Nephi taught that from the beginning of the world all things have been given to typify or symbolize Jesus Christ and His Atonement (see 2 Nephi 11:4). For example, when God commanded Abraham to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice, it provided a type or similitude of Heavenly Father’s sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son (see Jacob 4:5). Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, was also a type or symbol of Christ and His ministry (see Genesis 47:14–25).
Exodus 11–13 contains one of the most profound of all types of Jesus Christ: the Passover. The deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt is not only one of history’s most dramatic events, but is also filled with symbolic significance.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
The Passover was symbolic of the Atonement of Jesus Christ:
The Passover, which the children of Israel were to remember always, marked the beginning of new life. The Atonement, which we must always remember, gives us new spiritual life (see Exodus 12:1–2, 14; see also Alma 11:45; Moroni 4:3).
Egypt’s false gods were judged and smitten, symbolizing Christ’s Atonement overcoming evil (see Exodus 12:12).
The killing of the firstborn in Egypt led to the release of the children of Israel. The death of Christ, the Firstborn of God, frees us spiritually (see Exodus 12:12; 13:14–15; see also Colossians 1:13–18; D&C 93:21).
The “destroyer” passed over the children of Israel. The Atonement saves us from the power of Satan (see Exodus 12:21–23, 26–27).
Suggestions for Teaching
Old Testament Video presentation 12, “Scripture Symbolism” (10:52), can be used in teaching Exodus 11–13 if you did not use it while teaching Genesis 5; Moses 6–7. Presentation 13, “The Passover” (7:16), can also be used in teaching Exodus 11–13 (see Old Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions).
Exodus 11–12. Obedience to God’s commandments and to His prophets’ counsel provides spiritual and physical protection. (25–35 minutes)
If the prophet said that a disaster was coming to your area and that everyone who went to their church meetinghouse would be saved, would you go? Why?
Do you think there would be some people who would not go?
What reasons might they give for not going?
Why do you think Pharaoh continued to disregard Moses’ warnings even though everything Moses prophesied came true?
Have students read Exodus 12:1–28, looking for what the children of Israel were commanded to do so the “destroyer” would “pass over” their homes. (Note: The symbolism of the Passover is taught in the teaching suggestion for Exodus 12.) List what they find on the board. Have them read Exodus 12:29–30 and report what happened to those who did not obey. With your students, read and compare Exodus 11:4–8 and 12:31–41. Ask: What do these verses teach us about the prophecies of the Lord through His prophets?
Show a picture of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and ask students what some of the warnings are that God has given us in our day? (see D&C 1:1–17). Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 89:4–9, 18–21 and discuss some of the things that are destroying people in our day and what the Lord has said we must do to avoid them. (You might want to review the latest general conference issue of the Ensign or the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and discuss some of the specific warnings and counsel the Lord is giving today.) Ask:
Why do some people disregard God’s warnings and counsel today?
What has happened to those in all ages who have refused to heed the Lord’s warnings through His prophets?
Invite students to share appropriate experiences of blessings they received by following the Lord’s prophets and other Church leaders.
Exodus 12–13. Understanding scriptural symbolism—including why the Lord uses it and how to interpret it—will enhance our study of Exodus and the rest of the Old Testament. (15–20 minutes)
Note: Before using this teaching suggestion, familiarize yourself with the material in enrichment section C of Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 111–15). See especially the subsection “Why Does the Lord Use So Much Figurative Imagery in the Scriptures?”
Bring objects to class or draw and show pictures of symbols you think your students would recognize. Ask them what the objects and pictures have in common. When they discover that they all are symbols, tell them that there is much symbolism in the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament.
“To crystallize in our minds the eternal verities which we must accept and believe to be saved, to dramatize their true meaning and import with an impact never to be forgotten, to center our attention on these saving truths, again and again and again, the Lord uses similitudes. Abstract principles may easily be forgotten or their deep meaning overlooked, but visual performances and actual experiences are registered on the mind in such a way as never to be lost” (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ , 377).
Ask students why the Lord uses symbols and imagery in the scriptures. List their responses on the board. Have them read 2 Nephi 11:4 and Moses 6:63. Ask them what the main purpose is of scriptural symbolism.
Share with students the information found in “Some Guidelines for Interpreting the Types and Symbols of the Old Testament” in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 112–15). This section has six subheadings. Write those subheadings on the board and use them as an outline to aid your discussion of this material.
Recommend that students write the guidelines for interpreting scripture symbols on a card and place it in their scriptures as a reference. Tell them they will have an opportunity to use what they have learned as they study the Passover in Exodus 12–13.
Exodus 12. The Passover symbolized the sacrifice and Atonement of Jesus Christ. (35–45 minutes)
Note: While teaching about the Passover, you may want to dress in Old Testament period clothing or bring a Passover meal item, such as unleavened bread, to help illustrate this lesson. Unleavened bread may be made by mixing 1 cup of water, 2 cups of flour, and 1/3 teaspoon of salt. Roll the dough out about 1/4 inch thick on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it is lightly browned. You may choose to use saltines or some other crackers. They are also unleavened and easier to provide.
Bring to class or draw on the board a picture of a lamb and two or three items or pictures of items that could save a life, such as a life jacket, first aid kit, baby car seat, parachute, gas mask, seat belt, or sports helmet. Show the items and ask: Which of these can save your life? Briefly discuss how each item saves lives, then hold up the picture of the lamb and ask:
How did the blood of the lamb save the firstborn Israelites?
Who is also referred to as a “Lamb” in the scriptures?
How did that Lamb save mankind?
Read Exodus 12:1–13 with your students and ask:
Who was saved by the lamb? How?
According to verse 8, what else were the Israelites to eat with the lamb?
Write a lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs on the board and ask students why they think the Lord asked the Israelites to do those unusual things. Use the commentaries for Exodus 12:8–10; 12:14; and 12:18–20 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 118–19) to help them understand how the symbols in the Passover meal reminded the children of Israel of their bondage in Egypt and how the Lord delivered them.
Show students the following picture and ask them what purpose the lamb served in addition to reminding the Israelites of their deliverance from Egypt.
Have students read Exodus 12:3–28, 43–50. List on the board and discuss elements of the Passover that symbolically teach us about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Encourage students to use the skills they learned for understanding scripture symbolism.
Read Exodus 12:24 and ask students if we are supposed to observe the Passover today. Read the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The law of sacrifice was fulfilled with the Crucifixion. The Lord instituted the sacrament in its place. That is the ordinance we shall keep forever!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 24; or Ensign, May 1996, 19).
Share your testimony that just as the blood of a lamb saved the firstborn Israelites who were obedient, the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, will save us if we are faithful. Encourage students to ponder the Savior and His Atonement each time they take the sacrament.