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The Passover, pt. 3

by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)


1And the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2“This month [shall be] unto you the beginning of months: it [shall be] the first month of the year to you. 3Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘In the tenth [day] of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of [their] fathers, a lamb for an house: 4And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take [it] according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take [it] out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. 7And they shall take of the blood, and strike [it] on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. 8And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; [and] with bitter [herbs] they shall eat it. 9Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast [with] fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. 10And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. 11And 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: it [is] the Lord’s passover.

12“‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I [am] the Lord. 13And the blood shall be to you for a token 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], when I smite the land of Egypt.


The institution and ritual of the Passover supply us with one of the most striking and blessed foreshadowments of the cross-work of Christ to be found anywhere in the Old Testament. Its importance may be gathered from the frequency with which the title of “Lamb” is afterwards applied to the Savior, a title which looks back to what is before us in Exodus 12. Messianic prediction contemplated the suffering Messiah “brought as a Lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:6). John the Baptist hailed Him as “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The apostle speaks of Him as “a Lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). While the one who leaned on the Master’s bosom employs this title no less than twenty-eight times in the closing book of Scripture. Thus, an Old Testament prophet, the Lord’s forerunner, an apostle, and the Apocalyptic seer unite in employing this term of the Redeemer.

There are many typical pictures of the sacrificial work of Christ scattered throughout the Old Testament, yet it is to be doubted if any single one of them supplies so complete, so many-sided a portrayal of the person and work of the Savior as does the one before us. The Passover sets forth both the Godward and the manward aspects of the Atonement. It prefigures Christ satisfying the demands of Deity, and it views Him as a substitute for elect sinners. Hardly a single vital phase of the Cross, either in its nature or its blessed results, but what is typified here. That which is central and basic we contemplated in our last paper; here we shall confine our attention to details.

1. Following the order of the contents of Exodus 12, the first thing to be noted is that the institution of the Passover changed Israel’s calendar: “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you” (12:2). Deeply significant is this. Passover-month was to begin Israel’s year; only from this point was their national existence to be counted. The type is accurate down to the minutest detail. The new year did not begin exactly with the Passover-night itself, for that fell between the fourteenth and fifteenth of Nisan. Now the paschal lamb was a type of the Lord Jesus, and the chronology of the civilized world is dated back to the birth of Christ. Anno Mundi (the year of the world) has given place to Anno Domini (the year of our Lord). The coming of Christ to this earth changed the calendar, and the striking thing is that the calendar is now dated not from His death, but from His birth. By common consent men on three Continents reckon time from the Babe of Bethlehem; thus, the Lord of Time has written His signature upon time itself!

But there is another application of what has just been before us. The Passover speaks not only of Christ offering Himself as a sacrifice, a sin offering to God, but it also views the believing sinner’s appropriation of this unto himself. The slaying of the “lamb” looks at the Godward side of the Cross; the sprinkling of the blood tells of faith’s application. And it is this which changes our relationship to God. But our appropriation of Christ’s atoning sacrifice is not the first thing. Preceding this is a Divine work of grace within us. While we remain dead in trespasses and.sins, there is no turning to Christ; nay, there is no discernment, and no capacity to discern, our need of Him. Except a man be born again he “cannot see the kingdom (things) of God” (John 3:3). Regeneration is the cause, faith’s application of the sacrifice of Christ, the effect. The new birth is the beginning of the new life. Hence, Israel’s new calendar dated not from the Passover itself, but from the beginning of the month in which it occurred. The truth here typified is both blessed and solemn. All the years we lived before we became new creatures in Christ are not reckoned to our account. The past is blotted out. Our unregenerate days were so much lost time. Our past lives in the service of sin and Satan, were wasted. But when we became new creatures in Christ “old things passed away” and all things became new.

2. “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house’” (v. 3). This is the first thing in connection with the “lamb”: it was singled out from the flock, separated, appointed unto death four days before it was actually slain. We believe that two things were here foreshadowed. In the antitype, Christ was marked out for death before He was actually slain: “Redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:19, 20). It is to this that the singling out of the lamb four days before its slaying points, for four is the number of the world.

The second application of this detail, which has also been pointed out by others before us, has reference to the fact that four years before His crucifixion the Lord Jesus was singled out for death. At the beginning of His public ministry (which lasted between three and four years — cf. Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6, a year for a day) John the Baptist cried, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” It was then that the Lamb was singled out from the flock — “the lost sheep of the House of Israel”!

3. “Your lamb shall be without blemish” (v. 5). With this should be compared Leviticus 22:21, 22. “And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. Blind, or broken or maimed, or having a wen or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the Lord”. The moral significance of this is obvious. Nothing but a perfect sacrifice could satisfy the requirements of God, who Himself is perfect. One who had sin in himself could not make an atonement for sinners. One who did not himself keep the Law in thought and word and deed, could not magnify and make it honorable. God could only be satisfied with that which glorified Him. And where was such a sacrifice to be found? Certainly not among the sons of men. None but the Son of God incarnate, “made under the law” (Galatians 4:4) could offer an acceptable sacrifice. And before He presented Himself as an offering to God, the Father testified, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. He was the antitype of the “perfect” lamb. As Peter tells us, Christ was “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1:19).

4. “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year” (v. 5). “The age of the sacrifice is prescribed. It is to be a male of the first year. The Hebrew phrase is ‘a male, the son of a year’; that is, it is to be one year old. The lamb was not to be too young or too old. It was to die in the fullness of its strength. If we ask how that might apply to Christ, we note that this particular may be fully sustained as a description of Him. For He died for us, not in old age, nor in childhood, or boyhood, or in youth, but in the fullness of His opening manhood” (Urquhart). In the language of Messianic prediction, Christ was cut off “in the midst” of His days (Psalm 102:24). Before passing on to the next verse we would call attention to a striking gradation here. In verse 3 it is “a lamb”; in verse 4, “the lamb”; in verse 5, “your lamb”. This order is most instructive, corresponding to the enlarged apprehension of faith. While in our unregenerate state, Christ appeared to us as nothing more than a Lamb; we saw in Him no beauty that we should desire Him. But when the Holy Spirit awakened. us from the sleep of death, when He made us see our sinful and lost condition, and turned our gaze toward Christ, then we behold Him as the Lamb. We perceived His uniqueness, His unrivaled perfections. We learned that “neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12). Finally, when God in His sovereign grace gave us faith whereby to receive Christ as our own personal Savior, then could He be said to be your Lamb, our Lamb. Each elect and believing sinner can say with the apostle Paul, “Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

5. “And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” (v. 6). This is very solemn. The whole congregation of Israel was to slay the “lamb”. Not that every particular individual, man, woman and child, shared in the act itself, but they did so representatively. The head of the household stood for and acted on the behalf of each member of his family. It was not simply Moses and Aaron or the Levites who slew the Lamb, but the entire people, as represented by the heads of each household. The fulfillment of this aspect of our type is plainly brought out in the Gospels. It was not simply the chief priests and elders, nor the scribes and Pharisees only, who put the Lord Jesus to death. When Pilate decided the issue as to whether Barabbas or Christ should be released, he did so by the popular vote of the common people, who all cried “crucify Him” (see Mark 15:6-15). In like manner it is equally true that it was the sins of each individual believer which caused our Savior to be put to death: He bore our sins in His own body on the tree.

6. “And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” (v. 6). Here we have defined the exact time at which the paschal lamb was to die. It was to be “kept up” or tethered until the fourteenth day of Nisan, and then killed in the evening, or more literally, “between the evenings”, that is between the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month. To point out precisely the antitypical fulfillment of this would necessitate an examination of quite a number of N. T. passages. Only by a most minute comparison of the statements in each of the four Gospels can we discover the fact that the Lord Jesus died “between the evenings” of the fourteenth and fifteenth of Nisan. Others before us have performed this task, the best of which, perhaps, is to be found in volume 5 of the Companion Bible [Bullinger]. But if the reader will prayerfully study the closing chapters of each of the Gospels it will be seen that the Lamb of God died at the very time that the paschal lambs were being slain in the temple.

7. “And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” (v. 6). Here the type passes to the Antitype. This point is very striking indeed. Many thousands of lambs were to be slain on that memorable night in Egypt, yet the Lord here designedly used the singular number when giving these instructions to Moses — Israel shall kill it, not “them” It is indeed remarkable that never once is the plural “lambs” used throughout the 12th chapter of Exodus. “There was only one before God’s mind — The Lamb of Calvary” (Urquhart).

8. “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it” (v. 8). Not only was the lamb to be killed, but its flesh was to be eaten. This was God’s provision for those inside the house, as the blood secured protection from the judgment outside. A journey lay before Israel, and food was needed to strengthen them first. “Eating” signifies two things in Scripture: appropriation and fellowship. The “lamb” spoke of the person of Christ, and He is God’s food for His people — The Bread of Life. Christ is to be the object before our hearts. As we feed upon Him our souls are sustained and He is honored. “It is death here which God ordains as the food of life. We are so familiar with this we are apt by the very fact to miss its significance. How we see nature thus everywhere instructing us, if we have but learned to read her lessons in the deepest lesson of God’s wisdom! The laying down of life becomes the sustenance of life. For men this did not begin until after the Deluge; at least it is only after this we read of Divine permission for it. And when we see in that Deluge with its central figure, the ark of salvation, bearing within it the nucleus of the new world, the pregnant figure of how God has saved us and brought us in Christ into a new creation. How its similitude in what we have here bursts upon us! It is only as sheltered and saved from death — from what is alone truly such — that we can feed upon death; that Samson’s riddle is fulfilled, and ‘out of the eater comes forth meat, and out of the strong sweetness!’ Death is not merely vanquished and set aside; it is in the Cross the sweet and wonderful display of Divine love and power in our behalf accomplished in the mystery of human weakness. Death is become the food of life — yea, of a life which is eternal.” (F. W. Grant). But mark carefully the lamb is to be eaten with “unleavened bread and bitter herbs”. In Scripture “leaven” uniformly symbolizes evil. The lesson taught here is of vital importance. It is only as we are separated from what is repugnant to Divine holiness that we can really feed upon Christ. While we are indulging known sin there can be no communion with Him. It is only as we “walk in the light as He is in the light” that the blood of God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin and “we have fellowship one with another” (1 John 1:7). The “bitter herbs” speak of the remorse of conscience in the Christian. We cannot have “fellowship with His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10) without remembering what it was that made those sufferings needful, namely, our sins, and the remembrance of these cannot but produce a chastened spirit.

9. “Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire” (v. 9). How very explicit — rather, how carefully God preserved the accuracy of the type! In the previous verse we read, “eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire”, here, “eat not of it raw”. The Israelites were to feed not only upon that where death had done its work, but upon that which had been subjected to the fire. Solemn indeed is this. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). These are two separate things. For the lost, death is not all, nor even the worst that awaits them. After death is “judgment,” the judgment of a sin-hating God. Therefore if Christ was to take the place of His sinful people and suffer what was righteously due them, He must not only die, but pass under and through the judgment of God. “Fire” here, as ever, speaks of the wrath of a holy God. It tells of Christ being “made sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), and consequently being “made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13) and as such, enduring the judgment of God. Speaking anticipatively by the Spirit, through the prophet Jeremiah, the Savior said, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce anger. From above hath He sent fire into My bones”. It was this which caused Him to also say through the Psalmist, “My moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:4). And this it is which, in its deepest meaning, explains His cry from the Cross — “I thirst” (John 19:28). His “thirst” was the effect of the agony of His soul in the fierce heat of God’s wrath. It told of the drought of the land where the living God is not. “Not sodden (boiled) at all with water”, because water would have hindered the direct action of the fire. “His head with his legs, and with the purtenance (inwards) thereof” (v. 9). “The head, no doubt, expresses the thoughts and counsels with which the walk (the legs) keep perfect company. The inwards are those affections of His heart which were the motive-power impelling Him upon the path He trod. In all, the fire brought forth nothing but sweet savor; for men, it prepared the food of their true life; all is absolutely perfect; and all is ours to appropriate. Occupation with the person of Christ is thus impressed upon us; we need this. Not the knowledge of salvation alone will suffice us; it is the One who saves whom we need. Christ for our hearts alone keeps and sanctifies them (Mr. Grant).


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