Exodus 12


Unlike the other plagues, which the Israelites survived by 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 go through the land of Egypt, and 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 Lord saw the blood, He would pass over that house and leave it untouched according to Exodus 12:23.

This is where the term ‘Passover’ comes from, it is a memorial of that night in ancient Egypt when God delivered His people from bondage. 1 Corinthians 5:7 teaches us 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 extremely devastating and grievous event caused Pharaoh to finally release the Israelites.

The Passover And The Festival Of Unleavened Bread

‘The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ‘This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbour, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.’ Exodus 12:1-6

The coming deliverance from Egypt is such a significant act that God tells the children of Israel to remake their calendar, the new year will now start with the month of their redemption from Egypt.

On the tenth of this first month, each family, or household, is to take a lamb, and the lamb is to live with the family for the four days until Passover.

In this way, the lamb was to be part of the family, when it was sacrificed on the fourteenth it would be cherished, and mourned. God wanted the sacrifice of something precious. The rabbis later determined that there should be at least ten people for each Passover lamb, and not more than twenty.

The lamb was also to be without blemish, this sacrifice unto the Lord had to be as perfect as a lamb could be, Revelation 12:13. A lamb from the sheep or the goats may sound confusing, but the Hebrew word for lamb can refer to either a young sheep or a young goat.

Cole, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The Hebrew ‘she’ is quite a neutral word and should be translated as ‘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.

Instructions For Eating The Passover

‘Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.’ Exodus 12:7-11

Before the Passover lamb could be eaten its blood had to be applied to the doorway of the home, and the top, and upon each side the blood was applied, Hebrews 10:22.

The only part of this sacrifice given to God was the blood, the rest was eaten by each family or discarded. Then, the lamb could be eaten but only if it had been roasted, with the lamb itself coming into contact with the fire, and with bitter herbs accompanying the meal.

As our Passover sacrifice, Jesus had to come into direct contact with the ‘fire’ of the Father’s judgment on our behalf, and the bitterness of the cross is reflected in the bitter herbs. The Passover lamb had to be eaten completely, a family had to totally consume the sacrifice.

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. Faith was essential to the keeping of Passover, Hebrews 11:28.

The Protection Of The Blood

‘On that same night, I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.’ Exodus 12:12-13

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.

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. If an Egyptian home did believe in the power of the blood of the lamb, and they made a proper Passover sacrifice, they would be spared the judgment.

Additionally, an intellectual agreement with what God had said about the blood was not enough they actually had to do what God said should be done with the blood. The judgment on the firstborn was a powerful act of God because the firstborn was always thought to be favoured and privileged before God, if God judges the firstborn, then what of the rest of us?

The Institution Of Passover And Unleavened Bread As Feasts

‘This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance. For seven days, you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do. ‘Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month, you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days, no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.’ Exodus 12:14-20

Passover began on the tenth and on the fourteenth they ate the Passover, which is the first day of unleavened bread, then for the next seven days, they would eat only unleavened bread, Leviticus 23:4-8 / Numbers 28:16-25 / Deuteronomy 16:1-8.

For the first Passover, the unleavened bread was a practical necessity, they left Egypt in such a hurry there was no time to allow for the dough to rise.

Leaven was also a picture of sin and corruption because of the way a little leaven would influence a whole lump of dough, and also because of the way leaven would ‘puff up’, the lump, even as pride and sin make us ‘puffed up.’

Significantly, God called them to walk ‘unleavened’ after their initial deliverance from Egypt, symbolically, they were being called to a pure walk with the Lord.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following concerning the leaven.

‘Paul gave the spiritual application of it in 1 Corinthians 5:7, and Jesus mentioned it in Matthew 16:6-12. The only instance in which leaven might not have been intended to convey this meaning is that in the parable of the leaven hidden in three measures of meal, Matthew 13:33, and even there if the true meaning is the final and total corruption of God’s church by the forces of evil, it would still retain the unfavourable denotation. In our interpretation of that we found no way to accept the premise of the final corruption of the whole church, Matthew 16:18, and therefore construed a favourable meaning of leaven there.’

Some suggest there was also a health aspect in getting rid of all the leaven, that since they used a piece of dough from the previous batch to make the bread for that day, and did so repeatedly, harmful bacteria could take hold in the dough, so it was good to remove all leaven and start all over at least once a year.

‘Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.’ Exodus 12:21-23

The elders were expected to lead the way, Moses instructs them to observe the Passover, knowing the rest of the nation will follow. They are instructed to use a bunch of hyssop to apply the blood to the doorposts and lintel; hyssop was often used to apply blood for the cleansing of sin.

The ceremony for the cleansing of a leper used hyssop to apply blood hyssop was used to make the ashes of a red heifer for the water of purification and use the hyssop to apply the purification water. Leviticus 14:6 / Numbers 19:6 / Numbers 19:18.

Hyssop was even connected with Jesus’ great sacrifice for sin. John points out that when Jesus was offered sour wine to drink on the cross, the sponge soaked with it was put on a bunch of hyssop, John 19:29.

This is why David, in his great Psalm of repentance, says cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean, hyssop was always connected with purification through sacrifice, Psalm 51:7.

Again, the Lord was looking for blood, ‘when He sees the blood, the Lord will pass over’, this was the basis for sparing people from judgment. Salvation wasn’t accomplished with a prayer or a fasting or a good work, it was accomplished by a life given on behalf of others.

‘Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ Exodus 12:24-27

The deliverance of Passover Israel would shortly experience was not only for them, but for their children, and all generations to follow. Passover was the greatest work of redemption performed on the Old Testament side of the cross.

In the same way, Jesus, in giving the ‘new’ Passover, said that His work on the cross was not only for that generation, but should be remembered and applied to all generations, Luke 22.14-20.

In Passover, there was a two-fold work. He struck the Egyptians ‘an enemy was defeated’ and God delivered our households, ‘God’s people were set free and given a new identity, with new promises, a new walk, a new life all together’.

‘Then the people bowed down and worshiped. The Israelites did just what the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron.’ Exodus 12:27-28

As great as God’s deliverance was, it would be denied to the people unless they obeyed. How many Israelites took the judgment of the firstborn because they did not believe and obey? How many Egyptians were spared judgment because they did believe and obey?

Their obedience was connected with worship. So, the people bowed their heads and worshipped. Then the children of Israel went away and did so. Worship can help with our obedience because it gets things in the right place between us and God. He is the Creator, and we are creatures, and we humbly worship Him.

The Exodus

‘At midnight, the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.’ Exodus 12:29-30

Moses had been told Pharaoh would not let them go until he was forced to by God’s mighty works, and that this work would somehow touch the firstborn of Egypt, now, the situation is ending just as God said it would, Exodus 3:19-20 / Exodus 4:21-23.

This plague was directed against two significant gods. Osiris, the Egyptian god thought to be the giver of life, and against the supposed deity of Pharaoh himself, because his own household was touched, ‘the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne’.

An inscription was found in a shrine connected with the great Sphinx which recorded a solemn promise from the Egyptian gods that Thutmose IV would succeed his father, who was Amenhotep II, the pharaoh of the Exodus.

Why would there need to be a special promise from the gods that something so natural would happen, the eldest son takes his father’s place as Pharaoh?

Undoubtedly, because Thutmose IV was not his father’s firstborn son, that one had been struck dead at the first Passover. Therefore, they believed that the second born son needed special protection from the gods, and the inscription seeks to provide that.

In dealing with Pharaoh, God first had to inform his mind, then He had to break his will. Pharaoh’s problem wasn’t that there was insufficient intellectual evidence, his heart had to be broken and made soft towards God.

Now Pharaoh knows who the Lord God is, after asking the question when he and Moses first met, he knows that the Lord God is greater than all the Egyptian gods and greater than Pharaoh himself, who was thought to be a god, Exodus 5:2. Egypt and Pharaoh would not give God His firstborn, Israel, so God will take the firstborn of Egypt, Exodus 4.22-23.

Now, what was the point of all those plagues? Well basically to teach the Egyptians especially Pharaoh, that there is only one real God and teach His people that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the only God and was still their God.

And so 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. Pharaoh once again hardened his heart and sent his chariots after the Israelites.

‘During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.’ The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. ‘For otherwise,’ they said, ‘we will all die!’ So, the people took their dough before the yeast was added and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favourably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so, they plundered the Egyptians.’ Exodus 12:31-36

Pharaoh isn’t ‘letting’ Israel leave, now, he commands them! This is just what the Lord told Moses would happen, Exodus 11:1. The words, ‘bless me’ also show that now, Pharaoh knows who the Lord is, although he has only come to this knowledge through being broken.

The Egyptian people agreed also, to the extent that they essentially paid the Israelites to leave, therefore, the children of Israel left in a hurry, so quickly there was no time to let the bread rise, so they had to eat unleavened bread, as the Lord had commanded.

We can imagine that some of the Israelites did not follow God’s instruction to get all the leaven out, instead, they had to do what God had told them to do because God arranged the circumstances so that they couldn’t use leaven.

In the same way, sometimes God arranges circumstances to where obedience is simply made necessary, even if we didn’t choose it. For example, God may want a man to give up friends that bring a bad influence, and the friends leave him first!

‘The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. Many other people went up with them, and also large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. With the dough, the Israelites had brought from Egypt, they baked loaves of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.’ Exodus 12:37-39

Assembling at Succoth, about 600,000 men, besides children of women, makes for a total population of perhaps two million that left Egypt for the Promised Land.

A mixed multitude went up with them, not all of the 600,000 were Israelites, and many Egyptians and perhaps other foreigners went with them because the God of Israel has shown Himself more powerful that the gods of the Egyptians. Again, God made obedience a necessity in the case of the unleavened bread.

‘Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honour the LORD for the generations to come.’ Exodus 12:40-42

God intended this event to be as a memorial of His redemptive work for Israel; in this sense, this is the ‘Calvary’ of the Old Testament. The phrase out of Egypt is repeated 56 times in the Bible after this point. God always wanted them to remember His deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

Regulations For Passover

‘The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal: ‘No foreigner may eat it. Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it. ‘It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate it. ‘A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.’ Exodus 12:43-49

To share in the Passover, one had to make themselves part of the people of Israel, receiving the covenant of circumcision and taking Passover were all part of the same package. Passover was to be commemorated on a family level, it was to be celebrated by each household.

None of the bones of the Passover lamb were to be broken, even as none of Jesus’ bones were broken, Psalm 34:20 / John 19:31-36. All who were part of Israel had to commemorate the Passover redemption. Passover means much to us as Christians, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.

‘All the Israelites did just what the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the LORD brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.’ Exodus 12:50-51

When Israel left Egypt, it was a nation born in a day. It was as if the 430 years was the time in pregnancy when the baby grew large, and the plagues were the labour pains, now a nation was being born.

Coffman, in his commentary, makes the following concerning the Passover and the Christ.

‘There was no salvation for Israel except through the blood of the Passover. There is no salvation for any person apart from the blood of Christ. The great ordinances commemorating the two deliverances, namely, the Lord’s Supper, and the Jewish Passover, were both instituted and set up before the great events they were designed to commemorate.

There were of course marked differences between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper, but these resemblances are impressive. As we continue Exodus, we shall observe many other things that are typical of Jesus Christ and the Deliverance which he has brought to all people.’

Go To Exodus 13