As a result of Pharaoh’s pride, stubbornness, and manipulative behavior, God visited 10 plagues on Egypt.  The final plague, the 10th plague, sent is named the “The Plague of the Firstborn.”  The 10th plague was the death of the firstborn of every man and animal in Egypt with the exception of those of children of Israel. To keep death from entering Israelite homes, God required Israelites to slaughter a lamb or goat and place the animal’s blood on the sides and top of their door frames. The meat of the slaughtered animal was roasted.  Then, the meat, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread were eaten.

Endive is an example of a bitter herb that grew in nature. In early Bible translations, “endive” was used in place of “bitter herbs.”   Endive is used almost exclusively in raw salads.

The symbolism of bitter herbs including endive is clear from the name –  bitterness. Bitterness is something intensely distressing or disturbing to the mind. Bitterness is an expression of severe pain, grief, or regret. God told the Israelites to eat bitter herbs with their meal to remind them of the bitterness they experienced in Egypt, i.e., death of sons, whipped by Egyptian taskmasters.

Writing to the church at  Ephesus. Paul told them to get rid of all bitterness as they had faith in God.  Yet, God wanted Israelites to eat bitter herbs at the annual Seder meal during Passover to remind Israelites of their bitterness in Egypt.  How are we to reconcile putting off all bitterness with God’s direction to Israelites to remember their bitterness annually?

I think there is a difference between remembering a bitter occasion as a precursor to a celebration of a better life, versus remembering bitterness to the point that it leads to resentment of God, situations, and people. Certainly, God didn’t tell Israelites to hate or resent Egyptians. Rather, the Seder meal which included bitter herbs was a meal to celebrate the Israelites’ freedom from slavery and movement along their life’s journey.

Reflection: The past cannot be changed, but the future is whatever you want it to be. Is there bitterness in your life that needs attention?


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