These are some of my notes for Sunday March 21, 2010, in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.
Books referenced in these notes are:
1. The Stone Chumash, edited by Nosson Scherman
2. New American Commentary: Exodus by Douglas Stuart
3. NIV Application Commentary: Exodus by Peter Enns
Moses and Aaron: Brothers, members of the tribe of Levi, and thus priests. They serve here as the prototypes of the Levite priestly clan, responsible for both keeping the Law (Lev 22:9; Ezk 44:24) and enforcing it and teaching it to the rest of Israel(Deu 17:9,18; 24:8; 2 Chr 15:3; 31:14;35:3; Neh 8:7,9; Jer 18:8; Ezk 7:26; Matt 2:4)(Stuart)
In Egypt: Shows the importance of the Passover, as it is a legal tradition given to Israel even before Sinai.(Stuart)
Jewish calendar: The months of the Jewish calendar vary between twenty-nine and thirty days, so the standard Jewish year contains 354 days. This is eleven days shorter than the solar year. This variation in the date of Passover would eventually take the festival out of the spring entirely, but the law requires Passover to be in the month of Abib/Nissan (March/April in the Western calendar), in the springtime. Thus the Jewish calendar adds an extra month(Adar II) seven times every nineteen years to keep Abib/Nissan in its proper place. (A further complication was the legal ruling that the new moon, signifying a new month, had to be certified by ordained witnesses. After the fall of the Second Temple it was reckoned the correct ordination could not be carried out, and thus about 359 AD a legal ruling was made to determine the Jewish based on calculations that had previously been used to confirm the new moon witnesses’ testimony). (Stone Chumash)
First month: Ancient peoples varied between beginning calendars in the spring or in the fall after the harvest. Indeed places in the OT seem to switch between the spring and fall new year. This has lead to the notion of two calendars, a sacred one based on Abib/Nissan being the first month, and an agricultural/civil calendar in which Tishrei is the first month of the year. A common practice is to compromise by numbering the months from Abib/Nissan yet considering the then seventh month of Tishrei the beginning of the year. Current names of the Jewish months are Babylonian, and date from the time of the Exile. They are deemed appropriate as a reminder of the return from the Exile and the founding of the Second Temple.(Stone Chumash)
In essence, the Passover and the calendar are set by God to remind the Israelites of how they truly became a people: by God delivering them out of Egypt.(Stuart)
Tenth day: This gives the owner of the lamb or goat kid four days to examine it for blemishes or defects, the general rule for examination time for sacrificial animals. In later days one could buy a lamb or kid from a seller who certified it free of defectives. (Stone Chumash)
Fathers’ households: What nowadays we call the extended family grandparents, children, and grandchildren. But if the family was too large for one lamb to feed (the minimum amount of meat consumed was to be the size of an olive) then a lamb was to be provided for each household. On the other hand, if the family was too small to eat all the lamb, then they were to join with their neighbor’s family. All the meat was to be eaten (Ex 12:10) or else any leftover would be burnt up.(Stone Chumash)
The need for a unified group to eat from one lamb was doubtless a symbol of unity. The need not to leave any uneaten was to show the lamb’s sanctity as an offering.(Stuart)
unblemished year old male sheep or goat: Since lambs and goats are born in the spring normally, this means the sacrificed animal would likely indeed be a year old. And typically in animal husbandry all but a few of the best breeding males are culled, while females are kept for breeding and/or milking, so a male sacrifice makes sense. However, that it should be a perfect male meant a very valuable animal would be sacrificed, one likely to be kept and bred under other circumstances. Thus the symbolism is made: God gets the best. (Stuart)
Twilight/ evening: Literally “between the evenings”. There’s much debate as to when this is, exactly. Traditionally it’s determined to be between post-noon (when the sun begins to fall) and sunset (more specifically say three to five pm). More ancient texts seem to indicate a time between sunset and the darkness full enough the stars were shining (The evenings being 1. sunset to moon rise and 2. another hour, when stars are fully out with the moon.) (NET Bible)
Blood on doorposts and lintel: Since God hardly needs to be told who is obeying Him, this act must be considered a public display of faith and obedience, and also a sign of sacrifice, blood symbolizing life (Gen 9:4-5; Lev 17:11)(NET Bible)
Practically, this is the quickest, easiest sort of meal to have. Roasting meat was quick and required few utensils. Herbs could be eaten raw or burnt over the fire with the meat. Unleavened bread cut cooking time enormously over leavened bread. The symbolism is a quick meal for a people ready to hit the road.(Stuart)
The Jews read the instructions here very carefully, and see the commandment as being:
1.Eat the lamb and the herbs together
2.Eat the unleavened bread
If one couldn’t offer the lamb or kid sacrifice (as in the Exile), one could still eat the unleavened bread, but not the herbs. Later legal judgments made it a separate command to eat bitter herbs even if lamb wasn’t available. Likewise, there are legal judgments dividing the rules for Passover into those that applied to the Egyptian Exodus alone, and those applicable to every Passover meal in perpetuity.(Stone Chumash)
The burning of any leftover lamb was both symbolic of its being dedicated to religious purpose and also a sign of dependance on God to provide the next meal.(Stuart)
Dressed for travel: Another symbol of faith. At home one didn’t carry a staff or wear shoes, and his clothes were worn loose for comfort. To travel one wore shoes, carried a staff, and hiked up his robe under his belt to walk easier.
Passover: Commonly held to be so named for God passing over or “skipping” the Israelites’ homes in the tenth plague. Some have suggest the Hebrew pesakh is borrowed from the Akkadian passahu, which means “appease, placate”. Others think the festival harks back to the Egyptian beginning of the planting season. Still others see the Hebrew used in Is 31:5 for “protect” and relate it to that. (Enns, NET Bible)
Strike down every firstborn…judgment against all the gods of Egypt: The whole series of plagues are routinely calculated in charts as being directed against various Egyptian gods. The whole point was to show God’s superiority over Egypt’s gods, including the Pharaoh. The death of the firstborn was a final, culminating display against the collective gods of Egypt, as God kills man and beast, from Pharaoh’s great house to dogs in the fields. The whole notion of worshiping gods is to protect/improve the lives of the worshipers. If “everyone” dies, then the gods are useless and powerless.(Stuart)
Why the continual celebration of Passover throughout history? Simply because it is the supremely defining moment of God’s relationship with Israel: God rescues His people, with faith and obedience His requirement for the rescue.
This is repeated again with the Crucifixion, only the rescue is greater, for it includes Jews and Gentiles, all mankind. Easter also is a continual remembrance meal. Whole books have been written on the parallels between Passover and Easter, to which I commend the interested.