Exodus 12 – God Institutes Passover
A. Passover instructions.
1. (1-6) Each household should take a lamb.
Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.'”
a. This month shall be your beginning of months: The coming deliverance from Egypt was such a significant act that God told the children of Israel to remake their calendar. The new year would now start with the month of their redemption from Egypt. It was a dramatic way of saying that everything was to change.
i. “God is ever the God of new beginnings in the history of failure. The ultimate statement is found in the Apocalypse in the words: ‘Behold, I make all things new.'” (Morgan)
ii. “Commence a nation’s annals from its evangelization. Begin the chronicle of a people from the day when they bow at the feet of Jesus.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Speak to all the congregation of Israel: “This is the first occurrence in the Pentateuch of what was to become a technical term, describing Israel in its religious sense…and which underlies the New Testament use of ekklesia, ‘church’.” (Cole)
b. Every man shall take for himself a lamb: On the tenth of this first month, each family – or household – was to take a lamb, and the lamb was to live with the family for the four days until Passover (on the tenth day of this month…until the fourteenth day of the same month).
i. In this way, the lamb became part of the family. By the time it was sacrificed on the fourteenth it was both cherished and mourned. God wanted the sacrifice of something precious.
ii. If the household is too small for the lamb: The rabbis later determined that there should be at least ten people for each Passover lamb, and not more than twenty.
iii. “Passover was a domestic and family festival, and thus shows its early origin. It has here no temple, no meeting-tent, no altar and no priest: but representation, if not substitution, is clearly implied.” (Cole)
c. Your lamb shall be without blemish: The lamb was also to be without blemish. This sacrifice unto the Lord had to be as perfect as a lamb could be.
d. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats: The Hebrew word for lamb can refer to either a young sheep or a young goat.
i. “The Hebrew seh is quite a neutral word and should be translated ‘head of (small) stock’, applying equally to sheep and goats of any age. The Hebrews, like the Chinese, seem to have regarded any distinction between sheep and goats as a minor subdivision. Probably because of this, to ‘separate the sheep from the goats’ is proverbial of God’s discernment in New Testament times (Matthew 25:32).” (Cole)
ii. Israel shall kill it at twilight: “Christ came in the evening of the world; in the ‘last hour’ (1 John 2:11); when all lay buried in darkness; in the eventide of our sin and death.” (Trapp)
2. (7-11) Instructions for eating the Passover.
‘And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire; its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.’
a. Take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses: Before the Passover lamb could be eaten, its blood had to be applied to the doorway of the home, to the top and upon each side the blood was applied. The only part of this sacrifice given to God was the blood; the rest was eaten by each family or discarded (what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire).
i. As the blood was applied to the top and each side of the doorway, this blood dripped down, forming a figure of a cross in the doorway.
ii. The blood on the doorposts showed that the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was to be remembered in daily life. You would see it every time you went in or out of the house.
b. And thus you shall eat it: Then, the lamb could be eaten – but only if it had been roasted in fire, with the lamb itself coming into contact with the fire, and with bitter herbs accompanying the meal.
i. “The paschal lamb was not killed in order to be looked at only, but to be eaten; and our Lord Jesus Christ has not been slain merely that we may hear about him and talk about him, and think about him, but that we may feed upon him.” (Spurgeon)
c. Let none of it remain until morning: The Passover lamb had to be eaten completely; a family had to totally consume the sacrifice.
i. The idea behind eating it all was that you had to take it all then, and not store up some of the rescue for later. It was for right then, right now, and you had to receive all of it without thinking you could take a bit then and come back to it later if you pleased. We take all of Jesus, not just the parts that please us.
d. With a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand: The Passover lamb had to be eaten in faith, trusting that the deliverance promised to Israel was present, and that they would walk in that deliverance immediately.
i. Faith was essential to the keeping of Passover: By faith he [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. (Hebrews 11:28)
e. It is the Lord’s Passover: The Passover was the Lord’s in the sense that He provided it:
· As a rescue, to deliver Israel from the plague of the firstborn.
· As an institution, to remember God’s rescue and deliverance for Israel through every generation.
· As a powerful drama, acting out the perfect sacrifice and rescue Jesus would later provide.
i. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul made it perfectly clear: For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). John the Baptist drew on a similar image when he said of Jesus, Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29) It seems that Jesus was actually crucified on Passover (John 19:14). We see Jesus in the Passover.
· Jesus lived with and became bonded to the human family before He was sacrificed for them.
· The sacrifice of Jesus has to be appropriate to each home, not simply on a national or community basis.
· Jesus the Passover Lamb was spotless – perfectly so, not stained by any sin, any moral or spiritual imperfection.
· It was only the blood of Jesus, His actual poured-out life that atoned for sin.
· In His death Jesus was touched with fire, the fire of God’s judgment and wrath.
· In His death Jesus received the bitter cup of God’s judgment.
· The work of Jesus has to be received fully, with none left in reserve.
· The Passover work of Jesus for His people is the dawn and prelude to their freedom.
3. (12-13) The protection of the blood.
‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.’
a. When I see the blood, I will pass over you: For Israel to be spared the judgment on the firstborn, they had to apply to blood just as God said they should. The blood of the lamb was essential to what God required.
i. If an Israelite home didn’t believe in the power of the blood of the lamb, they could sacrifice the lamb and eat it, but they would still be visited by judgment.
ii. If an Egyptian home did believe in the power of the blood of the lamb, and made a proper Passover sacrifice, they would be spared the judgment.
iii. Additionally, an intellectual agreement with what God said about the blood was not enough; they actually had to do what God said must be done with the blood.
b. I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt: God regarded Israel as His firstborn, His favored people. If Egypt refused to release God’s firstborn, then God required the firstborn of Egypt as a penalty and judgment.
4. (14-20) The institution of Passover and Unleavened Bread as feasts.
‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat; that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’
a. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread: Passover began on the tenth; on the 14th they ate the Passover, and this was the first day of unleavened bread. Then for the next seven days, they ate only unleavened bread.
b. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: For the first Passover, the unleavened bread was a practical necessity – they left Egypt in such a hurry there was no time to allow for the dough to rise. After the first Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread was a testimony throughout your generations.
c. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses: Leaven was also a picture of sin and corruption, because of the way a little leaven influences a whole lump of dough, and also because of the way leaven “puffs up” the lump – even as pride and sin makes us “puffed up.”
i. Significantly, God called them to walk “unleavened” after their initial deliverance from Egypt. Symbolically, they were being called to a life in moral purity before the Lord.
ii. Some suggest there was also a hygienic aspect in getting rid of all the leaven. Since they used a piece of dough from the previous batch to make the bread for that day, and did so repeatedly, that harmful bacteria could take hold in the dough – so it was good to remove all leaven and start all over at least once a year.
B. Moses leads the people in the observance of Passover.
1. (21-23) Moses tells the elders to do as God said.
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.”
a. Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them: The elders were expected to lead the way. Moses instructed them to observe the Passover, knowing the rest of the nation would follow.
b. Take a bunch of hyssop: They used hyssop to apply the blood to the doorposts and the lintel. Through the Scriptures, hyssop was often used to apply blood for the cleansing of sin.
i. In Leviticus 14:6, the ceremony for the cleansing of a leper used hyssop to apply blood. In Numbers 19:6 hyssop was used for to make the ashes of a red heifer for the water of purification. In Numbers 19:18 hyssop was used to apply the purification water.
ii. David, in his great Psalm of repentance, said purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean (Psalm 51:7). Hyssop was always connected with purification through sacrifice.
iii. Hyssop was even connected with Jesus’ great sacrifice for sin. John 19:29 points out when Jesus was offered sour wine to drink on the cross, the sponge soaked with it was put on a bunch of hyssop.
c. When He sees the blood…the Lord will pass over: The Lord looked for blood. This blood sacrifice was the basis for sparing people from judgment.
i. Rescue from the angel of death didn’t happen by a prayer or a fasting or a good work; it was accomplished by a life given on behalf of others.
2. (24-27a) Passover as an enduring ordinance.
“And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.'”
a. An ordinance for you and your sons forever: The deliverance of Passover was not only for them, but also for their children, and all generations to follow. Passover was the greatest work of redemption performed on the Old Testament side of the cross.
i. In the same way Jesus gave the new Passover, saying that His work on the cross was not only for that generation, but should be remembered and applied to all generations (Luke 22:14-20).
b. When He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households: In Passover, there was a two-fold work. First, an enemy was defeated (He struck the Egyptians). Second, God’s people were set free and given a new identity, with new promises, a new walk, a new life altogether (delivered our households).
3. (27b-28) The obedience of the people.
So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
a. So the people bowed their heads and worshipped: Rightfully, the immediate reaction of Israel to this announcement (before it actually happened) was worship. They honored the God who said He would do all this for them.
b. Then the children of Israel went away and did so: In many ways these were the most important words of the whole account. As great as God’s deliverance was, the people would have never received it if they had failed to do what God told them to do.
i. We wonder if any Israelites suffered under the judgment of the firstborn because they did not believe and obey. We wonder if any Egyptians were spared judgment because they did believe and obey.
C. The final plague: the death of Egypt’s firstborn.
1. (29-30) God slays the firstborn of Egypt.
And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
a. The Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt: God told Moses that Pharaoh would not let them go until he was forced to by God’s mighty works (Exodus 3:19-20), and that this work would somehow touch the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 4:21-23). Now the situation unfolded just as God said it would.
i. To the first born of captive who was in the dungeon: Dungeon is “Literally, the ‘pit-house’. Pits were a common prison. Here the opposite to pharaoh is not the ‘mill girl’ (Exodus 11:15), but the prisoner of war in the dungeon.” (Cole)
b. All the firstborn in the land of Egypt: This plague was directed against two significant Egyptian gods. First, Osiris was the Egyptian god thought to be the giver of life. Second, this was against the supposed deity of Pharaoh himself, because his own household was touched (the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne).
i. An inscription was found in a shrine connected with the great Sphinx that records a solemn promise from the Egyptian gods vowing that Thutmose IV would succeed his father Amenhotep II – whom many believe to be the pharaoh of the Exodus. This unique, emphatic promise from the gods that something so natural would happen – that the eldest son would take his father’s place as Pharaoh – was perhaps because Thutmose IV was not his father’s firstborn son, and the firstborn was struck dead at the first Passover. Therefore, they believed that the second born son needed special protection from the gods and the inscription sought to provide that.
c. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt: In dealing with Pharaoh, God first had to inform his mind, and then break his will. Pharaoh’s problem wasn’t that there was insufficient intellectual evidence; his heart had to be broken and made soft towards God.
i. Egypt and Pharaoh would not give God His firstborn – Israel (Exodus 4:22-23); so God took the firstborn of Egypt. Finally, Pharaoh knew that the Lord God was greater than all the Egyptian gods, and was greater than Pharaoh himself – who was thought to be a god.
ii. A great cry in Egypt: Israel cried to God for deliverance (Exodus 2:23), and they cried to Pharaoh from relief (Exodus 5:15). Now the Egyptians had reason to cry.
2. (31-36) The response of Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
Then he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, “Rise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the Lord as you have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone; and bless me also.” And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, having their kneading bowls bound up in their clothes on their shoulders. Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
a. Rise, go out from among my people: Pharaoh didn’t simply allow Israel to leave; now he commanded them to go. This was just what the Lord told Moses would happen: When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out of here altogether (Exodus 11:1).
b. Bless me also: This shows that now, Pharaoh knew who the Lord was, the God who was greater than Pharaoh and whom Pharaoh must seek for blessing. Pharaoh only came to this knowledge through being broken.
c. Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste…they plundered the Egyptians: The Egyptian people also agreed that the Israelites must go, to the extent that they essentially paid the Israelites to leave. Therefore, the children of Israel left in a hurry, so quickly that there was no time to let the bread rise. This is why they had to eat unleavened bread as the Lord had commanded.
i. We can imagine that some of the Israelites did not follow God’s instruction to get all the leaven out (Exodus 12:15). Now because of the haste of their departure they had to do what God had told them because God arranged the circumstances so that they couldn’t use leaven.
ii. In the same way, sometimes God arranges circumstances to where obedience is simply made necessary, even if we would not normally choose it. For example, God may want a man to give up friends that bring a bad influence and the man finds that his friends leave him first.
D. Israel leaves Egypt.
1. (37-39) The children of Israel go out of Egypt.
Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds; a great deal of livestock. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they had brought out of Egypt; for it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared provisions for themselves.
a. The children of Israel journeyed: This was the moment all the previous chapters of Exodus anticipated. Israel was now free, and Pharaoh and his armies did not hold them back as they traveled from their center of Rameses to Succoth.
i. Since Succoth means shelters, it may not describe a temporary encampment instead of an existing Egyptian city. It’s easy to imagine the celebrations (and tension) at Succoth that night.
b. About six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children: Assembling together at Succoth, about 600,000 men (besides children or women) left Egypt. The count of six hundred thousand men makes for a total population of perhaps two million that left Egypt for the Promised Land.
i. Cole discusses a few ideas that would make the number 600,000 much less, such as saying that thousand really means clan and that 600 extended family-clans left Egypt. Even so, “By the time they reached Canaan they were certainly a sizable horde (to use the historian’s term), to judge from the archaeological impact on Canaanite civilization.” (Cole)
ii. “All attempts to explain elep (‘thousand’) as ‘clan’ or ‘tribe’ in this context fail to meet the test of inconsistency in other contexts.” (Kaiser)
c. A mixed multitude went up with them: Not all of the 600,000 were Israelites. Many Egyptians (and perhaps other foreigners) went with them, because the God of Israel demonstrated that He was more powerful that the gods of the Egyptians.
i. Mixed multitude: “The Hebrew says ‘swarm’, from the same root as that used in 8:21 to describe the plague of gadflies.” (Cole)
d. It was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait: Again, God made obedience a necessity in the case of the unleavened bread.
2. (40-42) Passover as a solemn observance.
Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years; on that very same day; it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night of solemn observance to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.
a. At the end of the four hundred and thirty years; on that very same day: Apparently the Exodus from Egypt began on the same calendar day as the 430th anniversary of Israel’s time in Egypt. It’s remarkable evidence that God often fulfills promises on anniversaries of prior or prophesied events.
b. It is a night of solemn observance to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt: God intended this event to be as a memorial of His redemptive work for Israel. In this sense, the deliverance from Egypt was the cross-like event of the Old Testament.
c. Out from the land of Egypt: The phrase out of Egypt is repeated 56 times in the Bible after this point. God wanted His people to remember His deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
3. (43-49) Regulations for Passover.
And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it. But every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it. A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it. In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.”
a. No foreigner shall eat it: To share in the Passover, one had to make themselves part of the people of Israel. Receiving the covenant of circumcision and taking Passover were all part of the same package.
b. In one house it shall be eaten: Passover was commemorated on a family level. Each household celebrated it.
c. Nor shall you break one of its bones: None of the bones of the Passover lamb were to be broken. This looked forward to Jesus, the ultimate Passover Lamb, who had not one bone broken even in His crucifixion (Psalm 22:17 and John 19:31-36).
d. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it: All who were part of Israel had to commemorate the Passover redemption. You couldn’t be part of God’s people and not share in Passover.
i. In this sense, Passover means all this and more to Christians: Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
4. (50-51) Departure from Egypt: the Exodus begins.
Thus all the children of Israel did; as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. And it came to pass, on that very same day, that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies.
a. Thus all the children of Israel did: Israel kept the commandments of God that Moses delivered. Their faith and obedience saved their firstborn, plundered the Egyptians, and set them free from Egypt.
b. The Lord brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt: When Israel left Egypt, it was a nation born in a day. It was as if the 430 years were a time of gestation when the baby grew large. The plagues were like labor pains before birth and now the nation was born.
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission