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Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

The Night When a Nation Was Born

Exodus xi: 1, to xiii: 22.

dropcap image HILE all these terrible plagues, of which we read in the last story, were falling upon the people of Egypt, the Israelites in the Land of Goshen were living in safety under God's care. The waters there were not made blood; nor did the flies or the locusts trouble them. While all was dark in the rest of Egypt, in the land of Goshen the sun was shining.

This made the Egyptians feel that the Lord God of the Israelites was watching over his own people. They brought gifts to the Israelites, of gold and silver, and jewels, and precious things of every kind, to win their favor, and to win the favor of their God. So the Israelites, from being very poor, began suddenly to be very rich.

Now Moses said to the people:

"In a few days you are to go out of Egypt, so gather together, get yourselves in order by your families, and your twelve tribes; and be ready to march out of Egypt."

And the people of Israel did as Moses bade them. Then said Moses:

"God will bring one plague more upon the Egyptians, and then they will let you go. And you must take care, and obey God's command exactly, or the last terrible plague will come upon your houses with the Egyptian houses. At midnight, the angel of the Lord will go through the land, and the oldest child in every house shall die. Pharaoh's son shall die, and every rich man's son, and every poor man's son, even the son of the beggar that has no home. But your families shall be safe if you do exactly as I command you."

Then Moses told them what to do. Every family was bidden to find a lamb and to kill it. They were to take some of the blood of the lamb and sprinkle it at the entrance of the house, on the door-frame overhead, and on each side. Then they were to roast the lamb, and with it to cook some vegetables, and to eat it standing around the table, with all their garments on, ready to march away as soon as the meal should be ended. And no one was to go out of his house that night, for God's angel would be abroad, and he might be killed if the angel should meet him.

The children of Israel did as Moses commanded them. They killed the lamb, and sprinkled the blood, and ate the supper in the night, as God had told them to do. And this supper was called "the Pass-over Supper," because when the angel saw the doors sprinkled with blood, he passed over  those houses, and did not enter them. And in memory of this great night, when God kept his people from death, the Israelites were commanded to eat just such a supper on that same night every year. This became a great feast of the Israelites, and was called "The Passover."

Does not that slain lamb, and his blood sprinkled to save the people from death, make you think of Jesus Christ, who was the Lamb of God, slain to save us all?

And that night a great cry went up from all the land of Egypt. In every house there was one, and that one the oldest son, who died. And Pharaoh the king of Egypt saw his own son lie dead, and knew that it was the hand of God. And all the people of Egypt were filled with terror, as they saw their children lying dead in their houses.


Pharaoh's own son lay dead.

The king now sent a messenger to Moses and Aaron, saying:

"Make haste; get out of the land; take everything that you have; leave nothing. And pray to your God to have mercy upon us, and to do us no more harm."

So suddenly at the last, early in the morning, the Israelites, after four hundred years in Egypt, went out of the land. They went out in order, like a great army, family by family, and tribe by tribe. They went out in such haste, that they had no time to bake bread to eat on the journey. They left the dough in the pans, all ready mixed for baking, but not yet risen as bread is before it is baked: and they set the bread-pans on their heads, as people do in that land when they carry loads. And as a memory of that day, when they took the bread without waiting for it to rise, the rule was made that for one week in every year, and that same time in the year when they went out of Egypt, all the people of Israel should eat bread that is "unleavened," that is bread made without yeast, and unrisen. And this rule is kept to this day by the Jews, who belong to the Israelite family.

And the Lord God went before the host of Israel, as they marched out of Egypt. In the day time there was a great cloud, like a pillar in front; and at night it became a pillar of fire. So both by day and night, as they saw the cloudy and fiery pillar going before, they could say, "Our Lord, the God of heaven and earth, goes before us."

When the pillar of cloud stopped, they knew that was a sign that they were to pause in their journey and rest. So they set up their tents, and waited until the cloud should rise up and go forward. When they looked, and saw that the pillar of cloud was higher up in the air, and as though moving forward, they took down their tents, and formed in order for the march. Thus the pillar was like a guide by day and a guard by night.

You remember that when Joseph died (see the end of Story Nineteen), he commanded the Israelites not to bury his body in Egypt, but to keep it in a stone coffin, unburied, as long as they should stay in the land. When they were going out of Egypt, the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, who had sprung from Joseph, his descendants, as they are called,—took with them on their journey this stone coffin which held the body of Joseph their father. And thus the Israelites went out of Egypt, four hundred years after they had gone down to Egypt to live.