Meals and Unity
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
The Passover was of supreme theological significance for the Israelites, since it marked one of the most momentous acts of divine intervention in their history, the beginning of their deliverance from bondage in Egypt when, in the final plague, God destroyed the firstborn of the Egyptians but spared those Israelites whose homes had blood smeared on the doorposts (Ex 12:11–30). God commanded that the day was to be observed as a memorial feast (12:14), and the next Passover celebration occurred in the Sinai desert (Nm 9:1–5). In the Hebrew calendar the Passover festival came in the first month, called Abib in Deuteronomy 16:1, but known after the exile as Nisan (cf. Neh 2:1). The Passover rite took place the 14th evening (Lv 23:5), and this was followed by a seven-day period during which nothing leavened was to be eaten. The principle for removing all leaven from bread was similar to that underlying the draining of blood from animal flesh. Both leaven and blood had quickening power and were to be kept separate as an offering to God. The 1st and 7th days of this period were marked by a holy assembly, during which the only work permitted was the preparation of food (Ex 12:16). This period when unleavened bread was eaten was described as a feast because it opened the 7-day period of grain harvest (Dt 16:9). During this feast special burnt sacrifices were offered, along with a sheaf of newly harvested barley. By NT times the festivals of Passover and unleavened bread were well-attended celebrations and were known as the “days of unleavened bread” (Lk 22:1; Acts 12:3). The theme of Israel’s deliverance from the power of Egypt by divine intervention assured the Israelites that God was always ready to act on behalf of a faithful and obedient covenant people. It also reminded them that they had once been slaves (Dt 16:12). In Israelite life the early Passover and unleavened bread observances were comparatively simple in character, but during the monarchy more elaborate passover rituals came into use (cf. 2 Kgs 23:21–23; 2 Chr 35:1–19).
The first Passover was the event in which God “passed over” the Israelite homes in Egypt during the 10th plague. At this time, a commemoration known as the Passover was established and celebrations were recorded in both the OT and NT. Jesus is figuratively referred to as the “Passover lamb” in the NT.
In the 10th plague leading up to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, God killed the firstborn (בְּכֹר, bĕkōr; πρωτότοκος, prōtotokos) of the land of Egypt. He commanded the Israelites to perform certain observances so that he would pass over פָסַח (pāsaḥ) their houses and not destroy their firstborns. These observances included slaughtering a small flock animal (שֶׂה, śeh) and sprinkling its blood (דָּם, dām; αἷμα, haima) on the doorposts and lintels of their houses to mark it as one to be passed over. The Israelites were to eat the roasted meat of the animal with unleavened bread (מַצָּה, maṣṣâ; ἄζυμος, azymos) and bitter herbs (מְרוֹרִים, mĕrôrîm). As a result of the death of the firstborns, the Egyptians commanded the Israelites to leave Egypt. God established an annual commemoration of these events involving the sacrifice of a flock animal and the eating of unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The word פֶּסַח (pesaḥ, “Passover”) refers both to the original event (e.g., Exod 12:11) and to the annual commemoration (e.g., Num 9:4).
The Greek word for Passover, πάσχα (pascha), is found in the NT as well as the Septuagint. Both pesaḥ and pascha can also refer to the animal sacrificed at Passover (Exod 12:21; Mark 14:12).
For the Israelites, the Passover represented how God was faithful to his people by bringing them out of the land of Egypt and protecting them from destruction. The commemoration of this event is celebrated every year on the 14th day of Abib (also called the first month and the month of Nisan). The Israelites symbolically reenacted God’s act each year at the festival of Passover, which continued to be observed through to the exile; during the time of Jesus (e.g., John 18:39); and by Jesus himself (e.g., Matt 26:17). Jesus’ celebration of the Passover is the event during which he establishes what comes to be known in the Christian tradition as the Eucharist (also Lord’s Supper, Communion). It is thought that certain elements of the Passover tradition as it was celebrated in Jesus’ day, namely the passing of wine and eating of unleavened bread, are the elements subsequently used in the Eucharist.
Scholars debate whether references to Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36) indicate that John is portraying Jesus as the Passover animal. However, in 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul explicitly refers to Jesus as the sacrificed Passover animal. Now that Jesus stands in place of the Passover animal, the redemption of those who are cleansed by the blood is accomplished and new life partaken of—just as the Israelites were redeemed through the exodus to become a new people before God. Thus, Paul argues that old patterns of living (i.e., sin), which he refers to as “leaven,” are to be done away with.
פֶּסַח (pesaḥ). n. Passover, Passover animal. Represents both the Passover observance and the animal that is slaughtered during that celebration.
The core text describing the first Passover and the establishment of the annual Passover festival is Exod 12. The term pesaḥ often appears in the fixed phrase “a Passover to the Lord” (e.g., Exod 12:48; Deut 16:1), meaning that it is a religious festival commemorating the action of Yahweh. This phrase often occurs in descriptions of when the festival is to be observed, i.e., the 14th day of the first month (Lev 23:5; Ezek 45:21). It sometimes refers to the Passover animal (e.g., Exod 12:21; 2 Chr 30:15).
פָסַח (pāsaḥ). vb. to pass by, limp. To pass over, protect, preserve.
At the first Passover, Yahweh passes over (pāsaḥ) the homes of the Israelites and spares them from the plague of the death of the firstborn (Exod 12:13). The name of the Passover, פֶּסַח (pesaḥ), is etymologically derived from this verb. Isaiah 31:5 mentions that Yahweh will preserve (pāsaḥ) Jerusalem and deliver it from its enemies. This use is close in sense to the use in Passover accounts of Exod 12.
חָג (ḥāg). n. feast, festival. Properly speaking, a festival involving a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; it is a religious gathering celebrated corporately.
Ḥāg refers to Passover in Exod 12:14 (see also Ezek 45:23), but Passover is not consistently referred to as a pilgrimage festival. The three classical pilgrimage festivals are the Feast of Unleavened Bread (closely linked with Passover; see Num 28:17), the Feast of Weeks (שָׁבֻעוֹת, šābuʿôt), and the Feast of Booths (סֻכּוֹת, sukkôt); for the command to observe these three feasts with a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, see Deut 16:16. It is likely that the Passover was celebrated as a pilgrimage festival to Jerusalem for part of Israel’s history (Deut 16:1–8) and not in the home as indicated in Exod 12:1–46. In the NT, Luke 2:41 shows Mary and Joseph celebrating Passover with a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
מַצָּה (maṣṣâ). n.; מַצּוֹת (maṣṣôt). pl. n. unleavened loaf, unleavened bread, Feast of Unleavened Bread. Refers to a type of flatbread made without a leavening agent (e.g., yeast); a pilgrimage festival in which this bread is consumed is also known by this name. The singular refers to a single loaf, but the word usually appears in the plural.
For practical reasons, unleavened bread was made for meals prepared in a hurry, because it did not need time for the leaven to work (e.g., Gen 19:3; 1 Sam 28:24). The use of unleavened bread at the exodus stems from this usage, as the Israelites did not have time to bake leavened bread when Pharaoh commanded them to leave Egypt (Exod 12:34; 12:39). In commemoration of this, only unleavened bread was to be eaten during the Passover (Exod 12:8; Num 9:11) and the six days of the immediately following Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exod 12:14–20). In Leviticus 23:5–6, Passover begins on the 14th day of the month and the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th (Num 28:16–17). Unleavened bread is also prescribed for certain kinds of offerings that are not connected with Passover, e.g., the grain offerings described in Lev 2.
חָמֵץ (ḥāmēṣ). n. leavened bread, leavened dough. Refers to dough or bread that has been leavened.
Leavened bread is forbidden during the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exod 12:15; Deut 16:3). There is a penalty of being cut off from the people of Israel if something leavened is consumed during these times (Exod 12:15).
שְׂאֹר (śĕʾōr). n. leaven, leavened dough. Refers to a leavening agent or dough that has been made with a leavening agent.
In Exodus 12:15, 19, the Israelites are forbidden from eating anything leavened from the time of the Passover and for six days after that (i.e., seven days total). They must remove it from their houses. In Deuteronomy 16:4, leaven must be removed from the territory of Israel before the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread celebrations.
מְרוֹרִים (mĕrôrîm). n. bitter things, bitter herbs. Refers to things which are bitter in taste (e.g., grapes, drink, herbs) and can be used metaphorically for something that causes anguish to the person.
In Exodus 12:8 and Num 9:11, bitter herbs (mĕrôrîm) are eaten along with the Passover sacrifice and the unleavened bread. The same word is used metaphorically in Lam 3:15 and Job 13:26 to refer to things that are “bitter” to the soul—unpleasant or bitter experiences. Exodus 1:14 uses a related verb (מָרַר, mārar) to describe the Egyptians making the Israelites’ lives metaphorically bitter with slavery. The bitter herbs eaten at Passover are traditionally understood as recalling the metaphorical bitterness of slavery in Egypt.
שֶׂה (śeh). n. goat, lamb. Designates either a goat or sheep or both types of small flock animal.
The Passover animal is the animal God commanded to be sacrificed in Exod 12:3. One male animal that is a year old and without physical defect is selected for each household. This animal is subsequently sacrificed, its blood is placed on the doorposts, and the rest of the animal is roasted and eaten. While it is commonly thought that the sacrificial animal was a lamb (i.e., a young sheep), śeh can designate either a sheep or a goat and is commonly contrasted to larger herd animals such as oxen or cows (e.g., Exod 34:19; Lev 22:23). There is evidence that early Passover celebrations did not strictly adhere to only sacrificing flock animals. In Deuteronomy 16:2, the animal is either from the flock or the herd (see also 2 Chr 35:7).
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.