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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 12

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-51

The Institution of the Passover. The Tenth Plague, and the Departure of Israel

1. In the land of Egypt] These words suggest that what follows was written independently of the foregoing narrative, and an examination of this chapter shows that it contains two separate accounts of the institution of the Passover, one extending from Exodus 12:1-20, the other from Exodus 12:21-28. The latter is the proper continuation of Exodus 11.

2. The beginning of months] The exodus is regarded as an ’epoch-making’ event (cp. Judges 19:30; 1 Kings 6:1), and to mark its importance the month in which it occurs is to be reckoned the first month of the ecclesiastical year. This is the month Abib (see Exodus 13:4; Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:18; Deuteronomy 16:1), i.e. the month of ripening ears, and corresponds to the end of March and the beginning of April. After the exile it was called by the Babylonian name of Nisan: see e.g. Nehemiah 2:1

Esther 3:7. The sacred feasts were computed from this date: see Leviticus 23:4-5, Leviticus 23:15, Leviticus 23:24; The civil year began in autumn with the first day of the seventh month after Abib, called by the Babylonians Tishri and in OT. Ethanim: see 1 Kings 8:2. With this change of reckoning may be compared the reckoning of the Christian Year, which begins with Advent, and of the Christian Week, which begins with the Lord’s Day.

3. Unto all the congregation] by means of their representatives: see on Exodus 3:16. A lamb] The word may also mean a kid, but practically a lamb was always chosen: cp. Exodus 3:5.

4. Too little] According to Josephus the lower limit was fixed at ten persons. He also says that in his time (between the death of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem) 250,000 lambs were sacrificed at the Passover and partaken of by 2,700,000 people.

In accordance with the principle that whatever is offered to God must be the best of its kind, the law of sacrifice required that the sacrificial animal should be a male (the superior sex) and without blemish: see intro. to Leviticus 21 and on Leviticus 22:17-25. So Christ ’offered Himself without spot to God’ (Hebrews 9:14) as a ’lamb without blemish and without spot’ (1 Peter 1:19).

6. Keep it up until the fourteenth day] This is to ensure that no blemish shall pass undetected. In the evening] lit. ’between the evenings,’ i.e. probably between sunset and darkness. Darkness was supposed to begin when three stars became visible. Josephus says that the time of sacrifice was from three to five in the afternoon. Observe that the Passover lamb was sacrificed and the blood sprinkled on the doorposts by each head of a household, there being at this time no tabernacle nor order of sacrificing priests. In later times the lamb was killed in the temple court by the head of the household and the blood poured out at the altar, after which the lamb was carried home to be eaten: cp. Leviticus 17:3-6; Deuteronomy 16:5-7.

7. Upper door post] RV ’lintel.’ The shedding of the blood signified the offering of the life to God. The sprinkling of the lintel was not only a sign to the destroying angel, but an indication that atonement had been made on behalf of the inmates of the house.

8. Roast with fire] The flesh of sacrificial animals which were eaten by the offerers was usually boiled: cp. 1 Samuel 2:13, 1 Samuel 2:14. In the present case the roasting was probably to ensure haste (Exodus 12:39) and to prevent the dismemberment of the animal: see Exodus 12:9, Exodus 12:46.

And unleavened bread and with bitter herbs] Leaven, as causing fermentation and corruption, is regarded as unclean, and its use in sacrificial meals is accordingly forbidden. In NT. it is used as a symbol of sin and moral uncleanness: see 1 Corinthians 5:8 and on Exodus 12:14. The bitter herbs, probably some kind of wild lettuce or endive, were meant to symbolise the bitter bondage which the Israelites had endured in Egypt: see Exodus 1:14.

9. His head with his legs, and with the purtenance (RV ’inwards’) thereof] The entrails were taken out, cleansed, and replaced, and the lamb was then roasted whole: cp. Exodus 12:46, ’neither shall ye break a bone thereof.’ The unmutilated lamb symbolises the unity of Israel. St. John sees in it also an emblem of the unbroken bones of Christ: see John 19:36.

10. This prohibition is meant to prevent what remains of the sacrifice from being profaned. Burning was the regular mode of disposing of the remains of every sacrificial animal: see Exodus 29:34; Leviticus 4:12; Leviticus 7:17.

11. The passover is to be eaten with every indication of haste. With your loins girded] To gird up the loins is to gather up the long flowing skirt of the outer robe under the girdle, so as to leave the limbs free in working or running: see 1 Kings 18:46; Luke 12:37; Luke 17:8. At the present day (as in the time of Christ) the Jews eat the Passover in a recumbent posture to signify that there is no longer need of trepidation, God having given His people rest and security. It is the lord’s passover] Heb. pesach, Gk. form pascha. The English rendering ’passover’ represents not amiss both the sound and the sense of the Hebrew name. The rite commemorated the ’passing over’ of Jehovah, i.e. His sparing of His faithful people. The word is used in this sense in Isaiah 31:5.

12. Against all the gods of Egypt] The gods of Egypt would be powerless to avert the judgment of Jehovah. As in Egypt many deities were worshipped in the form of animals, the destruction of the firstborn of beasts would be felt as the execution of a judgment upon these gods.

14. For ever] The Jews still keep the feasts of the Passover and Unleavened Bread. They now offer no sacrifice, seeing that Jerusalem has passed from their possession, but they look forward to the time when they will return to Jerusalem and the sacrifice be resumed. Each celebration is closed with the pathetic words, expressive of undying faith and hope, ’Next year in Jerusalem!’ To Christians the death of Christ gathers up and fulfils all that was signified by the Jewish Passover, and therefore supersedes it. ’Christ our passover hath been (RV) sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast’ (RM ’keep festival,’ i.e. the festival of unleavened bread which followed the passover) ’.. with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’: 1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Corinthians 5:8. Here Christ is regarded as typified in the paschal lamb, as He is also in the Fourth Gospel (John 19:36), which places the Crucifixion at the time of the Passover, and regards the fact as significant; His death redeems His people from their spiritual bondage; His blood, sprinkled on their hearts, delivers them from the guilt and consequences of sin. The old Passover sacrifice is fulfilled, once for all, in His sacrifice of Himself, which is commemorated, not repeated, in the sacrament of Holy Communion. That sacrament, accordingly, takes the place of the Passover. It differs from it in so far that it is not a recurring sacrifice, but the continual remembrance of the one great sacrifice offered by Christ, the true Passover lamb. The sacrifice is past, and Christians now live in the time of unleavened bread, and must therefore put away from them the ’leaven of malice and wickedness.’

15. The seven days beginning with the Passover are to be kept as a feast of unleavened bread. The Passover (pesach) and feast of Unleavened Bread (mazzoth) are really distinct, but as they were always celebrated in succession the name Passover is sometimes used to cover both: cp. Luke 22:1. Shall be cut off] This does not necessarily mean put to death, but excommunicated and cast out of the congregation of Israel. A person so cut off becomes like one of a heathen nation. He is reduced to the level of an uncircumcised person, being outside the covenant and having no more part in the privileges of the chosen people: see on Genesis 17:14,; and cp. Matthew 18:17; Ephesians 2:12.

16. An holy convocation] The word denotes a gathering of the people for a religious purpose: see Numbers 10:2-10. The abstention from work enjoined here is not so strict as on the sabbath and the Day of Atonement: cp. Leviticus 23:8 with Leviticus 23:3, Leviticus 23:28, and with Exodus 35:8.

19. A stranger] a foreigner who had entered the congregation by circumcision, a proselyte, in contradistinction to ’one born in the land,’ i.e. the land of Canaan (another indication of later date), a native Israelite.

22. Hyssop] supposed to be wild marjoram, which grows in Egypt and Sinai and Palestine. Its powder, which has a pungent aromatic flavour like that of mint, is used as a condiment. It was supposed to have cleansing properties, and a bunch of hyssop was frequently used in ceremonial sprinkling, for which it was naturally suitable, several stalks growing from one root: cp. Leviticus 14:4; Psalms 51:7; Numbers 19:6.

26. What mean ye by this service?] To this day, at the Jewish celebration of the Passover, the youngest child present who is able to do so is made to ask this question, which is answered by a recitation of the circumstances attending the original institution of the feast. An interesting description of a modern Passover will be found in Zangwill’s ’Children of the Ghetto,’ c, 25.

The Tenth Plague:—Death of the First-born.

29. At midnight] the Passover night, following the 14th day of Abib. The Jewish day is reckoned from sunset to sunset: see on Exodus 11:4.

31-42. The Departure from Egypt.

32. Bless me also] intercede for me, that no further plague come upon me for your sakes.

34. Before it was leavened] This shows the haste with which they departed: see Exodus 12:39. On the kneading-troughs see on Exodus 8:3.

35. Borrowed] RV ’asked,’ as in Exodus 3:22; Exodus 11:2.

36. Lent unto them.. required] RV ’let them have what they asked.’

37. Rameses] see on Exodus 1:11. Succoth has been identified with the Egyptian Thuku, the region whose capital was Pithom: see on Exodus 1:11. Six hundred thousand on foot that were men] i.e. of twenty years old and upwards, fit for war. This implies a total of perhaps three millions. On the number see intro. to Numbers 1, and on Numbers 14:21.

38. A mixed multitude] of foreigners and Egyptians who were associated with the Israelites through marriage and as slaves. We read of these again in Leviticus 24:10; Numbers 11:4. Very much cattle] On the resources of the wilderness and its ability to support a multitude of people with flocks and herds, see intro. to Numbers 1.

40. Four hundred and thirty years] This agrees with the prophetical statement in Genesis 15:13. But the Samaritan text of the OT. and LXX after the words ’in Egypt’ here add ’and in Canaan,’ thus making the 430 years run from the immigration of Abraham into Canaan, and reducing the stay in Egypt after the immigration of Jacob to 215 years. St. Paul accepts the LXX chronology (see Galatians 3:17), and it is supported by the genealogy in Exodus 6:14-20, which allows only four generations between Jacob and the father of Moses. But it is difficult to believe that the descendants of Jacob could have increased so much in 215 years, and there is reason to think that the genealogical table in Exodus 6 has been abridged: see on Exodus 6:20. On the whole, it seems more reasonable to accept the reading of the Heb. text represented by the English version, and understand the 430 years as running from the descent of Jacob into Egypt.

41. The self-same day] on the 15th day of Abib: see Exodus 12:29.

42. A night to be much observed] This rendering rests on the injunction in Exodus 12:14. The Heb. is literally ’a night of watching unto the Lord,’ i.e. a night of vigil or watch-festival.

43-49· These directions regarding the lawful participants in the Passover seem to be introduced here in consequence of what is said about the ’mixed multitude’ in Exodus 12:38. The Passover is only for those who through circumcision have entered into the covenant with Jehovah. Similarly, in the Christian church baptism, which corresponds to circumcision as an initiatory rite, is necessary to partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

46. See on Exodus 12:9, Exodus 12:10.

49. One law] i.e. of the necessity of circumcision to participation in the Passover.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 12". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/exodus-12.html. 1909.
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