Advent Art, Day 9: Blood on the Doorpost


About the Art: J.M.W. Turner R.A.,  (1775-1851), The Tenth Plague of Egypt, 1802, oil on canvas, 143.5 x 236.2 cm, Tate Britain, London, UK. Click here to learn more about this painting.

Turner’s composition of the tenth plague of Egypt—the death of the first-born sons—honors the horror of the moment. The heavens loom like a thick, dark blanket as the dead and grieving pock the landscape, broken and defeated. Though this plague was part of the means by which God peeled back Pharoah’s grip on the children of Israel, it was nevertheless a terrifying and heartbreaking curse.

Turner’s painting shows the plague creeping over the landscape, about to overtake the city. Heaven is colliding with the earth, and the earthbound creatures are powerless to stop it. The scene mirrors Golgotha, where a darkness swept across the land as the world witnessed the death of another “firstborn” Son. After that darkness, this new hope followed: “He who did not spare his Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with him graciously give us all things.” Romans 8:32

(The excerpt under the heading “Consider” is from my book, The Advent of the Lamb of God.)


“The Lord gave Moses a word for Israel. He told them their firstborn sons would live if they put the blood of a lamb on their door posts when death passed through the land. The image was clear and haunting. The angel of death would see blood glistening on the doorpost and count it as a sign that blood had already been shed in that home—that the people in that house had already surrendered to God what the angel had come to collect. Just as the Lord accepted the life of the ram in the thicket in the place of Abraham’s son Isaac, so now God accepted the blood of an innocent lamb for the blood of the sons of Abraham’s descendants—a life for a life.

“The lambs were led to the slaughter, and their blood covered the doorposts of the homes of the people of God. And when death passed through the land that night, the firstborn sons of Israel were spared while the firstborn sons of Egypt were not. Though the descendants of Jacob were certainly relieved, this was still a tragic night for everyone—sad for the memories of lifetimes of oppression, sad for the warring nature of this broken world, and sad for all the dead in Egypt.

“God told Israel never to forget this moment. It wasn’t just that he was liberating them from bondage. It was what he was delivering them to—the land the Lord had sworn to give them. But it was so much more than that. This night when God passed over the homes adorned with the blood of a lamb, he ratified his promise that he was taking these descendants of Abraham somewhere—that after over one hundred years of their forefathers’ wanderings followed by another four hundred years of slavery, God had not forgotten his people. These people were ‘a people holy to the Lord their God. The Lord their God chose them as a people for his treasured possession, out of all peoples who are on the face of the earth.’”[1]


The story of the first Passover in Egypt is a sad story, full of grief and loss. What does it look like to accept the story God is telling us about his wrath—about the wage of sin being death—and still mourn the tragedies involved?

What does it look like to grieve well over the brokenness of our world? What does it look like to pray for its healing?

The story of the coming of Christ is not only the story of being delivered from a broken world, but delivered to one that is healed and whole. What do you imagine that whole and healed world to be like?


[1] Ramsey, Russ. The Advent of the Lamb of God. IVP, 2018. pgs. 61-62.

The Tenth Plague of Egypt exhibited 1802 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The Tenth Plague of Egypt exhibited 1802 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Russ Ramsey
Russ is a pastor and author living in Nashville, Tennessee. His books include Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), and the Retelling the Story Series, featuring The Advent of the Lamb of God (IVP, 2018). His personal mission is to communicate the truths of Scripture in accessible ways to people in process. Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

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