Thursday, April 6, 2023

The Hebrew verb פסח (pāsaḥ) means "to become lame, to limp by," but also came to mean "to pass over, pass by" once the verb became intimately connected with the festival that appropriated the verb, פסח (pesaḥ), namely "Passover." In 1 Kings 18:21, the verb is used to describe the mental indecision of vacillating between the worship of two different gods: "Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping (פסחים) with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." In 2 Samuel 4:4, פסח (pāsaḥ) is used to describe the fate of Jonathan's son's feet: "His nurse picked him up and fled; and, in her haste to flee, it happened that he fell and became lame (ויפסח). His name was Mephibosheth."

The verb's relation to the term Passover comes from the story of the Exodus and the 10th and final plague. In Exodus 12:7, Moses is instructed to tell the Israelites to slaughter a lamb and spread some of its blood "on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it" (12:7). This blood would serve to guard the Israelites against the death of the firstborns because of "the Passover (פסח) of the LORD" (12:11). In Exodus 12:13, God tells Moses that the "blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass overפסחתי) you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt." Because of the central role of the Passover sacrifice, the word פסח (pesaḥ) can also be used to refer to the Passover lamb without any additional distinction to mark the animal, as seen in Exodus 12:21: "Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the Passover lambפסח)."