Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,XII.
INSTITUTION OF THE PASSOVER.
(1) In the land of Egypt.—This section (Exodus 12:1-28) has the appearance of having been written independently of the previous narrative—earlier, probably, and as a part of the Law rather than of the history. It throws together instructions on the subject of the Passover which must have been given at different times (comp. Exodus 12:3; Exodus 12:12; Exodus 12:17), some before the tenth of Abib. some on the day preceding the departure from Egypt, some on the day following. As far as Exodus 12:20 it is wholly legal, and would suit Leviticus as well as Exodus. From Exodus 12:20 it has a more historical character, since it relates the action taken by Moses.
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.(2) The beginning of months.—Hitherto the Hebrews had commenced the year with Tisri, at or near the autumnal equinox. (See Exodus 23:16.) In thus doing, they followed neither the Egyptian nor the Babylonian custom. The Egyptians began the year in June, with the first rise of the Nile; the Babylonians in Nisannu, at the vernal equinox. It was this month which was now made, by God’s command, the first month of the Hebrew year; but as yet it had not the name Nisan: it was called Abib (Exodus 13:4), the month of “greenness.” Henceforth the Hebrews had two years, a civil and a sacred one (Joseph., Ant. Jud., i. 3, § 3). The civil year began with Tisri, in the autumn, at the close of the harvest; the sacred year began with Abib (called afterwards Nisan), six months earlier. It followed that the first civil was the seventh sacred month, and vice versa.
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) In the tenth day.—It is evident that this direction must have been given before the tenth day had arrived, probably some days before. The object of the direction was to allow ample time for the careful inspection of the animal, so that its entire freedom from all blemish might be ascertained. The animal was not to be killed till four days later (Exodus 12:6).
A lamb.—The word used (seh) is a vague one, applied equally to sheep and goats, of any age and of either sex. Sex and age were fixed subsequently (Exodus 12:5), but the other ambiguity remained; and it is curious that practically only lambs seem to have been ever offered. The requirement indicates a social condition in which there was no extreme poverty. All Israelites are supposed either to possess a lamb or to be able to purchase one.
According to the house of their fathers.—Rather, for the house of their fathers: i.e., for their family.
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.—There would be cases where the family would not be large enough to consume an entire lamb at a sitting. Where this was so, men were to club with their neighbours, either two small families joining together, or a large family drafting off some of its members to bring up the numbers of a small one. According to Josephus (Bell. Jud., vi. 9, § 3), ten was the least number regarded as sufficient, while twenty was not considered too many.
Every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.—Rather, shall ye count. In determining the number for any given Paschal meal, ye shall “count men according to their eating,” admitting more or fewer, as they are likely to consume less or more.
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) Without blemish.—Natural piety teaches that we must not “offer the blind, the lame, or the sick for sacrifice” (Malachi 1:8). We must give to (God of our best. The Law emphasized this teaching, and here, on the first occasion when a sacrifice was formally appointed, required it to be absolutely without blemish of any kind. Afterwards the requirement was made general (Leviticus 22:19-25). It was peculiarly fitting that the Paschal offering should be without defect of any kind, as especially typifying “the Lamb of God,” who is “holy, harmless, undefiled”—a “lamb without spot.”
A male.—Males were reckoned superior to females, and were especially appropriate here, since the victim represented the firstborn male in each house.
Of the first year—i.e., not above a year old. As children are most innocent when young, so even animals were thought to be.
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) Ye shall keep it up.—Heb., ye shall have it in custody: separate it, i.e., from the flock, and keep it in or near your house for four days. During this time it could be carefully and thoroughly inspected. (Comp. Exodus 12:3.)
The whole assembly of the congregation . . . shall kill it.—Every head of a family belonging to the “congregation” was to make the necessary arrangements, to have the victim ready, and to kill it on the fourteenth day, the day of the full moon, at a time described as that “between the two evenings.” There is some doubt as to the meaning of this phrase. According to Onkelos and Aben Ezra, the first evening was at sunset, the second about an hour later, when the twilight ended and the stars came out. With this view agrees the direction in Deuteronomy 16:6 :—“Thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun.” It is objected that, according to Josephus (Bell. Jud., vi. 9, § 3), the actual time of the sacrifice was “from the ninth to the eleventh hour”—i.e., from three o’clock to five—and that there would not have been time for the customary ceremonies during the short twilight of Palestine. The ceremonies consisted in the slaughter of the lambs at the tabernacle door, and the conveyance of the blood in basins to the altar, in order that it might be sprinkled upon it. For this operation a period of several hours’ duration would seem to have been necessary: hence the time came gradually to be extended; and when this had been done, a new interpretation of the phrase “between the evenings” grew up. The first evening was explained to begin with the decline of the sun from the zenith, and the second with the sunset; but this can scarcely have been the original idea.
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) Strike it.—With a bunch of hyssop. (See Exodus 12:22.)
The two side posts and on the upper door post.—The idea seems to have been that the destroying influence, whatever it was, would enter the house by the door. The sight of the bloody stains above the door and on either side would prevent its entering. The word translated “upper door post” appears to be derived from shâcaph, “to look out,” and to signify properly the latticed window above the door, through which persons reconnoitred those who knocked before admitting them. Such windows are frequently represented in the early Egyptian monuments. The blood thus rendered conspicuous would show that atonement had been made for the house, i.e., for its inmates.
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.—Roasting is the simplest, the easiest, and the most primitive mode of cooking meat. It was also the only mode open to all the Hebrews, since the generality would not possess cauldrons large enough to receive an entire lamb. Further, the requirement put a difference between this and other victims, which were generally cut up and boiled (1Samuel 2:14-15).
Unleavened bread . . . bitter herbs.—As partaking of the lamb typified feeding on Christ, so the putting away of leaven and eating unleavened bread signified the putting away of all defilement and corruption ere we approach Christ to feed on Him (1Corinthians 5:8). As for the bitter herbs, they probably represented “self-denial” or “repentance”—fitting concomitants of the holy feast, where the Lamb of God is our food. At any rate, they were a protest against that animalism which turns a sacred banquet into a means of gratifying the appetite (1Corinthians 11:20-22).
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) His head with his legs . . . —The lamb was to be roasted whole: “not a bone of it was to be broken” (Exodus 12:46). Justin Martyr says that it was prepared for roasting by means of two wooden spits, one perpendicular and the other transverse, which extended it on a sort of cross, and made it aptly typify the Crucified One.
The purtenance thereof.—Heb., its inside. The entrails were taken out, carefully cleansed, and then replaced.
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) Ye shall let nothing of it remain.—That there might be neither profanation nor superstitious use of what was left. (Comp. the requirement of the Church of England with respect to the Eucharistic elements.)
That which remaineth—i.e., the bones and such particles of flesh as necessarily adhered to them. These were to be at once totally consumed by fire. Thus only could they be, as it were, annihilated, and so secured from profanation.
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.(11) Thus shall ye eat it.—The injunctions which follow are not repeated in any later part of the Law, and were not generally regarded as binding at any Passover after the first. They all had reference to the impending departure of the Israelites, who were to eat the Passover prepared as for a journey. The long robe (beged), usually allowed to flow loosely around the person, was to be gathered together, and fastened about the loins with a girdle; sandals, not commonly worn inside the house, were to be put on the feet, and a walking-stick was to be held in one hand. The meal was to be eaten “in haste,” as liable to be interrupted at any moment by a summons to quit Egypt and set out for Canaan. Some such attitude befits Christians at all times, since they know not when the summons may come to them requiring them to quit the Egypt of this world and start for the heavenly country.
It is the Lord’s passover.—The word “passover” (pesakh) is here used for the first time. It is supposed by some to be of Egyptian origin, and to signify primarily “a spreading out of wings, so as to protect. But the meaning “pass over” is still regarded by many of the best Hebraists as the primary and most proper sense, and the word itself as Semitic. It occurs in the geographic name Tiphsach (Thapsacus), borne by the place where it was usual to cross, or “pass over,” the Euphrates.
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) For I will pass through.—Rather, go through, since the word used is entirely unconnected with pesahh.
Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment.—The translation “gods” is far preferable to that of “princes,” given in the margin. The death of all the firstborn beasts would have been felt by the Egyptians as a heavy judgment upon their gods. Some of their sacred animals were regarded as actual incarnations of deity; and if any of these perished, as is likely, the threat would have been executed to the letter. But even apart from this, as cows, sheep, goats, cats, dogs, jackals, crocodiles, hippopotami, apes, ibises, frogs, &c, were sacred, either throughout Egypt or in parts of it, a general destruction of all firstborn animals would have been felt as a blow dealt to the gods almost equally.
I am the Lord.—Heb. I, Jehovah. The construction is, “I, Jehovah, will execute judgment.”
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.(13) The blood shall be to you for a token.—Rather, the blood shall be for a token for you: i.e., it shall be a token to Me on your behalf. (See the comment on Exodus 12:7, and compare Exodus 12:23.)
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) Ye shall keep it a feast . . . by an ordinance for ever.—The Passover is continued in the Eucharist (1Corinthians 5:7-8); and the Easter celebration, which the Church makes binding on all her members, exactly corresponds in time to the Paschal ceremony, and takes its place. In this way the Passover may be regarded as still continuing under Christianity, and as intended to continue, “even to the end of the world.”
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.(15) Seven days.—The division of time into periods of seven days each was unknown to the more ancient Egyptians, but is thought to have existed in Babylonia as early as B.C. 2000. That it was recognised in the family of Abraham appears from Genesis 29:27. According to some, God established the division by an express command to our first parents in Paradise that they should keep the seventh day holy (see Genesis 2:3); but this is greatly questioned by others, who regard Genesis 2:3 as anticipatory, and think the Sabbath was not instituted until the giving of the manna (Exodus 16:23). However this may have been, it is generally allowed that the Israelites had not observed the seventh day in Egypt. where, indeed, they were held to labour continually. and that the Sabbath as an actual observance dates from the Exodus. The injunction here given, if it belongs to the time of the tenth plague, would be the first preliminary note of warning with respect to the Sabbath, raising an expectation of it, and preparing the way for it, leading up to the subsequent revelations in the wilderness of Sin and at Sinai.
Ye shall put away leaven out of your houses.—There was to be no compromise, nothing resembling half measures. Leaven, taken as typical of corruption, was to be wholly put away, not allowed by any householder to lurk anywhere within his house—a solemn warning that we are to make no compromise with sin.
That soul shall be cut off from Israel.—See the Note on Genesis 17:14.
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) In the first day there shall be an holy convocation.—The Passover was to be kept on the fourteenth day of Abib, at even. The seven following days were to be “days of unleavened bread.” On the first of these, the fifteenth of Abib (Leviticus 23:6), there was to be a “holy convocation,” i.e., a general gathering of the people to the door of the sanctuary for sacrifice, worship, and perhaps instruction. (Comp. Nehemiah 8:1.) The term “convocation” implies that the people were summoned to attend; and the actual summons appears to have been made by the blowing of the silver trumpets (Numbers 10:2). On the seventh day, the twenty-first of Abib, was to be another similar meeting. “No manner of work” was to be done on either of these two days; or rather, as explained in Leviticus 23:7-8, “no servile work.”
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) In this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt.—On the application of the word “armies” to the people of Israel, see above (Exodus 6:26). The expression “have I brought” indicates either that these directions were not given until after the Exodus, or at any rate that they were not reduced to writing until then.
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.(18) In the first month.—The Hebrew omits “month” by a not unusual ellipse. (Comp. Ezekiel 1:1.)
At even.—The evening intended is not that with which the fourteenth day began, but that with which it closed, the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth day. (See Leviticus 23:5-6.)
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) A stranger—i.e., a foreigner in blood, who has been adopted into the nation, received circumcision, and become a full proselyte. It is not improbable that many of the “six hundred thousand” reckoned to “Israel” (Exodus 12:37) were of this class—persons who had joined themselves to the nation during the sojourn in Egypt, or even earlier. (See Note on Genesis 17:13.) When the “exclusiveness” of the Hebrews is made a charge against them, justice requires us to remember that from the first it was open to those who were not of Hebrew blood to share in the Hebrew privileges by accepting the covenant of circumcision, and joining themselves to the nation. It was in this way that the Kenites. and even the Gibeonites, became reckoned to Israel.
Born in the land.—Hob., natives of the land: i.e., of Canaan. Canaan was regarded as belonging to Abraham and his descendants from the time of the first promise (Genesis 12:7). Thenceforth it was their true home: they were its expatriated inhabitants.
(21) Moses called for all the elders.—He had been directed to “speak unto all the congregation” (Exodus 12:3), but understood the direction as allowing him to do so mediately, through the elders.
Draw out.—Some understand this intransitively—“Withdraw, and take,” i.e., go, and take; others transitively—“Withdraw a lamb from the flock.”
According to your families—i.e., with reference to the number of your families, but not necessarily one for each. (See Exodus 12:4.)
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) A bunch of hyssop.—The “hyssop” (êzob) of the Old Testament is probably the caper plant, called now asaf, or asuf, by the Arabs, which grows plentifully in the Sinaitic region (Stanley: Sinai and Palestine, p. 21), and is well adapted for the purpose here spoken of. It was regarded as having purifying properties (Leviticus 14:4; Leviticus 14:49-52; Numbers 19:6; Psalm 51:7), and was therefore suitable for sprinkling the blood of expiation.
In the bason.—The word translated “bason” has another meaning also, viz., “threshold;” and this meaning was preferred in the present place both by the LXX. and by Jerome. Whichever translation we adopt, there is a difficulty in the occurrence of the article, since neither the threshold nor any bason had been mentioned previously. Perhaps Moses assumed that whenever a victim was offered, the blood had to be caught in a bason, and therefore spoke of “the bason” as something familiar to his hearers in this connection. If the lamb had been sacrificed on the threshold, it would scarcely have been necessary to put the blood on the lintel and doorposts also.
None of you shall go out.—Moses seems to have given this command by his own authority, without any positive Divine direction. He understood that the Atoning blood was the sole protection from the destroying angel, and that outside the portal sprinkled with it was no safety.
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.(23) The destroyer.—The “plague” of Exodus 12:13 is here called “the destroyer” (τὸν ὀλεθρεύοντα, LXX.), as again in Hebrews 12:28. Jehovah seems to have employed an angel, or “angels” (Ps. 79:48) as His agents to effect the actual slaying of the firstborn. (Comp. 2Samuel 24:16; 1Chronicles 21:15; 2Kings 19:35.) There is no struggle or opposition (as Bishop Lowth and Redslob think) between Jehovah and” the destroyer,” who is simply His minister (Hebrews 1:14), bidden to enter some houses and to “pass over” others.
And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.(24) This thing.—Not the sprinkling of the blood, which was never repeated after the first occasion, but the sacrifice of the lamb, commanded in Exodus 12:21.
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) It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover.—Heb., This is a passover-sacrifice to Jehovah. The emphatic word is “Passover;” and it was the meaning of this term which was especially to be explained. The explanation would involve an historical account of the circumstances of the institution, such as would be apt to call forth feelings of gratitude and devotion.
(29, 30) The nature of the tenth plague is indubitable, but as to the exact agency which was employed there may be different views. In every family in which the firstborn child had been a male, that child was stricken with death. Pharaoh’s firstborn son—the erpa suten sa—the heir to his throne, was taken; and so in all other families. Nobles, priests, tradesmen, artisans, peasants, fishermen—all alike suffered. In the hyperbolic language of the narrator, “there was not a house where there was not one dead.” And the deaths took place “at midnight,” in the weirdest hour, at the most silent time, in the deepest darkness. So it had been prophesied (Exodus 11:4); but the particular night had not been announced. As several days had elapsed since the announcement, the Egyptians may have been wrapt in fancied security. Suddenly the calamity fell upon them and “there was a great cry.” Death did not come, as upon the host of Sennacherib, noiselessly, unperceivedly, but “with observation.” Those who were seized woke up and aroused their relatives. There was a cry for help, a general alarm, a short, sharp struggle and then a death.
The visitation is ordinarily ascribed to God Himself (Exodus 4:23; Exodus 11:4; Exodus 12:12; Exodus 12:27; Exodus 12:29; Exodus 13:15, &c), but in Exodus 12:23 to “the destroyer.” It has been already shown that this expression points to angelic agency. That agency, however, does not exclude a further natural one. As in 2 Samuel 24 the seventy thousand whom the destroying angel killed (Exodus 12:16) are said to have been slain by a pestilence (Exodus 12:15), so it may have been here. Pestilence often rages in Egypt in the spring of the year, and carries off thousands in a very short space. As with so many of the other plagues, God may here too have employed a natural agency. None the less would the plague have been miraculous—(1) in its intensity; (2) in its coming at the time prophesied, viz., midnight; (3) in its selection of victims, viz., the firstborn males only, and all of them; (4) in its avoidance of the Israelites; and (5) in its extension, as prophesied, to the firstborn of animals.
(29) All the firstborn.—The Hebrew word used applies only to males.
The firstborn of Pharaoh.—The law of primogeniture prevailed in Egypt, as elsewhere generally. The Pharaoh’s eldest son was recognised as “hereditary crown prince,” and sometimes associated in the kingdom during his father’s lifetime. This had been the case with Lameses II., probably the Pharaoh from whom Moses fled (Exodus 2:15); but the practice was not common. In any case, however, the eldest son of the reigning monarch occupied a most important position, and his loss would be felt as a national calamity.
The firstborn of the captive.—The variation of phrase between this verse and Exodus 11:5 is curious, but appears not to be of any significance. The writer simply means, in both places, “all, from the highest to the lowest.”
All the firstborn of cattle.—Rather, of beasts, as in Exodus 11:5. (On the reasons for beasts being included in the calamity, see the Note on that passage.)
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) A great cry.—See the comment on Exodus 11:6. The combination of public calamity, private grief, and shocked religious fanaticism might well produce a cry “such as there was none like it, neither shall be like it any more” (Exodus 11:6).
Not a house where there was not one dead. This cannot have been literally true. In half the families a daughter would have “opened the womb;” in others, the firstborn son would have been absent, or dead previously. To judge Scripture fairly, we must make allowance for the hyperbole of Oriental thought and expression, which causes the substitution of universal terms for general ones, and the absence of qualifying clauses. The meaning is that in the great majority of houses there was one dead. This may, well have been so, if we include the dependants and the animals. Pet animals—dogs, cats, gazelles, and monkeys—abounded in Egyptian homes.
(31) He called for Moses and Aaron.—This does not mean that Pharaoh summoned them to his presence, but only that he sent a message to them. (See above, Exodus 11:8.) The messengers were undoubtedly chief officials; they “bowed themselves down” before Moses, who was now recognised as “very great” (Exodus 11:3), and delivered their master’s message, which granted in express terms all that Moses had ever demanded. Pharaoh’s spirit was, for the time, thoroughly broken.
Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.(32) And bless me also.—Here Pharaoh’s humiliation reaches its extreme point. He is reduced by the terrible calamity of the last plague not only to grant all the demands made of him freely, and without restriction, but to crave the favour of a blessing from those whom he had despised, rebuked (Exodus 5:4), thwarted, and finally driven from his presence under the threat of death (Exodus 10:28). Those with whom were the issues of life and death must, he felt, have the power to bless or curse effectually.
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.(33) The Egyptians were urgent.—Not only Pharaoh, but the Egyptian nation generally was anxious for the immediate departure of the Israelites, and expedited it in every way. This must greatly have facilitated their all setting forth at once. It also accounts for the readiness of the Egyptians to part with their “jewels” and “raiment” (Exodus 12:35).
And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.(34) Kneadingtroughs.—Light, portable wooden bowls, such as are now used by the Arabs.
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) They borrowed.—See the comment on Exodus 3:22.
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) They lent.—Rather, “they, gave.” It is that the Egyptians neither expected nor wished the Israelites to return.
(37-41) The two principal statements of this passage are—(1) that the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt lasted four hundred and thirty years; and (2) that at the time of the departure the number of the “men” (gëbârim) was six hundred thousand. This latter statement is evidently a rough one, but it is confirmed, and even enlarged, by the more accurate estimate of Numbers 1, 2, which goes into particulars with respect to the several tribes, and makes the exact amount of the adult male population, exclusive of the Levites, to be 625,540 (Numbers 2:32). It would follow that the nation, at the time of its departure, was one of above two millions of souls.
Two difficulties are raised with respect to this estimate:—(1) Could the Israelites possibly have increased during their sojourn in Egypt from the “seventy souls” who went down with Jacob to two millions? (2) Is it conceivable that such a multitude, with their flocks and herds, could have quitted Egypt on one day, and marched in a body through the narrow wadys of the Sinaitic region to the plain in front of Sinai? Could even that plain have contained them? With regard to the first point, before it can be decided we must ascertain what are the exact data. What is to be taken as the original number of those who “went down into Egypt?” what as the duration of the sojourn? It has been already shown (see the comment on Exodus 1:5) that the descendants of Jacob who entered Egypt were probably a hundred and thirty-two rather than seventy; that they were accompanied by their wives and husbands; that they took with them also their “households,” which were very numerous (see Note on Genesis 17:13); and that the entire number is fairly estimated at “several thousands.” Let us then place it at 3,000.
The duration of the sojourn in Egypt, stated in the Hebrew text at 430 years, is reduced by the LXX. and Samaritan Versions to half the time: i.e., to 215 years. If we accept Mr. Malthus’s statement, that in the absence of artificial checks population will double itself every twenty years, we shall find that 3,000 persons might, in the space of two centuries, increase to above 3,000,000; so that even the 215 years of the Greek and Samaritan Versions would admit of such a multiplication as that required. But as there is no sufficient reason for preferring the Versions to the Original, or the period of 215 to that of 430 years, we are entitled to regard the latter term as the real duration of the sojourn, in which case a doubling of the population every forty-five years would have produced the result indicated. Such a result under the circumstances, in the rich soil of Egypt, in the extensive territory granted to the Israelites, and with God’s special blessing on the people, is in no way surprising.
The difficulty of handling so vast a body, and marching them from Goshen to the Red Sea, and from the Red Sea to Sinai, remains, and, no doubt, is considerable. But we must remember that as far as Marah the country was perfectly open, and allowed of any extension of the line of march on either flank. After this, the wadys were entered, and the real difficulties of the journey began. Probably the host spread itself out, and proceeded to the rendezvous in front of the Ras Sufsafeh by several routes, of which Moses traces only the one which he himself followed. The plain Er-Rahah, according to the calculations of the best engineers, would have contained the entire multitude; but it is unnecessary to suppose that all were at any one time present in it. The whole Sinaitic district was probably occupied by the flocks and herds, and the herdsmen who tended them. Many of the tents may have been pitched in the Wady-ed-Deir and the Seil Leja. All that the narrative requires is that the main body of the people should have been encamped in front of Sinai, have heard the Decalogue delivered, and consented to the covenant.
(37) From Rameses to Succoth.—The difference between the Raamses of Exodus 1:11 and the Rameses of this passage is merely one of “pointing;” nor is there the least ground for supposing that a different place is intended. Pi-Ramesu was the main capital of the kings of the nineteenth dynasty, having superseded Tanis, of which it was a suburb. (See Note on Exodus 1:11.) Succoth has been identified by Dr. Brugsch with an Egyptian town called Thukot; but it is probably a Semitic word, signifying “tents” or “booths.” The district south-east of Tanis is one in which clusters of “booths” have been at all times common. Some one of these—situated, perhaps, near the modern Tel-Dafneh, fifteen miles south-east of Tanis—was the first halt of the Israelites.
And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.(38) A mixed multitude went up also with them.—Nothing is told us of the component elements of this “mixed multitude.” We hear of them as “murmuring” in Numbers 11:4, so that they seem to have remained with Israel. Some may have been Egyptians, impressed by the recent miracles; some foreigners held to servitude, like the Israelites, and glad to escape from their masters. It is noticeable that the Egyptian writers, in their perverted accounts of the Exodus, made a multitude of foreigners (Hyksôs) take part with the Hebrews.
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.(39) Unleavened cakes.—Such are commonly eaten by the Arabs, who make them by mixing flour with water, and attaching round pieces of the dough to the insides of their ovens after they have heated them.
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, who dwelt in Egypt.—Heb., which they sojourned in Egypt
Was four hundred and thirty years.—Comp. the prophecy:—“Thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs [Egypt, not Canaan], and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years and also that nation whom they shall serve will I judge” (Genesis 15:13-14). The genealogy of Joshua (1Chronicles 7:22-27), which places him in the eleventh generation from Jacob, accords well with this term of years. The other genealogies are more or less abbreviated.
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) The selfsame day . . . all the hosts . . . went out.—All started, i.e., on one and the same day—the fifteenth of the month Abib. Some would start during the night, some in the morning, others at different periods of the day. They had different distances to traverse in order to reach the appointed halt, Succoth.
(43-51) This is the ordinance.—These directions, together with those which follow with respect to the sanctification of the firstborn (Exodus 13:1-16), seem to have been given to Moses at Succoth, and were consequently recorded at this point of the narrative. They comprise three principal points:—(1) The exclusion of all uncircumcised persons from the Passover (Exodus 12:43); (2) the admission of all full proselytes (Exodus 12:48-49); and (3) the injunction that no bone of the lamb should be broken (Exodus 12:46).
(43) No stranger.—Comp, Exodus 12:48 for limitations. If a stranger wished to join, and would accept circumcision for himself and the males of his family, he might partake in the rite.
But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.(44) Every man’s servant.—Slaves born in the house were required to be circumcised on the eighth day, like Israelites (Genesis 17:13). Bought slaves were allowed their choice. It is noticeable that the circumcised slave was to be admitted to full religious equality with his master.
A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.(45) An hired servant.—It is assumed that the hired servant will be a foreigner; otherwise, of course, he would participate.
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.(46) Neither shall ye break a bone thereof.—In the case of all other victims, the limbs were to be separated from the body. Here the victim was to be roasted whole, and to remain whole, as a symbol of unity, and a type of Him through whom men are brought into unity with each other and with God. (See John 19:33-36.)
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.(51) This last verse of the chapter would more appropriately commence Exodus 13, with which it is to be united. Translate—“And it came to pass, on the self same day that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies, that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,” &c.
By their armies.—See Note 2 on Exodus 13:18.