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Shemot/Exodus 12:7 And they shall take from the blood and they shall put on the doorposts and on the lintel ...
Taking the blood - or asRashi explains, receiving the blood - is the second of the four steps involved in bringing an animal offering to the L-rd. The first two - "slaughtering" the animal and then "receiving" or catching the blood into a vessel after slaughter - are performed here as part of the Exodus Passover ritual, the second two - "bringing" the blood in the vessel to the altar and then "sprinkling" or dashing the blood against the altar - are here replaced by daubing the blood against the doorposts and the lintels of the houses where the Israelites lived and are to eat the Pesach offering during the night before they set out from Eygpt.
Some of the commentators differ in their understanding of where this action was to take place.Rashbam states that the lintel is "the upper threshold that is visible to all at the entrance of the house", working from B'resheet 26:8 where "Abimelech King of the Philistines looked out, () of the window" to see Yitz'chak and Rivka. Ibn Ezra, drawing on his experience of Middle Eastern architecture, connects the lintel to 1 Kings 6:4 where Solomon "made narrow windows () for the Temple" - these windows were wider on the outside than on the inside to let the outside world benefit from the light of the Temple. Ibn Ezra points out that houses in Egypt are built around a courtyard, with each house having its own door, doorposts and lintel, and the courtyard having an outer gate or door; he suggests that the blood was put only on the inner doors of each house, in secret, after the outer gates were closed, at evening, so that no-one should see.
According to verses 13 and 23, the blood is to be a sign to the Destroyer, who is to pass through the land of Egypt at midnight. Nahum Sarna explains that "the lintels and doorposts form the demarcation between the sacred Israelite interior and the profane world outside" (page 55) and stresses that there is no suggestion that the blood itself had any magical properties; "the deliverance of Israel is ascribed solely to divine decision." Another example can be seen in the Vision of Slaughter seen by the prophet Ezekiel: the man clothed in linen is told to "Go through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst" (Ezekiel 9:4, NASB), while other men, referred to as the "executioners of the city" (v.1, NASB) are told to "Go through the city after him and strike ... utterly slay ... but do not touch any man on whom is the mark" (vv. 5-6, NASB). The same imagery crops up again in the book of Revelation where the beast "causes all ... to be given a mark on their right hand, on their forehead, and ... no-one should be able to buy or to sell except the one who has the mark" (Revelation 13:16-17, NASB); those who do receive the mark "will also drink of the wine of the wrath of G-d ... and will be tormented with fire and brimstone" (14:9-10, NASB). The idea of the sign, then, as a powerful token of ownership and allegiance is strong and consistent throughout the Scriptures.
Standing on Mt. Arbel at the western side of the Sea of Galilee and looking north you can see a large town or city crowning the hilltops past the northern end of the Kinneret. Visible from Tiberias, Migdal and all the towns and biblical sites round to Capernaum and Bethsaida, this is Safed - Tz'fat in Hebrew - the town where many well known rabbis gathered in the 16th century and known today as one of the holy cities of Israel. The city was unmistakable in Yeshua's day, in that prominent position overlooking the towns and villages where Yeshua spent much of His ministry time, and commentators suggest that it was the model for Yeshua's striking remark in the Sermon on the Mount. You can imagine Him pausing, turning away from the people listening to Him and pointing away up the hill as He said, "You are light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14, CJB). Funnily enough, one of the things that Safed is known for today is its candles; beautiful hand-made dipped and crafted candles, in many shades and colours, can be bought everywhere in Israel and are exported all over the world: Shabbat candles, Hanukkah candles - candles for decoration and pleasure.
So from the blood on the lintel, a sign to the Destroyer, which whether done in public or private nevertheless played a key part in the redemption of our people from Egypt, to a mark on the forehead that protected a man from execution, to a mark that enabled trade but brought the wrath of G-d, to Safed - the city on a hill - we can see how important and powerful signs and symbols can be. G-d intends that each of us should be a sign, both to the people around us and to the powers and authorities in the heavenly realms, of His kingdom and authority in the world!
Further Study: Joshua 2:17-21; Ephesians 4:30
Application: How are you doing on the sign scale? Whether out in public or in a more private setting, G-d has chosen you so that you may be a sign for Him in what many see as a dark world. Wherever you are, do what you can to shine today. G-d's light will never be extinguished, but we each have to play our part to let the light shine out brightly.
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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