Why Are Mystic Magi in the Jewish Nativity Story?

Why do mystic Magi appear in an account written about a Jewish Messiah? Magi were scorned by Judaism for their mystical reputation.[1] How likely is it the Jewish author of Matthew would unnecessarily introduce the Magi…unless it was true?

MT 2:1 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem…” (NIV)

MT 2:1 “In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem…” (NRSV)

Clearly not worried his reference to the Magi would ever be called into question by his contemporaries, Matthew’s account covered the Magi through 12 verses with at least 10 specific details.[2] He assumed his audience would recognize the Magi for who they were and the significance of their visit to Jerusalem.[3]

Matthew’s Greek text uses the word magos. Its Latin word equivalent is magus, its plural form is magi.[4] The word is sometimes translated into English as “wise men” – both are correct.

Babylonians, Medes and Persians viewed magos as an eclectic group of priests, physicians, teachers, soothsayers, interpreters of dreams, astrologers, and sorcerers. Not surprisingly, magi is the root word of the English word “magic.” It is easy to see how magi could be referred to as “wise men” – or just as easily, “mystics.”

Roman era Jewish society had a dual-perspective of magi. One was of the famed Daniel, a captured Israelite of royal descent whom Nebuchadnezzar placed into the elite Babylonian school of the Chaldeans which included an education in astronomy and astrology.[5]

Scripture says God gave “Daniel understanding in all visions and dreams,” a gift that landed him in Nebuchadnezzar’s royal council of wise men, the chakkiym.[6] Later, Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel chief of all the magi, a Rab-mag.[7]

After the Medes and Persians overthrew the Babylonian Empire, Daniel’s “extraordinary spirit” again elevated him to a high level of government authority under Darius.[8] The main religion of the Medes and Persians during the reigns of Darius and Cyrus was Zoroastrianism. Its found, Zoroaster, was himself a magi.[9]

Setting the stage for the other Jewish perspective of magi began when Alexander the Great marched through Judea. The Greek Empire’s open-minded Hellenistic culture allowed the Jews religious freedom, but it also introduced Zoroastrianism intermingled with influences of the Babylonian chakkiym; its priests called magi. [10]

Over the coming decades the effects of Hellenism on Jewish culture was unavoidable much to the frustration of the Jewish Rabbis. Liberal philosophies of Hellenism permeated Jewish culture meanwhile Greek became the common language.[11] Next came the Roman Empire which was content to leave the prevailing culture in Judea alone.[12] 

As expert astronomers, the Magi used the legendary Babylonian astronomical science and charts to study of the motion of stars past, present and future. Their ability to plot upcoming cosmic events were scientifically predictive, not “mystical.” [13]

Toward the very end of the BC era a series of rare celestial conjunctions occurred, ones hard to ignore by astronomers – then or today. Witnessing just one such rare conjunction can be an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Imagine the scenario where, in a space of just 5 years from 7-2 BC, there were 13 rare conjunctions including two triple conjunctions! [14]  

Zoroaster beliefs held that celestial events served as signs with earthly significance. Signs of a newborn king observed by the Magi were so awe-inspiring, they set out on a month’s long quest to find and worship him.[15] If these signs visible across the entire Middle East were of such great magnitude, then why were only three magi inspired to begin such a quest?  Matthew does not say there were only three Magi…a Christmas legend.

Matthew’s introduction of the Magi into the Nativity story has a full historical basis behind its setting. Not just anyone appearing on the door step of the King’s palace would expect to gain entry. Yet, when the Magi arrived unannounced, they had no problem gaining direct access to King Herod who gave them his immediate and full attention. 

Herod did not question the credibility of the Magi when they gave him the alarming news about the birth of a king of the Jews. Neither did the King’s Jewish religious council who, instead, pointed Herod to Micah’s prophecy saying a Jewish ruler was to be born in Bethlehem.

Believing the prophecy to be true, Herod invited the Magi back for another meeting to investigate the timing of the star, directed them to Bethlehem, and slyly asked for their help in finding this newborn king. Angered when they didn’t return, Herod’s reaction by killing all the children 2 years old and under in the Bethlehem district testifies to his belief in the truth of the Magi’s message about a newborn king of the Jews.

If King Herod, his royal Jewish religious council and the author of Matthew believed the credibility and message of the Magi, should others believe it, too?

REFERENCES:

[1] Deuteronomy 4, 18.  Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Sanhedrin 98a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html> “Zoroastrianism – Magi.” Geni. 2016. <https://www.geni.com/projects/Zoroastrianism-Magi/13185>  
[2]  Matthew 2:1-12.
[3] Martin, Ernest L. The Star of Bethlehem – The Star That Astonished the World. 2017. Chapter 2. A.S.K. (Associates for Scriptural Knowledge.  <http://www.askelm.com/star/star002.htm#_ednref19>
[4]  “magus”  WordReference.com. <http://www.wordreference.com/es/translation.asp?tranword=magus> “magi.”  WordReference.com. <http://www.wordreference.com/es/translation.asp?tranword=magi> “magus.” Merriam-Webster.  <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/magus>  
[5]  Daniel 1. Guisepi, Robert. “The Chaldeans, The Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonian) Empire.” International World History Project.  2007.  <http://history-world.org/chaldeans.htm>  “Chaldea.”  Encyclopædia Britannica. 2014.  <http://www.britannica.com>  “Chaldea.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4213-chaldea>
[6] NKJV.  Daniel 1- 2.  “Magi.” New World Encyclopedia. 2014. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Magi>  Net.bible.org.  Daniel 2:12 Hebrew text “chakkiym” <02445>.  “Chaldea.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  Diodorus of Sicily. Mesopotamia: Ninus, Semiramis, the wonders of Babylon; Sardanapalus, Chaldaean astrology.  Vol. I.  Book II.  University of Chicago|Bill Thayer.  2017.  Page 431 # 24 ; p 447-457 #29-31. <http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Diodorus_Siculus/home.html>
 [7] Jeremiah 39:3, 13.
[8] NASB. Daniel 6, 10-12.  Deuteronomy 4:19.  Gascoigne, Bamber.  “History of Zoroastrianism.”  HistoryWorld.net. n.d.  <http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ab71>  “Zoroastrianism – Magi.” Geni. “Daniel, the Magi and the Luni-solar Calendar of Israel.” TryGod.com. 2017. <http://try-god.com/daniel-the-magi-and-the-luni-solar-calendar-of-israel.php
[9]  Zoroastrianism.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/15283-zoroastrianism>
[10] “Hellenism.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7535-hellenism>.  Hooker, Richard.  “Alexander the Great – Hellenistic Greece.” Washington State University. 1999. <http://web.archive.org/web/20110104072822/http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/ALEX.HTM>  “Zoroastrianism – Magi.”  Geni. “Zoroastrianism.”  BBC|The British Broadcasting Corporation. 2009. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/zoroastrian>   Jafarey, Ali Akbar.  “The Achaemenians, Zoroastrians in Transition.”  CAIS|The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies. 2015. <http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Religions/iranian/Zarathushtrian/achaemenian_zarathushtrian.htm>  Hooker, Richard.  “Mesopotamia:  The Persians.”  Washington State University. 1996. <http://web.archive.org/web/20110514001358/http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/MESO/PERSIANS.HTM>  Hooker, Richard.  “Hellenistic Greece:  Hellenism.” Washington State University. 1999. <http://web.archive.org/web/20110104072353/http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/HELLGREE.HTM>   “Zoroastrianism.”  ReligionFacts.com. 2014.  <http://www.religionfacts.com/zoroastrianism/index.htm>  Reed, Vicky.  “The Religion of the Persian Empire.” EsthersLegacy.com.  2011. <http://estherslegacy.com> “Zoroastrianism.”  PersianEmpire.info. 2007. <http://persianempire.info/zoro.htm>  Gascoigne. “History of Zoroastrianism.”  Gascoigne, Bamber. “Iran (Persia) timeline.” HistoryWorld.net. n.d.  <http://www.historyworld.net/timesearch/default.asp?conid=static_timeline&timelineid=759&page=1&keywords=Iran+%28Persia%29+timeline>  Eduljee, K. E. “Greek Perceptions of Zoroaster, Zoroastrianism & the Magi.”  Zoroastrian Heritage. 2011. <http://zoroastrianheritage.blogspot.com/2011/04/greek-perceptions-of-zoroaster.html>  Leverington, David. Babylon to Voyager and Beyond – A History of Planetary Astronomy.  Chapter 1. 2003.  <http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/08408/sample/9780521808408ws.pdf>  Diodorus.  Mesopotamia: Ninus, Semiramis, the wonders of Babylon; Sardanapalus, Chaldaean astrology.  Vol.I, Book II. Page 457; #31. 
[11] Josephus.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter II.
[12] Myrle, Winn. “The Impact of Hellenism On Rome.” The Ancient Nile Webring. n.d.  <http://kekrops.tripod.com/Hellenistic_Files/Impact_On_Rome.html>  Hooker. “Hellenistic Greece:  Hellenism.” Petrucci, Valerio. “Hellenization and Romanization – the Dialogue Between Greek and Roman Cultures in the 1st and 2nd Centuries.” 2017. Academia. <https://www.academia.edu>
[13] Eduljee. “Greek Perceptions of Zoroaster, Zoroastrianism & the Magi.”  Leverington. Babylon to Voyager and Beyond – A History of Planetary Astronomy. Chapter 1.
[14] Carroll, Susan S. “The Star of Bethlehem:  An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.” Pulcherrima Productions.  1997.  Twin Cities Creation Science Association.  n.d. <http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_susan_carroll.pdf>  Phillips, Tony. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.”  NASA Science | Science New. 16 May 2000. <http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast16may_1>  “Birth of Jesus.” Navsoft.com. 2012. <http://navsoft.com/html/birth_of_jesus.html>  Martin.  The Star of Bethlehem. Chapters 1, 4.  Cain, Fraser. “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.”   Universe Today.  29 Oct. 2004.  <http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt>  Sielaff, David.  “An Important August 2 B.C.E. Conjunction.”  A.S.K. (Associates For Scriptural Knowledge), 2005. <http://www.askelm.com/news/n051211.htm>  Clevenger, John. “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.”  Lake County (Illinois) Astronomical   Society.  n.d. <http://www.lcas-astronomy.org/articles/display.php?filename=the_christmas_star&category=miscellaneous>  Haley, A. S. “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.”  Anglican Curmudgeon.  2009. <http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/10/star-of-bethlehem-and-nativity.html>  Newman, Robert C. “The Star of Bethlehem: A Natural-Supernatural Hybrid?”  Interdisciplinary Bible Research Institute.  IBRI Paper (2001).  <http://www.newmanlib.ibri.org/Papers/StarofBethlehem/75starbethlehem.htm>  Beatty, Kelly. “Venus and Jupiter:  Together at Last.” Sky & Telescope. 25 June 2015. <http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/venus-and-jupiter-a-dazzling-duo-062520154>  Ratnikas,  Algis. “Timeline 499BCE – 1BCE.”  Timeslines of History.  n.d. <http://timelines.ws/0D499_1BC.HTML>  Pratt, John P.  “The Star of Bethlehem’s Forerunner.” JohnPratt.com. <http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/lds/meridian/2000/xmas_star.html>  “Star of Bethlehem May Have Been Planets Jupiter, Venus.”  IU News Room. 16 Dec. 2003.  <http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/1203.html&t=Star%20of%20Bethlehem%20may%20have%20been%20planets%20Jupiter%20and%20Venus>  Mosley, John. “Common Errors in ‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetarium Shows.” Third Quarter 1981, International Planetarium Society, Inc. n.d. <http://www.ips-planetarium.org/?page=a_mosley1981>  Flescher, Eric and Sessions, Larry. “Ten ‘Star’ of Bethlehem Myths: Part II.”  Space.com. 26 Dec. 2001. <http://web.archive.org/web/20041205014757/http://space.com:80/SpaceReportersNetworkAstronomyDiscoveries/flescher_Xmasstar2_122601.html>  Cain, Fraser. “Venus-Jupiter Conjunction, March 15th, 2012.”  Universe Today. 13 Mar. 2012. <http://www.universetoday.com/94113/venus-jupiter-conjunction-march-15th-2012 >  Fazekas, Andrew.  “Christmas Star Mystery Continues.”  National Geographic Daily News. 24 Dec. 2008.  <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/12/081224-star-bethlehem.html
[15] “Trade between the Romans and the Empire of Asia.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/silk/hd_silk.htm>  National Museum of American History, “Trade Routes” >  “Major Trade Routes of 2nd Century BCE – 1st Century CE.”  <http://web.archive.org/web/20160618154742/http://americanhistory.si.edu:80/numismatics/parthia/frames/pamaec.htm> “Iran Historical Maps Arsacid Parthian Empire, Armenian Kingdom.” Atlas of Iran Maps. n.d. Iran Politics Club. 2014. <http://iranpoliticsclub.net/maps/maps04/index.htm

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David – the Iconic King of Israel

 Prophecies say the Messiah would come from the House of David. Who was this iconic king of Israel and why would the Messiah need to be born in his lineage?

Red-headed David as the youngest of 8 boys drew the short straw assigned to be the shepherd of his father’s sheep.[1] Alone in the wilderness, he became an expert with a slingshot and singlehandedly killed lions and bears who threatened the flock.[2]

Summoned by his father, Jesse, one day to come back home in Bethlehem, much to David’s surprise the prophet Samuel was there waiting. He anointed David as God’s choice to be the next King of Israel.[3] David’s legendary fame would begin and grow soon thereafter.

Three of David’s brothers were fighting in Israel’s army supported by their father who routinely sent David to them with supplies. During one visit to the battle front, David was astonished to see Israel’s army afraid of a giant Philistine ace warrior named Goliath who challenged and taunted the army daily.

Asking King Saul’s permission to battle Goliath, the shepherd boy was ridiculed by his older brothers and Saul tried to talk him out of it, but the King relented. David defiantly announced to Goliath he will kill him in the name of the Lord and cut off his head. And he did just that – with a slingshot and a single stone then using Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head. That very day David was placed in the service of King Saul.[4]

David’s fame eventually made Saul jealous who tried to hunt down and kill him.[5] Failing to seek and obey God’s guidance would cost Saul his own life and that of his sons in battle. After his death, the people of Israel anointed David as their king, but he had no throne.[6] The fortified city of Jebus seemed the perfect place.

As a skilled formidable warrior serving in King Saul’s army, David had become well-known to his enemies.[7] Equipped with this savvy and fame, he gathered people of Israel, formed an army and advanced toward Jebus.

Hurling insults at David’s approaching army, the Jebusites yelled “the blind and the lame” could fight off Israel while arrogantly positioning lame and blind people on the city walls in mockery.[8] Taking great offense, David offered the army’s commanding general position to whomever led the army to victory over Jebus.[9] Joab became that commanding general.

Soon after taking the city, it expanded to encompass the Mounts Moriah and Zion. Jebus, formerly known as Salem, now was called by a new name – Jerusalem, the City of David.[10] 

More good news came from God through the prophet Nathan saying David’s future son would be the one to fulfill promises God made to Moses to build the House of God and to Jacob that the scepter would never leave his family:[11]

2 Sam 7:12-13  “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” [12]

Basking in the glory of his kingdom, David decided to take a census contrary to God’s past instructions.[13] General Joab pressed the King not to do it, but David persisted.[14]

Punishment for David’s sin was heavy upon the nation and the King pleaded with God to punish only himself and his family because Israel was innocent. The prophet Gad delivered God’s response instructing David to build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah on Mount Moriah and offer an atonement sacrifice for the people of Israel.[15] 

David purchased the threshing floor, the oxen and materials, then built the altar himself. To his astonishment, God sent fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice.[16] Moved deeply, David declared:  “This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of burnt offerings for Israel.”

The promised House of God, the Temple, was to be built on Mount Moriah, the place where a 1000 years earlier Abraham took his only son, Isaac, to be sacrificed, then spared at the last moment with a substitute sacrificial ram.[17] Incredible coincidence?

Lord Acton’s quote “absolute power corrupts absolutely” applied even to David.[18] Using his celebrity and power, the King lured the married beautiful Bath-Sheba into his palatial bedroom, seduced her and she became pregnant. Her husband, Uriah, was one of David’s top military officers away fighting a war – how would Bath-Sheba explain away her pregnancy? David devised a cover-up plan.

Uriah was summoned by the King from the battlefield under the pretense of some R&R, but in reality to allow an opportunity for him to have marital relations with his wife to provide cover for her pregnancy. It backfired when the loyal Uriah thought it would not be fair to his troops back on the battlefield if he enjoyed the pleasures of Bath-Sheba.

David’s back-up plan was to send Uriah to the frontlines where he was killed in battle. No secret to God, the murder plot was exposed through the prophet Nathan. As punishment, Bath-Sheba’s illegitimate baby died, yet while being consoled in her grief by David, she conceived another son named Solomon who would become the next king of Israel.[19]

In spite of his major human failures, God still honored His promise to David. Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah over the following centuries would prophesy that the Messiah was to come from the House of David; prophecies confirmed by renowned Jewish Sages Rashi and Maimonides.[20]

David wrote many of the Psalms, some deemed to be prophetic.[21] First words of Psalms 22, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” were uttered by Jesus shortly before he died on the cross. The full 22nd Psalm depicts the dramatic image of a man dying in agony and humiliation remarkably consistent in specific detail with the circumstances of the Roman crucifixion of Jesus a millennium later.

As a mortal, Jesus would have no control over being born a 1000 years later into the royal lineage of David in his same hometown of Bethlehem, especially exceptional considering that up until the last moment Jesus was expected to be born in Nazareth, a week’s long journey away. What are the odds of improbability it was simply by chance?

REFERENCES:

[1] 2 Samuel 11, 16.
[2] I Samuel 17.
[3] I Sam. 16; Chronicles 2, 10.
[4] I Samuel 18.
[5] I Samuel 19.
[6] 2 Samuel 2, 5.  1 Chronicles 10, 11.
[7] 1Chronicles 11.
[8] I Chronicles 11; 2 Samuel 5. Josephus.  Josephus, Flavius.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book VII, Chapter III.1. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[9] 2 Samuel 5.  I Chronicles 11. Josephus.  Antiquity. Book VII, Chapter III.1.
[10] I Chronicles 17:1. Josephus. Antiquity. Book VII, Chapter III.1-2. Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. “Jebus <2982>”  <https://net.bible.orgLexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  Hebrew “Jebuw <2982>” (Brown-Driver-Briggs). <http://lexiconcordance.com>  Dolphin, Lambert. “Mount Moriah, Site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”  TempleMount.org. 1996.  <http://www.templemount.org/moriah2.html> “Zion.”  Fausset Bible Dictionary. 1878. http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd>  
[11] Genesis 49; 2 Samuel 5; 1 Chronicles 11, 17; Chronicles 5; 1Kings 2; Judges 1; Psalms 76.  Josephus.  Antiquities. Book VII, Chapter III.2.    
[12] NASB.  I Chronicles 17.
[13] Exodus 30.
[14] I Chronicles 21; 2 Samuel 24.
[15] I Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 3; 2 Samuel 24.
[16] I Chronicles 21.  2 Samuel 24. “Araunah.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com> “The Site – The Temple Mount.”  Bible-History.com.  n.d. <http://www.bible-history.com/jewishtemple/JEWISH_TEMPLEThe_Site.htm>  Josephus.  Antiquities. Book VII, Chapter III.
[17] NKJV.  I Chronicles 22; 2 Chronicles 3.  
[18] “Lord Acton writes to Bishop Creighton…” Online Library of Liberty. 2017. <http://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/214>
[19] 2 Samuel 12.
[20] Isaiah 9; Jeremiah 23; 33; Zechariah 12.  The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentaries: Gensis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Zechariah 12:12; Micah 5:2.  
Maimonides.  Mishneh Torah.  “The Law Concerning Moshiach.” Chapter 11. <http://www.kesser.org/moshiach/rambam.html#SIE>
[21] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Rashi commentaries on Micah 5:2 and Psalms 118:22. “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.

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The Day Jesus Was Crucified – An Appointed Time?

Execution of Jesus of Nazareth didn’t happen on just any day of the year…the timing is simply too hard to ignore. The day Jesus was crucified – an appointed time or simply a 1-in-365 odds happenstance incident?

Of all the days in the year for Jesus to be crucified, it occurred on the first day of the Jewish Passover commemorating the event when the sacrifice of an innocent lamb had once been required of God for salvation from slavery and tyranny. Merriam-Webster defines sacrifice as “an act of offering to a deity something precious.”

Crucifixion circumstances were completely controlled by the archenemies of Jesus and the Roman government; impossible to be controlled by anyone else – not a human messiah figure, not his Disciples nor any alleged Christian conspirators.

Does the timing at The Passover have a deeper significance, a divine parallelism? Clues to a possible answer start with a basic understanding of an appointed time in the Hebrew Law given by God at Mt. Sinai.

_ _ _ _ _

From the burning the bush at the base of Mt. Sinai, God told Moses to return to Egypt after a 40-year exile. Along with his brother Aaron, they confronted the mighty Pharaoh with the message – it was clear and succinct:

Ex 5:1 …”Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’”(NKJV)

Pharaoh was not initially willing to give up his slave labor force, but he paid a big price for taking that stance. Suffering through several plagues, Egypt’s Ruler was finally looking to stop their misery and commanded, “‘Go, serve the Lord your God.”

Having an afterthought he asked, “Exactly who is going with you?” Pharaoh realized he was about to make a big mistake if he let all the Hebrews leave. On the other hand, if he allowed only the Hebrew men to go have this feast, he could hold their families hostage.[i]

Moses countered with a response that ruined Pharaoh’s scheme: “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our sheep and our cattle we will go, because we are to hold a pilgrim feast for the Lord.”[ii]

‘No way!’ was the essence of Pharaoh’s response saying “‘No! Go, you men only, and serve the Lord, for that is what you want.’ Moses and Aaron were then driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.”[iii]The plague of locusts followed making it clear that nothing less than a full release of the Israelites was acceptable to God. Next came the 9th plague of deep darkness for three full days.

Leading up to the horrible night of the 10th plague, God offered protection for the Hebrews by following a precise sacrificial ritual. Each family chose one of their unblemished lambs, sacrificed it, splashed its blood on the door posts of their homes, and roasted the lamb for a family feast at sunset.

At midnight, the angel of death passed over any home with the blood splashed on the doorposts sparing the lives of the Hebrew firstborn. For the Egyptians, the 10th plague was devastating. Every firstborn, young and old, even the livestock, died that night including the Ruler’s own son. Pharaoh’s resolve was finally broken.

Salvation from the plague of death set the stage for what would become Israel’s first legally mandated Feast observance saying, “It is the LORD’s Passover.” Every year thereafter, the Passover was to be observed as a celebration festival to remember how God delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian tyranny:[iv]

Ex 12:14‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.(NKJV)

A few weeks later, God handed down the Law to Moses at the top of Mt. Sinai. The Law defined the observance of three annual Festivals or Feasts using similar terms as for the weekly Sabbath, each called “a holy assembly” or “holy convocation.” The Passover opened the annual festival cycle beginning with the Feast of Unleavened Bread to be observed in the place God chooses at its appointed time in the month of Abib aka Nissan 14th – 21st:[v]

Lev. 23:4-7 ‘These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.

‘On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’S Passover.

‘And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.

‘On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. (NKJV)

For the Passover, the primary component was the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. The feast and the week that followed were to be a time of solemn celebration in remembrance of God’s miraculous deliverance from slavery and tyranny.

Was it merely a coincidence that Jesus of Nazareth, found to be innocent by rulers of Judah (Herod) and Rome (Pilate), was still crucified at the behest of the Jewish Council on the first day of Passover? Chance or a divine plan?

REFERENCES:
NKJV = New King James Version translation.
NET = NETBible translation
[i] NET
[ii] NET
[iii] Quotes from NET translation. Exodus 10[iv] Exodus 12
[iv] Exodus 13, 34.
[v] Exodus 12; Deuteronomy 16; Leviticus 23. “Abib” and “Nisan.”  Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.

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