Great Assembly. But as I begin to research the Passover from the Biblical and extra-biblical sources starting with the Book of Joshua to King Josiah on to the Book of Jubilees and The Wisdom of Solomon, I quickly realized that this would not be a quick survey after all. Instead of writing a 4,000 word blog of which I have scarcely the time, I decided to split this chronological theme up into much smaller sections over a longer period of time (I have Passover ideas to blog about for many years to come now:-). Makes sense right?
Passover on the Plains of Jericho
“While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho.” (Joshua 5:10 ESV)
This phrase “on the plains of Jericho” sounds very idyllic to me, like some sweeping grandiose setting from a bygone era that gets romanticized in a Hollywood movie. I can picture the scenes in my mind well and imagine some of the interactions of the people. The sweeping Jericho plains at sunset with Palm trees shadowed in the background and the Jordan river flowing in the distance. The tent sites are abuzz with campfires crackling and the excited chatter of the relatively youthful Israelites, almost all who are under the age of sixty with the majority not even forty years old yet. These young generations of Israelites who had weathered the sins of their parents and the harshness of desert life, have just crossed over the Jordan river into this Land they have heard only stories about since they were born. Now it is coming to pass before their very eyes, all of their hopes and dreams will soon be realized in this Land that had been promised to the generations of old, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joshua, who is one of only two who are left from their parents generation, is their courageous and very capable leader. Joshua was Moses’ right hand man while Moses was alive and Joshua was ordained by God to take Moses’ place after his death. Joshua gives a speech to this young nation that is both inspiring and sobering at the same time. He recounts the faithfulness of the Lord in leading them to this Promised Land and details the blessings spoken of to Moses about how God will shower them with so much provision and abundance that it will be like the Land breaking forth into song and dance all around them. Yet, Joshua also reminds them of the dangers of disobedience and rebellion, of a lack of trust in the Lord and the byproduct of that behavior that they know all too well. The youthful crowd responds to Joshua, “We will take care to do all that the Lord has commanded us to do”!
Many of the young men of the camp were anxious to go forth and “conquer” the Land. They were confident and not a few a bit cocky after they had seen what had happened to the Kings of the Amorites and Canaanites (Joshua 5:1). They knew well the report of the their brethren who had went to spy on the city of Jericho and had brought back this report to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.” (Joshua 2:24 ESV). But before the next battle was to begin, the Lord commanded patience, an obedient patience in the form of circumcision.
Circumcision?! This second generation of Israelites had not been circumcised in the wilderness due to the sins of their fathers, which had delayed the Israelites from entering into the Promised Land in the first place for 40 years. That ancient rite of passage “hadn’t been practiced in many years” some of them said and others cringed at the thought of the pain it entailed. Nevertheless, the whole nation was obedient to the Lord’s command through Joshua and they remained in their camp at a place called Gilgal until they were healed. After Joshua had all the males circumcised, God told Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” (Joshua 5:9 ESV). This circumcision was important for multiple reasons;
- According to the Covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 17:10-11, all of Abraham’s descendents should be circumcised as an act of obedience.
- Circumcision is a sign of the Israelites being in covenant with God and the Land of Canaan is a Promise of that Covenant (Genesis 17:8).
- According to Exodus 12:48, no one uncircumcised may partake of the Passover sacrifice.
During the time of healing and waiting, their was another rite, albeit a much more “modern” one that perhaps some had never took part in and others had but it had been since their teenage years or earlier – The Passover. Passover was the memorial and commemoration of God’s deliverance of His people Israel, that culminated in the Exodus out of Egypt and set in motion the journey that led them here, to the plains of Jericho – the gateway to the Promised Land.
Sure, they all knew what the Passover was and what it meant to them historically, but most had never actually experienced this sacred event. So here they were on the plains of Jericho, on this side of the Jordan river, with their tribes and divisions of families and they were about to fulfill God’s command to Moses to “Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.” (Deuteronomy 16:1). On this night so long ago in the shadow of the infamous walls that would soon come tumbling down, I can imagine all the families remembering the past 40 years gone by since the Lord’s redemption from Pharaoh and his army and a young son of Israel probably no more than 4 or 5 years old asking his father “what does this night mean?” and his father replying with the words of Exodus 13:8 ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ I could also imagine the words and thoughts of the evening not just dwelling on the past but looking forward to the future redemption as well, when God will deliver yet again the people who He saved for all eternity in peace and glory. At least that’s how I suppose it could have all happened out on the plains of Jericho over 3,000 years ago. This was the first Passover celebrated in the Promised Land!
May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah, our Passover!
Chag Sameach Pesach 5772!!! Happy Passover 2012!!!
The Bond Family