And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
This chapter was written some time after the Exodus, probably when Moses put together the portions of the book toward the end of his life. The statements that these instructions were given in the land of Egypt, and that they were given to Moses and Aaron, are important: the one marks the special dignity of this ordinance, which was established before the Sinaitic code; the other marks the distinction between Moses and Aaron and all other prophets. They alone were prophets of the law, i. e. no law was promulgated by any other prophets.
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
This month - Abib Exodus 13:4. It was called "Nisan" by the later Hebrews, and nearly corresponds to our April. The Israelites are directed to take Abib henceforth as the beginning of the year; the year previously began with the month Tisri, when the harvest was gathered in; see Exodus 23:16. The injunction touching Abib or Nisan referred only to religious rites; in other affairs they retained the old arrangement, even in the beginning of the Sabbatic year; see Leviticus 25:9.
Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
A lamb - The Hebrew word is general, meaning either a sheep or a goat - male or female - and of any age; the age and sex are therefore epecially defined in the following verse. The direction to select the lamb on the tenth day, the fourth day before it was offered, was intended to secure due care in the preparation for the great national festival. The custom certainly fell into desuetude at a later period, but probably not before the destruction of the temple.
And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
Tradition specifies ten as the least number; but the matter was probably left altogether to the discretion of the heads of families.
The last clause should be rendered: "each man, according to his eating, ye shall count for the lamb."
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
Without blemish - This is in accordance with the general rule (margin reference): although in this case there is a special reason, since the lamb was in place of the firstborn male in each household. The restriction to the first year is unique, and refers apparently to the condition of perfect innocence in the antitype, the Lamb of God.
And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
Until the fourteenth day - It should be observed that the offering of our Lord on the self-same day is an important point in determining the typical character of the transaction. A remarkable passage in the Talmud says: "It was a famous and old opinion among the ancient Jews that the day of the new year which was the beginning of the Israelites' deliverance out of Egypt should in future time be the beginning of the redemption by the Messiah."
In the evening - The Hebrew has between the two evenings. The meaning of the expression is disputed. The most probable explanation is that it includes the time from afternoon, or early eventide, until sunset. This accords with the ancient custom of the Hebrews, who killed the paschal lamb immediately after the offering of the daily sacrifice, which on the day of the Passover took place a little earlier than usual, between two and three p.m. This would allow about two hours and a half for slaying and preparing all the lambs. It is clear that they would not wait until sunset, at which time the evening meal would take place. The slaying of the lamb thus coincides exactly with the death of our Saviour, at the ninth hour of the day Matthew 27:46.
And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
The upper door post - Or lintel, Exodus 12:23. This direction was understood by the Hebrews to apply only to the first Passover: it was certainly not adopted in Palestine. The meaning of the sprinkling of blood is hardly open to question. It was a representation of the offering of the life, substituted for that of the firstborn in each house, as an expiatory and vicarious sacrifice.
And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
In that night - The night is thus clearly distinguished from the evening when the lamb was slain. It was slain before sunset, on the 14th, and eaten after sunset, the beginning of the 15th.
With fire - Among various reasons given for this injunction the most probable and satisfactory seems to be the special sanctity attached to fire from the first institution of sacrifice (compare Genesis 4:4).
And unleavened bread - On account of the hasty departure, allowing no time for the process of leavening: but the meaning discerned by Paul, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, and recognized by the Church in all ages, was assuredly implied, though not expressly declared in the original institution. Compare our Lord's words, Matthew 16:6, Matthew 16:12, as to the symbolism of leaven.
Bitter herbs - The word occurs only here and in Numbers 9:11, in reference to herbs. The symbolic reference to the previous sufferings of the Israelites is generally admitted.
Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.
Raw - i. e. "half-cooked."
Sodden ... with water - It was probably more common to seethe meat than to roast meat; hence, the regrets expressed by the Israelites for the seething pots of Egypt.
The purtenance thereof - or its intestines. This verse directs that the lamb should be roasted and placed on the table whole. No bone was to be broken (see Exodus 12:46, and margin reference). The bowels were taken out, washed and then replaced. The Talmud prescribes the form of the oven of earthenware, in which the lamb was roasted, open above and below with a grating for the fire. Lambs and sheep are roasted whole in Persia, nearly in the same manner.
This entire consumption of the lamb constitutes one marked difference between the Passover and all other sacrifices, in which either a part or the whole was burned, and thus offered directly to God. The whole substance of the sacrificed lamb was to enter into the substance of the people, the blood only excepted, which was sprinkled as a propitiatory and sacrificial offering. Another point of subordinate importance is noticed. The lamb was slain and the blood sprinkled by the head of each family: no separate priesthood as yet existed in Israel; its functions belonged from the beginning to the father of the family: when the priesthood was instituted the slaying of the lamb still devolved on the heads of families, though the blood was sprinkled on the altar by the priests; an act which essentially belonged to their office. The typical character of this part of the transaction is clear. Our Lord was offered and His blood shed as an expiatory and propitiatory sacrifice, but His whole Humanity is transfused spiritually and effectually into His Church, an effect which is at once symbolized and assured in holy communion, the Christian Passover.
And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.
This was afterward a general law of sacrifices; at once preventing all possibility of profanity, and of superstitious abuse. The injunction is on both accounts justly applied by our Church to the eucharist.
Burn with fire - Not being consumed by man, it was thus offered, like other sacrifices Exodus 12:8, to God.
And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD'S passover.
These instructions are understood by the Jews to apply only to the first Passover, when they belonged to the occasion. There is no trace of their observance at any later time. Each of the directions marks preparation for a journey; the long flowing robes are girded round the loins; shoes or sandals, not worn in the house or at meals, were fastened on the feet; and the traveler's staff was taken in hand.
The Lord's passover - The great and most significant name for the whole ordinance. The word Passover renders as nearly as possible the true meaning of the original, of which the primary sense is generally held to be "pass rapidly," like a bird with outstretched wings, but it undoubtedly includes the idea of sparing Exodus 12:13. See Isaiah 31:5, which combines the two great ideas involved in the word.
For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite 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.
I will pass through - A word wholly distinct from that which means "pass over." The "passing through" was in judgment, the "passing over" in mercy.
Against all the gods of Egypt - Compare the margin reference. In smiting the firstborn of all living beings, man and beast, God struck down the objects of Egyptian worship (compare Exodus 12:5).
And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
A memorial - A commemorative and sacramental ordinance of perpetual obligation. As such, it has ever been observed by the Hebrews. By the Christian it is spiritually observed; its full significance is recognized, and all that it foreshadowed is realized, in the sacrament of holy communion.
Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
Cut off - The penalty inflicted on those who transgressed the command may be accounted for on the ground that it was an act of rebellion; but additional light is thrown upon it by the typical meaning assigned to leaven by our Lord, Matthew 16:6.
And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
An holy convocation - An assembly called by proclamation for a religious solemnity. See Leviticus 23:2; Numbers 10:2-3. In the East the proclamation is made by the Muezzins from the minarets of the mosques.
Save that ... - In this the observance of the festival differed from the Sabbath, when the preparation of food was prohibited. The same word for "work" is used here and in the fourth commandment: it is very general, and includes all laborious occupation.
And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
Born in the land - A stranger or foreigner might be born in the land, but the word here used means "a native of the land," belonging to the country by virtue of descent, that descent being reckoned from Abraham, to whom Canaan was promised as a perpetual inheritance.
Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
Draw out - i. e. draw the lamb from the fold and then take it to the house.
The passover - The word is here applied to the lamb; an important fact, marking the lamb as the sign and pledge of the exemption of the Israelites.
And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
A bunch of hyssop - The species here designated does not appear to be the plant now bearing the name. It would seem to have been an aromatic plant, common in Palestine and near Mount Sinai, with a long straight stalk and leaves well adapted for the purpose of sprinkling.
Bason - The rendering rests on good authority and gives a good sense: but the word means "threshold" in some other passages and in Egyptian, and is taken here in that sense by some versions. If that rendering be correct it would imply that the lamb was slain on the threshold.
None ... shall go out ... - There would be no safety outside the precincts protected by the blood of the lamb; a symbolism explained by the margin reference.
For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.
And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover - or This is the sacrifice of the Passover to Yahweh. The most formal and exact designation of the festival is thus given: but "the Passover" may mean either the act of God's mercy in sparing the Israelites, or the lamb which is offered in sacrifice: more probably the latter, as in Exodus 12:21. This gives a clear sense to the expression "to Yahweh;" the Passover lamb was a sacrifice offered to Yahweh by His ordinance.
And the children of Israel went away, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
This plague is distinctly attributed here and in Exodus 12:23 to the personal intervention of the Lord; but it is to be observed that although the Lord Himself passed through to smite the Egyptians, He employed the agency of "the destroyer" Exodus 12:23, in whom, in accordance with Hebrews 11:28, all the ancient versions, and most critics, recognize an Angel (compare 2 Kings 19:35; 2 Samuel 24:16).
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 there was not one dead.
And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.
Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
Bless me also - No words could show more strikingly the complete, though temporary, submission of Pharaoh.
And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.
And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.
Kneadingtroughs - (Compare the margin and Deuteronomy 28:5). The troughs were probably small wooden bowls in which the cakes when baked were preserved for use. The Hebrews used their outer garment, or mantle, in the same way as the Bedouins at present, who make a bag of the voluminous folds of their burnous. See Ruth 3:15; 2 Kings 4:39.
And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:
Borrowed - "Asked of." See Exodus 3:22 note.
And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.
Lent - Or gave. The word in the Hebrew means simply "granted their request." Whether the grant is made as a loan, or as a gift, depends in every instance upon the context. Here the word "spoiled" ought to be regarded as conclusive that the grant was a gift, a moderate remuneration for long service, and a compensation for cruel wrongs.
And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.
Rameses - See Exodus 1:11 note. Rameses was evidently the place of general rendezvous, well adapted for that purpose as the principal city of Goshen. The Israelites were probably settled in considerable numbers in and about it. Pharaoh with his army and court were at that time near the frontier, and Rameses, where a large garrison was kept, was probably the place where the last interview with Moses occurred. The first part of the journey appears to have followed the course of the ancient canal. The site of Succoth cannot be exactly determined, but it lay about halfway between Rameses and Etham Exodus 13:20. The name Succoth (i. e. "tents" or "booths" in Hebrew), may have been given by the Israelites, but the same, or a similar word, occurs in Egyptian in connection with the district.
600,000 - This includes all the males who could march. The total number of the Israelites should therefore be calculated from the males above twelve or fourteen, and would therefore amount to somewhat more than two millions. This is not an excessive population for Goshen, nor does it exceed a reasonable estimate of the increase of the Israelites, including their numerous dependants.
And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
A mixed multitude - Probably remains of the old Semitic population, whether first brought into the district by the Hyksos or not is uncertain. As natural objects of suspicion and dislike to the Egyptians who had lately become masters of the country, they would be anxious to escape, the more especially after the calamities which preceded the Exodus.
Very much cattle - This is an important fact, both as showing that the oppression of the Israelites had not extended to confiscation of their property, and as bearing upon the question of their maintenance in the Wilderness.
And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.
Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.
Who dwelt - Read, which they sojourned. The obvious intention of Moses is to state the duration of the sojourn in Egypt.
And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.
It is a night to be much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.
And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
And the Lord said - From this verse to Exodus 13:16 are instructions regarding the Passover. Such instructions were needed when the Israelites were joined by the "mixed multitude:" of strangers; and they were probably given at Succoth, on the morning following the departure from Rameses.
No stranger - Literally, "son of a stranger." The term is general; it includes all who were aliens from Israel, until they were incorporated into the nation by circumcision.
But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
Servant - The circumcision of the slave, thus enjoined formally on the first day that Israel became a nation, in accordance with the law given to Abraham, (see the margin reference) made him a true member of the family, equally entitled to all religious privileges. In the household of a priest the slave was even permitted to eat the consecrated food: Leviticus 22:11.
A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.
A foreigner - or sojourner: one who resides in a country, not having a permanent home, nor being attached to an Israelitish household.
In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.
In one house - i. e. "in one company." Each lamb was to be entirely consumed by the members of one company, whether they belonged to the same household or not.
Break a bone - The typical significance of this injunction is recognized by John, (see the margin reference.) It is not easy to assign any other satisfactory reason for it. This victim alone was exempt from the general law by which the limbs were ordered to be separated from the body.
All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.
And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will 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 one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
Thus did all the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the LORD did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.