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The Memorial Passover
A year after their deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites celebrated the Passover at the foot of Mount Sinai.[1] But not long after, the spies returned from their foray and the heart of the people melted. Despite the encouraging words of Joshua and Caleb, news of giants made them quake and they cried for Egypt. The Lord condemned the whole generation to wander and die in the wilderness for forty years, a year for every day that the spies wandered through the Land.[2]  For forty years they experienced the enmity of God and didn’t celebrate the Passover! Not until their arrival in the Land and their circumcision at Gilgal was the Passover celebrated again.[3]

It would be a mistake to judge later Passovers by the requirements God gave Moses in Egypt, for there are many differences between them. The original Passover was eaten with feet shod, staff in hand, in expectation of the Exodus. In the days of Jesus, the memorial Passover was eaten while reclining in celebration of their deliverance from slavery and their rest in the Land. In the historical Passover, everyone killed his own lamb at his own home and applied the blood to the doorposts. But God did not intend for this to be done every year. For the observance of future Passovers, He gave Moses a different revelation regarding the place of sacrifice.

The Place of Sacrifice
Deuteronomy 16:5-6
5 Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee:
6 But at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.

No longer were the Israelites to sacrifice the Passover within their gates, but rather at the place where the Lord chose to place His name. This place ultimately became the temple. And the temple was built on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, otherwise known as Mount Moriah.

2 Chronicles 3:1
Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Do you recall why David prepared this site for the temple? Because it was there he saw an angel of the Lord with his sword outstretched to destroy Jerusalem. And on the word of the Lord through His prophet Gad, David built an altar of burnt offering and the Lord answered with fire. The vision of the angel so terrified David that he was afraid to sacrifice at the tabernacle in Gibeon. Instead, David sacrificed on Mount Moriah, worshiping God and making intercession for the people.[4]  It was no coincidence that the Lord chose to reveal Himself there. Centuries earlier, He had commanded another man to make sacrifice in the land of Moriah.

Genesis 22:2
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

The place where the Lord desired to put His name was the same place where the father of faith lifted his knife to sacrifice the son of promise. The Lord stayed his hand and said, “Now I know that you withhold nothing from me.” And He revealed unto Abraham a ram caught in the thicket—a ram with a crown of thorns.

Genesis 22:13
And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

Mount Moriah, the site of Solomon’s temple, was the place of sacrifice. But as we have already seen in the historical Passover, sacrifice alone wasn’t sufficient. The blood had to be applied. In the memorial Passover feasts, the blood was applied on the altar of burnt offering.

The Passover Procession
On the evening of the 14th of Nisan all the Passover lambs were sacrificed. Historical records indicate that in the time of Christ their number could have reached in excess of 250,000.[5]  The representatives of the Passover companies would come to the temple in procession. They were admitted into the Court of the Priests in three divisions. All along the court up to the altar of burnt offering, priests were lined up, each holding a gold or silver bowl. Those who had chosen the lambs would sacrifice them and the priests would collect the blood in the bowls. As the bowls filled with blood, they were handed up the line in exchange for empty ones. One by one, bowls of blood were received by the priest attending the altar, who emptied them at its base in one jet with a jerk of his hand. Blood flowed profusely throughout the court.[6]

After the slaughter, the lambs were hung up, skinned and cleaned, and their fat removed and burnt upon the altar. The worshipers would then take their lambs to be cooked and eaten wherever they had made ready the Passover. Once the first division left, the second was admitted and then the third. Each time, the highly efficient assembly line of slaughter went into action and copious amounts of blood were poured out upon the altar.

When all the sacrifices had been accomplished, the priests would wash the court in which so much blood had been shed. The temple had a very intricate plumbing system and water could be diverted to flood the courts with a cleansing stream. Blood and water would pour out of the temple[7] and wend its way into the Kidron Valley.

[1] Numb 9:1-14
[2] Numb 14:31-35
[3] Josh 5:10
[4] 1 Chron 21:14-22:2
[5] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Updated Edition, © 1994 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts, p. 168.
[6] Ibid., p.174-175
[7] See John 19:34