In this Shabbat’s weekly Torah portion Bo Exodus 10:1 – 13:16, the last three of the Ten Plagues are visited on Egypt: a swarm of locusts devours all the crops and greenery; a thick, palpable darkness envelops the land; and all the firstborn of Egypt are killed at the stroke of midnight of the 15th of the month of Nissan.
God commands the first mitzvah to be given to the people of Israel: to establish a calendar based on the monthly rebirth of the moon. The Israelites are also instructed to bring a “Passover offering” to God: a lamb or kid is to be slaughtered, and its blood sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel of every Israelite home, so that God should pass over these homes when He comes to kill the Egyptian firstborn. The roasted meat of the offering is to be eaten that night together with matzah (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs.
In this week’s Haftara Prophets reading Jeremiah 46:13 – 46:28, we read of the devastation of the Egyptian nation through the final three of the Ten Plagues. In the haftorah we read of the punishment God visited upon Egypt centuries later, through the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.
God reveals Egypt’s fate to Jeremiah: “Proclaim it in Egypt and let it be heard in Migdol, and let it be heard in Noph and in Tahpanhes. Say, ‘Stand fast and prepare yourself, for the sword has devoured round about you.’” The prophet then goes on to describe Egypt’s helplessness and the destruction that it will incur at the hands of the Babylonians.