Why did the Hebrews have to paint their lintels & doorposts with blood for Passover?

Why did the Hebrews have to paint their lintels & doorposts with blood for Passover?

If God is all knowing and all-powerful, why did the Hebrews have to paint their lintels and doorposts with lamb’s blood to identify themselves at the first Passover?


A long time ago in a life far behind...
A long time ago in a life far behind…

First, a little background. Way back in another life, before I got smashed with the love of the Holy Ghost, I used to have a radio and internet-TV show on a network that catered to new-age/occult/paranormal folk. This show was called (surprise!) Truth Seeker. The premise of the show was simple: find something mysterious that people thought they knew a lot about and urge them to go deeper, thus giving them a greater understanding of the subject and the different facets of the truth that became evident. Pretty simple. Lots of fun. It was a labor of love. I shelved it after about a year because I landed a television show and they didn’t want me to discuss possible future episodes. I ended up walking away from that show after Jesus tracked me down and woke my spirit up from a long slumber (the basics of that story is here).

But all that aside, I really enjoyed that radio gig. It was fun. I got to flex my mind muscle. I love research. I love digging. I love asking hard questions. You see, hard questions are what got me in trouble with the religious authorities when I was younger, especially when I was told I shouldn’t ask them. But now in my older years, I have found that it is the hard questions that draw me closer to the heart of God. After all, “it is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings to search things out” (Proverbs 25:2).

Entries in this category will be limited to approximately 999 words, even though most of these entries will deserve much more. Why 999 words? Because I am long-winded and 999 words sounded better than 1000 words, and I need to work on keeping it short. So this is going to be as much a mental exercise for me as it is for some of you. But like I said, its fun to work out muscles you never knew you had. So with that…here we go…

If God is all knowing and all powerful, why did the Hebrews have to paint their lintels & doorposts with lamb’s blood for Passover?

I am going to assume you know the basics of Passover and that you are Biblically familiar with Exodus (or maybe Exodus: Gods and Kings. My friend, Tim Albury, has a great blog entry on this movie, if it’s your only source of knowledge on the subject).

The short version is this:

lintels & doorpostsMoses is told by God to go before Pharaoh to demand the release of the Hebrews, slaves of the Egyptians for 400 years. Under God’s authority, nine plagues have struck the land, yet Pharaoh still refuses (Exodus 5-10). Moses & Aaron go again before Pharaoh & tell him that if Pharaoh again refuses, that God will release upon Egypt the most devastating plague of all, the 10th plague, the death of the firstborn. And Pharaoh, since his heart is hard & he‘s recognized as a god himself, refuses (Exodus 11).

Personally, I would have let them go at the boils. Yechhh. Of course, I’m no god-king (but I’ve been known to think I’m one according to people who don’t like me).

The Lord commands Moses to tell the Hebrews that on the 10th day of the month that each Hebrew household must select an unblemished 1 year old male sheep (also referred to as a ram-lamb) or goat from their flocks. This animal will be set apart & tended to for 4 days, & then killed at twilight on the 14th day of the month. The Hebrews are told to eat the animals & then to paint the lintels & doorposts of their homes with the lamb’s blood. This blood will mark the homes of the Hebrew faithful so that when the destroyer passes through Egypt to strike down the firstborn of the land, the Hebrews will be spared (Exodus 12:1-28).

True to His word, the Lord allows the destroyer to pass through Egypt & strike every firstborn down. Amidst the sounds of wailing & the death of his son, Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron, ordering the Hebrews to leave Egypt. These events mark the beginning of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, & as a people they are to observe this Passover event for all time (Exodus 12:29-51).

Most Christians can tell you this story. We especially delight in talking about covering the lintels & doorposts with the blood of the lamb because we believe that the Passover Lamb was a fore-shadowing & symbolic of the sacrifice of Jesus as a release from our slavery to sin. And that is all true. There are plenty of New Testament verses to directly and indirectly back that up: 1st Corinthians 5:7, John 1:29, 1st Peter 1:19, Hebrews 4:15, Revelation 5:6 and Mark 14:12.

And I get that. It is a proper answer. It is a true answer.

But there is another answer why the Hebrew people had to use the blood of the lamb-ram on their lintels & doorposts…an answer that goes much deeper into the war between the belief in God and that of the gods of the Egyptians. And it has nothing to do with God not knowing who was Hebrew and who wasn’t.

Did you know that the plagues of the Bible weren’t just random occurrences? Most folks read of the plagues and go, “wow, that sucked for them,” but they have no idea what those plagues were signs of.

The plagues were direct strikes by God against the lesser gods of Egypt, designed to show both Egyptians and Hebrews that Yahweh holds all power, even over other gods.

Let’s look at the plagues real quick, & then look at the significance of the use of lamb’s blood.

What, did you think Exodus was just about the Lord freeing His chosen people?

lintels & doorposts
“I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD!”
Exodus 12:12

So here is our focus question:

If God is omniscient and all powerful, why did He require the Hebrews to paint their doors with lamb’s blood when he passed over? Wouldn’t He know who was Hebrew and who wasn’t?

Things that make you go…uhhh…what?

I was in 1st grade in Christian school when I asked a teacher this question.

I still remember her looking at me like I had five heads. She had no idea how to respond.

I got that A LOT when I was a kid. But don’t worry. I discovered the answer.

For over 400 years the beliefs of the Hebrews had intermingled with those of the Egyptians & they had begun to worship the gods of the Egyptians. Throughout their history the Hebrews were known as an idolatrous lot & this was true while they were in captivity. In order for the Hebrews to see the might of the God of their fathers, the I AM, & see that He was the Most High God, they had to witness momentous plagues, abandon their beliefs in the Egyptian gods and then commit a radical act of faith.

Something that said we believe.

Like Abraham, the Hebrews would have to demonstrate a radical act of obedience.

God knows everything. He knew who was where. And He knew who was loyal to him. He knew the hearts of His people. But His people had to show their faith. They had to be obedient. They had to face a test of belief.

The ram (a one year old male sheep is called a ram-lamb) was sacred to the Egyptians. The ram symbolized the god Khnum. He was worshiped as the creator of life & of the Nile, the lifeblood of the god Osiris. The Egyptians believed Khnum created children on his potter’s wheel & placed them in their mothers’ womb. It was against the law to harm a lamb-ram (outside of temple sacrifice). And it was a crime punishable by death.

So look at what the Lord was asking the Hebrews to do, & don’t forget, they were slaves. Each household was to take a one year old unblemished male lamb-ram from their flocks, tend to it for four days, ignore the beliefs & laws of their masters & kill the lambs at twilight four days later in public, consume them in private & then paint their doors with their blood!

Holy lamb-chops, Batman!

What do you think the Egyptian reaction to this would be?

Do you think the Hebrews would have done this if they hadn’t seen the God of their fathers moving in power & turned away from the Egyptian gods?

Can you imagine the faith it took for the Hebrews to commit to this request, knowing that if their God did not come through, that they faced death? Not only did they have to kill these animals, but they had to cover their doors with the animals’ blood. If God didn’t come through, it wouldn’t be hard to track the families down who committed these acts.

Just imagine! It was an either/or situation. Either don’t kill the lambs and maybe have your firstborn taken by the destroyer sent by God…or definitely die at the hands of the Egyptians for sacrificing the one animal that represented their creator god and creator of children.

What would you do in that situation?

lintels & doorposts
The lamb-ram-headed god Khnum with unborn children upon his potter’s wheel

This was a gut punch to the Egyptians who viewed the lamb-ram as symbolic of the powerful creator god Khnum. Think about how many Hebrews were in Egypt at that time. Some estimates put the number at 3.5 million! So let’s divide that number arbitrarily by 10. That means at twilight on the fourteenth day of Nisan, its possible 350,000 lamb-rams were sacrificed all at once! Imagine what this sounded & looked like to the Egyptians. And not only that, but for those same Egyptians to awaken in the morning to find all their firstborn dead.

Their symbolic representation of their Egyptian creator god had been slain on a mass scale. ALL of their firstborn…dead.

It is no accident that Yahweh selected the god Khnum & Pharaoh as the focus for the tenth plague. This was a demonstration of the fact that only one God creates life, that Yahweh is the only God who can create something from nothing & that there will be only ONE God-King to walk upon the face of the earth.

There is only one giver of life. But if you believe, you have to put your faith out there. We are all called to demonstrate our faith no matter the cost.

And there is only one holy Lamb, & His blood would cover the sins of the world.

Wow. Exodus just took on a whole deeper meaning. And isn’t that much better than a crappy movie?


There is another reason that blood on the lintels & doorposts is important. And since this is in the extra bonus slot, I am not limited by word limits. But this one is quick.

The Egyptians believed that to have your name forgotten was the worst fate imaginable. It actually impacted their afterlife. Great care was taken by Egyptian leaders to make sure their names lived on by chiseling their names and glyphs into stone. Stone, being expensive and used by the upper classes, was not readily available to those in the lower social strata.

The lower class homes and slave huts were made of mud and straw, materials that were not designed to withstand the test of time. If you left your name on a mud-hut, the chances were good it would vanish before a decade passed. That lead to a quick end in the afterlife for you, and that, to the Egyptians and their slaves, was a fate worse than death.

However, there was one place in a lower-class or slave home that your name would remain for quite awhile. It was the only place that stone (albeit cheap stone) could be found…that of the lintels & doorposts!

That’s right, each home would have the name (or mark) of the family that lived there chiseled into the lintels and doorposts. So when the I AM said to cover your lintels & doorposts with the blood of the lamb…the blood actually covered the family’s name and generations living inside.

Now stick that in your hopper…because THAT is awesome!

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