I. Chapter 11 -This chapter gives a summary of the impact of Moses’s confrontations with Pharaoh and completes his words during his final appearance before the haughty autocrat.
A. Announcing the final plague – verses 1. Having built to this climax, God now announces the final plague that will cause Pharaoh not only to relent, but to drive the Israelites out as soon as possible. The details are recorded in verses 4-8 after some prospective summary.
B. Moses was to tell the people of Israel to request personal items from the Egyptians: – verse 2. Chapter 12:35, 36 record the result. “Thus [that is, according to request and willing response], they plundered the Egyptians.”
C. Moses’ stature before all the people – verse 3. The events of this continued strife and confrontation with Pharaoh had given Moses an unexpected status of favor and respect among the Egyptians. They were accustomed to seeing Pharaoh’s desires as inviolable and his wishes as executed virtually without opposition. Many of them, doubtless, had sad experience of his tyranny. Moses and Aaron had challenged him and his will and his sycophantic courtiers had been dealt a blow at every point of conflict.
D. A summary of the conflict with Pharaoh, verse 10. Wonders were performed, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, the people of Israel were not yet released.
E. The final plague, verses 4-8 – He had said, “I shall never see your face again” (10:29). Then he prophesied to Pharaoh the final and the most severe of the judgments. About this judgment God said, “My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt” (11:9). At times, even in this world, God shows the invincibility of his power, the depth of his righteous anger against our idolatrous lives and hearts, and the relentless pursuit of his holy pleasure so we will begin to have some standards by which to contemplate the dimensions of saving grace.
- This would exclude none of the entire nation, from “the firstborn of Pharaoh . . . even to the first born of the slave girl.”
- The ultimate source of lamentation would grip the entire populace. True sadness and distress would flood every heart and mind. All would be in mourning and none could stand aside to provide solace for others, for none would be absent of the need for a comforter.
- God announced through Moses, “The Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (7).
- Those who complain of partiality and unevenness, lack of equity and justice, in the biblical doctrine of election must look this assertion squarely in the face and explain how, in light of their objections, the God of perfect righteousness and justice can make this distinction between Israel and Egypt.
- Egypt indeed was evil and idolatrous and God never inflicts wrath in a way disproportionate to that which strict justice requires. He is the only God, the true and holy one, the one to be loved and obeyed and worshipped, yet they built idols, enshrined their lusts and cruelty in objects of worship, and gloried in human power acquired through ruthless oppression.
- At the same time, this distinction does not ride on Israel’s righteousness or superior openness to the spiritual implications of having Yahweh as their God. Jeremiah wrote centuries later, “But this is what I commanded them, saying ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they [Israel] did not obey me or incline their ear but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers” (Jeremiah 7:23-26).
- Sovereign purpose alone makes the distinction between one nation and another, one person and another. As an elect nation, they served as the vehicle for the giving of the law, the canonizing of advancing revelation, the covenants of promise, the prospective model of God’s claiming a specific people for himself, the sphere for the giving and testing of prophecy, and the “gene pool” for the human nature of Christ, born of Mary descended from David.
- Within the elect nation another group, a remnant, of persons elect to salvation also resided that would model the purpose of soteriological election as the means of marking out a people for holiness, godliness, good works, pure spiritual worship, and reflective of the perfect righteousness of the Savior. (John 4:23, 24; Romans 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:4; 2:10; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6; 2 Thessalonians 2: 13, 14; Titus 1:1, 2;2:13, 14).
- The answer must be, therefore, that making the distinction between Israel and Egypt arises from the prerogatives of eternal wisdom and sovereign grace, the purpose of glorifying his Son as Redeemer by bringing him through the nation of Israel.
- Moses told Pharaoh that the people would beg Moses to leave with all the people. He left the presence of Pharaoh in “hot anger,” an emotion justified by its particular provocation. It would be nothing, however, compared to the hot and holy anger of God about to be displayed.
II. Chapter 12:1-13 – The blood of the unblemished first-born saves from death. The events would be instituted by the end of the second week of the month, the fourteenth day. They become a constant reminder that the nation was formed by divine intervention and redemption and would be paradigmatic for many aspects of salvation when finally consummated in the person of Christ.
A. The time for Passover was established. It is probable, in light of the flow of events and the indefinite character of the tenses in verse 1 [“said” =”had said”] that Moses already had given this instruction on the day before the curse of darkness, to allow four days for the separation of the kid or lamb from the rest of the flock before its slaughter. The darkness would last for three days (10:23), ended by Pharaoh’s disingenuous change of heart and Moses’s seething announcement of the final devastating and distinguishing plague. Then, as he went out of the court of Pharaoh, he called together the elders and gave them instruction immediately to proceed with the procedure prescribed on the day before Egyptian darkness (12:21-23)
B. The provision of a Lamb or a kid.
- The animal was to be a yearling (5). Within a year, any disorders in the animal, any genetic problems, or sicknesses would have appeared. This corresponds to the completed times of testing for Christ—his approvedness was mature. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9).
- He must be unblemished. Nothing about him could make his life worth less, but he must be the epitome of excellence. Even so must Christ be excellent in the eyes of God, his own fellow in excellence and value or his death could not provide full satisfaction to the dishonor of sin (Zechariah 13:7a). If he had moral blemish, then he could not die for others but must die for himself. As it truly was, he died “the just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3:18).
- There was a lamb for each household. Every unit of Israel must make personal provision according to the requirements. In the case of very small units, they could join with other households but must all be in the place covered by the blood of the lamb (verses 3, 4). The application of this is two-fold: One, there was no general provision of redemptive effect, but the sacrifice was made of a lamb for each individual household; two, the lamb was to be totally consumed either by personal ingestion or by burning. None of it was to be a mere superfluity but used in the burning or in the eating.
C. Its flesh is to be completely consumed and its blood swabbed with hyssop over and on the sides of the doorway. One part is for life and the other for covering. We are given life by the unblemished perfection of obedience accomplished by Christ. In union with him, the life he gained by his obedience becomes our life (Romans 2:13; 5:18, 19). As the blood of the lamb enclosed the dwelling of the people (7, 13), we are forgiven through his taking our death, the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleansing us from all sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 1:7, 9).
D. They are to eat in readiness to depart. The effect will be immediate. Nothing should hinder their immediate departure. Their meal is completed (eaten “in haste” – 11), they are clothed and sandaled, their staff in in their hand, they must be ready to respond when Moses says, “Go.” The converted person immediately has new life and begins his pilgrimage with Christ as his head. “Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
III. Chapter 12:14-20; 24-28; 42-50; chapter 13:1-16 – God established memorials to this event in perpetuity, “throughout all your generations, . . . a permanent ordinance.” (14, 17, 24, 42)
A. The Feast was to be from the 14th day through the 21st day of the month with a holy assembly at the beginning and at the end of the days. The month was Abib, later called Nisan. There was to be no leaven in the house for those seven days. All bread to be eaten was to be unleavened. This is the emphasis of 14-20. Leaven was a hindrance to the quickness with which the exodus must be accomplished. It became symbolic in some instances of evil, which is a hindrance to the spiritual alacrity and holiness by which a Christian on pilgrimage must walk in this world (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
B. It is to be used as a time of instruction for the children (12:26, 27; 13:14, 15). This event was a one-time redemptive event not to be repeated, but the memorial of it was to be perpetual and to be used to give a constant reminder that they are a people only because of the redemptive purpose and power of Yahweh. This is the emphasis of verses 24-28. For the Christian, the cross of Christ is fundamental to his knowledge of God, his assurance of being a child of God, and his motivation for a holy, God-honoring life.
C. Only Israelites and those who have taken the covenantal sign of circumcision may partake of this memorial. No foreigner may partake.
- Slaves who are circumcised, or sojourners who will join to Israel through circumcision may partake (44, 48).
- Circumcision is the sign of regeneration, the work of the Spirit in giving a new heart and making us children of God. “We are the true circumcision,” Paul said, “who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3)
- The New Covenant gives the “circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ. . . . And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he has made alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2: 11, 13; Hebrews 9:15).
- Only those whose eyes are opened and whose hearts are changed by the Spirit of God will come to partake of the feast of forgiveness through the shed blood of Christ. By regeneration the Spirit makes us alive according to New Covenant provisions (Jeremiah 31: 33, 34 ; Hebrews 9:15 and unites us with all the benefits of Christ’s resurrection.
- In these shadows of redemption (including the sabbaths of the 14th and 21st day of the month of Nisan), instituted to hold this reality before their minds, “the substance is Christ” (Colossians 2:16, 17). The practice of continuing to worship by the shadow when the true light is shining renders the attempt at such worship useless, vain, and rejected. So the writer of Hebrews boldly proclaimed, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat” Hebrews 13:10).
D. It served to remind them that redemption came at the cost of the first-born. (13:1-16). The first-born of Egypt died, while the first born of Israel were preserved; but, nevertheless, they must be redeemed through sacrifice throughout the generations. In due time, God would give his first-born, only-begotten for the only effectual and full redemption possible. Till then the reminder in perpetuity must be held before the eyes, placed in the mind, and fastened in the conscience of the people (Galatians 4: 4-7; Hebrews 2:15; 9:9, 14).
IV. Upon leaving the court of Pharaoh, Moses instituted the instruction given previously (21-23). The instructions were to be implemented immediately. Where there was no blood, there would be death from the Lord, and before the night was over they would be on their way out of Egypt.
V. Chapter 12:29-41 – Death and dismissal. As Moses had said, under the instruction of the Lord, all the firstborn of Egypt were struck down by the Lord.
- This occurred at midnight and there was immediate crying and wailing all over Egypt. Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and told them to “Rise up, and get out from among my people.” Every condition Moses had required was conceded.
- They took with them the bounty of material given them by the Egyptians, the remaining unleavened dough for baking, some followers from Egypt it seems (“mixed multitude”) in a massive wave of people numbering probably close to 2.4 million. The 600,00 men were men of military capability, twenty years of age and upwards (Numbers 1:3, 46).
- All of their livestock, a “very large number” went with them, a constant reminder that God had preserved not only them, but their possessions also.
IV. God’s leadership in the journey was as clear as his power in the Passover – 13:17-22.
- He led them, not only out of Egypt, but in a way that avoided an immediate military conflict with the Philistines (verse 17), but also with the knowledge that eventually they would be called on to fight for the prize (verse 18; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 10:1-5).
- They carried with them the bones of Joseph, a reminder of covenantal confidence expressed more than four centuries before.
- They went with the undeniable evidence of his presence, a massive and coherently arranged cloud at day and a pillar of fire at night. If we are not ready in heart, however, to follow the Lord, no amount of evidence of his power and presence will move us to faithfulness.