Parashat Bo - January 20th


בא Bo

Exodus 10.1 — Exodus 13.16

Exodus 12.3-6: “Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household; and if the household is too small for a lamb, then a man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats; and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening.”

The Passover lamb was brought into the house on the tenth of the month and examined until the fourteenth, when it was killed. These dates were fulfilled when the final Passover sacrifice was made. This can be seen by looking at the evidence given in the gospels in the description of the last week before Jesus’ crucifixion.

John 12.1 gives the day as “six days before the Passover.” Verse 12, “the next day,” begins the description of the Messiah’s entry into Jerusalem. This is the fifth day before the Passover, that is, the 10th of the month of Nisan/Aviv. This was the very day that the Passover lambs would be brought into Jewish homes.




Exodus 12.2-7: “This month is to be the first month of the year for you. Give these instructions to the whole community of Israel: On the tenth day of this month each man must choose either a lamb or a young goat for his household. . . . You may choose either a sheep or a goat, but it must be a one-year-old male without any defects. Then, on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, the whole community of Israel will kill the animals. The people are to take some of the blood and put it on the doorposts and above the doors of the houses in which the animals are to be eaten.”

“For our Passover Festival is ready, now that Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5.7)

Some have been puzzled by the way the letter to the Hebrews relates to the death of Jesus. Even though Jesus died on Passover—and everywhere else in Scripture his death is related to Passover—Hebrews speaks only of the Day of Atonement and never mentions Passover. Why did the Messiah not die on the Day of Atonement? Would that not have been more appropriate?

The command in this passage is to bring the Passover lamb into the house on the tenth day of the first month. The Day of Atonement falls on the tenth day of the seventh month. If we think of the yearly calendar as a circle, then the tenth days of the first and seventh months are exactly opposite each other. Passover falls on the fifteenth day of the first month, while Tabernacles is on the fifteenth of the seventh month. It is perfect symmetry. It is a mistake to think of God’s plan of redemption as related to a single day or festival. Instead we should see the entire annual cycle as a reflection of God’s redemption from sin.

The purpose of bringing the lamb into the home on the tenth day was to examine it for any blemishes. The day Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on the donkey was exactly the tenth day of the first month. It is from that day onward that various elements of the leadership began to examine him. The priests, scribes, and elders asked him by what authority he did things, the Pharisees asked him about giving tax to Caesar, the Sadducees asked about marriage and resurrection, and a scribe asked what is the greatest commandment (Mark 12.27, 13, 28).

Finally, Jesus was examined by the Sanhedrin, where they could find nothing against him (Mark 14.55). Even Pilate, who was not part of the Jewish leadership, had to declare “I find no guilt in him” (John 19.6).

Jesus was indeed the faultless sacrifice, the perfect one to atone for our sins in God’s perfect program of redemption.

[RP, My Brother’s Keeper, 23 April]



Exodus 12.5: “A male a year old.” He would be killed in the prime of his life. “Without blemish” speaks of his moral perfection. This is also in Isaiah 53.9, which says “he had done no violence” (his outward life), and “there was no deceit in his mouth” (in his inward being). 1 Peter 1.19-20 compares Messiah to “a lamb without blemish or spot . . . destined before the foundation of the world.”




Exodus 12.7, 21-23: “Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. . . . Then Moses called all the elders of Israel, and said to them, ‘select lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood which is in the basin; and none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to slay the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to slay you.’”

How vital it was that the blood of the lamb was applied to the door. It was a matter of life and death. How are we to understand the word “saf” (סף) in verse 22? There seem to be two possibilities, each one with an important message. All translators as well as some Jewish commentators understand the word to mean a kind of bowl for catching the blood. Rashi comments: “Which is in the saf – in a vessel, as in ‘basins of silver’ (2 Kings 12.13).” The word carries this meaning in a number of places, including 2 Samuel 17.28; 1 Kings 7.50; Jeremiah 52.19.

If saf is understood in this way, then we may note the comment of David Baron: “The blood was only to be sprinkled ‘on the two doorposts and the lintel’ but not on the threshold. Take care that you do not, by hardness of heart and contempt for this, the only means of God’s great salvation, crucify to yourself the Son of God afresh, and thus trample his much more ‘precious blood’ underfoot (Hebrews 10.29).”

On the other hand, some commentators have understood saf to mean the lower part of the doorway, the threshold. “There is an interpretation: Rabbi Shimon the four altars places were the lintel, the two sideposts, and the saf, which is the threshold” (Panim Yafot, on Exodus 12.22).

Note also this commentary: “That is on/in the saf – some say saf is a vessel, some say saf is the threshold, as it is written (Ezekiel 43.8), ‘by setting their threshold by my threshold.’ And what do I do with the blood that is on the threshold? I bring a vessel and put it on the threshold.” [Jerusalem Talmud, Pesahim 9,5] (Torah Tmima on Exodus 12.22)

In another commentator it is said, “places the vessel on the threshold.” This would mean that the bowl with the blood was placed on the threshold of the house and the hyssop was dipped into it.

This then provides us with another important possible interpretation: The locations where the blood was to be sprinkled form a cross, a hint of the death of the Messiah, God’s sacrifice lamb who was to come. The places where Jesus bled – hands, head, feet – make that cross.




Exodus 12.8-9: “They will eat the flesh.” He who saves his people by his blood, himself becomes their spiritual meat and drink, and says to all who would follow him through the wilderness into the promised land of rest: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.” And also: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” (John 6.57, 54-55)



“Roasted with fire” symbolizes the sufferings of the Messiah as he took our sins on himself.



Exodus 12.22: “And you will take a bunch of hyssop.” Hyssop was to be used to sprinkle the blood; it was also used at Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19.21). The meaning of “hyssop” is not clear, but it seems to have been a common plant, well within everyone’s reach at the time of the year when Passover comes. When the Messiah brings salvation, it will not be just for a few who have access to special privileges. It will be for all who are ready in faith to take the steps that God requires.




Exodus 12.42: “A night of watching” In Gethsemane Jesus rebuked his disciples, “could you not watch with me one hour?”. The Lord himself watches and he commands the Israelites that Passover is to be a night of watching. What were they waiting and watching for? They were looking for God’s redemption and saving of his people. In the garden of Gethsemane, on the night when centuries of waiting were finally to be rewarded, Jesus watches, but he has to scold his disciples that they are not watching.




Exodus 12.46: “You shall not break a bone of it.” When the Messiah made atonement with his death, it is stated explicitly (John 19.33f) that they did not break his bones, even though it was routine to break the bones of those who were being executed as he was.



Exodus 13.2: Firstborn (bechor) as one of the names of Messiah is seen in the heavenly conversation found in Psalms 89.27. There God himself says of Messiah, “I will make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.” The Bible gives to the firstborn a significance that goes far beyond the laws regarding earthly inheritance. Commenting on the verse, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn” (Exodus 13.2), the midrash says, “God said to Moses, 'Just as I have appointed Jacob firstborn—as it says, “Israel is my firstborn son” (Exodus 4.22), so will I appoint King Messiah firstborn,' as it is said, 'l will appoint him firstborn”' (Exodus Rabbah 19.7). Reference to Messiah in connection with the command to consecrate all the firstborn is highly significant. Moses gives two reasons for the injunction: remembrance of the Exodus by celebrating Passover and remembrance of the death of the Egyptian firstborn. Exodus 13 appears to suggest that Israel’s freedom is achieved through the Passover lamb and the Egyptian firstborn. In addition to the classic clash over the rights of the firstborn, here the decisive divine act reveals that the right of the firstborn belongs not to Pharaoh but to Jacob. In a manner of speaking, this massive human death is responsible for Israel’s redemption; in a sense, the death of the Egyptian firstborn was a sacrificial death. More precisely, the process of redemption requires the death of the firstborn. This concept is already present in the “death” of Isaac and Joseph, neither of whom are “legally” firstborn sons. Both were appointed as firstborn by God in order to save Israel. Of Isaac, it says, “In Isaac your seed shall be called” (Genesis 21.12), while of Joseph it says: “His glory is like a firstborn bull” (Deuteronomy 33.17).

The rather shocking idea that the death of the firstborn brings about redemption is found in the very command to consecrate all of Israel’s firstborn. The translation, “You shall set apart to the LORD all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn” (Exodus 13.12), falls to reveal the true meaning. The Hebrew for “set apart” here actually signifies “sacrifice.” Israel, accordingly, was to sacrifice her firstborn. It is only in verse 15 that we learn that the death of the firstborn is replaced by the process of ransoming. Further still, it is the tribe of Levi that becomes the substitute for the firstborn (Numbers 8.18), and since the Levites have no inheritance in Israel, here again someone else pays for Israel’s redemption. Interestingly enough, Ezekiel’s generation appears to have understood the command to consecrate the firstborn precisely in this way: 'And I pronounced them unclean because of their ritual gifts, in that they caused all their firstborn to pass through the fire” (Ezekiel 20.26). By appointing Messiah as Firstborn, God thus sets him up to be the preeminent Firstborn, the ultimate Lamb. As such, he has no substitute; no one can pay the ransom for him. Rather, he is bound pay the ultimate price to redeem Israel by sacrificing his own self.

Exodus Rabah, Parashah 19.7: “Set apart for me every firstborn”; Rabbi Natan said, the Blessed Holy One said to Moses, “Just as I made Jacob my firstborn, as it says (Exodus 4.22) “Israel is my son, my firstborn,” so also I will make King Messiah the firstborn, as it says (Psalms 89.27), I will also make him my firstborn.” Thus “you shall set apart every firstborn for me.”

Note that the firstborn (identified by the rabbis as Israel and also as the Messiah) is to be sacrificed. In the symbolic system, that is replaced by redemption. When the Messiah came, he actually fulfilled the requirement to sacrifice the firstborn.




Haftarah: Jeremiah 46.13-28

T: Isaiah 19.1-25

Shabbat Shalom!

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