The Night When a Nation was Born

Exodus 11:1 to13:22

While all these terrible plagues, of which we read in the last story, were falling upon the people of Egypt, the Israelites in the land of Goshen were living safety under God's care.  The waters there were not made blood; nor did the flies or the locusts trouble them.  While all was dark in the rest of Egypt, in the land of Goshen the sun was shining.

This made the Egyptians feel that the Lord God of the Israelites was watching over his own people.  They brought gifts to the Israelites of gold and silver, jewels, and precious things of every kind, to win their favor, and to win the favor of their God.  So the Israelites, from being very poor, began suddenly to be very rich.

Now Moses said to the people, "In a few days you are to go out of Egypt, so gather together, get yourselves in order by your families, and your twelve tribes, and be ready to march out of Egypt."

The people of Israel did as Moses told them. 

Then Moses said, "God will bring one plague more upon the Egyptians, and then they will let you go.  But you must take care, and obey God's command exactly, or the last terrible plague will come upon your houses with the Egyptian houses.  At midnight, the angel of the Lord will go through the land, and the oldest chld in every house shall die.  Pharaoh's son will die, and every rich man's son, and every poor man's son, even the son of the beggar that has no home.  But your families shall be safe if you do exactly as I command you."

Then Moses told them what to do.  Every family was instructed to find a lamb and kill it.  They were to take some of the blood of the lamb and sprinkle it at the entrance of the house, on the door frame overhead, and on each side.  Then they were to roast the lamb, and with it to cook some vegetables, and to eat it standing around the table, with all their garments on, ready to march away as soon as the meal was ended.  No one was to go out of his house that night, because God's angel would be abroad, and he might be killed if the angel would meet him.

The children of Israel did as Moses commanded them.  They killed the lamb, and sprinkled the blood, and ate the supper in the night, as God had told them to do.  This supper was called the "Passover Supper," because when the angel saw the doors sprinkled with blood, he "passed over" those houses, and did not enter them.  In memory of this great night, when God kept his people from death, the Israelites were commanded to eat just such a supper on that same night every year.  This became a great feast of the Israelites, and was called "The Passover."

Does not the slain lamb, and his blood sprinkled to save the people from death make you think of Jesus Christ, who was the Lamb of God, slain to save us all?

That night a great cry went up from all the land of Egypt.  In every house thre was one, and that one the oldest son, who died.  Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, saw his own son lie dead, and knew tht it was the hand of God.  All the people of Egypt were filled with terror, as they saw their children lying dead in their houses.

The king now sent a messenger to Moses and Aaron saying, "Quickly!  Get out of the land!  Take everything that you have.  Leave nothing.  Pray to your God to have mercy upon us, and not do us any more harm."

So suddenly at the last, early in the morning, the Israelites, after four hundred years in Egypt, went out of the land.  They went out in order, like a great army, family by family, and tribe by tribe.  They went in such haste that they had no time to bake bread to eat on the journey.  They left the dough in the pans, all ready mixed for baking, but not yet risen as bread is before it is baked.  They set the bread pans on their heads, as people do in that land when they carry loads.  And as a memory of that day, when they took the bread without waiting for it to rise, the rule was made that for one week in every year, at that same time of the year that they left Egypt, all the people of Israel would eat bread that is "unleavened."  That is bread made without yeast, and unrisen.  This rule is kept to this day by the Jews, who belong to the Israelite family.

The Lord God went before the people of Israel as they marched out of Egypt.  In the day time there was a great cloud, like a pillar in front.  At night it became a pillar of fire.  So both by day and night, as they saw the cloudy and fiery pillar going before them, they could say, "Our Lord, the God of heaven and earch, goes before us."

When the pillar of cloud stopped, they knew that was a sign that they were to pause in their journey and rest.  So they set up their tents, and waited until the cloud would rise up and go forward.  When they looked, and saw that the pillar of cloud was higher up in the air, as though moving forward, they took down their tents and formed in order for the march.  In this way, the pillar was a guide by day and a  guard by night.

Remember that when Joseph died he commanded the Israelites not to bury his body in Egypt, but to keep it in a stone coffin, unburied, as long as they were in Egypt.  So when they left Egypt, the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, who were Joseph's descendants, took with them on their journey this stone coffin which held the body of Joseph.

(Source:  Mother's Story of the Bible, by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, 1905)

Review Questions

1.  What was the one last terrible plague that was going to happen to the Egyptians?

2.  Why did the Israelites have to put blood from a lamb on the entrance of their house, on the door frame overhead, and on each side?

3.  Why did they have to stand up to eat their supper that night?

4.  Why did they have to stay inside their houses?

5.  What was this supper called?

6.  What does the lamb and the blood stand for?

7.  Why did the Israelites take unleavened bread with them on their journey?

8.  How did God guide the Israelites on their journey by day?  How did he guide them by night?

9.  Whose body was taken in a coffin when they left Egypt?

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