Book of Exodus Chapter 12:1-32 Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
How easy it is for us to forget that God has given us our bodies, our reputation, families, income, health or the lack of it, and the offer of faith in Him. In this chapter, God calls His people to—remember. Here's Verses 1-2: "Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 'This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.'" Previously, the new year for Israel seems to have begun within the month of Tisri, which roughly corresponds to the modern October. Especially for religious purposes, the month of Abib was now to be "the beginning of months" for Israel. Abib was later called Nisri, and it somewhat corresponds to the month of April in much of today's world. God-driven events were transpiring and the Lord intended the rituals of this chapter so that the people would remember.
Notice, by the way, that none of this was invented by Moses or Aaron. As God told them, they did it, and what the Lord said is recorded here. Here's what God commanded in Verses
3-5: "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats." This is not an introduction to religious ritual...instead it's a remembrance of events that were occurring at the time of these verses.
As you read about the inception of the Passover, as revealed here, also remember—these words and events are prophetic of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, called by John the Baptist, "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). God's method of delivering Israel from Egypt was both an event and a parable of something incredibly significant that was to be in the future. As to each of the lambs to be sacrificed, Verses 6-10 continue, "You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire." The lamb was to be young, "unblemished," slain at a specific time, prepared in a certain way, and utterly destroyed. Notice, by the way, that placing blood on each side of the doorposts and upon the "lintel," the top of the door, you have made the shape of a cross, an instrument of execution that did not yet exist at the time of Moses.
And now, in Verse 11, we glimpse the attitude of the persons who are to participate in the Passover: "Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover." The Passover was and is a call to action. Those who first participated in it were to not only remember their situation at the moment, but also show and tell others what happened. The same is true of the cross of Jesus Christ. His followers were not only to believe in Him and what He did on their behalf, but also tell others. Jesus said to them as He says to you and me: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you..." (Matthew 28:19-20).
It's possible to read the words of these verses and miss the emotions of what was about to happen. Every Egyptian family was about to lose their oldest child. Each person who owned animals was about to suffer loss. As God said through Moses in Verse 12, "For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord." Grief is everywhere in our troubled world, but Egypt was about to become something like a war zone. Everyone was about to lose—someone.
But there was to be a remedy for those who would have faith in the Lord: Verse 13: "The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt." The blood of a lamb placed on your door in the shape of a cross would save you and your loved one. And again, the Passover is a picture of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross to save you and me from our sins. As Peter said to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, "...God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ..." and he continued, "Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...the promise is to you and to your children and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:36-38). The result of God's Passover was that millions were delivered from slavery, and the outcome of the cross of Christ continues to be that millions have been and are being saved from the slavery of sin.
Many of the rituals and ordinances of the Old and New Testaments were not only events but also parables, revealing God's intention to deliver us from sin. If someone was saved through keeping the Passover, it was because the person had faith in the Lord who instituted the practice. Something very similar is presented in the rite of communion...In Luke 22:14-20, the elements of Passover were applied to Jesus, who said of the cup of salvation, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you." Of the unleavened bread He said, "This is My body which is given for you." 14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. In both the Passover and in Communion we partake of God's gift, picturing the taking of the Lord Himself into the depths of our being, through faith in Him.
Unleavened bread, that is, bread made without yeast, is now the topic. Israel was about to quickly enter a desert environment in which they would live in temporary tent-like structures and prepare food quickly without typical preparation, such as adding yeast to bread and allowing it to rise. Verses 15-20 repors God's commandment about the use of leaven to Moses: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. 18 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. 19 Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. 20 You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread."
God has an interesting way of taking actual people, presently or in history, and blending their stories into parables that reach us all. With that statement, we might wonder: What does "leaven" mean in the context of Passover? 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 offers a look at what God had in mind by ruling leaven out of the Passover Feast: "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 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. Found within "leaven," therefore, is pride ("glorying"), "malice and wickedness." Unbelief will lead us to those attitudes and actions, whereas faith takes us to the "bread" of "sincerity and truth." Avoid "leaven" in your life by trusting in the Lord.
In Verses 21-23, "Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, 'Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. 22 You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you." Moses did not delay, as we should not delay when the Lord leads us to do something or other. "Hyssop," by the way, is an aromatic herb, used in this instance as a sort of brush to paint the top and sides of the door to their homes. The "destroyer" was coming, and the Israelis were cautioned to stay inside until morning.
And this was to be a lasting observance. Verses 24-25 continue: "And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite." Passover points to the Lord—He delivers His people. And remember to share with others, especially young people. As Verses 26-27 continue, "And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.' And the people bowed low and worshiped." When you share the Lord with others, the purpose of it all is so the Lord will be "worshiped" by us. We who are offered God's salvation should reasonably worship Him.
Every once in awhile we get it right. The Lord is continually giving us direction, but the tendency of most is: "I'll do it MY way." In Verse 28, "The...sons of Israel went and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did." God told the people to place blood on their door posts and stay inside. They did it. In the famous verse John 3:16, "whoever believes" in the Lord is given "everlasting life." Salvation through faith is a wonderful offer, and with the "sons of Israel," let it be said of us: "so they did."
Those who trust in the Lord will be delivered, but those who choose unbelief will lose—everything. Verse 29 reports the awful news: "Now it came about 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 cattle." Death was everywhere. In Verse 30, "Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead." It was too much, even for this stubborn Pharaoh, who, in Verses 31-32, "...called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, 'Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.'" He finally yielded to the will of God, but at a horrible price. As he sent Israel away, he recognized at some level that God is real and He answers prayer, but there is no evidence that Pharaoh ever placed his faith in the Lord. Israel was to be free...but would they, will WE remember what the Lord has done for us?
Father, we acknowledge that everything we have and are is from You. We surrender to Your will, for we are Yours. Take us, Lord, and lead us in the way everlasting. In Jesus Name. Amen.