Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
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.
(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.
(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.
I. THE FIRST MONTH OF THE YEAR IS A GOOD TIME FOR RELIGIOUS CONTEMPLATION AND DEVOTION. Then the flight of time, the events of life, and the mortality of man, may all furnish topics for reflection. Then especially should the Passover be celebrated, the blood of Christ anew be sprinkled on the soul; and in this spirit of trust in the Saviour should the year begin.
The beginning of months.I. The idea of a new start is NATURALLY ATTRACTIVE TO ALL OF US. We are fatigued, we are dissatisfied, and justly so, with the time past of our lives. We long for a gift of amnesty and oblivion.
II. THERE ARE SENSES IN WHICH THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. The continuity of life cannot be broken. There is a continuity, a unity, an identity, which annihilation only could destroy.
III. "The beginning of months" is made so by an exodus. REDEMPTION IS THE GROUNDWORK OF THE NEW LIFE. If there is in any of us a real desire for change, we must plant our feet firmly on redemption.
IV. When we get out of Egypt, we must remember THAT THERE IS STILL SINAI IN FRONT, WITH ITS THUNDERINGS AND VOICES. We have to be schooled by processes not joyous but grievous. These processes cannot be hurried, they must take time. Here we must expect everything that is changeful, and unresting, and unreposeful, within as without. But He who has promised will perform. He who has redeemed will save. He who took charge will also bring through.
II. THE FIRST MONTH OF THE YEAR IS EVENTFUL IN THE HISTORY OF INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE LIFE. How many souls, awakened by the circumstances of life, have been led to the Cross at this solemn period? What we are then, we are likely to remain throughout the year; we then get an impulse for good or evil which will affect our moral character to the end. The first month is the keynote of the year's moral life. It is the rough sketch of the soul's life for the year. We should therefore seek to observe it unto the Lord.
III. THE FIRST MONTH OF THE YEAR IS IMPORTANT IN ITS RELATION TO THE COMMERCIAL PROSPECTS OF MEN. The new year may mark the advent of new energy, or it may witness the continuance of the old indolence. Lessons:
1. That the ordering of months and of years is of God.
2. That the first month must remind us of the advent of the Saviour.
3. That the first month must be consecrated by true devotion.
4. That the Church must pay some attention to the calendar of the Christian year.
5. That God usually by His ministers makes known His mind to His Church.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
I. First, then, let us DESCRIBE THIS REMARKABLE EVENT, which was henceforth to stand at the head of the Jewish year, and, indeed, at the commencement of all Israelitish chronology.
1. This event was an act of salvation by blood. The law demands death — "The soul that sinneth it shall die." Christ, my Lord, has died in my stead: as it is written, "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." Such a sacrifice is more than even the most rigorous law could demand. "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." Therefore do we sit securely within doors, desiring no guard without to drive away the destroyer; for, when God sees the blood of Jesus He will pass over us.
2. Secondly, that night they received refreshment from the lamb. Being saved by its blood, the believing households sat down and fed upon the lamb. It was a solemn feast, a meal of mingled hope and mystery. Do you remember when first you fed upon Christ, when your hungry spirit enjoyed the first morsel of that food of the soul? It was dainty fare, was it not?
3. The third event was the purification of their houses from leaven, for that was to go in a most important way side by side with the sprinkling of the blood and the eating of the lamb. You cannot feed on Christ and at the same time hold a lie in your right hand by vain confidence in yourself, or by love of sin. Self and sin must go. This month is the beginning of months, the first month of the year to us, when the Spirit of truth purges out the spirit of falsehood.
4. A fourth point in the Passover is not to be forgotten. On the Passover night there came, as the result of the former things, a wonderful, glorious, and mighty deliverance. "This month," etc.
II. Now, secondly, I want to MENTION THE VARIETIES OF ITS RECURRENCE among us at this day.
1. The first recurrense is of course on the personal salvation of each one of us. The whole of this chapter was transacted in your heart and mine when first we knew the Lord.
2. But then it happens again in a certain sense when the man's house is saved. Remember, this was a family business. A family begins to live in the highest sense when, as a family, without exception, it has all been redeemed, all sprinkled with the blood, all made to feed on Jesus, all purged from sin, and all set at liberty to go out of the domains of sin, bound for the kingdom.
3. Extend the thought — it was not only a family ordinance, but it was for all the tribes of Israel. There were many families, but in every house the passover was sacrificed. Would it not be a grand thing if you that employ large numbers of men should ever be able to gather all together and hopefully say, "I trust that all these understand the sprinkling of the blood, and all feed upon Christ."
III. And now I come to SHOW IN WHAT LIGHT THIS DATE IS TO BE REGARDED, if it has occurred to us in the senses I have mentioned. Primarily, if it has occurred in the first sense to us personally: what about it then?
1. Why the day in which we first knew the Saviour as the Paschal Lamb should always be the most honourable day that has ever dawned upon us. Prize the work of grace beyond all the treasures of Egypt.
2. This date is to be regarded as the beginning of life. Let your conversion be the burial of the old existence, and as for that which follows after, take care that you make it real life, worthy of the grace which has quickened you.
3. Our life, beginning as it does at our spiritual passover, and at our feeding upon Christ, we ought always to regard our conversion as a festival and remember it with praise.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. C. Trumbull.)
British Weekly.1. Time gives birth to actions.
2. God ordains that certain periods of life shall determine others (Luke 19:44).
3. There is an extension of man's trial. One chance more.
4. Procrastination ends destructively, Not only thief of time, but also hardener of men's hearts.
5. Time will end.
6. The issues of time will last for ever.
Christian Age.The time has come for turning over a new leaf. As the town clock struck midnight of the last day of the old year divers and sundry resolutions which had lain dormant a long time, waiting for the New Year to ring its chimes, came forth into new life. They had long had an existence, these new resolutions had, for in reality they are not new at all, but quite venerable; for on the first of January of many a past year they have been brought to the surface. And so the new leaf has been turned over, and on its virgin pages these new resolutions have been written, and, alas! not inscribed for the first time. Were they not written on the new leaf on the first of January, just a year ago, and the New Year's day before that, and can you not go back, and back, and back, till you come to your childhood and the time when you first began to turn over a new leaf? These new leaves that we are always turning over — how they accuse us! We write on the newly turned page that we will do many duties which we have left undone — many duties in the home, the church — many duties to our friends, our neighbours, duties to God and to ourselves; and how long is it before there comes a little January gust and blows the leaf back again? and then all goes on pretty much as before. The trouble with this matter of leaf-turning, of making good resolutions only to break them, is twofold.
1. The effort is not made in good faith — it is more a whim than a solemn purpose put into action, and so it is we have altogether too much regard to times and seasons, and too little to the imperative demand of to-day. Conscience is a court whose fiat is to be obeyed not on New Year's day, or Christmas, or on a birth. day, but now — on the instant. A man who defers to execute a right resolution till some particular day has arrived will be pretty sure not to carry it out at all.
2. Then the second difficulty is that we rely too much upon our own will and too little upon God's help. No man can change his own nature or reform himself. He can do much, if he but will, in the direction of carrying cut a good resolution; but the real efficient reliance must be God.
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