Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
Ex 12:1-10. The Passover Instituted.
1. the Lord spake unto Moses—rather, "had spoken unto Moses and Aaron"; for it is evident that the communication here described must have been made to them on or before the tenth of the month.
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
2. this month shall be unto you the beginning of months—the first not only in order but in estimation. It had formerly been the seventh according to the reckoning of the civil year, which began in September, and continued unchanged, but it was thenceforth to stand first in the national religious year which began in March, April.
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:
3. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel—The recent events had prepared the Israelitish people for a crisis in their affairs, and they seem to have yielded implicit obedience at this time to Moses. It is observable that, amid all the hurry and bustle of such a departure, their serious attention was to be given to a solemn act of religion.
a lamb for an house—a kid might be taken (Ex 12:5). The service was to be a domestic one, for the deliverance was to be from an evil threatened to every house in Egypt.
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.
4. if the household be too little for the lamb, &c.—It appears from Josephus that ten persons were required to make up the proper paschal communion.
every man according to his eating—It is said that the quantity eaten of the paschal lamb, by each individual, was about the size of an olive.
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
5. lamb … without blemish—The smallest deformity or defect made a lamb unfit for sacrifice—a type of Christ (Heb 7:26; 1Pe 1:19).
a male of the first year—Christ in the prime of life.
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.
6. keep it up until the fourteenth day, &c.—Being selected from the rest of the flock, it was to be separated four days before sacrifice; and for the same length of time was Christ under examination and His spotless innocence declared before the world.
kill it in the evening—that is, the interval between the sun's beginning to decline, and sunset, corresponding to our three o'clock in the afternoon.
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.
7. take of the blood, and strike it on the two side-posts, &c.—as a sign of safety to those within. The posts must be considered of tents, in which the Israelites generally lived, though some might be in houses. Though the Israelites were sinners as well as the Egyptians, God was pleased to accept the substitution of a lamb—the blood of which, being seen sprinkled on the doorposts, procured them mercy. It was to be on the sideposts and upper doorposts, where it might be looked to, not on the threshold, where it might be trodden under foot. This was an emblem of the blood of sprinkling (Heb 12:24; 10:29).
And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
8. roast with fire—for the sake of expedition; and this difference was always observed between the cooking of the paschal lamb and the other offerings (2Ch 35:13).
unleavened bread—also for the sake of despatch (De 16:3), but as a kind of corruption (Lu 12:1) there seems to have been a typical meaning under it (1Co 5:8).
bitter herbs—literally, "bitters"—to remind the Israelites of their affliction in Egypt, and morally of the trials to which God's people are subject on account of sin.
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.
9. Eat not of it raw—that is, with any blood remaining; a caveat against conformity to idolatrous practices. It was to be roasted whole, not a bone to be broken, and this pointed to Christ (Joh 19:36).
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.
10. let nothing of it remain until the morning—which might be applied in a superstitious manner, or allowed to putrefy, which in a hot climate would speedily have ensued; and which was not becoming in what had been offered 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.
Ex 12:11-14. The Rite of the Passover.
11. thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet—as prepared for a journey. The first was done by the skirts of the loose outer cloth being drawn up and fastened in the girdle, so as to leave the leg and knee free for motion. As to the other, the Orientals never wear shoes indoors, and the ancient Egyptians, as appears from the monuments, did not usually wear either shoes or sandals. These injunctions seem to have applied chiefly to the first celebration of the rite.
it is the Lord's passover—called by this name from the blood-marked dwellings of the Israelites being passed over figuratively by the destroying angel.
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.
12. smite … gods of Egypt—perhaps used here for princes and grandees. But, according to Jewish tradition, the idols of Egypt were all on that night broken in pieces (see Nu 33:4; Isa 19:1).
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.
14. for a memorial, &c.—The close analogy traceable in all points between the Jewish and Christian passovers is seen also in the circumstance that both festivals were instituted before the events they were to commemorate had transpired.
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.
Ex 12:15-51. Unleavened Bread.
15. Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread, &c.—This was to commemorate another circumstance in the departure of the Israelites, who were urged to leave so hurriedly that their dough was unleavened (Ex 12:39), and they had to eat unleavened cakes (De 16:3). The greatest care was always taken by the Jews to free their houses from leaven—the owner searching every corner of his dwelling with a lighted candle. A figurative allusion to this is made (1Co 5:7). The exclusion of leaven for seven days would not be attended with inconvenience in the East, where the usual leaven is dough kept till it becomes sour, and it is kept from one day to another for the purpose of preserving leaven in readiness. Thus even were there none in all the country, it could be got within twenty-four hours [Harmer].
that soul shall be cut off—excommunicated from the community and privileges of the chosen people.
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.
16. there shall be an holy convocation—literally, calling of the people, which was done by sound of trumpets (Nu 10:2), a sacred assembly—for these days were to be regarded as Sabbaths—excepting only that meat might be cooked on them (Ex 16:23).
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.
17. ye shall observe, &c.—The seven days of this feast were to commence the day after the passover. It was a distinct festival following that feast; but although this feast was instituted like the passover before the departure, the observance of it did not take place till after.
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.
19. stranger—No foreigner could partake of the passover, unless circumcised; the "stranger" specified as admissible to the privilege must, therefore, be considered a Gentile proselyte.
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.
21-25. Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, &c.—Here are given special directions for the observance.
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.
22. hyssop—a small red moss [Hasselquist]; the caper-plant [Royle]. It was used in the sprinkling, being well adapted for such purposes, as it grows in bushes—putting out plenty of suckers from a single root. And it is remarkable that it was ordained in the arrangements of an all-wise Providence that the Roman soldiers should undesignedly, on their part, make use of this symbolical plant to Christ when, as our Passover, He was sacrificed for us [Joh 19:29].
none … shall go out at the door of his house until the morning—This regulation was peculiar to the first celebration, and intended, as some think, to prevent any suspicion attaching to them of being agents in the impending destruction of the Egyptians; there is an allusion to it (Isa 26:20).
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?
26. when your children shall say, … What mean ye by this service—Independently of some observances which were not afterwards repeated, the usages practised at this yearly commemorative feast were so peculiar that the curiosity of the young would be stimulated, and thus parents had an excellent opportunity, which they were enjoined to embrace, for instructing each rising generation in the origin and leading facts of the national faith.
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.
27, 28. the people bowed the head, and worshipped—All the preceding directions were communicated through the elders, and the Israelites, being deeply solemnized by the influence of past and prospective events, gave prompt and faithful obedience.
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.
29. at midnight the Lord smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt—At the moment when the Israelites were observing the newly instituted feast in the singular manner described, the threatened calamity overtook the Egyptians. It is more easy to imagine than describe the confusion and terror of that people suddenly roused from sleep and enveloped in darkness—none could assist their neighbors when the groans of the dying and the wild shrieks of mourners were heard everywhere around. The hope of every family was destroyed at a stroke. This judgment, terrible though it was, evinced the equity of divine retribution. For eighty years the Egyptians had caused the male children of the Israelites to be cast into the river [Ex 1:16], and now all their own first-born fell under the stroke of the destroying angel. They were made, in the justice of God, to feel something of what they had made His people feel. Many a time have the hands of sinners made the snares in which they have themselves been entangled, and fallen into the pit which they have dug for the righteous [Pr 28:10]. "Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth" [Ps 58:11].
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.
30. there was not a house where there was not one dead—Perhaps this statement is not to be taken absolutely. The Scriptures frequently use the words "all," "none," in a comparative sense—and so in this case. There would be many a house in which there would be no child, and many in which the first-born might be already dead. What is to be understood is, that almost every house in Egypt had a death in it.
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.
31. called for Moses and Aaron—a striking fulfilment of the words of Moses (Ex 11:8), and showing that they were spoken under divine suggestion.
Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
32. also take your flocks, &c.—All the terms the king had formerly insisted on were now departed from; his pride had been effectually humbled. Appalling judgments in such rapid succession showed plainly that the hand of God was against him. His own family bereavement had so crushed him to the earth that he not only showed impatience to rid his kingdom of such formidable neighbors, but even begged an interest in their prayers.
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.
34. people took … their kneading-troughs—Having lived so long in Egypt, they must have been in the habit of using the utensils common in that country. The Egyptian kneading-trough was a bowl of wicker or rush work, and it admitted of being hastily wrapped up with the dough in it and slung over the shoulder in their hykes or loose upper garments.
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:
35. children of Israel borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver—When the Orientals go to their sacred festivals, they always put on their best jewels. The Israelites themselves thought they were only going three days' journey to hold a feast unto the Lord, and in these circumstances it would be easy for them to borrow what was necessary for a sacred festival. But borrow conveys a wrong meaning. The word rendered borrow signifies properly to ask, demand, require. The Israelites had been kept in great poverty, having received little or no wages. They now insisted on full remuneration for all their labor, and it was paid in light and valuable articles adapted for convenient carriage.
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.
36. the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians—Such a dread of them was inspired into the universal minds of the Egyptians, that whatever they asked was readily given.
spoiled the Egyptians—The accumulated earnings of many years being paid them at this moment, the Israelites were suddenly enriched, according to the promise made to Abraham (Ge 15:14), and they left the country like a victorious army laden with spoil (Ps 105:37; Eze 39:10).
And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.
37. The children of Israel journeyed from Rameses—now generally identified with the ancient Heroopolis, and fixed at the modern Abu-Keisheid. This position agrees with the statement that the scene of the miraculous judgments against Pharaoh was "in the field of Zoan" [Ps 78:12, 43]. And it is probable that, in expectation of their departure, which the king on one pretext or another delayed, the Israelites had been assembled there as a general rendezvous. In journeying from Rameses to Palestine, there was a choice of two routes—the one along the shores of the Mediterranean to El-Arish, the other more circuitous round the head of the Red Sea and the desert of Sinai. The latter Moses was directed to take (Ex 13:17).
to Succoth—that is, booths, probably nothing more than a place of temporary encampment. The Hebrew word signifies a covering or shelter formed by the boughs of trees; and hence, in memory of this lodgment, the Israelites kept the feast of tabernacles yearly in this manner.
six hundred thousand … men—It appears from Nu 1:3 that the enumeration is of men above twenty years of age. Assuming, what is now ascertained by statistical tables, that the number of males above that age is as nearly as possible the half of the total number of males, the whole male population of Israel, on this computation, would amount to 1,200,000; and adding an equal number for women and children, the aggregate number of Israelites who left Egypt would be 2,400,000.
And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
38. a mixed multitude went with them—literally, "a great rabble" (see also Nu 11:4; De 29:11); slaves, persons in the lowest grades of society, partly natives and partly foreigners, bound close to them as companions in misery, and gladly availing themselves of the opportunity to escape in the crowd. (Compare Zec 8:23).
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.
40. the sojourning of the children of Israel … four hundred and thirty years—The Septuagint renders it thus: "The sojourning of the children and of their fathers, which they sojourned in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt." These additions are important, for the period of sojourn in Egypt did not exceed two hundred fifteen years; but if we reckon from the time that Abraham entered Canaan and the promise was made in which the sojourn of his posterity in Egypt was announced, this makes up the time to four hundred thirty years.
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.
41. even the selfsame day—implying an exact and literal fulfilment of the predicted period.
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:
But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.
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.
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.
49. One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger—This regulation displays the liberal spirit of the Hebrew institutions. Any foreigner might obtain admission to the privileges of the nation on complying with their sacred ordinances. In the Mosaic equally as in the Christian dispensation, privilege and duty were inseparably conjoined.
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.