The Passover Seder and The Lord's Supper

The Connection

Q: It is general knowledge that for 4,000 years the Jewish people have continued to celebrate the Passover Seder, while Christians, for nearly 2,000 years, have been celebrating the Lord's Supper. Is there an historic or symbolic connection between the Passover and the Lord's Supper?

EDB: The connection is both historic and symbolic. Firstly, may I say that different Christian communities have other terms for "The Lord's Supper." In some churches, this Christian ordinance is called "Holy Eucharist," or "Holy Communion," or "Breaking of Bread."

The first three books of the New Testament, called the Synoptic Gospels, state plainly that the "Lord's Supper" was instituted by Jesus on the eve of the Jewish festival of the Passover when the Feast of Unleavened Bread began to be observed for one week. We read from the Synoptic Gospels:

Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, (bread without yeast) when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked Him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" (Mark 14:12 NIV cp. Matthew 26:17-19; Luke 22:7-8)
This statement establishes the fact that Jesus and the Twelve planned to sit down and observe the annual Passover Seder.

1. How the Jewish people (also called Hebrews, Israelites) came to reside in Egypt

Q: How ancient is the Passover festival and what was the cause of its origin?

EDB: Scholars variously place the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt between the 17th and 13th centuries B.C.E. Abba Eban, in his work of history, "My People. The Story of the Jews," favours the date about 1250 B.C.E., for the Exodus in the reign of Rameses II (page 10). The Israelites or Hebrew nation had been resident in Egypt for 430 years before their historic liberation from slavery. How did the Hebrews come into Egypt from Canaan? We must go back to Joseph. In the eighteenth century B.C., Egypt had been overrun by Semitic tribes, called the Hyksos. Joseph in Canaan had been betrayed by his own brothers, and at the age of 17 was sold to Midianite merchants, who in turn, sold him to Potiphar, a captain of the Pharaoh's body guard. In Egypt, Joseph escaped seduction and suffered imprisonment innocently before he came to the attention of the Pharaoh who asked him to interpret his dreams. Joseph's interpretation resulted in the Pharaoh promoting him as "governor over all the land of Egypt." During seven rich harvest years, Joseph contrived a system which conserved the produce of the land, enough to feed everybody who came to Joseph in Egypt for grain, during the following seven years of famine. Among the many people who came, were his own brothers. In time, the Pharaoh met them, too. In appreciation for Joseph's wise and resourceful service to the nation, the Pharaoh commanded Joseph to bring his entire family to reside in Egypt. This is how the Hebrews came into Egypt.

2. The Pharaoh of the Oppression

Q: What happened that brought the Jewish nation into slavery in Egypt?

EDB: The Semitic Hyksos, which means "shepherd kings," gained control of Egypt for a maximum period of about 250 years (ca.1740-1500 B.C.). In the first chapter of the Book of Exodus, we read that "there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph" (1:8). He refused to acknowledge the contribution to Egypt made by one of the Hebrew nation. The reason is: the "new king" was a native Egyptian who overthrew the Hyksos invaders and expelled them from Egypt about 1559 B.C. His name was Ahmose I (also spelled Amosis, 1551-1526 or 1575-1550 B.C.). He was the founder of the 18th Dynasty - the "New Kingdom" period.

He observed how large the Israelitish nation became, and he feared that if another enemy, like the Hyksos, should invade Egypt, the Hebrews might join them and fight against him (Exodus 1:9-10). Therefore, he enslaved the Hebrews in his gigantic building program. For 400 years the Hebrews were victimized by deplorable conditions and forced to work under the lash of the taskmasters. (Exodus 1:11-14)

3. The Prayers of the Hebrews were Cries

Q: What events led up to the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery?

EDB: Eventually, their miserable condition and their cries to Almighty God for redemption, were answered (Exodus 2:23-24). Moses, a Hebrew, was adopted by an Egyptian princess when she discovered him as a baby floating in "an ark of bulrushes," in the Nile (Exodus 2:1-10). This was his parents' plan to save their son from the new king's command to reduce the Hebrew population by drowning every male child. (Exodus 1:15-22)

Moses' sister, Miriam, watched the princess as her baby brother was drawn out of the papyrus cradle. The princess readily identified the infant as a Hebrew boy. At that moment Miriam appeared in the presence of the princess and admired the baby. "Shall I go and call thee a nurse of the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for thee?" Miriam asked. Since Hebrew women were well-known as midwives and successful mothers, the princess employed Jochebed (dbkwy Yah is honour) Moses' mother. Of course, not knowing that she was the baby's mother. Moses was three months of age at that time. (Ex. 2:2)

Q: Surely, that was Providential!

EDB: Yes - it was a marvellous act of God to preserve Moses for his great work as the emancipator of the Hebrew nation.

Jochebed and her husband, Amram (Exodus 6:20) reared Moses in their home for an unrecorded time. We believe that in those few formative years of Moses' life, his parents indoctrinated him in elementary knowledge of Elohim, the Creator of the universe and the God of the Hebrews. This teaching grew in Moses' mind, and his faith also grew. At some point in time, perhaps prearranged between the princess and his mother, Moses was returned to the palace. During his first 40 years, Moses grew up as a prince in the Pharaoh's palace, "educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." (Acts 7:22)

When Moses was 40 years of age, he made a dramatic assertion. One day while inspecting the slave-labour fields, he came upon an Egyptian taskmaster brutally abusing a Hebrew. Moses defended his fellow Hebrew and killed the slave-driver. This was not the way God intended to liberate his people. His act was observed by others, and the next day Moses discovered that the story was out (Exodus 2:13-15). Moses fled for his life.
He remained a fugitive from Egyptian justice for another 40 years. He married, and was employed as a shepherd of his father-in-law's flocks. The Pharaoh from whom Moses fled, died. But the cries of the Hebrew slaves still went up to God.

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