Exodus 12: The Passover

1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

-This statement on the second verse that “this month shall be for you the beginning of months” means that they had not used the calender that Jews still use today until this event. I had previously mentioned the months in Noah’s story of the flood since we were given dates but it is clear from this statement that while these months and dates had relevance to the Hebrews now and to us today, it is highly unlikely they meant anything in Noah’s time. Still, Genesis was written by Moses as inspired by the Holy Spirit so the months and days would be accurate to the Hebrew calender today but most likely would not be how the people of Noah’s time kept a calender. There is some consideration to be made that this calender is the “correct” calender to use since God Himself established it. We use the Gregorian calender today which was almost identical to the Julian calender established by Julius Caesar in 45 BC with the only change being to fix Easter at the start of Spring rather than letting it drift. The Hebrew calender is based entirely on lunar cycles and there is a new month for every new moon. Because a lunar calender is about 11 days shorter than a solar calender, to ensure Passover always happens in the spring, a leap month is included called Adar I (as opposed to normal Adar which is then called Adar II in leap years) based on a 19-year cycle to ensure the Hebrew calender falls in line with the solar year again. Neither the Hebrew or the Gregorian calender is perfect since one is perfect to the lunar cycle and one is perfect to the solar cycle but the Hebrew calender going by moons forces the people to watch the sky for signs or to look to God for the times and seasons. Having it mathematically calculated and never changing, as with the Gregorian, means that we have it all figured out already. Hebrew culture is always about looking to God and it makes sense God Himself would establish a calender that forces the people to do so.

-Anyways, this is the explanation for the holiday Pesach or “Passover”. It begins on the evening of the 14th day of Nissan (actually the 15th of Nissan because the start of a day is in the evening) and lasts one week. The day before a fast is held, unless the 14th falls on a Sabbath in which case it is done on the 12th of Nissan a Thursday. This is an important holiday because God Himself establishes it and so it should make one wonder, regardless of ancestry, whether we as Christians should observe this holiday as well. We of course are not held to it ever since the curtain tore but it certainly would not hurt to think on this time especially since God felt it important the nation of Israel remember this time. If His nation of children needed it then, who’s to say God’s current nation of children, all those adopted from both Israel and the gentiles, need this reminder as well?

7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.

-Why is God telling them to eat this meal in this way? There are many symbolic explanations that may or may not be true but one very practical explanation is because God knows what’s about to happen. Once the firstborns begin dying, the Egyptians are going to chase the Hebrews out of Egypt and they need to be ready. The King James version uses the term “girded loins” to explain what’s going on. The long robes the people wore in this time looked nice but did not allow one to be very mobile. By fastening their belts, they would be able to run if needed at a moments notice.

13 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 no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

-We’ve talked about this before but when God says “everlasting” or “forever”, it is not an exaggeration. The only possible question is if the “you” is referring only to Israel or if this should extend to all Christians even today.

15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 And you shall 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 statute forever. 18 In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.”

-The words, ”cut off from the congregation of Israel”, are quite a serious claim. This obviously doesn’t mean that if we haven’t always been observing this our whole lives and don’t in the future that we lose our very salvation. This certainly applies to only Israel but is also part of the greater law which is impossible for any person to follow. The very purpose of the law as laid out by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:15-29 was not for people to keep it or be killed and sent to hell but to prove who Christ is when He comes. Of course, many Israelites would eat leavened bread during this time and others in Israel but this does not mean they instantly dropped dead. Doing so was proof that they are sinners who cannot follow God and need a savior. The very purpose of the law was to convict and prove to all mankind they are unworthy to be children of God.

21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 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 will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. 24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25 And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28 Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

-This whole Passover holiday being instituted and this action being done at all has a special meaning because again we can ask, “Why doesn’t God just rescue the people in a blink of an eye? What’s the point of all this ritual?” The very point of all the law and everything established in Israel is to point to their once and future king, Jesus. The Passover is to explain to Israel what Jesus will do one day by dying for our sins with His sacrifice so that death will pass over us and we can have eternal life. And if there was any doubt that this is the significance, Jesus was crucified on the 15th of Nissan, the first day of Passover. Jesus ate the Passover supper one day early which was odd but it was because on Passover the following day, He would serve as the Passover lamb as a sacrifice for all mankind. He resurrected after three days and three nights (the sign of Jonah) and was resurrected on the first day of the week, Sunday, which was the Day of First-fruits. The Day of First-fruits symbolizes new life just as the new life we have in Christ. We will discuss more how the law and holidays point towards Jesus as we get deeper into in later.

The Tenth Plague: Death of the Firstborn

29 At midnight the Lord struck down 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 the livestock. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”

The Exodus

33 The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. 37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

-The Egyptians were filled with so much fear and panic that they rushed the Hebrews out of their houses so fast that they did not even have time to cook their bread! They now all believed that this God of the Hebrews had the power to kill them all and He had done just about everything but that already. If the Israelites listened to the instruction God gave being relayed through Moses, they would have had their belts on, sandals fastened, and staff in hand ready to run out in a moments notice as was the case. God truly thought of everything and gives us every chance to receive His blessing if only we would take it.

40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.

-This passage is misunderstood when read in English. A word per word translation of verse 40 from Hebrew would be: “Now the sojourning of the people of Israel, who dwelt in Mixrayim (Egypt), was four hundred and thirty years”. This changes the meaning to simply indicate the the people of Israel, who were currently in Egypt, the total time of ALL their sojournings was 430 years. We talked about in the genealogy of Moses that it would be impossible in 4 generations to have so much time go by because it would appear to be only possible to have around 200 years go by realistically. But in Galatians 3:17 Paul gives us the answer, “the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.” He had just finished talking about the covenant of Abraham and so the law came 430 years after the initial calling of Abraham, not the arrival in Egypt. Recall Abraham was 75 years old when they left Mesopotamia for Haran. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born (25 years passed) and Issac was 60 years old when Jacob was born (85 years passed). Jacob died at 147 years of age (232 years passed). We know Jacob was in Egypt for 17 years. Subtract 17 from 232 and we get 215 years from the time Abraham left for Haran until Jacob and the whole family settled in Egypt. Now we are told the total time of all sojournings was 430 years which would mean 215 total years in Egypt. The time Israel came to Egypt just so happens to be the exact halfway point between Abraham’s first departure and Moses guiding the Israelites out, this is no coincidence. If the Israelites settled and then left 215 with Moses as the great-grandson of Levi, this would mean the average age of his ancestors when they had children, given that he was 80 years old here, would be 45 years old which is very reasonable. For them to have been in Egypt a full 430 years, the average age of Moses ancestors when they had children would have to be 117 years! People have now stopped living this long and such a big deal would not have been made of Abraham and Sarah having a child at 100 if that were possible and even common. An argument can be made about how Israel can go from 70 men to 630,000 young men and a total population of over 2 million in only 215 years but then again we were told that they were blessed and they had children so rapidly that the Pharaoh sought to kill all male babies to stop them. Part of this confusion comes from the interpretation that the total number of people were 70 which would make these numbers difficult to believe. But as we discussed and analyzed before, 70 are just the names of males and women were not counted. This would satisfy everything except that Abraham was told 400 years in Genesis 15 and we are reading here about 430 years to the very day of total sojournings. We can account for 25 years if we start the sojournings when Abraham left Mesopotamia to Haran and 400 years from the time of Isaac’s birth but we are short 5 years. One possible explanation would be instead of Isaac’s birth, we assume Isaac’s weaning at about 5 years old. This would explain that God meant 400 years from the time his son was weaned which began the sojournings of his descendants and would not change the math of 430 years. But this is still debatable and is debated by many to this day.

Institution of the Passover

43 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” 50 All the people of Israel did just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

-The idea that “no foreigner shall eat of it” does not mean that if we are not of Jewish blood we cannot celebrate passover. If we are circumcised, we can. This is not a literal circumcision, but a circumcision of the heart to those who have given their lives to God. This applies to us today in saying that anyone who does not call themselves a Christian should not worship God. This is why we should encourage those who are not saved not to take communion since this was done the day before pass over in preparation for Jesus’ sacrifice of his body (bread) and his blood (wine). God does not want lukewarm Christians but those who are committed children of God. To perform a celebration or ritual like this while “uncircumcised” is an offense, perhaps the same kind of offense that almost killed Moses not having circumcised his son before returning to Egypt.






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