Exodus 12:1, “Now YHWH spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying,“
Let’s talk about Egypt. There is a reason that the nation of Israel is born out of Egypt. Egypt represents slavery and bondage to sin. Remembering where we came roots a Hebrew in humility and gives us a thankful heart. Pesach is the time to dwell on that question, “What am I a slave to?”
The word for Egypt is Mitzraim. Like many Hebrew words, the letters in this word tell a story. Mitzraim is actually a mash-up of two ideas.
The first is mayim (water). When water makes it’s first appearance in scripture, it represents chaos and disorder. YHWH’s spirit hovered over the deep water, and from that dark beginning he created light, order, and purpose. The image of the ancient word for water is a picture of Yah’s hand in between two waters. The Exodus story is full of water = death imagery, from the firstborn drowned in the river, Moses floating alone in a basket, the river turning to blood, and finally when Israel is trapped at the sea. One freed from Egypt, on the other side of parting of the sea, water suddenly becomes a source of healing and thirst-quenching
The other component of the word Mitzraim is the word tzar, which means trouble, distress, or affliction. Tzar also implies being squeezed or trapped. It’s very often translated as “enemy” or “adversary” because keeping us stuck and limited is the enemy’s main goal. Tzar is also the two-letter root of words like trouble, distress, anguish, and even leprous.
When you squeeze all of this distress (tsar) into the heart of chaos and disorder (in the form of mayim) you get Mitzraim–Egypt. And Egypt, obviously, is no place you’d want to live. (There’s more to this wordplay in another post here.)
It’s all too common for Jews and Christians to use the story of the Exodus simply as a history book (albeit one with amazing miracles.) However, the stories in the Torah were not written simply for history, but to reach the reader (of every era) to teach eternal spiritual realities. Until our resurrection, we all will struggle with sin to some degree, but as Hebrews we are not slaves to that sin. In other words, we may still sin but we are no longer sinners. We’ve been freed from Egypt, and are now citizens of a free and righteous nation. While we wait to be delivered to the Promised Land, we wander in the wilderness, being regularly tested, but still with his presence amongst us. 1 Corinthians 10:11, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” Israel is us.
While we wander, we are told never look back at our sin with rosy nostalgia such as in Exodus 16:3, “In the land of Egypt, we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full”, or Numbers 11:5, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt, that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.” We also don’t look back like Lot’s wife lest we turn white like salt, nor grumble about our deliverer like Miriam and turn white with leprosy. We are periodically told to remember our past, but not fondly–only as a tool to glorify His name, and to motivate us to push forward.
We can see the ignorance of the metaphor of Egypt and slavery in the language of Judean’s in Messiahs day.
John 8:32, Messiah said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free! They answered him ‘We are Abraham’s children and have never been slaves to anyone! How can you say, ‘You will become free?’ Yeshua answered them, ‘Amen, amen I tell you, everyone who sins is slave to sin.”
These Judeans had likely been going through the motions of the Pesach ritual their whole lives. Even their physical reality of being under Caesar’s boot apparently hadn’t sunk in. We need to be aware of these trappings of religion, and deception that always accompanies a lack of self-reflection. The season before Pesach is for us to be prayerful and mindful of our spiritual reality. Before we can be set free, we have to search ourselves for leaven (untrue influences) and come to grips with the truth of our situation. Because denial really is a river in Egypt.
I love how we are commanded to remember our past on only one intense night per year. Limiting how long we dwell on our original sin is the epidemy of his amazing grace. As much as many deny how captive to sin they actually are, it can be just as damaging to dwell on sin that we’ve already been freed from. Pesach is the season to sort that out. If you are still struggling with sin which the Blood of the Lamb has previously redeemed you from, this night is set apart as a fresh reminder of that truth. If YHWH has given you victory over past sin, this is a night to reflect on his triumphant grace and mercy. If you still feel like you live in Egypt, Pesach stands open as the EXIT door.
Romans 3:21-25, “The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Yeshua Messiah for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are made free by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Yeshua Messiah, who God displayed publicly as a mercy-seat by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over sins of the past.”
We’ll stay on this topic of Egypt for a little while. We often can’t tell where we are going, if we don’t know where we’ve been.