What does “Passover” really mean?

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These are the appointed feasts of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight,  is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. – Leviticus 23:4  

Passover marks the beginning of the biblical calendar. Almost two weeks ago was the first day of the first month of the biblical year, the bible’s “January 1st”. God spoke to Moses while  he was in Egypt, just before the Exodus and said to him: “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you” (Exodus 12:1). Since then, Passover has been celebrated for thousands of years as the feast of liberty from bondage , and so it is called “Chag HaCherut” in Hebrew (the feast of liberty). As followers of Yeshua, we know that Israel’s Exodus and their liberation from slavery in Egypt was a foreshadowing of what Messiah would achieve for all those who put their trust in Him. So today when celebrating Passover, we remember both our forefather’s freedom from the yoke of bondage to Pharoah and his taskmasters by the LORD’s mighty hand and outstretched arm and also our freedom from bondage to sin and death through Messiah.

That freedom was made possible by one central factor, the blood of the lamb. On that momentous night in Egypt over 3,000 years ago, GOD instructed the Israelites to each take a lamb, slaughter it and apply the blood to their doorposts. In Exodus 12:23 Moses instructed the Israelites of what would take place: “For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.”

Notice the language used: “… the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.”. Because of the blood the LORD will “pass over” and not allow the destroyer to enter the Israelites homes or harm them. While we don’t know exactly who/what the “destroyer” was, it was not Jehovah Himself but rather an destroying angel. It was the LORD (Jehovah) who would be at the door post to “pass over” to not allow this angel to enter with death in its wake.

The Hebrew word for “Passover” is Pesach ( root letters P.S.CH) and is usually translated as “pass over” as in walking or leaping over something. However, when taking a second glance at other sections in the Tanach (aka Old Testament) where Pesach is used, we gain another point of view.

First, in Hebrew (biblical and modern) the word for a lame person is “Piseach”. These are the same three letters as “Pesach” (P.S.CH) just with different vowels. It’s used for the first time in Exodus 21:18 and then many time thereafter. What action could a lame person perform (not considering modern day aids)? Could he leap and jump, or rather is confined to firmly remain in one spot, not being able to move? The latter option is the reality, and that may get your thoughts going. Here is another one: In 1 Kings 18:21 Elijah challenged the people of Israel about worshipping the true GOD. He asked them for how long will they waver between two opinions  if the LORD is God then serve Him, and if Baal, then serve Baal.

This same root word (P.S.CHis used here for “waiver”. The Israelites were not wavering (or limping as some translations say) between two opinions, they were firmly standing on both of them at the same time. The Israelites had one foot in GOD’s camp and the second in Baal’s camp (like much of Israel’s history), so Elijah challenged them to make a choice and decide where to have both their feet planted. In the context of this passage the meaning of P.S.CH is to also stand firm and not move. Finally, in Isaiah 31:5 the root word P.S.CH also appears, and again it describes the LORD standing firm and defending Jerusalem. He will hover of it like a flock of birds to preserve and deliver it.

Additionally, the early translators of the Septuagint used the Greek word “skepazo” for the Hebrew word “Pesach” in verse 13 where GOD said “… And when I see the blood, I will pass over (skepazo) you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” The meaning of “skepazo” is to cover, hide, protect, defend or shelter. This Greek word was also used in passages like Exodus 33:22, Dueteronomy 32:11 and Psalm 61:4.

When applying this contextual understandings to Exodus 12:23 (and vs. 13), an amazing picture is revealed, and not quite like we may traditionally think about “pass over”. The blood of the Lamb moves the LORD to stand firm, protect and defend (or as it is translated – to “pass over”) the homes of the Hebrews, not allowing the destroyer to enter. In the same way, the blood of the Lamb defends and protects us from the true enemy and destroyer of our souls, not allowing him to enter accompanied by death.

The image of Passover is not of the LORD seeing the blood and “skipping” over the house, but rather of Him standing firm right at the doorstep and defending or sheltering the entrance from allowing death to enter. This is what GOD did for the Israelites, this is what Yeshua did and continues to do for us also. It is because of His advocacy, His defence (1 John 2:1) gained through His righteous blood, that we’ve been saved, protected and can be called sons and daughters of the most high GODThat is what Passover really means.

This article originally appeared on Out of Zion Ministries and is reposted with permission.