The fact that Israel did not receive the previous plagues is grace. However, in the final plague, the judgment of the firstborn, there is no distinction between Egypt and Israel. The firstborn of Israel are as much subject to judgment as those of Egypt. Before we know what salvation is, we must first know what judgment is.
The institution of the Passover comes from God. The Passover is God’s starting point to
1. guide the people through the Red Sea,
2. lead it through the wilderness, and finally
3. bring it in the country.
1 - 2 A New Beginning
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 to you.
The LORD speaks as Judge. That He is both for Egypt and for His people. For His people He is also the Savior. He speaks about the Passover while the people are still in Egypt. The Passover is the only feast Israel has celebrated in Egypt.
It is the beginning of a new era. It is the beginning of God’s relationship with His people on the basis of salvation. Now the people can go to serve God. This is the first month of the religious calendar of Israel, the month Abib (Exo 13:4). Abib means ‘fresh, young ears’, for example from the barley. In the civil year it is the seventh month at that moment. This new calendar gives the Israelites a new identity as the beloved people of the true God.
3 - 5 A Lamb
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 their 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]; according to what each man 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.
Moses must speak to “all the congregation of Israel”, an expression that is being used here for the first time. It indicates the unity of God’s people. On the tenth day, the beginning of the three-day darkness, every family must take a lamb into their house. God’s redemption of His people as a whole is known and seen in the households.
The world does not see what the church does when it meets, but it does see what happens in the households of the believers. The lamb must have the central place in the household. For three days the whole family can observe the lamb. The significance of the household is highlighted in this chapter in a special way.
The lamb must be there for three days. On the fourteenth day it must be killed. The Lord Jesus, the true Passover (1Cor 5:7b), we also can observe during the three years of His walk on earth. We see this when we read the Gospels. Then we always have to remember that He is on his way to the cross to be slaughtered there. We can think of His death especially on Sunday when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
If a household is too small, it can take a lamb with its neighbors. The lamb is the standard. We must comply with the Lamb, not the other way around. Each household enjoys the Lord Jesus to different degrees. If there is much enjoyed, one can let others share in it.
The lamb may be taken from the sheep or from the goats. The sheep is usually used as a burnt offering, the goat as a sin offering. It has to be “unblemished”, there may be no defect on it. The Lord Jesus is the true burnt offering and the true sin offering. He is “a lamb unblemished and spotless” (1Pet 1:19). He is the One “who committed no sin” (1Pet 2:22), “who knew no sin” (2Cor 5:21), and of Whom is true: “In Him there is no sin” (1Jn 3:5). All this can only be said of Him. Therefore John the baptist could point at Him and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).
It must be a male lamb, a year old. This relates to the manly power with which the Lord Jesus completed the work on the cross. We also see in the word “a year old” an indication of tenderness, sweetness. So the Lord Jesus was as well. Will the children in a household not have observed the lamb like this?
6 - 11 The Procedure
6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill 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 burn with fire. 11 Now you shall eat it in this manner: [with] your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’S Passover.
After the lamb has been the center of the household for three full days, it must be killed on the fourteenth day (verse 6). This means that blood must flow. This indicates in picture that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22). It also shows that the life of the Lord Jesus does not bring salvation, but that only through His death reconciliation is possible (Rom 5:10). Although the Passover is killed in the individual houses, it is killed by all households at the same time, so it can be said that “the whole assembly of the congregation” kills it.
Then, for the first time in the Bible, there is spoken about the meaning of blood (verse 7). In Genesis we read about sacrifices, but not about blood. This blood must be put on the two doorposts and on the lintel. Not on the threshold, because that could work contempt for the blood, there could be trampled on.
How important it is to put the whole household behind the blood. Is it really more important for parents that their children hide behind the blood of the Lamb than that they have a good position in the world? Sometimes a shift can be observed. If a household no longer feeds on the Lamb, the darkness will slowly but surely return in the household.
The lamb should not only be observed and killed, it should also be eaten (verse 8). Eating the lamb roasted on the fire means that by faith we make Christ our property. It means that we spiritually feed ourselves with the Lord Jesus as the One Who has been in judgment (Jn 6:53-55). The unleavened loaves speak of His sinless life.
The bitter herbs remind us that it is our sins that have brought Him into the judgment, with which suffering and sorrow are connected (cf. Lam 3:15). This must be our food in the night in which the world is and in which we live.
The lamb has not been spared suffering (verse 9). We should not think that the Lord Jesus was not exposed to the full heat of judgment. God has not softened the judgment because He is His Son.
The head, the legs and the entrails of the lamb are a picture of the different aspects of the Lord Jesus in His suffering. The head speaks of the thoughts of the Lord Jesus during this judgment; the legs show the strength and perseverance with which He carried this judgment; the entrails remind us of the feelings He had during the judgment. In Psalms we read a lot about this.
Of the lamb nothing may be kept until the other day (verse 10). On the same day that it is killed, it should be eaten. The eating must always be done in connection with His death, with the judgment of sins. It shows the close connection between the sacrifice and the meal as a result of the sacrifice. When we think of our delivery, as it were, feeding ourselves with it, it never may be separate from the work that the Lord Jesus did on at Calvary.
We will never be able to fully absorb His work. There is enough left that we do not understand. God wants us to say that to Him, as it were offering that to Him as an offering by fire.
The Passover includes an attitude of being ready for immediate departure from Egypt (verse 11). To girdle the waist, or loins, means that the long clothes are put on and attached to the waist. In this way the legs are free to be able to walk fast. To girdle the waist indicates that there is no need to arrange things anymore and that one can start moving immediately at the right time.
Thus the Lord’s Supper reminds us each time of the coming of the Lord (1Cor 11:26). Is our live dominated by the Lord’s Supper? Are we therefore ready to leave the place over which the judgment comes? Whoever celebrates the Lord’s Supper should be ready for immediate departure out of the world when the Lord comes to pick us up. He has promised three times: “I will come soon! (Rev 22:7a,12a,20a). Is our answer: “Amen, come Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20b)?
It is the Passover for the LORD. Salvation is not primarily about the consequences for the people, however glorious those may be, but about Him Who has brought about this salvation and how He has done that. We see the same with the sacrament. It is the Lord’s Supper (1Cor 11:20). Every time we celebrate it, we proclaim the death of the Lord. It is about Him. He has asked both of the bread, of which He says “this is My body”, and of the wine, of which He says that it is the new covenant in His blood: “Do this to remembrance of Me” (1Cor 11:24-25).
12 - 14 The Reason for the Passover
12 For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; 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 befall you to destroy [you] when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it [as] a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it [as] a permanent ordinance.
God will personally judge Egypt. His supreme majesty over man and animal and all the gods of Egypt becomes visible. Resistance is foolish and useless. “I … the LORD” says it, who will resist then?
There is only one way to escape judgment: the blood. Once again, full attention is drawn to the blood. It is not so much the attention of man as the attention of God: “When I see the blood.” In the world and regrettably also in parts of Christianity one may disparage the blood, despicable even, but it is the only way to let God’s judgment pass you by.
Blood on the doorposts means: the judgment has already been here. Where the blood of Christ covers a man’s sins, God’s judgment passes that man by. This is also connected to the word Passover, because it means ‘to pass by’.
By the way, it is good that it is not our appreciation of the blood of Christ that decides our salvation, but the appreciation God has for it. The blood of Christ is of such a rich significance to God that He has determined it as the means of the redemption of His children (Eph 1:7; Rom 5:9).
The Passover is instituted by the LORD and is held as a feast for Him. It is His joy, together with His people, to think constantly, as “a permanent ordinance”, about what His Son, as the real Passover did on the cross. Forever we shall see the Lamb “standing, as if slain” (Rev 5:6a) and both to praise and worship Him for His work and God Who gave Him: “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, [be] blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped” (Rev 5:13-14).
15 - 20 The Feast of Unleavened Bread
15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and [another] holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 You shall also observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. 18 In the first [month], on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether [he is] an alien or a native of the land. 20 You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’”
Immediately after the Passover the order comes to celebrate the Feast of unleavened bread (cf. 1Cor 5:7b-8). The immediate connection between the two feasts is strongly expressed in Luke 22: “The Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover” (Lk 22:1). Here we see how the two parties are identified with each other.
The meaning is understandable. If we believe that Christ, our Passover, has been slain, then it is inevitable that our life will become a feast in which sin – of which the leaven is a picture – has no place. God doesn’t expect otherwise from us. He indeed may not expect otherwise from us when we realize that all our sins are judged in the death of Christ.
It is important to always look at our home and our lives in the light of Christ’s death. Every sin (leaven) that has crept in again becomes visible. We can confess that sin and clean up the leaven. If the leaven is not diluted, but eaten, the one who eats it must be put away from Israel, that is to say be killed. For the church, the instruction applies to someone who allows sin in his life and refuses to judge it: “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1Cor 5:13b).
The Feast of unleavened bread lasts seven days, from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of the month. The number seven symbolizes a fullness, a closed period. We can see that, for example, from a week that has seven days. When seven days have passed, a new week begins. Symbolically the number seven presents our whole lives. We would like to celebrate this feast because it results from our liberation from the slavery of sin. God’s intention is that our life should be a feast “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, without room for “old leaven” or “the leaven of malice and wickedness” (1Cor 5:8).
To this feast, which also has to do with what has to happen in the houses, are linked two holy meetings. There must be a meeting on the first day of the feast and a meeting on the seventh day of the feast. What happens in the houses is started by the whole and closed off by the whole. God wants His children in their families to be completely before Him and He wants them all together to be before Him as a people.
21 - 23 Order to Kill the Passover Lamb
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover [lamb]. 22 You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. 23 For the LORD will pass through to smite 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 come in to your houses to smite [you].
Moses orders to slay the Passover lamb. Its blood must be collected in a basin and applied to the doorposts and lintel with hyssop. Hyssop speaks of man’s smallness, his insignificance (1Kgs 4:33a). The value of the blood determines the person who applies it to the nullity of the sinner. Blood makes God great and man small.
The LORD goes through Egypt to smite it. Smiting the firstborn means smiting the whole country of Egypt. Until the Israelites leave, they are part of Egypt. They are also subject to judgment. The LORD will not allow the destroyer to enter a house with a door to which the blood has been applied.
24 - 28 The Passover as a Remembrance
24 And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped. 28 Then the sons of Israel went and did [so]; just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
As the Passover is celebrated in Egypt, it will never be celebrated again. However, the memory of that one-off event must always be kept alive in the future. That is why the members of the New Testament church meet every first day of the week to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
The children will ask about the meaning of the celebration of the Passover. In the answer given by the parents, gratitude and admiration can be heard. They can testify that the LORD passed by the houses of the Israelites, He spared their houses.
Our children see that we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. They ask us about the meaning of it. How do we answer their questions? Our answers can be completely correct in a doctrinal sense. However, the meaning will not come across if our answers do not resound admiration for God’s grace, if we do not testify with deep gratitude of what the Lord Jesus wanted to do for us on the cross.
29 - 30 Death of the Firstborn
29 Now it came about at midnight that the LORD 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 cattle. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.
The hour of judgment has come. It can take a long time, God is patient, but then there is no more delay. There is no house throughout Egypt where there is no dead one to mourn about. It is the final blow. God’s judgment is indiscriminately. It affects everyone from the highest to the lowest in society (Job 34:19-20).
31 - 36 The Israelites Are Given Freedom
31 Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the LORD, as you have said. 32 Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.” 33 The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, [with] their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders. 35 Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; 36 and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
Pharaoh does nothing more to hold the Israelites. On the contrary, he and his subjects want to get rid of them as quickly as possible. There is no question of any conversion. He now has more disadvantage from them than advantage. In his request for a blessing he acknowledges his superiors in Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron did not respond to this question, as they did respond to his request to pray for him. The Pharaoh is a finished case.
The time of liberation has arrived. The people are acting fast. They take the unleavened dough with them. In obedience to the word of Moses they ask of the Egyptians all kinds of things. The LORD works that it is given to them (cf. Pro 13:22b; Job 27:16-17). Obedience to the Word always brings blessing.
37 - 42 The Exodus Begins
37 Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. 39 They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. 40 Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It is a night to be observed for the LORD for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the LORD, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.
The people start from Rameses, the place that characterized their slavery (Exo 1:11) and travel to the first stop: Sukkoth (Num 33:5). Sukkoth means ‘huts’ and indicates, just like a tent, that the people are pilgrims.
With the people, also “a mixed multitude” goes up. They do not belong to the people of God, but they see some advantage in joining the people of God. They are guided not by faith, but by calculation. This “rabble” will later become a source of misery (Num 11:4). Every time a work of God happens, the enemy will try to infiltrate that work. By the inattentiveness of the local church, the enemy succeeds in introducing elements into the service that harm the true features of the church.
The first food they eat after leaving Egypt is unleavened cakes. That is a good start to the journey. They leave so hastily that the dough has not had a chance to do its job.
People who are radically converted from the world, often, without further reflection, immediately put away various things out of their lives, such as music, films and books with a sinful content. This direct action is important. The newly converted Ephesians also act in this way. Only after they have burned their wrong stuff do they calculate the value (Acts 19:19). If they had counted first, they might have regretted it and kept their magic books.
The LORD fulfills his word which he once spoke to Abraham. God’s mills grind slowly, but surely. After four hundred and thirty years (1876-1446 B.C.) of stay in Egypt, the night has arrived in which the people leave. It is a night that is to the glory of the LORD. The Passover feast should be celebrated as a reminder of that night.
The word “night” appears seven times in this chapter. It is reminiscent of the three hours of darkness in which the Lord Jesus was made sin and carried the sins of all who believe in Him. It is also “in the night when He was delivered up” (1Cor 11:23) that the Lord instituted His Supper.
43 - 49 Who May Eat the Passover
43 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; 44 but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. 45 A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. 46 It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. 47 All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. 48 But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. 49 The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.”
The supervision of who can eat from the Passover is a responsibility of the whole people. No one should eat it that has not sheltered behind the blood. The Passover is only for the members of God’s people. A member of the people is or becomes someone who is circumcised.
Circumcision represents the judgment of the flesh that Christ underwent on the cross (Col 2:11). Practically it means that everything of the old man must be put to death, so that what is of the sinful flesh has no chance to express itself. Those who have not been circumcised may not eat from it. He who allows sin to exist in his life, may not participate in the Lord’s Supper.
The Passover is eaten in one house. We can apply this to the church as a whole and as a house. The church is the house of God (1Tim 3:15). The Lord’s Supper is also a unity meal (1Cor 10:17). Its celebration expresses the unity of the church.
All in all, it becomes clear that only those can participate in this meal who, through conversion and faith, are part of the church of God and judge sin in their lives. The supervision of this is a responsibility of the entire local church.
In verse 46 we see additional proof that the Passover lamb refers to the Lord Jesus. The words “nor are you to break any bone of it” are quoted in John 19 in connection with Christ on the cross (Jn 19:36). In Him this precept is fulfilled.
50 - 51 The Israelites Brought out of Egypt
50 Then all the sons of Israel did [so]; they did just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that same day the LORD brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.
In the freshness of their freedom all the Israelites do what the LORD has told them through Moses and Aaron. No discord is heard.
The Passover is celebrated by families, but Egypt is left “to their hosts”. This indicates that a battleground is being entered.