And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying,…
God's last and overwhelming blow was about to be struck at Egypt. In anticipation of that blow, and in immediate connection with the exodus, God gave directions for the observance of a Passover.
I. THE PASSOVER IN ITS CONNECTION WITH THE HISTORY. For details of the ritual, see the verses of the chapter.
1. The design of the Passover was to make plain to Israel the ground on which its salvation was bestowed - the ground, viz., of Atonement. "The more recent plagues had fallen on Egypt alone. The children of Israel were saved from them. But though the salvation was obvious, the way of salvation had not yet been indicated. But now that the last and heaviest plague is about to fall, not only will Israel be saved from it, but the ground on which (the whole) salvation is bestowed will be made plain."
2. The connection of the Passover with the exodus. In this relation it is to be viewed more especially as a purificatory sacrifice. Such a sacrifice was peculiarly appropriate on the night of leaving Egypt, and one would probably have been appointed, even had no such special reason existed for it as the judgment on the first-born.
3. The connection of the Passover with the judgment on the first-born. Israel was God's Son, His firstborn (Exodus 10:22), and is in turn represented by his first-born; and so with Egypt. Because Pharaoh would not let Israel (God's first-born) go, God had declared his purpose of smiting "all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast" (ver. 12); the punishment in this case, as frequently in God's Providence (cf. Isaiah 30:16), taking a form analogous to the sin it is designed to chastise. "The first-born represented the family, so that judgment of the first-born stood for judgment upon all, and redemption of the first-born stood for the redemption of all" (Dr. Gibson). Accordingly, not the firstborn merely, but the entire household, as represented in him, was redeemed by the blood of the Passover, and joined in the subsequent feast upon the lamb (ver. 8). Note, there was a peculiar fitness in the Passover being instituted at this particular crisis.
(1) The death of the firstborn was a judgment pure and simple; not, like the hail, locusts, etc., an admonitory plague.
(2) It gave a heightened and impressive character to the salvation that redemption by blood, redemption by power, and the emergence of the people from slavery into distinct existence as a people of God, were thus seen going hand in hand. The analogy with the Christian redemption is obvious.
4. The teaching of the Passover. It taught the people
(1) that naturally they were as justly exposed to wrath as the people of Egypt. "Whether viewed in their individual or in their collective capacity, they were themselves of Egypt - collectively, a part of the nation, without any separate and independent existence of their own, vassals of the enemy, and inhabitants of the doomed territory - individually, also, partakers of the guilt and corruption of Egypt" (Fairbairn). "If the test had been one of character, it is quite certain that the line would not have been run so as to range all Egypt on the one side, and all Israel on the other. No one can suppose that all the real worth and excellence were on the side of the latter, and all the meanness and wickedness on the side of the former. In fact, the children of Israel had shared only too deeply in the sins of Egypt, and, accordingly, if they are to be saved, it must be on some other ground than their own merits" (Gibson).
(2) That the medium of their salvation - the ground on which it was bestowed - was blood of atonement. It is vain to deny that the Passover victim was truly a propitiatory sacrifice. The use made of its blood is proof sufficient of that. The lamb died in room of the first-born. Sprinkled on the door-posts and lintels, its blood sheltered the inmates of the dwelling from the stroke of the destroyer (vers. 21-24). "A sinless victim, the household might, as it were, hide behind it, and escape the just punishment of their sins" (Kohler in Geikie). The Passover thus emphatically taught the necessity of atonement for the covering of guilt. No thoughtful Israelite but must have deeply realised the truth, "Without shedding of blood is no remission' (Hebrews 9:22).
(3) The solidarity of the nation. The observance of the Passover was to be an act, not of individuals, but of households and groups of households, and in a wider sense, of the nation as a whole. The Israelites were thus taught to feel their unity as before God - their oneness in guilt as in redemption.
(a) In guilt. Each was involved in guilt and doom, not only through his own sins, but through the sins of the nation of which he formed a part (cf. Isaiah 6:5; Matthew 23:35).
(b) In redemption. This was beautifully symbolised in the eating of the lamb. The lamb was to be roasted entire, and placed on the table undivided (ver. 9). "By avoiding the breaking of the bones (ver. 46), the animal was preserved in complete integrity, undisturbed and entire (Psalm 34:20)... There was no other reason for this than that all who took part in this one animal, i.e. all who ate of it, should look upon themselves as one whole, one community, like those who eat the New Testament Passover, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7), of whom the apostle says (1 Corinthians 10:17), 'We being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.'" (Bahr.)
(4) It pointed to an atonement in the future. For, manifestly, there lay in the blood of the lamb no real virtue to take away sin. It declared the necessity of atonement, but could not adequately provide it. The life of a beast was no proper substitute for the life of a first-born son. The Passover, therefore, from its very nature, is to be viewed as a type. It pointed on to Christ, in whom all the types of sacrifices find complete fulfilment.
(5) The various features of the ritual were symbolic. The unleavened bread was indicative of haste (Deuteronomy 16:3); the bitter herbs of the affliction of Egypt, etc. These circumstances, like the blamelessness of the victim, the sprinkling of the blood, etc., had also spiritual significance. See below, Homily on vers. 21-29. It is to be remarked, in general, that "the earthly relations then existing, and the operations of God in connection with them, were framed on purpose to represent and foreshadow corresponding but immensely superior ones, connected with the work and kingdom of Christ." (Fairbairn.)
II. THE PASSOVER AS AN ORDINANCE FOR LATER GENERATIONS (vers. 14, 24 28). In this respect, the Passover is to be viewed -
1. As an historical witness to the reality of the events of the exodus. See below; also Homily on Deuteronomy 16:1-9. The Passover, like the Lord's Supper, was an institution which, in the nature of things, could not have been set up later than the event professedly commemorated.
2. As a perpetuation of the original sacrifice. The blood of the lambs was year by year presented to God. This marked that the true sacrifice had not yet been offered (Hebrews 10:1-3). Now that Christ has died, and has "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 10:12), there is no room for further sacrifice, and the Lord's Supper is to be regarded as simply a commemorative ordinance and means of grace. The doctrine of the mass has no foundation in true scriptural analogy.
3. As a means of grace. It was a feast, collecting the Israelites in great numbers at the sanctuary, and reviving in their minds the memory of the great deliverance, in which had been laid the foundation of their national existence. The lamb, slain on their behalf, roasted with fire, and set on the table before their eyes, to be handled and eaten by them, in solemn observance of a Divine command, gave them a vivid sense of the reality of the facts they were commemorating. The Lord's Supper, in like manner, is a powerful means of impressing mind and heart, an act of communion on the part of Christian believers, and a true source of nourishment (through spiritual participation in Christ) to the soul.
4. The observance of the Passover was connected with oral instruction (vers. 26, 27). This was a further guarantee for the handing down of a faithful, ungarbled tradition of the meaning of the ceremony; added to the interest of the service; took advantage of a favourable opportunity to impress the minds of the young; and helped to keep alive in all classes of the community a vivid remembrance of God's mighty works.
III. THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD (vers. 14-21). The ordinance for this feast was probably given at Succoth, on the day succeeding the exodus (see ver. 17, and Exodus 13:5-8). It is inserted here on account of its internal connection with the Passover. It is to be viewed -
1. As a memorial of the haste with which the Israelites left Egypt. The Israelites had evidently intended to leaven their dough on the night of the exodus, but were prevented by the haste (ver. 34). "For thou earnest out of the land in haste" (Deuteronomy 16:3). This is the historical groundwork of the institution.
2. As a symbol of spiritual truth.
(1) The feast lasted seven days, a complete circle of time.
(2) It was rounded off at the beginning and end by an holy convocation. This marked it as a sacred period.
(3) Sacrifices were offered during its course (Numbers 13:16-26; Deuteronomy 15:2).
(4) The bread eaten was to be unleavened. So strict was the injunction on this point that the Israelite found eating leaven during these seven days was to be "cut off," i.e., excommunicated. The general idea of the feast was, therefore, to represent what redeemed life in its entirety ought to be - a life purged from the leaven of "malice and wickedness," and devoted to God's service in "sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). "The exodus formed the groundwork of the feast, because it was by this that Israel had been introduced into a new vital element" (Keil). The "walk in newness of life" follows on redemption. We may apply the precept about "cutting off from Israel" to the exclusion of immoral and impure members from the Church. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,