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The Accompaniments of the Passover, pt. 1

by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)

 

29And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn, of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captives that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. 30And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead (Ex. 12:29-30 AV).

 

40Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. 41And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.

43And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: 44But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. 45A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.

46“In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. 47All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof” (Ex 12:40-48 AV).

 

Though we have entitled this paper “the Accompaniments of the Passover”, other things will come before us. The instructions which Jehovah gave to Israel concerning the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are found part in Exodus 12 and part in Exodus 13. Therefore as these two chapters are to be the portion for our study, we must not pass by other incidents recorded in them.

First, then, a brief word upon the carrying out of the death-sentence upon the Egyptians. “And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn, of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captives that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead” (12:29, 30). The very first message which the Lord commanded Moses to deliver to Egypt’s ruler was, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘Israel is My son, even my firstborn; And I say unto thee, “Let My son go, that he may serve Me”; and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn’” (4:22, 23). It is evident from the sequel that Pharaoh did not believe this message. In this he accurately represented the men of this world. All through this Christian dispensation the solemn word has been going forth, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3): “He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). But, for the most part, the Divine warning has fallen on deaf ears. The vast majority do not believe that God means what He says. Nevertheless, though oftentimes men’s threats are mere idle words and empty bombast, not so is it with the threatenings of Him who cannot lie. It is true that God is “slow to anger” and long does He leave open the door of mercy, but even His long-sufferance has its limits. It was thus with Pharaoh and his people. Pharaoh received plain and faithful warning and this was followed by many appeals and preliminary judgments. But the haughty king and his no less defiant subjects only hardened their hearts. And now the threatened judgment from heaven fell upon them, and neither wealth nor poverty provided any exemption — “there was not a house where there was not one dead”. A most solemn proof is this unto rebels against God today, that in a short while at most, unless they truly repent, Divine wrath shall smite them.

“Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (12:40, 41). It is very striking to observe the accuracy of the type here. It was not until the day following the Passover-night that Israel was delivered from Egypt. As we have gone over the first twelve chapters of Exodus we have witnessed the tender compassion of God (2:23-25); we have seen the appointment of a leader (3:10); we have listened to the Divine promises (6:6-8); and we have beheld remarkable displays of Divine power (in the plagues), and yet not a single Israelite was delivered from the house of bondage. It was not until the blood of the “lamb” was shed that redemption was effected, and as soon as it was shed, even the very next morning, Israel marched forth a free people — remarkable is the expression here used: “All the hosts of the Lord” (not “of Israel”) “went out from the land of Egypt” (12:41). They were the Lord’s by purchase — “bought with a price”, and that price “not corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of a Lamb” (I Peter 1:18).

The same thing is to be seen in the Gospels. Notwithstanding all the blessed display of grace and power in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus, at the close of His wonderful works of mercy among men, had there been nothing more, He must have remained alone. Listen to His own words: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). As another has well said, “Blessed as was that ministry, great as were His miracles, heavenly as was His teaching, holy as was His life, yet had He not died, the Just for the unjust, not one of all the sons of Adam could possibly have been saved. What a place this gives to redemption!” (Mr. C. Stanley). How sadly true. Though Christ “spake as never man spake” (John 7:46), and though men confessed “He hath done all things well; He maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak” (Mark 7:37), yet at the close we read, even of His apostles, “they all forsook Him and fled”. But how different after His precious blood had been shed! Then He is no longer “alone”. Then, for the first time, He speaks of the disciples as His “brethren” (John 20:17).

The order of truth in Exodus 12, like every other chapter in the Bible, is according to Divine wisdom, yet the writer has to confess dimness of vision in perceiving the purpose and beauty of the arrangements of its contents. One thing is very clear, it evidences plainly that it was not of Moses’ own design. Here, as ever, God’s thought and ways are different from ours. A trained mind, accustomed to think in logical sequence, would certainly have reversed the order found here. Yet we have not the slightest doubt that God’s order is infinitely superior to that of the most brilliant human intellect. These remarks are occasioned by what is found in verses 43-50. After telling us in verse 45 that “The self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt”, verses 43 to 50 give us the “ordinance of the Passover”, and then in verse 51 it is repeated that “The Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”. The strange thing is that this ordinance was for Israel’s guidance in the future, hence one would naturally have expected to find these instructions given at a later date, as a part of the ceremonial law. But though, at present, we can offer no satisfactory explanation of this, several points of interest in the “ordinance” itself are clear, and these we will briefly consider.

“And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, ‘This is the ordinance of the Passover:  There shall no stranger eat thereof; but every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.  A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof’” (vv. 43-45). Here we learn that three classes of people were debarred from eating the Passover. First, no stranger was to eat thereof. This Feast was for Israel alone, and therefore no foreigner must participate. The reason is obvious. It was only the children of Abraham, the family of faith, who had participated in God’s gracious deliverance, and they alone could commemorate it. Second, no hired servant should eat the Passover. This too is easily interpreted. An “hired” servant is an outsider; he is actuated by self-interest. He works for pay. But no such principle can find a place in that which speaks of redemption: “To him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). Third, no uncircumcised person should eat thereof. (v. 48). This applies to Israel equally as much as to Gentiles. “Circumcision” was the sign of the Covenant, and only these who belonged to the Covenant of Grace can feed upon Christ. Circumcision was God’s sentence of death written upon nature. Circumcision has its antitype in the Cross (Colossians 2:11, 12).

“But every man’s servant that is bought for money when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.... and when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof” (vv. 44, 48). A wall was erected to shut out enemies, but the door was open to receive friends. No hired servant could participate in the Feast, but a bond-servant who had been purchased and circumcised, and who was now one of the household, could. So, too, the foreigner who sojourned with Israel, provided he would submit to the rite of circumcision. In this we have a blessed foreshadowing of Grace reaching out to the Gentiles, who though by nature were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise”, are now, by grace “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:12, 19). — a statement which manifestly looks back to Exodus 12.

“In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof” (v. 46). “The lamb was to be eaten under the shelter of the atoning blood, and there alone. Men may admire Christ, as it is the fashion very much to do, while denying the whole reality of His atoning work, but the Lamb can only be eaten really where its virtue is owned.  Apart from this, He cannot be understood or appreciated. Thus the denial of His work leads to the denial of His person. Universalists and Annihilationists slip naturally into some kind of Unitarian doctrines as is evidenced on every hand.

“Thus this unites naturally with the commandment ‘Neither shall ye break a bone thereof’. God will not have the perfection of Christ disfigured as it would be in type by a broken bone. With the bones perfect, a naturalist can show the construction of the whole animal. Upon the perfection of the bones depends the symmetry of form. God will have this preserved with regard to Christ. Reverent, not rash handling, becomes us as we seek to apprehend the wondrous Christ of God. And looking back to what is in connection with this, how suited a place to preserve reverence, the place ‘in the house’ under the shelter which the precious blood has provided for us! With such a one, so sheltered, how could rationalism or irreverence, we might ask, be found? And yet, alas, the injunction, we know too well is not unneedful” (Mr. Grant).

It is indeed blessed to mark how God guarded the fulfillment of this particular aspect of the type. That there might be no uncertainty that Christ Himself, the Lamb of God, was in view here, the Spirit of prophecy also caused it to be written (in one of the Messianic Psalms), “He keepeth all His bones; not one of them is broken” (34:20). And in John 19 we behold the antitype of Exodus 12 and the fulfillment of Psalm 34. “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation that the bodies should not remain upon the Cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away” (John 19:31). Here was Satan, in his malignant enmity attempting to falsify and nullify the written Word. Vain effort was it. “Then came the soldiers and break the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him” (v. 32). Thus far might the agents of the Roman empire go, but no farther — “But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was dead already, they broke not His legs,” (John 19:33). Here we are given to see the Father “keeping” (preserving) all the bones of His blessed Son. Pierce His side with a spear a soldier might, and this, only that prophecy might be fulfilled, for it was written, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced,” (Zechariah 12:10). But break His legs they could not, for “a bone of Him shall not be broken”, and it was not!

 

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