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 chosen people’s exodus from Egypt. One of the items on this special plate is a bone; the name of the bone in Hebrew is זְרוֹעַ (zeroah), which literally means “arm.”

The bone represents 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 any lamb but, specifically, the “sacrificed lamb” to celebrate the feast. Since the Temple sacrifices no longer take place, there can be no lamb on the seder table today. But why is the bone placed at the center of the Passover table called an “arm” or זְרוֹעַ (zeroah)? After all, 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 children 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 (Exodus 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, the  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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35 COMMENTS

  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!
  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!
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