Passover is one of the most important religious festivals in the Jewish calendar. Jews celebrate the Feast of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) to commemorate the liberation of the Children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses.
Jews have celebrated Passover since about 1300 BC, following the rules laid down by God in Exodus 13.
The story of Passover
The story of Passover is told in the Book of Exodus.
The Children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for 210 years. God promised he would release them from slavery, but not before Pharaoh had refused their release and God had visited ten plagues on Egypt to demonstrate his power. (Exodus 3: 19-20)
The first nine plagues were:
The Plague of Blood: God turned the water of the River Nile into blood so that the fish died and the water stank. All the water in Egypt was turned into blood.
The Plague of Frogs: Egypt was overrun with frogs – there were frogs in the beds, frogs in the ovens, and frogs jumping on the people.
The Plague of Lice: Dust was turned into lice which crawled on people and animals. (The Bible calls this The Plague of Gnats, but in Judaism the accepted translation of the Hebrew word Kinim is lice).
The Plague of Flies: Swarms of flies arrived in Egypt and poured into Pharaoh’s palace, the houses of his officials, and all over the land. (The Hebrew word here is orov meaning mixture and in Jewish tradition this refers to a mixture of wild animals.)
The Plague on Livestock: All animals belonging to the Egyptians died – horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep and goats.
The Plague of Boils: Festering boils broke out on the Egyptian people and their livestock.
The Plague of Hail: The worst hailstorm ever to hit Egypt struck, beating down crops growing in the fields and even killing people and animals caught in it.
The Plague of Locusts: A swarm of locusts settled in Egypt and devoured anything left growing after the hail.
The Plague of Darkness: Egypt became totally dark for three days.
The plagues only affected the Egyptians – the Israelites were unaffected.