It is interesting that almost all research into the events of the Exodus by modern Evangelical Christians focuses on trying to establish an archaeological verification of dates and locations. As important as those things are to know, we should perhaps also look at the Exodus as a template for understanding our Saviour and how He saves His people in New Covenant terms. The part of the story we’ll be dealing with today is found in Exodus 13 and 14, featuring Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea.
The account offers several clues that tie into Jesus’ death and resurrection. Obvious ones are the Passover lamb and the blood on the doorposts. Most Christians have been taught that Jesus is the one to whom those symbols refer, so I won’t take the time to go over those in this post.
After the Exodus God tells the Israelites to celebrate an odd seven-day celebration that features unleavened bread (bread made without yeast; Leviticus 23:1-21). The Apostle Paul relates the significance for Christians of leaven in his first letter to the Corinthians. Since I plan a post specifically about that, I will defer that subject for the moment.
There may be a benefit to studying the chronology of the early part of the Exodus itself in this regard. Our first clue is that once the people are allowed to leave Egypt they make camp in three places: Succoth, Etham and Pi-hahiroth. We are not told how long they camped at each place, but one would think that a people on the move from slavery would not waste time in one place when the slaver’s army has chariots.
Pharaoh’s army meets them at Pi-hahiroth at the edge of the sea, cutting off their escape, at about nightfall. God interposes the pillar of cloud/fire between the two groups. Moses raises his staff to divide the waters, and the Israelites cross during the night. At some point in the night the Egyptian army also enters the dried-out pathway. At sunrise, after the last Israelites have crossed, Moses once again raises his staff and the waters return in place, drowning the Egyptian army.
In Israelite reckoning, days started at dark, so they technically left Egypt on the same day as the Passover meal was eaten. On the third night God dramatically completes their rescue at the Red Sea. At dawn the threat is entirely eliminated. After this event, they never have to worry about Egyptian slavery again.
So… in the Exodus/Passover story we have three days of leaving Egypt that begins with the death of the firstborn,and end with a final victory at dawn at the end of the third night. Does anything about that pattern of three days followed by a dawn victory seem familiar?
The Apostle Paul has this to say about the crossing of the Red Sea, “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. … These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.” (I Corinthians 10:1-4, 11; NRSV)
While in the context of his letter Paul has in mind the many corrective measures God used on Israel in the wilderness, his mention that Christ was involved in the entirety of the events is significant. If He is the one who saved Israel in Egypt, then something about how He did so in the Gospels should have stood out to His people.
I had wondered in years past why there was a particular offering on the first day of the week during the week of Passover in ancient Israel (Leviticus 23:9-14). The connection to the Feast of Weeks becomes obvious in Lev. 23:15-21.
But why start a countdown on a Sunday during Passover week?
Why an offering of the first grain of the harvest at sunrise>?
Why don’t the people get to eat of the harvest until after this ceremony?
There doesn’t seem to be a connection… unless this dawn harvest ceremony during Passover week referred back to an event during the Exodus.
Just as He is the “rock” who led Israel through the Red Sea and permanently destroyed the threat of Egyptian slavery, He now permanently destroys the threat of death for His followers. Salvation is not complete until the enemy is overcome completely.
It makes sense for Jesus Christ, who is the Saviour of Israel, to follow the pattern He set out in His original saving act for Israel. He dies with the Passover lambs and is risen from the grave in the full view of Israel at dawn, just as the wave offering is being made at the Temple.
God had planted a seed in Abraham and harvested a nation on the day they crossed the sea.
Jesus planted a seed in His followers and is harvesting a people for His eternal kingdom, beginning with His resurrection. Jesus told them so when He said, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40, KJV)
That is why the harvest of souls for Jesus Christ could not begin until that Sunday during Passover week.
It is all there in both Old and New Testaments if you have the eyes to see it.