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Exodus 12: 1-14 Notes

Exodus 12:1-14 Commentary

CONTEXT:  The book of Exodus tells about the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt (1:8-22), and Moses' early life (chapter 2). Then follows the burning bush episode where Yahweh tells Moses that Yahweh has heard the cry of the Israelites and has decided to deliver them-and that Yahweh has chosen Moses to confront Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt (3:1-12). Pharaoh refused to let the people go, so Yahweh brought ten plagues on Egypt (chapters 7-12). Moses learned of the nature of the tenth plague (the death of all firstborn) in chapter 11, but the plague itself will not take place until the last part of chapter 12-after the giving of the instructions that constitute our text.


1 Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of  Egypt, 2 "This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year for you.

"Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt" (v. 1). Earlier, at the burning bush, Yahweh commissioned Moses to confront Pharaoh. Moses' God-given mission is to bring the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and to lead them to the Promised Land (Exodus 3:1-12). Yahweh chose Aaron to assist Moses shortly after the burning bush incident (Exodus 4:14-30).

  • Moses and Aaron are brothers, the sons of Amram and Jochebed. They are Levites (Exodus 2:1; 6:20; Numbers 26:59). In chapter 7, we will learn that Moses is eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three at the time that they speak to Pharaoh.
  • Aaron and his sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, will become the first priests (Exodus 28:1). It will be their mission to lead Israel in the observance of the law.

"This month shall be to you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year to you" (v. 2). Yahweh is about to outline to Moses and Aaron the preparations that they are to make to avoid the death of their firstborn during the tenth plague. Those preparations will include a ritual meal prepared and eaten according to exacting rules given by Yahweh. The people will eat that meal clothed and ready to depart Egypt.

  • But first, Yahweh instructs Moses and Aaron to revise their calendar to honor this Exodus event. Because the Exodus will begin the transformation of this slave-people into a nation under Yahweh, they are to honor this event by observing this month as the beginning of their calendar year. This month will become, in essence, not only the beginning of their calendar year, but also the anniversary of their birth as a nation. Yahweh is telling them to bring their calendar into congruence with the seminal event of their history-the Exodus. Israel will call this first month Nisan. It comes in springtime-March or April by our calendar.


3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are, each one, to take a lamb for themselves, according to the fathers' households, a lamb for each household. 4 Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; in proportion to what each one should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to slaughter it at twilight. 7 Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall completely burn with fire. 11 Now you shall eat it in this way: with your garment belted around your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in a hurry-it is the LORD's Passover.

"Speak to all the congregation ('edah) of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth day of this month" (v. 3a). As we will learn in verse 6, the Israelites will observe their ritual meal on the fourteenth day of Nisan. However, they are to begin their preparations on the tenth day of Nisan. This will help them to avoid the kinds of mistakes that come with last-minute preparations. Also, it will give them an opportunity to recover gracefully if an unforeseen problem occurs, such as a lamb being injured after having been chosen.

  • This is the first occurrence of the word congregation (Hebrew: 'edah) in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it will occur frequently-particularly in the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures). The word 'edah means a gathering or an assembly. The frequent use in the Torah of this word emphasizes that Israel is more than a collection of individuals. The Israelites are a congregation-a people-the people of God. The New Testament equivalent is the Greek word ekklesia, which refers to people gathered in some sort of assembly. We translate as ekklesia as "church."

"they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household" (v. 3b). The ritual feast is to be both a family observance and a community observance. Each household will select a lamb for its own meal, and they will eat the lamb as a family. However, all Jewish families will eat the same ritual meal at the same time. The occasion therefore transcends family relationships and becomes a national observance.

"If the household is too little for a lamb, then he and his neighbor next to his house shall take one according to the number of the souls; according to what everyone can eat you shall make your count for the lamb" (v. 4). We who are accustomed to thinking of households as being only two or three or four people might wonder how an ordinary household could consume a whole lamb. However, these people tended to have many children. Also, a household would often consist of three generations-grandparents, parents, and children.

  • As we will see in verse 10, Yahweh will require these people to burn any meat that is left over. The ideal, however, is to tailor the size of the household to make it possible for it to consume the whole lamb. If a household is too small to consume a lamb, it is to find a neighboring household with which it can share a lamb. If they do that, they are to share the lamb proportionately. In other words, if one family has three members. and the other has six, the smaller family would get half the amount of meat provided the larger family.

"Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats" (v. 5). Since this is to be a ritual meal, the people must take care to honor Yahweh. Yahweh gives strict guidelines for them to follow in selecting the animal to be sacrificed.

The animal is to be without blemish. While there would be no difference in the quality of meat between a blemished and an unblemished animal, the purpose of the unblemished animal is to honor Yahweh by providing the best animal possible.

  • The animal is to be one year old. Since lambs and goats tend to be born in the springtime-and this is the springtime-finding a one-year old animal would be easy. One-year old lambs and goats are nearly full-grown, but their meat is more desirable than that from an older animal.
  • The animal is to be a male. This is an important provision. Families who depend on lambs and goats for meat keep females for breeding. They slaughter males for food. Also, this is a patriarchal culture that values males above females, so the sacrifice of a male animal is appropriate for a meal intended to honor God.
  • The animal can be either a sheep or a goat. This is also important. While sheep provide better meat, goats are hardier and more plentiful. Some families might not have an unblemished sheep, and being able to sacrifice a goat broadens their options. The meat of a year-old goat would be good. It is the meat of more mature goats that would be unacceptable.

"You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month" (v. 6a). As noted above, the people are required to choose the sacrificial animal on the tenth of Nisan, and are to keep it ready until the fourteenth of Nisan.

"and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at evening" (v. 6b). As noted above, this is both a family observance and a national observance. The communal nature is emphasized here as all the households slaughter their animal at the same time-at twilight on the fourteenth of Nisan.

The slaughter would include bleeding, skinning, and gutting the animal to prepare it for roasting. While eating the entire animal is emphasized, that would not include inedible parts.

  • The meal is to be consumed at night. Performing the slaughter at twilight serves two purposes. First, the twilight hour offers sufficient light to carry out the preparation. Second, in the absence of refrigeration, it is important to slaughter the animal close to the time that it will be cooked and consumed. By slaughtering the animals at twilight, the people will enjoy fresh meat for this nighttime meal.
  • The months are keyed to the cycle of the moon, and the fourteenth of the month is the time of the full moon. The moon will provide light for the meal and the subsequent exodus.

"They shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel, on the houses in which they shall eat it" (v. 7). Doorposts are the upright supports on either side of the door. They support the lintel, the horizontal beam across the top of the door. Yahweh instructs the people to sprinkle the animal's blood on the doorposts and lintel of each house. They are to do this prior to the meal-while the blood of the sacrificed animal is still fresh.

  • Yahweh tells them to use blood for this purpose, because blood is associated with the life of the animal. Yahweh prohibited the consumption of blood quite early (Genesis 9:4), and Jewish law will later prohibit its consumption-"for the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11). Yahweh chooses blood-the life of the animal-to preserve the lives of the Israelites. This blood will emphasize the life-for-life transaction that takes place at the Passover.

"They shall eat the flesh in that night, roasted with fire, and unleavened bread. They shall eat it with bitter herbs" (v. 8). This meal has a hurried character, because the Israelites will be preparing to leave Egypt this very night.

  • Roasting a lamb or goat over a fire is the quickest and easiest way to prepare it for consumption. Unleavened bread requires no waiting for the bread to rise. Bitter herbs would include plants such as lettuce, endive, chicory, and dandelion, which would be readily available. Perhaps the bitter herbs are intended to commemorate the bitterness of Israel's service to Egypt as slave laborers (1:14).

"Don't eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted with fire" (v. 9a). Eating raw meat would be quicker, but would impose health risks-inappropriate for thousands of people planning to start on a long journey that very night. Boiling meat would require extra time to boil the water. Also, roasted meat makes a nicer meal that boiled meat.

"with its head, its legs, and its inner parts" (v. 9b). For those accustomed to purchasing meat in shrink-wrapped packages, the Yuk Factor gets pretty high here.

  • As noted above, there is an emphasis on consuming the whole animal, but this would not include inedible parts. Brains are edible, so they are to include the head. Inner organs would include the heart, liver, kidneys, and other edible organs.

"You shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; but that which remains of it until the morning you shall burn with fire" (v. 10). This provision has a health purpose. Hundreds of thousands of people are about to embark on a long journey. Having no refrigeration, they would be foolish to eat leftover meat that might spoil and make them sick.

  • But, more importantly, this is a sacred meal-intended for something greater than fueling the Israelites for flight. It is intended to honor Yahweh and their relationship to Yahweh. Burning leftover meat highlights the sacred nature of this observance, making it clear that it is food for the soul as well as food for the body.

"This is how you shall eat it: with your belt on your waist, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste: it is Yahweh's Passover" (v. 11). As noted above, there is a hurried quality to this meal. That is part of the reason for the roasted meat and the unleavened bread. We see that same hurried quality now with regard to clothing. The Israelites are to eat this meal dressed for travel. A person preparing for travel would tuck some of the loose cloth of the robe into the belt (girded loins) to avoid tripping while moving across uneven ground. People would usually remove sandals indoors, but are to eat this meal with sandals on their feet. Shepherds use staffs to herd and to defend sheep, and would check their staffs at the door when coming indoors-but these people are to eat this meal with staffs in hand.


12 For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and fatally strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the human firstborn to animals; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will come upon you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

"For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and animal" (v. 12a). This alerts the Israelites that something momentous is about to happen-and will happen this very night. Yahweh will implement the tenth plague on Egypt, striking down (killing) all the firstborn-both human and animal-throughout the land.

  • I remembered that a death angel performed this task, but the text doesn't mention a death angel (although 12:23 does mention a "destroyer"). It goes on to say, "It happened at midnight, that Yahweh struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of livestock" (12:29).
  • In most families, there is a special joy associated with the firstborn. That was especially true in ancient times. While I have not been able to research Egyptian practices associated with their firstborn, we can see the preeminence of the firstborn reflected in Jewish law and practice:
    -- Yahweh considers Israel to be his firstborn (4:22; see also Jeremiah 31:9).
    -- Israelites are to consecrate all firstborn, both human and animals, to Yahweh (Exodus 13:2; 12-13).
    -- While Jewish law requires the sacrifice (the death) of the firstborn, it requires that people redeem their firstborn sons and allows for the redemption of certain animals (Exodus 13:2, 12-13; 22:29-30; 34:20; Leviticus 27:26; Numbers 18:15).
    -- Firstborn cattle, sheep, and goats are to be holy-used as sacrificial animals. There is no provision for redeeming them. They must be slaughtered as sacrifices to Yahweh (Numbers 18:17; Deuteronomy 15:19).
    -- Firstborn sons are to receive a double portion of the inheritance, and fathers are prohibited from reassigning the firstborn's portion to another son (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).
    -- It is through the firstborn son that families trace their lineage.
  • To summarize, people tend to hold their firstborn especially dear. Therefore, Yahweh will strike down the firstborn throughout Egypt as a way of breaking Pharaoh's hard heart and forcing him to let the Israelites go.

"Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments" (v. 12b). The judgment that Yahweh brings on Egypt during Passover night will extend not only to the firstborn of Egypt and their parents, but also to Egypt's gods. Egyptians have looked to these gods to provide prosperity and protection, but they will learn this night that their gods (which, in fact, are not gods at all) have no power to save them.

"I am Yahweh"(YHWH-Yahweh) (v. 12c). YHWH or Yahweh comes from a form of the Hebrew verb "to be" that means "I am who I am." This is the word that God used to identify himself to Moses. When Moses asked God his name, God replied, YHWH or "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14).

"The blood shall be to you for a token on the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be on you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt" (v. 13). Note that Yahweh doesn't say, "The blood shall be to me for a token on the houses where you are," but says, "The blood shall be to you for a token on the houses where you are."
Yahweh could have identified Israelite homes without a sign. However, by requiring Israelites to smear blood on their doorposts, Yahweh gives them opportunity to exercise their faith. He will honor this expression of faith by allowing the faithful to escape the havoc that will be wreaked on the Egyptian firstborn.

Ex. 12:1-13 Exegesis (M. Lawson)

1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,

The importance of passover is highlighted in at least two details in the first couple of verses:
1) The specific identification of Moses and Aaron, the first two Levitical priests serve as an example for all others to follow.
2) The detailed instructions of the act of passover prior to the formal giving of the law on Mt. Sinai.

2 "This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.

"the first month" -Verse 2 seems somewhat odd. What's the significance of noting the beginning of the year? Some suggestions: 1) Perhaps God is emphasizing that all of our lives should revolve around worship of Him.
2)Perhaps God is demonstrating the importance of passover to Israel.
3)Perhaps God is setting up a difference between the Hebrew and Canaanite calendar. The Canaanite calendar was largely based upon agriculture. God wanted the Hebrew calendar based on redemption.

Here we read that God has decided that history determines the calendar, and in particular, the history of God's saving act of the exodus does so. Whatever might theoretically have been their previous thinking about a calendar, God decreed to his Old Covenant people that they would henceforth have a calendar designed to remind them of how they first became a people-it happened by reason of their deliverance by his mighty hand out of the bondage of the oppressor, an act so important that it was also to be memorialized by a special annual feast, the Passover. Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 273.

3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household.

At its heart, the Passover is a meal, a commemorative feast. Some modern American holidays are feasts (e.g., Thanksgiving and Christmas); others are not (e.g., Labor Day, July 4). Feast holidays have the special emphasis of careful preparation (thus the instruction in v. 3 that the sacrificial animal is chosen four days before the feast so that there be no last-minute arrangements and the possibility of haphazard celebration or lack of availability results) for gathering people together to share a common gratitude and/or remembrance as they share the common meal linked to that gratitude/remembrance. The gathering of an entire family of Israelites (or group of families eating one animal though in separate houses) together at a dinner table helped symbolize the general pattern throughout the nation, that is, the whole nation eating together, though of course at individual locations. In accordance with the feast nature of the Passover, Moses was told that the whole nation ("tell the whole community of Israel") must be instructed to eat the meal as households, not as individuals. Thus great emphasis is placed on sharing the meat of a single animal. The goal is to have one goat kid or lamb for each full family, "one for each household." Therefore, if a household were composed of perhaps just one, two or three people, and they could not by themselves consume a whole goat kid or lamb at one sitting, v. 4 provides for sharing the meal with the next-door family, so that everyone at the two houses eats together from a single sacrificed animal and finishes the meat of that animal during the meal. That is the meaning of "share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are." This might produce some situations in which a rather large number of people, consuming a goat kid or lamb, might each get only a relatively small portion of meat to eat. But the alternative-meat left over, or someone being forced to gorge himself in order to finish off all the meat in one sitting-was strictly to be avoided. Thus the statement at the end of v. 4, "You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat," or as it might be more clearly translated, "You must calculate the amount of goat kid or lamb (meat) each person will eat relative to the number of people." The principle was thus: Everyone had to eat the meat, and all the meat had to be eaten. Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 273-274.

Important points of application from the above quote:
1) "a feast" - we should celebrate the redemption God provides from our sin.
2) "careful preparation"/"animal chosen four days before" - Worship doesn't occur haphazardly (not that in cannot be spontaneous). It should be meaningful.
3) on celebrating by household and family - corporate celebration of God's redemption is meaningful and important. We live in community, God is redeeming a people. Although salvation occurs in each individual heart, God's Kingdom is larger than each individual and calls for communal celebration (fellowship and worship).
4) "Everyone had to eat the meat" - Redemption only occurs to those who partake of it. Consider Jesus' statement in John 6:47-51, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
5) "all the meat had to be eaten" - The redemption of God is costly and should not be "wasted".

But the greater value is in preparation for the Messiah. The Messiah was to be one body, broken for all, symbolically eaten by all, in order to help believers in the New Covenant keep aware of their unity as members of the one body. Partial consumption and fragments left over do not appropriately symbolize that body and that unity. The ultimate purpose of the Old Testament Passover instruction is to point forward to Christ, to the purpose of his death, memorialized in the ritual of the Lord's Supper that now replaces the Passover, and also to the unity of those accepted by him as his people, his body. Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 274.

4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb.

5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats,

"without blemish" -A blemished animal would taste the same as one without blemish. God is emphasizing something in this statement which should point all who participated beyond the meal itself to what the meal ultimately symbolized-the perfect God, providing perfect redemption.

Consider: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Jn 1:29.  and... "For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever." Heb 7:26-28.

How, then, could an animal help provide perfection for those who consumed it so that they could become acceptable to God? The answer is that it could not, except to the extent that the whole process of eating the animal in obedience to the Passover regulations was an act of faith and obedience, involving faith in God's gracious provision of the holiness that no human could himself or herself provide and obedience to a process that showed confidence in the true God's true promises and requirements. From the vantage point of the full overview of the plan of redemption designed by God before he even created human beings, Jesus of Nazareth was to be young at the time of his death, male of course, and perfect-free from defect before God. His sinlessness qualified him and him alone to be the lamb of God, a human lamb rather than an animal of the flock, and yet a lamb in the sense of one meeting the criteria for the Passover meal.
Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 275.

6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

7 "Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.

The emphasis now falls, not on the animal, but the importance of it's blood. Note the redeeming aspect of shed blood highlighted here and consider: Jesus' words before his crucifixion, "for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Mt 26:28.

or the author of Hebrews, "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." Heb 9:22.

"put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses" -Note that the blood was smeared on the doorframe even before the Passover meal was eaten; this may be an instance of first things first, that is, that deliverance from death is the primary interest of these instructions and proper memorializing of the exodus the less crucial concern. Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 276.

8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.

"They shall eat the flesh" -Note John 6:51 quoted above. See also: "Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." Jn 6:56.

9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts.

10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.

11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover.

The dress and haste of eating was to demonstrate their readiness and the immediacy of their departure from Egypt.

Do not overlook the faith involved in preparation and eating with haste. Their willingness to eat in a manner that suggested immediate departure was a manner of eating in faith believing, God was to act suddenly and immediately on their behalf. What an act of faith after considering their years of slavery (430yrs) and Pharaoh's recent stubborn refusal to release Israel from Egyptian control even after the other 9 plagues.

12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.

"I will execute judgments: I am the Lord" -This final plague would demonstrate Yahweh's sovereignty and power over the false god's of Egypt.

13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

The blood on the doorposts showed acceptance of God's plan for rescue and trust in his word. After all, the sight of dried blood by itself had no power to deter death; it was only as the dried blood painted on the top and sides of the door was a testimony to the faith of the inhabitants in Yahweh that it had its efficacy. Thus the statement, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you"-in other words, I will spare all those who show that they have placed their faith in me. Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 278.

LAMB OF GOD: There's a great theme that runs throughout the Bible. We literally find it from beginning to end.  The first hint of this great theme was given shortly after Adam and Eve sinned. God had warned them that, on the day they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die. Sadly, they ate; and as a result, a death was required. But the Bible tells us that, rather than slaying Adam and Eve, God clothed them in "tunics of skin". Clearly, some other living thing was offered for them as a "substitute".

This great theme-only hinted at then-was later expressed in a clearer way in the story of Abraham. God called Abraham to go to a certain place and sacrifice his only son Isaac. Abraham went by faith in obedience to God-trusting that God would not require the life of his only dear son; but affirming to Isaac, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burn offering" (Gen. 22:8).

This great theme is again clearly expressed to us, many centuries later, through the words of John the Baptist. John was in the wilderness beyond the Jordan, baptizing the multitudes who came to him in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. And as Jesus-the Son of God in human flesh-drew near to John, John pointed Him out to the multitudes, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

And in the very last book of the Bible, we find the conclusion of this great theme. We read of the great cry of the mighty hosts of heaven saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing" (Rev. 5:12). And we read of the multitudes of the redeemed saints in glory-with palm branches in their hands-worshiping God and saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Rev. 7:10).

This great theme is traced throughout the Bible-Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who was slain for sinners. It's particularly appropriate that we turn this morning to this great theme; because it's the day we set aside to remember Jesus' sacrifice for us through the Lord's Supper.
* * * * * * * * * *

To prepare ourselves this morning, turn to one of the most remarkable pictures in the Old Testament of our Savior as "the Lamb of God". It's found in the twelfth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus-where we're told of how God gave to the people of Israel the command to observe the Passover.

It's right that we think of the Passover lamb as a "portrait" of Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote that "Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Let's follow the story-verse by verse-of how God introduced the Passover meal to His people. And from it, let's draw out some of the precious truths it teaches us concerning the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb.
* * * * * * * * * *
First, let's consider . . .


The circumstances in which the Passover was first given were both exciting and dreadful. The Jewish people were still in bondage to Egypt; but God was about to set them free. And yet, in spite of the ways that God was striking the Egyptians with plague after plague, Pharaoh still hardened his heart and would not let them go.

God instituted the Passover meal during the brief interlude between plagues nine and ten. Plague nine, as you may remember, was a plague of dreadful darkness over the land. And the tenth plague was that of the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. That horrible darkness over the land was a foreboding sign of the judgment of death that would soon follow. And yet, quite literally, God gave this expression of hope to His people-this picture, ultimately, of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ-in the midst of the curse of darkness and death. This suggests to us that when we come to the Lord's table, we should do so with a spirit of deep and humble gratitude. We should remember the context in which Christ has been given to us;

. . . giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:12-14).
* * * * * * * * * *

Now; in introducing this picture of redemptive love, the Bible tells us,

"Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 'This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you'" (Ex. 12:1-2).

Think of that! In the midst of this horrible threat of coming doom, God gives His chosen people the glorious announcement of a new beginning! They were to make such a complete break from their former bondage that they were no longer to even use the Egyptian calendar. The day on which the Passover meal was given marked the day of their new beginning as the people of God.

And I suggest that this, too, should remind us of the context in which we celebrate the Lord's Supper. When we, by faith, remember Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for us, we remember it as people who have been delivered from the slavery of sin and into new life. Celebrating the Lord's Supper means celebrating our new birth-our new beginning-because of our Passover Lamb! "Therefore", the Bible tells us, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).

When we come to the Lord's Supper, it's a solemn time of remembrance of Jesus' death. But it's also a joyful time of celebrating new life in Him. We should celebrate it with deep thankfulness.|
* * * * * * * * * *
Next, as we look back at the story of the Passover, we consider . . .

2. THE PEOPLE (vv. 3-4).

God spoke this word to Moses and Aaron, who were then to pass it on to all the men of Israel-all the fathers and husbands who were the appointed heads of their households:
"Speak to the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household'" (v. 3).
        There was a beautiful picture of the unity of the people of God built in to the observance of the Passover. It was not up to each individual to find his or her own lamb. Nor was not the mother's job to find a lamb for her children. Nor was not the children's job to find a lamb for their parents. It was the appointed task of the father-the head of the household-to take the lead for his family. The Passover brought the whole family together through one lamb; and in doing so, it reminded each individual member in the family of God's appointed pattern of domestic order, authority and worship.
        And what's more, the Passover lamb sometimes brought one family together with another. Each family was to take a lamb that was sufficient for that family. But because nothing of the lamb was to remain the next day, and to ensure that nothing of the Passover lamb went to waste, God goes on to command;
"1 And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb'" (v. 4).
When the Lord Jesus celebrated His last Passover before going to the cross, He celebrated it with His disciples (Judas excepted). And in the meal, they all partook of Him together as the Passover Lamb.
        There is a unifying significance in our partaking of the Lord's Supper together; because we are made one together in Jesus-our Passover Lamb. As Paul wrote,
The cup of blessings which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
        As we come to the table of the Lord, we don't all come separately. We partake together. And in doing so, we fulfill one of the expressed purposes of our Lord in giving His life for His followers; "that they all may be one" (John 17:21).
* * * * * * * * * *

Now, let's return to the story of the Passover; and with the utmost reverence, let's consider . . .

3. THE LAMB (v. 5).

God gave specific instructions regarding the lamb that the individual heads of households were to select for Passover. He said,
"'Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats'" (v. 5).

A lamb was an appropriate creature to serve as the 'type' of Jesus in His sacrifice for us. A lamb is meek and harmless. When put to death, it doesn't resist or fight for its life. It doesn't claw and bite those who seek to slay it. And as the Bible tells us concerning Jesus;
"He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7).
        And now, consider the necessary qualifications of the lamb itself. What a picture these qualifications give us of the One whom God gave to be our Passover Lamb!
        First, the lamb was to be "without blemish". Later on in Scripture, when God gave His laws regarding the offerings, we read that He specified, "You shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats. Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf" (Lev. 22:19-20). In order for the offering to be acceptable before God as a substitute for the imperfections of sinners, it was absolutely essential that it had no imperfections. And this, of course, is a picture of Jesus; "who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God" in order to "cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14). He Himself was "without sin" (Heb. 4:15); and so, He was able to be a substitute for sinners.
        Second, the Passover lamb was to be "a male". This, again, is a picture of Jesus. Adam-the first man-was the head of the human race; and it was because of his sin that the offspring that came from him were also fallen. As the Bible tells us, "Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life" (Romans 5:18).
        Third, the Passover lamb was to be "of the first year"-in, as it were, the prime of life. This, too, is a picture of Jesus. He didn't come into this world to die in infancy. He didn't live out a full life, in order to die on this earth in old age. Rather, He died at the age of thirty-three-in 'the midst of his days' (Psalm 104:24). As Isaiah 53:8 says, "And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living . . ." He gave Himself for us in His prime; at a time when He was at 'the best' of Himself.
        And finally, concerning the Passover lamb, God said, "You may take it from the sheep or from the goats". There was provision made for all. Those who could afford to do so were to offer a kid from the sheep. If they couldn't afford that, they were permitted to offer a kid from the goats. And again, this is a picture of Jesus, our Passover Lamb. As Hebrews 2:14 says, "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Jesus, our Passover Lamb, entered into this world of sin, grew up in our midst, and walked among us. He was one of us. He was accessible to us. He is available to all who desire Him.

What a Savior! What a perfect Passover Lamb He is in every way!
* * * * * * * * * *

And now, let's consider . . .

4. THE SLAYING (v. 6).

When the father of a household was to take the lamb for his family, he wasn't to slay it right away. God specified, "'Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month . . .'" (v. 6). In other words, the lamb was to stay with the family for four days.
        When I think of this, I think of what an impact this must have had on the family members-particularly the children. The children of that day would have been no different from children in ours. They would have fallen in love with this lamb. After four days, it would be a part of the family. But every day, when family members looked upon this lamb, they'd always remember that it was set apart to die. It was destined to have its blood shed, and its body roasted and eaten. It was destined to be a substitute for the firstborn of that Jewish family. And this, again, is a picture of Jesus. He walked upon this earth as the delight of His Father. He was one of us, but He was the loveliest of us. He was the only perfect member of the human family. During His walk in earth, He graced humanity; and yet, it was for the sins of all humanity that He was set apart to die.
        The family was to keep the lamb for four days. That four-day period may symbolize the span of the four decades that He walked on earth. Or it may prefigure the four years that transpired between John the Baptist's announcement of Jesus as the Lamb of God, and the cross on which He took our sins away from us. Or again, it may prefigure the four days that transpired between His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and His betrayal into the hands of those who would slay Him. In any case, the point is clear: He lived in our midst for a season as the Passover Lamb-one who was set apart by God to to die on our behalf.
        And this was the appointment He received from the Father. As the Scriptures say, He was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).
* * * * * * * * *

Now; back to the story of Passover. The night finally came night the Passover lamb was actually put to death. It was kept from the tenth day until the fourteenth. And God said that on the evening of the fourteenth day, "'Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight'" (v. 6)-that is, between the evenings of the fourteenth and fifteenth days.
        It was during this very time period-between the evenings of the fourteenth and fifteenth days-that our Savior was put to death. While families throughout Israel were slaying their Passover lambs, Jesus-our Passover Lamb-was betrayed into the hands of men who crucified Him.

All of Israel slew the Passover lamb at the same time. And it's also true that all of us-by our sins-put the Son of God upon the cross. And so, when we partake of the Lord's supper, we all partake together; for we all have a part in the death of the Passover Lamb.
* * * * * * * * * *

Next, let's consider . . .

5. THE BLOOD (v. 7).

God spoke through Moses and Aaron concerning the lamb that was slain; and said, "'And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it'" (v. 7).

This first Passover occurred on the night in which God brought the terrible judgment of the tenth plague on the people of Egypt. Every firstborn in Egypt would be struck dead by the Lord. And every family of Israel was safe-so long as the blood of that lamb was found on the entryway of their home. We're given further details of this in verses 21-23;

Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning" (vv. 21-23).
         Hyssop, in the Bible, was used for the application of that which provided for someone's cleansing before God. In Leviticus 14, hyssop was used for the ritual of the cleansing of a leper (v. 4-6). In Psalm 51:7, King David prayed, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean . . ." And in our passage, you might say that hyssop was a picture of faith-serving as that which reaches forth to take the blood and apply it to our need.
        Each home in which the Passover lamb was slain was to have that blood applied, by the branches of hyssop, onto the entryway into the inner life of that home. It was only as the blood of the lamb was found on the doorposts and lintel of that house were its inhabitants safe from the wrath of God.
        And again, what a picture this gives us of Jesus! A believing Jewish friend has told me that, when some believing Jews see the blood dabbed above on the lintel, and dabbed to the left and the right on the doorposts, they recognize the shape of the cross being marked out by the blood. As Paul wrote, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:8-9). How important it is, as we come to the Lord's Supper this morning, that we make sure that we-by faith-have been taken refuge under the blood of Jesus that was shed on the wood of the cross!
* * * * * * * * * *

This leads us, next, to consider . . .

6. THE EATING (vv. 8-11).

Very specific instructions were given for the eating of the Passover lamb. God said,
"Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it" (v. 8).

        There was to be a complete consumption of the lamb by the family. There was to be nothing of the lamb left uneaten. This is a picture of the fullness of the faith we are to place in Jesus, our Passover Lamb. He demands a total commitment from us. We cannot be partial in our embrace of Him. We can't say, "I'll follow Jesus in this area of my life; but not in others." He Himself has said,

        "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26-27).

        And note that, on the night of the eating of the flesh, the people were not to eat the flesh alone. They were to also eat with "unleavened bread"-which is always a symbol in the Bible of the complete rejection of sin in our lives. And they were to eat with "bitter herbs"-which speaks of the sorrow and grief we feel for the sins in our lives that have placed the Son of God on the cross.
* * * * * * * * * *

God went on to tell the people,
"'Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire-its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire'" (vv. 9-10).
        If the people cooked the lamb in any other way than completely roasted in fire, then they would have had to break the lamb up into pieces in order to do so. But by roasting the lamb in fire, it was first devoted to God undivided and in its entirety. This is in keeping with the commitment Jesus displayed toward the Father as our Passover Lamb. His own commitment was total. There was no division whatsoever in Jesus as our Passover Lamb. Not even one of His bones were broken as He hung on the cross (John 19:36).
        The completeness of Jesus' devotion to the Father is shown in how the lamb was roasted. It was roasted with its head-which was a picture of the devotion of Jesus to His Father in every thought and intention of His mind. It was roasted with its legs-which was a picture of the devotion of Jesus to His Father in His every action and in every area of His daily walk. And it was roasted with its entrails-which was a picture of the devotion of Jesus to His Father with every affection and every aspect of His inner-most being. And the fact that nothing of the lamb was to remain until morning is a picture of the absolute sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. His work for us was complete. As He died for us, He was able to cry out from the cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30). There remained nothing else to be done for our salvation-except that we personally place our trust in Him.
* * * * * * * * * *       

Everything about the Passover meal had spiritual significance. God even gave the people specific instructions as to what to wear when they ate the Passover lamb. He said,

"'And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover'" (v. 11).
        The people who ate on this night were in a state of transition. They were about to depart from their bondage, and begin their sojourn to the land that God was giving them. And so, in commemoration of that evening, they were to always eat the Passover as they did that night-packed up for travel and ready to move out in great haste.
        And with respect to us, this isn't so much a picture of Jesus, as it is of the attitude of heart with which we are to receive Him and walk with Him. We're to place our trust in Him and to live a life under His grace as sojourners in this world. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20). We, as it were, are to have our loins girded-so that we are unencumbered by the cares of this world; and our sandals on our feet-so that we are ready to go wherever He calls us to go for His sake; and our staff in our hand-as a permanent sign to this world that we're only passing through. And we're to be, as it were, "in haste"-since we know that, at any moment, our Lord may return for us to take us to Himself.
* * * * * * * * * *

These are all things that should be in our minds as we come to the table of the Lord today to remember the sacrifice of our Passover Lamb.
And before we close our look at the first Passover meal, let me point out . . .

7. THE DELIVERANCE (vv. 12-13).

God told the people,
"'For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike 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'" (v. 12).

        And here, we are given the historical significance that the Passover meal would always have to the Jewish people. It is the commemoration of the night on which God "passed-over" them in His dreadful judgment of the Egyptians.
        But with Jesus as our Passover Lamb, that commemoration has a new significance. You can see it in what God said next:

"'Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the house where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt'" (v. 13).
        The Bible says, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). As you come to the Lord's table today, there's nothing more important than to make sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ-the true Passover Lamb. When God, in righteous judgment, judges the sin of this world, will He look at you and see the blood of His Son?

EW: Exodus 12:1-13 - God Institutes Passover

A. Passover instructions.

1. (12:1-6) Each household should take a lamb.

Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, "This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.'"

  1. This month shall be your beginning of months: The coming deliverance from Egypt was such a significant act that God told the children of Israel to remake their calendar. The new year would now start with the month of their redemption from Egypt. It was a dramatic way of saying that everything was to change.
    i. "God is ever the God of new beginnings in the history of failure. The ultimate statement is found in the Apocalypse in the words: 'Behold, I make all things new.'" (Morgan)
    ii. "Commence a nation's annals from its evangelization. Begin the chronicle of a people from the day when they bow at the feet of Jesus." (Spurgeon)
  2. Speak to all the congregation of Israel: "This is the first occurrence in the Pentateuch of what was to become a technical term, describing Israel in its religious sense... and which underlies the New Testament use of ekklesia, 'church'." (Cole)
  3. Every man shall take for himself a lamb: On the tenth of this first month, each family - or household - was to take a lamb, and the lamb was to live with the family for the four days until Passover (on the tenth day of this month... until the fourteenth day of the same month).
    i.In this way, the lamb became part of the family. By the time it was sacrificed on the fourteenth it was both cherished and mourned. God wanted the sacrifice of something precious.
    ii. If the household is too small for the lamb: The rabbis later determined that there should be at least ten people for each Passover lamb, and not more than twenty.
    iii. "Passover was a domestic and family festival, and thus shows its early origin. It has here no temple, no meeting-tent, no altar and no priest: but representation, if not substitution, is clearly implied." (Cole)
  4. Your lamb shall be without blemish: The lamb was also to be without blemish. This sacrifice unto the LORD had to be as perfect as a lamb could be.
  5. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats: The Hebrew word for lamb can refer to either a young sheep or a young goat.
    i. "The Hebrew seh is quite a neutral word and should be translated 'head of (small) stock', applying equally to sheep and goats of any age. The Hebrews, like the Chinese, seem to have regarded any distinction between sheep and goats as a minor subdivision. Probably because of this, to 'separate the sheep from the goats' is proverbial of God's discernment in New Testament times (Matthew 25:32)." (Cole)
  6. Israel shall kill it at twilight: "Christ came in the evening of the world; in the 'last hour' (1 John 2:11); when all lay buried in darkness; in the eventide of our sin and death." (Trapp)

2. (12:7-11) Instructions for eating the Passover.

'And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire-its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover.'

  1. Take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses: Before the Passover lamb could be eaten, its blood had to be applied to the doorway of the home, to the top and upon each side the blood was applied. The only part of this sacrifice given to God was the blood; the rest was eaten by each family or discarded (what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire).
    i. As the blood was applied to the top and each side of the doorway, this blood dripped down, forming a figure of a cross in the doorway.
    ii. The blood on the doorposts showed that the sacrifice of the Passover lamb was to be remembered in daily life. You would see it every time you went in or out of the house.
  2. And thus you shall eat it: Then, the lamb could be eaten - but only if it had been roasted in fire, with the lamb itself coming into contact with the fire, and with bitter herbs accompanying the meal.
    i. "Thepaschal lamb was not killed in order to be looked at only, but to be eaten; and our Lord Jesus Christ has not been slain merely that we may hear about him and talk about him, and think about him, but that we may feed upon him." (Spurgeon)
  3. Let none of it remain until morning: The Passover lamb had to be eaten completely; a family had to totally consume the sacrifice.
    i. The idea behind eating it all was that you had to take it all then, and not store up some of the rescue for later. It was for right then, right now, and you had to receive all of it without thinking you could take a bit then and come back to it later if you pleased. We take all of Jesus, not just the parts that please us.
  4. With a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand: The Passover lamb had to be eaten in faith, trusting that the deliverance promised to Israel was present, and that they would walk in that deliverance immediately.
    i. Faith was essential to the keeping of Passover: By faith he [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. (Hebrews 11:28)
  5. It is the LORD's Passover: The Passover was the LORD's in the sense that He provided it:
  • As a rescue, to deliver Israel from the plague of the firstborn.
  • As an institution, to remember God's rescue and deliverance for Israel through every generation.
  • As a powerful drama, acting out the perfect sacrifice and rescue Jesus would later provide.
    i. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul made it perfectly clear: For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). John the Baptist drew on a similar image when he said of Jesus, Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29) It seems that Jesus was actually crucified on Passover (John 19:14). We see Jesus in the Passover.
  • Jesus lived with and became bonded to the human family before He was sacrificed for them.
  • The sacrifice of Jesus must be appropriate to each home, not on a national or community basis.
  • Jesus the Passover Lamb was spotless - perfectly so, not stained by any sin, any moral or spiritual imperfection.
  • It was only the blood of Jesus, His actual poured-out life that atoned for sin.
  • In His death Jesus was touched with fire, the fire of God's judgment and wrath.
  • In His death Jesus received the bitter cup of God's judgment.
  • The work of Jesus has to be received fully, with none left in reserve.
  • The Passover work of Jesus for His people is the dawn and prelude to their freedom.

3. (12-13) The protection of the blood.

'For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike 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. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.'

  1. When I see the blood, I will pass over you: For Israel to be spared the judgment on the firstborn, they had to apply to blood just as God said they should. The blood of the lamb was essential to what God required.
    i. If an Israelite home didn't believe in the power of the blood of the lamb, they could sacrifice the lamb and eat it, but they would still be visited by judgment.
    ii. If an Egyptian home did believe in the power of the blood of the lamb, and made a proper Passover sacrifice, they would be spared the judgment.
    iii. Additionally, an intellectual agreement with what God said about the blood was not enough; they actually had to do what God said must be done with the blood.
  1. I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt: God regarded Israel as His firstborn, His favored people. If Egypt refused to release God's firstborn, then God required the firstborn of Egypt as a penalty and judgment.

Exodus Chapter 12

Exodus 12:1 "And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,"

"The Lord spake": Most probably, the instructions on the Passover (verses 1-20), were also given during the 3 days of darkness in order to fully prepare Israel for the grand finale, their Exodus from Egypt.

"In the land": Later, while Israel was in the wilderness, Moses wrote (23:14-17; Deut. 16:1-8), and indicated that the detailed instructions for this very special feast day in Israel's religious calendar were not like those of the other special days. All which were given after the nation had already left Egypt. This one, the Passover, was inextricably linked to what took place in the Exodus, and that connection was never to be forgotten. It became indelibly entrenched in Israel's tradition and has always marked the day of redemption from Egypt.

Exodus 12:2 "This month [shall be] unto you the beginning of months: it [shall be] the first month of the year to you."

"This month": The month of Abib (March/April), by divine decree became the beginning of the religious calendar, marking the start of Israel's life as a nation. Later in Israel's history, after the Babylonian captivity, Abib would become Nisan (Nehemiah 2:1; Ester 3:7).

Yahweh began the calendar of Israel with the Exodus. The "first month" of the Hebrew year, called Abib (or Aviv). Literally means "the ear" month because at this time, about April for us' that the ears of grain have developed.

In these verses, we see first of all, the Lord speaking to Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron did not instigate any of the plagues and then tell God. These plagues, Moses' and Aaron's messages to Pharaoh and the people, originated with God. All Moses and Aaron were doing was carrying out God's orders. If we are good ministers, that is what we should do as well. We should first listen to God and whatever He tells us, and then we must bring it to the people. We see that God established the month we call April, as the first month of the Hebrew year. The Hebrews call it Abib. We do not know for sure how they had measured their months before, but we do know that God said from now on, April is the first month of the year for the Israelites.

Verses 3-14: The detailed instructions for the Passover included what animal to select, when to kill it, what to do with its blood, how to cook it, what to do with leftovers, how to dress for the meal, the reason why it was being celebrated "in haste," and what the shed blood signified.

Exodus 12:3 "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 a house:"

God's specific instructions about the Passover "lamb" (a goat's kid was also acceptable, verse 5), would ensure that in every way, it was fit for sacred sacrifice.

Here, we see the celebration of the Passover for the Israelites being set up for the very first time. Notice the word "all" in the first sentence. This means men, women and children. Whosoever will is a very good description of this. In our language, He is saying: On April 10th, each family go and get a lamb from your flock and pick out one that your family can eat at one sitting; don't get one too big. You will see why in the following verse.

Exodus 12:4 "And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor 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."

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 join with their neighbors, 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, 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.

Here we see if there were just 3 or 4 people in a household, they would not be able to consume a whole lamb by themselves. Then 2 families would need to go together and pick a lamb that these 2 families could eat at one meal. Ordinarily 10 people could eat a small lamb.

Exodus 12:5 "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take [it] out from the sheep, or from the goats:"

"Your lamb ... without blemish": A kid goat was an alternative choice. Any flaw would render it unfit to represent a pure, wholesome sacrifice given to Yahweh.

You see a description of what this lamb, that is to be sacrificed, would be like physically. John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God (in John 1).

John 1:29 "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."

John 1:36 we read, "And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!"

John was speaking prophetically of Jesus (the Lamb of God), being sacrificed on the cross for our sin. Jesus actually does away with sin for His followers. Just as this lamb (in verse 5), was to have no blemish, Jesus had no blemish. That is why the soldiers did not break His legs to hurry death. Jesus had no blemish. He was to be a male lamb. Jesus was a male. "Of the first year", means that he was taken before he came to a female lamb. Jesus was not married and definitely did not have an affair with anyone. He NEVER committed any sin, much less adultery, as some movies are showing now. This is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (in my opinion), to accuse our Savior of sin. It appears that a lamb could be a goat or a sheep.

Exodus 12:6 "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."

"In the evening": Literally "between the two evenings." Since the new day was reckoned from sunset; the sacrificing of the lamb or kid was done before sunset while it was still day 14 of the first month. "Twilight" has been taken to signify to be either at the time between sunset and the onset of darkness; or from the decline of the sun until sunset. Later Moses would prescribe the time for the sacrifice as "in the evening at sunset" (Deut. 16:6). According to Josephus, it was customary in his day to kill the lamb at about 3:00 p.m. This was the time of day that Christ, the Christian's Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7), died (Luke 23:44-46).

One really interesting thing that we should notice was that the whole congregation viewed this. If you look at it from the spiritual standpoint as all of us, because of our sins, helped crucify Jesus. Another thing we notice here, that each head of the house killed their own lamb. There was nothing between God and the head of the house then, except this sacrificial lamb. There is no one between Christians and God now, except Jesus Christ (the Lamb of God). What a beautiful parallel. This four day difference in time was a time to examine the lamb and make sure it was perfect, leaving time to go and exchange it if it was not.

Exodus 12:7 "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."

"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 viewed 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 those inside.

This is what I call being covered with the blood of the Lamb. The very thing that saves Christians is when we are symbolically washed in the blood of the Lamb; covered over with it, if you will. We are told in Revelation that the Christians will be wearing white robes in heaven, washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Revelation 7:14 "And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

The reason this blood of this sacrificial lamb was put on the door posts and over the door was because this was the entrance to the house. The devil and his demons cannot cross the blood. God honors the blood as well. God cannot look upon sin; He will destroy the person involved in sin. The only way to not be destroyed is for the shed blood to be between you and God. God sees the shed blood and passes over without destroying you.

Exodus 12:8 "And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; [and] with bitter [herbs] they shall eat it."

The night is thus clearly distinguished from the evening when the lamb was slain. It was slain before sunset, on the 14th, and eaten after sunset, the beginning of the 15th.

"With fire": Among various reasons given for this injunction the most probable and satisfactory seems to be the special sanctity attached to fire from the first institution of sacrifice (compare Genesis 4:4).

"And unleavened bread": On account of the hasty departure, allowing no time for the process of leavening: but the meaning discerned by Paul (1 Cor. 5:7-8), and recognized by the Church in all ages, was assuredly implied, though not expressly declared in the original institution. Compare our Lord's words (Matt. 16:6; 16:12), as to the symbolism of leaven.

"Bitter herbs" The word occurs only here and (in Numbers 9:11), in reference to herbs. The symbolic reference to the previous sufferings of the Israelites is generally admitted.

This is so symbolic of Jesus. The flesh of the Lamb is Jesus, as we read in John 6:53:  "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you."

All of this is symbolic of course. You do not literally eat the flesh of Jesus or drink His actual blood. The Communion of unleavened bread is symbolic of the flesh of Jesus, and the grape juice you drink, is symbolic of the blood of Jesus. The unleavened bread is symbolic of the sin-free body of Christ. Leaven is symbolic of sin, so we see in this unleavened bread that Jesus was, and is, completely free from sin. The "roast with fire" has to do, in my opinion, with the fire, symbolic of God. The bitter herbs show the bitter bondage the Israelites were faced with in Egypt. I believe the bitter herbs show the Christians that to follow Jesus and partake of the blessings of Jesus, that there is some self-sacrifice to be made. A Christian must crucify his flesh and separate himself from worldly lust to be a follower of Jesus.

Exodus 12:9 "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."

"Eat not of it raw": A prohibition with health implications which also distinguished them from pagans who often ate raw flesh in their sacred festivals.

Here they were told especially not to eat it raw, as was the practice with some of the false religions. "Nor sodden at all with water", I believe, means don't boil it. One of the purposes of roasting was so it would not be broken apart in the sacrifice, but would be whole, as we see in the statement "his head with his legs". The "purtenance" was the intestine. Most of the time this was opened and washed out and the intestine was then cooked with the whole body. So much of this symbolizes the necessity of the body being kept intact with no broken bones. It could also, symbolize the unity of the faith. Remember, we are looking at these Scriptures more with the spiritual eyes than with the physical.

Exodus 12:10 "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."

That which either was not usually eaten, or was more than all of you could conveniently eat.

"Ye shall burn with fire": To prevent either:

   (1) The superstitious use of the relics of that lamb by the Israelites, who thereby had received a greater benefit than they did afterwards by the brazen serpent, which upon that account they worshipped; or:

   (2) The profane abuse of that which had been consecrated to God's service (Compare Exodus 29:34).

This was symbolic of taking communion and that nothing that has been placed out for communion should be left over to the next time. Whoever conducts communion should eat and drink all that is left. This is similar to the manna that fell from heaven. Each day's necessity was to be taken care of, but not to be held over to the next day. The symbol that I see in this is that we must daily eat of the Word of God to stay in good stead with God. The Bible (Word of God), is to be consumed each day. To be able to live a victorious life with Jesus, we must eat of His Word every day. We could see in this that Jesus is our daily Bread. We depend on Him, not on our own abilities.

Exodus 12:11 "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."

"As prepared for a journey": The first was done by the skirts of the loose outer cloth being drawn up and fastened in the girdle, so as to leave the leg and knee free for motion. As to the other, the Orientals never wear shoes indoors, and the ancient Egyptians, as appears from the monuments, did not usually wear either shoes or sandals. These injunctions seem to have applied chiefly to the first celebration of the rite.

"It is the Lord's Passover": Called by this name from the blood-marked dwellings of the Israelites being passed over figuratively by the destroying angel.

We see that God was telling these people to be prepared to leave. These were traveling clothes. His reason for them eating it in haste was because they did not know at what moment they would be ready to go. He reminded them in the last part of this verse, that even though they ate it hastily, they must not take it lightly. This was a special feast that would free them from the bondage of hundreds of years. This Passover would always be a most holy feast with these Hebrews.

Exodus 12:12 "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."

"Against all the gods": The tenth plague was a judgment against all Egyptian deities. The loss of the firstborn of men and beast had far-reaching theological implications. Namely, the importance of the pagan deities, many of whom were represented by animals, to protect their devotees from such nationwide tragedies. The great cry of grief (11:6; 12:30), may also have bemoaned the incapability of the nation's gods.

The one who would "pass through the land" was not some angel of death as is commonly assumed. According to the repeated pronoun "I", it was the Lord Himself, bringing judgment "against all the gods of Egypt".

We see the answer to the plagues (against all the gods of Egypt). God discredited these false gods, one by one, in the plagues. You remember the death of their firstborn was just punishment for all the Hebrew children they had killed. Because animal worship was prevalent in Egypt, God would kill the firstborn of them as well. God did not have to tell them that He had the right. He is the LORD.

Exodus 12:13 "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."

The annual Feast of the Passover commemorated the birth of the nation Israel and her deliverance from Egypt. Typologically, it pointed forward to the greater deliverance from the bondage of sin to be provided by the Messiah. In the Passover, a lamb without blemish was selected and killed. The blood was then applied to the doorpost (doorjamb), of the home, and the lamb was roasted and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

Death comes to all those who are not covered in the blood of the Lamb, whether then or now. The blood of the Lamb is what brings life. God would quickly recognize the Israelites when He saw the blood. The blood was their protection and is our protection as well. He sees the shed blood of His Son which does away with the sin. Then God looks down to sinful man and does not see the sin.


Overview:  The Ten Plagues of Egypt are described in Exodus Chapters 7-12. The plagues were ten disasters sent upon Egypt by God to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelite slaves from the bondage and oppression they had endured in Egypt for 400 years. When God sent Moses to deliver the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, He promised to show His wonders as confirmation of Moses' authority (Ex. 3:20). This confirmation was to serve at least two purposes: to show the Israelites that the God of their fathers was alive and worthy of their worship and to show the Egyptians that their gods were nothing.

The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for about 400 years and in that time had lost faith in the God of their fathers. They believed He existed and worshiped Him, but they doubted that He could, or would, break the yoke of their bondage. The Egyptians, like many pagan cultures, worshiped a wide variety of nature-gods and attributed to their powers the natural phenomena they saw in the world around them. There was a god of the sun, of the river, of childbirth, of crops, etc. Events like the annual flooding of the Nile, which fertilized their croplands, were evidences of their gods' powers and good will. When Moses approached Pharaoh, demanding that he let the people go, Pharaoh responded by saying, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go" (Ex. 5:2). Thus began the challenge to show whose God was more powerful.

  1. The first plague, turning the Nile to blood:  was a judgment against Apis, the god of the Nile, Isis, goddess of the Nile, and Khnum, guardian of the Nile. The Nile was also believed to be the bloodstream of Osiris, who was reborn each year when the river flooded. The river, which formed the basis of daily life and the national economy, was devastated, as millions of fish died in the river and the water was unusable. Pharaoh was told, "By this you will know that I am the LORD" (Ex. 7:17).
  2. The second plague, bringing frogs from the Nile:  was a judgment against Heqet, the frog-headed goddess of birth. Frogs were thought to be sacred and not to be killed. God had the frogs invade every part of the homes of the Egyptians, and when the frogs died, their stinking bodies were heaped up in offensive piles all through the land (Ex. 8:13-14).
  3. The third plague, gnats:  was a judgment on Set, the god of the desert. Unlike the previous plagues, the magicians were unable to duplicate this one and declared to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God" (Ex. 8:19).
  4. The fourth plague, flies:  was a judgment on Uatchit, the fly god. In this plague, God clearly distinguished between the Israelites and the Egyptians, as no swarms of flies bothered the areas where the Israelites lived (Ex. 8:21-24).
  5. The fifth plague, the death of livestock:  was a judgment on the goddess Hathor and the god Apis, who were both depicted as cattle. As with the previous plague, God protected His people from the plague, while the cattle of the Egyptians died. God was steadily destroying the economy of Egypt, while showing His ability to protect and provide for those who obeyed Him. Pharaoh even sent investigators (Ex. 9:7) to find out if the Israelites were suffering along with the Egyptians, but the result was a hardening of his heart against the Israelites.
  6. The sixth plague, boils:  was a judgment against several gods over health and disease (Sekhmet, Sunu, and Isis). This time, the Bible says that the magicians "could not stand before Moses because of the boils." Clearly, these religious leaders were powerless against the God of Israel.
    Pharaoh Warned Again:  Before God sent the last three plagues, Pharaoh was given a special message from God. These plagues would be more severe than the others, and they were designed to convince Pharaoh and all the people "that there is none like me in all the earth" (Ex. 9:14). Pharaoh was even told that he was placed in his position by God, so that God could show His power and declare His name through all the earth (Ex. 9:16). As an example of His grace, God warned Pharaoh to gather whatever cattle and crops remained from the previous plagues and shelter them from the coming storm. Some of Pharaoh's servants heeded the warning (Ex. 9:20), while others did not.
  7. The seventh plague, hail: attacked Nut, the sky goddess; Osiris, the crop fertility god; and Set, the storm god. This hail was unlike any that had been seen before. It was accompanied by a fire which ran along the ground, and everything left out in the open was devastated by the hail and fire. Again, the children of Israel were miraculously protected, and no hail damaged anything in their lands.
  8. The eighth plague, locusts: Before God brought this plague, He told Moses that the Israelites would be able to tell their children of the things they had seen God do in Egypt and how it showed them God's power. The locusts, again focused on Nut, Osiris, and Set. The later crops, wheat and rye, which had survived the hail, were now devoured by the swarms of locusts. There would be no harvest in Egypt that year.
  9. The ninth plague, darkness:  was aimed at the sun god, Re, who was symbolized by Pharaoh himself. For three days, the land of Egypt was smothered with an unearthly darkness, but the homes of the Israelites had light.
  10. The tenth and last plague, the death of the firstborn males:  was a judgment on Isis, the protector of children. In this plague, God was teaching the Israelites a deep spiritual lesson that pointed to Christ. Unlike the other plagues, which the Israelites survived by virtue of their identity as God's people, this plague required an act of faith by them. God commanded each family to take an unblemished male lamb and kill it. The blood of the lamb was to be smeared on the top and sides of their doorways, and the lamb was to be roasted and eaten that night. Any family that did not follow God's instructions would suffer in the last plague. God described how He would send the destroyer through the land of Egypt, with orders to slay the firstborn male in every household, whether human or animal. The only protection was the blood of the lamb on the door. When the destroyer saw the blood, he would pass over that house and leave it untouched (Ex. 12:23). This is where the term Passover comes from. Passover is a memorial of that night in ancient Egypt when God delivered His people from bondage. First Corinthians 5:7 teaches that Jesus became our Passover when He died to deliver us from the bondage of sin. While the Israelites found God's protection in their homes, every other home in the land of Egypt experienced God's wrath as their loved ones died. This grievous event caused Pharaoh to finally release the Israelites.

Conclusion:  By the time the Israelites left Egypt, they had a clear picture of God's power, God's protection, and God's plan for them. For those who were willing to believe, they had convincing evidence that they served the true and living God. Sadly, many still failed to believe, which led to other trials and lessons by God. The result for the Egyptians and the other ancient people of the region was a dread of the God of Israel. Even after the tenth plague, Pharaoh once again hardened his heart and sent his chariots after the Israelites. When God opened a way through the Red Sea for the Israelites, then drowned all of Pharaoh's armies there, the power of Egypt was crushed, and the fear of God spread through the surrounding nations (Joshua 2:9-11). This was the very purpose that God had declared at the beginning. We can still look back on these events today to confirm our faith in, and our fear of, this true and living God, the Judge of all the earth.