1.And the Lord spake.Although the institution of the Passover in some degree appertains to the Fourth Commandment, where the Sabbath and Feast-days will be treated of; yet, in so far as it was a solemn symbol of their redemption, whereby the people professed their obligation to God their deliverer, and in a manner devoted themselves to His dominion, I have not hesitated to insert it here as a supplement of the First Commandment. The observation of the day itself will again recur in its proper place; it will only be suitable to observe here, that God enjoined this ceremony in order that He might wholly bind the people under obligation to Himself alone, and that from it the Israelites might learn that they should never turn away from Him, by whose kindness and hand they were redeemed. For by these means He had purchased them to Himself as His peculiar people; and, therefore, whenever He reproves them for declining from His pure worship, He complains that they were forgetful of this great favor, the memory of which ought to have been sufficient to retain them. In effect, then, the celebration of the Passover taught the Israelites that it was not lawful for them to have regard to any other God besides their Redeemer; and also that it was just and right for them to consecrate themselves to His service, since He had restored them from death to life; and thus, as in a glass or picture, He represented to their eyes His grace; and desired that they should on every succeeding year recognize what they had formerly experienced, lest it should ever depart from their memory. First, let us define what the Passover (Pascha) is; I use its trite and ordinary name. In its etymology there is no difficulty, except that the passage (transitus) of God, is equivalent to His leaping over, (transilitio) whereby it came to pass that the houses of the Israelites remained untouched; for Isaiah, speaking of the second redemption, unquestionably alludes to this place, when he says, I will leap over Jerusalem. The reason, then, for this expression being used is, that God’s vengeance passed over the Israelites, so as to leave them uninjured. With respect to the twofold mention by Moses of a passing-over, observe that the same word is not used in both places; but Pesah refers to the chosen people, and Abar to the Egyptians; as if he had said, my vengeance shall pass through the midst of your enemies, and shall everywhere destroy them; but you I will pass over untouched. Since, then, God was willing to spare His Israel, He awakened the minds of the faithful to the hope of this salvation, by the interposition of a sign; whilst He instituted a perpetual memorial of His grace, that the Passover might every year renew the recollection of their deliverance. For the first Passover was celebrated in the very presence of the thing itself, to be a pledge to strengthen their terrified minds; but the annual repetition was a sacrifice of thanksgiving, whereby their posterity might be reminded that they were God’s rightful and peculiar dependents (clientes). Yet both the original institution and the perpetual law had a higher reference; for God did not once redeem His ancient people, that they might remain safely and quietly in the land, but He wished to bring them onward even to the inheritance of eternal life, wherefore the Passover was no less than Circumcision a sign of spiritual grace; and so it has an analogy and resemblance to the Holy Supper, because it both contained the same promises, which Christ now seals to us in that, and also taught that God could only be propitiated towards His people by the expiation of blood. In sum, it was the sign of the future redemption as well as of that which was past. For this reason Paul writes, that “Christ our Passover is slain,” (1Co_5:7;) which would be unsuitable, if the ancients had only been reminded in it of their temporal benefit. Yet let us first establish this, that the observation of the Passover was commanded by God in the Law, that He might demand the gratitude of His people and devote to Himself those who were redeemed by His power and grace. I now descend to particulars. God commands the Israelites to begin the year with the month in which they had come out of Egypt, as if it had been the day of their birth, since that exodus was in fact a kind of new birth; (313) for, whereas they had been buried in Egypt, the liberty given them by God was the beginning of a new life and the rising of a new light. For though their adoption had gone before, yet, since in the mean time it had almost vanished from the hearts of many, it was necessary that they should be in a manner re-begotten, that they might begin to acknowledge more certainly that God was their Father. Wherefore He says in Hosea, “I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no God but me,” (Hos_12:9, and Hos_13:4;) because He had then especially acquired them to Himself as His peculiar people; and He speaks even more clearly a little before,
“when Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” (Hos_11:1.)
Now, although it was common to the race of Abraham with other nations to begin the year with the month of March; yet in this respect the reason for it was different, for it was only to the elect people that their resurrection was annually put before their eyes. But, up to that time, the Hebrews themselves had begun their year with the month of September, which is called in Chaldee Tisri, and in which many suppose that the world was created; because immediately on its creation the earth produced ripe fruits, so that its fecundity was in perfection. And still there remains among the Jews a twofold manner of dating and counting their years; for, in all matters which relate to the common business of life, they retain the old and natural computation, so that the first month is the beginning of Autumn; but, in religious matters and festivals, they follow the injunctions of Moses; and this is the legal year, beginning nearly with our month of March, yet not precisely, because we have not their ancient embolisms; for, since twelve circuits of the moon would not equal the sun’s course, they were obliged to make an intercalation, lest, in progress of years, an absurd and enormous diversity should arise. Thence it happens that the month Nisan, in which they celebrated the Passover, begins among the Jews sometimes earlier, and sometimes later, according as the intercalation retards it.
Exo 12:1 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,…. Before they and the children of Israel came out of it, before the slaying of the firstborn, yea, before Moses came from the presence of Pharaoh, and had given him notice of it; and it is very probable even before the three days darkness, seeing it seems necessary it should be four days before the passover, since on the tenth day the lamb was to be taken, and on the fourteenth slain, Exo_12:3 and by what follows it looks as if it was at the beginning or first day of the month, and so the words may be rendered, “the Lord had spoke”; and the following account is deferred to this place, that there might be no interruption of the history of the plagues, and that the passover, with all its rites and ceremonies, both at the first institution and observance of it, and in later times, might be laid together.
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months – It is supposed that God now changed the commencement of the Jewish year. The month to which this verse refers, the month Abib, answers to a part of our March and April; whereas it is supposed that previously to this the year began with Tisri, which answers to a part of our September; for in this month the Jews suppose God created the world, when the earth appeared at once with all its fruits in perfection. From this circumstance the Jews have formed a twofold commencement of the year, which has given rise to a twofold denomination of the year itself, to which they afterwards attended in all their reckonings: that which began with Tisri or September was called their civil year; that which began with Abib or March was called the sacred or ecclesiastical year.
As the exodus of the Israelites formed a particular era, which is referred to in Jewish reckonings down to the building of the temple, I have marked it as such in the chronology in the margin; and shall carry it down to the time in which it ceased to be acknowledged.
Some very eminently learned men dispute this; and especially Houbigant, who contends with great plausibility of argument that no new commencement of the year is noted in this place; for that the year had always begun in this month, and that the words shall be, which are inserted by different versions, have nothing answering to them in the Hebrew, which he renders literally thus. Hic mensis vobis est caput mensium; hic vobis primus est anni mensis. “This month is to you the head or chief of the months; it is to you the first month of the year.” And he observes farther that God only marks it thus, as is evident from the context, to show the people that this month, which was the beginning of their year, should be so designated as to point out to their posterity on what month and on what day of the month they were to celebrate the passover and the fast of unleavened bread.
3.Speak ye unto all.A question is asked on this passage, why, when one Lamb alone was offered in sacrifice for the reconciliation of the Church, and God was propitiated by the blood of one Christ alone, He should have commanded a lamb to be slain in every house, as if there were to be a special sacrifice for every one apart? The reply is easy; because, although all were protected from destruction by the same blood, and the general rite united them altogether into fellowship in the same expiation, yet still it was not unreasonable that, by that special application, so to speak, God would have every family separately reminded, so as to feel the grace more peculiarly conferred on itself. Thus now-a-days we have all the same baptism, whereby we are ingrafted in common into the body of Christ; yet His baptism is conferred on every individual, that they may more surely acknowledge that they are partakers in the adoption, and therefore members of the Church. God, then, in commanding them to slay a lamb in every house, did not wish to draw away the people to different grounds of hope, but only to shew them in a familiar way, that all houses were under obligation to Him, and that not only the salvation of the whole people ought to be confessed to come from Him, but that His singular blessing ought to shine forth in every family. The cause of his desiring the neighbors to be added if the number of people in one house were not, sufficient to eat the Passover, was that nothing might be left of it; and this amongst others appears to have been the chief reason why the whole lamb was to be consumed, viz., lest they should mix this sacred feast with their daily food, and also lest its dignity should be diminished by appearing in the form of tainted meat. Perhaps, too, God provided this, lest any superstition should creep in from the preservation of the remnants; and therefore commanded the very bones to be burnt.
In the tenth day of this month – In after times they began their preparation on the thirteenth day or day before the Passover, which was not celebrated till the fourteenth day, see Exo_12:6 : but on the present occasion, as this was their first passover, they probably required more time to get ready in; as a state of very great confusion must have prevailed at this time. Mr. Ainsworth remarks that on this day the Israelites did afterwards go through Jordan into the land of Canaan; Jos_4:19. And Christ, our Paschal Lamb, on this day entered Jerusalem, riding on an ass; the people bearing palm branches, and crying, Hosanna, Joh_12:1, Joh_12:12, Joh_12:13, etc.: and in him this type was truly fulfilled.
A lamb – The original word שה seh signifies the young of sheep and of goats, and may be indifferently translated either lamb or kid. See Exo_12:5.
A lamb for a house – The whole host of Israel was divided into twelve tribes, these tribes into families, the families into houses, and the houses into particular persons; Numbers 1, Jos_7:14 – Ainsworth.
Exo 12:3 Take every man a lamb – In each of their families, or two or three families, if they were small, join for a lamb. The lamb was to be got ready four days before. and that afternoon they went, they were to kill it, (Exo_12:6,) as a sacrifice, not strictly, for it was not offered upon the altar, but as a religious ceremony, acknowledging God’s goodness to them, not only in preserving them from, but in delivering them by the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. The lamb so slain they were to eat roasted (we may suppose in its several quarters) with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; they were to eat it in haste, Exo_12:11, and to leave none of it until the morning; for God would have them to depend upon him for their daily bread. Before they eat the flesh of the lamb, they were to sprinkle the blood upon the door – posts; by which their houses were to be distinguished from the houses of the Egyptians, and so their first – born secured from the sword of the destroying angel. Dreadful work was to be made this night in Egypt; all the first – born both of man and beast were to be slain; and judgment executed upon the gods of Egypt, Num_33:4. It is probable the idols which the Egyptians worshipped were defaced, those of metal melted, those of wood consumed, and those of stone broke to pieces. This was to be annually observed as a feast of the Lord in their generations, to which the feast of unleavened bread was annexed, during which, for seven days, they were to eat no bread but what was unleavened, in remembrance of their being confined to such bread for many days after they came out of Egypt, Exo_12:14-20. There was much of the gospel in this ordinance: The paschal lamb was typical. Christ is our passover, 1Co_5:7, and is the Lamb of God, Joh_1:29. It was to be a male of the first year; in its prime. Christ offered up himself in the midst of his days. It notes the strength and sufficiency of the Lord Jesus, on whom our help was laid. It was to be without blemish, noting the purity of the Lord Jesus, a lamb without spot, 1Pe_1:19. It was to be set apart four days before, noting the designation of the Lord Jesus to be a Saviour, both in the purpose and in the promise. It is observable, that as Christ was crucified at the passover, so he solemnly entered into Jerusalem four days before, the very day that the paschal lamb was set apart. It was to be slain and roasted with fire, noting the exquisite sufferings of the Lord Jesus, even unto death, the death of the cross. It was to be killed by the whole congregation between the two evenings, that is, between three o’clock and six. Christ suffered in the latter end of the world, Heb_9:26, by the hand of the Jews, the whole multitude of them, Luk_23:18. Not a bone of it must be broken, Exo_12:46, which is expressly said to be fulfilled in Christ, Joh_19:33, Joh_19:36. The sprinkling of the blood was typical. 1st, It was not enough that the blood of the lamb was shed, but it must be sprinkled, noting the application of the merits of Christ’s death to our souls; 2dly, It was to be sprinkled upon the door – posts, noting the open profession we are to make of faith in Christ, and obedience to him. The mark of the beast may be received in the forehead, or in the right hand, but the seal of the lamb is always in the forehead, Rev_7:3. 3dly, The blood thus sprinkled was a means of the preservation of the Israelites from the destroying angel. If the blood of Christ be sprinkled upon our consciences, it will be our protection from the wrath of God, the curse of the law, and the damnation of hell. The solemn eating of the lamb was typical of our gospel duty to Christ. 1st, The paschal lamb was killed not to be looked upon only, but to be fed upon; so we must by faith make Christ ours, as we do that which we eat, and we must receive spiritual strength and nourishment from him, as from our food, and have delight in him, as we have in eating and drinking when we are hungry or thirsty. 2dly, It was to be all eaten: those that, by faith, feed upon Christ, must feed upon a whole Christ. They must take Christ and his yoke, Christ and his cross, as well as Christ and his crown. 3dly, It was to be eaten with bitter herbs, in remembrance of the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt; we must feed upon Christ with brokenness of heart, in remembrance of sin. 4thly, It was to be eaten in a departing posture Exo_12:11, when we feed upon Christ by faith, we must sit loose to the world, and every thing in it. The feast of unleavened bread was typical of the Christian life, 1Co_5:7-8. Having received Christ Jesus the Lord, 1st. We must keep a feast, in holy joy, continually delighting ourselves in Christ Jesus; If true believers have not a continual feast, it is their own fault. 2dly, It must be a feast of unleavened bread, kept in charity, without the leaven of malice, and in sincerity, without the leaven of hypocrisy. All the old leaven of sin must be put far from us, with the utmost caution, if we would keep the feast of a holy life to the honour of Christ. 3dly, It was to be an ordinance forever. As long as we live we must continue feeding upon Christ, and rejoicing in him always, with thankful mention of the great things he has done for us.
If the household be too little – That is, if there be not persons enough in one family to eat a whole lamb, then two families must join together. The rabbins allow that there should be at least ten persons to one paschal lamb, and not more than twenty.
Take it, according to the number of the souls – The persons who were to eat of it were to be first ascertained, and then the lamb was to be slain and dressed for that number.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
if the household be too little for the lamb, etc. — It appears from Josephus that ten persons were required to make up the proper paschal communion.
every man according to his eating — It is said that the quantity eaten of the paschal lamb, by each individual, was about the size of an olive.
5.Your lamb shall be without blemish.We shall see elsewhere, that in all their sacrifices prescribed by the Law they were diligently to beware, lest there should be any spot or fault in them; and by this the people were reminded, that the expiation was not legitimate, unless it possessed the utmost perfection, such as is never to be found in men. It is not to be wondered, therefore, that God should now require the Passover to be of one year old, and without blemish, that the Israelites might know that in order to propitiate God, a more excellent price was required than could be discovered in the whole human race; and since such excellency could much less exist in a beast, the celestial perfection and purity of Christ was shewn forth by this visible perfection of the lamb, or kid. It was with reference to this also that; they were commanded to keep it up separate from the rest; of the flock, from the tenth until the fourteenth day of the month. As to God’s will, that the side-posts and lintel should be sprinkled with blood, by this sign He plainly taught them, that the sacrifice would profit none but those who were stained and marked with Christ’s blood; for this sprinkling was equivalent to their bearing each one the mark: of His blood upon their forehead. And, in effect, Christ, by the outpouring of His blood, has not delivered all, but only the faithful, who sanctify themselves with it. That internal sprinkling indeed holds the first place, which Peter teaches us to be effected by the power of the Spirit, (1Pe_1:2;) yet by this external sign the Israelites were instructed that they could not be protected from God’s wrath, except by holding up against it the shield of the blood. And this corresponds with the lesson learnt above, that the same universal sacrifice was offered particularly in every house, in order that thus its peculiar instruction might affect them more seriously, when generally it would have been uninteresting and ineffectual. I prefer to be ignorant as to why He required the flesh to be roasted and not boiled, rather than to invent such unfounded subtleties, as that Christ was, in a manner, roasted on the Cross. A nearer approach to the truth appears to me to be, that God desired thus to mark their haste, because, when their implements were all packed up, the meat would be more easily roasted on a spit than cooked in the pot. And this also is the tendency of the precept respecting the manner of eating it, in which three things are to be observed, the unleavened bread, the sauce of bitter herbs, and the girded loins, together with the rest of the costume of travelers. Undoubtedly God commanded the bread to be made without leaven on account of their sudden departure, because He would snatch his people out of Egypt, as it were, in a moment; and, therefore, they baked unleavened loaves out of flour hurriedly kneaded. It was required that the remembrance of this should be renewed every year, in order that their posterity might know that their deliverance was afforded them from above, since their fathers hastily took flight without having made any preparation for their journey; for any greater preparation would have thrown some shade upon the divine grace, which shone forth more brightly on account of their want of food. God would have them content with bitter herbs, because hasty travelers, and especially in an enemy’s country, are satisfied without delicacies, and whatever sauce they meet with is very grateful to their taste, nor does its bitterness seem offensive to them, as it does in seasons of abundance and ease. Possibly too they were reminded of their former condition; for under so dire and bitter a tyranny nothing could be sweet or pleasant. But their haste was still more plainly represented by their eating the lamb hurriedly with their shoes on their feet, and their loins girded, and leaning on their staves. Men pass from their suppers to bed and to repose; and therefore the ancients used both to take off their shoes and to lie down to it; but the people’s necessity inverts this order, since they were compelled to fly immediately from their supper. And hence the reason is subjoined, “it is the Lord’s passover;” since they escaped in safety amidst the confusion, and when the sword of God was raging. We must, however, bear in mind what we have already said, that the use of this sacrament was twofold, both to exercise the people in the recollection of their past deliverance, and to nourish in them the hope of future redemption; and therefore the passover not only reminded them of what God had already done for His people, but also of what they were hereafter to expect from Him. Consequently there is no doubt that the Israelites ought to have learnt from this rite that they were redeemed from the tyranny of Egypt on these terms, viz, that a much more excellent salvation still awaited them. But this spiritual mystery was more clearly laid open by the coming of Christ; and therefore Paul, accommodating this, ancient figure to us, commands us, because “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” to “keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice, and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”(1Co_5:7.)
God therefore formerly wished the houses, in which the Passover was celebrated, to be free from all corruption; and far more does it become us now to take care of this, lest the sacrifice wherewith Christ has redeemed us from eternal death, should be polluted by any leaven of wickedness. To the same effect is what follows, warning us lest we should be devoted to the attractions of the world, and lest our course should be delayed by the enticements of pleasure; but that we are pilgrims on earth, and should be ever girt and ready to make haste; and that although the cross of Christ be bitter, yet we should not refuse to taste it.
Without blemish – Having no natural imperfection, no disease, no deficiency or redundancy of parts. On this point the rabbins have trifled most egregiously, reckoning fifty blemishes that render a lamb or kid, or any animal, improper to be sacrificed: five in the ear, three in the eyelid, eight in the eye, three in the nose, six in the mouth, etc., etc.
A male of the first year – That is, any age in the first year between eight days and twelve months.
From the sheep, or from the goats – The שה seh means either; and either was equally proper if without blemish. The Hebrews however in general preferred the lamb to the kid.
Ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day – The lamb or kid was to be taken from the flock on the tenth day, and kept up and fed by itself till the fourteenth day, when it was to be sacrificed. This was never commanded nor practiced afterwards. The rabbins mark four things that were required in the first passover that were never required afterwards:
1. The eating of the lamb in their houses dispersed through Goshen.
2. The taking the lamb on the tenth day.
3. The striking of its blood on the door posts and lintels of their houses. And,
4. Their eating it in haste. These things were not required of the succeeding generations.
The whole assembly – shall kill it – Any person might kill it, the sacrificial act in this case not being confined to the priests.
In the evening – בין הערבים beyn haarbayim, “between the two evenings.” The Jews divided the day into morning and evening: till the sun passed the meridian all was morning or fore-noon; after that, all was afternoon or evening. Their first evening began just after twelve o’clock, and continued till sunset; their second evening began at sunset and continued till night, i.e., during the whole time of twilight; between twelve o’clock, therefore, and the termination of twilight, the passover was to be offered.
“The day among the Jews had twelve hours, Joh_11:9. Their first hour was about six o’clock in the morning with us. Their sixth hour was our noon. Their ninth hour answered to our three o’clock in the afternoon. By this we may understand that the time in which Christ was crucified began at the third hour, that is, at nine o’clock in the morning, the ordinary time for the daily morning sacrifice, and ended at the ninth hour, that is, three o’clock in the afternoon, the time of the evening sacrifice, Mar_15:25, Mar_15:33, Mar_15:34, Mar_15:37. Wherefore their ninth hour was their hour of prayer, when they used to go into the temple at the daily evening sacrifice, Act_3:1; and this was the ordinary time for the passover. It is worthy of remark that God sets no particular hour for the killing of the passover: any time between the two evenings, i.e., between twelve o’clock in the day and the termination of twilight, was lawful. The daily sacrifice (see Exo_29:38, Exo_29:39) was killed at half past the eighth hour, that is, half an hour Before three in the afternoon; and it was offered up at half past the ninth hour, that is, half an hour After three. In the evening of the passover it was killed at half past the seventh hour, and offered at half past the eighth, that is, half an hour Before three: and if the evening of the passover fell on the evening of the Sabbath, it was killed at half past the Sixth hour, and offered at half past the Seventh, that is, half an hour Before two in the afternoon. The reason of this was, they were first obliged to kill the daily sacrifice, and then to kill and roast the paschal lamb, and also to rest the evening before the passover. Agreeably to this Maimonides says ‘the killing of the passover is after mid-day, and if they kill it before it is not lawful; and they do not kill it till after the daily evening sacrifice, and burning of incense: and after they have trimmed the lamps they begin to kill the paschal lambs until the end of the day.’ By this time of the day God foreshowed the sufferings of Christ in the evening of times or in the last days, Heb_1:2; 1Pe_1:19, 1Pe_1:20 : and about the same time of the day, when the paschal lamb ordinarily died, He died also, viz., at the ninth hour; Mat_27:46-50.” See Ainsworth.
Until the fourteenth day – It should be observed that the offering of our Lord on the self-same day is an important point in determining the typical character of the transaction. A remarkable passage in the Talmud says: “It was a famous and old opinion among the ancient Jews that the day of the new year which was the beginning of the Israelites’ deliverance out of Egypt should in future time be the beginning of the redemption by the Messiah.”
In the evening – The Hebrew has between the two evenings. The meaning of the expression is disputed. The most probable explanation is that it includes the time from afternoon, or early eventide, until sunset. This accords with the ancient custom of the Hebrews, who killed the paschal lamb immediately after the offering of the daily sacrifice, which on the day of the Passover took place a little earlier than usual, between two and three p.m. This would allow about two hours and a half for slaying and preparing all the lambs. It is clear that they would not wait until sunset, at which time the evening meal would take place. The slaying of the lamb thus coincides exactly with the death of our Saviour, at the ninth hour of the day Mat_27:46.
Take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts – This was to be done by dipping a bunch of hyssop into the blood, and thus sprinkling it upon the posts, etc.; see Exo_12:22. That this sprinkling of the blood of the paschal lamb was an emblem of the sacrifice and atonement made by the death of Jesus Christ, is most clearly intimated in the sacred writings, 1Pe_1:2; Heb_9:13, Heb_9:14; Heb_8:10. It is remarkable that no blood was to be sprinkled on the threshold, to teach, as Mr. Ainsworth properly observes, a reverent regard for the blood of Christ, that men should not tread under foot the Son of God, nor count the blood of the covenant wherewith they were sanctified an unholy thing; Heb_10:29.
The upper door post – Or lintel, Exo_12:23. This direction was understood by the Hebrews to apply only to the first Passover: it was certainly not adopted in Palestine. The meaning of the sprinkling of blood is hardly open to question. It was a representation of the offering of the life, substituted for that of the firstborn in each house, as an expiatory and vicarious sacrifice.
They shall eat the flesh – roast with fire – As it was the ordinary custom of the Jews to boil their flesh, some think that the command given here was in opposition to the custom of the Egyptians, who ate raw flesh in honor of Osiris. The Ethiopians are to this day remarkable for eating raw flesh, as is the case with most savage nations.
Unleavened bread – מצות matstsoth, from מצה matsah, to squeeze or compress, because the bread prepared without leaven or yeast was generally compressed, sad or heavy, as we term it. The word here properly signifies unleavened cakes; the word for leaven in Hebrew is חמץ chamets, which simply signifies to ferment. It is supposed that leaven was forbidden on this and other occasions, that the bread being less agreeable to the taste, it might be emblematical of their bondage and bitter servitude, as this seems to have been one design of the bitter herbs which were commanded to be used on this occasion; but this certainly was not the sole design of the prohibition: leaven itself is a species of corruption, being produced by fermentation, which in such cases tends to putrefaction. In this very light St. Paul considers the subject in this place; hence, alluding to the passover as a type of Christ, he says: Purge out therefore the old leaven – for Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth; 1Co_5:6-8.
Bitter herbs – What kind of herbs or salad is intended by the word מררים merorim, which literally signifies bitters, is not well known. The Jews think chicory, wild lettuce, horehound, and the like are intended. Whatever may be implied under the term, whether bitter herbs or bitter ingredients in general, it was designed to put them in mind of their bitter and severe bondage in the land of Egypt, from which God was now about to deliver them.
In that night – The night is thus clearly distinguished from the evening when the lamb was slain. It was slain before sunset, on the 14th, and eaten after sunset, the beginning of the 15th.
With fire – Among various reasons given for this injunction the most probable and satisfactory seems to be the special sanctity attached to fire from the first institution of sacrifice (compare Gen_4:4).
And unleavened bread – On account of the hasty departure, allowing no time for the process of leavening: but the meaning discerned by Paul, 1Co_5:7-8, and recognized by the Church in all ages, was assuredly implied, though not expressly declared in the original institution. Compare our Lord’s words, Mat_16:6, Mat_16:12, as to the symbolism of leaven.
Bitter herbs – The word occurs only here and in Num_9:11, in reference to herbs. The symbolic reference to the previous sufferings of the Israelites is generally admitted.
Raw – i. e. “half-cooked.”
Sodden … with water – It was probably more common to seethe meat than to roast meat; hence, the regrets expressed by the Israelites for the seething pots of Egypt.
The purtenance thereof – or its intestines. This verse directs that the lamb should be roasted and placed on the table whole. No bone was to be broken (see Exo_12:46, and margin reference). The bowels were taken out, washed and then replaced. The Talmud prescribes the form of the oven of earthenware, in which the lamb was roasted, open above and below with a grating for the fire. Lambs and sheep are roasted whole in Persia, nearly in the same manner.
This entire consumption of the lamb constitutes one marked difference between the Passover and all other sacrifices, in which either a part or the whole was burned, and thus offered directly to God. The whole substance of the sacrificed lamb was to enter into the substance of the people, the blood only excepted, which was sprinkled as a propitiatory and sacrificial offering. Another point of subordinate importance is noticed. The lamb was slain and the blood sprinkled by the head of each family: no separate priesthood as yet existed in Israel; its functions belonged from the beginning to the father of the family: when the priesthood was instituted the slaying of the lamb still devolved on the heads of families, though the blood was sprinkled on the altar by the priests; an act which essentially belonged to their office. The typical character of this part of the transaction is clear. Our Lord was offered and His blood shed as an expiatory and propitiatory sacrifice, but His whole Humanity is transfused spiritually and effectually into His Church, an effect which is at once symbolized and assured in holy communion, the Christian Passover.
Ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning – Merely to prevent putrefaction; for it was not meet that a thing offered to God should be subjected to corruption, which in such hot countries it must speedily undergo. Thus the body of our blessed Lord saw no corruption, Psa_16:10; Act_2:27, because, like the paschal lamb, it was a sacrifice offered to God.
Exo 12:10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning,…. It was to be all ate up; a whole Christ is to be received and fed upon by faith; Christ in both his natures, divine and human, united in his person, in all his offices of prophet, priest, and King, and with all the benefits and blessings of his grace, and which come by his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice:
and that which remaineth of it until the morning, ye shall burn with fire: what of the flesh which remaineth not ate, and what of it that could not be eaten, as the bones, which were not broken, and the nerves and sinews, which might not be eaten; and so runs the Jewish canon,”the bones, and the sinews, and what remains, they shall burn on the sixteenth day; and if the sixteenth happens on the sabbath, they shall burn on the seventeenth.”The reason of this law was, that what was left might not be converted to common or superstitious uses, as also that the Israelites might not be burdened with it in their journey, nor the Egyptians have an opportunity of treating it with contempt.
And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded – As in the eastern countries they wear long loose garments, whenever they travel they tuck up the fore parts of their garments in the girdle which they wear round their loins.
Your shoes on your feet – This seems particularly mentioned because not customary. “The easterns throw off their shoes when they eat, because it would be troublesome,” says Sir J. Chardin, “to keep their shoes upon their feet, they sitting cross-legged on the floor, and having no hinder quarters to their shoes, which are made like slippers; and as they do not use tables and chairs as we do in Europe, but have their floors covered with carpets, they throw off their shoes when they enter their apartments, lest they should soil those beautiful pieces of furniture.” On the contrary the Israelites were to have their shoes on, because now about to commence their journey. It was customary among the Romans to lay aside their shoes when they went to a banquet. The servants took them off them when they entered the house, and returned them when they departed to their own habitations.
Your staff in your hand – The same writer observes that the eastern people universally make use of a staff when they travel on foot.
Ye shall eat it in haste – Because they were suddenly to take their departure: the destroying angel was at hand, their enemies were coming against them, and they had not a moment to lose.
It is the Lord’s passover – That is, Jehovah is now about to pass over the land, and the houses only where the blood is sprinkled shall be safe from the stroke of death. The Hebrew word פסח pesach, which we very properly translate Passover, and which should always be pronounced as two words, has its name from the angel of God passing by or over the houses of the Israelites, on the posts and lintels of which the blood of the lamb was sprinkled, while he stopped at the houses of the Egyptians to slay their first-born.
These instructions are understood by the Jews to apply only to the first Passover, when they belonged to the occasion. There is no trace of their observance at any later time. Each of the directions marks preparation for a journey; the long flowing robes are girded round the loins; shoes or sandals, not worn in the house or at meals, were fastened on the feet; and the traveler’s staff was taken in hand.
The Lord’s passover – The great and most significant name for the whole ordinance. The word Passover renders as nearly as possible the true meaning of the original, of which the primary sense is generally held to be “pass rapidly,” like a bird with outstretched wings, but it undoubtedly includes the idea of sparing Exo_12:13. See Isa_31:5, which combines the two great ideas involved in the word.
12.For I will pass through the land.This refers to the first passover, the night in which they were to be delivered from Egypt; and God expressly declares that He will be the judge against the false gods, because it then especially appeared how utterly unable they were to help, and how vain and fallacious was their service. The absurd commentary of some of the Rabbins is tame and far-fetched, that the idols should be cast down, because by the single miracle of their redemption, all superstitions were magnificently overturned, and whatsoever men believed about idols was condemned as folly and delusion. God therefore affirms, that he would not only conquer the nation itself, but its very gods. Perhaps Isaiah alludes to this passage when he says, “Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt; and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence,” (Isa_19:1;) for wherever He has appeared as the Savior of His people, He has asserted His glory in opposition to all impious and corrupt religions.
Against all the gods of Egypt, etc. – As different animals were sacred among the Egyptians, the slaying of the first-born of all the beasts might be called executing judgment upon the gods of Egypt. As this however does not appear very clear and satisfactory, some have imagined that the word אלהי elohey should be translated princes, which is the rendering in our margin; for as these princes, who were rulers of the kingdom under Pharaoh, were equally hostile to the Hebrews with Pharaoh himself, therefore these judgments fell equally heavy on them also. But we may ask, Did not these judgments fall equally on all the families of Egypt, though multitudes of them had no particular part either in the evil counsel against the Israelites or in their oppression? Why then distinguish those in calamities in which all equally shared? None of these interpretations therefore appear satisfactory. Houbigant, by a very simple and natural emendation, has, he thinks, restored the whole passage to sense and reason. He supposes that אלהי elohey, Gods, is a mistake for אהלי ahley, Tents or habitations, the ה he and the ל lamed being merely interchanged. This certainly gives a very consistent sense, and points out the universality of the desolation to which the whole context continually refers. He therefore contends that the text should be read thus: And on all the Tents (or Habitations) of Egypt I will execute judgment; by which words the Lord signified that not one dwelling in the whole land of Egypt should be exempted from the judgment here threatened. It is but justice to say that however probable this criticism may appear, it is not supported by any of the ancient versions, nor by any of the MSS. collated by Kennicott and De Rossi. The parallel place also, Num_33:4, is rather against Houbigant’s interpretation: For the Egyptians buried all their first-born, which the Lord had smitten among them: upon their gods also [ובאלהיהם ubeloheyhem] the Lord executed judgments. But Houbigant amends the word in this place in the same way as he does that in Exodus. There appears also to be an allusion to this former judgment in Isa_19:1 : Behold, the Lord – shall come into Egypt, and the idols [אלילי eliley] of Egypt shall be moved at his presence. And in Jer_43:13 : The houses of the gods [בתי אלהי bottey elohey] of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire. The rabbins say that “when Israel came out of Egypt, the holy blessed God threw down all the images of their abominations, and they were broken to pieces.” When a nation was conquered, it was always supposed that their gods had either abandoned them or were overcome. Thus Egypt was ruined, and their gods confounded and destroyed by Jehovah. See Clarke’s note on Exo_11:7.
Exo 12:13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are,…. The blood of the passover lamb being sprinkled on the two sideposts and upper doorposts of the houses inhabited by the Israelites, or where they were eating the passover; this should be a sign or token to them of the Lord’s making good his promises, to them, and so of their safety, and to the destroying angel not to enter therein, but pass by and save them:
and when I see the blood, I will pass over you; for which reason this ordinance now instituted was called the passover, because the Lord, on sight of the blood sprinkled, passed over the houses of the Israelites to those of the Egyptians; or “leaped”, as Jarchi says, the word signifies, skipped from one Egyptian house to another, passing by that of the Israelites:
and the plague shall not be upon you, to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt, the pestilence with which the firstborn should be destroyed.
14.And this day shall be unto you.This is spoken of its annual celebration, which was as well a monument of their exodus as a symbol of their future deliverance. As to its being called a rite, or ordinance for ever, (edictum soeculi,) I admit that by this expression perpetuity is meant, but only such as would exist until the renovation of the Church; and the same explanation will apply to circumcision, as well as to the whole ceremonial of the Law; for although by Christ’s coming it was abolished as concerns its use, yet did it only then attain its true solidity; and therefore the difference between ourselves and the ancient people detracts nothing from this perpetual statute; just in the same way as the new Covenant does not destroy the old in substance, but only in form. A little further on, where he says, “save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you,” verse 18; the meaning is, that they must cease from every work, except the preparation of their day’s food; and this exception is expressly made, that they may not permit themselves to violate their sacred festivals by other business.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
for a memorial, etc. — The close analogy traceable in all points between the Jewish and Christian passovers is seen also in the circumstance that both festivals were instituted before the events they were to commemorate had transpired.