Defending the Faith of our Fathers!

Christ's Faithful People

 

Apologetics Library TOC Previous Next Footnote

PASSOVER AND THE SINAI COVENANT

Blood was also used in rituals, for the Passover and in the ratification of the covenants Israel made with Yahweh, especially the covenant at Sinai. In Ex 12 Yahweh sets forth the feast of the Passover to Moses and gives him all the rules and precepts that need to be observed. We see from the following passage the prescriptions for the preparation of the Lamb:

[Ex 12:6-8] You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter it at twilight.7Some of the blood must then be taken and put on both door posts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten.8That night, the flesh must be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs

It is important to note that the Lamb was to be slaughtered at twilight, the blood must be put on the lintel and doorposts of the houses where the Lamb was to be eaten and that the Lamb had to be eaten. In Ex 12:22 a further injunction is made that the blood had to be put on the doorposts using a hyssop branch. These observations will be important when we discuss the Passover themes in John’s Gospel. Yahweh makes another comment about the blood and the feast of the Passover itself in the following passage:

[Ex 12:13-14] The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are. When I see the blood I shall pass over you, and you will escape the destructive plague when I strike Egypt.14This day must be commemorated by you, and you must keep it as a feast in Yahweh’s honour. You must keep it as a feast day for all generations; this is a decree for all time.

The blood is the sign that Yahweh will recognize as his promise not to kill the 1st born sons of those who followed his precepts. The other comment, which I find interesting, is that Yahweh declares to the Israelites that the feast of the Passover must be kept in Yahweh’s honor and that it must be kept for all generations. There has to be continuity between the Old and New Testaments concerning this Passover ritual. John will make this connection in reference to the sacrifice of Jesus who will transform the Old Testament Passover into the New Testament Passover, which will ratify a new covenant in His own Blood with the people of God.

Blood sanctified people and objects so it was sprinkled on the altar, towards the Holy of Holies, on the priests and on the people as a sign of their consent to God’s laws and precepts. It was also used for the atonement of sins and the expiation for lives. We see this from the following Old Testament scripture quotes:

[Ex 24:6-8] Moses then took half the blood and put it into basins, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar.7Then, taking the Book of the Covenant, he read it to the listening people, who then said, ‘We shall do everything that Yahweh has said; we shall obey.’8Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it over the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which Yahweh has made with you, entailing all these stipulations.’

The Father made a covenant with His people at Mt. Sinai. First Moses had the people sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. Next Moses took the blood from the sacrifices and used it as the ritual sign of the covenant oath, which bound Israel to God as we see above in Ex 24:6-8. "According to the ancient Hebrew outlook, the symbolic meaning of the blood sprinkling upon the altar and people was twofold: positively, it symbolized the blood covenant between God and Israel; negatively, the shed blood signified a solemn curse that Israel placed itself under by swearing the covenant oath. Through this ritual, in effect, Israel declared to God, ‘Amen, we will share family life with you; you will be our Father, we will be your sons—or else we’ll be dammed!’"[6] According to R. De Vaux the following observation is made:

The blood of a sacrificial animal created a bond, strengthened an oath or sealed a pledge between men. A primitive tradition, then, is preserved in Ex 24:3-8.[7]

According to a book by M. W. Smith What the Bible Says About Covenant the following observation is made:

The Covenant Oath: This was the actual pledge made by the vassal to the lord. It involved the killing of an animal… each party touching the blood. This affirmed the idea they were one blood and had a shared life. It also indicated the type of punishment fitting for the one who broke this oath and betrayed his covenant lord.[8]

In D.J. McCarthy’s book Treaty and Covenant we see a similar idea of blood and covenant:

Besides the sacrifice and blood rite there is the tradition of the covenant meal… The rites mentioned…. have in common the idea of creating kinship between the parties. The covenant meal means admission into the family circle of another.[9]

Finally R. Sklba observes "Yahweh had accepted them as his own relatives and kinsfolk. The election is sacramentalized in the meal of Ex 24:11."[10] From the ancient Hebrew perspective, covenant meals like this conveyed a twofold symbolic meaning: of the intimate family ties between covenant parties, and the awesome responsibilities that both parties assumed. "The meal was a sign of the covenant blessing of communion, while the sacrificial victims signified the covenant curse that would befall Israel if they went back on their sworn oath. A twofold meaning is also present in the Holy Eucharist, which Jesus instituted to be a sign on the New Covenant—as both a sacrifice and a meal—which the Passover and the Sinai covenant ritual both foreshadow."[11]

Ancient covenants formed bonds of sacred kinship, in this case, between Yahweh and Israel, making them one family. These covenant bonds are described in familial terms: father and son (see Ex 4:22, Dt 1:31, 8:5, 14:1) as well as husband and wife (see Jr 31:32, Ez 16:8, Hos 2:18-20) Likewise liturgical feasts and rituals renewed and reinforced the family bonds of covenant communion between Yahweh and Israel. John uses many references to the Passover and understands that the New Covenant formed in the Blood of Jesus Christ will form a new bond with His people. Now I want to look at the parallelisms of the Passover in John’s Gospel in order to understand the eucharistic imagery in Jn 6.

Click here to goto CFP Home Page

Apologetics Library TOC Previous Next Footnote