The Passover

Exodus 12 8/26/12 SCC

         The twelfth chapter of Exodus forms a turning point in the development of the book: it is the culmination of the ten plagues on Egypt and the beginning of the actual deliverance. Moreover, the celebration of this festival was to become a central part of the holy calendar for Israel. That is, God's redemption of His people through the rite of the Passover blood and Feast of Unleavened Bread.

I. GOD DELIVERS HIS PEOPLE from judgment through the shed blood of a sacrifice (1-13).

The institution of Passover:

         1. The beginning of months v 2-4

So, when counting the months of the years this was supposed to be remembered first, for it was the great festival of freedom from Egypt 2.

So, the expression “fathers’ house” is a common expression for a family. Here, the Passover is to be a domestic institution. Each lamb was to be shared by family members 3.

So, it clearly means that if there are not enough people in the household to have a lamb by themselves, they should join with another family and in turn each man who is the head of a household was to determine how much his family could eat, and this in turn would determine how many families shared the lamb 4.

         2. The lamb without blemish v 5-6

So, in the context instructing the people to take an animal for this festival, the idea here is the one they take or choose, their animal and must be “perfect” or “whole” or “complete” in the sense of not having blemishes and diseases--no physical defects. The rules for sacrificial animals applied here (see Lev. 22:19, 21; Deut. 17:1). They must have a perfect animal, but it may be a sheep or a goat 5.

So, watching over or caring for it to keep it in its proper condition for its designated use, the whole congregation will kill the lamb, i.e., each family unit within the congregation will kill its animal 6.

So, between the two evenings: (1) The Talmud (central text of mainstream Judaism second to Torah) explains as the time between the sunset and the time the stars become visible. (2) The traditional view, adopted by the Pharisees was that the first evening was when the heat of the sun began to decrease, and the second evening began at sunset, or, roughly, from 3-5 p.m.

         3. The application of the blood v 7-10

So, after applying the blood v 7, the meat is eaten with the kinds of breads that could be baked quickly, not allowing time for the use of leaven. In Deut. 16:3 the unleavened cakes are called “the bread of affliction,” which meant the alarm and the haste of the Israelites. In later Judaism and in the writings of Paul, leaven came to be a type of evil or corruption, and so “unleavened bread” was interpreted to be a picture of purity or freedom from corruption or defilement 7-8.

So, this ruling v 9 was to prevent their eating it just softened by the fire or partially roasted as differing customs might prescribe or allow. Then they must burn anything left over with fire 10.

         4. The eating in haste v 11

So, with your loins girded in “haste” or possibly “trepidation,” that mixture of hurry and alarm, must characterize their eating. In Deuteronomy 20:3 it is connected to “tremble.”

         5. The judgment of Egypt v 12-13
So, in this passage it describes the Lord is passing over or through the land of Egypt 12. The word means “pass over, across, through.” This verb provides a contextual motive for the name “Passover.”

So, it means “to strike, smite, attack”; it does not always mean “to kill,” but that is obviously the meaning in this context. It was also the meaning of the usage where Moses slew the Egyptian and buried him in the sand (ch. 2).

So, “I will do judgments” includes what had begun in Exodus 6:1. But the statement that God would judge the gods of Egypt is appropriate (see also Num. 33:4) because with the judgment on Pharaoh and the deliverance from bondage, the Lord would truly show Himself to be the one true God.

So, ‘I will Passover you’ v 13 and no “plague”, literally a blow, or a striking ‘will fall on you’. It usually describes a calamity or affliction given to those who have aroused God’s anger, such as, 30:12; Num. 8:19; 16:46,7; Josh. 22:17. Israel will be spared because of the blood substitute.

So, it can be paraphrased “to destroy [you]” but would be more properly rendered “for destruction.” The word itself is a harsh term; it was used to describe the Lord’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The interpretation of “Passover”:

Verse 12 gives the explanation of “Passover” the Lord would “Pass over” the land and destroy the unprotected first born. But the point is, of course, that the sacrificial blood applied to the house is protective because it is substitutionary:

A. The firstborn, who represents the future of the family, will be redeemed.

B. Conversely, those who ignored the rite of the blood experienced judgment.


II. GOD PREPARES HIS PEOPLE to removal the corrupting elements of the world (14-20).

The institution of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (12:14-20) follows in the legislation.

1. The instruction for the Unleavened Bread (vv. 14-20) begins with the introduction of the “memorial” 14. The point of the word “remember” is not simply a recollection of an event, but a reliving of it, and a reactivating of its significance. In covenant rituals “remembrance” or “memorial” is designed to prompt God and worshiper alike to act in accordance with the covenant. Jesus brought the motif forward to the New Covenant with “this do in remembrance of me.”

2. The ‘permanent ordinance’ v 14 shows that this celebration was to be kept perpetually. “Generations” means successive generations “forever, perpetual”—no end in sight.

3. In verses 15 and 16 the warnings are given. The instruction for Israel stresses their obligation—they must not eat leaven or they could be cut off. There is the real danger of being cut off, for while the punishment might include excommunication from the community, the real danger was in the possibility of divine intervention to root out the evildoer. The symbolisms of leaven by Paul’s time represented an evil influence. Here it may have included more, such as permeation and fermentation.

4. Holy convocations and days of rest frame this special week 16. This refers to an assembly of the people at the sanctuary for religious purposes.     The word “convocation” implies that the people were called together; and Numbers 10:2 indicates they were called together by trumpets.

5. The text says, “all/every work shall not be done.”  The word refers primarily to the work of one’s occupation. The passage simply restricts all work except for the preparation of food 16.

6. Verses 17-20 reiterate the laws of unleavened bread, the time of the feast, and the reason for it—the deliverance from Egypt.

The interpretation of the Feast of Unleavened Bread:

We can determine that Passover was the plague of death that destroyed Egypt and delivered Israel, but Unleavened Bread is difficult. Probably it was to signify the results of the deliverance, the removal of all corrupting or binding influences in Egypt. That is at least how Paul takes it in 1 Corinthians 5. That is, one rotten apple will spoil the whole barrel of apples v 6. They were to purge or cleanse themselves of sins influence otherwise it will ferment, corrupt, and spread. God did not want the Egyptian influence to ferment amongst the Israelites; Thus the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

CONCLUSION:  Those expecting to be redeemed from the world respond obediently to the Lord’s commands (12:21-28).

The instruction of the people (12:21-28) brings about worshipful compliance.

1. But what needs to be stressed here is the obedience and worship of the people (verses 26-28). This is one result of the Lord's instituting the festival.

2. The other result is the divine judgment on Egypt in 12:29, 30. It is a judgment on Egypt that brought a great outcry, for death was everywhere. Now was fulfilled the warning God had given Pharaoh--let Israel my firstborn go or I shall kill your firstborn. The impact of this great plague of death can only be imagined today.

What about the manifold correspondence of the New Testament.

1. Christ is the “begotten Son” of God, but also the Passover lamb. In Exodus the firstborn sons died in the substitutionary animals; in the New Testament the Son died as the substitution.

2. Paul simply announced that Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, and therefore we must keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread--a life of holiness.

3. Similarities and Fulfillment: (a) The deliverance from bondage by the blood of the lamb; (b) the lamb without blemish; (c) salvation from judgment by the angel of death; (d) and the details of the time of the sacrifice of Christ as the Passover Lamb on Good Friday at 3 p.m. The fact that the last Supper was a Passover meal in which Jesus explained the full meaning of it all adds to the completion.


Leaven represented their old life in Egypt. They were beginning a new life without leaven. Jesus is our Passover. Jesus death for sin applied to us, calls us away from sin and to a clean break with our old ways. This is the sanctifying work of the cross and the purity of the cleansed new life of Jesus Christ. This new life enables me to live the life of Christ.