James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And the LORD said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether.Exodus 11:1-12:36
At the close of the tenth chapter Moses declares Pharaoh shall see his face no more, while in the eleventh he is present with him again. Therefore with the exception of the first three verses of chapter 11 the remainder must be a continuation of chapter 10.
Let us consider it thus, taking up the questions in Exodus 11:1-3 in connection with chapter 12.
THE LAST PLAGUE ANNOUNCED (Exodus 11:4-10)
Hitherto God plagued Egypt mediately, but how was this plague to be distinguished (Exodus 11:4)? Why was this plague harder to be borne than if the whole nation had been consumed? By what proverbial expression is the security of the Hebrews assured (Exodus 11:7)?
How does Exodus 11:8 indicate that Moses has ceased to speak in God’s name and is now speaking in his own name? Is he not, nevertheless, speaking representatively? How do the last two verses show that Pharaoh’s disobedience is not a divine defeat?
THE PASSOVER INSTITUTED (Exodus 12:1-13)
What new appointment of time distinguishes this event (Exodus 12:2)? The year formerly began in the month of Tisri, corresponding to our September 15 to October 15, but what had formerly been the seventh month now becomes the first. This month was known as Nisan. The original order of the months continued so far as ordinary affairs were concerned, but the solemnities observed in honor of God began henceforth with Nisan.
What were the Hebrews to do (Exodus 12:3)? When? According to what measurement or proportion? Israel was divided into twelve tribes, these again into families and the families into “houses,” the last named being composed of particular individuals. According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, a paschal company consisted of not less than ten members, although sometimes there were as many as twenty. In this company they were flee to include everyone capable of eating as much as the size of an olive.
In what two ways was the lamb to be distinguished (Exodus 12:5)? What liberty was there in its selection? A male was accounted more excellent than a female (Malachi 1:14), and during its first year not only would its flesh be more tender and grateful but in that period it would best represent the idea of harmlessness and simplicity (1 Peter 1:19).
How long should the lamb be kept before slaying (Exodus 12:6)? At what time should all the lambs be killed simultaneously? The “evening” here means sometime between the time of the sun’s beginning to decline and that of its setting, say about 3:00 P.M. For the typical application to Christ, compare John 19:19 and Matthew 26:46.
What should be done with the blood (Exodus 12:7)? How was the flesh to be cooked and eaten (v. 8)? As the sacrificing of the lamb is a symbol of the redemption by which the death penalty due by one is paid by another, so the eating of it is a figure of the participation in pardon, acceptance and full blessedness consequent on the atonement being made and the law being satisfied.
Both the roasting and eating of it with unleavened bread was for greater expedition in leaving the land that night. They would have time neither to boil the one nor wait for the yeast to rise in the other. And yet doubtless there is a moral or typical side to this matter as well, for since the paschal lamb and all pertaining to it foreshadow the person and work of our Redeemer, the roasting of the flesh may suggest the extremity of His sufferings under the fire of God’s wrath, while the absence of leaven from the bread finds a spiritual application in such a passage as 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. Leaven is a mass of sour dough in which decomposition has set in, and so is a symbol of corruption. Hence, unleavened bread is the emblem of purity and life becoming those who have exercised faith in God, the blessed fruit of a new nature.
What other regulations accompanied this institution (Exodus 12:9-10)? It would appear from this that the lamb was to be roasted whole and entire, excepting doubtless the intestinal canal. There was to be no breaking of its bones (John 19:33). This was strikingly expressive of the unity of the sacrifice, of the salvation it prefigured, and the people who partook of it (Psalm 34:20; 1 Corinthians 10:17). Nothing should remain of the lamb lest it should be put to a superstitious use, and also to prevent putrefaction, for it was not meet that anything offered to God should see corruption (Psalm 16:10).
In what attitude were the people to be (Exodus 12:11)? And why?
What did God say He would do (Exodus 12:12)? Note the reference to the gods of Egypt in this verse. There is a Jewish tradition that the idols were actually demolished on that night, but from a figurative point of view, “what could be a more signal infliction upon these gods than the complete exposure of their importance to aid their worshippers in a time of need?”
By what means should the Hebrews experience immunity from this destruction (Exodus 12:13)? Note the words “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” It was not their character that saved them, neither the mercy of God in the abstract, nor their faith and obedience considered as a meritorious act, but the actual sprinkling of the blood upon the door posts. Without this they would not have been in the will of God, and His mercy could not have been operative towards them. No matter the degree or intelligence of their faith which led to the sprinkling of the blood, it was the latter divinely-ordained token which was the means of their deliverance.
The bearing of this on our redemption through the atonement of Christ should be prayerfully considered. The Hebrews were sinners in the general sense as well as the Egyptians, and God might justly have punished them by taking away the life of the firstborn, but He was pleased to show them mercy and to accept the life of a lamb as a substitute for their life. This blood was a signal of this, and all who acted on the command of God and relied on His protection were secure from the stroke of the avenger.
Nothing could more strikingly set before us the truth about the application of Christ’s blood to our guilty conscience as a means of deliverance from the wrath to come (Romans 3:24-25; Ephesians 1:7). It is not our character, neither the mercy of God towards us in the abstract nor the strength or intelligence of our faith, but the application of the blood to our souls that saves. Do not pass this lesson without satisfying yourself that this has become true of you, and that you have by faith displayed the token (Acts 4:27).
As the paschal lamb is the type of our Redeemer, so the Passover itself is a type of our redemption through Him; for an outline of which see the author’s Synthetic Bible Studies.
THE PASSOVER COMMEMORATED (Exodus 12:14-20)
The feast of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:15) was a distinct ordinance from the Passover, commencing on the day after the killing and eating of the lamb, the 15th of Nisan. Of course in the first instance it could not have been observed until they left Egypt.
The “cutting off” from Israel meant not necessarily physical death but excommunication from the society and privileges of the chosen people.
Note the “holy convocation” for the public worship of God in connection with this feast (Exodus 12:16). Doubtless the people of a neighborhood thus came together for praise and prayer, and some think that even from an early
period portions of the written Word may have been read and expounded. This convocation, it is thought, was the origin of the synagogue, a term which originally denoted the assembly, and was doubtless at first held in the open air.
The word stranger here doubtless means the Gentile proselyte in contrast with a native Israelite.
THE STROKE FALLS (Exodus 12:29-36)
We need not dwell on the awful horror of this night, but should not fail to recognize God’s righteous retribution in it. The Egyptians who had slain the Hebrew children now see their own die. Four score years had passed since the persecution began, but God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
A further word on verses 35 and 36. When the Orientals attend their sacred festivals they put on their best jewels, thinking it a disgrace to appear otherwise before their gods. It is said nothing is more common than to see poor people adorned on such occasions with borrowed ornaments.
It is notable that the Egyptians lent their jewels to the Hebrews because the Lord gave them favor in their sight. The rank and file of the Egyptians may in the end have sympathized with the afflicted Hebrews, or else for their own safety they were so anxious to have them go as to offer them an inducement. In this connection read again Exodus 11:3, and see the reverence and awe inspired among the Egyptians by Moses’ miracles.
Nor should we conclude this lesson without consulting Ezekiel 39:10, where we see that the Jews will spoil the Gentiles a second time, in that day when God with a high hand shall restore them to their own land at the end of the present age.
1. Name the first month of the Jewish religious year.
2. State what the slaying and eating of the paschal lamb prefigure.
3. What does leaven symbolize?
4. Show the parallel between the cause of the Hebrews’ deliverance and that of our eternal redemption.
5. What reasons may have influenced the Egyptians to give their jewels to the Hebrews?