Exodus 12 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Exodus 12
Pulpit Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
Verse 1. - The Lord spake. - According to the Biblical record, neither Moses nor Aaron introduced any legislation of their own, either at this time or later. The whole system, religious, political, and ecclesiastical, was received by Divine Revelation, commanded by God, and merely established by the agency of the two brothers. In the land of Egypt. The introduction of these words seems to show that we have here a separate document on the subject of the Passover, written independently of what has preceded, some time after the exodus, and placed here without alteration, when Moses gathered together his various writings into a single work.
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
Verse 2 - This month shall be unto you the beginning of months. The Israelite year would seem to have hitherto commenced with the autumnal equinox (Exodus 23:16), or at any rate with the month Tisri (or Ethanim), which corresponded to our October. Henceforth two reckonings were employed, one for sacred, the other for civil purposes, the first month of each year, sacred or civil, being the seventh month of the other. Abib, "the month of ears" - our April, nearly - became now the first month of the ecclesiastical year, while Tisri became its seventh or sabbatical month. It is remarkable that neither the Egyptians nor the Babylonians agreed with the original Israelite practice, the Egyptians commencing their year with Thoth, or July; and the Babylonians and Assyrians theirs with Nisannu, or April.
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 an house:
Verse 3. - Speak ye unto all the congregation. Under the existing circumstances Moses could only venture to summon the elders of Israel to a meeting. He necessarily left it to them to signify his wishes to the people. (See ver. 21.) A lamb. The Hebrew word is one of much wider meaning than our "lamb." It is applicable to both sheep and goats, and to either animal without limit of age, In the present case the age was fixed at a year by subsequent enactment (ver. 5); but the offerer was left free with respect to the species. It is curious that, such being the case, the lamb alone should, so far as appears, ever have been offered. According to the house of their fathers. Literally, "for a father's house," i.e. for a family.
And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour 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.
Verse 4. - If the household be too little for the lamb - i.e., "too few to consume it at a sitting." Usage in course of time fixed the minimum number at ten. (Joseph. Bell. Jud. 6:9, § 3.) The whole family, men, women and children participated. The lamb was generally slain between the ninth hour (3 p.m.) and the eleventh (5 p.m.). Let him and his neighbour take it according to the number of the souls. If there were a household of only five, which could not possibly consume the lamb, any large neighbouring family was to send five or six of its number, to make up the deficiency. Every man according to his eating, etc. It is difficult to see what sense our translators intended. The real direction is that, in providing a proper number of guests, consideration should be had of the amount which they would be likely to eat. Children and the very aged were not to be reckoned as if they were men in the vigour of life. Translate - "Each man according to his eating shall ye count towards the lamb."
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
Verse 5. Your lamb shall be without blemish. Natural piety would teach that "the blind, the lame, and the sick" should not be selected for sacrifice (Malachi 1:8). The Law afterwards expressly forbade any blemished animals - "blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed" - to be offered for any of the stated sacrifices, though they might be given as free-will offerings (Leviticus 22:20-25). The absence of blemish was especially important in a victim which was to typify One "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." A male. As standing in place of and redeeming the first-born of the males in each family. Of the first year. Perhaps as then more approaching to the ideal of perfect innocence. The requirement was not a usual one. Or from the goats. Theodoret says the proviso was made for the relief of the poorer class of persons; but practically it seems not to have taken effect. When people were poor, their richer neighbours supplied them with lambs (Kalisch).
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.
Verse 6. - Ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day. The interval of four days (see ver. 3) was probably intended to give ample time for the thorough inspection of the lamb, and for obtaining another, if any defect was discovered. The precept is not observed by the modern Jews; and the later Targum (which belongs to the sixth century after Christ) teaches that it was only intended to apply to the first institution; but the text of Exodus is wholly against this. The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it. One of the main peculiarities of the Paschal sacrifice was this - that the head of each family was entitled - in the early times was required to offer the sacrifice for himself. In it no one intervened between the individual and God. Thus it was recognised that the whole nation was a nation of priests, as are Christians also, according to St. John (Revelation 1:6) and St. Peter (1 Peter 2:5). The intervention of Levites at a late date (2 Chronicles 30:17; 2 Chronicles 35:5, etc.) was contrary to the original institution. In the evening. Literally, "between the two evenings." This phrase has been explained in two ways. Some regard the first evening as commencing when the sun begins visibly to decline from the zenith, i.e. about two or three o'clock; and the second as following the sunset. Others say, that the sunset introduces the first evening, and that the second begins when the twilight ends, which they consider to have been "an hour and twenty minutes later" (Ebn Ezra, quoted by Kalisch). The use of the phrase in ch. 16:12, and the command in Deuteronomy 16:6 - "Thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun," seem to be decisive in favour of the second explanation. The first arose out of the later practice. When the lambs were sacrificed in the temple by a continual succession of offerers, it became impossible to complete the sacrifices in the short time originally allowed. Of necessity the work of killing the victims was commenced pretty early in the afternoon, and continued till after sunset. The interpretation of the direction was then altered, to bring it into accord with the altered practice.
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.
Verse 7. - They shall take of the blood. The blood, which, according to Hebrew ideas, "is the life," and so the very essence of the sacrifice, was always regarded as the special symbol of that expiation and atonement, with a view to which sacrifice was instituted. As by the Paschal sacrifice atonement was made for the house, which was therefore to escape unscathed, the sign of atonement was to be conspicuously placed upon it. And strike. The "striking" was to be by means of a bunch of hyssop dipped in the blood (ver. 22). The selection of the doorway as the part of the house to receive the stains of blood is probably to be connected with the idea that the secondary agency producing death, whatever it was, would enter by the door - and if the door showed the house to have been atoned for, would not enter. The upper door-past. The word used is elsewhere translated "lintel" (Exodus 12:22, 23); but it seems properly to mean the latticed window which was commonly placed over a doorway in Egyptian houses, and which is often represented in the facades of tombs. (See Lepsius, Denkmaler, pt. 2. pls. 16,17, 147, etc.) It is derived from a root signifying "to look out."
And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
Verse 8. - Roast with fire. The meat of sacrificial meals was commonly boiled by the Hebrews (1 Samuel 2:14, 15). The command to roast the Paschal lamb is accounted for:

1. By its being a simpler and quicker process than boiling;

2. By a special sanctity being regarded as attaching to fire;

3. By the difficulty of cooking the animal whole unless it were roasted. Justin Martyr's statement that for roasting two wooden spits were required, placed at right angles the one to the other, and thus extending the victim on a cross, will seem to many a better ground for the direction than any of these. And unleavened bread. See below, ver. 18. With bitter herbs. Literally, "with bitternesses." That herbs, or vegetables of some kind, are intended, there is no reasonable doubt. The Mishna enumerates endive, chicory, wild lettuce, and nettles among the herbs that might be eaten. It is a strange notion of Kurtz's, that the bitter herbs were a condiment, and "communicated a more agreeable flavour to the food." Undoubtedly they were a disagreeable accompaniment, and represented at once the bitterness of the Egyptian bondage (Exodus 1:14) and the need of self-denial, if we would feed on Christ.
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.
Verse 9. - Eat not of it raw. The injunction appears to moderns superfluous; but an ὠμοφαγία, or eating of the raw flesh of victims sacrificed, seems to have been practised by several heathen nations in ancient times, more especially in the worship of Dionysus or Bacchus. Its head with its legs. The lamb was to be roasted whole - according to some, as a symbol of the unity of Israel, and especially of the political unit which they were to become so soon as they quitted Egypt; but, as we learn from St. John (John 19:36), still more to prefigure the unbroken body of Him whom the lamb especially represented, the true propitiation and atonement and deliverer of His people from the destroyer, our Lord Jesus Christ. The purtenance thereof. Rather, "the intestines thereof." The Jewish commentators say that the intestines were first taken out, washed, and cleansed, after which they were replaced, and the lamb roasted in a sort of oven.
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.
Verse 10. - Ye shall let nothing of it remain till the morning. The whole of the flesh was to be consumed by the guests, and at one sitting, lest there should be any even accidental profanation of the food by man or animal, if part were put away.. The English Church, acting on the same principle of careful reverence, declines to allow any reservation of the Eucharistic elements, requiring the whole of the consecrated bread and wine to be consumed by the Priest and communicants in the Church immediately after the service. That which remaineth - i.e., the bones, and any small fragments of the flesh necessarily adhering to them. Ye shall burn with fire. Thus only could its complete disappearance, and seeming annihilation be secured. It does not appear that this burning was viewed as a sacrificial act.
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.
Verse 11. - With your loins girded, etc. Completely prepared, i.e., to start on your journey - with the loose wrapper (beged), ordinarily worn, collected together and fastened by a girdle about the waist; with sandals on the feet, which were not commonly worn in houses; and with walking-sticks in the hand. There were some Jews who regarded these directions as of perpetual obligation; but the general view was that they applied to the first occasion only, when alone they would have answered any useful purpose. You shall eat it in haste. As not knowing at what moment you may be summoned to start on your journey, and as having to see to the burning of the bones after the flesh was eaten, which would take some time. It is the Lord's Passover. Very emphatic words! "This is no common meal," they seem to say, "it is not even an ordinary sacrificial repast. The lamb is Jehovah's. It is his pass-sign - the mark of his protection, the precious means of your preservation from death. As such view it; and though ye eat it in haste, eat it with reverence."
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.
Verse 12. - For I will pass through, etc. God now proceeds to give the reason for the institution of the new ceremony, and to explain the new term pesach. "I have commanded this rite," He says, "because I am about to go through the whole land of Egypt as a destroyer, executing judgment; I am about to smite and kill every one of the firstborn both of man and beast. I shall enter into every house, and slay the first-born in it, unless I see upon the house the token of the blood of the lamb. In that ease I shall pass over the house, and you will escape the plague." It would clear the sense if the opening words of verse 12 were translated - "For I shall go through," instead of "pass through." The word translated "pass through" has no connection at all with that rendered "pass over." Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. These words are exegetical of the word "beast," which immediately precedes. Animal worship was an important part of the religion of the Egyptians. At four great cities, Memphis, Heliopolis, Hermonthis, a sort of suburb of Thebes, and Momemphis in the Western Delta, animals were maintained, which were viewed as actual incarnations of deity - the Apis Bull at Memphis, a bull called Mnevis at Heliopolis, one termed Bacis or Pacts at Hermonthis, and at Momemphis a White Cow. If any of these were at the time animals that had "opened the womb," death must have fallen upon them. Thus would judgment have been executed, literally, upon Egyptian "gods." But, besides these, the whole country was filled with sacred animals, regarded as emblematic of certain particular deities, and as belonging to them. Sheep were sacred to Kneph, goats to Khem, cows to Athor, cats to Pasht, dogs and jackals to Anubis, lions to Horus, crocodiles to Set and Sabak, hippopotami to Taouris, cynocephalous apes to Thoth, frogs to Heka. A sudden mortality among the sacred animals would be felt by the Egyptians as a blow struck against the gods to whom they belonged, and as a judgment upon them. It is scarcely necessary to understand literally the expression "all the gods," and to defend it by the assertion that "not a single deity of Egypt but was represented by some beast." Such an assertion cannot be proved; and is probably not correct. It has often been remarked, and is generally allowed, that Scripture uses universal expressions, where most, or even many, of a class are meant. I am the Lord. Rather as in Exodus 6:8, "Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment, I, Jehovah."
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.
Verse 13. - The blood shall be to you for a token, etc. The blood was not to be a token to the Israelites, but to God for them. Translate- "and the blood shall be as a token for you upon the houses that you are there." It shall distinguish the houses in which you dwell from the others. I will pass over you. This is the emphatic clause. God would pass by, or over the house on which the blood was, spare it, slay none of its inmates; and from this action of His, the lamb itself, and the feast whereof it was the principal part, were to be termed "the Passover." It has been proposed to connect the Hebrew pesach with the Egyptian pesh, "to stretch, or extend (protection)"; but the name "Tiphsach," borne by the place of passage over the Euphrates (1 Kings 4:24), would seem to indicate that "crossing," or "passing over" is the primary meaning of the root.
And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
Verses 14-20. - Hitherto the directions given have had reference, primarily and mainly, if not wholly, to the first celebration of the Passover on the night preceding the Exodus. Now, it is announced,

(1) That the observance is to be an annual one; and

(2) That it is to he accompanied with certain additional features in the future. These are

(a) the eating of unleavened bread for seven days after the killing of the Passover;

(b) the putting away of leaven out of the houses;

(c)the holding of meetings for worship on the first day and the last; and

(d) the observance on these days of a sabbatical rest. Verse 14. - This day shall be to you for a memorial. Annual festivals, in commemoration of events believed to have happened, were common in the religion of Egypt, and probably not wholly strange to the religious ideas of the Hebrews. (See the "Introduction" to this chapter.) They were now required to make the 14th of Abib such a day, and to observe it continually year after year "throughout their generations." There is commendable faithfulness in the obedience still rendered to the command at the present day; and it must be confessed that the strong expression - throughout your generations and as an ordinance for ever - excuse to a great extent the reluctance of the Jews to accept Christianity. They have already, however, considerably varied from the terms of the original appointment. May they not one day see that the Passover will still be truly kept by participation in the Easter eucharist, wherein Christians feed upon "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" - the antitype, of which the Paschal lamb was the type - the true sustenance of souls - the centre and source of all real unity - the one "perfect and sufficient sacrifice, and oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world"? The Church requires an Easter communion of all her members, proclaims that on that day, Christ our passover being slain, we are to keep the feast; and thus, so far as in her lies, maintains the festival as "an ordinance for ever," to be observed through all her generations.
Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
Verse 15. - Seven days. There is no indication that the week of seven days was admitted by the ancient Egyptians, or even known to them. Apparently, the nation which first adopted it was that of the Babylonians. Abraham may have brought it with him from "Ur of the Chaldees;" and from him it may have passed to Jacob, and so to Moses. That the week was known in the family of Abraham before the giving of the law, appears from Genesis 29:27, 28. Unleavened bread is typical of purity of heart, leaven being an emblem of corruption (Matthew 16:6-12; 1 Corinthians 5:7). "Leaven," says Plutarch, "comes from corruption, and corrupts the dough with which it is mixed; and every fermentation seems to be a putrefaction." The primary command to celebrate the first passover with unleavened instead of leavened bread (ver. 8), must be attributed wholly to this symbolism. But the permanent institution of a "feast of unleavened bread," to last a week, had a double bearing. Partly, it was designed to deepen and intensify the conviction that corruption and impurity disqualify for religions service; but it was also partly intended as a commemoration of the fact, that in their hasty flight from Egypt the bread which they took with them was unleavened (ver. 340, and that they were forced to subsist on this for several days. (Compare the double meaning of the "bitter herbs, noticed in the comment on verse 8, ad fin.) The requirement to "put away leaven out of their houses" is probably intended to teach, that for family worship to he acceptable, the entire household must be pure, and that to effect this result the head of the household must, so far as he can, eject the leaven of sin from his establishment. Whosoever eateth... shall be out off from Israel. Expelled, i.e, from the congregation, or excommunicated. If a man wilfully transgresses any plain precept of God, even though it be a positive one, he should he severed from the Church, until he confess his fault, and repent, and do penance for it. Such was the ', godly discipline" of the primitive Church; and it were well if the Churches of these modern times had more of it.
And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
Verse 16. - On the first day there shall be an holy convocation. After the Paschal meal on the evening of the 14th of Abib, there was to be a solemn assembly of the people on the next day for religions worship. The name "convocation;" applied to these gatherings, seems to show that originally the people were summoned to such meetings, as they still are by the muezzin from the minarets of mosques in Mahommedan countries, and by bells from the steeples of churches in Christian ones. And on the seventh day. On the 22nd of Abib - the seventh day after the first holy convocation on the 15th (see Leviticus 23:4-8). Only two of the Jewish festivals were of this duration - the feast of unleavened bread, and the feast of tabernacles (ib. 39-42). The Christian Church has adopted the usage for Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Whitsuntide, where the last day of the week is known technically as "the octave." No manner of work shall be done in them. Festival-days were in all countries days of abstention from the ordinary business of life, which could not conveniently be carried on conjointly with attendance at the services, meetings, processions, etc., wherein the festival consisted. But absolute cessation from all work was nowhere strictly commanded except among the Hebrews, where it appears to have been connected with the belief in God's absolute rest after the six days of creation. The command here given was solemnly repeated in the law (Leviticus 23:6 8).
And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
Verse 17. - In this self-same day. The 15th of Abib - the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. Have I brought your hosts out. This expression seems to prove that we have in the injunctions of verses 14-20, not the exact words of the revelation on the subject made by God to Moses before the institution of the Passover, but a re-casting of the words after the exodus had taken place. Otherwise, the expression must have been, "I will bring your hosts out." As an ordinance for ever. Easter eve, the day on which Satan was despoiled by the preaching of Jesus to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19), and on which the Church first realises its deliverance from the bondage of sin by the Atonement of Good Friday, is the Christian continuance of the first day of unleavened bread, and so answers to this text, as Good Friday to the similar command in ver. 14.
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
Verse 18. - In the first month. The word "month" seems to have accidentally dropt out of the Hebrew text. In the evening. The Hebrew day commenced with the evening (Genesis 1:5); but the evening here intended is that at the close of the 14th of Abib, which began the 15th. Similarly, the evening of the 21st is here that which commenced the 22nd.
Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
Verse 19. - This is not a mere "vain repetition" of verse 15. It adds an important extension of the punitive clause - "that soul shall be cut off from Israel" - from Israelites proper to proselytes. We are thus reminded, at the very time when Israel is about to become a nation and to enter upon its inheritance of exclusive privileges, that no exclusion of the Gentiles by reason of race or descent was ever contemplated by God, either at the giving of the law, or at any other time. In Abraham all the families of them were to be blessed (Genesis 12:3). It was always open to any Gentiles to join themselves to Israel by becoming "proselytes of justice," adopting circumcision and the general observance of the law, and joining the Israelite community. The whole law is full of references to persons of this class (Exodus 20:10; Exodus 23:12; Leviticus 16:29; Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 18:26; Leviticus 20:2; Leviticus 24:16; Numbers 35:15; Deuteronomy 5:14; Deuteronomy 16:11-14; Deuteronomy 24:17, 19; Deuteronomy 27:19; Deuteronomy 29:11, etc.). It must have been largely recruited in the times immediately following the exodus from the "mixed multitude" which accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38), and from the Kenites who joined them in the wilderness (Numbers 10:29-31; Judges 1:16). Born in the land - i.e., an Israelite by birth - "the land" is, no doubt, Canaan, which is regarded as the true "Land of Israel" from the time when it was assigned by God to the posterity of Abraham (Genesis 15:18).
Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.
Verse 20. - Here again there is no repetition, but an extension. "Ye shall eat nothing leavened," not only no leavened bread (ver. 15), but no leavened cake of any kind. And "in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread," i.e., wherever ye dwell, whether in Egypt, or in the wilderness, or in Palestine, or in Babylonia, or in Media, this law shall be observed. So the Jews observe it everywhere to this day, though they no longer sacrifice the Paschal lamb.

CHAPTER 12:21-28
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
Verse 21-28. - THE FIRST PASSOVER. Having received the Divine directions as to the new rite, if not with all the fulness ultimately given them, yet with sufficient fulness for the immediate purpose, Moses proceeded to communicate the Divine Will to the people under his protection. Having already aroused the jealousy and hatred of Pharaoh, he could not summon a general assembly of the people, but he ventured to call a meeting of the elders, or heads of principal families, and through them communicated the orders which he had received to the entire nation. We find, in the directions which he gave, two small points which are not comprised in the record of God's words to him.

1. The designation of the "hyssop," as the instrument, by which the blood was to be placed on the side-posts and lintel (ver. 22); and,

2. The injunction not to quit the house "until the morning." These points may have been contained in the original directions, though omitted from the record for brevity; or they may have been added by Moses of his own authority. On the other hand, several very main points of the original directions are not repeated in the injunctions given to the elders, though there can be no doubt that they were communicated. Verse 21. - Draw out - i.e., "Withdraw from the flock." (See ver. 3.) A lamb. The word used is generic, and would not exclude the offering of a goat.
And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
Verse 22. - A bunch of hyssop. The hyssop was regarded as having purging or purifying qualities, and was used in the cleansing of the leper (Leviticus 14:4), and of the leprous house (ibid. 51-52), and also formed an element in the "water of separation" (Numbers 19:6). It was a species of plant which grew on walls, and was generally low and insignificant (1 Kings 4:33), yet which could furnish a stick or stalk of some length (John 19:29). It must also have been a common plant in Egypt, the wilderness, and Palestine. Two suggestions are made with respect to it. One, that it was a species of marjoram (Origanum Aegyptiacum, or O. Syriacum) common in both Egypt and Syria; the other that it was the caper plant (Capparis spinosa), which abounds especially in the Desert. (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 21.) It is in favour of this latter identification, that the modern Arabic name for the caper plant is asaf or asuf, which excellently represents the Hebrew ezob, the word uniformly rendered in our version by "hyssop" The blood that is in the basin. The Septuagint and Vulgate render - "that is on the threshold." Saph - the word translated "basin" has the double meaning. None of you shall go out. Moses may well have given this advice on his own authority, without any Divine command. (See introductory paragraph.) He would feel that beyond the protection of the blood of the lamb, there was no assurance of safety.
For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
Verse 23. - Compare verses 12, 13 which are closely followed. The only important difference is, the new expression, "The Lord will not suffer the destroyer to come in," which has generally been regarded as implying, that the actual agent in the killing of the first-born was a "destroying angel." But it is to be noted that elsewhere Jehovah himself is everywhere spoken of as the sole agent; and that in the present passage the word used has the meaning of "destruction" no less than that of "destroyer." Bishop Lowth's idea of an opposition between God and the destroying angel (Comment on Isaiah 31:5) is scarcely tenable.
And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.
Verse 24. To thee and to thy children. The change from the plural to the singular is curious, Perhaps, we are to understand that Moses insisted on the perpetuity of the ordinance to each of the elders severally.
And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
Verse 25. - The land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised. See above, Exodus 3:8-17; Exodus 6:4; and compare Genesis 17:8; Genesis 28:4, etc.
And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
Verse 26. - When your children shall say unto you, what mean ye by this service. Apparently, Moses adds these injunctions by his own sole authority. He assumes that curiosity will be aroused by the strange and peculiar features of the Paschal ceremony, and that each generation in succession will wish to know its meaning and origin.
That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
Verse 27. - It is the sacrifice. It has been denied that the Paschal lamb was, in the true sense of the word, a sacrifice (Carpzov and others). But this passage alone is decisive on the question, and proves that it was. Moreover, it was offered in the holy place (Deuteronomy 16:5, 6 ); the blood of it was sprinkled upon the altar, and the fat was burnt (2 Chronicles 30:16; 2 Chronicles 35:11). Compare also Exodus 23:18; Numbers 9:7; Deuteronomy 16:2. The people bowed the head and worshipped. Rather, "and made obeisance." Compare Exodus 4:31. By "the people" seems to be meant "the elders of the people." (See ver. 21.)
And the children of Israel went away, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
Verse 28. - So did they. The long series of miracles wrought by Moses and Aaron had so impressed the people, that they yielded an undoubting and ready obedience.

CHAPTER 12:29, 30
And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
Verses 29, 30. - THE TENTH PLAGUE. At last the time had come for the dealing of the final blow. Nine plagues had been sent, nine inflictions endured, and no serious effect had been produced. Once or twice Pharaoh had wavered, had made profession of submitting himself, had even acknowledged his sin. But each time he had relapsed into obstinacy. Now at length the fiat had gone forth for that last plague which had been announced the first (Exodus 4:23). Pharaoh's own son, his firstborn, the heir to his throne, was smitten with death, in common with all the other male Egyptians who had "opened the womb." What the effect on the king would have been, had he alone suffered, we cannot certainly say. As it was, the whole population of the country, nobles, tradesmen, peasants, suffered with him; and the feeling aroused was so intense that the popular movement left him no choice. The Egyptians everywhere "rose up in the night" (ver. 30), and raised "a great cry," and insisted that the Israelites should depart at once (ver. 33). Each man feared for himself, and felt his life insecure, so long as a single Israelite remained in the land. Verse 29. - At midnight. As prophesied by Moses (Exodus 11:4). The day had not been fixed, and this uncertainty must have added to the horror of the situation. The first-born of Pharaoh. We have no proof that the eldest son of Menephthah died before his father, unless we take this passage as proving it. He left a son, called Seti-Menephthah, or Seti II, who either succeeded him, or reigned after a short interval, during which the throne was held by Ammonmes, a usurper. The first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon. This phrase takes the place of another expression, viz. "the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill" (Exodus 11:5). In both cases, the general meaning is, "all, from the highest to the lowest." This is perhaps the whole that is in the writer's thought; but it is also true that captives in dungeons were in some cases employed in turning hand-mills (Judges 16:21). And all the first-born of cattle. Rather, "of beasts." There is no limitation of the plague to domesticated animals.
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 there was not one dead.
Verse 30. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, and all his servants. This general disturbance differentiates the present visitations from that which came upon the host of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35). Then, the calamity came with such silence and secrecy, that the deaths were not suspected until men rose to go about their various tasks in the morning Now, every household seems to have been aroused from its sleep in the night. We must suppose sharp and painful illness, terminating after a few hours in death. The disaster itself may have been one from which Egypt often suffers in the spring of the year (Kalisch); but its attacking all the firstborn and no others, and no Israelites, as well as its announcement, plainly showed it to be miraculous. There was a great cry. See the comment on Exodus 11:6. For there was not a house where there was not one dead. This is perhaps a slight hyperbole. There would be many families in which there was no son; and some houses might contain no male who had opened the womb. It is always to be borne in mind, that the language of Scripture - especially where exciting and tragical events are narrated - is poetical, or at the least highly rhetorical.

CHAPTER 12:31-36
And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.
Verses 31-36. - THE DISMISSAL The first action seems to have been taken by Pharaoh. The "cry" of the people had no doubt been heard in the palace, and he was aware that the blow had not fallen on himself alone, and may have anticipated what the people's feelings would be; but he did not wait for any direct pressure to be put upon him before yielding. He sent his chief officers (Exodus 11:8) while it was still night (Exodus 12:31), to inform Moses and Aaron, not only that they might, but that they must take their departure immediately, with all the people, and added that they might take with them their flocks and herds. The surrender was thus complete; and it was accompanied by a request which we should scarcely have expected. Pharaoh craved at the hands of the two brothers a blessing! We are not told how his request was received; but that it should have been made is a striking indication of how his pride was humbled. The overture from Pharaoh was followed rapidly by a popular movement, which was universal and irresistible. The Egyptians "rose up" everywhere, and "were urgent upon the people," to "send them out of the land in haste" (ver. 33); and to expedite their departure readily supplied them at their request with gold and silver and raiment (ver. 35), thus voluntarily spoiling themselves for the benefit of the foreigners. The Israelites, long previously prepared for the moment which had now arrived, made their final arrangements, and before the day was over a lengthy column was set in motion, and proceeded from Rameses, which seems to have been a suburb of Tunis (Brugsch, Hist. of Egypt, vol. 2. pp. 96-99), to an unknown place called Succoth, which must have lain towards the south-east, and was probably not very remote from the capital Verse 31. - And he called for Moses and Aaron. Kalisch understands this as a summons to the King's presence (Commentary, p. 130), and even supposes that the two brothers complied, notwithstanding what Moses had said (Exodus 10:29). But perhaps no more is meant than at Pharaoh's instance Moses and Aaron were summoned to an interview with some of the Court officials (see Exodus 11:8). As ye have said. Literally, "according to your words." The reference is to such passages as Exodus 8:1, 20; Exodus 9:1, 13.
Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
Verse 32. - Also take your flocks and your herds. Pharaoh thus retracted the prohibition of Exodus 10:24, and "gave the sacrifices and burnt-offerings" which Moses had required (ib. ver. 25). Bless me also. Pharaoh was probably accustomed to receive blessings from his own priests, and had thus been led to value them. His desire for a blessing from Moses and Aaron, ere they departed, probably sprang from a conviction - based on the miracles which he had witnessed - that their intercession would avail more with God than that of his own hierarchy.
And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.
Verse 33. The Egyptians were urgent upon the people. The Egyptians feared that, if any further delay took place, the God of the Hebrews might not be content with slaying all the first-born, but might punish with death the whole nation, or at any rate all the males. It is easy to see how their desire to get rid of the Israelites would expedite matters, and enable all to set out upon the journey on the same day.
And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.
Verse 34. - The people took their dough. They probably regarded dough as more convenient for a journey than flour, and so made their flour into dough before starting; but they had no time to add leaven. Their kneading-troughs. This rendering is correct, both here and in the two other places where the word occurs (Exodus 8:3, and Deuteronomy 28:5). Kneading-troughs would be a necessity in the desert, and, if like those of the modern Arabs, which are merely small wooden bowls, would be light and portable. The dough and kneading-troughs, with perhaps other necessaries, were carried, as the Arabs still carry many small objects, bound up in their clothes (i.e., in the beged or ample shawl) upon their shoulders.
And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:
Verse 35. - The children of Israel did according to the word of Moses. See above, Exodus 11:2. They borrowed. On this mistranslation, see the comment upon Exodus 3:22. It is plain that the gold and silver articles and the raiment, were free-will gifts, which the Egyptians never expected to see again, and which the Hebrews asked and took, but in no sense "borrowed." Hengstenberg and Kurtz have shown clearly that the primary meaning of the words translated "borrowed" and "lent," is "asked" and "granted," and that the sense of "borrowing" and "lending" is only to be assigned them when it is required by the context.
And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.
Verse 36. - So that they lent unto them such things as they required. Rather, "So that they granted them what they asked." They spoiled the Egyptians. See the comment on Exodus 3:22, ad fin. The result was that the Israelites went forth, not as slaves, but as conquerors, decked with the jewels of the Egyptians, as though they had conquered and despoiled them

CHAPTER 12:37-39
And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.
Verses 37-39. - THE DEPARTURE. There are, no doubts, great difficulties in conceiving the departure on one day, from one place, of "six hundred thousand that were men, beside children." The difficulty is increased when we find (from Numbers 1:3-43) that by "men" is meant males above twenty years of age. The entire body of Israelites is thus raised from over half a million to over two millions. The whole narrative, however, supposes some such number; and it is accepted by the best critics, as Ewald, Kalisch, Kurtz, Canon Cook, and others. As these two millions must have lived dispersed over a considerable space, and there could have been no advantage in their all assembling at Rameses (Tunis), we are probably to suppose the main body with Moses and Aaron to have stared from that place, while the others, obeying orders previously given, started from all parts of Goshen, and converged upon Succoth, which was the first rendezvous. Each body of travellers was accompanied by its flocks and herds, and followed by a number of slaves, dependants, and sympathisers not of Hebrew birth (ver. 38), which still further enlarged their numbers. The extremely open character of the country, and the firmness of the soil at the time of year, would facilitate the journey. There was no marching along roads, which indeed did not exist. Each company could spread itself out at its pleasure, and go its own pace. All knew the point of meeting, and marched towards it, in converging lines, there being no obstacle to hinder them. Arrived in the vicinity of Succoth, they could bivouac without hurt, in that fine climate, in the open air. Verse 37. - From Rameses. It has been doubted whether this "Rameses" is the same place as the "Raamses" of Exodus 1:11. But the doubt scarcely seems to be reasonable. The two words differ only in the pointing. Brugsch has clearly shown that Rameses (Pa-Ramesu) was a town newly built in the reign of Rameses II., partly erected by himself, in the immediate vicinity of the old city of Tanis or Zoan. It was the favourite capital of both Rameses II. and Menephthah. (See Brugsch, Hist. of Egypt, vol. 2. pp. 96 and 128.) Succoth. The meaning of the word "Succoth" is "booths." Mr. Greville Chester tells us that "huts made of reeds" are common at the present day in the tract south-east of Tunis, and suggests that the Succoth here mentioned may have been at Salahiyeh, fifteen miles due south of Tunis. Tel-Defneh, at the same distance to the south-east, is perhaps a more probable site. Six hundred thousand. See the Introductory paragraph. At the time of the numbering recorded in Numbers 1, the males above twenty years of age were 625,550. Beside children. Rather, "beside families." The word used includes all the women, and the children under twenty.
And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
Verse 38. - A mixed multitude went up also with them. Kalisch supposes that these strangers were native Egyptians, anxious to escape the tyranny of the kings. Canon Cook suggests that they were "remains of the old Semitic population" of the Eastern provinces. Perhaps it is more probable that they consisted of fugitives from other subject races (as the Shartana) oppressed by the Pharaohs. We have again mention of this "mixed multitude" in Numbers 11:4, where we find that they were the first to regret the "flesh and the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlick" which they had eaten in Egypt freely (ib. 5). They thus set a bad example, which the Israelites followed. And flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. Compare Exodus 10:26. It has been noticed that this is important, as lessening the difficulties connected with the sustentation of the Israelites in the wilderness. But it increases, on the other hand, the difficulties connected with the march, and with the possibility of finding pasture for such large flocks and herds in the Sinaitic peninsula.
And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.
Verse 39. Unleavened cakes. Some of the modern Arabs make such cakes by simply mixing flour with water, and attaching flat circular pieces of the dough thus formed to the sides of their ovens after they have heated them. (Niebuhr, Description de l'Arabie,?. 45, and pl. 1, F.) Others put a lump of dough into the ashes of a wood fire, and cover it over with the embers for a short time (Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p. 288). All Arab bread is unleavened. They were thrust out of Egypt. Compare ver. 33.

CHAPTER 12:40-42
Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.
Verses 40-42. - The narrative of the departure from Egypt is followed, not unnaturally, by a notification of the length of the sojourn, which is declared to have been a space of four hundred and thirty years. In the "Introduction" to the Book, we have examined the question, which here arises,

1. As to the soundness; and

2. As to the true meaning, of the Hebrew text, and have arrived at the conclusion that it is sound, and that it means what it says, viz., that 430 years elapsed between the arrival of Jacob in Egypt, with his sons, and sons' sons, and their families, as related in Genesis 46:1-27, and the commencement of the exodus. The time is required by the genealogy of Joshua (1 Chronicles 7:22-27). It is in remarkable accordance with the traditions that Joseph was the minister of Apspi, and that the Jews went out under Menephthah. If not absolutely required for the multiplication of the race from "seventy souls" to above two millions, it is at any rate more in accord with that fact than the alternative number, 215. It is twice repeated, so that "the mistake of a copyist" is almost impossible. Verse 40. - The sojourning of the children of Israel, which dwelt in Egypt. Rather, "Which they sojourned in Egypt." (Compare the Septuagint - ἡ κατοίκησις η{ν κατῴκησαν.) Four hundred and thirty years. Literally "thirty years and four hundred years."
And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.
Verse 41. - The self-same day... all the hosts went out. The setting forth upon the journey is regarded as the "going out" - not the actual exit, which was only effected by the passage of the Red Sea.
It is a night to be much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.
Verse 42. - It is a night to be much observed. We must suppose that some of the Israelites actually commenced their march before the night was over, being "hastened" by the Egyptians (ver. 33), and having all things in readiness; but the bulk of the people can scarcely have started before daybreak. This is that night of the Lord - i.e., the night concerning which directions had been already given (vers. 6-11) - the only "night" for which any observances were appointed. In their generations. To all time - so long as they continue to be a people. On the bindingness of this commandment, see the comment on ver. 14 of this chapter.

CHAPTER 12:43-51
And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
Verses 43-51. - SUPPLEMENTARY ORDINANCE WITH RESPECT TO THE PASSOVER. The position of these verses is curious. We should have expected them to have followed immediately on ver. 20, or else to have been reserved for the further consideration of the subject in ch. 23. It is suggested, in order to account for their place, that they formed the matter of a special revelation made to Moses at Succoth. They comprise three main points: -

1. The absolute exclusion of all uncircumcised persons from participation in the passover rite;

2. The extension of the rite (implied in ver. 19) to all full proselytes; and,

3. The injunction that not a bone of the lamb should be broken. (This last is repeated in Numbers 9:12) Verses 43. - This is the ordinance of the passover - i.e., "This is the law, in respect of the persons who are to partake of it" - there shall no stranger eat thereof, or literally, "No son of a stranger shall eat thereof." By a "stranger" here is meant one of a foreign race who wishes to retain his foreign character and to remain uncircumcised. Compare ver. 48.
But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
Verse 44. - Every man's servant that is bought for money. Or "every man's slave." The Mosaic Law found servitude existing, and left it existing, only guarding against its extreme abuses (Exodus 21:20-27). It put no check on the traffic in slaves. When thou hast circumcised him. The Jewish commentators say, that the desire of the slave to receive the rite and become a Jew is here implied. But it would seem rather, that opposition and refusal is not thought of as possible (see Genesis 17:13, 17). The case is like that of baptism among the barbarous nations, where no sooner was the king converted than a general order went forth for the baptism of his subjects, which no one thought of resisting. Then shall he eat thereof. It was a principle of the Jewish law that the slaves should be admitted to complete religious equality with the native Israelites. (compare Leviticus 22:11).
A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.
Verse 45. - A foreigner. Literally "a so-journer" - i.e., a foreigner who is merely passing through the land, or staying for a time, without intending to become a permanent resident. The Septuagint πάροικος well expresses the meaning. An hired servant. It is assumed that the "hired servant" will be a foreigner; and intended to guard against any compulsion being put upon him.
In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.
Verse 46. - In one house shall it be eaten. Compare the directions in vers. 3-10, which imply this, and see the comment on ver. 10. Neither shall ye break a bone of it. Kalisch thinks that the lamb was a symbol of the unity of the nation, and was therefore not to have any of its bones broken. This view may be a true one, without being exhaustive. It may have been to mark the unity of the Church in Christ that his bones were not broken, and in view especially of that unity, that the type was made to correspond in this particular with the antitype. (See John 19:33-36.)
All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.
Verse 47. - All the congregation ... shall keep it. Rather "shall sacrifice it." (Compare ver. 6.)
And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
Verses 48, 49. - And when a stranger, etc. Here we have the positive ordinance corresponding to the implied permission in ver. 19, and modifying in the most important and striking way the prohibitive enactment of ver. 43. The "stranger," even if he only "sojourned" in the land, was to be put on exactly the same spiritual footing as the Israelite ("One law shall be," etc.) if only he and his would be circumcised, and so enter into covenant,
One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
Thus did all the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
Verse 50. - Thus did all the children of Israel - i.e., the Israelites, at their first passover, acted in accordance with these precepts, especially in admitting to the feast all circumcised persons, whether natives or foreigners, and rejecting all the uncircumcised.
And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the LORD did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.
Verse 51. - This verse should be transferred to the commencement of the next chapter, which should run as follows: - "And it came to pass - on the self-same day that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies - that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying," etc. The word "armies," which at first sight may seem inappropriate, occurs also in ch. 6:26. It is probably intended to mark that the people were thoroughly organised, and marshalled in divisions resembling those of an army.

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