Pesach: We Are Our Brothers’ Keepers

 Exodus 12:4, “And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb.”   

The mechanical breakdown of the phrase in bold would be, “according to the mouth of his eating”.  The English word for mouth is the Hebrew word peh (Strongs H6310), and it seems as if the grammar of this sentence was tortured a bit in order for the author to insert it into this phrase.   Peh is also the first letter (and the sound of the first syllable) of the word Pesach.  In a prior post (actually a 4-part series) I covered in depth the word Pesach, it’s spelling, and the meaning behind the letters.  In the ancient Hebrew, the letter peh was the shape of the lips of an open mouth, and although it’s often employed in words regarding eating and speaking, there are other subtle nods to “edges” (such as a sword) or even the mouth of a well.  The letter peh becomes the word “peh” when the letter hey is added to it (hey implies “behold”–so the two-letter word peh would mean “behold the mouth”.  It never ceases to amaze me how words like peh are placed within the Torah in places that seem unrelated to Pesach, but with just a little prayerful meditation we can see why the author chose it.   

Exodus 4:10-16, “But Moses said to YHWH, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”  Then YHWH said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth?  Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind?  Is it not I, YHWH?  Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”  But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of YHWH was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite?  I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.  You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do.  He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.”

We can see how the Holy Spirit inspired the author to insert the word peh SEVEN times into this short narrative.  Seven represents the perfect and complete plan.  To a native Hebrew speaker, the seven peh’s would be much more obvious–most of us who come to the text from an English only frame-of-mind only remember that Moses was a stutterer–but the message being taught here is much more profound.   

“YHWH doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” 

That phrase is exemplified in this story, and he’s foreshadowing the peh in Pesach to show us the means by which we’ll achieve that new status. 

Also embedded in that story is our first hint that brotherhood (in this case Aaron) is going to be somehow part of the Pesach theme as well.  The word Pesach begins with peh, but the last syllable of Pesach is ach, the hebrew word for brother (Strongs H251).   In Exodus 12:3, we learned that the meal was to eaten “household by household”, and in Exodus 12:4 (the verse we are looking at) we get an added instruction to also bring those nearby into the house.  “According to the number of persons, according to the mouth of his eating.”  

Pesach is a time to celebrate and renew the brotherhood of Hebrew Israelites.  

In the case of Moses it’s the reunification of he and Aaron.   In Hebrew, if there are men and women included in a group, the male language is used.   Don’t think you sisters don’t have the same challenge and the same potential reward.  

The model of bad brotherhood is introduced much earlier in scripture.  Read the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.  The younger brother is a shepherd whose offering of a firstborn lamb is accepted.  Also, there’s a challenge to Cain to applies to the rest of us as well. Genesis 4:7, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.   Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”  After he fails the challenge, YHWH said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.  And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.”      

This is actually the first mention of the word peh in scripture, and it is inserted into a narrative where the word for ground (adamah–what Adam was made from) is used six times (the number of mankind’s beastly potential.)   Besides this first-mention of peh, there are several other important words also introduced in this narrative.  The word for brother is introduced, also used six times, relating to that same beastly potential.  The word for blood (dam) is used for the first time, which is the root of both adamah and Adam.  Also, this story is where we see the concept of a mark (or a sign) for the first time, predating positive signs such as the rainbow or circumcision.  “And YHWH put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.”  The most striking terms, which tie the whole narrative together, are the first mentions of the words for door and for sin.  The door is the place where sin is crouching.  If we take all of these “first mentions” and overlay them over Pesach themes, we can see the point of the story more clearly:

The Pesach themed analysis of this first-mention word play is this: The sign of the blood of the firstborn will make you acceptable, and will assist in you in managing your sinful nature which is otherwise right outside the door.  If you can manage this beast, you will be at peace with your brother.  However, if you fall prey to sin, you yourself will be outside the door, bearing the mark of the beast and eternal judgment.  

In the Gospels, this theme carries on.  The blood of Messiah going into the “mouth of the earth” upon his death on Pesach as an “anti-Cain” event.  It was unified brothers in faith, Nicodemus and Joseph, who fed the Lamb of God into the mouth of the earth.  Since Yeshua mastered the Genesis 4:7 sin challenge, the earth was satisfied with the self-sacrificial offering of the firstborn.  This same remedy exists for us if we choose to identify with the Lamb and put him in our mouths on Pesach as well.  

There’s a final story of brothers where peh plays a prominent role.  Remember that Josephs’ brothers kinda failed the Genesis 4:7 sin challenge.   Like Cain, they were decidedly NOT their brother’s keepers, and let sin rule over them.  They also employed the mark of blood of the lamb, but not in the acceptable way that Abel demonstrated.  All of this leads to the brothers going INTO Egypt for the first time which obviously sets the stage for Pesach.  In the several-chapters-long story of the reunification of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 42-45peh is used 7 times, and the word for brother is mentioned exactly 40 times.  40 is the number that symbolizes testing.

These 7 peh’s of match the pattern of YHWH promised reunification of Moses and Aaron we already read in Exodus 4.   The 40 uses of “brother” show us that Joseph’s brothers were being tested.  “And Joseph gave orders to fill his brother’s bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey.  This was done for them.  Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed.  And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack.”  Read the whole narrative for yourselves, but “mouth of his sack” is used 6 times during this story, but the seventh usage of peh is saved for the BIG reveal.  “And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you.” (Genesis 45:12)   

The Pesach theme in these verses is clear.  The death of the beloved Son was first proven by the sign of blood.  But despite that death, his life was miraculously restored.  He was then exalted to the right hand of the highest king.  Then, only he had the power to save and unify his brothers, and restore them all back to their Father.   This testing of loyalty and brotherhood happened around the table during a meal.   (A meal that began with a foot-washing, if you go back and read the full story).

Finally, the reunification of Joseph and his brothers ends in Genesis 47:12, with a line that matches the pattern of the Exodus 12:4 verse we’ve been studying. “And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of mouths their dependents.”

Proverbs 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

James 4:10-12 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.  Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.  The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.  But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Amen and Amen

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