Passover and Exodus

The Passover and Exodus. These two events are closely related. Exodus means a going out; a departure or emigration. Usually, it means a large number of people leaving a region at the same time. In the Bible, ‘Exodus’ means the recorded event when the Israelites escaped from Egypt. The Passover was the decisive moment when the Israelites, who lived as slaves in Egypt, Exodus. In other words, they escaped.

The background story of Israel’s slavery to Egypt is quite dramatic. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was sold to Egypt due to his brothers' jealousy towards him. Joseph, although originally sold as a slave, achieved a tremendous rise in status. He became an Egyptian Governor after a series of twists and turns.

Joseph explains Pharaoh's dream. 19th century Jean-Adrien Guignet's work

He interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and prepared for a long famine. Through this, he became second-in-command in Egyptian rank. Scholars estimate this is the ancient Egyptian middle kingdom period, the 12th dynasty of Senusret III or the Hyksos era. 1) 2) Joseph, now a dignitary, moved his family, including his father Jacob, to Goshen, Egypt. At that time a severe famine had come upon Egypt and Canaan. Goshen, located in the eastern region of the Nile delta in Egypt, was suitable for farming and raising livestock.

Nile Delta

It was also called Rameses. Joseph could never have predicted the suffering his people would face in Egypt in the future. Joseph did such great work that the Pharaoh’s did not pay much attention to Israel. Israeli immigrants lived peacefully for at least 100 years.

Slavery Background

However, the situation changed when a Pharaoh, who did not know Joseph, came to power. In the beginning, the number of Jacob’s family and relatives was only 70 but 400 years later, the number of men over 20 years old was close to 600,000. It is estimated that the combined population including women and children was between 2-3 million.

Figures The Israelites' Cruel Bondage in Egypt

The ‘new king who did not know Joseph’ felt a sense of fear and crisis when he saw Israel prospering. Pharaoh forced the Israelites into a difficult and dangerous construction site with a demographic decline policy. The Israelites, who had managed to live well, had before long become the slaves. This history occurred according to God’s prophecy. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.“ (Genesis 15:13) Early on, God had prophesied this to Abraham, who you could say is the progenitor of the Israeli people’.

The Ramesses II Colossus in Luxor Temple

In Exodus chapter 1, the Israeli slaves’ story of how they led a miserable life due to pharaoh's tyrannical rule over them is short but graphically illustrated. God chose Moses to negotiate with Pharaoh. Scholars estimate that Pharaoh, whom Moses faced at that time, was someone of the 18th dynasty of the New age Egyptian kingdom. There is also no shortage of opinion that says it is 19th Dynasty Ramses II. 3) 4) Pharaoh would never release the slaves. At that time, victory or loss in a war, the yield of grain, the speed of construction work were all in proportion to manpower. It was unusual to release slaves, who were the nation’s strength without some kind of compensation. In order to break Pharaoh’s stubbornness, God poured down #10 plagues on Egypt. The Egyptian lakes and rivers turned into blood, there were frogs, lice, and rampant swarms of flies. The livestock died due to disease, malignant boils metastasized, and people and livestock hit by hail all died. Ensuing swarms of grasshoppers swept clean the crops, and darkness covered Egypt for three days. At this point, if Pharaoh had released the Israelites it would have been good, but Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened. God decided to use the last measure for Israel’s escape from Egypt.

Plagues of Egypt, 1872 Lawrence Alma-Tadema's work - Death of the Pharaoh's Firstborn Son

On the first month, 14th day God determined this day to carry out his command. And He let the Israelite people know the way to avoid the plague of death. The way to avoid the plague of death was to keep the Passover.

God's Command, the Passover then Exodus

The Israelites kept the Passover solemnly as God commanded them. The tenth plague came upon Egypt. It killed all the firstborn of Egypt. Pharaoh, who did not break his stubbornness, could not argue against Moses anymore. He could only tell the Israelites to leave.

Departure of the Israelites, 1828 David Roberts'work

The Egyptians also urged the Israelites to leave quickly. The Israelites were able to safely avoid the plague of death by keeping the Passover. And the monumental history of emancipation from Egypt and liberation from slavery was fulfilled. 430 years had passed since Jacob and his 70 family members had come to Egypt.5)6) God did not want the Israelites to forget this day of emancipation from Egypt. He commanded the Israelites to keep it from generation to generation. According to God’s command, the Passover is celebrated as the greatest festival. The day when the Israelites were liberated from their long slavery, that historic day, is the Passover.  

The Biblical World: An Illustrated Atlas, Jean-Pierre Isbouts, Random House Inc, p. 94, ISBN 1426201389
Genesis 46:27
Exodus 12:40-41