Exodus 12

The Passover (12:1–30)

29–30 That very night, after Moses had given the Israelites their final instructions, the Lord struck down all the firstborn of Egypt. All the Egyptians from Pharaoh on down got up during the night, for there was not a house without someone dead (verse 30). But the firstborn of the Israelites were spared. And in obedience to the Lord’s instructions, starting the following year the Israelites began to celebrate annually their great redemption from Egypt (Numbers 9:1–5); and devout Jews continue to do so up to this present time.27

The Exodus (12:31–42)

31–32 The night of the Passover—when the firstborn of Egypt were killed and those of Israel were spared—marked the beginning of the “exodus,” the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. It is helpful to view the Exodus in a broad sense: it included not only Israel’s immediate deliverance from Egypt but also Israel’s journey to the “promised land.” It is not enough for us to simply leave a bad place; we must also arrive in a good place. Viewed in this way, the Exodus is the story of the Lord saving His people from slavery under Pharaoh and transporting them to a land of freedom and prosperity under God. This great redemption took well over forty years to accomplish and included numerous important events which are described in the remainder of the book of Exodus and in the next four books thereafter.

In summary, the Exodus gives us a broad picture of the marvelous working of our God. We see His work of judgment against Egypt; we see His work of GRACE in delivering the Israelites; we see His work of power in parting the Red Sea; we see His work of guidance as He leads His people through the desert; we see His work of provision as He feeds them in the wilderness. We also see Him fulfilling the many covenant promises He made to Abraham and his descendants. And finally, we see God coming to dwell in the tabernacle in the midst of His people. In all these ways, the Lord was truly the God of the Israelites, and they were His people.

Marvelous though the Exodus was, it was but a forerunner of the even more marvelous “exodus” or deliverance we believers have experienced in Christ. In the Old Testament, deliverance came through the blood of animals, and it was limited primarily to the Israelites and those non-Israelites who joined them. In the New Testament, deliverance comes through the blood of Christ, and it is available equally to all people everywhere. In the Old Testament, deliverance was mainly from physical bondage, it was temporary, and it opened the way to an earthly Canaan. In the New Testament, deliverance is from spiritual bondage, it is eternal, and it opens the way to a heavenly “Canaan”—ETERNAL LIFE with God in heaven.

So here in verses 30 and 31, we have the beginning of the Old Testament Exodus. In the middle of the night, horrified by the death all around him, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron—even though he had said he never wanted to see them again (Exodus 10:28). This time Pharaoh meant it when he said, “Leave my people, you and the Israelites.” Now he did fear the God of Moses, for he asked Moses to bless him (verse 32). He could no longer look for blessing from the gods of Egypt!

And so, as God had foretold (Exodus 11:1), Pharaoh agreed to everything Moses had asked for, and the Israelites made haste to leave Egypt.

33–36 The whole population of Egypt urged the Israelites to leave; they feared that soon the rest of them would begin dying like their firstborn (verse 33). As Moses had instructed, the Israelites asked their Egyptian neighbors for articles of value, and they were given them (see Exodus 11:1–3 and comment). It could be said that they plundered the Egyptians (verse 36), though not by force; the Egyptians willingly gave the Israelites all they asked for. It was but small compensation for four hundred years of oppression.

37–39 About 600,000 men28 left Egypt that night, not including women and children; the total number of Israelites would have been close to two million. Many other people—non-Israelites—went with them; some may have been God-fearing Egyptians (Exodus 9:20).

40–42 At the time the Lord’s divisions (Israel’s tribes and clans) left Egypt, the Israelites had been in Egypt exactly 430 years29 (verse 40). According to 1 Chronicles 7:22–27, there had been ten generations of Israelites during that time.30

Passover Restrictions (12:43–51)

43–51 Because of the non-Israelites (Gentiles) who accompanied the people of Israel, it was necessary to establish some regulations concerning who could take part in the Passover Feast. For a household to take part, all male members of that household had to be circumcised (verse 48). Thus CIRCUMCISION remained the chief physical qualification for membership in the covenant community of Israel(Genesis 17:10–14). GENTILES, aliens, foreigners, slaves—all could be members as long as they were circumcised. Thus it was not being a descendant of Abraham that counted; it was obedience and dedication to God—manifested in the willingness to be circumcised—that qualified one for membership in the covenant community.

In verse 46, the Lord says: “Do not break any of the bones (of the Passover lamb).” In John 19:36, the Apostle John applied these words to Jesus,31 who was the ultimate Passover lamb, sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). And when we partake of the Lord Jesus’ “Passover Feast,” the Lord’s Supper, we too must be “circumcised”—not in the flesh, but in the heart (see Romans 2:28–29; Colossians 2:11).

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