ONLY THE PERSONAL APPLICATION OF THE BLOOD OF THE PASSOVER LAMB BRINGS DELIVERANCE FROM BONDAGE AND DESTRUCTION
Suspense has been building as we have worked our way through the nine plagues. The natural expectation would be that the author would jump immediately to the catastrophic tenth plague and the dramatic deliverance of God’s people. Instead we find an extended discussion of the institution of the Passover Feast and other significant worship practices. That should tell us something about the significance of the Passover sacrifice – especially as it is fulfilled in the perfect Lamb of God.
Wiersbe: Passover marked a new beginning for the Jews and bound them together as a nation.
David Thompson: The entire theological development of Jesus Christ being a sacrificial lamb begins in Exodus 12. Paul would say that Jesus Christ is our Passover who was sacrificed for us (I Cor. 5:7). The Apostle Peter said that we were purchased with the precious blood of the unblemished and spotless Lamb, who is Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:18-19). John the Baptist would say, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). John the Apostle would describe Jesus as the slain Lamb who is being worshipped in heaven in the great praise anthem “Worthy is the lamb that was slain” (Rev. 5:6, 12). All of these portraits of Jesus Christ start in Exodus 12. So this is a very important chapter to the entire Bible and to the potential of understanding the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Oswalt: This truth—that the Exodus is really about becoming rightly related to God—explains why some 50 verses (12:1–27, 43–50; 13:1–16) are given over to discussion of worship practices—just as the narrative reaches its most exciting point, just when what appears to be the goal of the whole operation is on the point of being achieved. . . This extended discussion is the means by which the author makes his point that even if these slaves manage to escape their oppressors, they will have missed the point of the event unless they surround their memories of it with appropriate acts of worship. The question for humans is not whether we will serve a master but only what master we will serve. If we live our lives in service to our Creator, we will be free to be all we were made to be. If we refuse that service, we are seeking to live in ways we were never made for, and the result will be a worse bondage than we ever dreamed, whether to our own self-will or to the will of another. . .
It is important to note that this worship was centered in the memory of something God had done in time and space (12:14, 24; 13:3, 8, 14, 16). . . Worship is to accurately remember the wonderful things God has done on our behalf and to realign our beliefs and behaviors on the basis of what God did. Moses is here, under divine inspiration, seeking to lay the essential foundations for what Israelite, Jewish, and Christian worship should consist of. If God did not do the things the Bible reports, then liturgical activities are valueless. They do not constitute an “event” with meaning in itself. God’s power is not ours to tap into through magical rituals.
(:1-2) PROLOGUE – MARKER FOR NEW BEGINNINGS AS A DELIVERED NATION
“Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.’”
David Guzik: 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.
G Campbell Morgan: These words constitute the record of a change of calendar at the command of God. This change was introduced in the hour when these people were passing into national constitution as a Theocracy, a people under the direct and immediate government of God, having no king except Him. It was directly connected with the institution of the Passover Feast. Thus the beginning of the year was changed from Tishri, the month of harvest, to Abib, the month of green ears, or of springtime, known after the captivity as Nisan. Thus the new year henceforth was to begin with the celebration of the feast which emphasized the relation of the people to God, and brought constantly to their memory the redemptive basis of that relation. 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.” All such new beginnings are founded on plenteous Redemption, conditioned in persistent Righteousness, and issue in perfect Realization. God had redeemed His people from slavery. The dawn of their new year was ever to be radiant with the glory of His bringing of them forth from cruel bondage. God had brought them to Himself, that under His law they might realize the meaning of life, and fulfil its highest purposes. God had admitted them to a fellowship with Himself, which meant, for them, the supply of all need; and for Him, an instrument in the world for carrying out the program of His infinite grace.
Douglas Stuart: Whatever might theoretically have been their previous thinking about a calendar, God decreed to his Old Covenant people that they would henceforth have a calendar designed to remind them of how they first became a people—it happened by reason of their deliverance by his mighty hand out of the bondage of the oppressor, an act so important that it was also to be memorialized by a special annual feast, the Passover.
I. (:3-6) INSTRUCTIONS FOR OBSERVING THE PASSOVER SACRIFICE
A. (:3-4) Logistics for the Passover Sacrifice
“Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying,”
1. (:3b) Timing for the Passover Observance
‘On the tenth of this month
2. (:3c-4) One Lamb Based on Number of People it Could Feed
a. (:3c) Typically One Lamb Per Household
“they are each one to take a lamb for themselves,
according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household.’”
Bruce Hurt: Lamb (goat) (seh) is actually a neutral word which means one of the flock such as either a sheep or a goat. This animal was clean according to the Law and thus could be eaten (Dt. 14:4; cf. Nu 15:11), so long as the blood had been drained (1 Sa 14:34). A year-old lamb was necessary for a sin or burnt offering (Lev. 5:7; 12:8).
b. (:4a) Sometimes Necessary to Combine Small Households
“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;”
c. (:4c) According to Number of People it Could Feed
“according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb.”
B. (:5) Criteria for an Acceptable Passover Sacrifice
1. Unblemished Animal
“Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old;”
Douglas Stuart: Thus the reason for demanding perfection rested not in the quality of the meal but in the symbolic purpose: the animal served as a reminder of the eventual deliverance that a perfect God perfectly provided for his people as part of the process of making them holy like himself. Proper relating to God requires perfection.
Ryken: For Jesus to be our Passover lamb, he had to meet God’s standard of perfection. Back during the exodus, the Passover lamb had to be physically flawless. In the case of Jesus, the perfection God required was moral: Jesus had to be utterly sinless. The Bible is careful to show that this was indeed the case. By virtue of his virgin birth, his nature was free from the corruption of original sin. Nor did Jesus commit any actual transgressions. Peter said, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). The book of Hebrews says that he was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (4:15). Even Pontius Pilate said, “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:6b). Jesus was morally perfect. Therefore, when it came time for him to die, it was as an innocent victim—he “offered himself unblemished to God” (Heb. 9:14). Hebrews uses the word “unblemished” because the writer was thinking of the kind of sacrifice that God required in the Old Testament: a perfect lamb, without spot or blemish.
2. Sheep or Goat
“you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.”
C. (:6) Preparation and Execution of the Passover Sacrifice
“And 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.”
Constable: on kill it at twilight – Some of the ancient rabbis taught that God wanted the Jews to sacrifice the Passover lamb exactly at sunset because of the instructions in verse 6 and Deuteronomy 16:6. However “at twilight” literally means “between the two evenings.” The more widely held Jewish view was that the first evening began right after noon and the second began when the sun set. In Josephus’ day, which was also Jesus’ day, the Jews slew the Passover lamb in mid-afternoon. The Lord Jesus Christ died during this time (i.e., about 3:00 p.m., Mt. 27:45–50; Mk 15:34–37; Lk 23:44–46; 1 Cor 5:7).
J Vernon McGee: on the phrase the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it (Note it does not say each household is to kill it) – This portion of Scripture is quite interesting. Note that each family had a lamb. Thousands of lambs must have been slain that evening, but the sixth verse reads, “Israel shall kill it in the evening.” These many lambs were speaking of another Lamb. God looked at all of these lambs as that one Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Passover offered for us. This feast was pointing to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world.
Ryken: There is an obvious progression here, with the lamb serving as a representative for larger and larger groups of people. At first God provided one lamb for one person. Thus Abraham offered a ram in place of his son Isaac. Next God provided one lamb for one household. This happened at the first Passover, when every family in the covenant community offered its own lamb to God. Then God provided one sacrifice for the whole nation. On the Day of Atonement, a single animal atoned for the sins of all Israel. Finally the day came when John the Baptist “saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ ” (John 1:29; cf. John 11:50–52). God was planning this all along: one Lamb to die for one world. By his grace he has provided a lamb—“the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
II. (:7-10) INSTRUCTIONS FOR APPLYING THE BLOOD OF THE PASSOVER SACRIFICE AND CONSUMING THE FLESH
A. (:7) Applying the Blood
“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.”
Constable: The door represented the house (cf. Ex 20:10; Dt. 5:14; 12:17; et al.). The smearing of the blood on the door with hyssop was an act of expiation (cleansing; cf. Lev. 14:49–53+; Nu 19:18–19). This act consecrated the houses of the Israelites as altars. They had no other altars in Egypt. They were not to apply the blood to the other member of the door frame, the threshold, because someone might tread on it. The symbolic value of the blood made this action inappropriate. The whole ritual signified to the Jews that the blood (life poured out, Lev. 17:11+) of a sinless, divinely appointed substitute cleansed their sins and resulted in their setting apart (sanctification) to God. The application of the blood as directed was a demonstration of the Israelites’ faith in God’s promise that He would pass over them (Ex 12:13; cf. Heb. 11:28).
Douglas Stuart: The Israelites were required to eat the Passover in a manner that demonstrated their readiness to leave Egypt immediately. All aspects of the cooking and eating were designed to minimize time and maximize preparedness for sudden departure. This was an issue of faith: did the families of the Israelites really trust God’s promises for them? If so, were they willing to show that trust by arranging themselves so as to be fully prepared for departure, and by eating what was to be their last meal in Egypt in such a manner as not to impede their ability to gather together and start moving as soon as the command reached them? The willingness to go at a moment’s notice and never to return cannot have been easy for most Israelites, even though they initially believed Moses’ signs (4:31), had witnessed the nine plagues thus far, and had been treated so badly for so long. After all, they had lived in Egypt for 430 years—a long time to acclimate culturally and geographically—and were now being asked to leave behind everything they had ever known: the place where they had lived all their lives, where their parents and grandparents had lived and died, and where they had prospered until the paranoia of the post-Hyksos pharaohs had taken over. They were leaving the houses they had built and raised families in. Added to this, some people are simply more psychologically “territorial” than others. For them, going elsewhere is almost always harder than staying put and trying to survive. But now their faith was to be shown; now they were to gather as families to eat a quick meal of quickly prepared ingredients and then to depart quickly in order to get a head start on any potential Egyptian pursuit.
B. (:8-9) Consuming the Flesh
1. (:8) How to Consume the Flesh
a. Timing and Mode of Cooking
“And they shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire,”
Wiersbe: In order that the lamb might be kept whole, it was roasted in the fire and not boiled in water. . . It was important to see the wholeness of the lamb.
“and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”
Spurgeon: 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.
Constable: The bitter herbs—perhaps endive, chicory, and or other herbs native to Egypt—would later recall to the Israelites who ate them the bitter experiences of life in Egypt. However the sweetness of the lamb overpowered the bitterness of the herbs.
2. (:9) Additional Instructions
a. How Not to Cook it
“Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water,”
b. How to Cook it
“but rather roasted with fire,”
c. Treat it as a Unit
“both its head and its legs along with its entrails.”
C. (:10) Burning Anything Left Over
1. Don’t Save Any for the Next Day
“And you shall not leave any of it over until morning,”
John Mackay: Great care was to be taken to avoid misappropriation of the Passover, either by its being consumed other than at the time when all were eating it together or by people or animals not entitled to partake of it.
2. Burn Up Leftovers
“but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.”
III. (:11-13) INSTRUCTIONS FOR READINESS FOR THE PASSOVER EVENT OF EXODUS, DESTRUCTION AND DELIVERANCE
A. (:11) Readiness for the Exodus from Egypt – Freedom from Bondage
1. Preparing for the Journey
“Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded,
your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand;”
J Vernon McGee: Friend, when you come to Christ, you should have your loins girded and be ready to get out of the world and no longer be involved in it. I do not believe that you can be converted and continue living a sinful life (cf 1 John 3:4-10+). This does not mean that you will not sin occasionally, but it does mean that you will not make a habit of living in a pattern of sin….You will get out of “Egypt” if the blood has been put on the doorposts. You are to eat the sacrificial lamb with your loins girt about, ready to go.
David Guzik: 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.
Douglas Stuart: Sandals normally were taken off at home; with this meal they were worn in the house, because a trip was imminent. No one carried his staff around the house; it was a tool for protection and herding in the open. A staff in the hand normally indicated readiness to be on the move, not a plan to stay at home. Thus the entire meal and its manner and posture of consumption were to indicate faithful readiness for a speedy departure.
2. Understanding the Urgency
“and you shall eat it in haste—“
3. Obeying the Master
“it is the LORD’s Passover.”
David Guzik: The Passover was the Lord’s in the sense that He provided it:
(1) As a rescue, to deliver Israel from the plague of the firstborn.
(2) As an institution, to remember God’s rescue and deliverance for Israel through every generation.
(3) As a powerful drama, acting out the perfect sacrifice and rescue Jesus would later provide.
B. (:12) Readiness for the Dramatic Event of Destruction
1. Judgment Against the First-born in the Land of Egypt
“For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast;”
2. Judgment Against the Gods of Egypt
“and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—“
3. Supremacy of the Lord
“I am the LORD.”
John Mackay: The Lord then adds as it were his signature to the verdict he has pronounced: I am the Lord. Because of who he is, what he says is guaranteed and will surely come to pass (6:2).
C. (:13) Readiness for the Merciful Event of Deliverance
1. The Sign of the Applied Blood
“And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live;”
Bruce Hurt: One may ask Why use blood as the sign? Throughout the Old Testament, the shedding of blood often signifies entrance into, and being part of, the covenant with God (see, for example, Gen. 15:9–17; 17:9–14). Blood is the essence of life, and thus it symbolizes the extremity of the covenant relationship extending to life and death. The Hebrews bear the sign of God and live; the Egyptians have no sign and many die.
2. The Efficacy of the Applied Blood
“and when I see the blood I will pass over you,”
Ryken: What was so important about the blood? It represented the taking of a life. Notice that this was a sign both to the Israelites and to their God. God said, “The blood will be a sign for you … and when I see the blood” (v. 13, emphasis added). What the blood signified to the Israelites was that they had a substitute; that a lamb had died in their place. Their sin was a capital offense. God was coming in judgment, armed with a deadly plague. But when they looked up and saw the blood on the door, they knew they were covered. To use the technical term for it, the blood of the lamb was the expiation for their sins. While the book of Exodus does not draw an explicit connection between the blood of the lamb and the sin of God’s people, this connection is plainly implied. In the words of the brilliant Dutch theologian Geerhardus Vos, “Wherever there is slaying and manipulation of blood there is expiation, and both these were present in the Passover.”
3. The Protection of the Applied Blood
“and no plague will befall you to destroy you
when I strike the land of Egypt.”
John Mackay: ‘Plague’ here denotes a punishment imposed by God with terrible consequences for those on whom it comes. Notice that this implies that the Israelites themselves were liable to the death of their firstborn. It was not just a matter of judgment on particular sins of the Egyptians, such as their oppression and maltreatment of the Israelites. Those were specific symptoms of the basic problem of sinful rebellion against God. This time the Israelites would not be exempt apart from obedience to specific injunctions. The focus of the event is the threat of judgment and the alleviation of that judgment through the death of a lamb.