During the Jewish celebration of Passover, a special plate with symbolic items is set as the centerpiece of every table. Passover is the remembrance of the Exodus of God’s chosen people from Egypt. One of the items placed on this special plate is a bone. The name of the bone in Hebrew is זְרוֹעַ (zeroah) which literally means, “arm”.

The bone is meant to represent the Passover lamb offered in the days when the temple stood in Jerusalem. Today, there is no lamb on the Passover menu because God commanded His people to eat not just lamb, but specifically the “sacrificed lamb” to celebrate the feast. But why is the bone placed at the center of the Passover table called an “arm” –  זְרוֹעַ (zeroah)? A lamb and an arm are entirely different things!

The answer lies in the description of how God promised to deliver Israel. “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm (בִּזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה) and with great judgments (Ex 6:6). Traditionally, the bone is supposed to be the shank bone of the lamb – and herein lies the symbolism.  The outstretched arm of the LORD –  זְרוֹעַ (zeroah) can be seen as the sacrificed lamb whose blood shielded the firstborn of Israel from the plague of death.

A key component of understanding scripture is discovering connections between ancient Judaism and modern-day interpretive conventions.

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33 COMMENTS

      • Yer True – however isnt Israel also Representative of all of the “ekklesia” (the called out ones?)and the Exodus representative of The Salvation of all who came out of the World system through Salvation by the Death and Resurrection of Christ?

      • I’m in awe of the revelations I learn every time an email drops in my box.So many obscured things come to the fore. I am so grateful to all the Professors, Teachers & mostly different comments from different people. Quite rich content.. SHALOM

      • There is such a link between the metaphoric and the prophetic
        The past validates the present and determines the future
        Thank you so much

  1. I am struggling with God changing names (Jacob/Israel) . Who is Israel in this text (becoming a nation)? Is it the firstborn? If so is the word redeemed associated with election (not by works). The finger of God is in the details!

  2. I just joined the site. I am so very happy about this. I have been wanting to do Biblical Studies ever since I was a child of 10 years old. Finally, this wish is coming true. It is also coming true for the memory of my maternal grandmother Rose, who kept on telling me when she was alive many years ago that her dream was to visit the Holy Land someday. Now I can feel this beautiful spirituality coming out of Israel and I am so happy to be part of it. Thank you to Dr. Eli as well!

  3. My late father, Antoine, was a semitic scholar all of his life. He studied the Scriptures and the Aramaic language. I suppose I take after him because I have always loved the study of literature, religion and languages.

  4. WOW! The arm of YHWH that brings deliverance is physically connected with the sacrificial lamb! This must’ve been a radical idea for the Rabbis since the arm of YHWH is a common prophetic image for God’s intervening power in human history. Calling the bone the arm identifies the sacrifice with YHWH! Wouldn’t this be almost idolatry for some rabbis? But, if we recognize that the sacricial lamb is the Messiah, 2nd person of the Triune God, the one who goes out from the Father, just as the arm of YHWH goes out in deliverance, then Christ is the arm!

    • It is a deeply spiritual rabbinic idea, Mark. In fact what if I told you there some see references to “arm of the LORD” as a euphemism for Messiah.

      • Christians connecting the “arm of the LORD” to the Messiah is easy. But the Rabbis? The arm is part of the body, so the arm of YHWH would be part of YHWH which would sounds idolatrous, even referring to the messiah. It’s a much more intimate image than Isaiah’s “servant of YHWH” or the “angel of YHWH”. It sounds closer to the “word of YHWH” image that John develops. Such an intimate image puts the messiah on level with God. I’d love to see those rabbinic quotes. Is it in the Talmud or where?

        • I do not know specific passages of the top of my head but Is 53:1 is an obvious one. Numerous rabbis prior to middle ages considered this entire chapter to be about the Messiah.

  5. So nice to see you, Dr. Eli! That’s a beautiful photo of the Mediterranean Sea on this website! Sending you good tidings! I hope to begin my lessons this weekend or very soon!

  6. Just wondering if you could have a comments section following every lesson in our courses. For instance, I’m doing Exodus and The New Testament – The Audacity of Israelites. I had a comment on the Hebrew word: Malakh for angels, also in Arabic, since I do speak it and understand it very well, we have a saying in our Scriptures for Lebanese/Aramaic Christianity, we say Malakout El Samah, which means the Kings/Queens/Angels of Heaven. So it’s interesting to see the similarity between Hebrew and Arabic/Aramaic/Lebanese. Thank you! We’re coming along just fine!

  7. Also, additionally, as I am learning from your courses, I am visualizing how all this we are being taught can have an impact on daily life on earth for all peoples of the world. I am getting a pretty strong intuition that this will be one direction I will follow, to impart this knowledge to others insofar as it concerns Ethics and Ethical Living in order to promote justice and peace in the world. Thank you.

  8. Regarding Part 1 of Audacity of Israel’s Faith, I do know that Jews challenge God and his plans for them. However, as a Christian, I, myself, grew up to believe and was educated theologically to obey God as the Supreme Power who can do no wrong. This is how I pray and have prayed all of my life and conducted my entire state of living. I do believe that if I fall out of favor with God, I shall be struck by Him, so that means I always try my best not to be a Sinner, but to obey Him.

  9. Well, I have just completed, parts 1 to 3 of The Audacity of Israel’s Faith. This has been quite interesting and actually fascinating indeed to learn. Problems in the world abound and the majority of God’s children are a lost breed. We need to become beacons of light unto the world and help guide the way. So I’m off to Byzantine Catholic Mass tonight, to pray at my Lebanese Community of Arab Christians. Thanks for the lessons of today. Much appreciated! I will share my experience with my clergymen and let them know how spiritually enriched I have become.

    • Dear June, Saalam. I am glad to hear you are enjoying our courses so much. This discussion thread, however, is about the contents of this article. Looks like we need to open some discussion areas for classes. I will mention that idea.

  10. That’s very interesting. I can see the connection between the arm of the LORD and the Messiah in Isa 53:1&2. “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of the dry ground…” However, in the Exodus passage, doesn’t the arm of the LORD refer to all the ten plagues or judgements that the LORD brought upon Egypt to force them to let His people go, and not just the tenth plague?

  11. I’ve heard the “the arm of the LORD” in Isaiah is grammatically in the feminime. I interpret this as another example that shows that Yahweh is gender nuetral.

    • A gender of any subject or object is not connected with femininity or masculinity of the idea behind it. It is merely a grammatical shape, the endings. For example in Greek “sin” is feminine, but that does not mean it is a feminine concept and somehow applies less to males. In Hebrew Yad – hand/wrist is masculine, Zroah – arm is feminine.

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