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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Exodus 12



Verses 1-20

B.—The divine ordinance of the passover

Exodus 12:1-20

1, 2And Jehovah spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you 3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In [On] the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers [according to households], a lamb for a house: 4And if the household be too little for the [a] lamb, let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating, shall [shall ye] make your count for the lamb 5 Your lamb shall be [ye shall have a lamb] without blemish, a male of the first year [one year old]: ye shall take it out [take it] from the sheep, or from the goats 6 And ye shall keep it up [keep it] until the fourteenth day of the same [this] month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening 7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike [put] it on the two side-posts and on the upper door-post8[the lintel] of the houses wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night roast [roasted] with fire, and unleavened bread; and [bread]: with 9 bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not [nothing] of it raw, nor sodden at all [boiled] with water, but roast [roasted] with fire; his [its] head with his [its] legs, and with the purtenance [inwards] thereof 10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire 11 And thus shall ye eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste[FN3]: it is the Lord’s 12 passover [a passover unto Jehovah]. For [And] I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Jehovah 13 And the blood shall be to you for a token [sign] upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you [there shall be no destroying plague upon you], when I smite the land of Egypt 14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep [celebrate] it a feast to Jehovah; throughout your generations ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever [celebrate it as a perpetual ordinance]. 15Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even [yea, on] the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel 16 And in the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation to you [on the first day ye shall have a holy convocation, and on the seventh day a holy convocation]; no manner of work [no work] shall be done in them; save [only] that which every man must eat [is eaten by every man], that only may be done of you 17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in [on] this self-same day have I brought your armies [hosts] out of the land of Egypt; therefore shall ye [and ye shall] observe this day in [throughout] your generations by [as] an ordinance foreExo Exodus 12:18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even 19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even [leavened], that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger [sojourner] or born in the land 20 Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.


[ Exodus 12:11. בְּחִפָּזוֹן. Lange translates: in Flucht-bereitschaft, “in readiness for flight,” condemning De Wette’s rendering, Eilfertigkeit, “haste,” “precipitation.” But in the only other two passages where the word occurs, Lange’s translation is hardly admissible. Deuteronomy 16:3, “Thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste, בְּחִפָּזוֹן.” It could not be said, “Thou camest forth in readiness for flight.” So Isaiah 52:12, “Ye shall not go out with haste (בְּחִפָּזוֹן), nor go by flight.” Here the word also denotes anxious haste. The verb חָפַז likewise everywhere conveys the notion of hurriedness, or anxiety connected with haste.—Tr.].


Exodus 12:1 sqq. Institution of the Passover. As Christendom reckons its years according to the salvation in Christ, so the Israelites were to reckon the months of the year from the first month of their redemption. The first month, in which the redemption took place, Abib (month of green ears) or Nisan, was to become the first month of their year. Hereby likewise the feast of the Passover was to be made the foundation of all the Jewish feasts, and the Passover sacrifice the foundation of all the various kinds of offering. The feast, however, becomes a double one. The Passover, as the feast of redemption, lasts, together with the day of preparation, only one night; the least of unleavened bread (including the Passover) seven days. Since the feast of the great day of atonement also coalesces with the feast of tabernacles which follows close upon it, it would seem that the feast of Pentecost also, as the feast of ingathering, requires to be coupled with something. The institution of the feast of the Passover, connected with the announcement of the destruction of the first-born of Egypt, is narrated in Exodus 12:1-14; in15–20 the institution of the feast of unleavened bread. The two feasts, however, are so thoroughly blended into one, that the whole feast may be called either the Passover, or the feast of unleavened bread. The festival as a whole signifies separation from the corruption of Egypt, this being a symbol of the corruption of the world. The foundation of the whole consists in the divine act of redemption celebrated by the Passover. The result consists in the act of the Israelites, the removal of the leaven, which denotes community with Egyptian principles (Vid. Comm. on Matthew, pp245, 289). We have here, therefore, a typical purification based on a typical redemption.

Exodus 12:1-2. In the land of Egypt.—It is a mark of the dominion of Jehovah in the midst of His enemies, that He established the Jewish community in the land of Egypt, as also the Christian community in the midst of Judaism, and the Evangelical community under the dominion of the Papacy. To the triumphant assurance in regard to the place corresponds the triumphant assurance in regard to the time: the Passover, as a typical festival of redemption, was celebrated before the typical redemption itself; the Lord’s Supper before the real redemption; and in the constant repetition of its celebration it points forward to the final redemption which is to take place when the Lord comes. Keil calls attention to this legislation in the land of Egypt, as the first, in distinction from the legislation on Mt. Sinai and the fields of Moab.—The beginning of months.—It does not definitely follow from this ordinance that the Jews before had a different beginning of the year; but this is probable, inasmuch as the Egyptians had a different one. Vid. Keil, Vol11, p10. Nisan nearly corresponds to our April.

Exodus 12:3. Unto all the congregation of Israel.—As heretofore, through the elders.—A lamb.—A lamb or kid.—According to households.—The companies were not to be formed arbitrarily, but were to be formed according to families. Vid. Exodus 12:21.—On the tenth day of this month.Vid. Exodus 12:6.

Exodus 12:4. Of course more than two families might unite, if some of them were childless. Also perhaps the gaps in smaller families might be filled by members from excessively large ones. Later tradition fixed upon ten as the normal number of participants.

Exodus 12:5. Quality of the lamb: without blemish, male, one year old. For divergent opinions, see Keil, Vol. II, p11.[FN4] That the lamb, as free from blemish, was designed to represent the moral integrity of the offerer (Keil), is a very doubtful proposition, since moral integrity needs no expiatory blood; it might, with more propriety, be taken to represent theocratic integrity. Also the requirement that the lamb be a male can hardly [as Keil assumes] have exclusive reference to the first-born sons [for whom the lambs were substituted]. The requirement of one year as the age probably is connected with the necessity that the lamb be weaned; furthermore, it was for a meal which was to suffice for an ordinary family. The first-born of beasts which were sacrificed on other occasions than at the Passover needed only to be eight days old. As the lamb was of more value than the kid, it is natural that for this occasion it became more and more predominantly used.

Exodus 12:6. Ye shall keep it.—Does this mean simply: ye shall keep it in store? Probably it is intimated that the lamb was designed either to represent the persons, or to be held in custody for them. Why did this keeping of the animal last from the 10 th to the 14 th of Nisan? “Which regulation, however, Jonathan and Raschi regarded as applicable only to the passover slain in Egypt” (Keil). According to Hofmann, the four days refer to the four generations spent by the Israelites in Egypt. In that case the whole analogy would lie in the number four. If the 10 th day of Nisan was near the day of the command, and Moses foresaw that the last plague would not come till after four days, it was natural for him not to leave so important a preparation to the last day; the four days, moreover, were by the ordinance itself devoted entirely to wholesome suspense and preparation; in another form Fagius refers to this when he says: “ut occasionem haberent inter se colloquendi et disputandi,” etc. Vid. Keil.—The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel.—Although every head of a family killed his lamb, yet the individual acts were a common act of the people in the view of the author of the rite. Israel was the household enlarged; the separate household was the community in miniature. Hence later the lambs were slain in the court.—In the evening (literally “between the two evenings”). This regulation, which distinguishes two evenings in one day, is explained in three ways: (1) between sunset and dark (Aben- Ezra, the Karaites and Samaritans, Keil and others); (2) just before and just after sunset (Kimchi, Raschi, Hitzig); (3) between the decline of the day and sunset (Josephus, the Mishna, and the practice of the Jews). Without doubt this is the correct explanation; in favor of it may be adduced Exodus 16:12; Deuteronomy 16:6; John 13:2. According to this passage, preparation for the Passover was begun before the sun was fully set. Considerable time was needed for the removal of the leaven and the killing of the lamb. According to the Jewish conception of the day as reckoned from6 A. M. to6 P. M, there was in fact a double evening: first, the decline of the day of twelve hours; secondly, the night-time, beginning at6 P. M, which, according to Genesis 1:5 and Matthew 28:1, was always evening in the wider sense—the evening of the day of twenty-four hours—which preceded the morning, the day in the narrower sense.[FN5]

Exodus 12:7. Take of the blood.—The two door-posts, as well as the lintel of the door, denote the whole door; the threshold is excepted because the atoning blood should not be trodden under foot. “The door,” says Keil, “through which one goes into the house, stands for the house itself; as is shown by the frequent expression: ‘in thy gates,’ for ‘in thy cities,’ Exodus 20:10, etc.” It is here assumed that every house or tent had a door properly so called. “Expiation was made for the house, and it was consecrated as an altar” (Keil). This is a confused conception. It was the household that was atoned for; the building did thus indeed become a sort of sanctuary; but in what sense was it to be an altar? For here all kinds of offerings were united in one central offering: the חֶרֶם, or the slaughter of the Egyptian firstborn; the expiatory offering, or the blood sprinkled by the hyssop-branch on the door-posts ( Leviticus 14:49; Numbers 19:18), which, therefore, as such represent the several parts of the altar; the thank-offering, or the Passover-meal; the burnt-offering, or the burning of the parts left over. Because the door-posts themselves stand for the altar, the smearing of them was afterwards given up, and, instead, the lamb was killed in the court; and this change must have been made as soon as there was a court.

Exodus 12:8. On that night.—The one following the 14 th of Nisan. Why only on the same night? Otherwise it would not have been a festive meal. Why roasted? The fire (itself symbolically significant) concentrates the strength of the meat; by boiling a part of it passes into the water. The unleavened bread has a two-fold significance. When eaten at the Passover, it denotes separation from the leaven of Egypt ( Matthew 16:6; Matthew 16:12; 2 Corinthians 5:8); as a feast by itself, the feast of unleavened bread, called bread of affliction, denotes remembrance of the afflictions which were connected with the flight from Egypt ( Deuteronomy 16:3). This is overlooked, when it is inferred from Exodus 12:17 that the ordinance of the feast of unleavened bread was made at a later time (as Keil does, II, p20).—With bitter herbs.—מְרֹרִים, πικρίδες (LXX.), lactucæ agrestes (Vulg.), the wild lettuce, the endive, etc. Vid. Keil II, p15, Knobel, p99. “According to Russell,” says Knobel, “there are endives in Syria from the beginning of the winter months to the end of March; then comes lettuce in April and May.” According to Keil, “the bitter herbs are not called accompaniments of the meal, but are represented as the principal part of the meal, here and in Numbers 9:11.” For עַל, he says, does not mean along with, together with, but retains its fundamental meaning, upon, over. In this way the following strange symbolic meaning is deduced: “The bitter herbs are to call to mind the bitterness of life experienced by Israel in Egypt, and this bitterness is to be overcome by the sweet flesh of the lamb.” If only the bitter herbs did not taste pleasant! If only the lamb did not form a meal of thank-offering, and in this meal were not the chief thing! May not the lamb, according to the usual custom, have lain upon a setting of bitter herbs? In the passage before us only the unleavened bread is said to be put upon the bitter herbs. The modification of the arrangement in Numbers 9:11 is unimportant. It is a strange notion that the bitter herbs and the sweet bread formed “the basis of the Passover-meal” (Keil). In that case the “sweet” bread ought to have made the “sweet” flesh of the lamb superfluous. Moreover, the opposite of sweet is not bitter, but sour. According to Knobel, the bitter herbs correspond to the frankincense which used to accompany many offerings of grain, inasmuch as they had, for the most part, a pleasant odor. But frankincense has a special reference to prayer. If the bitter herbs are to be interpreted as symbolic, we may understand that they supplement the negative significance of the unleavened bread by something positive, as being health-giving, vitalizing, consecratory herbs.

Exodus 12:9. Its head with its legs. [“From the head to the thighs,” is Lange’s translation.] “I.e., as Raschi correctly explains, whole, not cut in pieces, so that the head and legs are not separated from the animal, no bone of him is broken ( Exodus 12:46), and the inward parts together with the (nobler?) entrails, these of course first cleansed, are roasted in and with the body.”[FN6] The unity of the lamb was to remain intact; on which point comp. Bähr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus II, p635, Keil, and others.[FN7] The symbolic significance of the lamb thus tended towards the notion of personality and inviolability, that on which rested also the fact and continuance of the unity of the family which partook of it.

Exodus 12:10. Let nothing of it remain. “But what nevertheless does remain till morning is to be burnt with fire” (Keil). But was any of it allowed to remain till morning? Vid. my hypothesis, Life of Christ, Vol. IV, p262.[FN8]

Exodus 12:11. And thus. The preparation for the journey is here at once real and symbolic. The readiness to start is expressed by three marks: the loins girded (tucked up); the travelling shoes on the feet; the walking-stick in the hand. That even the O. T. ritual was no rigid ordinance is proved by the remarkable fact that at the time of Christ they ate the passover lying on couches.—In haste. [“In readiness for flight,” Lange.] A meal could hardly have been taken in “anxious flight” (Keil), or in “anxious haste” (Knobel).[FN9]It is Jehovah’s Passover. Not the Passover unto Jehovah, as Keil takes it, referring to Exodus 20:10, Exodus 32:5. For the Passover designates Jehovah’s own going through, going by, passing over (sparing), as symbolically represented and appropriated by the Passover festival. The feast, it is true, is celebrated to Jehovah; but it celebrates Jehovah’s Acts, and in the place where the rite is first instituted, it cannot appear as already instituted.[FN10] The LXX say: πάσχα ἐστὶ κυρίῳ. The Vulg. “est enim Phase (id est transitus) domini. On the meaning of פָסַחvid. the lexicons, and Keil II, p17. The pesach is primarily the divine act of “passing over;” next the lamb with the killing of which this exemption is connected; finally, the whole eight days’ festival, including that of unleavened bread ( Deuteronomy 16:1-6), as, on the other hand, the latter feast also included that of the Passover. That this first Passover was really a sacrificial feast, Keil proves, in opposition to Hofmann, II, p17. Comp. Hofmann’s Schriftbeweis II, p271.[FN11]

Exodus 12:12-13. Explanation of the Passover. And I. The counterpart and prototype of the Passover festival are historic facts. First, Jehovah, as Judges, passes through all Egypt. Secondly, He visits upon the young life in the land a plague whose miraculousness consists especially in the fact that the first-born fall, the infliction beginning with the house of Pharaoh. The result is that all the gods of Egypt are judged by Jehovah. What does that mean? Keil says: the gods of Egypt were spiritual powers, δαιμόνια. Pseudo-Jonathan: idols. Knobel compares Numbers 33:4, and says: “We are to think especially of the death of the first-born beasts, since the Egyptians worshipped beasts as gods,” (!) etc. The essential thing in the subjective notion of gods are the religious conceptions and traditions of the heathen, in so far as they, as real powers, inhere in national ideals and sympathies. Legends in point, vid. in Knobel, p100. Thirdly, Jehovah spares the first-born of the Israelites.—The blood shall be to you for a sign. The expression is of psychological importance, even for the notion of atonement. It does not read: it shall be to me for a sign. The Israelites were to have in the blood the sacramental sign that by the offering of blood the guilt of Israel in connection with Egypt was expiated, in that Jehovah had seen the same blood. This looking on the blood which warded off the pestilence reminds us of the looking up to the brazen serpent, and of the believer’s contemplation of the perfect atonement on the cross. Keil says, “In the meal the sacrificium becomes a sacramentum.”

Exodus 12:14. The solemn sanction of the Passover.—As an ordinance for ever. The institution of the Passover continues still in its completed form in the new institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Exodus 12:15. The solemn institution of the seven days’ feast of unleavened bread. It was contemporaneous with the Passover; not afterwards appended to it, for this is not implied by Exodus 12:17. (See above on Exodus 12:8). The real motive was the uniform removal of the Egyptian leaven, a symbol of entire separation from everything Egyptian. Hence the clearing away of the leaven had to be done on the first day, even before the incoming of the 15 th of Nisan, on the evening of the 14 th. Vid. Exodus 12:18. Hence also every one who during this time ate anything leavened was to be punished with death. He showed symbolically that he wished to side with Egypt, not with Israel. The explanation, “The unleavened bread is the symbol of the new life, cleansed from the leaven of sin,” (Keil), is founded on the fundamentally false assumption, revived again especially by Hengstenberg, that the leaven is in itself a symbol of the sinful life. If this were the case, the Israelites would have had to eat unleavened bread all the time, and certainly would not have been commanded on the day of Pentecost to put leavened bread on the altar ( Leviticus 23:17). The leaven is symbol only of transmission and fellowship, hence, in some cases, of the old or of the corrupt life. “Leaven of the Egyptian character,” says Keil himself, II, p21.

Exodus 12:16. On the first day. This is the day following the holy night, the second half of the 15 th of Nisan. Like the seventh day it is appointed a festival, but to be observed less rigidly than the Sabbath. According to Leviticus 23:7, the only employments forbidden are the regular labors of one’s vocation or service, and food may be prepared according to the necessities of the day; this was not allowed on the Sabbath.

Exodus 12:17. For on this self-same day. Strictly speaking then, the days of unleavened bread began with the beginning of the 15 th of Nisan, and in commemoration of the exodus itself, whereas the Passover was devoted to the commemoration of the preceding dreadful night of judgment and deliverance, the real adoption or birth of God’s people Israel.

Exodus 12:18. On the fourteenth day of the month. This is the feast of unleavened bread in the wider sense, including the Passover. The Passover, according to the very idea of it, could not be celebrated with leavened bread, i.e., in connection with any thing Egyptian, for it represented a separation, in principle, from what was Egyptian.

Exodus 12:19. Also the foreigner, who wishes to live among the Israelites, must submit to this ordinance, even though he has continued to be a foreigner, i.e., has not been circumcised. The one born in the land is the Israelite himself, so called either in anticipation of his destined place of settlement, or in the wider sense of nationality. Keil approves Leclerc’s interpretation: quia oriundi erant ex Isaaco et Jacobo, [“because they were to take their origin from Isaac and Jacob.”]

Exodus 12:20. Eat nothing leavened. Again and again is this most sacred symbolic ceremony enjoined, for it symbolizes the consecration of God’s people, a consecration based on their redemption.


FN#3 - Exodus 12:11. בְּחִפָּזוֹן. Lange translates: in Flucht-bereitschaft, “in readiness for flight,” condemning De Wette’s rendering, Eilfertigkeit, “haste,” “precipitation.” But in the only other two passages where the word occurs, Lange’s translation is hardly admissible. Deuteronomy 16:3, “Thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste, בְּחִפָּזוֹן.” It could not be said, “Thou camest forth in readiness for flight.” So Isaiah 52:12, “Ye shall not go out with haste (בְּחִפָּזוֹן), nor go by flight.” Here the word also denotes anxious haste. The verb חָפַז likewise everywhere conveys the notion of hurriedness, or anxiety connected with haste.—Tr.].

FN#4 - The age of the lamb is expressed in Hebrew by the phrase: “son of a year.” The Rabbinical interpretation is that this means a year old or less, and in practice it has been applied to lambs from the age of eight days to that of one year. Apparently our translators had that interpretation in mind in rendering: “of the first year.” But notwithstanding the wide currency of this view (adopted even by Rosenmüller, Baumgarten, Murphy and other modern commeutators), it seems to be almost stupidly incorrect, as Knobel very clearly shows. Murphy says: “The phrase ‘son of a year’ means of any age from a month to a full year,” and refers to Genesis 7:6; Genesis 7:11. But why “from a month?” Why not “eight days” as well? Why not one day, or one second, from the time of birth? Isaac, we are told in Genesis 21:4, was circumcised when he was the “son of eight days.” How old was he? In Leviticus 27:6 we read: “If it be from the son of a month unto the son of five years,” where the A. V. reads correctly “a month old,” and “five years old.” It would be a singular way of fixing two limits, if both expressions are so indeterminate as the Rabbinical interpretation would make them. If the “son of a year” may be as young as eight days, and the “son of a month” may be twenty-nine days old, what is the use of the phrase “son of a month” at all? Or what is the sense of using the latter phrase as the early limit? Why not say simply: “If it be the son of five years?” which, according to the Rabbinical interpretation, ought to cover the whole period.—Tr.]

FN#5 - Ginsburg in Alexander’s Kitto’s Cyclopædia, Art. Passover, has shown that the second of the three views about “the two evenings” was not held by Kimchi and Raschi (otherwise called Jarchi), but that they agreed with the great mass of Jewish commentators in adopting the third view. The phrase itself is so vague that from it alone the meaning cannot with certainty be gathered. Most modern Christian commentators, it should be said, adopt the first view. Deuteronomy 16:6, where the time for sacrificing the Passover is fixed “at the going down of the sun,” is quoted as favoring that view, while Lange quotes it on the other side. Whatever may have been the exact meaning of the phrase originally, it is probable that the very early Jewish practice corresponded with the Rabbinical interpretation. The transactions recorded in 1 Kings18 indicate this. There we read ( Exodus 12:26) that the prophets of Baal called on Baal from morning till noon, and afterwards ( Exodus 12:29) from mid-day “until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice” (more exactly, “until towards the time”). According to Exodus 29:39 the evening sacrifice also was offered “between the two evenings.” If the meaning were “from mid-day till sunset,” there would seem to be no reason why it should not have been so expressed. Besides, it is intrinsically improbable that the howlings of the false prophets continued through the whole day. Especially is it difficult, if not impossible, to find time enough in the evening of that day for the events which are narrated to have followed, viz. Elijah’s prayer, the consumption of the burnt-offering, the slaying of the false prophets, the return from the Kishon, the prayer for rain, the servant’s going seven times to look, Elijah’s going to Jezreel.—Tr.]

FN#6 - This sentence is marked as a quotation by Lange, but the source, as very often in the German original, is not indicated; and in this case I have not been able to trace it out.—Tr.].

FN#7 - Bähr, l. c. says on this point: “This had no other object than that all who received a part of that one intact Iamb, i.e., who ate of it, should regard themselves as a unit and a whole, as a community, just like those who eat the New Testament Passover, the body of Christ ( 1 Corinthians 5:7), of which the Apostle, in 1 Corinthians 10:17, says, ‘For we being many are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.’ ”—Tr.].

FN#8 - The hypothesis is that the remains of the paschal lamb, if there were any, were burnt up the same night, and therefore were not allowed to remain till the next day. But this seems to conflict with the plain language of the verse.—Tr.].

FN#9 - Why not in “anxious haste?” A man can surely eat in haste as well as do anything else in haste. That there was to be a “readiness for flight” is sufficiently indicated by the precept concerning the girdles, sandals, and staves. Vid. under “Textual and Grammatical.”—Tr.].

FN#10 - We have let the A. V. reading stand: nevertheless it is by no means so clear that Keil is not right. He certainly is supported not only by many of the best versions and commentators, but by the Hebrew, which literally rendered can read only, “It is a Passover to Jehovah,” or “It is a Passover of Jehovah.” The latter differs from Lange’s translation as making “Passover” indefinite, whereas “Jehovah’s Passover” is equivalent to “the Passover of Jehovah.” Furthermore, the subject of the sentence naturally, if not necessarily, refers to the lamb; but the lamb cannot be called Jehovah’s passing over. The last point made in opposition to Keil is not just, inasmuch as Keil does not render (as Lange makes him) “the Passover unto Jehovah,” but distinctly leaves the noun indefinite, so that there is no implication that it was an already existent institution.—Tr.].

FN#11 - Hofmann takes זֶבַה in Exodus 12:27 in the general sense of slaughter, instead of the ceremonial sense of sacrifice, and argues that, as the lamb was killed in order to be eaten, it was in no proper sense an offering to Jehovah, although the killing and eating of it was divinely commanded. He distinguishes also between the original ordinance and the later celebration of it. Keil, on the contrary, lays stress on the fact that זָבַה and זֶבַה everywhere, except Proverbs 17:1, and 1 Samuel 28:24, denote sacrifice in the narrow ceremonial sense, and that the Passover in Numbers 9:7 is called קָרְבָּן‍, offering. Knobel likewise says, “Without doubt the Passover was a sort of offering.” But he contends that it was not (as Keil and others hold) a sin-offering, for the reasons: (1) that the O. T. gives no indication of such a character; (2) that the mode of observing the rite differed from that belonging to the sin-offering, particularly in that the lamb was eaten, whereas none of the animal constituting the sin-offering was eaten; and (3) that it was a joyous festival, whereas everything connected with the sin-offering was solemn. He classes it, therefore, rather with the burnt-offering. But the latter was not eaten, and had (though not exclusively, yet partially) an explatory character. Vid. Leviticus 1:4.—Tr.].

Verses 21-36

C.—The institution of the first passover. The last plague. The release and the preparation for departure

Exodus 12:21-36

21Then [And] Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw [Go] out,[FN12] and take you a lamb [take you lambs] according to your families, and kill the passoExo Exodus 12:22 And ye shall [And] take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts [two posts] with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his 23 house until the morning. For [And] Jehovah will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel and on the two side posts [two posts], Jehovah will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto [come into] your houses to smite you 24And ye shall observe this thing for [as] an ordinance to [for] thee and to [for] thy sons for eExo Exodus 12:25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be [are] come to the land which Jehovah will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service 26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? 27That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of Jehovah’s passover [the passover of Jehovah], who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head [bowed down] and worshipped 28 And the children of Israel went away [went], and did29[did so;] as Jehovah had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they. And it came to pass that at midnight [at midnight that] Jehovah smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the first-born of cattle 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, Hebrews, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead 31 And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve Jehovah, as ye have said 32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also 33 And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be [are] all dead men. 34And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders 35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed [asked] of the Egyptians jewels [articles] of 36 silver, and jewels [articles] of gold, and raiment. And Jehovah gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that [and] they lent unto them such things as they required [they gave unto them]: and they spoiled [despoiled] the Egyptians.


[ Exodus 12:21. “Draw out,” as the rendering of מִשְׁכוּ, is acquiesced in by Lange, De Wette, “Wordsworth, Murphy, and Canon Cook (in the Speaker’s Commentary), and is defended by Kalisch and Bush. The latter, in a note on Judges 4:6, affirms that מָשַךְ never means “to approach.” He assigns to it there the meaning “to draft,” or “enlist,” sc. soldiers for his army—a meaning which certainly is no where else (therefore not “frequently,” as Bush says) to be found. That מָשַׁךְ may be used intransitively, Bush does not deny; and indeed in Judges 20:37 he himself follows the rendering “drew themselves along,” and explains it as descriptive of a mass of men “stretching themselves out in a long train and rapidly urging their way to the city.” This certainly is not far from the meaning which he denies to the word. What significance could be attached to the phrase “draw out,” as here used of the paschal lamb, is not clear. Not “draw out,” in the sense of “pull out,”—a meaning which the word has in such cases as that of Jeremiah, who was drawn up with cords out of the dungeon, Jeremiah 38:13. Not “draw out” in the sense of “draw by lot;” for the word no where has this meaning, and the lambs were not drawn by lot. It could mean only “take”—a meaning which, though assigned to it here by Kalisch, the word no where else has, and which, if it had it, would be the same as that of the following word. There is therefore little doubt that we are to understand the word, with the LXX, Vulg, Gesenius, Fürst, Bunsen, Arnheim, Alford, Keil, Knobel, and others, as used intransitively.—Tr.]


The narrative evidently transports us to the 14 th day of Nisan, the days of preparation being passed over.

Exodus 12:21. For this reason we do not translate מִשְׁכוּ intransitively, “go hence,” etc. The paschal lambs have been for four days in a special enclosure; now they are to be drawn out, seized and slaughtered. Hence also the injunction proceeds at once to the further directions concerning the transaction.

Exodus 12:22. A bunch of hyssop.—A handful, says Maimonides. Hyssop “designates probably not the plant which we call hyssop, not the hyssopus officinalis, it being doubtful whether this is found in Syria and Arabia (vid. Ritter, Erdkunde, XVII, p686), but a species of the origanum similar to the hyssop” (Keil).—That is in the basini.e., in which the blood was caught. None of you shall go out.—They are protected only in the house, behind the propitiatory blood.

Exodus 12:23. The destroyer to come in—Comp. the ὀλοθρεύων of Hebrews 11:28 with 2 Samuel 24:16; Isaiah 37:36. So Keil and others, whereas Knobel and others take מַשְׁחִית as abstract=destruction. Knobel’s reasons (p105) are easily refuted; e.g., though Jehovah Himself goes through Egypt, yet it does not thence follow that He might not make use of an angel of judgment in the judicial inflictions (to be understood symbolically, vid. Psalm 78:49); He Himself, however, distinguishes between His people and the Egyptians.

Exodus 12:24-26. The establishment of the Passover festival is again enjoined, and at the same time there is connected with it an injunction to instruct children concerning it. The Israelitish child will not unthinkingly practice a dead worship; he will ask: What does it mean? And the Israelitish fathers must not suppress the questions of the growing mind, but answer them, and thus begin the spiritualizing of the paschal rite.

Exodus 12:27. Worshipped.—Expression of faith, allegiance, joy, and gratitude.

Exodus 12:28. Brief reference to the festive meal of faith in contrast with the dreadful judgment now beginning. At midnight.—According to Keil, we have no occasion here to look for any natural force as underlying the punishment, but to regard it as a purely supernatural operation of divine omnipotence, inasmuch as here the pestilence is not named, as in 2 Samuel 24:15. Also (he says) Jehovah administers the last plague without Moses’ mediation. But here too Moses’ prophetic prediction has a place; and also the teleological design of the facts. And this was the main feature of all these punitive miracles, provided we do not conceive Moses’ rod as having itself wrought them. According to Knobel, the miracle consisted in the pestilence “which from the oldest time to the present day has had its chief seat in Egypt.” He gives a series of examples, p106. Also statements concerning the season in which the pestilence is accustomed to appear in Egypt: December, February, March. “It is most destructive from March to May.” “Quite in accordance with the facts, the series of plagues ends with the pestilence, which generally lasts till the Nile inundation.” “The pestilence spares many region, e.g., the deserts (Pruner, p419).” On the death of the cattle: “According to Hartmann (Erdbeschreibung) von Afrika, I, p68), the dogs in Cairo almost constantly have the pestilence; and when it rages among them, it ceases to prevail among men.” According to Knobel, the occurrence was expanded by legendary tradition into a miracle. But miraculous are: (1) The prediction of the fact, its object, and its results; (2) the sudden spread of the plague over the younger generation, the first-born, especially the first-born of the king, being singled out; (3) the fact that both beasts and men suffered; (4) the liberation of Israel. That the religious expression of this great event has its peculiarity, that it makes generalizations, and leaves out subordinate features in accordance with its idealizing tendency and symbolic design—on this point one must shape his views by means of a thorough hermeneutical apprehension of the religious style. Even Keil cannot quite adopt the assumption of Cornelius a Lapide, that in many houses grandfathers, fathers, sons, and wives, in case they were all first-born, were killed. But literally understood, the narrative warrants this. But the perfect realization of the object aimed at lifts the event above the character of a legend.

Exodus 12:30-31. The great lamentation which in the night of terror resounds through Egypt becomes the immediate motive for releasing Israel. And he called for Moses.—We need not, with Calvin, lay any stress on the fact that Pharaoh, Exodus 10:28, had commanded the men not to show themselves again to him, as if a humiliating inconsistency of the tyrant with himself were not characteristic, and as if in the history of despotism it were not a frequent feature. This crushing humiliation Pharaoh could not escape. Moses and Aaron had to receive the permission from his own month. And we cannot call it mere permission. He drives him out by a mandate which boars unmistakable marks of excitement. Serve Jehovah, as ye have said.—These words involve the promise of complete liberation, and at the same time the intention to require the Israelites to return. As ye have said—he repeats—and finally he even begs for their intercession: “bless me also.” According to Keil, every thing, even the request for their blessing, looks to a manifest and quite unconditional dismissal and emancipation. But this thought is expressed more positively in the behavior of the Egyptians, who were the most terrified.”

Exodus 12:33. At all events the Israelites had a right to understand the dismission as an emancipation, although formally this right was not complete until Pharaoh hostilely pursued them. Keil refers to Exodus 14:4-5. The report brought to the king, that the people had fled, seems, however, to imply that in the mind of the Egyptians there had been no thought of unconditional emancipation, but only of an unconditional furlough. And when Pharaoh was disposed violently to take back even this promise, that was a new instance of hardness of heart, the last and the fatal one. We are all dead men: as it were, already dead. Expression of the greatest consternation.

Exodus 12:34. And the people took their dough, before it was leavened. That is (according to Keil): “The Israelites intended to leaven the dough, because the command to eat unleavened bread for seven days had not yet been made known to them.” But the text evidently means to say just the opposite of this: they carried, in accordance with the command, dough which was entirely free from leaven. They had already put enough for seven days into the baking-pans, and carried these on their shoulders, wrapped up in their outer garments, or rather in wrapping cloths, such as might be used for mantles or wallets.

Exodus 12:35-36. Vid. Exodus 3:21 and Comm. on Genesis, p83.


FN#12 - Exodus 12:21. “Draw out,” as the rendering of מִשְׁכוּ, is acquiesced in by Lange, De Wette, “Wordsworth, Murphy, and Canon Cook (in the Speaker’s Commentary), and is defended by Kalisch and Bush. The latter, in a note on Judges 4:6, affirms that מָשַךְ never means “to approach.” He assigns to it there the meaning “to draft,” or “enlist,” sc. soldiers for his army—a meaning which certainly is no where else (therefore not “frequently,” as Bush says) to be found. That מָשַׁךְ may be used intransitively, Bush does not deny; and indeed in Judges 20:37 he himself follows the rendering “drew themselves along,” and explains it as descriptive of a mass of men “stretching themselves out in a long train and rapidly urging their way to the city.” This certainly is not far from the meaning which he denies to the word. What significance could be attached to the phrase “draw out,” as here used of the paschal lamb, is not clear. Not “draw out,” in the sense of “pull out,”—a meaning which the word has in such cases as that of Jeremiah, who was drawn up with cords out of the dungeon, Jeremiah 38:13. Not “draw out” in the sense of “draw by lot;” for the word no where has this meaning, and the lambs were not drawn by lot. It could mean only “take”—a meaning which, though assigned to it here by Kalisch, the word no where else has, and which, if it had it, would be the same as that of the following word. There is therefore little doubt that we are to understand the word, with the LXX, Vulg, Gesenius, Fürst, Bunsen, Arnheim, Alford, Keil, Knobel, and others, as used intransitively.—Tr.]

Verse 37

D.—The exodus from Egypt. Legal enactments consequent on liberation

Exodus 12:37 to Exodus 13:16

37And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot, that were men [the men] beside [besides] children 38 And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual 40 Now the sojourning [dwelling, i.e. time of dwelling] of the children of Israel, who dwelt41[which they dwelt] in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the [end of] four hundred and thirty years, even [on] the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of Jehovah went out from the land of 42 Egypt. It is a night to be much observed [of solemnities] unto Jehovah for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of Jehovah to be observed of [night of solemnities unto Jehovah for] all the children of Israel in [throughout] 43their generations. And Jehovah said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the Passover: There shall no stranger [foreigner] eat thereof: 44But every man’s servant [every servant] that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised 45 him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner [stranger] and an [a] hired servant shall not eat thereof 46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth aught of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep [sacrifice] it 48 And when a stranger [sojourner] shall sojourn with thee and will keep the [sacrifice a] passover to Jehovah, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep [sacrifice] it: and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for [but] no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof 49 One law shall be to [shall there be for] him that is home-born, and unto [for] the stranger that sojourneth among you 50 Thus did all the children of Israel]; as Jehovah commanded Moses, so did they 51 And it came to pass the self-same day, that Jehovah did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies [according to their hosts].

Chap. Exodus 13:1-2 And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Sanctify unto me all the [every] first-born, whatsoever openeth the [any] womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine 3 And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage: for by strength of hand Jehovah brought you out from this place [thence]: there shall no leavened bread be eaten 4 This day came [come] ye out in the month Abib 5 And it shall be, when Jehovah shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month 6 Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread; and in the seventh day shall be a feast to Jehovah 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven [the seven] days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters8[borders]. And thou shalt show [tell] thy son in that day, saying, This is done [It is] because of that which Jehovah did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt 9 And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine [thy] hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that Jehovah’s law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath Jehovah brought thee out of Egypt 10 Thou shalt therefore [And thou shalt] keep this ordinance in his [its] season from year to year 11 And it shall be, when Jehovah shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee 12 That thou shalt set apart unto Jehovah all that openeth the matrix [womb], and every firstling that cometh [every first-born] of a beast [of beasts] which thou hast; the males shall be Jehovah’s 13 And every firstling [first-born] of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the first-born of man among thy children shalt thou redeem 14 And it shall be, when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand Jehovah brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage: 15And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that Jehovah slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both the first-born of man and the first-born of beast: therefore I sacrifice to Jehovah all that openeth the matrix [womb], being16[the] males; but all the first-born of my children I redeem. And it shall be for a token upon thine [thy] hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes; for by strength of hand Jehovah brought us forth out of Egypt.


Exodus 12:37. And the children of Israel journeyed.—On the journey see the Introduction, Keil II, p26, the literature above quoted, and Keil II, p28, Note, Knobel, p 111 sq.—About600,000 on foot.—“רַגְלִי, as in Numbers 11:21, the infantry of an army, is added, because they went out as a warlike host ( Exodus 12:41), and in the number given only the men able to bear arms, those over twenty years of age, are reckoned; הַגְּבָרִים is added because of the following לְבַד מִטַּף: ‘besides the little ones.’ טַף is used here in the wider significance of the dependent part of the family, including wife and children, as in Genesis 47:12; Numbers 32:16; Numbers 32:24, and often, those who did not travel on foot, but on beasts of burden or in wagons” (Keil). On the round number, as well as the increase of Israel in Egypt, comp, Knobel, p121, Keil, l. c, and the Introduction. On the fruitfulness of the land of Goshen, see Keil II, p29. Kurtz and Bertheau have suggested as an explanation of the great number, that we may assume that the seventy Israelites who emigrated to Egypt had several thousand men-servants and maid-servants. Keil insists that only the posterity of the seventy souls is spoken of. But compare the antithesis in Genesis 32:10 : “one staff” and “two bands.” In Israel the faith constituted the nationality, as well as the nationality the faith, as is shown by so many examples (Rahab, Ruth, the Gibeonites, etc.), and Israel had in its religion a great attractive power.

Exodus 12:38. And a mixed multitude.—עֵרֶב רַב. Vulg.: vulgus promiscuum; Luther: viel Pöbelvolk, “a great rabble”—“In typical fulfillment of the promise, Genesis 12:3, without doubt stimulated by the signs and wonders of the Lord in Egypt (comp. Exodus 9:20; Exodus 10:7; Exodus 11:3) to seek their salvation with Israel, a great multitude of mixed people joined themselves to the departing Israelites; and, according to the governing idea of the Jewish commonwealth, they could not be repelled, although these people afterwards became a snare to them. Vid. Numbers 11:4, where they are called אֲסַפְסֻף, medley” (Keil). Literally, a collection. Comp. Deuteronomy 29:11.

Exodus 12:39. Vid. Exodus 12:34. It does not mean that, they had no time to leaven their dough, but that they had no time to prepare themselves other provisions besides. The deliverance came upon them like a storm; they were even thrust out of Egypt.

Exodus 12:40. Vid. the Introduction, Keil II, p30. Knobel, p121.

Exodus 12:41. On the self-same day.—Knobel says very strangely, that the meaning is that Jacob entered Egypt on the same day, the 14 th of Abib. Keil understands the day before designated, Exodus 12:11-14. We assume that “day” here denotes “time” in the more general sense.

Exodus 12:42. Keil renders: night of preservation. Knobel: a festival. Both ideas are involved in שָׁמַר, and evidently the text aims to express the antithesis indicated in our translation [Lange renders: festliche Wacht, “festive vigil.”—TR.]

Exodus 12:43-45. The ordinance of the Passover.—חֻקָּה, i q.חֹק, law, statute. As Israel now begins to become a people and a popular congregation, the main features of their legal constitution are at once defined. It all starts with the Passover as the religious communion of the people, for which now circumcision is prescribed as a prerequisite. As circumcision constitutes the incipient boundary-line and separation between Israel and the life of secular people, so the paschal communion is the characteristic feature of the completed separation. First, the congregation is instituted; then follows the preliminary institution of the priesthood in the sanctification of the first-born; then the first, trace of the fixed line of distinction, in the ordinance of the feast of unleavened bread; then the first provision for the permanent sacrificial service, in Jehovah’s claiming for Himself the first-born of beasts, Exodus 13:12, while a distinction is at the same time made between clean and unclean beasts, Exodus 12:13; and finally the intimation is made that the natural sacerdotal duty of the first born shall be redeemed and transferred to a positive priesthood. The circumstance that Israel thereby came into a new relation to foreigners, “that a crowd of strangers joined themselves to the departing Israelites” (Keil), can only be regarded as one of the occasions for that fixing of the first features of the law which was here quite in place.—No stranger.—What is said of the בֶּן־נֵכָר, or non-Israelite, in general, is more particularly said of the sojourner (תּוֹשָׁב) and of the hireling, day-laborer (שָׁכִיר). The latter, if not an Israelite, is a גֵּר who resides a longer or shorter time among the Israelites. Yet the exclusion is not absolute, except as regards the uncircumcised; every servant, on the other hand, who submits to circumcision (for no one could be circumcised by force, although circumcision was within the option of all) assumes the privileges and obligations of the communion. Thus, therefore, the distinction of classes, as related to the communion of the people of God, is here excluded.

Exodus 12:46. In one house shall it be eaten.—A new enforcement of the law that the communion, as such, must be maintained. The significance of the words: “Thou shalt not carry forth aught of the flesh abroad,” the mediæval Church had little conception of.[FN13]

Exodus 12:50-51. The next to the last verse declares that this became a fixed custom in Israel; and the last one recurs again to the identity of the festive day with the day of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

Exodus 13:1. Sanctify unto me every first-born.—“The sanctification of the first-born is closely connected with the Passover. The Passover effects (?) the exemption of the first-born of Israel, and the exemption has as its aim their sanctification” (Keil). But the thing meant is sanctification in the narrower sense, the preparation of the sacerdotal order and of the offerings; for the general sanctification comprised the whole people. Here we have to do with sanctification for the specific service of Jehovah. It is assumed that the first-born are representatives and sureties of the whole race, and that therefore, without the intervention of grace and forbearance, the first-born of Israel also would have been slain. Accordingly, the phrase: “it is mine,” refers certainly not only to the fact that Jehovah created the first-born, as Kurtz maintains, but still more to the right of possession which this gracious favor establishes. Keil denies this. It refers, he says, according to Numbers 3:13; Numbers 8:17, to the fact that Jehovah, on the day when he slew the first-born of Egypt, sanctified the first-born of Israel, and therefore spared them. An ultra-Calvinistic disposition of things, which seems to ground the exemption on Jehovah’s caprice. While the sanctification cannot be dissociated from the exemption, as little can the exemption be dissociated from the creation. The election of Israel is indeed the prerequisite of the exemption of the Israelitish first-born; but this exemption again, as an act of grace, is a condition of the special sanctification of the first-born.

Exodus 13:3. Remember this day. “In Exodus 13:3-10, the ordinance respecting the seven days’ feast of unleavened bread ( Exodus 12:15-20), is made known by Moses to the people on the day of the exodus at the station Succoth” (Keil). We have already above (on Exodus 12:8) pointed out the incorrectness of this view. It is all the more incorrect, if, with Keil and others, we find in the leaven a symbol of sinfulness. The leaven which the Jews had heretofore had was connected with the leaven of Egypt, and was thus fitted to serve as a symbol of the fact that they were connected with the sinfulness of Egypt, and that this connection must be broken off. If now they had not been, driven out so hastily, they would have had time to produce for themselves a pure and specifically Jewish leaven, and this perhaps seemed the more desirable thing, as the unleavened bread was not very palatable. But for this there was no time. With this understanding of the case, we render the last clause of Exodus 13:3, “so that nothing leavened was eaten.” [This translation, however, is hardly possible.—Tr.].—The house of servants. Servants of private persons they were not, it is true, but all Egypt was made for them by Pharaoh one house of slaves.

Exodus 13:4-5. The urgency in the enforcement of this feast is doubtless owing to the fact that there was no pleasure in eating the unleavened bread. Hence the festival is represented as chiefly a service rendered to God. The meals accompanying thank-offerings preserved the equilibrium.

Exodus 13:6. On the seventh day. In the line of the feast-days the seventh day is specially mentioned as the festive termination; on it work ceased, and the people assembled together.

Exodus 13:9. For a sign upon thy hand. According to Spencer, allusion is made to the heathen custom of branding marks on the forehead or hand of soldiers and slaves. Keil, referring to Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18, assumes that we are probably to understand bracelets or frontlets. But in the passages quoted a much more general inculcation of Moses’ words is meant. Inasmuch as the Jews were to observe several great festivals, it is not to be assumed that they were to be required to wear the signs only on the feast of unleavened bread; all the less, as the day was so definitely fixed. We therefore regard the expression both here and in Deuteronomy as symbolic, but suggested by a proverbial phrase borrowed from the nations of antiquity. Our language has a similar proverbial, but less elegant, expression. That the Pharisaic Jews afterwards actually made themselves such phylacteries grew out of their slavery to the letter of the law. See more in detail in Keil, II. p37.

Exodus 13:12. Every first-born of beasts. First, the text recurs to the common statute respecting the first-born of men and beasts; hence: “all that openeth the womb.” According to Keil, the term הֶעֱבִיר, to set apart, offer, is used to point, a contrast to the Canaanitish custom of consecrating the first-born to Moloch; he quotes Leviticus 18:21. But the verb seems to express a more original and general separation of what is offered from what is not offered; or it means to let depart.—The males. With this matter, therefore, the female first-born have nothing to do. The first-born son is the head of the young house, the heir of the old house. As the heir of the old house he also assumes its guilt; as the head of the young house he must represent it. More particular specifications concerning the first-born male clean beast are given in Exodus 22:29 (30), Deuteronomy 15:21.

Exodus 13:13. The germ of the distinction between clean and unclean beasts. The substitution of a sheep or kid for the ass is a proof that the unclean beast signifies not the evil, but the profane, that which is not fitted to serve as a religious symbol.

Exodus 13:14. When thy son asketh thee. Even in the theocracy the ceremonial worship is to be not a dumb one, repressing, or even suppressing, questions and instruction, but is to be spiritualized by questions and instruction.

Exodus 13:15. All the first-born of my children. Keil opposes the view, very prevalent of old, that the sanctification of the first-born is to be derived from the destination of the first-born to be priests. But he afterwards (II, p36) himself brings forwards reasons which refute his own view, founded on that of Outram and Vitringa, especially by citing Numbers 3. Nothing can be clearer than Numbers 3:12.[FN1]

Exodus 13:16. Also in reference to the phylacteries we hold to the symbolical interpretation of the Caraites in opposition to the literal one of the Talmudists; so Keil II, p37.


FN#13 - The reference is to the Corpus-Christi festival, characterized by the public processions which are held in honor of the host.—Tr.]


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 12:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

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