Today’s reading begins with the Passover and concludes with the parting of the Red Sea.
After God made it clear to Moses and the Israelites that the tenth plague that he placed on the Egyptians would result in their freedom, he instructed them about how they were to prepare for their freedom. This moment of freedom was to be a significant event in the history of the Hebrew people.
The month that they were freed from captivity would be the beginning of the year to the Hebrew people. On the tenth day each family was to choose a lamb for their family. The lamb was to be a male, one year old, without a blemish. They were to keep this lamb until the fourteenth day of the month. At that time they were to kill the lamb and take some of the blood from the lamb and place it on the top of the door and the two doorposts. They were to roast the lamb over a fire and eat the lamb at night along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. In addition to the requirements of this meal, the people were to be fully dressed with their sandals and staffs. This was to be a feast that they were to keep forever as a memorial for their deliverance from captivity in Egypt.
Tenth Plague: Killing of the Firstborn. The LORD passed through all the land of Egypt and killed all of the firstborn in Egypt who had not marked their doors with the blood of the Passover lamb. In the night Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron to him and commanded that the Israelites leave along with all of their possessions. The Israelites leaving Egypt numbered 600,000 men which did not include the women and children among them which means that the total number of people about to trek through the wilderness would have easily reached 1.8 million. It’s important to note that what is typically represented in movies and TV is a mere fraction of the number of people that left Egypt. In addition to the people, there were the livestock, possessions, and newly acquired plunder from the Egyptians. This was no small party of people, not even just a large party of people, this was a massive group.
In addition to the instructions God gave to the Hebrew people regarding the Passover, He also gave additional instructions regarding who could celebrate the Passover, the consecration of the firstborn, and the feast of unleavened bread. The Israelites were to consecrate the firstborn of all that they had to God. Every firstborn son was to be redeemed and the firstborn of every flock was to be sacrificed.
Although Moses to this point had been the visible leader of the Israelites, God chose to be a visible presence to accompany His people by day and by night lead them by the way He wanted them to go. God feared that the Israelites may wish to return to Egypt and so He led them along an unfamiliar path out of Egypt. During the day God was present as a pillar of cloud and by night he was present as a pillar of fire which allowed travel by day and night away from Egypt.
Not long after the Israelites left Egypt, Pharaoh and the Egyptians realized that they had lost the free labor that they had relied on for hundreds of years and decided to try and get them to return by force. When Pharaoh began pursuing he took with him his entire army with him along with 600 of his best chariots along with the other chariots of his cohort. As Pharoah and his army approached the people of Israel panicked and fearing for their lives told Moses it would have been better if they had never left because they thought they were about to be killed in the wilderness.
Moses prayed to God for help and the LORD told him to raise up his arms and part the Red Sea in front of them so that they could pass through and escape from Pharaoh. God in the pillar of fire moved from before the people of Israel and moved behind them to stand between them and Pharoah armies. Moses did as God instructed and raised his hands with his staff and God drove the sea apart with a strong east all through the night and the people of Israel passed through the midst of the Red Sea on dry land. When Pharaoh pursued the Israelites through the Red Sea God caused their chariot wheels to clog and hindered their progress. Once Moses and the Hebrew people were clear of the sea, Moses stretched his hands out over the sea and the waters returned and the Egyptians in the midst of the sea were slain.
God had delivered the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh and their journey to freedom and their homeland had begun.