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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 12

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2513. B.C. 1491.

This chapter gives an account of one of the most memorable ordinances, and one of the most memorable providences, of all that are recorded in the Old Testament.

(1,) None of all the ordinances of the Jewish Church were more eminent than that of the passover. It consisted of three parts: 1, The killing and eating of the paschal lamb, Exodus 12:1-6 , Exodus 12:8-11 . Exodus 12:2 , The sprinkling of the blood upon the door-posts, peculiar to the first passover, Exodus 12:7 , with the reason for it, Exodus 12:11-13 . Exodus 12:3 , The feast of unleavened bread for seven days after: this points rather at what was to be done after in the observance of this ordinance, Exodus 12:14-20 , This institution is communicated to the people, and they instructed in the observance, First, Of this first passover, Exodus 12:21-23 . Second, Of the after passovers, Exodus 12:24-27 . The obedience of the Israelites to these orders, Exodus 12:28 .

(2,) None of all the providences of God concerning the Jewish Church was more illustrious than the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt. 1, The firstborn of the Egyptians are slain, Exodus 12:29 , Exodus 12:30 . Exodus 12:2 , Orders are given immediately for their discharge, Exodus 12:31-33 . Exodus 12:3 , They begin their march, First, Loaded with their own effects, Exodus 12:24 . Second, Enriched with the spoils of Egypt, Exodus 12:35 , Exodus 12:36 . Third, Attended with a mixed multitude, Exodus 12:37 , Exodus 12:38 . Fourth, Put to their shifts for present supply, Exodus 12:39 . This event is dated, Exodus 12:40-42 .

(3,) A recapitulation in the close, Exo 12:1 st, Of this memorable ordinance, with some additions, Exodus 12:43-49 . 2dly, Of this memorable providence, Exodus 12:50 , Exodus 12:51 .

Verses 1-2

Exodus 12:1-2. The Lord spake unto Moses Or had spoken before what is related in the foregoing chapter, if not also before the three days’ darkness: but the mention of it was put off to this place, that the history of the plagues might not be interrupted. This month shall be to you the beginning of months That is, the first and principal month of the year. It was called Abib, (Exodus 13:4; Exodus 23:15,) which signifies an ear of corn, because then the corn was eared. It answers nearly to our March. Before this time, the Jews, like most other nations, began their year about the autumnal equinox, in the month Tisri, answering to our September, after their harvest and vintage. But in commemoration of this, their signal deliverance out of Egypt, their computation, at least as to their feasts and sacred things, was from the month Abib. And therefore, what was before their first month, now became their seventh. The beginning of their civil year, however, appears still to have been reckoned as before. We may suppose that while Moses was bringing the ten plagues upon the Egyptians, he was directing the Israelites to prepare for their departure at an hour’s warning. Probably he had, by degrees, brought them near together from their dispersions, for they are here called the congregation of Israel; and to them, as a congregation, orders are here sent.

Verse 3

Exodus 12:3. In the tenth day of this month It was necessary they should now begin to prepare the passover four days before, because otherwise it would have been difficult to get ready so many lambs in Egypt, especially as they were to depart in haste; besides, this being the first instance of the celebration of the ordinance, they would require more time to prepare for a ceremony entirely new. But in future ages they did not begin the preparation till the thirteenth, the day before the passover. They shall take every man a lamb The Hebrew word signifies a lamb, or kid, (Deuteronomy 14:4,) as is evident from Exodus 12:5; for they might take either for this sacrifice: but commonly they made choice of a lamb.

Verse 4

Exodus 12:4. If the household be too little The Hebrew doctors tell us, that there were not to be fewer than ten persons, nor more than twenty, to the eating of one lamb. And at this sacred repast, men, women, and children, masters and servants, if circumcised, were entertained.

Verse 5

Exodus 12:5. Your lamb shall be without blemish Shall be perfect, as the Hebrew is, that is, in all its parts. This was a qualification indispensably requisite in all sacrifices: Leviticus 22:20-24. Even the heathen, in the worship of their false gods, were particular in this circumstance. A male Because the males were accounted more excellent, and their flesh better than that of females. Of the first year Under a year old, not above: for the lamb, as also a kid and calf, was fit for sacrifice at eight days old, but not before, Exodus 22:30. And the same law was observed in the daily sacrifice, Exodus 29:38. They were not to be offered before the eighth day, “because,” says Bochart, “till then they have hardly attained to the perfection of animal life, and are not sufficiently purified.” He adds, “they were not to be offered after the first year, because then they begin to feel the heat of libidinous appetite, and consequently are not fit emblems of purity and innocence.”

Verse 6

Exodus 12:6. Ye shall keep it up Keep it apart from the rest of the flock. The whole assembly, shall kill it That is, any man of the whole assembly might kill it. For slaying the passover was not appropriated to the priests.

Verse 7

Exodus 12:7. They shall take of the blood Which was to be sprinkled before the flesh was eaten. Strike it on the two side-posts, and the upper door- post These were to be sprinkled by dipping a bunch of hyssop into the blood, Exodus 12:22; but not the threshold, lest any one should tread upon the blood, which would have been profane.

Verses 8-9

Exodus 12:8-9. Eat it not raw Nor half dressed; but roast with fire Not only because it might be sooner roasted than boiled, and they were in haste to be gone; but because it was thus the better type of him who endured the fierceness of divine wrath for us, Lamentations 1:13. Unleavened bread Partly to remind them of their hardships in Egypt, unleavened bread being more heavy and unsavoury; and partly to commemorate their hasty deliverance, which did not allow them time to leaven it, Exodus 12:39;

Deuteronomy 16:3. But as the original word for unleavened signifies pure, unmixed, uncorrupted, leaven being a kind of corruption, the use of unleavened bread, no doubt, was enjoined to show them the necessity of sincerity and uprightness: to which quality of leaven the apostle alludes, Galatians 5:2, and 1 Corinthians 5:8. With bitter herbs To remind them of their Egyptian bondage, which made their lives bitter to them.

Verses 10-11

Exodus 12:10-11. With your loins girded In a travelling posture, prepared for a journey, which is also the import of the three following particulars. Ye shall eat it in haste As men expecting every moment to begin their journey. Now all these ceremonies were to accompany the feast, that it might be a more lively commemoration of their signal deliverance out of Egypt. It is the Lord’s passover A sacrifice in honour of Jehovah, who passed over, or spared the Israelites, when he smote the Egyptians. It was not, however, strictly a sacrifice, not being offered upon the altar, but a religious ceremony, acknowledging God’s goodness to them, not only in preserving them from, but in delivering them by, the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. Let nothing of it remain until the morning God would have them to depend on him for their daily bread. That which remaineth ye shall burn with fire To prevent its corruption, and the profane abuse of it.

Verse 12

Exodus 12:12. Dreadful work was to be made this night in Egypt: all the firstborn of man and beast were this night to be slain, and judgment to be executed upon all the gods of Egypt Their idol-gods. The images made of metal were, probably, melted, those of wood consumed, and those of stone broken to pieces. To this Isaiah 19:1, and Jeremiah 43:13, have been thought to allude. It may also signify, that God destroyed their sacred animals.

Verses 14-20

Exodus 12:14-20. This shall be to you for a memorial It was to be annually observed as a feast to the Lord in their generations, to which the feast of unleavened bread was annexed. A holy convocation Such solemn festivals were called convocations, because the people were then assembled by sound of trumpet to attend the rites and ordinances of divine worship. The first day was to be a holy convocation, because of the feast of the passover; and the seventh, as being that day, after their exit out of Egypt, when Pharaoh and his host were drowned in the Red sea. A stranger A proselyte, Heathen were not concerned in the passover.

It must be here observed, that the whole of this ordinance of the passover was typical.

(1,) The paschal lamb was typical. Christ is our passover, 1 Corinthians 5:7. 1st, It was to be a lamb, and Christ is the Lamb of God, John 1:29. 2d, It was to be a male of the first year; in its prime. Christ offered up himself in the midst of his days. It denotes the strength and sufficiency of the Lord Jesus, on whom our help was laid. 3d, It was to be without blemish, signifying the purity of the Lord Jesus, a lamb without spot, 1 Peter 1:19. 4th, It was to be set apart four days before, denoting the designation of the Lord Jesus to be a Saviour, both in the purpose and promise of God. It is observable, that as Christ was crucified at the passover, so he solemnly entered into Jerusalem four days before, the very day that the paschal lamb was set apart. 5th, It was to be slain and roasted with fire, representing the exquisite sufferings of the Lord Jesus, even unto death, the death of the cross. 6th, It was to be killed by the whole congregation between the two evenings, that is, between three o’clock and six. Christ suffered in the latter end of the world, (Hebrews 9:26,) by the hand of the Jews, the whole multitude of them, Luke 23:18. 7th, Not a bone of it must be broken, (Exodus 12:46,) which is expressly said to be fulfilled in Christ, John 19:33; John 19:36.

(2,) The sprinkling of the blood was typical. 1st, It was not enough that the blood of the Lamb was shed, but it must be sprinkled, denoting the application of the merit of Christ’s death to our souls, by the Holy Ghost, through faith. 2d, It was to be sprinkled upon the door-posts, signifying the open profession we are to make of faith in Christ, and obedience to him. The mark of the beast may be received in the forehead, or in the right hand, but the seal of the Lamb is always in the forehead, Revelation 7:3. 3d, The blood thus sprinkled was a means of the preservation of the Israelites from the destroying angel. If the blood of Christ be sprinkled upon our consciences, it will be our protection from the wrath of God, the curse of the law, and the damnation of hell.

(3,) The solemn eating of the lamb was typical of our gospel duty to Christ. 1st, The paschal lamb was killed not to be looked upon only, but to be fed upon; so we must by faith make Christ ours, as we do that which we eat, and we must receive spiritual strength and nourishment from him, as from our food, and have delight in him, as we have in eating and drinking when we are hungry or thirsty. 2d, It was to be all eaten: those that, by faith, feed upon Christ, must feed upon a whole Christ. They must take Christ and his yoke, Christ and his cross, as well as Christ and his crown. 3d, It was to be eaten with bitter herbs, in remembrance of the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt; we must feed upon Christ with brokenness of heart, in remembrance of sin. 4th, It was to be eaten in a departing posture, Exodus 12:11; when we feed upon Christ by faith, we must sit loose to the world and all things in it.

(4,) The feast of unleavened bread was typical of the Christian life, 1

Corinthians Exodus 5:7-8. Having received Christ Jesus the Lord, 1st, We must keep a feast, in holy joy, continually delighting ourselves in Christ Jesus; for if true believers have not a continual feast, it is their own fault. 2d, It must be a feast of unleavened bread, kept in charity, without the leaven of malice, and in sincerity, without the leaven of hypocrisy. All the old leaven must be put far from us, with the utmost caution, if we would keep the feast of a holy life to the honour of Christ. 3d, It was to be an ordinance for ever. As long as we live we must continue feeding upon Christ, and rejoicing in him always, with thankful mention of the great things he has done for us.

Verse 22

Exodus 12:22. Out of the door of his house Of that house wherein he ate the passover: until the morning That is, till toward the morning, when they would be called for to march out of Egypt; for they went forth very early in the morning. This command was peculiar to the first passover.

Verse 23

Exodus 12:23. The destroyer The destroying angel: whether this was a good or an evil angel, we have not light to determine.

Verse 27

Exodus 12:27. The people bowed the head and worshipped They hereby signified their submission to this institution as a law, and their thankfulness for it as a privilege.

Verses 31-32

Exodus 12:31-32. Rise up, and get you forth Pha raoh had told Moses he should see his face no more, but now he sent for him; those will seek God in their distress, who before had set him at defiance. Such a fright he was now in that he gave orders by night for their discharge, fearing lest, if he delayed, he himself should fall next. And that he sent them out, not as men hated (as the pagan historians have represented this matter) but as men feared, is plain by his request to them. Bless me also Let me have your prayers, that I may not be plagued for what is past when you are gone.

Verse 33

Exodus 12:33. The Egyptians were urgent They were willing to make all concessions, so they would but be gone; ransoming their lives, not only by prayers, but by their most precious things. For they said, We be all dead men When death comes into our houses it is seasonable for us to think of our own mortality.

Verse 34

Exodus 12:34. The people took their dough Perhaps the Hebrew word here used had better be rendered flour, as it is 2 Samuel 13:8; for if they had time to make it into paste, it seems they would also have had time to leaven it. Their kneading-troughs The word thus rendered is translated store, Deuteronomy 28:5; Deuteronomy 28:17. And as kneading-troughs are not things which travellers are wont to carry with them, it seems more natural to understand it of their flour, grain, or dough.

Verse 37

Exodus 12:37. About six hundred thousand men The word means strong and able men fit for wars, besides women and children, which we cannot suppose to make less than twelve hundred thousand more. What a vast increase was this to arise from seventy souls, in little more than two hundred years!

Verses 38-39

Exodus 12:38-39. And a mixed multitude went up with them Some perhaps willing to leave their country, because it was laid waste by the plagues. But probably the greatest part was but a rude, unthinking mob, that followed they knew not why. It is likely, when they understood that the children of Israel were to continue forty years in the wilderness, they quitted them, and returned to Egypt again. And flocks and herds, even very much cattle This is taken notice of, because it was long ere Pharaoh would give them leave to remove their effects, which were chiefly cattle. Thrust out By importunate entreaties.

Verse 40

Exodus 12:40. Who dwelt in Egypt Or sojourned. We must observe, that it is not said, The sojourning of the children of Israel in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years; but the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt That is, the sojourning of the Israelitish nation, from the time that Abraham left his native country to sojourn in Canaan, to the release of his posterity, who were long sojourners in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. Therefore, the Samaritan copy hath it, Who dwelt in the land of Canaan and in Egypt. So the Vatican edition of the LXX. It was just four hundred and thirty years from the promise made to Abraham (as the apostle explains it, Gal 3:17 ) at his first coming into Canaan, during all which time the Hebrews were sojourners in a land that was not theirs, either Canaan or Egypt. So long the promise God made to Abraham lay dormant and unfulfilled, but now it revived, and things began to work toward the accomplishment of it. The first day of the march of Abraham’s seed toward Canaan was four hundred and thirty years (it should seem, to a day) from the promise made to Abraham, Genesis 12:2, “I will make of thee a great nation.” What reason have we then to admire the exact accomplishment of God’s promise! Notwithstanding the various revolutions and changes of all worldly affairs that must necessarily have happened in the space of four hundred and thirty years, yet God’s promise stands sure amidst them all. Yes, God’s word will stand fast for ever and ever! Heaven and earth may pass away, but his word cannot pass away.

Verse 42

Exodus 12:42. This first passover night was a night of the Lord, much to be observed; but the last passover night, in which Christ was betrayed, was a night of the Lord, much more to be observed, when a yoke heavier than that of Egypt was broken from off our necks, and a land better than that of Canaan set before us. That was a temporal deliverance, to be celebrated in their generations; this an eternal redemption, to be celebrated world without end!

Verses 45-48

Exodus 12:45 ; Exodus 12:48. A hired servant Unless he submit to be circumcised. All the congregation of Israel must keep it Though it was observed in families apart, yet it is looked upon as the act of the whole congregation. And so the New Testament passover, the Lord’s supper, ought not to be neglected by any that are capable of celebrating it. No stranger that was uncircumcised might eat of it. Neither may any now approach the Lord’s supper who have not first submitted to baptism; nor shall any partake of the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice, who are not first circumcised in heart. Any stranger that was circumcised might eat of the passover, even servants. Here is an indication of favour to the poor Gentiles, that the stranger, if circumcised, stands upon the same level with the home-born Israelite; one law for both. This was a mortification to the Jews, and taught them that it was their dedication to God, not their descent from Abraham, that entitled them to their privileges.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 12". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/exodus-12.html. 1857.
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