About the Author

Rev Aaron Eime is the deacon of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem, the first Protestant Church in the Middle East. Aaron studied at the Hebrew University in the Masters Program with the focus towards Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation of Bible. Aaron also studied Psychology and Sociology at Queensland University in Australia in the Social Work Program. He is a dedicated Bible teacher exploring the Hebraic Roots of the Christian Faith. He has taught Internationally in many countries including Europe, North America, Hong Kong and China. Aaron is the Director of Research and Education at Christ Church. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and 3 children.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What's in a Name? Salvation!

“There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved!” (Acts 4vs12). This declaration by Peter before the Sanhedrin has become a central truth and doctrine of the Christian Faith. It has also become part of a controversial debate as to what we should actually call the Messiah. Can we call him Jesus, or must we use His Hebrew name, Yeshua? What happens if we get His name wrong? Are we more or less saved if we use English or Hebrew? Perhaps we should start by addressing how we arrived at the English name of Jesus. 

There are many conspiracy theories in the world. Usually, they involve secret societies, foreign government plots, alien abductions and large insidious banking corporations manipulating our lives clandestinely in the shadows. Apparently, another plot existed, the one by the early Christian Church to make the new religion more palatable to the pagan world by corrupting the name of Zeus into Jesus. This is simply not true. While Zeus and Jesus might look similar to each other in English, the similarities stop there. Any honest Greek scholar knows that Zeus (Ζεύς) does not resemble Jesus (Ἰησοῦς) in New Testament Greek. 

The angel Gabriel almost certainly told Mary (Miriam), in the Gospel of Luke, to name the boy child Yeshua ישוע. Yeshua is derived from the Hebrew verb “to save”, in the masculine singular form. This corresponds with the angel’s proclamation in Joseph’s dream in Matthew 1 that “He would save His people from their sins”. Greek does not have a ‘sh’ sound for the ש and so an ’s’ was used in translation, and there is no adequate Greek letter to substitute for a silent ע. So it was dropped from the spelling. Greek names also have a tendency to end in ’s’, such as Achilles and Odysseus, known as Nominative Case Endings. Yeshua, when translated into New Testament Greek, became Iesous. ישוע to Ἰησοῦς. Note that the Hebrew Bible had already been translated into Greek (called the Septuagint). The Bible the early believers had outside the land of Israel, the Bible that was in the hands of the Churches Paul wrote to, that Bible was Greek. 

Let’s remember that it was God who confused us at Babel and gave us a varied mix of tongues. Until the Tower, we all truly did speak one language. Now we speak multiple languages, we are not all meant to speak Hebrew. Ultimately, it has been in the Lord’s Wisdom for the New Testament to arrive to us predominately in Koine Greek, although it is also well preserved in Latin, Syriac and Old Church Slavonic. When the King James translators brought out the first English Bible, the name of Jesus was actually written as Iesous, following the Greek. The ‘J’ was added later. There are no J’s in Hebrew, Latin or Greek. Yeshua does not turn into a Gentile through translating His name into Jesus. Many of the disciples had Greek names and they remained very Jewish. 

This is not to say that the name of the Messiah in unimportant. The Name of the Messiah is actually very important in the Church and beyond. It has even become a festival in the Anglican and Catholic Churches. Known as the Feast of the Holy Name, this Feast is celebrated today on 1st January, but in the 17th Century, it’s recorded as being held on 7th August. 

The Name is, however, not magical. Invocation of the Holy Name is not a form of Christian magic. Things don’t happen just because you tack on the name of Jesus at the end of a prayer request. Recall in Acts 19 that several Jewish non-believers, the seven sons of Sceva, tried to use Yeshua’s name to drive out demons to no effect. Making the declaration “in the Name of (someone)” … is in Jewish tradition, an oath of loyalty to that someone. Thus, when we declare “in the name of Jesus/Yeshua” we are acknowledging our loyalty to Him. Nothing magical, rather an expression of our desired obedience to the one being named. In Jewish tradition, there were seven things created before God started Creation: The Torah, Repentance, The Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple and the Name of the Messiah (Talmud, Nedarim 39b). The Name of the Messiah is so important that in Jewish tradition it existed prior to Creation. Pre-existant Messiahs are a Jewish tradition, not a Christian invention. 

The Hebrew name of Jesus, Yeshua, is very important. Calling Him Yeshua reminds the Church of its Jewish Roots and gets back to the meaning of the name and His mission in the world. He saves! Yeshua is a descriptive name and reflects His character. Iesous has no meaning in Greek. The word for Salvation in Greek is Soter σωτήρ. Soteriology is the study of salvation. Likewise, calling Him Jesus does not get you into trouble either, so there is no need to get on your knees and repent for having done so. Subsequently, calling Him Yeshua doesn’t save you any more or less than before. While I was a sinner, Christ died for me … before I even knew His name, He knew mine. 

Equally important is knowing the feelings and emotions the name of Jesus brings to non-believing Jewish people. Obviously, Jesus does not sound like a Jewish name. His name is attached in Jewish history to pogroms, crusades, inquisitions, dispersion, and betrayal of the Jewish people. Understandably the name Jesus presents a foreign, Gentile god devoid of Jewishness and context. Sensitivity, honesty, and patience should be practised in any dialogue with Jewish people. I would most definitely advocate using the Hebrew name Yeshua when engaging with Jewish people. 

Finally for the believers, to quote Shakespeare: Whats in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. In this, William Shakespeare is quite right. For believers it cannot matter what name is used to represent the Saviour, He will always Be the Saviour.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter, Passover, Ishtar and Myths

Religious Calendars are interesting things. In Jerusalem, we have just celebrated Passover and Easter together. Passover fell on Good Friday and our community gathered at 1pm to remember the Crucifixion and then headed to the Dead Sea to celebrate Passover and the Redemption from Egypt. It does beg the question, however, how does Death and Resurrection, Passover, Deliverance and Redemption go hand in hand with bunnies and eggs? Well, obviously they don’t. There is no connection between Passover and rabbits and there is also no connection between Easter and pagan ritual. Notwithstanding, Easter does have a strong connection to Passover. 

Myths about Easter abound all over the internet and I am bombarded constantly by many well-meaning believing Christians challenging me on the nature of Easter, Holy Week and its supposed pagan roots. Common claims against any celebration of Easter stem from the misconception that Easter is named after a pagan fertility goddess. The common archetypes are Ishtar of the Babylonian pantheon or of the Germanic goddess of Spring called Eostre. This is simply not true but has become ‘the truth’ essentially through repetition. We keep saying it and hearing it so it must be true without anyone challenging and verifying the source. 

Ishtar is indeed a fertility goddess of the Babylonian and Assyrian pantheon. Note that Babylon is in the East in the lands of Iraq and Iran today. The Christian community that resides in the East is the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox community has been there since the first century,  descendants of the first believers in Jesus. In the Orthodox Church, the word used for Easter is not Easter, it’s Pascha. Pascha is the Aramaic of the Hebrew word Pesach (Passover). So the Christians who live in the land where the pagan goddess Ishtar comes from don’t actually call the festival after her at all, they refer to the festival by its Jewish roots, the Pascha or the Passover. 

Meanwhile, over in the West the first recorded written account of the spring goddess Eostre hales from the 8th Century. She has nothing to do with rabbits and/or chocolate eggs, which didn’t start getting sold by Cadbury until the 19th Century. However, people in the Christian world were writing about Pascha/Easter long before then. In the 2nd Century, Melito of Sardis, a Jewish believer and Bishop of the community in Sardis, wrote a defence of Pascha in which he argued for the date of Pascha/Easter to be the 14th of Nisan. That is, he was arguing that Pascha should be celebrated at Passover and not the Sunday following Passover. Nisan, by the way, is the Jewish month in which Passover falls and it really is named after a Babylonian god. Interestingly, the majority of the current Jewish calendar is named after Babylonian gods and the Rabbis don’t seem to mind at all. Perhaps we should learn something from the Rabbis on this one. 

Let’s be absolutely clear: Easter is only called Easter in two languages, English and German. Most other languages call the season of Easter after Pascha or Passover. For example, in French, you say Påques, in Dutch its Pasen, in Indonesian its Paskah etc. Even in Latin, the traditional language of the Catholic Church, Easter is called Pascha. That’s right, the Catholic Church actually does not call Easter - Easter. It’s called Pascha and therefore obviously not named after a pagan god of any sort. Rather, like most languages, it is named after the original Hebrew and Aramaic. 

Easter comes from the old German root word for East or Spring. Austria is called in German Østerreich, the East land or Spring land. The festival season of Passover became known as Eastertide, and the word Easter enters our language. Easter is an eight-day holiday from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday. Why eight days? This tradition we inherit from the Jewish People who have eight-day festivals like Succot, Hanukkah and Feast of Unleavened Bread. The tradition of celebrating the life of the Messiah and His passion for eight days was given to us by the early Jewish Believers in Jesus and it had nothing to do with a pagan god. The Orthodox Churches mark their calendars to ensure that Resurrection Sunday does not fall before Passover. 

Without Passover, Easter makes absolutely no sense. Without the death of the Messiah you cannot have a resurrection, and without a resurrection, you cannot have the Gospel. The Gospel can be stated in one sentence - Messiah rose from the dead. And that is indeed very Good News. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

In the Beginning ... God so Loved the World

There are a few verses in the Bible that we all know by heart. When someone says, ‘In the Beginning …’ most of us know to immediately finish the sentence, ‘… God made the Heavens and the Earth.’ There is so much, and more, in that first verse of Genesis 1 that has occupied philosophers, theologians and scientists for thousands of years. 

God makes the world and He calls it good. He is pleased with what He made, and He loves His Creation. Jesus reminds us that we are more blessed to give than to receive and the best way to love is to give. God gives the most and no one can outgive God. To lay down your life for your friends is the greatest act of love and giving. The Gospel of John says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only son … for God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.’ Note here that it’s not just that He loved the people on the world. God does indeed love the people and whoever believes in Him is not condemned. Jesus is most definitely all about saving people. Note though, that God also actually loved ‘the world’ and He still does. And why not, He created it, He called it good so it must be good.  He loves His Creation and it is worth redeeming. God loves both the World and Man. Rabbinical commentaries on Genesis note that God made the World and wanted to give the world to Man. Man was to be the final inheritor of the World. God wanted to bless Man with the World and to dwell with him and walk with him in the cool of the evening. Jesus says in Matthew 5 that the meek inherit the Earth. Note that we don’t inherit Heaven, we inherit the Earth. Too often in Christianity, we restrict our focus on getting into Heaven. Yet Jesus tells us that our final destination is actually Earth. Eventually, we see in the Revelation to John, the heavenly Jerusalem takes its place on the Earth and Man will dwell with God in the world as was originally intended. 

When Adam ate the forbidden fruit, the world was cursed. Adam was cursed, as was Eve and the snake and so was the world. As it is written, ‘Cursed is the ground’. Yet it was not the world’s fault that Adam ate the fruit and yet it received a curse because of the actions of Man. In Jewish tradition the earth is alive. Let’s be clear, the earth is not a god, but like the animals are alive, the World itself is also alive. Paul reminds us that the earth itself is groaning for its redemption. This verse in the New Testament makes no sense if Creation is purely inanimate. Accordingly then, the world is also looking forward to the Messiah as much as Man is. It is as if the voice of the earth says to Man, ‘You like the colours of my flowers now? Well, you wait till you see colour when the Messiah is here! You like the taste of my fruit now? Well, you wait till you taste fruit when the Messiah is here!’ The world isn’t destroyed with the return of the Messiah, it is renewed and prepared for the Messiah to rule and reign. There is a difference between destruction and renewal. 

According to Jewish tradition, the earth is quite conscious of sin and reacts to the sin on top of it. We read in Leviticus 18vs24-28 that God warns His people (and us) that if they continue to sin/defile the land, the very ground itself will vomit them out. Note that the text says that God won’t do the vomiting, the earth will. The ground, or the World, is reacting to the behaviour of Man on top of it. We can see that happen throughout human history. War, devastation and lack of love affect the environment. There is a change in the very ecosystem. When we fight and tear each other apart, like in Syria, or behave with the madness and cruelness of the dictator of Zimbabwe when love ceases to be shown among men and grows cold. Then often we see the result, that the earth stops producing food, the rain decreases and the animals leave. No one harvests the ground, digs wells or tends the earth. The ground becomes barren with the ecosystem in ruins. In essence, the earth attempts to get the human defilers away from it. Indeed humans do flee and become a torrent of refugees leaving the devastation behind them. We have no one to blame but ourselves for this. Conversely, when we fulfil the command of the Messiah to love as He has loved, when we dominate the earth with our joy and peace instead of pain and hatred, when we apply ourselves to working the earth and healing the land, we find the earth fruitful and are blessed by its abundance. Part of the call of our discipleship is faithful stewardship over Creation. The world that God loves reacts to our behaviour. God made the World and He so loved the World. As followers of Jesus, we should love the World as He does, for this is our inheritance. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Yom Kippur 5778

It is Yom Kippur in Jerusalem 5778, the Day of Atonement. It is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. There are no vehicles on the road and like many other Israeli children, my family has already partaken of the time honoured tradition of riding your scooter down the main street after prayers. This day is observed even by secular Jews, who throughout the rest of the year wouldn’t venture near a synagogue, will find themselves in prayer today. Even the United Nations officially recognised the importance of Yom Kippur in 2015 and decided never to hold any official meetings on this day.

Contrary perhaps to some, this is not the saddest day in the Jewish year. That honour goes to the day called Tish B’Av and the destruction of the Jewish Temples. The Scroll of Lamentations is read on Tish B’Av and records much sadness and loss. According to many Orthodox Jews, today is a happy day. While the central themes are atonement, repentance, fasting and prayers, the day is also about forgiveness and life in the World to Come. Forgiveness and Life are indeed something to be happy about. During the synagogue service, the Scroll of Jonah is taken from the Ark and is read and discussed throughout the afternoon. 

Why read Jonah on the holiest day of Yom Kippur? There are a few things to learn from Jonah. Jonah endeavoured to escape God’s providence. He ran in the opposite direction but ultimately was unsuccessful in getting away from the Divine Will. Repentance also reminds us we cannot escape the consequences of our actions and the Divine Judgement ahead of all of us. God spared Nineveh and this also reminds us of the fruit of true heartfelt repentance, Forgiveness from Heaven! Note that the people of Nineveh were saved and forgiven without animal sacrifices and without a Temple and priests. Mercy is shown to the Gentiles. 

Jonah also presents the hope of resurrection. Jonah is swallowed by a giant fish (the whale) while trying to escape God’s call. Remember we don’t get to make the Call we just have to answer the Call. Jonah answered it inappropriately. In Chapter 2 of Jonah, we find him praying in heartfelt anguish and penance. It’s where we find him doing the praying that’s interesting. 

ויאמר קראתי מצרה לי אל־יהוה ויענני מבטן שאול שועתי שמעת קולי׃ (Jonah 2:2)

Jonah 2vs2 says that God heard Jonah from the ‘Belly of Sheol’. In verse 1 we are told that Jonah is in the belly of the fish. But then God hears him from Sheol. Sheol is the place of the dead. Translated often in English as the grave, or the pit. Sheol is where everyone goes after they die. Except for Korah and his family when the earth opened up under them and they went alive down to Sheol in Numbers 16. This would infer then to a Jewish hearer … and remember the Bible is an Oral book. You heard the Word of the Lord more than you read it. During the 2nd Temple Period and at the time of Jesus, the printing press hadn’t been invented yet. This would infer to a Jewish hearer that Jonah was dead. He had died after being eaten by the fish. Yet there he is praying! And repenting! Even after he is dead. How can this be, and what can we learn from this?

Jesus also gives us teaching about the afterlife in the Gospel of Luke in which two men die; a rich man and a poor man, whom he calls Lazarus (after His friend in Bethany). Interestingly, in the Latin Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible), the name of the rich man is Nineveh. In the parable we find both men communicating, seemingly cognizant of what is around them and even of each other, they even appear to be able to move. Yet they are indeed, according to the parable, very dead. Death is never the end. You can even think, move, talk, pray, and in Jonah’s case, even repent. 

Jesus also declares to a wicked and adulterous generation that they should look for the sign of the prophet Jonah in Matthew 12. What is the sign? Ressurection! Jonah was dead, eaten by the fish. While in Sheol he prayed, sort after the Lord, and repented. God wasn’t finished with Jonah (and Jesus wasn’t finished with Lazarus either), and in a powerful display of love and mercy, He resurrected Jonah to answer the Call and save Nineveh. 

Yom Kippur is a joyful day then, of hope of the resurrection and a place in the World to Come. We believe in this hope, and trust that the Messiah is preparing a place in the World to Come, rooms in His Father’s house, with our names inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This makes it a most joyful day indeed. Now, time to go outside and scooter some more :)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Love the Lord your God

Love as it has been said is a many splendid thing. It is something so simple and beautiful we all seek its possession, yet its complexities astound the most able of philosophers. It cannot be adequately defined, yet as a topic it is one that is most written about, talked about, and sung about. History is replete with poets, kings, priests and peasants chasing after love, often discovering its elusiveness. Something so sort after is too often something that cannot be grasped. Elusive as love can be sometimes, there is however one love affair we must all have. And that is a love affair with the Creator, our Maker and Redeemer. Proverbs provide us with some wisdom of love, Psalms speak of God's great love and the greatest of commandments is to Love God. That which defies definition appears as one of the greatest of commandments, to love God and to love your neighbour.

When asked the question 'What is the most important commandment?' Yeshua replies with the Sh’ma recorded in Deut 6vs4-5. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love God with all your Heart, Soul, and Strength. It should be immediately noted that this is an imperative, not a suggestion. We are commanded to Love, thereby indicating we have a choice in the matter. The choice either to obey or not to obey what has been commanded. Love according to the Bible is a choice. Love is not an emotion nor is it something that you fall into without freewill. Thats something else. Lust is an emotion but Love is a command from the Lord. Technically then, you can love anyone, even as Jesus says, our enemies. 

We are commanded to Love God with all our Heart, Soul and Strength. It is usually obvious to see a connection between Love and the Heart, perhaps even with Love and the Soul, but what is the meaning of Strength? How do I love God with my strength? 

What did Strength mean to 1st Century Jews? Here the Targums help. Targums are Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible. Most people spoke a vernacular Aramaic over a Hebrew for everyday language in 1st Century Israel. Aramaic became dominate after the return from Babylon. While Hebrew did remain in use, it was not the most common tongue. Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible were read aloud after a reading of the Hebrew version in a synagogue. The first recording of this taking place occurs in the book of Ezra, following the return under the Decree of Cyrus. One such Aramaic translation is called the Targum of Onkelos. The Targum of Onkelos translates Deut 6vs4-5 as .. 'you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your property.

Strength to the hearer in the 1st Century meant your property. Your strength was everything you have. Your time, your spouse, your money, your house and possessions. How will you love the Lord your God? You will love God with everything you have and you will hold nothing back. And this is a choice we have to make as we respond to the Command of the Lord. Will we indeed love God in this way? Or will we choose something else? 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Freedom comes with Instructions

Shalom from Jerusalem and Hag Shavuot Sameach! Today is the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) in the Jewish Calendar. Originally a harvest festival with a strong Temple focus, this is one of the three Pilgrimage feasts requiring all able bodied men to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem. Since the destruction of the Temple the significance of the festival has shifted to a more theological focus, that being the receiving of the Torah. Last night the Jewish people stayed up late reading and studying the Book of Ruth. 

Why is Ruth the scroll that is assigned to be read during Shavuot? Perhaps the tradition came about because the scene of Ruth and Boaz takes place during a harvest in Bethlehem. Or perhaps for the attribution of the birth of King David in Bethlehem to have occurred on the eve of Shavuot. Thus a reading of the beginnings of the House of David might be deemed fitting for the Feast. In the New Testament, whenever the text mentions ‘The Feast’ but then doesn't actually say which one, it refers to the Feast of Shavuot. For example, in the Gospel of John in Chapter 5vs1 we read, ‘Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Jews’ but we are not actually told which festival is in mind. 

Shavuot (Pentecost) occurs 50 days after Passover. Shavout essentially concludes the Exodus of Egypt, it finishes the redemption of Israel from slavery. Passover reflects freedom and liberation, while Shavuot denotes the giving of the Torah. It’s interesting that the chronological history of the Bible has the Jewish People being saved and freed from Egypt, and then given the Law. This teaches us many several important aspects of Freedom. Firstly, the Torah does not save you. The Israelites were redeemed before the giving of the Torah. Paul reminds Peter by saying, ‘We know that a man is not justified by observing the Law.’ Galatians 2vs16. The Israelites were saved from Egypt without knowing what the Torah was, they were brought to Mt Sinai and then given the Torah. Redemption and Salvation came first, then the instructions from Heaven. 

Secondly, we learn that freedom, liberation and redemption are empty without instruction. Freedom itself has rules. When someone says, ‘We are free in Christ,’ that does not mean we have license to do whatever we want. Although I suspect that some people actually want to think that is what that means. The phrase, ‘Everyone does what is right in his own eyes’ that we find in the Judges is not a positive one. The Freedom obtained from Egypt leads us to the desert and eventually to Sinai and the Torah. Not initially to the Promised Land of milk and honey. Freedom first actually takes us to the wilderness. It was in that wilderness that the Israelites themselves contemplated returning to Egypt, putting themselves back under Egyptian taskmasters, even if only for the cucumbers. Freedom brings us through dependence on God, to the instruction and teaching of God. Freedom from sin does not brings us to a place of no law, actually it brings us to a place of Obedience to God. 

The Messiah Himself teaches that, ‘If you love me, you will keep my Commandments’. Liberty needs meaning, or it fades away and too quickly we will find ourselves trapped back under the yoke of slavery and the bondage of sin. That meaning we find in the teachings and instructions of the Messiah and of God. How to live, how to love, how to behave with each other and who we truly are. True freedom comes with instructions. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cost of Redemption

Passover 5777 approaches, coinciding once again this year closely with Easter and Holy Week. This year our community at Christ Church in Jerusalem will journey to the Dead Sea to celebrate our Seder along the shore of the lowest point on Earth. At 430 metres below sea level, the Dead Sea area is the lowest elevation on the earth’s surface that a human can stand up and breath. Any where else and you’d be underground. 

God gave the Jewish people Feasts and Festivals, each describing how God acted in the World through history. From the book of Leviticus these times are called the Appointed Times of the Lord. Now if you knew that God had made an appointment with you and you knew the time of that appointment, its a strong bet that we would do everything we could to show up on time. God instructs Israel to write the date of Passover, the 14th of Nisan, into their calendars and to celebrate the great redemption that God performed for Israel. They were not to forget it. 

Passover is an amazing story of salvation. The Exodus shows us what redemption looks like. There is the freedom from slavery and being saved from death. Salvation comes at a time when we know very little about God. We are not saved because we know lots about God. Redemption comes before the giving of the Torah. The model of Moses is part of the story showing that the next redeemer figure - the Messiah - must be greater than Moses. God uses slaves to bring judgement on the gods of Egypt and earths mightiest empire of the day. Its the weak defeating the strong. Inherent in the tradition of Passover is that messianic redemption comes at Passover. Thus there will be a place for Elijah, the fore runner of Messiah, at the Seder table. 

The redemption during the Exodus came at a cost. Redemption always does. An unfortunate idea has permeated Western Christianity that redemption (or Salvation) is free. Another unfortunate idea that has emerged from the West is our almost absolute individualism. Its about me and Jesus. And that focus on ourselves has separated us from our historical and global community. Me-vangelicalism too often places us the sole focus of God’s love almost to the exclusion of others. Yes it is very true that God loves me, but He also loves the guy standing next to me just as much. All of us are of intrinsic value to God. Passover reminds us that God saves a people to be a people, and that redemption comes with a price. To redeem something means to buy back that which you already formally owned. 

The cost was the death of the first born. There were ten plagues that struck Egypt. The word plague in Hebrew is ‘Macah’ and it means Strike or Punch. These were the ten punches that God smote Egypt and its gods with. The last of the strikes was the death of the first born. The Israelites had to obey to ensure God would pass over them. The blood they placed on the doorposts and lintels would cover the whole household. Anyone who was inside the house would be spared the Angel of Death. Israelite slaves would invite their Egyptian overlords into their homes for this night, saying ‘Of all nights, you must come come and eat with me tonight’. When the Israelites left Egypt many of the Egyptians joined them in the Exodus, perhaps through the redemption they experienced from the Lord’s Passover. 

Why the first born? Why focus on the biological determinate of being born first, which would not be the first born’s fault. Why not choose to slay those with bad intentions or evil thoughts of the heart? Which would therefore be any of the parents or children in the family and not inherently those born first. Exodus tells the Israelites to consecrate every first born from the womb. The first offspring from every womb belongs to the Lord. God slays only the first born, that which already belongs to Him. God pays the cost of redemption, it was not free. And the price was steep. A whole nation mourned that night. God took that which was already His (Israel) and paying the price for it from His own, the First Born.