Exodus 12 -
The Accompaniments of Passover, pt. 1,
by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
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.
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).
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.
It 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.
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.
foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.
“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.
congregation of Israel shall keep it.
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” (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
“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!
Originally published in “Gleanings in Exodus”, in the publication Studies in the
© 1994-2017, Scott Sperling