About 500 years have now passed since the Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and it is about 1500 BC. After Ibrahim died, his descendants through his son Isaac, now called Israelites, have become a vast number of people but also have become slaves in Egypt. This happened because Joseph, great-grandson of Ibrahim (PBUH) was sold as a slave to Egypt and then, years later, his family followed. This is all explained in Genesis 45-46 – the First Book of Musa in the Taurat.
So we now come to the Signs of another great Prophet – Musa (PBUH) – which is told in the second Book of the Taurat , called Exodus because it is the account of how the prophet Musa (PBUH) leads the Israelites out of Egypt. Musa (PBUH) had been commanded by the LORD to meet Pharaoh of Egypt and it resulted in a contest between Musa (PBUH) and the sorcerers of Pharaoh. This contest has produced the famous nine plagues or disasters against Pharaoh which were signs for him. But Pharaoh has not submitted himself to the LORD’s will and is disobeying these signs.
Surah An-Nazi’at (Surah 79 – Those Who Drag Forth) describes these events in this way
Has the story of Moses reached thee?
Behold, thy Lord did call to him in the sacred valley of Tuwa:-
“Go thou to Pharaoh for he has indeed transgressed all bounds:
“And say to him, ‘Wouldst thou that thou shouldst be purified (from sin)?-
“‘And that I guide thee to thy Lord, so thou shouldst fear Him?'”
Then did (Moses) show him the Great Sign. (Surah an-Nazi’at 79:15-20)
Surah Al-Muzzammil (Surah 73 – The Enshrouded One) describes Pharaoh’s response:
But Pharaoh disobeyed the apostle; so We seized him with a heavy Punishment. (Surah Al-Muzzammil 73:16)
What was the ‘Great Sign’ of Musa mentioned in Surah An-Naziat and the ‘heavy punishment’ on Pharaoh described in Aurah Al-Muzzammil? Both the Sign and the Punishment is in the 10th plague.
The 10th Plague
So Allah is going to bring about a 10th and most fearsome plague (disaster). At this point the Taurat gives some preparation and explanation before the 10th plague comes. The Qur’an also refers to this point in the account in the following ayat
To Moses We did give Nine Clear Signs: As the Children of Israel: when he came to them, Pharaoh said to him: “O Moses! I consider thee, indeed, to have been worked upon by sorcery!
Moses said, “Thou knowest well that these things have been sent down by none but the Lord of the heavens and the earth as eye-opening evidence: and I consider thee indeed, O Pharaoh, to be one doomed to destruction!” (Surah 17 Isra’, The Night Journey: 101-102)
So Pharaoh is ‘doomed to destruction’. But how was this to happen? Allah had in the past given destruction in different ways. For the people of Noah’s day it was drowning in a world-wide flood, and for Lut’s wife it was turning into a pillar of salt. But this destruction was to be different because it was also to be a Sign for all peoples – a Great Sign. As the Qur’an says
Then did (Moses) show him the Great Sign. (Surah 79 Those Who Drag Forth: 20)
You can read the explanation of the 10th Plague in Exodus of Taurat in the link here and I hope you do so because it is a very complete account and it will help you in better understanding the explanation below.
Passover Lamb Saves from Death
This scripture tells us that the destruction decreed by Allah was that every firstborn son was to die that night except those staying in a house where a lamb had been sacrificed and its blood painted on the doorposts of that house. The destruction to Pharaoh, if he did not obey, would be that his son and heir to the throne would die. And every house in Egypt would lose the firstborn son – if they did not submit by sacrificing a lamb and painting its blood on their doorposts. So Egypt faced a national disaster.
But in houses where a lamb had been sacrificed and its blood painted on the doorposts the promise was that everyone would be safe. Allah’s judgment would pass over that house. So this day and Sign was called Passover (since death passed over all houses where lamb’s blood had been painted on the doors). But for whom was the blood on doors a Sign? The Taurat tells us:
The LORD said to Moses … ” … I am the LORD. The blood [of the Passover lamb] will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:13)
So, though the LORD was looking for the blood on the door, and when He saw it He would pass over, the blood was not a Sign for Him. It says that the blood was a ‘sign for you’ – the people. And by extension it is a Sign for all of us who read this account in the Taurat. So how is it a Sign for us? After this event happened the LORD commanded them to:
Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for generations to come. When you enter the land … observe this ceremony… It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD’ (Exodus 12: 27)
Passover Starts Jewish Calendar
So the Israelites were commanded to celebrate Passover on the same day every year. The Israelite calendar is a little different from the Western one, so the day in the year changes slightly each year if you track it by the Western calendar, very similar to how Ramadan, because it is based on a different year-length, moves each year in the Western Calendar. But to this day, still 3500 years later, Jewish people continue to celebrate Passover every year in memory of this event from the time of Musa (PBUH) in obedience to the command given then by the LORD in the Taurat.
Here is a modern-day picture of Jewish people slaughtering lambs for the upcoming Passover. It is similar to the Eid celebration.
And in tracking this celebration through history we can note something quite extraordinary. You can notice this in the Gospel (Injil) where it records the details of the arrest and trial of the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH):
“Then the Jews led Isa … to the palace of the Roman governor [Pilate]… to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover” … [Pilate] said [to Jewish leaders] “…But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’? [i.e. the Masih]” They shouted back, “No not him…” (John 18:28, 39-40)
In other words, Isa al Masih (PBUH) was arrested and sent for execution right on the Passover day in the Jewish calendar. Now if you remember from Sign 3 of Ibrahim, one of the titles of Isa given to him by the prophet Yahya (PBUH) was
The next day John (i.e. Yahya) saw Jesus (i.e. Isa) coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I meant when I said ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’”. (John 1:29-30)
Isa (PBUH) Condemned on Passover
And here we see the uniqueness of this Sign. Isa (PBUH), the ‘Lamb of God’, was sent for execution (sacrifice) on the very same day that all the Jews alive then (the year 33 AD in Western calendar) were sacrificing a lamb in memory of the first Passover that had occurred 1500 years before. This is why the Jewish Passover celebration usually occurs every year in the same week as Easter – the remembrance of the passing of Isa al Masih – because Isa (PBUH) was sent for sacrifice on the same day. (Easter and Passover are not on the same exact date because Jewish and western calendars have different ways of adjusting the length of the year, but they are usually in the same week).
Now think for a minute about what ‘signs’ do. You can see some signs below here.
When we see the sign of the ‘skull and bones’ it is to make us think of death and danger. The sign of the ‘Golden Arches’ is supposed to make us think about McDonalds. The sign of the ‘√’ on tennis player Nadal’s bandana is the sign for Nike. Nike wants us to think of them when we see this sign on Nadal. In other words, Signs are pointers in our minds to direct our thinking to the desired object. With this sign of Musa (PBUH) it is Allah who has given the sign for us. Why did He give this sign? Well the sign, with the remarkable timing of lambs being sacrificed on the same day as Isa must be a pointer to the sacrifice of Isa al Masih (PBUH).
It works in our minds like I have shown in the diagram here about me. The sign was there to point me to the giving up of Isa al Masih. In that first Passover the lambs were sacrificed and the blood drained and spread so the people could live. And thus, this Sign pointing to Isa is to tell us that he, ‘The Lamb of God’, was also given to death so we could find life.
We saw in Sign 3 of Ibrahim that the place where Ibrahim (PBUH) was tested with the sacrifice of his son was Mount Moriah. But a lamb at the last moment was sacrificed instead of his son. A lamb died so Ibrahim’s son could live. Mount Moriah was the very same place where Isa (PBUH) was given for sacrifice. That was a Sign to make us think of Isa al Masih (PBUH) being given up for sacrifice by pointing to the location. Here in this Sign of Musa we find another pointer to the same event – the giving up of Isa (PBUH) for sacrifice – by pointing to the day in the calendar of the Passover Sacrifice. A lamb’s sacrifice is once again used to point to the same event. Why? We continue with the next Sign of Musa to get further understanding. This Sign is the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.
But to finish this Sign, what happened to Pharaoh? As we read in the passage from Taurat, he did not heed the warning and his firstborn son (the heir) died that night. So he finally allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt. But then he changed his mind and pursued them to the Red Sea. There the LORD caused the Israelites to pass through the Sea but Pharaoh drowned along with his army. After the nine plagues, the Passover deaths, and the loss of the army, Egypt was greatly diminished and never again regained her status as the world’s foremost power. Allah had judged her.