Exodus 11-13
(The First Passover)
January 19th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

And 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.

- Exodus 12:13 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

In Exodus 11-13 we read that Pharaoh finally relented when the last plague hits him directly, killing his firstborn son and every firstborn of Egypt. Each Israelite household avoided this plague by following God’s very specific instructions:

  1. Select a year-old defect free lamb (could be from a sheep or goat)

  2. Kill the lamb at twilight

  3. Use a hyssop branch to put some of the blood from the lamb on the outside doorframe of the house

  4. Season the lamb with bitter herbs and cook the entire lamb directly over a wood fire (not in water), and serve with unleavened bread

  5. Eat all of the lamb, or burn the remainder (two small families can share one lamb)

  6. Eat the meal with cloaks tucked into belts, sandals on feet, and staff in hand

  7. “Eat in haste, it is the LORD’s Passover (Exodus 12:10 NIV).”

  8. "You shall not break any of its bones (Exodus 12:46 NAB)."

The LORD tells the Israelites that they will celebrate this day annually to commemorate how he led them out of Egypt and back into the land of “milk and honey” that he had promised to them. The LORD told Moses and Aaron that this celebration would only be for descendants of the twelve tribes or for foreigners who are circumcised.

Heartbroken and defeated, Pharaoh finally agreed to let Moses’ people go after 430 years of living in Egypt, as described in Exodus 12.

    And so at midnight the LORD struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh sitting on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner in the dungeon, as well as all the firstborn of the animals. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians; and there was loud wailing throughout Egypt, for there was not a house without its dead.

    During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Leave my people at once, you and the Israelites! Go and serve the LORD as you said. Take your flocks, too, and your herds, as you said, and go; and bless me, too!”

    - Exodus 12:29-32 (NAB)

About two million descendants of Jacob (including women and children) left with their possessions and with a friendly plunder collected from the Egyptians. Moses also carried the bones of their ancestor, Joseph, in accordance with the oath made to him, as recorded in Genesis 50:25 (NIV): " 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.' "

In the first leg of the journey out of Egypt, God instructed the Israelites to take a bypass around the main road in order to avoid a skirmish with the Philistines. They obeyed as he led the way for their journey in a manner that further demonstrated his complete control over earth and heaven:

    The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

    - Exodus 13:21-22 (NRSV)

Reflection and Application

Pharaoh had thought he could outlast God, but his hold over the Israelites was temporary. By contrast, God’s love for us is eternal, and he always wins in the end.

Christians join the Passover tradition when we celebrate the Maundy Thursday dinner on the day before Good Friday. On that day we commemorate the Last Supper, which was a Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. Jesus observed the rituals described by his Father 1300 years earlier, including the serving of the unleavened bread:

    On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"

    He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.' " So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

    - Matthew 26:17-19 (NIV)

The Last Supper had a direct parallel to the first Passover. In the first Passover, the Israelites shared this meal as they prepared to escape the bondage of slavery in Egypt. The Last Supper was a Passover meal led by Jesus and shared with his disciples as he prepared to sacrifice himself in order to free all of us from the bondage of sin.

Are you wondering why God gave so many specific instructions with regard to that first Passover meal? At first glance, the whole set of rules seems like an extreme case of micro-management. Let's take a second look at the instructions: We understand that each family offered up the lamb as a sacrifice, in exchange for the life of their own son, just as Abraham had done. This exchange is known as redemption, because one life (the lamb) redeems the other. We also understand that the bitter herbs represent the bitter life the Israelites experienced in Egypt and that the dress code symbolized the atmosphere of preparing to leave at a moment’s notice.

Notice the instruction not to break the bones of the sacrificial lamb, as described in Exodus 12:46. Some Biblical experts have inferred this instruction as a prophecy regarding the type of death that the Messiah would experience. "...the application of these words to our Lord on the cross shows that the Paschal (Passover) lamb was a prophetic type of Christ, immolated (sacrificed) to free men from the bondage of sin (1)."

As for the rest of the details, perhaps we can discern that God wanted to make sure that the Israelites could follow his instructions without deviation. When they got to the desert, they had to follow his pillars to avoid areas of danger. Those who could not follow the instructions for the Passover would not be joining the exodus. But, apparently everyone did as they were told, in fear and obedience. They had come to trust Moses as an authentic representative of God and trusted God to deliver them from the evil empire of the Egyptians.

God wants all of us to trust his instructions, even when they seem extreme or counter-intuitive. He holds the master GPS and knows better than we do what lies ahead. If we listen to his words we can avoid spiritual bondage and allow ourselves to be led by his light into the Promised Land.

How do you imagine the sight of a pillar of fire? In Exodus it occurs because of supernatural intervention, but it can also occur naturally in the right combination of circumstances. You can see a recording of a rare occurrence of this phenomenon taking place Down Under by clicking the play button on the object immediately below.

"Rare Flaming Tornado," captured by WYNK News, Australia

Now imagine a pillar of fire like the one above that lasts all day and starts again the next day.

Have you ever participated in a Passover celebration with Jewish friends or family? You can experience one part of it by listening to a traditional Passover song in Hebrew and reading the accompanying scripture in the YouTube video below. Click play on the next object to begin the celebration:

"Dayenu (דַּיֵּנוּ) - Passover Song (in Hebrew)," Unknown artist

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What type of instructions do you have a hard time following (e.g. cooking recipes, software help pages, car repair manuals, IKEA furniture-building steps, or other examples)?
    2. What type of instructions do you find easy to follow?
    3. What are the instructions that you sense God is giving you today? Are any of them counter-intuitive?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to recognize your voice and follow your instructions, even if they seem backwards to us.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    People beginning a long journey today


    (1) The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970; page 57

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Exodus 14-16 (Parting of the Red Sea)

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