Passover is intricately connected with the Blood of the “Lamb”, whether it be the remembrance of salvation through the Passover in Egypt or the fulfillment of Passover in Messiah who shed His blood on Passover day(John 19:14) as our Lamb(1Pet 1:19).
But most of us do not see the significance of God’s command to sacrifice a Lamb, especially when the Israelites were under the rule of the Egyptians.
Let’s look at the first hint given in Genesis when Joseph met his brothers for the first time:
Gen 43:32 And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.
But why was it an abomination to the Egyptians to eat with Hebrews? No reason is given here. Many of us conclude that it would have been a cultural practice where the Egyptians saw themselves superior to the Hebrews. But this was not the reason it was seen as an abomination. Let’s look at the next hint:
Gen 46:33,34 And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? That ye shall say, Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.
Now the reason starts to become clearer, as it is mentioned herding sheep was seen as an abominable act to the Egyptians. This is why the Hebrews were settled in Goshen, away from the Egyptians. But why did the Egyptians see shepherds as an abomination? Let us look at the next hint:
Exo 8:26 And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?
When Moses speaks to Pharoah and asks him to let the Hebrews go, so that they can sacrifice to YHVH, the Pharoah tells Moses to do their sacrifices inside Egypt. To which Moses replies in the above manner seen in Exo 8:26. The phrase “Abomination of the Egyptians” does not mean that they saw sheep as an unclean/abominable animal. On the contrary, they worshiped it. The phrasing is written in the perspective of the Israelites and not the Egyptians. Meaning the sheep was a sacred animal which was an abomination that the Egyptians were involved in, in the eyes of God and His people. We see evidence for this in the following verse.
2Ki 23:13 And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.
In the above verse we see that the “Abomination of the Zidonians” was “Ashtoreth”. The “Abomination of the Moabites” was “Chemosh”. The “Abomination of the Ammonites” was “Milcom”. These were all pagan gods that were abominations in the perspective of God and His people. In the same way, the “Abomination of the Egyptians” was the “sheep”. There is historical evidence that the sheep was venerated by the Egyptians, and this makes perfect sense of the first hint we saw in Gen 43:32 as they saw Hebrews as a people who raised, kept and killed sheep as livestock. This is why shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians as seen in Gen 46:33,34.
Pagan gods with the likeness of Sheep in Egyptian History
Khnum and Anum were the two main deities of the Egyptians that had a connection to the Sheep.
Khnum was one of the earliest-known Egyptian deities, originally the god of the source of the Nile. The worship of Khnum centered on two principal riverside sites, Elephantine and Esna, which were regarded as sacred sites. At Elephantine, he was worshipped alongside Anuket and Satis as the guardian of the source of the Nile River.
Amun is a major ancient Egyptian deity which was later fused with the Sun god, Ra, as Amun-Ra or Amun-Re. Amun-Ra held the position of transcendental, self-created creator deity and was positioned as King of Gods developed to the point of virtual monotheism where other gods became manifestations of him. With Osiris, Amun-Ra is the most widely recorded of the Egyptian gods and was depicted at one point as a ram-headed deity.
Prior to entering the Temple of Amun in Karnak, there is a long row of Sphinxese depicting the ram of the god amun with the king standing under its paws beneath its chin.
The first plague that came upon Egypt may have also targeted Khnum, as he was regarded as the guardian of the Nile.
One can only wonder whether the Hebrews were making bricks for such temples that depicted the sheep as a god figure. In such a background, now we can understand the true circumstances of having to sacrifice sheep to YHVH. Now we can understand why Moses goes to say “would they not stone us” if they sacrificed inside Egypt (Exo 8:26). The stakes were very high, as God was commanding the Hebrews to take a stand against the gods of Egypt. When they sacrificed the lambs at Passover, they would have had to have complete faith in God. If they were wrong, the Egyptians very well could have stoned them the next day for desecrating their land.
By asking to make a public display of the blood of the lamb, God was saying there is no other who can protect the Hebrews other than YHVH. And on the other end God was asking His people to put their faith in Him. To rise up against the abominations of Egypt and show that they are ready to follow God instead.
And there lies the parallel for us, as we enter the season of Passover. As we remember the death of Yeshua on Passover day according to the Gospels, let’s remember that we are also called to rise against the abominations of our past and put complete faith in him. Let us put our slavery to death behind us, and walk towards the Land God has promised His people. Amen.