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Bible Commentaries

Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

Exodus 12

Verses 1-36

THE PASSOVER

At the close of the tenth chapter Moses declares Pharaoh shall see his face no more, while in the eleventh he is present with him again. Therefore with the exception of the first three verses of chapter 11 the remainder must be a continuation of chapter 10.

Let us consider it thus, taking up the questions in Exodus 11:1-3 in connection with chapter 12.

THE LAST PLAGUE ANNOUNCED (Exodus 11:4-10 )

Hitherto God plagued Egypt mediately, but how was this plague to be distinguished (Exodus 11:4 )? Why was this plague harder to be borne than if the whole nation had been consumed? By what proverbial expression is the security of the Hebrews assured (Exodus 11:7 )?

How does Exodus 11:8 indicate that Moses has ceased to speak in God’s name and is now speaking in his own name? Is he not, nevertheless, speaking representatively? How do the last two verses show that Pharaoh’s disobedience is not a divine defeat?

THE PASSOVER INSTITUTED (Exodus 12:1-13 )

What new appointment of time distinguishes this event (Exodus 12:2 )? The year formerly began in the month of Tisri, corresponding to our September 15 to October 15, but what had formerly been the seventh month now becomes the first. This month was known as Nisan. The original order of the months continued so far as ordinary affairs were concerned, but the solemnities observed in honor of God began henceforth with Nisan.

What were the Hebrews to do (Exodus 12:3 )? When? According to what measurement or proportion? Israel was divided into twelve tribes, these again into families and the families into “houses,” the last named being composed of particular individuals. According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, a paschal company consisted of not less than ten members, although sometimes there were as many as twenty. In this company they were flee to include everyone capable of eating as much as the size of an olive.

In what two ways was the lamb to be distinguished (Exodus 12:5 )? What liberty was there in its selection? A male was accounted more excellent than a female (Malachi 1:14 ), and during its first year not only would its flesh be more tender and grateful but in that period it would best represent the idea of harmlessness and simplicity (1 Peter 1:19 ).

How long should the lamb be kept before slaying (Exodus 12:6 )? At what time should all the lambs be killed simultaneously? The “evening” here means sometime between the time of the sun’s beginning to decline and that of its setting, say about 3:00 P.M. For the typical application to Christ, compare John 19:19 and Matthew 26:46 .

What should be done with the blood (Exodus 12:7 )? How was the flesh to be cooked and eaten (v. 8)? As the sacrificing of the lamb is a symbol of the redemption by which the death penalty due by one is paid by another, so the eating of it is a figure of the participation in pardon, acceptance and full blessedness consequent on the atonement being made and the law being satisfied.

Both the roasting and eating of it with unleavened bread was for greater expedition in leaving the land that night. They would have time neither to boil the one nor wait for the yeast to rise in the other. And yet doubtless there is a moral or typical side to this matter as well, for since the paschal lamb and all pertaining to it foreshadow the person and work of our Redeemer, the roasting of the flesh may suggest the extremity of His sufferings under the fire of God’s wrath, while the absence of leaven from the bread finds a spiritual application in such a passage as 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 . Leaven is a mass of sour dough in which decomposition has set in, and so is a symbol of corruption. Hence, unleavened bread is the emblem of purity and life becoming those who have exercised faith in God, the blessed fruit of a new nature.

What other regulations accompanied this institution (Exodus 12:9-10 )? It would appear from this that the lamb was to be roasted whole and entire, excepting doubtless the intestinal canal. There was to be no breaking of its bones (John 19:33 ). This was strikingly expressive of the unity of the sacrifice, of the salvation it prefigured, and the people who partook of it (Psalms 34:20 ; 1 Corinthians 10:17 ). Nothing should remain of the lamb lest it should be put to a superstitious use, and also to prevent putrefaction, for it was not meet that anything offered to God should see corruption (Psalms 16:10 ).

In what attitude were the people to be (Exodus 12:11 )? And why?

What did God say He would do (Exodus 12:12 )? Note the reference to the gods of Egypt in this verse. There is a Jewish tradition that the idols were actually demolished on that night, but from a figurative point of view, “what could be a more signal infliction upon these gods than the complete exposure of their importance to aid their worshippers in a time of need?”

By what means should the Hebrews experience immunity from this destruction (Exodus 12:13 )? Note the words “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” It was not their character that saved them, neither the mercy of God in the abstract, nor their faith and obedience considered as a meritorious act, but the actual sprinkling of the blood upon the door posts. Without this they would not have been in the will of God, and His mercy could not have been operative towards them. No matter the degree or intelligence of their faith which led to the sprinkling of the blood, it was the latter divinely-ordained token which was the means of their deliverance.

The bearing of this on our redemption through the atonement of Christ should be prayerfully considered. The Hebrews were sinners in the general sense as well as the Egyptians, and God might justly have punished them by taking away the life of the firstborn, but He was pleased to show them mercy and to accept the life of a lamb as a substitute for their life. This blood was a signal of this, and all who acted on the command of God and relied on His protection were secure from the stroke of the avenger.

Nothing could more strikingly set before us the truth about the application of Christ’s blood to our guilty conscience as a means of deliverance from the wrath to come (Romans 3:24-25 ; Ephesians 1:7 ). It is not our character, neither the mercy of God towards us in the abstract nor the strength or intelligence of our faith, but the application of the blood to our souls that saves. Do not pass this lesson without satisfying yourself that this has become true of you, and that you have by faith displayed the token (Acts 4:27 ).

As the paschal lamb is the type of our Redeemer, so the Passover itself is a type of our redemption through Him; for an outline of which see the author’s Synthetic Bible Studies.

THE PASSOVER COMMEMORATED (Exodus 12:14-20 )

The feast of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:15 ) was a distinct ordinance from the Passover, commencing on the day after the killing and eating of the lamb, the 15th of Nisan. Of course in the first instance it could not have been observed until they left Egypt.

The “cutting off” from Israel meant not necessarily physical death but excommunication from the society and privileges of the chosen people.

Note the “holy convocation” for the public worship of God in connection with this feast (Exodus 12:16 ). Doubtless the people of a neighborhood thus came together for praise and prayer, and some think that even from an early

period portions of the written Word may have been read and expounded. This convocation, it is thought, was the origin of the synagogue, a term which originally denoted the assembly, and was doubtless at first held in the open air.

The word stranger here doubtless means the Gentile proselyte in contrast with a native Israelite.

THE STROKE FALLS (Exodus 12:29-36 )

We need not dwell on the awful horror of this night, but should not fail to recognize God’s righteous retribution in it. The Egyptians who had slain the Hebrew children now see their own die. Four score years had passed since the persecution began, but God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

A further word on verses 35 and 36. When the Orientals attend their sacred festivals they put on their best jewels, thinking it a disgrace to appear otherwise before their gods. It is said nothing is more common than to see poor people adorned on such occasions with borrowed ornaments.

It is notable that the Egyptians lent their jewels to the Hebrews because the Lord gave them favor in their sight. The rank and file of the Egyptians may in the end have sympathized with the afflicted Hebrews, or else for their own safety they were so anxious to have them go as to offer them an inducement. In this connection read again Exodus 11:3 , and see the reverence and awe inspired among the Egyptians by Moses’ miracles.

Nor should we conclude this lesson without consulting Ezekiel 39:10 , where we see that the Jews will spoil the Gentiles a second time, in that day when God with a high hand shall restore them to their own land at the end of the present age.

QUESTIONS

1. Name the first month of the Jewish religious year.

2. State what the slaying and eating of the paschal lamb prefigure.

3. What does leaven symbolize?

4. Show the parallel between the cause of the Hebrews’ deliverance and that of our eternal redemption.

5. What reasons may have influenced the Egyptians to give their jewels to the Hebrews?

Verses 37-51

THE PILLAR OF CLOUD

THE FIRST STAGE OF THE JOURNEY (Exodus 12:37-51 )

How did the Hebrews get from Goshen to Rameses? Perhaps Rameses was in the land of Goshen or it was a name used here in the sense of the general locality rather than the specific city which the Hebrews helped to build (1:11). Compare Genesis 47:11 . We cannot identify “Succoth,” but since the word means tents or places for tents some think it specifies a camping spot en route.

Note the number of the men, which, multiplied by four to allow for families, gives an aggregate of 2,400,000 souls in all, without counting “the mixed multitude” of the next verse. Some of these latter may have been the poorer Egyptians and some foreign slaves of both Egyptians and Hebrews.

Note the time named in Exodus 12:40 and the exactitude of the fulfillment of prophecy mentioned in Exodus 12:41 , a date to be reckoned from the time Abraham received the promise (Genesis 15:13 ), which makes just 430 years.

THE FIRSTBORN SET APART (Exodus 13:1-16 )

We can see a reason for the command in Exodus 13:1 when we recall the preservation of their firstborn in Egypt. Doubtless it was to keep alive the memory of that event as well as to express their gratitude for it. All things belong to God by right of creation; the Israelites by right of redemption; the firstborn of Israel by right of passing over them in the judgment upon Egypt.

Moses immediately communicates this command to the people. Note that the month Abib (Exodus 13:4 ) is Hebrew for the Chaldaic Nisan previously mentioned.

By what figurative language does he impress the people with the duty of remembering all God’s goodness to them (Exodus 13:8-9 )? We see the duty of parental instruction enjoined, and are impressed by the fact that “the history of the ways of God with men is a trust to be conveyed faithfully from father to son.”

What two words in Exodus 13:12 explain the word “sanctify” of Exodus 13:2 ? Note that the firstlings of the clean beasts as subsequently explained, calves, lambs and kids, were dedicated to God and used in sacrifice, but those of the unclean were redeemed. How (Exodus 13:13 )? And if not redeemed, then what? What about the firstborn of man? The law concerning this will be met with later (Numbers 18:16 ). Of course this regulation was to come into force when Israel should reach Canaan (Exodus 13:11 ). As Murphy remarks, “the residence of Israel for forty years in the wilderness was in consequence of their unbelief and is not here contemplated. Here it is presumed they were to pass immediately through the wilderness into the Promised Land, with the exception of a year in the peninsula of Sinai for which special provision is made later on” (Numbers 3:0 ).

THE SECOND STAGE OF THE JOURNEY (Exodus 13:17-22 )

Do not neglect the map in this study, since it is at least approximately correct. Why were not the Hebrews permitted to go the near way (Exodus 13:17 )? Could not God have delivered them from the Philistines as well as from the Egyptians? How then does this illustrate the principle that God makes no unnecessary displays of miraculous power?

By what route were they led (Exodus 13:18 )? At its northern extremity the Red Sea separates into two minor gulfs which enclose the peninsula of Sinai. The western gulf is called Suez, which is the one they crossed. Its varied width is about thirty miles, narrowing very much at its northern extremity, and its varied depth about twelve fathoms, with a sandy bottom.

The word harnessed in this verse is unusual. According to its derivation it means “by five in a rank,” but we can only explain it by supposing that in some way the men went up marshaled in orderly array, the better to protect the women and children of the company as well as their cattle and other possessions.

What special command does Moses execute (Exodus 13:19 )? Compare Acts 7:16 . What is the name of their next camping place (Exodus 13:20 )? In what supernatural way were they guided (Exodus 13:21 )? We have not now the pillar of fire and cloud, but we have the Word of God, which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

Excursus on the Pillar of Cloud

Dr. Bush has an interesting excursus on the pillar of cloud, from which a few paragraphs are taken:

The Hebrew root arnad signifies “to stand,” and imports an upright standing mass of cloud resembling a column in a building. It appears from

Psalms 105:39 that it was spread at the base so as to cover as with a canopy the whole host of Israel, shading them from the heat. The height, if it bore any proportion to its base, must have been immense, as the encampment covered a space of twelve square miles. It is evident from

Deuteronomy 31:15 that it was the habitation of the divine presence from which oracles were proclaimed to the people.

For further allusion to its use as a guiding signal see Psalms 78:14 and Nehemiah 9:12 and observe also its reappearance in the millennial age (Isaiah 4:5 ; Revelation 7:15-16 ).

Some think the whole mass was opaque by day and luminous by night, while others believe there was a rending at night of the outer, dark body of the cloud and consequent disclosure of an interior splendor enveloped from view during the day.

This unwrapped splendor appearing at night was presumably “the glory of the Lord” which occasionally appeared by day when God would express displeasure towards His people or impress them with His majesty, as at Sinai (Exodus 16:10 ; Numbers 16:40 ). In other words, taken as a whole, this pillar was intended to serve as the shekinah or visible representative of Jehovah dwelling in the midst of His people.

Compare now Exodus 14:19 and observe that the pillar of cloud is called in the same verse “the angel of God.” The term angel is used in Scripture to denote various kinds of agency, personal and impersonal, but “The Angel of God” (as we have learned) is a phrase descriptive of the second Person of the Trinity, Jehovah-Jesus. There is reason to believe, therefore, that this cloud was in some sense a manifestation of His presence to Israel. (See further Exodus 23:20-23 and Isaiah 63:8-9 .) To all practical purposes it was the Angel of Jehovah, and they were to look up to that sublime and awful column as a visible embodiment of their covenant with God, as an ever-pre-sent witness, and feel as if a thousand eyes were looking out of the midst of it upon them, from which not even their slightest word or deed could be hidden. Through the whole tenor of the Mosaic narrative this is to be understood as associated with the title “Lord” or “the Angel of the Lord.”

It was this visible symbol, too, which was their oracle or means of communication with Jehovah, the Word of the ancient economy, both in the course of their wilderness journey and when afterwards it was removed into the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle and Temple (see Exodus 33:9-11 and Psalms 99:6-7 ). Compare also John 1:1-14 , where the glory of the Word incarnate is referred to, not that intrinsic moral glory that distinguished His character always, but rather that special and overwhelming display of glory of which Peter, James and John were eyewitnesses on the Mount of Transfiguration, when there was a temporary laying aside of the veil of His flesh and disclosure of the indwelling shekinah, the glory of His Godhead.

A preintimation indeed of that glory in which He shall appear when He comes a second time, without sin, unto salvation.

What a wonderful theme of study we have in this pillar of cloud!

QUESTIONS

1. In what two ways may the location Rameses be understood?

2. How does this lesson illustrate God’s conservation of the miraculous?

3. Of what was the pillar of cloud a symbol?

4. Show its fitness for this purpose.

5. What takes its place for God’s people today?

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Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Exodus 12". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/exodus-12.html. 1897-1910.