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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Exodus 12

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God Institutes Passover

A. Passover instructions.

1. (Exo 12:1-6) 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 is such a significant act that God tells the children of Israel to remake their calendar - the new year will now start with the month of their redemption from Egypt.

b. Every man shall take for himself a lamb: On the tenth of this first month, each family - or household - is to take a lamb, and the lamb is to live with the family for the four days until Passover.

i. In this way, the lamb became part of the family. By the time it was sacrificed on the fourteenth it was 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.

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: This may sound confusing, but 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)

2. (Exo 12:7-11) 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.

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. As our Passover sacrifice, Jesus had to come into direct contact with the "fire" of the Father's judgment on our behalf, and the bitterness of the cross is reflected in the bitter herbs.

c. Let none of it remain until morning: The Passover lamb had to be eaten completely; a family had to totally consume the sacrifice.

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)

3. (Exo 12:12-13) 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: The judgment on the firstborn was a powerful act of God, because the firstborn was always considered favored and privileged before God. If God judges the firstborn, then what of the rest of us?

4. (Exo 12:14-20) 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 pure walk with the LORD.

ii. Some suggest there was also a hygenic 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. (Exo 12:21-23) 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 instructs them to observe the Passover, knowing the rest of the nation will follow.

b. Take a bunch of hyssop: They used this to apply the blood to the doorposts and the lintel. Through the Scriptures, hyssop is 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. 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.

iii. This is why David, in his great Psalm of repentance, says purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean (Psalm 51:7). Hyssop was always connected with purification through sacrifice.

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. Salvation wasn't accomplished with 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 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 all together (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. Then the children of Israel went away and did so: In many ways these are the most important words of the whole account. As great as God's deliverance was, the people would never receive it if they failed to do what God told them to do. How many Israelites suffered under the judgment of the firstborn because they did not believe and obey? How many Egyptians were spared judgment because they did believe and obey?

b. Their obedience was connected with worship: So the people bowed their heads and worshipped. Then the children of Israel went away and did so.

i. Worship can help with our obedience because it gets things in the right place between God and us. He is the Creator, we are creatures, and we humbly worship Him.

C. The final plague: the death of Egypt's firstborn.

1. (Exo 12:29-30) 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 unfolds just as God said it would.

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, 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. Why did they make such a unique, emphatic promise from the gods that something so natural would happen - the eldest son take his father's place as Pharaoh? Undoubtedly, 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 seeks 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.

ii. Pharaoh once asked, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD." (Exodus 5:2) Now he knows that the LORD God is greater than all the Egyptian gods, and greater than Pharaoh himself - who was thought to be a god.

2. (Exo 12:31-36) 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 isn't "letting" Israel leave; now he commands them! This is 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 knows who the LORD is, the God who is 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 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. (Exo 12:37-39) 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: Assembling together at Succoth, about 600,000 men (besides children of 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.

b. 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.

c. 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. (Exo 12:40-42) 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. 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 is the "Calvary" of the Old Testament.

b. Out from the land of Egypt: The phrase out of Egypt is repeated 56 times in the Bible after this point. God wants His people to remember His deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

3. (Exo 12:43-49) 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. It was celebrated by each household.

c. Nor shall you break one of its bones: None of the bones of the Passover lamb were to be broken. This looks forward to Jesus, the ultimate Passover Lamb, who had not one bone broken even in His crucifixion (Psalm 22:17, 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 partake of Passover. In this sense, Passover means much to us as 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. (Exo 12:50-51) 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. 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 in gestation when the baby grew large. The plagues were like labor pains before birth and now the nation is born.

©2004 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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