When Death Did Not Pass Over


Tonight, grocery stores all over Israel will cordon off every shelf and aisle hosting leaven-bearing products. Access to any grain will be restricted, abiding by the command to “observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread” as a “statute forever,” throughout “all generations.”[1] Despite even the Diaspora, this Feast has stood through millennia of Jewish history. In this case, even the grocery stores of Israel will obey the command. Throughout Israel and the Jewish world, today is the Day of Preparation for the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

When this Feast was first instituted in the bed of the Nile, Moses rounded up every elder of Israel and instructed them to “Go and select lambs for [them]selves according to [their] clans, and kill the Passover lamb”[2]—to kill a lamb who would stand in their place, that Death might pass over their homes and spare their sons that evening.[3] A final plague— the most destructive of the ten— quietly struck Israel’s prison of slavery overnight, until the morning light revealed its strength, when the wail of Egyptian mothers faced with burying their firstborn sons rose with the dawn.

But the firstborn sons of Abraham’s promise were spared, provided they adhered to the Word of the LORD and painted their doors with the blood of their stand-in lamb, marking their homes like a gruesome circumcision. That night, Death passed over all of Jacob’s sons. While Egypt grieved the following morning, the covenantal nation “consecrated all [her] firstborn sons”[4] to the LORD. Every firstborn was preserved by the blood of the lamb; every one of them now belonged to the LORD.


We must not gloss over this profound fact: this command is the first time Heaven said anything about a lamb since Isaac’s life was spared on Moriah, when the patriarch declared “the LORD will provide Himself a lamb.”[5] It was an early whisper of a holy mystery, veiled until the appropriate time:[6] The LORD will provide Himself. Moses’ record of the Exodus now knits the blood of the provisional lamb with the preservation of every firstborn son’s life. The lamb not spared made Death pass over the sons of the covenant; Israel’s firstborn sons would not die. Every year ever since, they’ve cordoned off their grain and fasted from bread and all its like to remember: Israel’s firstborn sons did not die.

As the death toll mounted across Pharaoh’s kingdom, he all but pushed Moses and his countrymen out the door, sent with gifts and gold to bid them a blessed farewell.[7] Israel plundered their oppressors that day, and later used the booty to build the Tabernacle.[8] Egypt’s king, driven mad by a delusional and hardened heart, quickly changed his mind and sent his hordes to reclaim his nation’s wealth and workforce.[9] We know the story: the most powerful army in all the world cornered a ragtag crowd of a million-plus slaves against the shores of the Red Sea—only to see the LORD’s arm part the waters just long enough to preserve His people, get them across the fluid barrier, and command the sea to crash back down on their violent slave-owners.[10] He told Abraham about this day; that He’d see and remember and repay everything Egypt would do to Israel as the fledgling nation lived through his years of oppression leading up to liberty in the Promised Land, that it would feel like He forgot about them in desert slavery—but that He would make it very clear He had been watching all along, that He never forgot His promise to shepherd His people into His promises.[11]


It isn’t the only time Scriptures speak of creation parting wide to save Israel’s children from armies crowding them into vulnerable corners and corridors, of an eleventh-hour intervention saving the covenantal nation from certain death. Zechariah wrote it will happen again, but with the dirt of the hill facing Moriah—the mount of the promised provision—instead of waters along Egypt’s borders. The LORD who will provide Himself a lamb will also “gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle,” and it will not look pretty: “the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped.”[12]

It’s gnarly. And it’s glorious—because this is the moment “every eye will see Him.”[13]

The prophet expounds:

“Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when He fights on a day of battle. On that Day, His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east.”[14]

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”[15]

“And the LORD will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. On that Day, the LORD will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that Day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD, going before them. And on that Day, I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”[16]

It is the Red Sea moment at the end of Israel’s history in this age, bookending their birth as a nation seeking their own territory in the Exodus, with their new birth as an entire nation in the Day greater than the Exodus.[17] And they’ll see the Son they* killed as the Feast of Unleavened Bread began—the dreadful day Death did not pass over.[18]


Herein lies the holy plot twist: Yeshua of Nazareth was not only Mary’s firstborn; He was God’s,[19] and Israel’s—the firstborn from the dead, in the resurrection that had forged the faith of their father Abraham.[20]

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on Me—on Him whom they have pierced—they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over Him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”[21]

As one weeps over a firstborn.

Israel’s firstborn Son did die. Isaac’s grandson was not spared. Centuries of prophetic silence after Malachi concluded with this erupting declaration: “Behold, the Lamb of God!”[22] who would be introduced again by a Roman pawn seeking to spare His life: “Behold the Man!”[23]

Jerusalem responded: “Crucify Him!”[24]

Yet, with mercy characteristic of only Jesus, when He shows up just up the valley from the Place of the Skull—and show up He will—where the promised Lamb stained the soil with His provision, He will not show up to prove a point. He will show up to prove Himself—and the sight of Him will save His nation.

“You shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”[25]





*We all had a hand in His death, but ultimately, He laid His life down. No one forced Him. (See John 10:18.)


Stephanie Quick is the author of To Trace a Rising Sun and a writer and producer serving with Frontier Alliance International in the Middle East. Sign up for her ministry updates here and receive a free copy of her book Confronting Unbelief. She can be reached at stephanie@stephaniequick.org.


[1] See Exodus 12:14-20
[2] Exodus 12:21
[3] See Exodus 12:21-29
[4] Exodus 13:1
[5] See Genesis 22:1-14
[6] See Galatians 4:4
[7] See Exodus 3:22; 12:36
[8] See Exodus 25:1-7
[9] See Exodus 14:1-9
[10] See Exodus 14:10-31
[11] See Genesis 15:13-16
[12] Zechariah 14:2
[13] Zechariah 12:10-14; Luke 21:27; Revelation 1:7
[14] Zechariah 14:3-4
[15] Acts 1:11
[16] Zechariah 12:7-9
[17] Isaiah 66:8; Jeremiah 16:14-15
[18] John 19:14
[19] Psalm 89:27
[20] Revelation 1:7; see also Hebrews 11:19 and Genesis 22
[21] Zechariah 12:10, emphasis my own
[22] John 1:36
[23] John 19:5
[24] Matthew 27:22-23;Mark 15:13-14; Luke 23:20-23; John 19:15
[25] Psalm 118:26; Matthew 23:37-39
[26] 1 Corinthians 16:22