Today marks the Sabbath before Passover, which in Hebrew is called the Shabbat HaGadol, or “the Great Shabbat.”
To understand the significance, we must go back to the Book of Exodus where the Jewish people were commanded by Moses to obtain a lamb for sacrifice and tie it to their bedposts on the Sabbath, just before Passover. The lamb was to live in their house for four days. Of course the family would begin to consider it a part of the family and the sacrifice would become more difficult (Exodus 12:6).
When the Egyptians saw the Jewish people setting aside their lambs, they wanted to know what they were doing with them. The Jewish people told them the lambs were a Passover offering to God who would kill the firstborn Egyptians. Because the sheep was one of the major Egyptian gods, it was a miracle that the Jewish people were allowed to take lambs from among the Egyptians, especially when it was explained that the Egyptian firstborns would be destroyed.
When the Egyptian firstborns heard this news, they begged their fathers and Pharoah to let the Israelites go, but their request was denied. As a result, civil war broke out among the Egyptians in which many were killed.
Later in history, during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem, the lamb was selected four days before Passover so that worshippers could be certain their lambs were without blemish, according to Exodus 12:5—otherwise their offering could be rejected. This reminds us of the Messiah, who was called the “Lamb of God” and was without blemish.
Watch for articles and recipes this week about Passover.