Exodus 12:21, “Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.”
The word clan is so old-fashioned and to some degree the hooded idiots who spell it with a K gave it a bad connotation. Few people today would even acknowledge that they willingly or thoughtfully belong to a clan. But the spirit behind mishpacha (Strongs 4940) is alive and well and has been since the time of Noah’s ark. Here’s the first usage of the word to illustrate its meaning.
Genesis 8:19 “Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families (mishpachot, the plural of mishpacha) from the ark.”
“Birds of a feather flock together” as Ben Franklin said, and the Genesis account agrees with him. Just as we describe animals by “kind”, those in our clans, our mishpachot, share unique characteristics that organically draw like-kind together. Like the ark did to separate the redeemed from those that perished, Pesach creates a destinction between YHWH’s mishpacha and the mishpachot who will die unredeemed in Egypt. Exodus 9:4, “But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.”
However, just as the diversity in the animal world was the Creator’s idea, the diversity in humanity’s colors, cultures, and yes, even religions, were by His design as well. The lie behind the “Coexist” bumper stickers implies that all religions are equal, so lets just all be nice and not kill each other. Until Messiah comes back, we Israelites agree with only the last two of those three principles. Hebrew mishpachot begin to separate themselves from the world at that first point, as we are drawn near to one another due to our common faith in YHWH alone. YHWH isn’t simply the “highest” Elohim, he proved through the plagues on Egypt that other gods are powerless figments of man’s imagination. That truth is where the spirit of Hebrew mishpacha begins. Pesach doesn’t command us to look for metaphorical distinctions in feathers or fur just yet. The first use of the word shows us that every animal on the ark was considered mishpacha, from dove to dinosaur.
So why does YHWH intentionally create diversity when His endgame is oneness? It was actually the lack of diversity within humanity that spurred the flood of the world. Genesis 6:5, “YHWH saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This is the sort of evil spirit that thrives when unity becomes ubiquitous and diversity disappears. After YHWH wiped the world clean and started humanity again, His first act was to ensure diversity. Genesis 10:32. “These are the mishpachot of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.” Literally right out of the gate, YHWH already has THREE separate mishpachot in the Ark. One ark, three mishpachot. One Redeemer, many mishpachot. One Messiah, one King and many, many mishpachot.
In the next chapter of Genesis, the Tower of Babel teaches us that three clans are not nearly enough to water-down man’s propensity for self-destruction.
Genesis 11:6, “And YHWH said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So YHWH dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there YHWH confused the language of all the earth. And from there YHWH dispersed them over the face of all the earth.”
This scrambling and spreading was not a curse–this was a blessing. These languages splintered humanity and sent us to every corner of the world for our own good. Every diverse culture on earth, even those cultures that deny Him, reflect the concept of mishpacha which YHWH encouraged in His sovereignty. Just like occurred just before the flood, a rapid growth in single-mindedness, as attractive as that sounds in theory, would in fact be the sign of the our coming destruction and final end of our age.
We can see that end fast approaching as modern tech-giants have unscrambled the languages and are quickly re-creating the tower of secular humanism with the digital bricks of ones and zeros. Weapons, drugs, and humans can all be trafficked quickly and unanimously across the globe all because our communication technology erases the barriers that have limited both the supply and the demand for evil. Mark Twain wrote that “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” That sentiment was true before electricity, but now any type of evil Tweet can be spewed upon the world, and instantly understood simply by clicking “translate.”
Even so, YHWH continues to redeem His mishpacha of out of the mishpachot of Babylon. There has never been a corrupt tool or an evil plot that He doesn’t use as a tool to reach the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel. The same dark web that tries to entrap us also contains the potential to save. We are no longer slaves to a handful of Bible translators, for example, as literally billions of devices give billions of people instant access to the Word of Elohim in it’s original language. Forums, groups, blogs and vlogs are spreading light throughout the world, connecting His worldwide mishpacha together in ways never imagined by the human inventors behind the tainted technology itself.
The night of Pesach call Israel out of the endless diversity in the world, but diversity nevertheless remains within Israel. At the time of the first Pesach, Moses tells the elders to organize by clans, and the following morning they march out of Israel not as a one mob, but orderly, tribe by tribe. A year or so later, YHWH continues to make further distinctions within His mishpacha–first redeeming the Levites out of the rest of the tribes, and then continuing, within Levi, to separate individual clans out for His purposes.
It’s this diversity within Israel that Paul edifies in 1 Corinthians chapter after chapter, such as in 12:12-27. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are both the body of Messiah as well as individually members of it.”
Whether we are a hand, or a foot, or an ear, or even an “unpresentable part” (that’s me, far too often) we all share a head. The mouth on our head eats the Pesach and the unleavened bread, as well as drinks the wine each year, distinguishing Israel from the Frankenstein’s monster of a body the world puts forth as “unified.” We’ll likely celebrate Pesach on different nights, sometimes even months apart. We’ll each call upon the name our common Father with a variety of syllables and sounds and many will do it without even attempting to pronounce His name at all. But, until the day he returns and resurrects us, He challenges us to appreciate and even embrace these distinctions.
We are supposed to exhort and edify, but we are also told to rebuke and discipline one another–not out of envy or to cause strife, but to keep our collective body healthy and functioning properly. Messiah himself calls us to pluck out our own eye, or chop off our own hand if the disease is great and natural healing isn’t occurring. Too often, however, we get too comfortable with our axes and every limb begins to look infected. The season of Pesach is not focused on keeping Shabbat, or the dietary laws, or on debating “clean or unclean”. It’s the first appointed time, because He is simply creating an “us” out of a “them”. Pesach invites YHWH’s scattered mishpacha together to remind us, even if just for one night, that what unites us is greater than what separates us.