A Bible Lesson on Exodus 12:1-13, 21-33

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This passage is about the Passover.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:7, calls Christ our Passover Lamb.   This Scripture is about God saving His people Israel from death and delivering them from bondage in Egypt.  It prefigures God saving His people, the church, from eternal death and delivering them from bondage to sin, hell, and the grave.

Exo 12:1  The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,

The people are still in Egypt.  There have been 9 plagues, and their situation is not better, but worse than before Moses arrived with the Word of the LORD.  But lest there is fear that something has gone badly wrong, the LORD speaks.

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

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.

This is for the “congregation” or “community” of Israel.  This is the first time the word has been used to describe the nation.  God is making through what will happen here a special community from the family of Jacob.  He makes from His church by the blood of the Lamb of God a special congregation.

The LORD says “a lamb for a household.”  There is to be exact provision for the whole nation.  What is needed for its saving is laid out in precise terms.

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,

The animal was to be perfect.  Of course it was.  How would it make sense to do business with the God of the universe on the basis of anything less than the very best one has?  Christ, our Passover Lamb is in all points completely perfect.

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.

Notice the exactitude of the instructions.  This is not to be some last minute hurry-up half-baked deal.  There are 4 days of preparation here and a narrow window of time for the sacrifice of the animal.  The ESV says the lamb is to die “at twilight.”  Apparently other renderings provide different timing and some commentators put this at 3PM, the time of day at which Christ died.

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 blood of the lamb was to mark the top and sides of the doors of obedient Israel.  God has already distinguished between Egyptians and Israelites in the execution of the plagues without any special identification of Israelite houses.  He could have done so again.  But obedience to this strange-sounding command was to be part of the saving of His people.  By it they were to show that whether or not things seemed to be going well, they were going to continue to take Him at His word.

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

This is no feast or party.  This is serious business.  The bread is to be crackers and the vegetables are to be bitter. It’s to be eaten inside the house at the appointed time, all of it.

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.

There is to be nothing left.  None of the lamb is for ordinary use.  This is a sacred event and the meal is a sacred meal.

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.

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.

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.

There will be a death in every household.  In the Egyptian households, it will be a firstborn son.  In the Israelite households, it will be a lamb who substitutes for the firstborn.  The Lamb of God substitutes for God’s people.

The blood will be a sign.  It will point to the truth that God’s people have accepted the substitution of the lamb, that they have taken His provision, that they have gratefully obeyed.  And He will spare them on that basis.  There will be safety in the homes marked by the blood.  Outside them there will be horrible misery.

21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.

22 Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning.

Again, none of them are to go out of the door.  There will be safety only in the very specific provision of God.  Innovate, do it your own way, follow Adam and Eve … and there is death.

23 For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.

The LORD will “see” the blood in the sense of recognizing and honoring what it signifies and will have mercy on that household.  There is in this description a real sense of solidarity/community.  The blood protects families and neighbors.  It’s not applied to the foreheads of individuals, it’s put on doorposts.  Of course God deals with individuals, but He typically does so in the context of His redeemed people.  The reformed folks have something here that is missed by modern overly-individualistic evangelicals.  The same lamb is for the whole household.  They share the same Passover together.

24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever.

This experience is not something that God’s redeemed people are to ever “get past.”  It’s absolutely central, forever.  They are to yearly eat the Passover meal.  The foreshadowing of the Lord’s supper couldn’t be more clear.  In time and space, a Lamb has been killed as a substitute for God’s chosen people.  For those who accept that provision, there is life.  For those who step outside it, there is death.  That is to be remembered and illustrated forever.  It is the very definition of those who are (and who are not) His.

25 And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service.

26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’

27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.'” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.

Moderns are dead wrong in their disdain of Christian ceremony.  Right ceremony is teaching.  It provides the opportunity to pass on to the next generation the essentials of what is central, what is eternally and fundamentally true.  And the central truth is that a Lamb has been slain for the life of God’s people.  AND THE PEOPLE BOWED THEIR HEADS AND WORSHIPPED.  Amen.

At least for this moment, this people understands the great mercy of God and gives humble thanks.  And having heard the Word of God and given thanks, they follow through in grateful obedience … before the thing actually comes to pass.

28 Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

29 At midnight the LORD struck down 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 the livestock.

God is no respecter of persons.  Perhaps by human standards, the guilt/responsibility of Pharaoh was greater than that of the peasant in the dungeon.  But circumstances never acquit us before God.  Either the Lamb substitutes for us or we are condemned … from the highest hall of power to the most downtrodden human situation.

30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.

31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said.

32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”

33 The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.”

Finally at this point Pharaoh and the Egyptians understand that they are dealing with the I AM.  This is not between them and their slaves, this is between them and God, and their situation is dangerous.  They understand that they cannot be in the presence of the I AM unprotected or they will all be dead.  They don’t have the sense to seek His mercy, and instead just ask His people to please get quickly out of town (and take their God with them!).

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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