Book of Exodus 12:33-51 Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
If you want to do the will of God but find that circumstances prevent you from doing it, just keep waiting on the Lord and trusting in Him. The very people who hampered you before will surprisingly push you in the direction you should go, as in Verse 33 of this chapter—"The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, 'We will all be dead.'" Those of Israel didn't need further urging at that point for in Verse 34, "So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders." They grabbed whatever they had and were ready to leave. And God would restore their inheritance to them, as seen in Verses 35-36: "Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; 36 and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians." Egypt had enslaved and plundered Israel—and now what was lost would be restored because God made it so.
In Verse 37, we find: "Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children." Have you worked hard at something and found you didn't get very far? That was true of Israel at the moment. They left the area of "Ramses," near the Mediterranean Sea in Northern Egypt, traveling to "Succoth" ("booths"), a place at or very near the Sinai Penninsula. You may recall that, a few chapters ago, the people of Israel were seventy or so people who entered Egypt over four hundred years before. Now "six hundred thousand men on foot" marched out of the place, along with what was probably at least that many women and an unspecified number of children. It has been estimated that at least two million Israelites left the land of Egypt at that time.
In Verse 38, we see that, "A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock." This was a big procession of people and animals. They were moving as fast as they could, but with as many participants as indicated in these verses, it was slow going. Some have taught that the non-Israelis who went with them were Egyptians, and some probably were, but the phase "mixed multitude" suggests that many slaves from a variety of nationalities saw their chance and went along, making their way out of Egypt to hopefully find a better life.
Most people would like time to prepare for events likely to happen in the future. At some level, for instance, we are all aware that the aging process is coming for everybody, and therefore, advance financial planning is common. Israel would have liked to prepare for the exodus from Egypt, but they really did not believe it would happen until just this moment. And so the haste God had decreed for them now came to pass. In Verse 39, "They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves." They were not ready to depart, but it did not matter because God is always ready, sometimes especially when we aren't.
When reading or studying God's Word, it's important to become willing to believe, to pray, to listen to God, and to read the whole Bible, comparing Scripture to Scripture. Verses 40-41 are an example of our need to believe, receive and compare: "Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt." As some have, let's compare these verses with the prophesy in Genesis 15:13-14—God "said to Abraham: 'Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years...afterward they shall come out with great possessions.'" The skeptics smile, noticing that "four hundred years" is not the same as "four hundred and thirty years." But the difference is Moses, who "supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand." That's Acts 7:25 and its context, revealing that at forty, Moses thought HE was to be the deliverer, but the people were not ready and neither was he. The extra years showed him that GOD is the Deliverer, not him, and the people were now somewhat willing to be delivered.
When God does something wonderful, we should praise Him for it. Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt and they reasonably celebrate that deliverance annually in events like the Passover Seder. As Verse 42 indicates, "It is a night to be observed for the Lord for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the Lord, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations." A related Scripture, John 3:16, reveals, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Everyone on earth has been offered freedom from sin and death, and we all should remember and praise Him for what He has done.
Israel was both a nation of individual people, descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but also, individually and collectively, Israel is a parable to show us how God works with people and how we are supposed to respond. In Verses 43-45 of this chapter, "The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; 44 but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. 45 A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it.'" The people of God are to be pure in heart, dedicated to God in faith and filled with His Holy Spirit. Israel was to be of pure descent from Abraham, undefiled by the idols of the nations that surrounded them. How we can be made separate is seen in Genesis 15:6, where Abraham "believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness." Faith in the Lord enables us to do what we cannot otherwise do, experiencing separation from the sins of this world.
Verse 46—"It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it." As to the Passover, which is to be "eaten in a single house," Verses 3-10 implied exactly that—by staying inside their houses, protected by the blood of the lamb, they were safe. To go outside on that night was to experience death. Breaking the bones was a normal part of sacrificing animals, but it was not to be the case with the Passover lamb. No bones were to be broken. And it was also to be true of the Messiah, the Christ in His death, as seen in John 19:31-33—Unlike the Romans did with the other prisoners, "When they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs."
"All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this," comprise the words of Verse 47, and exclusivity accompanied their remembrance. In Verse 38 we saw that a "mixed multitude" followed Israel on the exodus out of Egypt, but they had to become a part of the nation in order to share in the Passover celebration. Verses 48-49 are clear on that point: "But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. 49 The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you." Circumcision is an outward, physical act, but God has always intended Israel to be a spiritual nation, and the rite of circumcision was to reflect something greater. Romans 2:29 was written by an intensely Jewish man, a Pharisee (separated one), who came to view circumcision in this manner: "He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God."
That same Jewish man, himself surprised by the love of God in Christ Jesus, also wrote: "For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). Jews are definitely included in the promises of God—indeed the Messiah Himself became a Jew, and the promises of God are to and through that nation. But God intends that all who receive the promises of God are to be changed in our hearts, not merely on the outside. Verse 50 of this chapter is the response of all who trust in the Lord: "Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron." Obedience is faith in action. Now all was ready...the moment was at hand as Verse 51 reports, "And on that same day the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts." It had been over four hundred years, their fortunes had dwindled to the point where hope was almost gone, and it was then God saved the nation from slavery. It's true for you and me as well—it isn't your efforts or mine that will restore us, but instead Christ Jesus was sent to redeem us from the slavery of sin. He did the work—our part is to believe—"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29).
Lord, thank You for becoming our Passover, restoring us from the curse of sin and death. We give our hearts and lives to You, trusting in You that we are forgiven and are Yours forever. We praise Your Holy Name. In Jesus Name. Amen.