Exodus 12:1–14comment (0)
March 18, 2010
By Jeffrey S. Quiett
Related Scripture: Exodus 12:1–14
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Associate professor of marriage and family counseling, University of Mobile
Preparation for Deliverance (1–5)
Nine plagues had been inflicted on Egypt, and still the stubborn Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave. One more plague was needed to finally shatter Pharaoh’s hard heart and display God’s power and glory. The plague would be terrible indeed, so preparation was in order so Israel would not be caught up in the heat of God’s wrath. God’s instructions for preparation were detailed, suggesting the seriousness of the event. When God works, His actions present both danger and opportunity. There is danger for those who refuse God’s direction and opportunity for those who embrace God’s purposes. Verse 3 marks the first occurrence of the word “congregation” in the Old Testament. This word would later be used as a technical term to refer to Israel as an organized religious community. The Hebrew word for “lamb” can be translated either “sheep” or “goat.” Notice that God made provision for families too small to secure an entire lamb. Whenever God calls us to action, He always makes provision to carry out His call.
God had special instructions concerning the lamb. The lamb was to be “without blemish,” signifying God’s demand for sacrificial purity. This requirement may be a foreshadowing of the future sacrificial system that was instituted some time after Israel’s exit from Egypt. Only a spotless and pure lamb was acceptable in God’s eyes. Only Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, would be acceptable as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Participating in God’s Deliverance (6–11)
Israel’s preparation for God’s deliverance was not a passive event. With further specific instructions, God expected His people to participate in His plan. God did not call His people to idly sit back and watch His power. He called the Israelites to become a part of His redemption. This does not mean that God “needed” the Israelites to complete His design, but it does mean that participation in God’s deliverance would bring them closer to Him and to rely on Him completely. The act of smearing blood on the doorposts was required of the Israelites. Although this practice may seem distasteful, obedience to God’s instructions would protect the Israelites from the coming plague. The New Testament interpreted the act of smearing the blood on the doorposts as evidence of faith (Heb. 11:28). In ancient times, the doorway was regarded as the most sacred part of the house. A radical act of obedience was required for Israel to escape God’s wrath. The blood protected Israel from death. This reminds us of Jesus, who shed His blood to protect us from the “wages of sin,” which is death (Rom. 6:23).
The significance of the “bitter herbs” is not explained in this text, but later they would be used to remind Israel of their bitter experience as slaves. The temptation that we might enjoy God’s deliverance without remembering “where we came from” always exists. When Christ delivers us from an existence of separation from God’s abundant life, we often forget about others still stuck in bondage. God’s salvation comes with a responsibility to reach out to those who still do not know Him.
Deliverance Remembered (12–14)
God concluded His instructions for Israel by detailing what He would do in Egypt to finally bring about His people’s freedom. Every firstborn not protected by the blood would be killed. Once again, the passage reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice that brings life to those who give their lives to Him. Although the judgment was harsh and final, God provided protection to those who listened to His call. God still provides protection through Christ today.
Once God’s deliverance was completed, Israel was required to continue to remember and celebrate the event through a festival known as Passover. This name comes from the fact that God “passed over” those households that were obedient to His instructions to place blood on the doorposts. Today Jews celebrate Passover in the spring and New Year’s (Rosh Hashana) in the fall. Jesus would later in the Gospels see the symbolic nature of this festival in His own death as He celebrated Passover with His disciples before His arrest and death.