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Exodus 12:1-36

Frank Binford Hole


When Pharaoh heard Moses speak the words, commencing with "Thus saith the Lord" as recorded in Exodus 11 he was listening to the voice of God for the last time, though doubtless he did not know it. The preliminary judgments had run their course. The time for talking was over. Decisive action was now to start. Chapter 12 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses, but all, that He now has to say concerns the people, whom He had chosen as His own.

There was now to take place an event of an epoch-making character. This is indicated in verse 2. By it the Jewish calendar was to be entirely recast. They had, and still have, their reckoning on a secular basis, since their New Year 5712 fell on October 1st, last. Now, however, their reckoning, in the Divine estimation, was to begin in the month of the Passover, which comes, as we know, in our spring.

Here we reach a point when the typical value of all that happened to them becomes very conspicuous. Reading verse 2 we have to remind ourselves that the appropriation of the death of Christ lies at the very beginning of everything for us. If we have not started there we have made no real beginning at all. What was typically represented in the Passover lies at the basis of all God's dealings with us.

In verses 3-5, our attention is centred upon the many lambs that had to be selected by the Israelites. Their number was to be determined by the number of households, except that, when those included in a household were unusually few, two houses were to be combined. Thus early do we see that a house formed a unit in the Divine reckoning, and the principle of "Thou and thy house," is emphasized.

It was a stringent condition that the lambs selected were to be without blemish, and this was not to be determined in a hurried way, since though chosen on the tenth day they were not to be slain until the fourteenth, and hence their unblemished state carefully ascertained. The lamb was to be a faint foreshadowing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who passed through every possible test, thus displaying His perfection before He died. It is worthy of note that though the fact is made quite clear that there were many lambs, yet after verse 3 the word is always in the singular. It is "the lamb," or "your lamb," or, "it." So we have before us the lamb that typifies, "the Lamb of God."

On the fourteenth day between the evenings the lamb was slain, and its blood applied to the two side posts and the lintel, outside the house where they dwelt, and inside the house its flesh was to be eaten by the family. The blood marks on the door were the external witness that death had already taken place within. The eating of the flesh within the house typified the realization and appropriation of the death of the lamb by those who were sheltered by its blood.

The way in which this was to be done, as recorded in verse 8 is very significant. It was to be roast with fire, and accompanied with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. All three details are important.

First, roast with fire, and not sodden with water. To boil is to apply the heat indirectly through the medium of water. To roast is to subject the body of the lamb to the direct fierceness of the flame, which is ever figurative of the searching judgment of God. If we are sheltered from judgment by the precious blood of Christ we are ever to digest inwardly as applying to ourselves, the fierceness of that judgment, which He endured in order to accomplish our deliverance.

Second, the bread which they were to eat with it must be unleavened. This is not the first mention in Scripture of unleavened bread for we had it mentioned in Genesis 19: 3, where it formed part of the food offered to and accepted by angels; but consistently leaven is used as a figure of sin, and its fermenting properties make it a very apt type. If we enjoy the benefits that reach us as the result of Christ bearing the judgment of our sins, then the sins for which He died, and the sin to which He died, are not to be countenanced by us. How plainly the antitype is seen in 1 Corinthians 5: 7, 8.

Third, the bitter herbs typify that inward work of self-judgment, which must ever accompany the benefits we receive. Sin and its judgment, from which we are delivered is a very bitter thing, and it is the plan of God that we should be made to realize it deeply. And let us once more emphasize that eating implies, an inward appropriation.

Let us further notice that the lamb was to be roasted whole—"his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof." There was to be no mutilation of the carcase as it was exposed to the fire. And further in the eating of it no bone was to be broken—see verse 46 of our chapter. The force of this we see when we read John 19: 36, "A bone of Him shall not be broken." Moreover what could not be eaten was to be burnt with fire. Nothing was to be put to unholy use or left to some chance happening. Even about the type there was a sacredness that was to be observed.

And further again, they were to realize that these solemn acts to be performed were not only designed for their safety but also had a great end in view. They were going to be sheltered from the impending judgment in order that they might be delivered from the grip of Pharaoh and from the bondage of Egypt. Hence they were to eat it in the manner prescribed in verse 11. They were not to eat it reclining, as though it was an ordinary meal, but standing with staff in hand, girded for the journey and in haste, as just about to depart. The import of this we must never forget. God has sheltered us from His judgment in order that He may deliver us from Satan and from the world-system, of which he is the god and prince, and bring us to Himself. This is plainly stated in Galatians 1: 4.

The word "passover" occurs for the first time in Scripture at the end of verse 11. We are told that the Hebrew word thus translated means to pass over protectively, rather like a bird stretching its wings over its young, and not merely the negative idea of omitting to notice when it is a question of judgment. On that fateful night Jehovah was going to smite the firstborn and execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, but, wherever the token of death was seen on the house, over it His wings of protection should be spread and the plague should not enter to destroy.

In this we may see another delightful Gospel type. In virtue of the blood of Christ the believer is clear of the judgment. But it is not merely that, righteousness having been satisfied, the believer can be exempted from judgment when the stroke falls upon the world, but rather that the very righteousness of God instead of being a sword to smite him has become a shield to protect him. This fact, when we really lay hold of it, exerts a very establishing effect upon our souls.

It is also important for us to remember that the blood of the lamb was outside for the eye of God. The word was, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." Once the blood was there, God would not fail to see it. They had not to see the blood, but rather, knowing it was there, to rest content with the definite word of God that, since it was there, He would pass over them. The blood was for the eye of God: His word was for the ears and hearts of those within.

Verses 14-17, contain further words of the Lord, showing that what He now was instituting was not something to be observed on that particular night only, and then to be treated as having served its purpose and to be dismissed from their thoughts. It was rather to be perpetuated as a yearly feast, so that they might never forget that their links with Egypt had been broken by God, in order that they might be brought to Himself as His own special possession. The Passover was to be followed by the feast of unleavened bread, extending over the next seven days. It was to be marked by the absence of leaven. It was to begin and end with "an holy convocation," in which no manner of work was to be done. If "no manner of work," then even the sort of work which would have been considered the most meritorious was excluded. Man's work was to be shut out, and only God's work was to be considered.

The word, "memorial" occurs in verse 14, and this describes the bearing of the Passover feast among the Jews. It guaranteed the objective reality of the basis of their deliverance from Egypt, and kept them in yearly remembrance of it. They may often have failed to observe it properly, or even observe it at all; but such was its intention. The observance of the Lord's Supper by the saints of today has, amongst other things, a similar intention, as we see in the words of the Apostle— "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till He come" (1 Cor. 11: 26). We are to shew forth, or memorialize, His death, thus establishing its objective reality for all who have eyes to see.

The Passover feast was a matter of a few hours at the most, whereas the feast of unleavened bread covered seven days. This had a typical bearing. The Passover was a prophecy, as well as a memorial commemorating a past event. The prophecy was fulfilled in the death of Christ which, though of eternal importance, took place within a few hours. But the seven days of the unleavened bread feast set forth a whole cycle of time, as signified in 1 Corinthians 5: 8. For each believer today it covers the whole period of his life of responsibility. As long as we are in this world of sin, we are to keep clear of the "leaven," as those that are, "dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God" (Rom. 6: 11).

In verses 21-24, we have the record of how Moses conveyed these instructions to the people, and one or two additional features are mentioned. The blood was to be applied with hyssop, a small plant that grew freely on walls. Several times in Leviticus cedar wood and hyssop are mentioned together. Now the cedar is an emblem of majesty, and by way of contrast hyssop is an emblem of what is humble and insignificant. It was fitting that the hand that applied the blood should be covered with humility. It is when we are brought down into the dust of repentance that we are covered by the blood of Christ.

And further, those covered by the blood had to remain in the house until the morning. While judgment was falling upon the Egyptian world the firstborn were to remain safely housed beneath the blood. When the morning appeared their deliverance from Egypt became an accomplished fact. We pass through the night of this world to the brightness of the morning that is coming. Thanks be to God, the efficacy of the blood of Christ abides throughout the night. No fresh application of it is needed.

Verses 24-27, show how Moses impressed upon the people that the Passover ritual was to be carefully observed, so that future generations might be kept in remembrance of God's work of judgment and deliverance. For the moment the people received the words, and worshipped the God who was intervening on their behalf. Verse 28 tells us that they rendered obedience to all the instructions that God had given. Obedience is always the way of blessing.

At midnight the Lord did exactly as He had said, and the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast, died by the stroke of the destroyer. Egyptian custom demanded much wailing when death occurred, so there must indeed have been a great cry in the darkness of that night. We may take it as a forecast of that "weeping and gnashing of teeth" in the "outer darkness," of which the Lord spoke three times in Matthew's Gospel.

Under this tremendous and unprecedented stroke the resistance of Pharaoh collapsed, and he conceded all that had been demanded by Moses. The Egyptian people also were urgent that the children of Israel should depart. They realized that they were all under the death sentence. There was not one house in which there was not one dead. Death indeed had been universal. In the houses of the Egyptians it was the death of the firstborn. In the houses of the Israelites it was the death of the lamb.

The fear of God now lay heavily on the minds of the Egyptians and they were disposed to give to the people all that they asked. Hence they were laden with plenty of raiment and also with "jewels," or "utensils" of gold and silver. Their departure in such haste also helped to the fulfilling of the instructions as regards the leaven. There was no time to leaven their bread, so that any forgetfulness in this matter was avoided. Under these circumstances they could not but eat unleavened bread for the next seven days.

These facts here recorded show how it was that the people had such an abundance of materials and of gold and silver when the time came in the wilderness to construct the tabernacle according to the word of the Lord.

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