Exodus 12: The Passover

Here’s an overview of the divisions of this book, with where we are marked in red.

1.3 The Passover (Ch 12)

New Testament Typology: The Passover was replaced in the new testament by Communion.

“[Communion] was originally instituted by Jesus (Matt. 26:26-29) on the night of the Passover meal which was an annual occurrence celebrating the “passing over” of the angel of death that claimed the firstborn of every house in Egypt (Exodus 12). The Lord’s Supper, or communion, replaces the Passover meal with the “body and blood” (Mark 14:22-24) of Jesus.” (CARM)

“ The celebration of the Passover continues as one of their principal observances to this day.  In fact, the instruction to the nation was to make this month (Nisan) “the beginning of months.”  Thus, Israel hastwo calendars; one, their civil calendar, begins in the fall (Tishri, about September/October on our calendar); the other, their religious calendar, begins in the spring (Nisan, about April/May on our calendar.)” –Chuck Missler

 It is interesting that John the Baptist’s first public introduction of Jesus declared, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” This was an allusion to the Passover Lamb.  Paul reminds us that all these things were also “a shadow of things to come.””-Chuck Missler

Exo 12:1-6 Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, (2) “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. (3) “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. (4) ‘Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. (5) ‘Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. (6) ‘You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.

12:1 Context Hints: Who is speaking? The Lord. To whom? Moses and Aaron. Where? In Egypt.

12:2 What did the Lord say? To change their religious calendar to make this month be the beginning of the year.  What time of year was it? Where did that fall on the civil calendar? It was roughly March/April (Later called Abib in Canaanite or Nisan in the Exile), the seventh month according to the civil calendar which began in September with the new harvest.  What is significance? The passover & deliverance from their slavery was such a significant event in God’s estimation that it warranted changing the basis point from which they recon time. A new year. A new beginning. “If you look at the opening verse, you will see this indication of the importance of the festival. It is instituted by God, and even the calendar is to reflect it. The rest of Israel’s law is given at Sinai, but this memorial, this memorial of redemption, we are told, look at verse 1, was established in the land of Egypt.” (J. Ligon Duncan)

12:3 What were Moses & Aaron commanded by God to do? Speak to the congregation of Israel. What were they to tell them? About how they should each sacrifice a lamb for their household. What kind of animal were they to sacrifice? The Hebrew word could mean young lamb or young goat. When were they to take in the animal? On the 10th of the month. “You will remember that the Hebrew calendar is lunar. It basically had three parts. There was the first section, the middle section and the last section…the tenth of the month fell on the last day of the first section of 10, or the first day of the second section of 10.” (J. Ligon Duncan)

12:4 What households are addressed here? Ones that are “too small for a lamb”.  Families that are “too large” for a lamb are not addressed, it appears that a family could be too small to eat an entire lamb, but not too big of a family to be able to divide it amongst everyone. How should the lamb be divided? According to what each man should eat. A portion for each person. “The celebration of the Feast of the Passover is to be a personal, private matter. It is redemption for the nation, yes, but it centers in the family. It must be received and accepted by each individual member in the family. The Passover is a family affair.” (McGee)

What were people from smaller families to do? Join with his nearest neighbors in the celebration. Why? They would not be able to eat an entire lamb by themselves. Tradition says that one lamb would be suited for a family of 10-20 people. This command to join together may have been partly a practical command, as it would be wasteful and expensive to sacrifice an entire animal for a small family before the advent of refrigeration to preserve the leftover, but it may also have implications as far as celebrating in community rather than in isolation. “this stresses the communal nature of this particular meal.” (J. Ligon Duncan) How could we apply this principle to our own lives? Think of people we know (neighbors, coworkers, etc) who are unable to join their own families for holidays (eg: Thanksgiving) and invite them to be included and celebrate together.

12:5  What characteristics should they look for in the sacrifice animal? Unblemished. Male. 1 Year old. Either a sheep or a goat. Significance of these traits? The lamb had to be as perfect as it could be (unblemished). In the prime of life, not so old it was on the verge of death anyway, nor still a baby–a time of life that the animal would be unlikely to naturally die. They did not need to distinguish between or seperate the sheep from the goats (May be symbolic that both are included. Related: parable about judgment in Mat. 25:32).

1:6 When should they sacrifice their animals? On the 14th day of the same month (7×2, 2 weeks, or about halfway through the month). Interestingly all of Israel was to kill the sacrifice together at twilight. The sacrifice is treated as a singular object here (perhaps because it’s symbolic looking forward to the lamb Jesus, who was sacrificed for all people). Who was to participate? All of Israel. This is the first time in the old testament that the phrase “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is used”. This description implies all of Israel was to participate, the guilt was to be shared equally by all (it may be possible, but not certain, that the head of household actually did the physical act of killing the animal in representation for his family, but if so, the blame was still on everyone, they were not singled out here). Note that this phrase is also used in connection with being condemned to death by stoning, the whole congregation was to participate.

“For the Israelites to be spared from the plague of death, a lamb with no defects had to be killed and its blood placed on the doorframes of each home. What was the significance of the lamb? In killing the lamb, the Israelites shed innocent blood. The lamb was a sacrifice, a substitute for the person who would have died in the plague. From this point on, the Hebrew people would clearly understand that for them to be spared from death, an innocent life had to be sacrificed in their place.” (LASB)

Exo 12:7-13 ‘Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. (8) ‘They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. (9) ‘Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. (10) ‘And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. (11) ‘Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste–it is the LORD’S Passover. (12) ‘For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments–I am the LORD. (13) ‘The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

12:7 What was Isreal to do with some of the blood? Apply it to the sides and top of their doors where they were to eat and celebrate. “Before the Passover lamb could be eaten, its blood had to be applied to the doorway of the home, to the top and upon each side the blood was applied. The only part of this sacrifice given to God was the blood; the rest was eaten by each family or discarded” (Guzik). Does this seem symbolic in any way? blood from the top of the door (lintel) would have dripped to the ground as well, forming the outline of a cross in their doorways.

12:8-9 How was the animal to be cooked? They were to roast it with fire (v8). Not eat it raw or boiled in water (v9).  Symbolism of roasting the animal with fire? The fire of judgment. According to Walvoord, pagans sometimes ate their meat raw. Not boiling it in water may have to do with Christ alone as our sacrifice, “nothing is to be mixed, added, and joined unto him, but he alone is to be regarded in the business of our acceptance, justification, and salvation” (Gill)  God’s celebrations often involved a big family BBQ, yum! A gathering of friends and family to BBQ is still a fun and festive event, one we often partake in during spring and summer holidays (memorial day, independence day, etc). Relating the fun and enjoyment of such a celebration today to the one pictured here may help us see things from their perspective. Think about the kinds of sacrifices God requested of his people, next time you BBQ–they were in many ways more a feast than a solemn event.

 What parts of the animal were they to use? All of it, including the legs and inner parts (“entrails”, probably intestines, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc.). It clarifies later that not a bone of the lamb was to be broken (12:46), which we know is related to the symbolism of Christ not having broken bones when he was sacrificed (John 19:36). This verse seems to imply roasting the animal whole rather than in parts.

What were they to serve with the meat? Unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It is likely (but not certain Signficance of unleavened bread? “Leaven speaks of sin, and unleavened bread speaks of Christ as the One we are to feed upon” (McGee). See 1Cor. 5:7-8 and Matt. 16:2 for verses about iterpreting leaven. It may be symbolic also of eating the meal in haste–see verse 11. Significance of bitter herbs? Somewhat debated. Guzik feels they imply bitterness of the cross. Barnes and Walvoord think it looks back on their previous sufferings (oppression in Isreal) or past sin. McGee thinks it may look forward to future sufferings after redemption (after receiving Christ as savior). How could we relate this to our own lives? “We should live lives of sincerity and truth, without the leaven of malice and wickedness, and with true repentance, always remembering the bitterness of Christ’s suffering.” (BBC)

“As our Passover sacrifice, Jesus had to come into direct contact with the “fire” of the Father’s judgment on our behalf, and the bitterness of the cross is reflected in the bitter herbs.” (Guzik)

12:10 When were they to eat the animal? The same night. What were they do to with any leftovers? Burn them (likely this leftover bits included stuff like bones, nerves and sinews that are not especially edible). What was the result? The entire sacrifice was consumed, either by the people, or consumed by fire. Why? This would prevent spoilage/rotting, as well as misuse of the remains. “What was left might not be converted to common or superstitious uses, as also that the Israelites might not be burdened with it in their journey, nor the Egyptians have an opportunity of treating it with contempt.” (Gill) Also, as a sacrifice to God, it wouldn’t have been fitting to allow it to be subjected to putrification–NT parallel Acts 2:27 they should not let their Holy One decay.

12:11 How were they to eat their passover meal? (1) loins girded, (2) sandals on, (3) staff in hand, (4) hurriedly.

Significance of their dress? They were dressed for travel while they ate, ready to go.

Tucking their loins of their garments in enabled them to run or be dressed for service. “in those countries they wore long loose garments, which reached to their feet, and unless girt up, were a great hinderance in walking” (Gill)

Sandals would have been worn for travel, a sign of readiness (See Eph 6:15), but also may have been symbolic of freedom since as slaves they probably usually would have went barefoot. Heb 11:28 Equates Moses’s keeping of the passover to faith. At other feasts, sandals would have typically been removed in order to wash the feet, so this is not the customary behavior that was required.

A staff was used to provide better balance and support and assist one travelling by foot.

Being dressed for such travel may have been a sign of their faith, although they were still slaves, by faith, they were to be preparing themselves to be able to walk in God’s imminant deliverance. Have your feet fitted with readiness as Ephesians commands. “Preparing ourselves for the fulfillment of God’s promises, however unlikely they may seem, demonstrates our faith.” (LASB)

Significance of their haste? “The Passover lamb had to be eaten in faith, trusting that the deliverance promised to Israel was present, and that they would walk in that deliverance immediately.” (Guzik) “when we feed upon Christ by faith we must absolutely forsake the rule and dominion of sin, shake off Pharaoh’s yoke; and we must sit loose to the world, and every thing in it, forsake all for Christ, and reckon it no bad bargain” (Matthew Henry)

It is the Lord’s Passover – this ordinance was appointed by God, not man. Figuratively, their homes were going to be passed over by the destroying angel.

12:12 What did God say he will do? Strikedown the firstborns of all people and animals, just as Pharaoh had been forewarned in the previous chapter. “The judgment on the firstborn was a powerful act of God, because the firstborn was always considered favored and privileged before God. If God judges the firstborn, then what of the rest of us?” (Guzik) When would this take place? That very night. Ex 11:4 indicates the time as being around midnight. What is the significance of God passing through Egypt? He is omnipresent, and was there exerting his mighty power. What will he bring judgment against? Egypt’s idols. What does this mean? (1) perhaps that their false gods were shamed in that they didn’t save their worshippers, (2) perhaps the beasts or animals they worshipped were stricken, or (3) by overthrowing physical items of worship. Secular records exist about how most of the Temples of Egypt fell down through one earthquake, and that the Egyptian Gods for fear of Typho (Moses?) hid themselves for a season (Poole). “Pharaoh’s eldest son and successor supposedly had divine properties. Min, the Egyptian god of reproduction, and Isis, the goddess of love who attended women at childbirth, were judged as impotent by this climactic plague and catastrophe.” (Walvoord)

How does God describe himself? I am the LORD. Implication? He has the power and ability to carry out said judgments. This isn’t an empty threat.

12:13 What was the blood a sign or token of? Their faith. “No one was saved because he was doing the best he could, or because he was honest, or because he was a good person. God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” They were not to run out of the house during the night and look at the blood; they were to have confidence and faith in it. They were not saved because they went through the ceremony of circumcision, or because they belonged to some church.” (McGee) The application of the blood on the doorposts and the lintels of the home was an indication of faith, you see. That answers to the appropriation of a personal faith in Christ. (McGee) “s the blood of an animal was the means of deliverance and of escaping death, so Christ’s blood is the means of redemption for believers (Rom. 5:9; Eph. 1:7).” (Walvoord)

A great principle runs all the way through the Word of God that without shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. … God’s law is inexorable in the universe—”The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The death sentence is upon all of us. But God is gracious, and an innocent life may be substituted for the guilty. Up until Christ came, it was a lamb. Then Jesus was “… the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). If we receive Christ, we are saved from the judgment that we deserve as sinners. (McGee)

Have your sins been removed? By what means?

Exo 12:14-20 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. (15) ‘Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. (16) ‘On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. (17) ‘You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. (18) ‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. (19) ‘Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. (20) ‘You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.'”




Exo 12:21-27 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. (22) “You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. (23) “For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. (24) “And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. (25) “When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. (26) “And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ (27) you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.'” And the people bowed low and worshiped.


Exo 12:28 Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.


The 10th Plague

Exo 12:29-32 Now it came about at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. (30) Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. (31) Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the LORD, as you have said. (32) “Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”


The Exodus

Exo 12:33-36 The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.” (34) So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders. (35) Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; (36) and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.



Exo 12:37-39 Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. (38) A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. (39) They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.


Exo 12:40-42 Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. (41) And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. (42) It is a night to be observed for the LORD for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the LORD, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.


Institution of The Passover

Exo 12:43-49 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; (44) but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. (45) “A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. (46) “It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. (47) “All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. (48) “But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. (49) “The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.”


Exo 12:50-51 Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron. (51) And on that same day the LORD brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.



Continue on to Segment 2 Isreal in the Wilderness (Ch 13-18)