Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Institution of the Passover. - The deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt was at hand; also their adoption as the nation of Jehovah (Exo 6:6-7).
But for this a divine consecration was necessary, that their outward severance from the land of Egypt might be accompanied by an inward severance from everything of an Egyptian or heathen nature. This consecration was to be imparted by the Passover-a festival which was to lay the foundation for Israel's birth (Hos 2:5) into the new life of grace and fellowship with God, and to renew it perpetually in time to come. This festival was therefore instituted and commemorated before the exodus from Egypt. Vv. 1-28 contain the directions for the Passover: viz., Exo 12:1-14 for the keeping of the feast of the Passover before the departure from Egypt, and Exo 12:15-20 for the seven days' feast of unleavened bread. In Exo 12:21-27 Moses communicates to the elders of the nation the leading instructions as to the former feast, and the carrying out of those instructions is mentioned in Exo 12:28.
By the words, "in the land of Egypt," the law of the Passover which follows is brought into connection with the giving of the law at Sinai and in the fields of Moab, and is distinguished in relation to the former as the first or foundation law for the congregation of Jehovah. The creation of Israel as the people of Jehovah (Isa 43:15) commenced with the institution of the Passover. As a proof of this, it was preceded by the appointment of a new era, fixing the commencement of the congregation of Jehovah. "This month" (i.e., the present in which ye stand) "be to you the head (i.e., the beginning) of the months, the first let it be to you for the months of the year;" i.e., let the numbering of the months, and therefore the year also, begin with it. Consequently the Israelites had hitherto had a different beginning to their year, probably only a civil year, commencing with the sowing, and ending with the termination of the harvest (cf. Exo 23:16); whereas the Egyptians most likely commenced their year with the overflowing of the Nile at the summer solstice (cf. Lepsius, Chron. 1, pp. 148ff.). The month which was henceforth to be the first of the year, and is frequently so designated (Exo 40:2, Exo 40:17; Lev 23:5, etc.), is called Abib (the ear-month) in Exo 13:4; Exo 23:15; Exo 34:18; Deu 16:1, because the corn was then in ear; after the captivity it was called Nisan (Neh 2:1; Est 3:7). It corresponds very nearly to our April.
Arrangements for the Passover. - "All the congregation of Israel" was the nation represented by its elders (cf. Exo 12:21, and my bibl. Arch. ii. p. 221). "On the tenth of this (i.e., the first) month, let every one take to himself שׂה (a lamb, lit., a young one, either sheep or goats; Exo 12:5, and Deu 14:4), according to fathers' houses" (vid., Exo 6:14), i.e., according to the natural distribution of the people into families, so that only the members of one family or family circle should unite, and not an indiscriminate company. In Exo 12:21 mishpachoth is used instead. "A lamb for the house," בּית, i.e., the family forming a household.
But if "the house be too small for a lamb" (lit., "small from the existence of a lamb," מן comparative: משּׂה היות is an existence which receives its purpose from the lamb, which answers to that purpose, viz., the consumption of the lamb, i.e., if a family is not numerous enough to consume a lamb), "let him (the house-father) and his nearest neighbour against his house take (sc., a lamb) according to the calculation of the persons." מכסה computatio (Lev 27:23), from כּסס computare; and מכס, the calculated amount or number (Num 31:28): it only occurs in the Pentateuch. "Every one according to the measure of his eating shall ye reckon for the lamb:" i.e., in deciding whether several families had to unite, in order to consume one lamb, they were to estimate how much each person would be likely to eat. Consequently more than two families might unite for this purpose, when they consisted simply of the father and mother and little children. A later custom fixed ten as the number of persons to each paschal lamb; and Jonathan has interpolated this number into the text of his Targum.
The kind of lamb: תּמים integer, uninjured, without bodily fault, like all the sacrifices (Lev 22:19-20); a male like the burnt-offerings (Lev 1:3, Lev 1:11); שׁנה בּן one year old (ἐνιαύσιος, lxx). This does not mean "standing in the first year, viz., from the eighth day of its life to the termination of the first year" (Rabb. Cler., etc.), a rule which applied to the other sacrifices only (Exo 22:29; Lev 22:27). The opinion expressed by Ewald and others, that oxen were also admitted at a later period, is quite erroneous, and cannot be proved from Deu 16:2, or Ch2 30:24 and Ch2 35:7. As the lamb was intended as a sacrifice (Exo 12:27), the characteristics were significant. Freedom from blemish and injury not only befitted the sacredness of the purpose to which they were devoted, but was a symbol of the moral integrity of the person represented by the sacrifice. It was to be a male, as taking the place of the male first-born of Israel; and a year old, because it was not till then that it reached the full, fresh vigour of its life. "Ye shall take it out from the sheep or from the goats:" i.e.,, as Theodoret explains it, "He who has a sheep, let him slay it; and he who has no sheep, let him take a goat." Later custom restricted the choice to the lamb alone; though even in the time of Josiah kids were still used as well (Ch2 25:7).
"And it shall be to you for preservation (ye shall keep it) until the fourteenth day, and then...slay it at sunset." Among the reasons commonly assigned for the instruction to choose the lamb on the 10th, and keep it till the 14th, which Jonathan and Rashi supposed to refer to the Passover in Egypt alone, there is an element of truth in the one given most fully by Fagius, "that the sight of the lamb might furnish an occasion for conversation respecting their deliverance from Egypt,...and the mercy of God, who had so graciously looked upon them;" but this hardly serves to explain the interval of exactly four days. Hoffmann supposes it to refer to the four doroth (Gen 15:16), which had elapsed since Israel was brought to Egypt, to grow into a nation. The probability of such an allusion, however, depends upon just what Hoffmann denies without sufficient reason, viz., upon the lamb being regarded as a sacrifice, in which Israel consecrated itself to its God. It was to be slain by "the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel:" not by the whole assembled people, as though they gathered together for this purpose, for the slaughtering took place in every house (Exo 12:7); the meaning is simply, that the entire congregation, without any exception, was to slay it at the same time, viz., "between the two evenings" (Num 9:3, Num 9:5, Num 9:11), or "in the evening at sunset" (Deu 16:6). Different opinions have prevailed among the Jews from a very early date as to the precise time intended. Aben Ezra agrees with the Caraites and Samaritans in taking the first evening to be the time when the sun sinks below the horizon, and the second the time of total darkness; in which case, "between the two evenings" would be from 6 o'clock to 7:20. Kimchi and Rashi, on the other hand, regard the moment of sunset as the boundary between the two evenings, and Hitzig has lately adopted their opinion. According to the rabbinical idea, the time when the sun began to descend, viz., from 3 to 5 o'clock, was the first evening, and sunset the second; so that "between the two evenings" was from 3 to 6 o'clock. Modern expositors have very properly decided in favour of the view held by Aben Ezra and the custom adopted by the Caraites and Samaritans, from which the explanation given by Kimchi and Rashi does not materially differ. It is true that this argument has been adduced in favour of the rabbinical practice, viz., that "only by supposing the afternoon to have been included, can we understand why the day of Passover is always called the 14th (Lev 23:5; Num 9:3, etc.);" and also, that "if the slaughtering took place after sunset, it fell on the 15th Nisan, and not the 14th." But both arguments are based upon an untenable assumption. For it is obvious from Lev 23:32, where the fast prescribed for the day of atonement, which fell upon the 10th of the 7th month, is ordered to commence on the evening of the 9th day, "from even to even," that although the Israelites reckoned the day of 24 hours from the evening sunset to sunset, in numbering the days they followed the natural day, and numbered each day according to the period between sunrise and sunset. Nevertheless there is no formal disagreement between the law and the rabbinical custom. The expression in Deu 16:6, "at (towards) sunset," is sufficient to show that the boundary line between the two evenings is not to be fixed precisely at the moment of sunset, but only somewhere about that time. The daily evening sacrifice and the incense offering were also to be presented "between the two evenings" (Exo 29:39, Exo 29:41; Exo 30:8; Num 28:4). Now as this was not to take place exactly at the same time, but to precede it, they could not both occur at the time of sunset, but the former must have been offered before that. Moreover, in later times, when the paschal lamb was slain and offered at the sanctuary, it must have been slain and offered before sunset, if only to give sufficient time to prepare the paschal meal, which was to be over before midnight. It was from these circumstances that the rabbinical custom grew up in the course of time, and the lax use of the word evening, in Hebrew as well as in every other language, left space enough for this. For just as we do not confine the term morning to the time before sunset, but apply it generally to the early hours of the day, so the term evening is not restricted to the period after sunset. If the sacrifice prescribed for the morning could be offered after sunrise, the one appointed for the evening might in the same manner be offered before sunset.
Some of the blood was to be put (נתן as in Lev 4:18, where יתּן is distinguished from הזּה, to sprinkle, in Lev 4:17) upon the two posts and the lintel of the door of the house in which the lamb was eaten. This blood was to be to them a sign (Exo 12:13); for when Jehovah passed through Egypt to smite the first-born, He would see the blood, and would spare these houses, and not permit the destroyer to enter them (Exo 12:13, Exo 12:23). The two posts with the lintel represented the door (Exo 12:23), which they surrounded; and the doorway through which the house was entered stood for the house itself, as we may see from the frequent expression "in thy gates," for in thy towns (Exo 20:10; Deu 5:14; Deu 12:17, etc.). The threshold, which belonged to the door quite as much as the lintel, was not to be smeared with blood, in order that the blood might not be trodden under foot. But the smearing of the door-posts and lintel with blood, the house was expiated and consecrated on an altar. That the smearing with blood was to be regarded as an act of expiation, is evident from the simple fact, that a hyssop-bush was used for the purpose (Exo 12:22); for sprinkling with hyssop is never prescribed in the law, except in connection with purification in the sense of expiation (Lev 14:49.; Num 19:18-19). In Egypt the Israelites had no common altar; and for this reason, the houses in which they assembled for the Passover were consecrated as altars, and the persons found in them were thereby removed from the stroke of the destroyer. In this way the smearing of the door-posts and lintel became a sign to Israel of their deliverance from the destroyer. Jehovah made it so by His promise, that He would see the blood, and pass over the houses that were smeared with it. Through faith in this promise, Israel acquired in the sign a firm pledge of its deliverance. The smearing of the doorway was relinquished, after Moses (not Josiah, as Vaihinger supposes, cf. Deu 16:5-6) had transferred the slaying of the lambs to the court of the sanctuary, and the blood had been ordered to be sprinkled upon the altar there.
With regard to the preparation of the lamb for the meal, the following directions were given: "They shall eat the lamb in that night" (i.e., the night following the 14th), and none of it נא ("underdone" or raw), or בּשׁל ("boiled," - lit., done, viz., בּמּים מבשּׁל, done in water, i.e., boiled, as בּשׁל does not mean to be boiled, but to become ripe or done, Joe 3:13); "but roasted with fire, even its head on (along with) its thighs and entrails;" i.e., as Rashi correctly explains it, "undivided or whole, so that neither head nor thighs were cut off, and not a bone was broken (Exo 12:46), and the viscera were roasted in the belly along with the entrails," the latter, of course, being first of all cleansed. On כּרעים and קרב see Lev 1:9. These regulations are all to be regarded from one point of view. The first two, neither underdone nor boiled, were connected with the roasting of the animal whole. As the roasting no doubt took place on a spit, since the Israelites while in Egypt can hardly have possessed such ovens of their own, as are prescribed in the Talmud and are met with in Persia, the lamb would be very likely to be roasted imperfectly, or underdone, especially in the hurry that must have preceded the exodus (Exo 12:11). By boiling, again, the integrity of the animal would have been destroyed, partly through the fact that it could never have been got into a pot whole, as the Israelites had no pots or kettles sufficiently large, and still more through the fact that, in boiling, the substance of the flesh is more or less dissolved. For it is very certain that the command to roast was not founded upon the hurry of the whole procedure, as a whole animal could be quite as quickly boiled as roasted, if not even more quickly, and the Israelites must have possessed the requisite cooking utensils. It was to be roasted, in order that it might be placed upon the table undivided and essentially unchanged. "Through the unity and integrity of the lamb given them to eat, the participants were to be joined into an undivided unity and fellowship with the Lord, who had provided them with the meal" (cf. Co1 10:17).
(Note: See my Archologie i. p. 386. Baehr (Symb. 2, 635) has given the true explanation: "By avoiding the breaking of the bones, the animal was preserved in complete integrity, undisturbed and entire (Psa 34:20). The sacrificial lamb to be eaten was to be thoroughly and perfectly whole, and at the time of eating was to appear as a perfect whole, and therefore as one; for it is not what is dissected, divided, broken in pieces, but only what is whole, that is eo ipso one. There was not other reason for this, than that all who took part in this one whole animal, i.e., all who ate of it, should look upon themselves as one whole, one community, like those who eat the New Testament Passover, the body of Christ (Co1 5:7), of whom the apostle says (Co1 10:17), "There is one bread, and so we, being many, are one body: for we are all partakers of one body." The preservation of Christ, so that not a bone was broken, had the same signification; and God ordained this that He might appear as the true paschal lamb, that was slain for the sins of the world.")
They were to eat it with מצות (ἄζυμα, azymi panes; lxx, Vulg.), i.e., (not sweet, or parched, but) pure loaves, nor fermented with leaven; for leaven, which sets the dough in fermentation, and so produces impurity, was a natural symbol of moral corruption, and was excluded from the sacrifices therefore as defiling (Lev 2:11).
"Over (upon) bitter herbs they shall eat it." מררים, πικρίδες (lxx), lactucae agrestes (Vulg.), probably refers to various kinds of bitter herbs. Πικρίς, according to Aristot. Hist. an. 9, 6, and Plin. h. n. 8, 41, is the same as lactuca silvestris, or wild lettuce; but in Dioscor. 2, 160, it is referred to as the wild σέρις or κιχώριον, i.e., wild endive, the intubus or intubum of the Romans. As lettuce and endive are indigenous in Egypt, and endive is also met with in Syria from the beginning of the winter months to the end of March, and lettuce in April and May, it is to these herbs of bitter flavor that the term merorim chiefly applies; though others may also be included, as the Arabs apply the same term to Scorzonera orient., Picris scabra, Sonclus oler., Hieracium uniflor., and others (Forsk. flor. cxviii. and 143); and in the Mishnah, Pes. 2, 6, five different varieties of bitter herbs are reckoned as merorim, though it is difficult to determine what they are (cf. Bochart, Hieroz. 1, pp. 691ff., and Cels. Hierobot. ii. p. 727). By על (upon) the bitter herbs are represented, both here and in Num 9:11, not as an accompaniment to the meat, but as the basis of the meal. על does not signify along with, or indicate accompaniment, not even in Exo 35:22; but in this and other similar passages it still retains its primary signification, upon or over. It is only used to signify accompaniment in cases where the ideas of protection, meditation, or addition are prominent. If, then, the bitter herbs are represented in this passage as the basis of the meal, and the unleavened bread also in Num 9:11, it is evident that the bitter herbs were not intended to be regarded as a savoury accompaniment, by which more flavour was imparted to the sweeter food, but had a more profound signification. The bitter herbs were to call to mind the bitterness of life experienced by Israel in Egypt (Exo 1:14), and this bitterness was to be overpowered by the sweet flesh of the lamb. In the same way the unleavened loaves are regarded as forming part of the substance of the meal in Num 9:11, in accordance with their significance in relation to it (vid., Exo 12:15). There is no discrepancy between this and Deu 16:3, where the mazzoth are spoken of as an accompaniment to the flesh of the sacrifice; for the allusion there is not to the eating of the paschal lamb, but to sacrificial meals held during the seven days' festival.
The lamb was to be all eaten wherever this was possible; but if any was left, it was to be burned with fire the following day, - a rule afterwards laid down for all the sacrificial meals, with one solitary exception (vid., Lev 7:15). They were to eat it בּחפּזון, "in anxious flight" (from חפז trepidare, Psa 31:23; to flee in terror, Deu 20:3; Kg2 7:15); in travelling costume therefore, - with "the loins girded," that they might not be impeded in their walking by the long flowing dress (Kg2 4:29), - with "shoes (Sandals) on their feet," that they might be ready to walk on hard, rough roads, instead of barefooted, as they generally went (cf. Jos 9:5, Jos 9:13; Bynaeus de calceis ii. 1, 7; and Bochart, Hieroz. i. pp. 686ff.), and "staff in hand" (Gen 32:11). The directions in Exo 12:11 had reference to the paschal meal in Egypt only, and had no other signification than to prepare the Israelites for their approaching departure. But though "this preparation was intended to give the paschal meal the appearance of a support for the journey, which the Israelites were about to tale," this by no means exhausts its signification. The divine instructions close with the words, "it is פּסח to Jehovah;" i.e., what is prescribed is a pesach appointed by Jehovah, and to be kept for Him (cf. Exo 20:10, "Sabbath to Jehovah;" Exo 32:5, "feast to Jehovah"). The word פּסח, Aram. פסחא, Gr. πάσχα, is derived from פּסח, lit., to leap or hop, from which these two meanings arise: (1) to limp (Kg1 18:21; Sa2 4:4, etc.); and (2) to pass over, transire (hence Tiphsah, a passage over, Kg1 4:24). It is for the most part used figuratively for ὑπερβαίνειν, to pass by or spare; as in this case, where the destroying angel passed by the doors and houses of the Israelites that were smeared with blood. From this, pesach (ὑπέρβασις, Aquil. in Exo 12:11; ὑπερβασία, Joseph. Ant. ii. 14, 6) came afterwards to be used for the lamb, through which, according to divine appointment, the passing by or sparing had been effected (Exo 12:21, Exo 12:27; Ch2 35:1, Ch2 35:13, etc.); then for the preparation of the lamb for a meal, in accordance with the divine instructions, or for the celebration of this meal (thus here, Exo 12:11; Lev 23:5; Num 9:7, etc.); and then, lastly, it was transferred to the whole seven days' observance of the feast of unleavened bread, which began with this meal (Deu 16:1), and also to the sacrifices which were to be offered at that feast (Deu 16:2; Ch2 35:1, Ch2 35:7, etc.). The killing of the lamb appointed for the pesach was a זבח, i.e., a slain-offering, as Moses calls it when making known the command of God to the elders (Exo 12:27); consequently the eating of it was a sacrificial feast ("the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover," Exo 34:25). For זבח is never applied to slaying alone, as שׁחט is. Even in Pro 17:1 and Sa1 28:24, which Hoffmann adduces in support of this meaning, it signifies "to sacrifice" only in a figurative or transferred sense. At the first Passover in Egypt, it is true, there was no presentation (הקריב), because Israel had not altar there. But the presentation took place at the very first repetition of the festival at Sinai (Num 9:7). The omission of this in Egypt, on account of the circumstances in which they were placed, constituted no essential difference between the first "sacrifice of the Passover" and the repetitions of it; for the choice of the lamb four days before it was slain, was a substitute for the presentation, and the sprinkling of the blood, which was essential to every sacrifice, was effected in the smearing of the door-posts and lintel. The other difference upon which Hofmann lays stress, viz., that at all subsequent Passovers the fat of the animal was burned upon the altar, is very questionable. For this custom cannot be proved from the Old Testament, though it is prescribed in the Mishnah.
(Note: In the elaborate account of the Passover under Josiah, in 2 Chron 35, we have, it is true, an allusion to the presentation of the burnt-offering and fat (Ch2 35:14); but the boiling of the offerings in pots, caldrons, and pans is also mentioned, along with the roasting of the Passover (Ch2 35:13); from which it is very obvious, that in this account the offering of burnt and slain-offerings is associated with the preparation of the paschal lamb, and the paschal meal is not specially separated from the sacrificial meals of the seven days' feast; just as we find that the king and the princes give the priests and Levites not only lambs and kids, but oxen also, for the sacrifices and sacrificial meals of this festival (see my Archologie, 81, 8).)
But even if the burning of the fat of the paschal lamb had taken place shortly after the giving of the law, on the ground of the general command in Lev 3:17; Lev 7:23. (for this is not taken for granted in Exo 23:18, as we shall afterwards show), this difference could also be accounted for from the want of an altar in Egypt, and would not warrant us in refusing to admit the sacrificial character of the first Passover. For the appointment of the paschal meal by God does not preclude the idea that it was a religious service, nor the want of an altar the idea of sacrifice, as Hoffmann supposes. All the sacrifices of the Jewish nation were minutely prescribed by God, so that the presentation of them was the consequence of divine instructions. And even though the Israelites, when holding the first Passover according to the command of God, merely gave expression to their desire to participate in the deliverance from destruction and the redemption of Egypt, and also to their faith in the word and promise of God, we must neither measure the signification of this divine institution by that fact, nor restrict it to this alone, inasmuch as it is expressly described as a sacrificial meal.
In Exo 12:12 and Exo 12:13 the name pesach is explained. In that night Jehovah would pass through Egypt, smite all the first-born of man and beast, execute judgment upon all the gods of Egypt, and pass over (פּסח) the Israelites. In what the judgment upon all the gods of Egypt consisted, it is hard to determine. The meaning of these words is not exhausted by Calvin's remark: "God declared that He would be a judge against the false gods, because it was most apparent then, now little help was to be found in them, and how vain and fallacious was their worship." The gods of Egypt were spiritual authorities and powers, δαιμόνια, which governed the life and spirit of the Egyptians. Hence the judgment upon them could not consist of the destruction of idols, as Ps. Jonathan's paraphrase supposes: idola fusa colliquescent, lapidea concidentur, testacea confringentur, lignea in cinerem redigentur. For there is nothing said about this; but in v. 29 the death of the first-born of men and cattle alone is mentioned as the execution of the divine threat; and in Num 33:4 also the judgment upon the gods is connected with the burial of the first-born, without special reference to anything besides. From this it seems to follow pretty certainly, that the judgments upon the gods of Egypt consisted in the slaying of the first-born of man and beast. But the slaying of the first-born was a judgment upon the gods, not only because the impotence and worthlessness of the fancied gods were displayed in the consternation produced by this stroke, but still more directly in the fact, that in the slaying of the king's son and many of the first-born animals, the gods of Egypt, which were worshipped both in their kings and also in certain sacred animals, such as the bull Apis and the goat Nendes, were actually smitten themselves.
To the Israelites, on the other hand, the blood upon the houses in which they were assembled would be a sign and pledge that Jehovah would spare them, and no plague should fall upon them to destroy (cf. Eze 21:31; not "for the destroyer," for there is no article with למשׁחית).
That day (the evening of the 14th) Israel was to keep "for a commemoration as a feast to Jehovah," consecrated for all time, as an "eternal ordinance," לדרתיכם "in your generations," i.e., for all ages, דּרת denoting the succession of future generations (vid., Exo 12:24). As the divine act of Israel's redemption was of eternal significance, so the commemoration of that act was to be an eternal ordinance, and to be upheld as long as Israel should exist as the redeemed people of the Lord, i.e., to all eternity, just as the new life of the redeemed was to endure for ever. For the Passover, the remembrance of which was to be revived by the constant repetition of the feast, was the celebration of their birth into the new life of fellowship with the Lord. The preservation from the stroke of the destroyer, from which the feast received its name, was the commencement of their redemption from the bondage of Egypt, and their elevation into the nation of Jehovah. The blood of the paschal lamb was atoning blood; for the Passover was a sacrifice, which combined in itself the signification of the future sin-offerings and peace-offerings; in other words, which shadowed forth both expiation and quickening fellowship with God. The smearing of the houses of the Israelites with the atoning blood of the sacrifice set forth the reconciliation of Israel and its God, through the forgiveness and expiation of its sins; and in the sacrificial meal which followed, their communion with the Lord, i.e., their adoption as children of God, was typically completed. In the meal the sacrificium became a sacramentum, the flesh of the sacrifice a means of grace, by which the Lord adopted His spared and redeemed people into the fellowship of His house, and gave them food for the refreshing of their souls.
Judging from the words "I brought out" in Exo 12:17, Moses did not receive instructions respecting the seven days' feast of Mazzoth till after the exodus from Egypt; but on account of its internal and substantial connection with the Passover, it is placed here in immediate association with the institution of the paschal meal. "Seven days shall he eat unleavened bread, only (אך) on the first day (i.e., not later than the first day) he shall cause to cease (i.e., put away) leaven out of your houses." The first day was the 15th of the month (cf. Lev 23:6; Num 28:17). On the other hand, when בּראשׁון is thus defined in Exo 12:18, "on the 14th day of the month at even," this may be accounted for from the close connection between the feast of Mazzoth and the feast of Passover, inasmuch as unleavened bread was to be eaten with the paschal lamb, so that the leaven had to be cleared away before this meal. The significance of this feast was in the eating of the mazzoth, i.e., of pure unleavened bread (see Exo 12:8). As bread, which is the principal means of preserving life, might easily be regarded as the symbol of life itself, so far as the latter is set forth in the means employed for its own maintenance and invigoration, so the mazzoth, or unleavened loaves, were symbolical of the new life, as cleansed from the leaven of a sinful nature. But if the eating of mazzoth was to shadow forth the new life into which Israel was transferred, any one who ate leavened bread at the feast would renounce this new life, and was therefore to be cut off from Israel, i.e., "from the congregation of Israel" (Exo 12:19).
On the first and seventh days, a holy meeting was to be held, and labour to be suspended. מקרא־קדשׁ is not indictio sancti, proclamatio sanctitatis (Vitringa), but a holy assembly, i.e., a meeting of the people for the worship of Jehovah (Eze 46:3, Eze 46:9). מקרא, from קרא to call, is that which is called, i.e., the assembly (Isa 4:5; Neh 8:8). No work was to be done upon these days, except what was necessary for the preparation of food; on the Sabbath, even this was prohibited (Exo 35:2-3). Hence in Lev 23:7, the "work" is called "servile work," ordinary handicraft.
"Observe the Mazzoth" (i.e., the directions given in Exo 12:15 and Exo 12:16 respecting the feast of Mazzoth), "for on this very day I have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt." This was effected in the night of the 14th-15th, or rather at midnight, and therefore in the early morning of the 15th Abib. Because Jehovah had brought Israel out of Egypt on the 15th Abib, therefore Israel was to keep Mazzoth for seven days. Of course it was not merely a commemoration of this event, but the exodus formed the groundwork of the seven days' feast, because it was by this that Israel had been introduced into a new vital element. For this reason the Israelites were to put away all the leaven of their Egyptian nature, the leaven of malice and wickedness (Co1 5:8), and by eating pure and holy bread, and meeting for the worship of God, to show that they were walking in newness of life. This aspect of the feast will serve to explain the repeated emphasis laid upon the instructions given concerning it, and the repeated threat of extermination against either native or foreigner, in case the law should be disobeyed (Exo 12:18-20). To eat leavened bread at this feast, would have been a denial of the divine act, by which Israel was introduced into the new life of fellowship with Jehovah. גּר, a stranger, was a non-Israelite who lived for a time, or possibly for his whole life, in the midst of the Israelitish nation, but without being incorporated into it by circumcision. הארץ אזרח, a tree that grows upon the soil in which it was planted; hence indigena, the native of a country. This term was applied to the Israelites, "because they had sprung from Isaac and Jacob, who were born in the land of Canaan, and had received it from God as a permanent settlement" (Clericus). The feast of Mazzoth, the commemoration of Israel's creation as the people of Jehovah (Isa 43:15-17), was fixed for seven days, to stamp upon it in the number seven the seal of the covenant relationship. This heptad of days was made holy through the sanctification of the first and last days by the holding of a holy assembly, and the entire suspension of work. The beginning and the end comprehended the whole. In the eating of unleavened bread Israel laboured for meat for the new life (Joh 6:27), whilst the seal of worship was impressed upon this new life in the holy convocation, and the suspension of labour was the symbol of rest in the Lord.
Of the directions given by Moses to the elders of the nation, the leading points only are mentioned here, viz., the slaying of the lamb and the application of the blood (Exo 12:21, Exo 12:22). The reason for this is then explained in Exo 12:23, and the rule laid down in Exo 12:24-27 for its observance in the future.
"Withdraw and take:" משׁך is intransitive here, to draw away, withdraw, as in Jdg 4:6; Jdg 5:14; Jdg 20:37. אזוב אגדּת: a bunch or bundle of hyssop: according to Maimonides, "quantum quis comprehendit manu sua." אזוב (ὕσσωπος) was probably not the plant which we call hyssop, the hyssopus officinalis, for it is uncertain whether this is to be found in Syria and Arabia, but a species of origanum resembling hyssop, the Arabian zter, either wild marjoram or a kind of thyme, Thymus serpyllum, mentioned in Forsk. flora Aeg. p. 107, which is very common in Syria and Arabia, and is called zter, or zatureya, the pepper or bean plant. "That is in the bason;" viz the bason in which the blood had been caught when the animal was killed. והגּעתּם, "and let it reach to, i.e., strike, the lintel:" in ordinary purifications the blood was sprinkled with the bunch of hyssop (Lev 14:51; Num 19:18). The reason for the command not to go out of the door of the house was, that in this night of judgment there would be no safety anywhere except behind the blood-stained door.
(cf. Exo 12:13). "He will not suffer (יתּן) the destroyer to come into your houses:" Jehovah effected the destruction of the first-born through המּשׁחית, the destroyer, or destroying angel, ὁ ὁλοθρεύων (Heb 11:28), i.e., not a fallen angel, but the angel of Jehovah, in whom Jehovah revealed Himself to the patriarchs and Moses. This is not at variance with Psa 78:49; for the writer of this psalm regards not only the slaying of the first-born, but also the pestilence (Exo 9:1-7), as effected through the medium of angels of evil: though, according to the analogy of Sa1 13:17, המּשׁחית might certainly be understood collectively as applying to a company of angels. Exo 12:24. "This word," i.e., the instructions respecting the Passover, they were to regard as an institution for themselves and their children for ever (עד־עולם in the same sense as עולם, Gen 17:7, Gen 17:13); and when dwelling in the promised land, they were to explain the meaning of this service to their sons. The ceremony is called עבדה, "service," inasmuch as it was the fulfilment of a divine command, a performance demanded by God, though it promoted the good of Israel.
After hearing the divine instructions, the people, represented by their elders, bowed and worshipped; not only to show their faith, but also to manifest their gratitude for the deliverance which they were to receive in the Passover.
They then proceeded to execute the command, that through the obedience of faith they might appropriate the blessing of this "service."
Death of the first-born, and Release of Israel. - The last blow announced to Pharaoh took place in "the half of the night," i.e., at midnight, when all Egypt was lying in deep sleep (Mat 25:5-6), to startle the king and his people out of their sleep of sin. As all the previous plagues rested upon a natural basis, it might seem a probable supposition that this was also the case here, whilst the analogy of Sa2 24:15-16 might lead us to think of a pestilence as the means employed by the destroying angel. In that case we should find the heightening of the natural occurrence into a miracle in the fact, that the first-born both of man and beast, and they alone, were all suddenly slain, whilst the Israelites remained uninjured in their houses. This view would be favoured, too, by the circumstance, that not only are pestilences of frequent occurrence in Egypt, but they are most fatal in the spring months. On a closer examination, however, the circumstances mentioned tell against rather than in favour of such a supposition. In Sa2 24:15, the pestilence is expressly alluded to; here it is not. The previous plagues were nearly all brought upon Egypt by Moses' staff, and with most of them the natural sources are distinctly mentioned; but the last plague came direct from Jehovah without the intervention of Moses, certainly for no other reason than to make it apparent that it was a purely supernatural punishment inflicted by His own omnipotence. The words, "There was not a house where there was not one dead," are to be taken literally, and not merely "as a general expression;" though, of course, they are to be limited, according to the context, to all the houses in which there were first-born of man or beast. The term "first-born" is not to be extended so far, however, as to include even heads of families who had children of their own, in which case there might be houses, as Lapide and others suppose, where the grandfather, the father, the son, and the wives were all lying dead, provided all of them were first-born. The words, "From the son of Pharaoh, who will sit upon his throne, to the son of the prisoners in the prison" (Exo 12:29 compared with Exo 13:15), point unquestionably to those first-born sons alone who were not yet fathers themselves. But even with this limitation the blow was so terrible, that the effect produced upon Pharaoh and his people is perfectly intelligible.
The very same night Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and gave them permission to depart with their people, their children, and their cattle. The statement that Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron is not at variance with Exo 10:28-29; and there is no necessity to resort to Calvin's explanation, "Pharaoh himself is said to have sent for those whom he urged to depart through the medium of messengers from the palace." The command never to appear in his sight again did not preclude his sending for them under totally different circumstances. The permission to depart was given unconditionally, i.e., without involving an obligation to return. This is evident from the words, "Get you forth from among my people," compared with Exo 10:8, Exo 10:24, "Go ye, serve Jehovah," and Exo 8:25, "Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land." If in addition to this we bear in mind, that although at first, and even after the fourth plague (Exo 8:27), Moses only asked for a three days' journey to hold a festival, yet Pharaoh suspected that they would depart altogether, and even gave utterance to this suspicion, without being contradicted by Moses (Exo 8:28, and Exo 10:10); the words "Get you forth from among my people" cannot mean anything else than "depart altogether." Moreover, in Exo 11:1 it was foretold to Moses that the result of the last blow would be, that Pharaoh would let them go, or rather drive them away; so that the effect of this blow, as here described, cannot be understood in any other way. And this is really implied in Pharaoh's last words, "Go, and bless me also;" whereas on former occasions he had only asked them to intercede for the removal of the plagues (Exo 8:8, Exo 8:28; Exo 9:28; Exo 10:17). בּרך, to bless, indicates a final leave-taking, and was equivalent to a request that on their departure they would secure or leave behind the blessing of their God, in order that henceforth no such plague might ever befall him and his people. This view of the words of the king is not at variance either with the expression "as ye have said" in Exo 12:31, which refers to the words "serve the Lord," or with the same words in Exo 12:32, for there they refer to the flock and herds, or lastly, with the circumstance that Pharaoh pursued the Israelites after they had gone, with the evident intention of bringing them back by force (Exo 14:5.), because this resolution is expressly described as a change of mind consequent upon renewed hardening (Exo 14:4-5).
"And Egypt urged the people strongly (על חזק to press hard, κατεβιάζοντο, lxx) to make haste, to send them out of the land;" i.e., the Egyptians urged the Israelites to accelerate their departure, "for they said (sc., to themselves), "We are all dead," i.e., exposed to death. So great was their alarm at the death of the first-born.
This urgency of the Egyptians compelled the Israelites to take the dough, which they were probably about to bake for their journey, before it was leavened, and also their kneading-troughs bound up in their clothes (cloths) upon their shoulders. שׂמלה, ἱμάτιον, was a large square piece of stuff or cloth, worn above the under-clothes, and could be easily used for tying up different things together. The Israelites had intended to leaven the dough, therefore, as the command to eat unleavened bread for seven days had not been given to them yet. But under the pressure of necessity they were obliged to content themselves with unleavened bread, or, as it is called in Deu 16:3, "the bread of affliction," during the first days of their journey. But as the troubles connected with their departure from Egypt were merely the introduction to the new life of liberty and grace, so according to the counsel of God the bread of affliction was to become a holy food to Israel; the days of their exodus being exalted by the Lord into a seven days' feast, in which the people of Jehovah were to commemorate to all ages their deliverance from the oppression of Egypt. The long-continued eating of unleavened bread, on account of the pressure of circumstances, formed the historical preparation for the seven days' feast of Mazzoth, which was instituted afterwards. Hence this circumstance is mentioned both here and in Exo 12:39. On Exo 12:35, Exo 12:36, see Exo 3:21-22.
Departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt. - The starting-point was Ramses, from which they proceeded to Succoth (Exo 12:37), thence to Etham at the end of the desert (Exo 13:20), and from that by a curve to Hachiroth, opposite to the Red Sea, from which point they passed through the sea (Exo 14:2, Exo 14:21.). Now, if we take these words simply as they stand, Israel touched the border of the desert of Arabia by the second day, and on the third day reached the plain of Suez and the Red Sea. But they could not possibly have gone so far, if Ramses stood upon the site of the modern Belbeis. For though the distance from Belbeis to Suez by the direct road past "Rejm el Khail is only a little more than 15 geographical miles, and a caravan with camels could make the journey in two days, this would be quite impossible for a whole nation travelling with wives, children, cattle, and baggage. Such a procession could never have reached Etham, on the border of the desert, on their second day's march, and then on the third day, by a circuitous course "of about a day's march in extent," have arrived at the plain of Suez between Ajiruud and the sea. This is admitted by Kurtz, who therefore follows v. Raumer in making a distinction between a stage and a day's journey, on the ground that מסּע signifies the station or place of encampment, and not a day's journey. But the word neither means station nor place of encampment. It is derived from נסע to tear out (sc., the pegs of the tent), hence to take down the tent; and denotes removal from the place of encampment, and the subsequent march (cf. Num 33:1). Such a march might indeed embrace more than a day's journey; but whenever the Israelites travelled more than a day before pitching their tents, it is expressly mentioned (cf. Num 10:33, and Num 33:8, with Exo 15:22). These passages show very clearly that the stages from Ramses to Succoth, thence to Etham, and then again to Hachiroth, were a day's march each. The only question is, whether they only rested for one night at each of these places. The circumstances under which the Israelites took their departure favour the supposition, that they would get out of the Egyptian territory as quickly as possible, and rest no longer than was absolutely necessary; but the gathering of the whole nation, which was not collected together in one spot, as in a camp, at the time of their departure, and still more the confusion, and interruptions of various kinds, that would inevitably attend the migration of a whole nation, render it probable that they rested longer than one night at each of the places named. This would explain most simply, how Pharaoh was able to overtake them with his army at Hachiroth. But whatever our views on this point may be, so much is certain, that Israel could not have reached the plain of Suez in a three days' march from Belbeis with the circuitous route by Etham, and therefore that their starting-point cannot have been Belbeis, but must have been in the neighbourhood of Heropolis; and there are other things that favour this conclusion. There is, first, the circumstance that Pharaoh sent for Moses the very same night after the slaying of the first-born, and told him to depart. Now the Pentateuch does not mention Pharaoh's place of abode, but according to Psa 78:12 it was Zoan, i.e., Tanis, on the eastern bank of the Tanitic arm of the Nile. Abu Keishib (or Heroopolis) is only half as far from Tanis as Belbeis, and the possibility of Moses appearing before the king and returning to his own people between midnight and the morning is perfectly conceivable, on the supposition that Moses was not in Heroopolis itself, but was staying in a more northerly place, with the expectation that Pharaoh would send a message to him, or send for him, after the final blow. Again, Abu Keishib was on the way to Gaza; so that the Israelites might take the road towards the country of the Philistines, and then, as this was not the road they were to take, turn round at God's command by the road to the desert (Exo 13:17-18). Lastly, Etham could be reached in two days from the starting-point named.
(Note: The different views as to the march of the Israelites from Raemses to their passage through the sea, are to be found in the Studien und Kritiken, 1850, pp. 328ff., and in Kurtz, ii. pp. 361ff.)
On the situation of Succoth and Etham, see Exo 13:20.
The Israelites departed, "about 600,000 on foot that were men." רגלי (as in Num 11:21, the infantry of an army) is added, because they went out as an army (Exo 12:41), and none are numbered but those who could bear arms, from 20 years old and upwards; and הגּברים because of מטּף לבד, "beside the little ones," which follows. טף is used here in its broader sense, as in Gen 47:12; Num 32:16, Num 32:24, and applies to the entire family, including the wife and children, who did not travel on foot, but on beasts of burden and in carriages (Gen 31:17). The number given is an approximative one. The numbering at Sinai gave 603,550 males of 20 years old and upwards (Num 1:46), and 22,000 male Levites of a month old and upwards (Num 3:39). Now if we add the wives and children, the total number of the people may have been about two million souls. The multiplication of the seventy souls, who went down with Jacob to Egypt, into this vast multitude, is not so disproportionate to the 430 years of their sojourn there, as to render it at all necessary to assume that the numbers given included not only the descendants of the seventy souls who went down with Jacob, but also those of "several thousand man-servants and maid-servants" who accompanied them. For, apart from the fact, that we are not warranted in concluding, that because Abraham had 318 fighting servants, the twelve sons of Jacob had several thousand, and took them with them into Egypt; even if the servants had been received into the religious fellowship of Israel by circumcision, they cannot have reckoned among the 600,000 who went out, for the simple reason that they are not included in the seventy souls who went down to Egypt; and in Exo 1:5 the number of those who came out is placed in unmistakeable connection with the number of those who went in. If we deduct from the 70 souls the patriarch Jacob, his 12 sons, Dinah, Asher's daughter Zerah, the three sons of Levi, the four grandsons of Judah and Benjamin, and those grandsons of Jacob who probably died without leaving any male posterity, since their descendants are not mentioned among the families of Israel, there remain 41 grandsons of Jacob who founded families, in addition to the Levites. Now, if we follow Ch1 7:20., where ten or eleven generations are mentioned between Ephraim and Joshua, and reckon 40 years as a generation, the tenth generation of the 41 grandsons of Jacob would be born about the year 400 of the sojourn in Egypt, and therefore be over 20 years of age at the time of the exodus. Let us assume, that on an average there were three sons and three daughters to every married couple in the first six of these generations, two sons and two daughters in the last four, and we shall find, that in the tenth generation there would be 478,224 sons about the 400th year of the sojourn in Egypt, who would therefore be above 20 years of age at the time of the exodus, whilst 125,326 men of the ninth generation would be still living, so that there would be 478,224 + 125,326, or 603,550 men coming out of Egypt, who were more than 20 years old. But though our calculation is based upon no more than the ordinary number of births, a special blessing from God is to be discerned not only in this fruitfulness, which we suppose to have been uninterrupted, but still more in the fact, that the presumed number of children continued alive, and begot the same number of children themselves; and the divine grace was peculiarly manifest in the fact, that neither pestilence nor other evils, nor even the measures adopted by the Pharaohs for the suppression of Israel, could diminish their numbers or restrain their increase. If the question be asked, how the land of Goshen could sustain so large a number, especially as the Israelites were not the only inhabitants, but lived along with Egyptians there, it is a sufficient reply, that according to both ancient and modern testimony (cf. Robinson, Pal. i. p. 78), this is the most fertile province in all Egypt, and that we are not so well acquainted with the extent of the territory inhabited by the Israelites, as to be able to estimate the amount of its produce.
In typical fulfilment of the promise in Gen 12:3, and no doubt induced by the signs and wonders of the Lord in Egypt to seek their good among the Israelites, a great crowd of mixed people (רב ערב) attached themselves to them, whom Israel could not shake off, although they afterwards became a snare to them (Num 11:4). ערב: lit., a mixture, ἐπίμικτος sc., λαός (lxx), a swarm of foreigners; called אספסף in Num 11:4, a medley, or crowd of people of different nations. According to Deu 29:10, they seem to have occupied a very low position among the Israelites, and to have furnished the nation of God with hewers of wood and drawers of water. - On Exo 12:29, see Exo 12:34.
The sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt had lasted 430 years. This number is not critically doubtful, nor are the 430 years to be reduced to 215 by an arbitrary interpolation, such as we find in the lxx, ἡ δὲ κατοίκησις τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ ἥν κατῷκησαν (Cod. Alex. αὐτοὶ καὶ οί πατέρες αὐτῶν) ἐν γῇ Αἰγύπτῳ καὶ ἐν γῇ Χαναάν, κ.τ.λ. This chronological statement, the genuineness of which is placed beyond all doubt by Onkelos, the Syriac, Vulgate, and other versions, is not only in harmony with the prediction in Gen 15:13, where the round number 400 is employed in prophetic style, but may be reconciled with the different genealogical lists, if we only bear in mind that the genealogies do not always contain a complete enumeration of all the separate links, but very frequently intermediate links of little historical importance are omitted, as we have already seen in the genealogy of Moses and Aaron (Exo 6:18-20). For example, the fact that there were more than the four generations mentioned in Exo 6:16. between Levi and Moses, is placed beyond all doubt, not only by what has been adduced at Exo 6:18-20, but by a comparison with other genealogies also. Thus, in Num 26:29., Exo 27:1; Jos 17:3, we find six generations from Joseph to Zelophehad; in Rut 4:18., Ch1 2:5-6, there are also six from Judah to Nahshon, the tribe prince in the time of Moses; in Ch1 2:18 there are seven from Judah to Bezaleel, the builder of the tabernacle; and in Ch1 7:20., nine or ten are given from Joseph to Joshua. This last genealogy shows most clearly the impossibility of the view founded upon the Alexandrian version, that the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt lasted only 215 years; for ten generations, reckoned at 40 years each, harmonize very well with 430 years, but certainly not with 215.
(Note: The Alexandrian translators have arbitrarily altered the text to suit the genealogy of Moses in Exo 6:16., just as in the genealogies of the patriarchs in Gen 5 and 11. The view held by the Seventy became traditional in the synagogue, and the Apostle Paul followed it in Gal 3:17, where he reckoned the interval between the promise to Abraham and the giving of the law as 430 years, the question of chronological exactness having no bearing upon his subject at the time.)
The statement in Exo 12:41, "the self-same day," is not to be understood as relating to the first day after the lapse of the 430 years, as though the writer supposed that it was on the 14th Abib that Jacob entered Egypt 430 years before, but points back to the day of the exodus, mentioned in Exo 12:14, as compared with Exo 12:11., i.e., the 15th Abib (cf. Exo 12:51 and Exo 13:4). On "the hosts of Jehovah," see Exo 7:4.
This day therefore was שׁמּרים ליל, "a preservation-night of the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt." The apax legomenon שׁמּרים does not mean "celebration, from שׁמר to observe, to honour" (Knobel), but "preservation," from שׁמר to keep, to preserve; and ליהוה is the same as in Exo 12:27. "This same night is (consecrated) to the Lord as a preservation for all children of Israel in their families." Because Jehovah had preserved the children of Israel that night from the destroyer, it was to be holy to them, i.e., to be kept by them in all future ages to the glory of the Lord, as a preservation.
Regulations Concerning the Participants in the Passover. - These regulations, which were supplementary to the law of the Passover in Exo 12:3-11, were not communicated before the exodus; because it was only by the fact that a crowd of foreigners attached themselves to the Israelites, that Israel was brought into a connection with foreigners, which needed to be clearly defined, especially so far as the Passover was concerned, the festival of Israel's birth as the people of God. If the Passover was still to retain this signification, of course no foreigner could participate in it. This is the first regulation. But as it was by virtue of a divine call, and not through natural descent, that Israel had become the people of Jehovah, and as it was destined in that capacity to be a blessing to all nations, the attitude assumed towards foreigners was not to be an altogether repelling one. Hence the further directions in Exo 12:44 : purchased servants, who had been politically incorporated as Israel's property, were to be entirely incorporated by circumcision, so as even to take part in the Passover. But settlers, and servants working for wages, were not to eat of it, for they stood in a purely external relation, which might be any day dissolved. בּ אכל, lit., to eat at anything, to take part in the eating (Lev 22:11). The deeper ground fore this was, that in this meal Israel was to preserve and celebrate its unity and fellowship with Jehovah. This was the meaning of the regulations, which were repeated in Exo 12:46 and Exo 12:47 from Exo 12:4, Exo 12:9, and Exo 12:10, where they had been already explained. If, therefore, a foreigner living among the Israelites wished to keep the Passover, he was first of all to be spiritually incorporated into the nation of Jehovah by circumcision (Exo 12:48). פס ועשׂה: "And he has made (i.e., made ready) a passover to Jehovah, let every male be circumcised to him (i.e., he himself, and the male members of his house), and then he may draw near (sc., to Jehovah) to keep it." The first עשׂה denotes the wish or intention to do it, the second, the actual execution of the wish. The words בּן־נכר, גּר, תּושׁב and שׂכיר, are all indicative of non-Israelites. בּן־נכר was applied quite generally to any foreigner springing from another nation; גּר was a foreigner living for a shorter or longer time in the midst of the Israelites; תּושׁב, lit., a dweller, settler, was one who settled permanently among the Israelites, without being received into their religious fellowship; שׂכיר was the non-Israelite, who worked for an Israelite for wages.
There was one law with reference to the Passover which was applicable both to the native and the foreigner: no uncircumcised man was to be allowed to eat of it.
Exo 12:50 closes the instructions concerning the Passover with the statement that the Israelites carried them out, viz., in after times (e.g., Num 9:5); and in Exo 12:51 the account of the exodus from Egypt is also brought to a close. All that Jehovah promised to Moses in Exo 6:6 and Exo 6:26 had now been fulfilled. But although v. 51 is a concluding formula, and so belongs to the account just closed, Abenezra was so far right in wishing to connect this verse with the commencement of the following chapter, that such concluding formulae generally serve to link together the different incidents, and therefore not only wind up what goes before, but introduce what has yet to come.