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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 12

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-2



The nations of the globe have regarded various periods as the commencement of the year. The Athenians reckoned the commencement of their year from midsummer; the Romans from the middle of winter; the Arabians from the spring; and the Egyptians from the autumn, as then the Nile returned within its banks, and seed-time began. It would appear that Israel, during their bondage, had recognised the Egyptian calendar, which commenced in autumn. They are henceforth to reckon the commencement of the year from the spring; this was their ecclesiastical year. The civil year began in the seventh month (Leviticus 25:9).

I. The first month of the year is a good time for religious contemplation and devotion. In this beginning of months the Israelites were to celebrate the Passover. They were to undertake all the services described in this chapter. They were to celebrate their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and from the sword of the destroying angel. This was pre-eminently the month of their religious life, when its holy memories were awakened, when its impulses were quickened, when its experiences were enriched, and when God was especially near to them as a people. And so the first month of the year is a good time for religious meditation, and for the public devotion of the people of God, the spiritual Israel. It should indeed be in this respect the beginning of months with them. The old year has gone, the new year is opening to the vision of the soul. It is, therefore, pre-eminently a time for thought and prayer. Then the flight of time, the events of life, and the mortality of man, may all furnish topics for reflection. Then especially should the Passover be celebrated, the blood of Christ anew be sprinkled on the soul; and in this spirit of trust in the Saviour should the year begin.

II. The first month of the year is eventful in the history of individual and collective life. Truly this first month of the year was eventful in the history of the Israelites. In it they were brought out of Egyptian bondage; in it they went over the river Jordan, and came into the land of Canaan (Joshua 4:19). Thus it was eminently eventful in their national history. And the first month of the year is important in the history of the soul. How many souls, awakened by the circumstances of life, have been led to the Cross at this solemn period of the year! How many men have been converted in special religious services held at this appropriate time! Truly this has been a period when many immortal souls have come out from the bondage of sin into the liberty of God’s dear Son; and when many have crossed the Jordan of death into the land of rest, to pass, not time, but eternity, with the God who has redeemed them. Hence the first month of the year is important in the history of the soul. What we are then, we are likely to remain throughout the year; we then get an impulse for good or evil which will affect our moral character to the end. The first month is the keynote of the year’s moral life. It is the rough sketch of the soul’s life for the year. We should therefore seek to observe it unto the Lord.

III. The first month of the year is important in its relation to the commercial prospects of men. The first month of the year was spring-time, answering to part of our March and April. The Hebrews in their months followed the course of the moon, every new moon being to them the beginning of a month. Hence at the commencement of the year all things began to flourish and to revive in strength and put on the beauty of spring. And so with men now. The first month of the year has much to do with the vitality and energy of their commercial life. Then trade may receive an impulse or a check. The new year may mark the advent of new energy, or it may witness the continuance of the old indolence. LESSONS:—

1. That the ordering of months and of years is of God.

2. That the first month must remind us of the Advent of the Saviour.

3. That the first month must be consecrated by true devotion.

4. That the Church must pay some attention to the calendar of the Christian year.

5. That God usually by His ministers makes known His mind to His Church.



New Year! Exodus 12:2. Hamilton relates how the last words of Mr Hardcastle, when dying, were: “My last act of faith I wish to be, to take the blood of Jesus, as the high priest did when he entered behind the veil; and when I have passed the veil, I would appear with it before the throne.” So in making the transit from one year to another, this is our most appropriate exercise. We see much sin in the retrospect. We see many a broken purpose, many a misspent hour, many a rash and unadvised word, when we calmly sit down to reflect. There is nothing for us but the blood of the Iamb. With that atonement, let us—like believing Israel—begin the New Year. Bearing that infinitely afficacious and precious blood, let us pass within the veil of a solemn and eventful future, which none of us can read. Then if, as Israel’s host, we have to pass the swellings of the sea within the year, that crimson tide will be with us—

“Soothing the trembling Christian’s parting breath,
And whispering life amidst the waves of death.”

Verses 3-13


Exodus 12:3. The house of their fathers.] More exactly: “a father’s house.” The designation naturally imports “family” in the larger sense of “family of families,” the entire group formed by the union of grown-up sons and daughters with their children under the ancestral roof. Only in the event of this group being too small for a lamb, were mere neighbours to unite.—

Exodus 12:6. Whole assembly of the congregation.] Here, at the very outset of Hebrew national history, is an illustration of the truth that, fundamentally, all Hebrews were priests (cf. Exodus 19:6),—a truth which lives on in its interest when connected with unfulfilled prophecy (Isaiah 61:6), and with the antitypical realisation in the Christian ecclesia (1 Peter 2:9). Moreover, it is observable that the first Passover was a domestic observance, and that the Lord’s Supper was instituted as a part and an outgrowth of such an observance in an upper room.—In the evening.] Literally, “between the two evenings,” “probably,’ says Dr. Davies (Heb. Lex.), “between sunset and dark (cf. Deuteronomy 16:6), as the Karaites and Samaritans hold, or perhaps the time between the sun’s declining and its actual setting, as the Pharisees insisted and the Jews now hold.” Kalisch, deeming the former view “the most rational,” translates the expression “at dusk,” and quotes with approval the following from Ebn Ezra: “We have two evenings; the first, the setting of the sun, that is, the time when he disappears beneath the horizon; and the second, the ceasing of the light which is reflected in the clouds; and between both lies an interval of about one hour and twenty minutes.”—

Exodus 12:11. Passover.] Heb., Pesach, “a stepping over,” “sparing;” from pa-sach, to move away from, to move forward from, to move over from one object to another (Furst). The noun pesach occurs forty-eight times in the Old Testament, always rendered “passover” in the “Authorised Version;” and reappears in the Septuagint under the form pascha, which is then used in the New Testament twenty-nine times, most notably in connection with the Messiah’s death in the Gospels, when the New Feast was instituted, also, with more direct application to the same great fact, by the Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 5:7 (lit. “for OUR PASSOVER ALSO was slain [even] Christ”). The verb pa-sach is rendered “pass over” in Exodus 12:13; Exodus 12:23; Exodus 12:27 of this chapter, and in Is. Exodus 31:5.—

Exodus 12:12. Gods or Egypt.] “Which words,” says Kalisch, “evidently mean that the uniform and general extirpation of all the first-born of the Egyptians, which calamity their gods will be powerless to avert, will be a manifest proof to those who have hitherto worshipped them that they are a vain support and an idle refuge: thus the authority of the idols will be destroyed in the eyes of the Egyptians, and this was the severest ‘judgment’ which the omnipotent Lord of the Universe could exercise against them”—



I. The circumstances under which the Passover was instituted. The king of Egypt and his people had rebelled against the command of the Lord, as made known by Moses and Aaron, in not consenting to give Israel their freedom. Mercy had been tried, judgment had been inflicted, all to no purpose. The heart of Pharaoh was still hardened against the Divine request, and now Heaven is driven to the last extremity of retribution, and has determined on and announced the death of Egypt’s first-born. The Divine edict has gone forth. At this crisis the Passover was instituted for the safety of the children of Israel. How would the destroying angel know the homes of Egypt from the homes of Israel? and what token should he have of the safety of the latter? This was the question. The Passover was the answer. Blood was to be sprinkled on the upper door-post of the houses occupied by the Israelites. And so the world of unregenerate humanity is under the dire sentence of death, and the sentence is soon to be executed. But how shall the good escape the sword of the avenger? By taking immediate refuge in the Cross of Christ. This is the only refuge of man from moral and eternal death. The Cross was instituted to save men from the edict of moral death.

(1) It was instituted under perilous circumstances.

(2) It was instituted under exceptional circumstances.

(3) It was instituted under painful circumstances. And so the Cross of Christ was instituted under circumstances morally dangerous, morally exceptional, and morally painful, but under circumstances which rendered it most welcome to the true Israel.

II. The proceedings by which the Passover was characterised.

1. A lamb was slain in the houses of the Israelites (Exodus 12:3-4). Every householder was to take a lamb, without blemish, of the first year, and, after keeping it four days in the house, was to kill it. This was emblematical of things in the Christian economy. Christ is the Lamb of God. He was taken from amongst the flock in the vigour of manhood. He was ordained to be slain from the foundation of the world. He was without moral defect. He was slain on Calvary.

2. The blood of the lamb thus slain was to be sprinkled on the upper door-post of the houses of the Israelites (Exodus 12:7). It was not enough to kill the lamb; its blood must be sprinkled on the upper door-posts of the house, if the inmates are to be safe. And it is not sufficient for the safety of men that Christ died; His precious blood must be sprinkled on their hearts. The blood was not sprinkled on the threshold of the door, but high up on the posts. The blood of Christ is sacred, and must not be trampled under foot of men. The mark of a Christian life is to be evident to the world and easily discernible. There would be no difficulty in knowing the houses of the Israelites. The house of a good man should always be known by the token of the Cross upon it.

3. The slain lamb was eaten by the Israelites in an attitude of pilgrimage and haste (Exodus 12:11). The slain lamb was to be eaten by the Israelites. It was not to be eaten raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire. None of the animal was to remain. All were to eat of it. During the repast, their loins were to be girt and their feet were to be shod. And so the soul must appropriate Christ; it must cultivate an attitude of moral haste, and it must be mindful of its pilgrim condition, if it is to be saved by Him.

III. The results by which the Passover was followed. (Exodus 12:13.)

1. After the celebration of the Passover the Israelites were safe. After the sprinkling of the blood upon the door-post of the house the Israelites were safe from the stroke of the avenging angel. They were protected because they complied with the ordinance of God for their safety. And so men are only safe when they have yielded obedience to the terms of salvation which God requires. The Israelites might have done many wise things, and availed themselves of many preventatives against the destruction of the angel; but if they had not sprinkled the blood upon the door-posts they would have perished. Men may strive to do many things to ameliorate their condition as sinners, but the Cross of Christ is their only real protection.

2. After the celebration, of the Passover the Israelites were free. After the destruction of the first-born the Israelites were commanded to leave Egypt. The proud tyrant gave them their freedom. He had no wish, at that sad moment, to prolong the conflict with Jehovah, of whose power he had received sufficient demonstration. The souls of men are only free when they are sprinkled with the blood of Christ, and when they have made a personal appropriation of the Saviour. Then they are free from the tyranny of pride and passion; they enter upon the long and trying pilgrimage of moral goodness.

3. After the celebration of the Passover the Israelites were joyous. They were pleased with their freedom and the prospects before them. They were grateful for the terrible retribution they and their families had escaped through the abundant mercy of God. And so when the soul has received Christ, its first experiences, as it steps out into the new and mysterious life, are those of joy and gratitude. LESSONS:—

1. That every household should have an interest in the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

2. That to experience the saving benefit of Christ’s death the soul must personally receive Him.

3. That Christ as dying is the only hope of the soul.

4. That Christ died for all.


I. In the victim it provides. “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” (Exodus 12:3). Thus the victim provided for the celebration of the Jewish Passover was a lamb. Jesus Christ is called the Lamb of God (John 1:29). He was innocent; He was meek. He was Divinely appointed to be a sacrifice for sin.

1. This lamb was to be a male of the first year (Exodus 12:5). Because after that it would be no lamb, but a sheep, and because it must be perfect and strong. And so Christ was mighty in strength. He required to be strong. He had a great task to accomplish, and many hindrances to overcome. He had perfect strength (Psalms 89:19; Isaiah 19:20; Titus 2:13). Men must render to God the activities of youth.

2. The lamb was to be without blemish (Exodus 12:5). It was not to be lame or blind or sick, or in any way defective. So Christ was a perfect offering. He was pure. Sin strove in vain to soil Him. His enemies could find no fault in Him. He was sinless (1 Peter 1:19).

3. The lamb was to be set apart four days (Exodus 12:6). They were commanded to set apart the Paschal lamb four days, because if they had delayed it till the moment of their departure from Egypt, they might in the haste of other business have forgotten it; in order that they might detect any blemish in the lamb; that they might by a sight of the lamb be awakened to a grateful expectation of their approaching deliverance; and that they might repose a sure trust in the help of God against their enemies. And so Christ was ordained from eternity as the offering for human guilt. He was in every way tested.

II. In the sacrifice it requires. “And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” (Exodus 12:6). Thus the lamb was to be slain, and by all Israel. The continued life of the victim would not have ensured the needed safety. Its death was a necessity. And so in reference to Christ; we are saved by His death. Without shedding of blood there is no remission. He was slain by the entire congregation. The world, Jews and Gentiles, cried out, “Crucify Him! crucify Him!” The Paschal lamb was roast with fire. In this we have set forth the sufferings of Christ. No pain equal to that occasioned by burning. Christ in the agony of the garden and on the cross.

III. In the duty it enjoins. “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” (Exodus 12:7). The blood appointed to be a means to preserve the Hebrews from death is emblematical of the blood of Christ, whereby men are delivered from sin and everlasting death. True the destroying angel would know the houses of the Israelites without this sign on the door-post, but this shedding of blood was the Divinely-appointed method of safety, and was the token of God’s care over them. Christian families must have the blood of Christ sprinkled on the lintels of their doors. They must remember Christ when they go in and out; they must confess Christ to the unbelieving world; then they will be safe from the minister of vengeance. The blood of Christ is the only protection of the soul, and must be sprinkled as well as shed (Romans 5:11). The soul must make a personal appropriation of Christ. To know Christ will profit little. We must feast on Him by faith.

IV. In the spirit it demands. (Exodus 12:22.) The bunch of hyssop signifies faith and humility. David said, “Wash me with hyssop and I shall be clean” (Psalms 51:7). Hyssop is a lowly herb growing in rocky places. In the reception of Christ the soul must be humble. The Paschal lamb was also to be eaten with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8). Here we have shadowed forth the need of repentance and sincerity. And if the soul is to receive Christ, it must be with a contrite heart and with a deep sense of demerit. The Paschal lamb was to be eaten in the attitude of haste (Exodus 12:11). The loins must be girded, the feet must be shod, the hands must hold the staff. The redeemed soul must sit loose to earthly things. The good are pilgrims in the world; they must be ready to go to Canaan.

V. In the peril it averts. “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you” (Exodus 12:13). Thus we see the peril escaped by the Israelites through the proper observance of the Passover, and in this we have an emblem of the dangers averted from men by a believing interest in the atonement of Jesus Christ. They are delivered from the power of the second death. They escape the stroke of the destroying angel. Their safety is welcome and happy.

VI. In the extent it contemplates. By a proper observance of the Passover all Israel would be preserved from the blow of the destroying angel, not one soul excepted. And so by application to the atonement of Jesus Christ the whole world may receive an eternal salvation from the awful penalties of sin. LESSONS:—

1. That Christ crucified is the only hope of moral safety.

2. That Christ appropriated is the only refuge of the soul.

3. That Christ must be received by repentance and faith.


Exodus 12:3-13. God alone can ordain sacraments in His Church. Set times or days for duties can only be constantly appointed by God.

God leaves to prudence some smaller circumstances of worship, which nature and reason may judge fit (Exodus 12:3-4).

The Passover is an evening sacrifice, sweet and real.… The blood of the Passover must be sprinkled to give benefit.… Houses in the law, but souls in the Gospel, must be sprinkled with blood.
The night of death to enemies God makes the night of feasting to His Church.
God’s rules must qualify persons at all times for His Passover communion.
Speed in the use of God’s ordinance must be used when God commands it.
The occasion of festival to the Church:—

1. The destruction of God’s enemies.
2. The destruction of false gods.
3. The deliverance of souls from bondage.
4. The demonstration of the Divine existence.

God sees and answers His own signs, and will spare His people in destroying sinners.



Passover-Relics! Exodus 12:7. Millington says that the sprinkling of the blood upon the doorposts probably gave rise to certain traditions and customs among other nations. Pliny tells how houses may be preserved from the perils of sorcery, by sprinkling the door-posts with the blood of the hyæna; while in another place he relates how the newly-wedded bride was in the habit of anointing the door-posts of her home with the blood of a wolf. These, like many other heathen relics of Scripture customs and ceremonies, are sad declensions from the lofty and sublime ideals in Revelation. Though, after all, beneath their floating nebulous vapours there lies the solid germ of truth: the human conviction of the necessity of mediation and atonement for safety and preservation. So that, even these pass over-relics echo one voice—

“The Cross unfolds the mystery,—Jesus died;
The sinner lives; the law is satisfied.”


Passover-Safety! Exodus 12:13. The Israelites had to sprinkle the blood, and this involved an act of faith. By grace were they saved, through faith. A gentleman, crossing a dreary moor, came at length upon a solitary cottage. Glad of the shelter, he could not help pondering upon the loneliness of its inmates, and wondering at their self-security. In the morning, when about to proceed on his way, he inquired of its occupant, whether she was not afraid to live in this lonely place. “Oh no!” responded his humble and aged hostess; “for faith closes the door at night, and mercy opens it in the morning.” Having by faith sprinkled the atoning blood upon the lintels, Israel’s host could repose securely until Mercy opened the door, with the cry: “The hour of deliverance has come.” And so can the Israel of God!

“Who know not where

His islands lift His fronded palms in air;

Who only know they cannot drift

Beyond His love and care.”


Types and Shadows! Exodus 12:3. When the miner, in the American prairies, sinks a shaft to strike the coal formation, he finds far down the images of beautiful plants, lying like lacework spread out upon tables of ebony; images of ferns, and leaves, and flowers, which millions of years ago perhaps ceased, from some change of climate, to open in the cold spring-time, and hence to fall into autumn. There these pictures lie, telling us of a time when perpetual summer-time reigned, and that where the drifting snows of December fall, tropical birds sang and fluttered in palm-trees, and flowers filled the whole day and night with perfume. In our own land, when men of scientific skill ascend the lofty mountains, they perceive traces of a time when huge icebergs grazed their peaks, just discernible above the waters of an Arctic Sea. Yet all these, whether tropical or arctic, dimly shadowed forth more perfect adaptations in nature and nature’s growth; and so all the Bible vegetation—the ritual growth, as well as moral and vicarious development—were images of good things to come; shadows of more glorious and blessed realities of life and salvation in Christ. But just as there are certain more clearly-defined type-memorials perceived by the scientific student, so, in Revelation, are there certain rites and ceremonies more distinctly prefigurative of the atoning blood of the Lamb. Such is the Passover—dim and shadowy memorial of that wondrous Paschal sacrifice—

“That sovereign balm for every wound,
That cordial for our fears.”


Jewish Passover! Exodus 12:7. Bonar and M‘Cheyne record a visit paid to a family of Jews at Jassy. It was the night preceding the day of Atonement; on the eve of which solemn day it is the Jewish custom to kill a cock for every man, and a hen for every woman. In the morning, the “Shochet” or slayer, going round to the houses, arouses the inmates to bring out the fowls to be killed in a proper manner. This, says Trench, is the only blood that is shed in Israel now. Even the paschal lamb is no more slain. A cock and hen, killed by the knife of the Shochet, is all the sacrifice which Israel knows. It is for this wretched, self devised sacrifice that Israel rejects the blood of the “Lamb of God,” which taketh away the sin of the world!

“Dear, dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power.”


Shelter! Exodus 12:13. In the East Indies there grows a tree, which is called a nonconductor of lightning. When the dreadful thunderstorms burst in those tropical regions, the lightnings would strike the surrounding trees of the forest, but never touch this nonconductor. It was some time before the natives discovered this peculiar property; but, once ascertained, they invariably gathered their flocks and families beneath these singular trees, as soon as they saw the storms gathering. No matter how loud the thunder, how vivid the fiery gleams, the refugees were safe under its far-spreading arms. There was only one danger, which arose from the falling of some forest giant upon it, crushing it beneath the weight of the fall. If, however, this tree was stronger than the falling trunk, it stood firm. So amid the storms of life there is the Tree of Life, the Saviour of sinners, beneath whose extended wings fugitive penitents are safe. No lightnings of Divine wrath can injure that sacred Tree; and such is its almighty strength, that no riven, blasted trunks can crush it beneath their falling weight. Israel’s first-born, safe under the spreading branches of Divine providence and truth, were types and teachers of penitent sinners, who avail themselves of the salvation promised and presented beneath the outspread arms of the Cross of Calvary—

“We have no shelter from our sin,
But in Thy wounded side.”


Verses 14-20



I. It is the memorial of a glorious fact. The Passover was commemorative of the safety of the children of Israel when the destroying angel passed through the land, and also of their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. And so the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is commemorative of important facts in the moral history of men. It is a memorial of the death of Christ upon the cross, and of the freedom then rendered possible to human souls. God will have the great facts of the Church’s history well remembered; hence He provides monuments of them to succeeding generations.

II. It is the token of abiding mercy. The Passover, whenever it was celebrated, reminded the Israelites of the abounding mercy of God to them, and in after-years this would be pre-eminently the case. And surely no true soul can draw near to the table of the Lord to partake of His Holy Sacrament, without being sensitive to the continued mercy of the Infinite. Hence the Sacrament is not merely a monument of bygone history, but of the continual compassion of God to the penitent sinner. His mercy endureth for ever.

III. It is the time of joyous festival. The Passover was not merely a sacrifice; it was also a feast. The sacrificial part of it found its counterpart in the death of Christ, but the eucharistic part still pertains to the Supper of the Lord. Hence it is only priestly arrogance and pretence that turns the table of the Lord into an altar of sacrifice; only superstition will be deceived by such artifice. The Supper of our Lord is a glorious festival, where men of varied customs, experiences, and temperaments are united in deepest sympathy. This feast is a bond of union. It celebrates the most jubilant memories of the soul.

IV. It is of perpetual obligation. The Passover was binding upon the Jew. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is obligatory upon the Christian, and that to the end of time. Its obligation will never be removed by Christ, and no other authority is able to remove it. Let all Christian people realise not only their obligation, but the joy of coming to the table of the Lord; there they obtain the richest feast the soul can have. LESSONS:—

1. That the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is a Divine institution.

2. That it is commemorative of great facts and truths.

3. That it is to be observed by all Christly souls throughout the universe.


The feast of unleavened bread was a distinct ordinance from the Passover, though following immediately upon it. At this feast the Israelites were to eat unleavened bread; probably to commemorate the fact that they had left Egypt in such haste that they had no opportunity to leaven their dough, and were consequently obliged to eat unleavened cakes. It would also remind them of the power of God in bringing them out of Egypt when they were without provision for their journey, and it would teach them a lesson of trust in the Divine providence. This feast was an ordinance of God. We observe in reference to it—

I. That the ordinances of God are clearly made known and enjoined upon man. This feast of unleavened bread was clearly made Known and enjoined upon the Israelites. And so all the ordinances of God are plainly revealed in the Scriptures, and require the observance of man.

1. They are Divinely authorised. This feast of unleavened bread was authorised by God. It was not established by Moses; he was but the exponent of the Divine will in the matter. And so the ordinances of the Christian life have higher authority for their existence than the injunction or desire of man; they are ordained of Heaven. Hence their authority is unquestionable, and will only be set aside by open profanity.

2. They are morally beneficial. The feast of unleavened bread was morally beneficial. It carried back the thought of Israel to the old days of bondage, and also to the mercy of God as displayed in their freedom. It was associated with memories the very reproduction of which in the soul could not but have a beneficial tendency. And so all the ordinances of God are morally elevating and instructive. They remind us of great truths, of glorious experiences, and animate with brilliant hopes. The ordinances of God are the banqueting places of the soul. They remind of the past; they strengthen for the present; they prepare for the future.

3. They are wofully neglected. In this respect the Jew furnishes a great contrast to the Christian. Few Jews would neglect the feast of unleavened bread; many more professing Christians neglect the ordinances of God. This neglect is prevalent; it is fearful; it is inexcusable; it is morally injurious; it will ultimately meet with its due punishment.

II. That the ordinances of God are to be observed in a spirit and temper free from sin. The Israelites in observing this feast were to put away all leaven; none was to remain in the house. And all who wish faithfully to observe the ordinances of God must put away all moral leaven from the soul. All who partake of the Passover must put away leaven; all who have been sprinkled with the blood of Christ must put away sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-8).

1. The ordinances of God must be observed in a spirit free from hypocrisy. While observing the ordinances of God, the soul must be pure, free from all duplicity of motive, and perfectly in harmony with the solemn duty in which it is engaged. God seeth the heart, and knows whether the leaven of hypocrisy is expunged. lie cannot be deceived. Hence the need of sincerity.

2. The ordinances of God must be observed in a spirit free from malice and bitterness. Those who observe the ordinances of God must not be of cruel heart, of unrighteous character, infected with error, or filled with vexation. They must be compassionate; their dealings must be characterised by equity, their minds by true wisdom, and their souls by peacefulness.

3. The ordinances of God require that the home life be in sympathy with them. There must be no leaven in the house. A man who has leaven in his house cannot join in the feast of unleavened bread. What we are at home we shall be in the ordinances of God. The home life and the ordinary worship are inseparable; they are part of the same service, and must be pure.

III. That the ordinances of God are to be observed with solemnity and propriety of moral conduct and demeanour. “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.” It may be asked why the Israelites were to eat unleavened bread for seven days. The number seven is not used here for an indefinite time, but probably to denote the length of time between Israel going out of Egypt and the overthrow of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. Seven days elapsed between these two events, and hence during this time they were to eat unleavened bread, as their freedom was not complete. The ordinances of God are solemn, and must be characterised by appropriate conduct. It was a holy convocation. This feast was set apart from all profane use, and consecrated unto God. Two days of it were not to be profaned by secular toil. On the first day of the seven, appropriate sacrifices were offered (Numbers 23:0.) During this time it was lawful to prepare food, which was not the case on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:3). The first and last days were regarded with peculiar sanctity; the intervening days, work could be done. All the ordinances of God are holy, they should be observed with appropriate sacrifices of the heart; but they are not intended to interfere unduly with the time allowed for our secular duties.

IV. That those who profane the ordinances of God are unworthy of them, and should be denied the privilege of them. “That soul shall be cut off from Israel.” Some interpret this to mean capital punishment; more probably it signifies the excommunication of the offender from the society and privileges of the chosen people, either by the public act of the proper officers, or by the direct hand of God (Genesis 17:14). And so men who neglect or abuse the ordinances of God are unworthy of them; they will derive no benefit from them; they will injure others in the use of them, and ought to be excluded from them until they return to a better state of mind. But such discipline was more rigorous in the Jewish Church than it is in the Christian. There ought, however, to be strict attention paid to the moral fitness of man for the ordinances of God. LESSONS:—

1. That there are in connection with the Church of God many ordinances to be observed by men.

2. That these ordinances should be observed with due solemnity and appropriate conduct.

3. That neglect of these ordinances is disobedience to the command of God.


Exodus 12:14-20. Passover mercies and unleavened duties are joined together by the Lord.

God’s full time must be kept in unleavened duties toward Him.… Unleavened services are appointed as a feast to Jehovah.… Such festivals in type and truth are aimed by God to holiness.… Holy convocations are intended to sanctify the name of God and His people by holy duties.
None of man’s own works must come in to interrupt God at any time.
The strict service of God denies not daily food to His servants, but allows it.
Days of deliverance by God should be days of unleavened feasting to Him.
Memorials of such days are suitable to the generations of the Church.
God’s statutes alone must make such time to be observed by His people,



Memorial Feast! Exodus 12:14. A lover on the west coast of Scotland, when about to leave his heath-clad hills and shaggy woods for India, led his betrothed to a rugged glen, through whose precipitous channel flowed a foaming stream. Clambering down its steep and rocky sides, amid the calls and tears of the maid, he reached the edge of the flood, where grew a lovely “forget-me-not” Obtained at the peril, though not the cost, of his life, he presented it to her, begging that she would preserve it as the memorial of his love. Far more wonderful is that “Crimson Passion-Flower,” which, in the form of the Lord’s Supper, seems to say, “Forget-Me-not;” this do as a memorial of Me. As Thomas Watson says, “If a friend give us a ring at death, we wear it to keep up the memory of our friend.” Much more, then, ought we to keep up the memorial of Christ’s death in the Sacrament

“Where flowers of heaven, divinely fair,
Unfold their happy bloom.”


Supper-Songs! Exodus 12:14. If ancient history is worthy of credence, Cleopatra once made a great feast or banquet of wine. Into the cup which she presented to her guest she placed a jewel worth a kingdom. Into the sacred cup which Jesus presents to His people, filled with His precious blood-shedding, He has put a pearl of great price—His Divine love. With such eucharistic joyfulness does this cup fill the believing recipient, that, like the Church in the Canticles, he exclaims: “Thy love is better than wine,”—

“That wine of love can be obtained of none
Save Him, who trod the wine-press all alone.”


Ordinances! Exodus 12:14-20. Fuller says that as it was necessary for the patriarchs to fix their residence near a well, so is it for believers to fix their residence near ordinances. They are morally beneficial. They refresh and strengthen. Yet not in themselves. As M‘Cheyne puts it, when a man goes thirsty to a well, his thirst is not allayed merely by going there. An English sailor having escaped from his Moorish captors in Africa, found himself thirsty in the desert. Night came on, and his thirst increased. Amid the shadows he wandered on; then lay down under a tree with his thirst still unquenched. Had it been day, he would have perceived that he was lying beside a cooling spring. He had come to the well, but his thirst was not allayed by that act; on the contrary, his thirst was increased by every step he took. In the morning, it was by what he drew out of the well that he was refreshed and strengthened. Just so, it is not by the mere act or exercise of coming to ordinances that souls obtain life and joyfulness; but by the tasting of Jesus in the ordinances, Whose flesh is meat indeed, and His blood drink indeed—

“His fountains are deep, His waters are pure,
And sweet to the weary soul.”

Commemorations! Exodus 12:14-20. During the reign of the Stuarts over the two kingdoms of England and Scotland, the youthful scion of a powerful Scotch house, whose family had once coerced their youthful monarch, was in revenge and fear confined in a dungeon. After upwards of twenty years’ solitary seclusion, where he beguiled his imprisonment with the education of a mouse, he was liberated. On the night previous to his liberation, he and the person through whose mediation his freedom had been secured, partook of a humble feast, which they always afterwards celebrated on the successive anniversaries of his liberty. With some such feelings of joyfulness and commemorative gratitude must Israel have feasted year by year. Year by year, it stirred the ashes of memory in the Jewish heart, and kindled them up into a flame of hope; while it taught them to look for a greater prophet than Moses, to long fur a grander sacrificial lamb than that of the passover, and to hope for a more glorious salvation than freedom from temporal oppression and bondage. So Christians commemorate with graceful praise the Feast of that great Paschal Lamb, looking in joyful anticipation to that full and final freedom in the Heavenly Canaan—

“Where peaceful hills and holy vales
Sleep in eternal day.”

Verses 21-23



I. In this incident we have a clear recognition of the principle of vicarious suffering. The lamb was slain instead of the Israelites; the life of the former was taken instead of that of the latter. In this there was substitution. The death of the one secured the safety of the other. If the lamb had not been slain on behalf of the Israelites, and its blood not sprinkled on their door-posts, they must have perished by the stroke of the destroying angel. Hence in this incident we have the principle of vicarious suffering; and this principle extends all through the social life of men. It is seen in the birth of the infant, in the history of the family circle, in the events of everyday life, but supremely in the Cross of Christ. In the Cross of Christ it is seen in its highest embodiment, in its truest meaning, and in its most glorious possibility. There is the innocent dying for the guilty, the God-man suffering for the race. Sometimes this principle is denounced as unjust, but it is a habitual ordination of life, the inevitable outcome of our social and moral relationships. But as regards the Cross of Christ, the principle of substitution, as there manifested, is unique, and has no parallel in the history of men. It is not right for any man to die for another, because no man has a life of his own to give; it does not belong to himself, but to his country and to his family; but Christ, being Divine and from heaven, possessed a life inherently His own, and therefore could lay it down for mankind. Hence the sublime justice and mercy of the act, and the glory of the cross; of this instance of vicarious suffering the Paschal lamb was but a faint emblem.

II. In this incident we have a clear recognition of the need of falling in with all the requirements of the great scheme of salvation. The method whereby the Israelites were to be protected from the stroke of the destroying angel was Divinely originated, clearly revealed, and imperative in requirement. The Israelites would never have invented it themselves; such an idea would never have entered their minds. It was made known to them by Moses and Aaron, and that with due authority and proper emphasis. And by no other way could they have been saved. No doubt many of the Israelites would consider this a very peculiar method of deliverance; they would hardly be able to understand it; but they must obey or die. They may pursue some other course. They may stock the house with medicine ready for pestilence; but vain is their effort. They must obey the Divine command, and that to the very letter; for even if they kill the lamb and omit to sprinkle its blood upon the lintel of the door, they will perish in the coming doom. In all this we are clearly taught the necessity of falling in with all the requirements of the Divine method of human salvation. The sinner must be saved in God’s way, and not after his own. He may reason about the peculiarity of the method of salvation; he may think that other means will be more effective to the end desired; but if he at last is found out of the Divine way of safety, he will inevitably be lost. The blood of Christ sprinkled on the heart is the only sign the destroying angel will recognise, and regard as the token of safety.

III. In this incident we have a clear recognition of the fact that the Divine method of salvation will avert the most awful peril. By being obedient to the requirements of God, as made known by Moses, the Israelites were saved from the destruction that came upon all the first born of Egypt. Not one of the Israelites perished in the awful retribution. Hence we see that the method of God is effective to the salvation of men. And the way of human redemption by the Cross of Christ is effective to the moral safety of all who comply with its conditions. Not one soul has ever been lost that reposed its confidence in the atonement of the Saviour. The trustful soul shall not be hurt by the second death.

IV. In this incident we have a clear recognition of the fact that the efficacy of the Divine method of salvation should be associated with public religious ordinances. (Exodus 12:24.) Thus the Israelites were to associate their safety through this great danger in after-years with their religious ordinances; in this way they would be reminded of their past condition; they would be grateful for their present circumstances, and hopeful of the future. Hence the deliverance wrought by God for the soul of man should be commemorated by public ordinances in the house of God.

V. In this incident we have a clear recognition of the fact that the good should be able to give an intelligent explanation of their moral safety. (Exodus 12:27.) The Israelites would be able to explain the method of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage and from the stroke of the avenging angel; and so those who are safe through the redemption of Christ should be able and willing to explain and make known the rich mercy of God to them.


Exodus 12:21. Faithfulness in God’s ministers binds them to present obedience and discharge of trust.

Men called of God to rule and teach the Church may call others to assist them.
Multitudes of souls cannot be informed of God’s rule without cause, order, and arrangement for their instruction.
Passover preparation and administration must be made by God’s rule.

Exodus 12:22-23. Faith is the true bunch of hyssop to sprinkle souls with Passover blood.

Doors and posts are sprinkled only with regard to souls within.
Such as expect God’s salvation must keep in that place where God will give it.
God has His pass of vengeance as of mercy.
God’s eye is upon His covenant when obediently observed for good.
No destroyer can smite until God grant a commission to him.

Exodus 12:24-25. God’s redeemed Israel are bound to observe His statutes.

All that God’s law requires must be returned to Him without failing in anything.
The ordinances of God are for all generations.
God’s performance is exact, according to the word that He has spoken.
God’s promise performed requires souls to observe the duty commanded.

Exodus 12:26-27. God’s wisdom foreseeth the succeeding generations of His Church and provides for their instruction.

It is accounted meet by God that children should ask and receive instruction about His holy worship.
It is God’s mind that the children of the Church should from infancy be taught to serve God with intelligence.
Parents are bound to know the nature of God’s ordinances, and to teach their children.
The doctrine of sacraments must be declared, as well as the signs used, to make them true.
Not only worship, but the reason of it, must be known by all who will render God reasonable service.


I. It is necessary in order to the true performance of religious service and worship. Merely going through the service of God is not worship. There can be no devotion without an intelligent understanding of the service performed; without this, it is superstition. Knowledge is an essential element in devotion, as men cannot be in the highest sense devotional unless they know what they are about, and the meaning of the service in which they are engaged. There are thousands in the sanctuary engaged in a worship they do not really and fully comprehend; they are too careless to inquire into, they are too slothful to study, the solemn truth and ordinances of God.

II. It is necessary in order to the true performance of parental duty and instruction. Children will ask questions; it is right they should, and careful attention will ever be paid to them by the true parent. They will ask questions about God and about His worship; the answers to these inquiries should be instructive and explanatory, and in order to this, parents must themselves be acquainted with the meaning of the Divine service and worship. In many instances such home instruction is neglected because of the sad ignorance of the parents concerning the things of God.

III. It is necessary in order to refute and silence the sceptical reasonings of men. There might in the future be those in Israel who would object to the reasonableness and necessity of the celebration of the Passover, and to silence these it would be necessary to have a thorough knowledge of the ordinance in its origin and meaning. Christian people ought to be able to explain and defend their service and worship. There would be much less infidelity in the land if Christian people were instructed as they ought to be in the ordinances of God.

Exodus 12:28. God’s revelation of Himself in grace and ordinances deserves praise from His people.

Worship of God and obedience to Him are well coupled.
Despatch in obedience is very requisite to God’s Israel.



Sprinkling Symbolism! Exodus 12:23. A most significant allusion to the figurative significance of the passover-blood occurs in the prophecies of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 9:0), where the man clothed with linen is directed to set a mark upon the foreheads of the godly to preserve them from destruction. The same symbolic reference and command occur in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 7:0), in regard to those who have been sealed as the servants of our God in their foreheads. As has been aptly remarked, Egypt was but a symbol—a glass, into which, if we steadfastly look, we shall see a greater tragedy enacting. We see the great drama of the apocalyps—not the valley of the Nile, with its pyramids and temples; but Europe, with its ten kingdoms and white Alps. We see, not Moses demanding the liberty of the Hebrew captives in the name of Jehovah; but the Reformation walking along the highway to the seven-hilled city, and requiring the liberation of Europe, as he stands on the marble threshold of the Vatican. We see not the ten successive plagues culminating in the slaughter of Pharaoh’s first-born; but the fearful judgments of God upon her ten vassal-states. And we see not Egypt’s first-born; but that crowning scene of terror—the last awful and nameless plague, prior to the Final Exodus of God’s Church, whose members are sealed with the “Blood of the lamb,” to secure them from the coming slaughter, and to ensure their entrance—

“Into the new Salem’s palace hall,
Their everlasting home.”


Crisis-Emotions! Exodus 12:21. The night before any decisive conflict is a solemn and anxious season. On the night before the battle of Ivry, says Hamilton, which was to decide whether Henry should lose his life, or gain his crown, as he eat pondering a map of the battle-field, the hair on one side of the king’s head turned grey. We know also how the commanders felt on the night which raised the siege of Leyden—on the night before Pharsalia, and on the eve of Blenheim of Waterloo. Moses has not told us how he left on the night before the Exodus; but he has given us some interesting glimpses of the scene, or rather the data for introducing it. Chief amongst the natural facts is that it was April, and the night of the full moon. The soft and silvery light fell on the white backs of the African mountains far away, and streamed almost perpendicularly on the mighty pyramids, which, like the spells of the old necromancers, invoke a host of spectres from the shadowy graves of the past,

“Far in whose realm withdrawn,

Old empires sit in sullenness and gloom,

And glorious ages gone,

Lie deep within the shadow of whose tomb.”


Hyssop! Exodus 12:22. When an eastern traveller Visited the city of Sidon, its French consul, who was an enthusiastic botanist, exhibited two varieties of hyssop, one of which he thought was the plant used by Israel. It was a very small green plant, like a moss which covers old walls in damp places. Another, called by the Arabs Z’atar, and having the iragrance of thyme, with a hot pungent taste, and long slender stems, looked more suitable for sprinkling the paschal blood on the lintels, &c. This also grows on garden walls, and is distinct from the hyssop of English druggists and herbalists—a neat, fragrant, labiate plant. It is not found growing on the walls of Palestine, but wild on barren and dry spots of land. Rosenmüller said that the true hyssop was in reality a marjoram—an aromatic plant with while flowers. But Dr. Boyle regards the caper-plant as the missing hyssop, which certainly is to be found in Lower Egypt, where Israel was, as well as on Mount Smai, and plentifully around the ruins of the Holy City. It is a trailing shrub with broad smooth leaves and white flowers, and hangs in festoons from rocks and walls. Perhaps it was employed not only to denote lowliness of spirit, but likewise to signify cleansing property, since from the time of Hippocrates, the caper-plant has been regarded as having cleansing properties useful in curing diseases closely allied to leprosy. Here, however, it implies humility. Each Israelite who grasped it with the hand of faith, as he sprinkled the doorposts of his house, seemed to say—

“Give me the lowest place; not that I dare
Ask for that lowest place, but Thou hast died.”


Verses 27-32



I. We see here that God’s vengeance is as certainly executed upon the rebellious as it is threatened. The death of the first-born was threatened to Pharaoh some time ago, and he had had ample opportunity of obeying the Divine command, and of averting the dread penalty. But no, he still remains obstinate in heart, and will not yield to the will of God; hence the time of destruction has come. The first-born of Egypt are slain, in every house they are dead. There is great mourning in the nation. Nor has the household of the king escaped the common woe. This is not occasioned by pestilence or plague, but by the sudden stroke of Heaven. And thus are the threats of God against the sinner abundantly executed. They may be delayed, but they will not be forgotten. They are awfully certain. The greatness of the calamity will not prevent its final execution; even though it require the death of a vast multitude, the threat of Heaven will come to pass. Let not the sinner imagine that he can escape the retributions of God, either through the inability or unwillingness of God to inflict them, or through his own ability to resist them. Men cannot elude the stroke of Heaven.

II. We see here that God’s vengeance is upon all sinners, no matter what their social position, whether king or beggar. There was death in the palace as well as in the dungeon, in the family of the king as well as in the midst of the slaves. The judgments of God are characterised by equity; they are without partiality. They are no respector of persons. They are not turned aside by social accidents, nor are they bribed by cunning and winning arrangements. Moral considerations determine the retributions of human life. There is no impediment in the way of Divine justice and the execution of its sentence upon all men. God can send His messengers into the palace as well as into the dungeon; bolts and bars, guards and sentinels, cannot keep out the subtle angel of death. Death has many doors into the homes of men. He takes the rich from their wealth, the poor from their misery; and perhaps in the next life the relations of men may be inverted—the poor man may be the prince and the prince, the slave in the dungeon.

III. We see here that God’s vengeance comes upon sinners when they least expect it, and in their moments of fancied security. It was night. All Egypt was in slumber. Men were not even dreaming of approaching ill. There was nothing to disturb their usual repose; when suddenly a cry arose, which every moment gathered volume until it became a piercing wail. Mothers were attending to their loved ones, and watching them pass into the silence of death. And this was the scene throughout the homes of Egypt. And so, the judgments of Heaven often come upon sinners when least anticipated, in the midst of carnal repose and fancied security. Then they awake, but for a moment, and too late, to find that the stern messenger of eternal justice has seized upon them. It often happens that when men are the most insensible to the retributions of Heaven, they are the nearest to it. God sometimes comes to the wicked soul in the midnight hour. The darkness cannot hide from Him. We know not what will be in the approaching night.

IV. We see here that God’s vengeance may make the most obstinate sinners yield to the demands of Heaven.

1. We see that Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron. The terrible stroke of death had indeed done its sad work; and the Monarch of Egypt, alarmed, was glad to get rid of those who. had occasioned him and his nation so much calamity. And thus the purpose of Heaven is at last accomplished. Israel is free; and the two servants of God are rejoiced to see the glad result of their long and anxious toil. It was a moment of deep humility for the king; it was a moment of triumph for Moses and Aaron. How strangely are the scenes of life blended in this world, even at one and the same time! This midnight hour was to Egypt the hour of death, but to Israel it was the hour of freedom. The same hour brings different and varied events and emotions even to the same people.

2. We see that Pharaoh yielded to the demand of Heaven. He gave the Israelites their freedom, and so regarded the claim of God as enforced by severe retribution. True there was not much virtue in the obedience of Pharaoh as it was occasioned by awful plague. But do we not in this incident see the supreme folly of sin and rebellion against God? The sinner will have to yield to the demands of Heaven, and hence the wisdom of an immediate compliance thereto. Why suffer so many dreadful plagues to no purpose? Surely it is better to fall in with the Divine arrangement at first, than to have such painful visitations of vengeance only to yield at last. It is well to avoid the penalties of sin, though this is the very lowest motive for obedience to the will of Heaven. The submission of Pharaoh:—

(1) It was immediate upon the plague.

(2) It was complete in its obedience.

(3) It was comprehensive in its injunction.

(4) It was welcomed by the Egyptians. And thus culminated the judgments of Heaven upon the land of Pharaoh; the sufferings of Israel in a cruel bondage; and the toils of His devoted ministers in reference to a proud king.


Exodus 12:29-30. It is God’s miraculous distinguishing judgment to kill the first-born only.

Choice of beasts, as well as men, God strikes for man’s sin.
Vengeance makes a terrible rousing to the wicked from their midnight rest.
God’s wrath makes the wicked howl in their midnight wakings.
It is God’s eminent stroke when no house escapes without the slaughter of some.



Religions Tuition! Exodus 12:27. Moses might well have been daunted in his mission to instruct Israel in Religion. To teach a set of wild, ignorant boys is no easy matter. The teacher may have received many hints and practical suggestions from his pastor; but the task will still be arduous. Just so with Moses: God had counselled him in many points, and furnished him with useful data of instruction; still it would prove up-hill work. We find, however, that he grappled to the difficulty With spirit. Arthur Madden did the same, when divinely sent to instruct a class of roughs in the hamlet where he lived. The most discouraging feeling to him was that he was only breaking up fallow ground for another to sow in; that he was only commencing a work which another would be privileged to complete. And if Moses thus felt, he was able to grasp the fact that his was a great mission of instructing Israel, one great work to be carried on from age to age, employing many generations of workers; and that therefore his duty was to work with might and main, uprearing in the midst of Israel’s vast host an edifice or temple of religions principle, which would last longer than the pyramids, those gray piles of hieroglyphic grandeur beneath whose shadows they were then in slavery, and which have survived the language which the Pharaohs spoke—

“Preserving its dead emblems to the eye,
Yet hiding from the mind what these reveal.”


Divine Dealings! Exodus 12:29. It is no use to coax or flatter the tiger, which has seized your babe, and whose teeth have met in its little thigh. You must thrust the flaming brand or the glittering spear into its face; then it will howl and drop its victim in the shock of sudden pain. How fondly will you staunch the bleeding wounds, and undo the cruel injury inflicted on your child! God found that mild measures would not influence Pharaoh to release his prey, that he only snarled, and bit all the more cruelly. No wonder that He hurled His flaming brand or glittering sword in the Egyptian lion’s face, and forced him to let go his bruised and palpitating victim. How tenderly God bound up Israel’s wounds when He had allured their host into the wilderness! So does He deal with our oppressors and ourselves. On them He pours His righteous judgments; while on His own He showers deliverances: Why? That we may become holy as He is holy—

“Complete thy purpose, that we may become
Thy perfect image, O our God and Lord.”

Divine Distinctions! Exodus 12:30. Israel’s first-born were unharmed. Side by side stood two houses. The one was that of a publican of worthless character, who took pleasure in giving every annoyance to God’s people, and inflicting injuries upon those who were earnest Christians. The other was that of a family which honoured God—hallowed their roof-tree and daily life with prayer, and hoped for an inheritance in heaven. One night, the publican’s house caught fire, and being chiefly of wood, it burnt like tinder. The family at the castle and the people of the village gathered in groups to arrest, if possible, the progress of the flames. It was soon apparent that their efforts were fruitless, and that the fire would speedily spread its ravages to the neighbour’s cottage. When all were anxiously watching the fiery element, which had now almost wholly consumed the publican’s haunt, suddenly a tremendous torrent of pelting rain fell, hissing and steaming on the burning wreck and the fire-cracked ground, and soon driving many of the crowd to seek shelter within their hornet. That Providence saved the next house from sharing the fate of its neighbour; and thus, as God preserved Israel while He punished Pharaoh, so was the home of Abner Stone protected, whilst that of the godless Dan Ford was wholly destroyed—

“Angels of life and death alike are His;
Without His leave they pass no threshold o’er.”


Moral Freedom! Exodus 12:31. A traveller, who was both a scholar and a high-born gentleman, fell into the hands of pirates, and was carried off to some robber nest on the Barbary shore. There for the rest of his life was he left to languish, rowing the galley, grooming the charger, and tending the cattle of his Moslem master. Could ought be more bitter and heartbreaking! He had tastes which could no longer be cultivated, longings which could no longer be gratified, relations who could no longer be visited, and spiritual emotions which could be confessed only to incur taunts and mockery. Something like this was the experience of free-born Israel, and how welcome freedom! Certainly similar to this was the condition of Adam when he fell into the bondage of sin, until he became familiarised with his serfdom. Even then, there comes across the human mind a longing to taste the sweets of the glorious liberty of the children of God. The Paschal Lamb pledges our deliverance from sin-tyranny. The Blood of Sprinkling gives a happy exodus from the Egypt of Satan’s domination. We have redemption through His blood—

“Dearly are we bought, for God
Bought us with His own heart’s blood.”


Verses 31-36


Exodus 12:35-36. Borrowed … lent.] Render: “Asked,” and “let them have what they asked;” and cf. “Critical Note” on Exodus 11:2.



I. That the Israelites were given their freedom by those who had long oppressed them; and so the Church shall be freed by those who have long enslaved it. The king and his people urged the Israelites to depart from their country, and to be gone at once. The Egyptians were alarmed at the recent judgment, and were afraid lest they should all become dead men. The retributions of Heaven strike the wicked with terror. And so shall it be in reference to the ultimate liberty of the Church; its oppressors shall be made by the severe providence of God to give it its destined freedom. This freedom is promised. Many agencies are working for it. The good earnestly anticipate it. It will then more fully realise its mission. The Church has long enough been in bondage to cruel tyrants and wicked men; they have oppressed it, they have persecuted it, they have reproached it, they have maligned it, and they have plundered it; but the time comes when Heaven shall interfere on its behalf, and by signal judgments bring it out from the hands of the evil oppressor. And thus we see the tyrant contradicting his own fancied interests, his own prior conduct, and giving freedom to the slave he had determined should remain in lifelong bondage.

II. That the Israelites, in availing themselves of their freedom, had to make many temporary shifts; and so the Church, in stepping into liberty, will have to encounter many perplexities. The Israelites, in the moment of freedom, did not immediately enter upon the enjoyment and rest of the promised land, but they had quickly to leave their home of bondage without due preparation, and then were years in the wilderness as weary pilgrims. They had to take with them dough before it was leavened, and to bind their kneading-troughs up in their clothes, and carry them on their shoulders. The first experiences of freedom are always perplexing, even though they may be mingled with joy at the thought of liberty and exemption from a cruel servitude. A wise Church will rather carry its food than leave it, and it is a more welcome burden than the making of bricks without straw. And so when the Church enters upon its destined freedom, it will have to experience many straits and perplexities; it will require wisdom to act in them, fortitude to meet them, and perseverance to make them contribute to its ultimate well-being and glory.

III. That the Israelites, going into freedom, took with them all the wealth they could get from the Egyptians; and so the Church, in entering upon its liberty, should avail itself of all the valuables it can obtain from the world. The Israelites obtained from the Egyptians jewels of silver and gold, and all the raiment they could obtain from them. Nor was this an injustice, as it had all been duly earned by the slaves who were now free. These valuables were not borrowed with the idea of returning them. The word rendered “borrowed” may be rendered asked—they asked of the Egyptians these jewels as payment for their work. And these jewels were in after-days used in making vessels for the sanctuary of the Lord. Ornaments of gold and silver were worn by the Egyptian women, and even by the men, in great profusion. There, as in Eastern countries now, where the tenure of property is insecure, it was customary to invest all spare money in jewellery, which could be easily concealed. And so the world has many valuables which would enrich the Church, to which the Church is justly entitled, and which it should seek to attain. The world has ornaments and raiment which should be sought by the Christian Church in the hour of its freedom. The Church should ask for the gold and silver of the world; it has helped to make and earn it, and has a claim upon it. It should seek the moral and intellectual ornaments of the world—men who are of high moral principle, who are of cultured thought, and of splendid business tact and ability. The Church of Christ should seek to win these ornaments in the hour of its freedom, as they will enhance its true worth and utility in the future. All these can in future days become the vessels of the sanctuary. Like the jewels of the Egyptians, they can be turned from their old and inferior use to a new and glorious purpose in the Tabernacle of the Lord. This service will appropriate and consecrate them. The Church has yet to learn more fully that the jewels of Egypt may become the vessels of the Lord.


Exodus 12:31-33. Vengeance from God can make His rejected servants to be called by His enemies.

Persecuting powers may command liberty to those whom they have oppressed.
God’s prediction of the liberty of His Church is exactly performed in due time.
God can and will make worldly powers give liberty of conscience to His Church for worshipping of Him.
God at His pleasure giveth not only persons, but estates and substances, for His Church.

Exodus 12:34-36. The Church is very ready to go out of bondage when urged by the world to do so.

God’s people, to have their liberty, will be glad to go out with raw dough.
Gold, and silver, and precious things God allows His people to look after by His word.
It is God’s prerogative to turn the hearts of enemies to favour His Church.
The wicked sometimes minister, by the providence of God, to the wealth of the Church.



Kneading Troughs! Exodus 12:34. The Egyptians, so we are told, used large troughs for their dough—kneading it with the feet; and it is probable that the Israelites had been accustomed to the same. But in anticipation of their journey, they had no doubt prepared small wooden bowls, such as are used by the Arabs in their wanderings now, and which serve also to contain the cakes when baked. Harmer says that the Arabs use these very troughs—which in travelling they carry in the loose folds of their burnous—to prepare cakes for strangers in the very desert through which Israel journeyed. And thus did Israel teach a lesson of prudence and foresight of providing for the future—

“Each morn the bees fly forth to fill the growing comb,
And levy golden tribute of the uncomplaining flowers;
To-morrow is their care; they work for food to-morrow;
But man deferreth duty’s task, and loveth ease to-day.”


Jewels! Exodus 12:35. The gift of these treasures was a tribute from the conquered to the conquered. They were employed by Israel in making beautiful the place of holiness. Sometimes, writes Spurgeon, after great battles, monuments are raised to the memory of the fight; and of what are they composed! They are composed of weapons of death and instruments of war surrendered by the defeated foe. The Egyptians yielded up their bravery to Israel’s triumphant host, who turned them into silver trumpets and pillars—golden bowls and tables. And the day is coming when the fury, and wrath, and hatred shall all be woven into a song—when the weapons of our enemies shall serve to make monuments to the praise of God—

“The piercing thorns have changed to flowers;
The spears have grown to sceptres bright”.


Verses 37-39



The children of Israel are now going out of Egypt, the land of bondage, freed by the remarkable interposition of Heaven. They were allowed to leave openly, being even thrust out by Pharaoh. They had not to go out by stealth. God does not encourage craft in His people; He renders it unnecessary, as He will give them an open freedom in due time—a freedom which their enemies shall witness, but not be Competent to hinder. The Israelites went out on foot. They did not go out of bondage in chariots, conveyed easily by welcome method. They had to go out as pilgrims. The early experiences of the soul in freedom are sometimes hard and trying. The Church is often footsore in its pilgrimage through this life; but it is sustained by the thought of liberty on which it is entering yet more and more. The Israelites went out in great numbers. When we remember that only seventy persons went down into Egypt, we may well be astonished that in about 215 years so great a multitude should go out. Dean Alford computes the number to be 2,400,000 in all. Nor would this be a miraculous increase during seven generations. God can multiply His Church in bondage, and the Church of seventy shall become innumerable. The little one becomes a great nation. No weapon formed against the Church can prosper. The Israelites went out from Egypt early in the morning. The destruction of the first-born of the Egyptians occurred at midnight, then the Israelites were commanded to depart from bondage. It would take some time to make known to them the tidings of Pharaoh, to collect them into one vast host, and to be ready for so great a journey. And when the soul leaves the bondage of sin, it is morning, the night is far spent, and the full shining of the Sun of Righteousness is at hand. Morning joys come upon the freed soul. The Israelites went out from Egypt followed by a mixed multitude. In this multitude were to be found heathens who were deeply impressed by the wonderful works of Jehovah as seen in the history of Israel, many who were tired of the despotic rule of Pharaoh, and many more who were animated by curiosity, and who desired to see to what end this vast nation would be led; and no doubt many families who had intermarried with Israel would follow their relatives, animated by mingled feelings of love and sorrow. We have in the allegiance of this mixed multitude to Israel a type of the manner in which many ally themselves to the Christian Church.

I. The motives by which the nominal adherents of the Christian Church are animated. That there are many nominal adherents to the Christian Church is beyond all doubt or question. There is a mixed multitude following the Church in its earthly pilgrimage. These join in the external services of the Church. They aid the financial enterprises of the Church, and they swell the numbers of the Church, but they are not of the true and spiritual Israel, and very soon grow weary even of a nominal adherence to the Church of Christ. Let us look at the motives by which they are actuated in thus following the Church.

1. They are acquainted and impressed with the history of the Church, and hence are induced to follow it. This mixed multitude was acquainted with the history of the Israelites, with their degrading bondage, and with the marvellous interposition of God on their behalf. They had seen the miracles that had been wrought in order to secure the freedom of the enslaved people; they were inspired with reverence of soul, and thought it well to be associated with a people so highly favoured. Hence they followed Israel on their journey. And so men join the Church. They have read the history of the Church of Christ, they have been instructed in the power of the great God who defends the good, and they think it a grand and profitable thing to be associated with those people whose God is the Lord. They follow the Church more for its history and temporal success, than because it is a glorious privilege and duty to be pure in heart, and to be spiritually united to those of kindred moral aims and sentiments.

2. They have an inner conviction that the Church is right, and hence they are sometimes led to follow it. No doubt there were amongst this mixed multitude those who had a deep insight into the life and history of Israel; they had received instruction and convictions in reference to Jehovah which now were potent within them, and which led them to follow the Israelites in this exodus. And there are men who ally themselves to the Christian Church after this fashion. They are rightly instructed in the doctrines of Christianity, they have received convictions and impressions in reference to the claims of God upon the worship of the soul, which they find it difficult to dismiss; and hence, to quiet conscience, they give a nominal adherence to the Christian Church. This is the way of many. They lack the one thing, hence they lack all.

3. They are associated by family ties with those who are real members of the Christian Church, and hence they are induced to follow it. There can be no doubt but that the Israelites had intermarried with Egyptian families, and now that they are departing, many relationships would be severed, and many intimate friendships; and perhaps some would even prefer to accompany their loved ones as far as they could on their march of freedom. This was well. It is well to follow our relatives when they are engaged in the enterprises of the Church; but we should follow then in right motive and spirit. Natural affection is not the true basis of Church life, but true love to God in Christ Jesus. There are multitudes in the Church to-day who are there from no other motive than because their parents are. The son goes to church because his father goes, and not from any intelligent conviction of duty, or from any desire to pay homage to the Eternal Father.

4. They are troubled by ideas of the retributive providence of God, and so are induced to seek shelter in the Church. No doubt many who were now numbered amongst this mixed multitude had seen the devastation wrought in Egypt by the retributive judgments of Heaven, and so were induced to follow the Israelites, lest further destruction should come upon their native land. And men in these days have been instructed in reference to the retributive providences of God, and are anxious to avert them or to seek a refuge from them, and so they yield a nominal allegiance to the Christian Church, hoping thereby to share the safety of the good.

5. They have an idea that it is socially correct to be allied to the Church, and therefore are induced to follow it. True, this idea would hardly enter into the minds of the Egyptians. They would not imagine that they were to gain in social status by going out into the wilderness with these liberated slaves. Here is the contrast. In our own time the Church occupies more lofty station and is in greater popular esteem, and many imagine that they gather dignity and reputation from resting under its shadow. They consider a man an infidel or of bad moral reputation who is connected with no Christian Church; and hence men join to win social respect.

6. They always follow the multitude. No doubt many followed the Israelites simply because there was a great crowd going out of Egypt. There are some people who will always follow a crowd, without being able to give any adequate reason for so doing; and so when men see the crowd going to the Christian Church, they join without knowing why!

II. The perplexities by which the nominal adherents of the Christian Church are tested. We read elsewhere that “the mixed multitude that was among the Israelites fell a lusting” (Numbers 11:4). Their unhallowed desires were not gratified. Their deliverance had not been so glorious as they had imagined. Trial was before them, and they rebelled against the first privations of the wilderness. And so it is, nominal members of the Christian Church are soon tested, and they often yield to the trying conditions of the pilgrim Church life.

1. The nominal members of the Church are tested by the outward circumstances of the Church. If the Church is rich and in favourable social conditions, then the mixed multitude will follow on most assiduously; but if, on the other hand, it is in the wilderness, sorefooted, without food and without prestige, then they fall away. The temporal condition of a Church is often a test of the moral sincerity of its adherents. Only true and faithful souls will follow a Church in the wilderness, trusting only to the providence of God for needed help and succour.

2. They are tested by the pilgrim difficulties of the Church. The pilgrim difficulties of the Church are numerous and varied; and they will only be overcome by a brave and trustful spirit. There is no bread. How is it to be obtained! And few indeed will follow the Church when it is apparently destitute of bread. That is the time when the mixed multitude falter and become weak. They have not faith to meet the emergency.

3. They are tested by the pilgrim requirements of the Church. The Church in its pilgrim condition requires strong faith in God. great courage to meet the difficulties of the wilderness, and perseverance so that it may not grow weary of the march. Nominal adherents have not the needful moral qualities to meet the requirements of the time, and hence they fall away.


Exodus 12:37-39. The sons of Israel are in a pilgrim state here below.

From countries and cities with habitations God sometimes leads His people to pitch in booths.
Men, women, and children God numbers with his Church or Israel.
Providence so ordering, all sorts of people may join themselves to God’s Church, though not in truth.
God’s word fails not in giving His Church great substance when He seeth it good.
Liberty from Egypt is Israel’s good portion with unleavened cakes.
In working liberty for his Church God may put it upon some hardship.
God sometimes prevents the providence of His Church, that He may provide for it



National Migration! Exodus 12:37. There are numerous migrations of great Asiatic and Tariar tribes on record; but none to equal this in its stupendous character. Scotland was a kingdom in Europe for almost a thousand years before its union with England in 1707. It shows a long line of kings. It made wars—fought great battles—and concluded treaties. Yet, when at the beginning of the last century, it became entirely united to England, its population was little more than the half of that which Moses led out of Egypt. Had the whole Scottish people removed en masse into the adjoining realm of England in one night, what a stir it would have created! It would have been for ever recorded as one of the most remarkable in European history; and yet it would have been vastly inferior in importance to Israel’s national migration, inasmuch as that people were far more numerous, while their flocks and herds were five times as many as all Scotland could have produced—

“What sought they thus afar!

Bright jewels of the mine!

The wealth of seas, the spoils of war!

They sought a faith’s pure shrine!”


Pilgrim-Path! Exodus 12:37-39. Watching the heavy mist or rain clouds rising up from the horizon towards the zenith, we naturally expect them to obscure the deep blue vault overhead. Sometimes this is not the case. The up-soaring masses disappear as if by magic on nearing the zenith. This is owing to these water-clouds coming in contact with a region of warm air, which greedily devours the moisture they contain. Such is the power of the Divine Life in the soul to appropriate the water-drops of refreshment in the clouds of affliction. Sorrows are rain-clouds, and from them the believer eagerly draws all spiritual moisture for his soul’s clearer outline and more entire conformity to the image of Christ. Whatever injuries these thunder and lightning clouds of suffering may cause to the godless, they can only prove abounding mercies to God’s children. That which proves a bane to the sinner, procures a blessing on the saint—

“Confirming, cleansing, raising, producing
Strong thoughts, grave thoughts, lasting to the end.”

De Vere.

Verses 40-42



I. That the pilgrim condition of godly souls in this life often involves long-continued suffering and bondage. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and this was part of the discipline through which they had to pass prior to their entrance on the promised land. Their bondage was severe, and it was long-continued. It was somewhat inexplicable that the heirs of promise should be called to endure such pain; but the children of God are not exempt from even the most painful discipline of life. The time of such discipline is Divinely ordered and arranged, and at the longest soon comes to an end, though the hours and days are lengthened when spent in sorrow and woe. But even in this condition the pilgrim soul has rich promises on which it can rely and which tend to brighten its future with hope. This captivity is productive of moral growth, as it was of the numerical growth of Israel. Hence godly souls in the present life are in a pilgrim condition; they are passing through great sorrows, they are subject to much painful discipline, but the time will come when they shall be free from all such oppression and woe.

II. That the pilgrim condition of godly souls in this life is often called into the glad experience of freedom, and to realise the fulfilment of rich promise. The Israelites are now freed from the bondage of Egypt; by a wondrous providence they are led out from the tyranny of Pharaoh. They realise the promise of God concerning them. And so the pilgrim condition of the soul does not preclude moments of glad release from suffering, even though the suffering may come in another way, for the pilgrim only exchanges the perils of Egypt for those of the wilderness. The conditions of pilgrimage change in this life, though the fact of pilgrimage is unalterable. But kind Heaven makes ample and welcome provision for all the needs and exigencies of the pilgrim life. The soul is guided in its wilderness march. It has manna given. It has the refreshing waters of Horeb. But many souls faint and fail in the desert life; only two of the great multitude of the Israelites were permitted to enter Canaan. The journey of life is a test of character.

III. That the pilgrim condition of godly souls is frequently associated with religious ordinances of a pious character. The Israelites were to celebrate their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt by the observance of the Passover. The night was to be much remembered by them in all the generations of the future, and was to be consecrated by the strict performance of religious ceremonies. And so the soul in its pilgrim condition has many pious ordinances established by Heaven to remind it of glad experiences, and to inspire it with continued hope. In the journey of life there are many feasts unto the Lord, in which a pious soul can take a part.


Exodus 12:40-42. The heirs of Canaan may sojourn in Egypt.

The time of sojourning is determined by God for His Church below.
The longest time of suffering here has its appointed end.
The night and day of the Church’s redemption is a time of observation toward God.
The children of the Church are obligated to observe God’s redemption of His people.



Affliction! Exodus 12:40. When Moses and Aaron failed in their first attempt with Pharaoh, and brought increased oppression upon them, the Israelites looked at their position as dark indeed. Thus, when from a distance we look upon a thick forest, it appears one mass of gloomy shade—dark, unbroken, impenetrable. But as we draw near and enter it, we find it intersected by paths, rugged perhaps, and narrow, yet safe. So was it with Israel, as they passed within the dark wood of adversity; they found paths in the plagues of Egypt—winding and rugged for them, it may be, but safe. They looked up, and the light from above struggled through like a soft, green twilight; while here and there brilliant sunbeams of Divine truth and love glanced like diamond-shafts through the foliage, and showed them that what once appeared all gloom, was instinct with life and liberty—less with bane than blessing. So that

“Dull is the heart that loves not then
The deep recess of the wildwood glen,
Where roc and red-deer find sheltering den,

When the sun is in his power.”


Prompt Obedience! Exodus 12:41. When a general commands his army to march at the midnight hour, and stand their chance of finding shelter and sustenance on the morrow, if the soldiers refuse, they are not an obedient, disciplined host. But if, at the reading of the orders, they at once break up quarters, however dark the night, and however dreary the prospect, then they march in obedience. The obedience must not be forced, but cheerful. It must be rendered with alacrity, not amid discontent and murmuring. Israel’s host received their orders to march at the midnight hour, and they at once yielded. However apparently unreasonable the requirement of the father, it is the little child’s duty to obey; and so God’s children readily obey the pilgrim-call—

“Only guided by His light,
Only mighty in His might.”


Verses 43-51



I. That God not only institutes ordinances for men, but also shows in what way they are to be observed. God had instituted the Passover, and now He gives to the Israelites clear injunctions as to the manner in which they are to observe it. The ordinances of Heaven are not to be kept according to the fearful and arbitrary dictates of the human mind, but according to the revelation and will of God. God tells men how they are to keep His ordinances. Thus they are protected against unwisdom and presumption in reference to them. Men are liable to error in the worship of the Eternal, especially at the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. This is a solemn feast, and must be observed after a pattern Divinely made known.

II. That God will not allow any stranger to the death of Christ to partake of His Holy Sacrament. “There shall no stranger eat thereof.” It would be impossible for a stranger to enter fully into the meaning of the Passover; he would know but little or nothing of Israel’s deliverance from the bondage of Egypt by the mighty hand of God. He would not, therefore, be in sympathy with the ordinance. And so those who are strangers to the death of Christ ought not, and cannot, truly come to the sacramental table of the Lord. That sacrament finds its explanation in the Cross, and no one can enter into it who has not realised in his inner nature the deliverance and blessing consequent on the death of Christ. The believer in the atonement alone can fully realise the blessing of the Lord’s table.

III. That a mere hired and nominal relation to the Church does not give a, true right to the Holy Sacrament. “And an hired servant shall not eat thereof.” There would be many sustaining this relationship to Israel, as there are in relation to the Church in our own age. There are many hired servants of the Church; they are nominally, and perhaps officially, connected with Christian people, but they are not of the true Israel, either by birth or by circumcision; hence they have no right to take part in the Passover, or in the Supper of the Lord.

IV. That circumcision of heart is necessary in order to partake of this Holy Sacrament. (Exodus 12:48.) If the stranger wished to keep the Passover, he was to be circumcised; no uncircumcised person was to eat thereof. Nor should any one eat of the Supper of the Lord unless he be circumcised in heart, and be brought into deep sympathy with the sign of the Christian life, the Cross. None are excluded from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper who are willing to comply with the moral requirements of the service.


Exodus 12:43-51. Faith and obedience make all proselytes as home-born, as the children of the Church.

The table of the Lord must not be profaned by unhallowed communicants.
All God’s Israel must observe His ordinance of worship, especially His Passover.
One law of God unites them that be nigh and afar off in Passover worship.
One law of God makes one heart of His people in obedience.



Freedom! Exodus 12:51. Stretching from one end to the other of the mighty continent of South America are the lofty mountains of the Cordilleras. On the summit of a spur of the main chain, at a distance from the city of Lima in Peru, was perched a house of ancient construction, originally built as a fortification to command the pass through the mountains. Behind it rose range above range of mountains, the more distant lowering to the sky, and covered with eternal snows; while from its windows could be seen the fertile plains of Peru stretching away to the ocean, distinguishable on clear days by a silvery line in the horizon. During the rebellion of the hapless Indian descendants of the Incas of Peru against the cruel oppressions of the Spanish conquerors, this building, occupied by an English merchant, became the centre of a terrible struggle. While the army of the Incas rushed impetuously down the mountain side, the Spaniards pressed up to gain possession of the building, as the key to the mountain pass. The English owner and his family remained passive spectators, feeling that the first to reach would be the masters of the situation. The Spanish soldiers gained first the house; but no sooner had they barricaded their positions, than the Indian warriors surrounded and besieged them. Desperate was the struggle; but, step by step, the oppressed natives gained possession of the outworks, walls, gardens, and at last of the building itself. All this was through the bravery, prudence, and resolution of their noble leader Manco. Thus, step by step, did the oppressed people of Israel gain their liberty, through the undaunted courage, matchless judgment, and iron resolution of Moses, their leader; who depended, however, not on human arms, but on weapons from the Divine Armoury, and the dread artillery of heaven. A like deliverance, after prolonged struggles, is at hand for the Christian Church—

“Already she is on her august way,
And marching upward to her final goal.”


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/exodus-12.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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