Since Pesach is both a night and a rite centered around the promises of covenant, it should be no surprise that the word for covenant is also rooted in the word bar. “Covenant” in Hebrew is brit (Strongs H1285). Brit contains the same two-letter root as bar but adds the letter yod (a picture of the hand of YHWH) followed by the letter tav (a mark or a sign). The full word brit implies “the sign of those who are YHWH’s bar.”
It’s hard to miss the cross image in the ancient letter tav shown on the graphic above. There’s little historical evidence as to actual the shape of the stake on which Messiah was crucified. Some say the Roman’s used trees as crucifix’s, some claim they used two boards shaped like an X. Which ever way artists may want to portray the cross, the shape of the ancient ‘tav’ isn’t debatable–it appears as a cross in the earliest artifacts.
The rainbow is a sign of the brit made with Noah, circumcision is the sign of the brit of Abraham, and Shabbat is the sign of the brit of Moses. Yeshua came to strengthen and reaffirm all of these covenants, to teach us how to live righteously within them, and to invite the world to join Israel through them. His death on Pesach provided all of humanity with a ketonet pas (a full covering) for their sins, if they would just choose to accept it.
The Hebrew people are defined by a Spirit-led journey of faith, living obedient and righteous lives, defined by the terms of covenants. It’s as simple as that.
Because Pesach is a day centered around embracing our identities as Hebrews, bearing the mark of the Abrahamic brit is a requirement (of males) to partake of the Pesach.
Genesis 17:10-14, “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
Exodus 12:48, “But if a stranger sojourns with you, and offers the Pesach of YHWH, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to offer it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it.”
The mark of the Abrahamic Covenant is circumcision. No pain, no gain. This is a permanent mark made on the ‘seed planter’ (my term) of Hebrew men and boys. The figurative seed of all future generations will pass through this mark. Furthermore, as the father makes this mark on his infant son, he is insuring that his grandchildren (male or female) will also pass through the mark of the covenant, thus preparing even the third generation to be raised embracing the promise. In this fashion, the covenant is remembered with every subsequent generation connecting the entire family back to the original Covenant with Abraham.
Contrast that pattern with Abraham’s first son Ishmael, who did NOT pass through Abraham’s mark (the concept of circumcision was added after Ishmael’s birth, but just before Isaac’s conception). Ishmael was not conceived through faith, but through the desperate fleshly measures of his parents. Ishmael did receive the mark himself as a teen, but remained disqualified as a spiritual descendant because he (while still just a seed) never passed through (abar) his own father’s circumcision (brit) himself (see Genesis 17:26). Isaac, on the other hand, was the first seed to pass through the sign of the brit. As a further sign of this miracle, this promised seed was planted in Sarah when she was 90 years old. It then took on life, thus fulfilling the promise not just to Sarah, but to all future generations. Males bear the pain and shed the blood of the covenant typically in infancy, while women bear the pain and shed the blood during their first act of intercourse. A new Hebrew life is created when the two become one flesh.
Judaism has turned the story of the “binding of Isaac” into the primary teaching for their feast of Rosh Hoshanna (Yom Teruah according to Scripture). As believer’s in Messiah, however, we can see that this event is actually giving us pearls about Pesach! Read it afresh here. YHWH renews the Abrahamic covenant after confirming that Abraham would be as faithful as YHWH—even to the point of sacrificing his only son. (You could say this was the first “New Covenant”). Just as we saw in the story of Joseph that death, blood, and the ketonet pas are the ingredients for redemption, here we see YHWH clarifying who the true Pesach would be. He would be like Isaac, a unique and promised son. He would be the long-awaited seed, a miracle-child born to a woman unable to bear children. And of course, like both Abraham and Isaac before him, he too would be circumcised (Luke 1:59).
There is another level to understanding circumcision which is actually initiated in the Covenant with Noah. In fact, the first promise specifically described as a brit was made with Noah in Genesis 9:9,11. “And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you”… “And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth.” The covenant with Noah is worded that YHWH will not “cut off all flesh” any more.
We typically focus on the flood aspect of this promise, but the phrase we can’t overlook is “cut off” — in Hebrew. “Cut off” is the word karath (Strongs H3772). Watch how the covenants (brits—the signs of the bar) of Noah and Abraham are connected using subtleties in Hebrew. The next time karath is used is in relation to “cutting off all flesh” is during the Abrahamic Covenant, in a verse we’ve already discussed. Genesis 15:18, “The same day YHWH cut [karath] a covenant with Abram, saying, unto your seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates…” Genesis 17:14, “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
YHWH cut a covenant that says if a Hebrew doesn’t cut off his flesh, he will be cut off from His people.
There is an important biblical pattern using the word karath that is hard to dismiss. Hebrew males need to get “cut” with the physical sign of the covenant “cut” with Abraham, that harkens back to the covenant made to Noah not to “cut off” all flesh from the earth. If you fail to get that “cut”, you will then be “cut off” from your people. In order to participate in Pesach, the feast that commemorates the Abrahamic Covenant and demonstrates YHWH’s Protection, you must first bear the mark of sign of the bar that shows you are a qualified Hebrew.
Before Moses returns to Egypt, scripture reminds us about the seriousness and connection between the mission of Moses and the Abrahamic Covenant. Suddenly, and very surprisingly, Moses himself is threatened with death by YHWH! We assume that Moses bore the mark of the covenant from his father’s hand, but Moses himself had not been obedient to circumcise his own son! The hand-chosen leader and role-model for YHWH’s firstborn son had not been obedient to the one commandment that physically defines the seed of Abraham. The very seed that has now grown into the nation he is commanded to deliver. Exodus 4:23-25, “At a lodging place on the way YHWH met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So He (YHWH) let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood, because of the circumcision.””
Of course, circumcision of the heart is not solely a “new testament” idea, as the phrase is introduced way back in Deuteronomy 10:16. The physical reality of circumcision is the protective flesh that men rely on to protect their most sensitive area is cut or even removed completely. This is painful and leaves nerve endings vulnerable. This matches the spiritual notion behind “circumcision of the heart”. Whatever fleshly inventions we have crafted to hide or cover our hearts must be removed, leaving us sensitive and vulnerable. Paul talks about it not mattering whether one is circumcised in the flesh…unless one is first circumcised in the heart, but is quick to point out that the physical rite is valuable and eternal. (Paul is falsely accused of teaching against circumcision in Acts 21:21.) Some religious hypocrites were attempting to misuse circumcision as a pre-requisite of salvation, but that argument was shut down in Acts 15:5. We know this is bad doctrine, as neither Noah nor Abraham were shown grace, nor received their promises, with a mark upon their flesh. As such, it should not be considered a pre-requisite to begin the journey of a Hebrew. Not one person has ever been redeemed, delivered, or saved through physical circumcision alone, but as Hebrews, as people living under the covenants, it seems to be the heart of the Father that males bear the mark in flesh as well as in heart. We are called to put some skin in the game. Faith alone is dead, James says. Faith also requires works. Every Hebrew should be heading in the same direction, dying in the flesh daily, becoming more like Messiah in every way.
The Abrahamic Covenant is a promise to create a Holy people and then to give them a Holy land. Pesach is the celebration of the first part of that Covenant. Pesach remembers the beginning of the journey that started when we were redeemed out of the nations. We are no longer gentiles, we are Hebrews, we are Israelites. Ephesians 2:11-13, “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh (who were called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised” which is made in the flesh by hands)—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
On Pesach, we remember that promise made to Abraham, the fulfillment of that promise in the time of Moses, and the profound steps YHWH took through Messiah to allow us to draw near to the covenants of promise. But, while remembering the original Pesach, we are also forced to remember that the second part of the promise is still outstanding. Our Hebrew ancestors were released from bondage but they were not instantly brought to the land. Pesach was only the beginning of a process, the end goal of which was a permanent planting of YHWH’s bar in YHWH’s soil. Likewise, Messiah’s death redeemed us out of the world, but we haven’t arrived at our final destination just yet. Our Pesach redemption illustrates the concept of Hebrews being paid for (we are now under new ownership!) but we can’t confuse step one with the journey itself nor with actually arriving. We rest in the evidence of our redemption, but we still work out our salvation with fear and trembling. There are still battles and victories ahead, but those events will be rehearsed not on Peasch, but later, during other appointed times.
Exodus 15:16 says it best, “Terror and dread fall our enemies; By the greatness of Your arm they are motionless as stone; Until Your people pass over, O YHWH! Until the people pass over whom You have purchased.”
To summarize these last four articles, somewhere in Jewish tradition, the term “passover” replaced the scriptural word “Pesach”. Somewhere in history, the very sacrifice that protected Israel and separated it from Egypt took on the name of the primary attribute of a Hebrew. YHWH’s spirit “passed over” the waters with Noah, “passed through” the pieces with Abraham, and “passed over” Egypt on Pesach. A Hebrew remembers their spiritual beginning each year on Pesach. A Hebrew takes part in the daily process of spiritually “passing through” (abar), by renewing of our minds to the dabar (Word). Like our forefathers left Egypt, we leave the deceptions of our flesh behind, the bad habits and impurities used to own us, the world’s ways and secular definitions, and instead embrace the truth of who YHWH says we are. A Hebrew is someone who is experiencing YHWH daily through their choices and their deeds. They know that they are bar—spiritual seeds of Abraham, and bar (sons) of the living Elohim. They have circumcised hearts, and therefore are heirs to the Covenant (brit) of Abraham (the father of multitudes of bar). As Hebrews, our flesh will not be cut off from the earth along with the wicked—our flesh is already in the kabar (grave). On the feast of Pesach, we remember the beginning of our journey (of passing over and through) built in to the very word HEBREW. Forward movement, sojourning, overcoming, and being led by the spirit, are non-negotiable aspects of our new redeemed nature. We celebrate these truths on Pesach…the feast where YHWH’s elected, separated, and protected us.
Movement (abar– the action) is so intrinsic to Hebrew identity and thus to Pesach that even the very Pesach meal is eaten in this way, Exodus 12:11, “And thus shall you eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste: it is YHWH’s Protective Sacrifice. For I will abar the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am YHWH.” When the traditionally Jewish question is asked during the meal, “Why do we recline on Passover”, for me and my house at least, the answer will be “We Don’t! We abar on Pesach!”
On his death bed, Joseph reminds his brothers of the Abrahamic Covenant: Genesis 50:24-25, “And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and you will carry up my bones from here.” Even in death, Joseph models a true Hebrew. He wants no part of bondage, or being immobilized, even in the grave. Speaking of which…what will be left behind in Egypt when Israel fulfills Joseph’s oath? An empty tomb!
So, at last, the spiritual allegory of bar reaches beyond the last book of Torah, and crosses over the finish line into the Promised Land. After 40 years of testing, Joshua renews the Abrahamic Covenant with the remaining Israelites. Joshua 5:6-10, “For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished because they did not listen to the voice of YHWH, to whom YHWH had sworn that He would not let them see the land which YHWH had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. Their children whom He raised up in their place, Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them along the way. Now when they had finished circumcising all the nation, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. Then YHWH said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the name of that place is called Gilgal [which means to roll away] this day. While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed Pesach on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho.”
Let’s look at English word translated as “produce” in the next verse, it is the Hebrew word aboor (Strongs H5669). This is not a common word–it only appears twice in the whole bible, bith right here in Joshua 5:11-12, “On the day after Pesach, on that very day, they ate some of the produce [aboor] of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce [aboor] of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.” The word picture of aboor is the same as abar but with one added element–the letter vav (a picture of a nail) is inserted right between the bet and the resh of abar. Vav is means to “permanently attach”. In the word aboor, the image is this: a “nail” inserted into the word for “pass over”, thus “attaching” the bar to the Promised Land. Abraham, the first bar, was promised a people and a land. Joseph was the first bar to enter Egypt and multiplied like the sand of the sea. Moses delivered the bar out of Egypt, but they never got to the Promised Land. In the verse above, the bar had finally “passed through” the wilderness, had “passed over” the Jordan, and had at last been planted (attached) in the Promised Land. Yahoshua (aka Joshua, aka Yeshua) had fulfilled the Abrahamic Covenant, the day after Pesach—or as scripture puts it, “on that very day”.
I hope this short series comparing Pesach and Passover has been a blessing. If you’ve been faithful to honor this ritual meal, I hope this has given you additional food for thought. If you’ve never considered it before, my prayer is that you’ll see the eternal value in joining Israel on this night as we collectively remember who we are, and whose we are. If you are feeling trapped by fear and lies, or if you suspect that there has got to be a better way to live, Pesach is indeed the doorway to that life. Messiah’s blood has paid your entry fee, all you have to do is walk inside.