The Passover, Exodus 12
T. Ernest Wilson, USA
Exodus, the second book in the Bible, is the book of redemption. It is the book of the origin of the nation of Israel, delivered from centuries of slavery in Egypt, redeemed by the blood of the lamb and by God's outstretched arm of power, and then through sovereign grace brought into covenant relationship with Jehovah as His chosen people. The book can be divided into three parts:
The House of Bondage, chs. 1-11. The plagues in Egypt.
The House of Salvation, chs. 12-24. Redemption by blood and power.
The House of God, chs. 25-40. The tabernacle in the wilderness.
The Word "Passover" in Exodus 12. The verb pasach in verses 13, 23, 27 means "to flutter over" as a bird over its nest to protect and nourish its young. Compare Genesis 1. 2, where the Spirit of God moved (brooded) over the waters; see also Matt. 23. 37.
The Calendar Changed. Formerly the civil year began with the month Tisri, the time of harvest, our October. Here it is changed to Nisan, the spring, the time when the ears appeared on the ripening grain, our March-April, or Easter. The reason for the change was that it marked the birth of a nation as the people moved from slavery to theocracy. For Israel, the Passover was the beginning of a new life of freedom to worship God, and eventually to political sovereignty in their own land. For the Christian today, the birth of Christ divides time, B.C. and A.D., but it is the cross which divides two eternities. Eternity past looked forward to it; eternity future will look back to what took place at Calvary. For the individual believer, the new birth is the beginning of days; old things have passed away, all things have become new. It is a new creation, 2 Cor. 5. 17.
Three Outstanding Features. These are:
The Lamb-The Person of Christ.
The Blood-the Passion of Christ.
The Feast-The Partaking of Christ.
1. The Lamb-The Person of Christ. There are five witnesses that Christ was the Lamb:
Isaiah 53. 7
John the Baptist, John 1. 29.
Apostle John, John 19. 36.
Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 5. 7.
Apostle Peter, 1 Pet. 1. 18-19.
Five ever-widening circles develop the doctrine of the Lamb. The Lamb was adequate for:
The individual, Gen. 4. 4.
The family, Exod. 12.
The nation, Isa. 53.
The world, John 1. 29.
The universe, Rev. 5. 6-14.
The Lamb Chosen. Peter tells us that the Lamb "was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you", 1 Pet. 1. 20. The lamb was kept from the tenth until the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, days of careful scrutiny and inspection. This period mirrors particularly those days of critical investigation and challenge leading up to the death of our Lord.
Without Blemish the sinlessness- of Christ. This is based on three factors: His virgin birth, His holy sinless life, and voluntary vicarious death. At the beginning of His ministry, there were three witnesses to His holy character: from heaven, earth and hell, Matt. 3. 16-17; John 1. 29; Mark 1. 24. At the end of His ministry, there were six witnesses: Judas the traitor, Matt. 27. 3; Herod the king, Luke 23. 15; Pilate the judge, 23. 4; Pilate's wife, Matt. 27. 19; the dying thief, Luke 23. 41; and the Roman centurion, His executioner, 23. 47. All testified to His holy sinless character. The seventh Witness was God the Father, when He raised Him from the dead, Rom. 1. 4.
(c) A Male of the First Year. A perfect man, the perfection of humanity; at the same time, God manifest in flesh.
(d) Killed between the Evenings, marg. Josephus explains that this is "between the sun's decline and its disappearance", i.e., 3p.m. The day was from sunset to sunset. William Kelly writes, "the Lord ate the passover on the proper day as did the scribes, and died the same day fulfilling the type". He rose on the day after the sabbath, the day the wave sheaf was presented, Lev. 23. 11.
2. The Blood-The Passion of Christ. The word "blood" occurs about 400 times in the Scriptures. Its importance and sacrificial meaning is one of the Bible's outstanding themes. In the Passover narrative, it occurs for the first time sacrificially. In Genesis, all the sacrifices were burnt offerings and the fat is emphasized, Gen. 4. 4. It is obvious that blood was shed in the offerings of Abel, Noah and Abraham, but it is not mentioned. In the Passover narrative, it occurs six times in a few verses. The reason is that in Exodus the great subject of redemption is dealt with in detail. Four things are said about the blood:
It was shed, the blood poured out into a basin: Atonement.
It was applied to the two side posts and upper door post of the houses: Appropriation and Application.
"The blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are", v. 13: Assurance.
"When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you", v. 13: Authority.
The word of God gave them assurance, the power of God gave them safety, the blood of the lamb gave them shelter from judgment.
3. The Feast-The Partaking of Christ. There were three items on the table: the roast lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs, all with a specific meaning. Minute details are given concerning procedures at the feast, all pointing forward to the Lamb's great feast of love.
First, the Roast Lamb.
Not raw or boiled in water, but roasted with fire. The naked fire of suffering without mitigation or relief. Our finite minds fail to grasp the agonies of Calvary. We worship and adore.
His head with his legs and the inward parts thereof. His headship, His perfect walk and His love and compassion for suffering humanity.
There is a seemingly insignificant detail in verse 46, "neither shall ye break a bone thereof. This was miraculously fulfilled at the crucifixion and death of our Lord, John 19. 31-36; cf. Psa. 34. 20.
The whole lamb was to be consumed that night, anything left over till the morning was to be burnt with fire. What a privilege we have today of feasting and meditating upon every aspect of the Person and work of Christ, the Lamb of God! Now we do it by faith, but in that bright morning without a cloud we shall have the reality.
Second, the Unleavened Bread. Leaven always speaks of evil working in the dark. It was to be entirely excluded from the feast. Holiness and purity were essential. Later, both in the wilderness and in the land, the feast of unleavened bread lasted for seven days. It was an integral part of the Passover feast; cf. Luke 22. 1. Redemption and holiness always go together; cf. 1 Cor. 5. 7-8.
Third, the Bitter Herbs. The Jews call the bitter herbs by the name haroseth. It consisted of horseradish and other ingredients with a pungent flavour. It was a reminder of the bitter bondage which Israel suffered under the Egyptian yoke. "And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord's passover", Exod. 12. 11. They were redeemed pilgrims ready to march.
There is an interesting observation in verses 26-27 concerning the children, "And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped". In later centuries, this question-and-answer period formed a part of the Jewish ceremony called the Haggadah. The youngest person present asked four questions concerning the meaning of the Passover, which were answered by the father at the head of the table.
Historical Celebrations of the Passover. There are six celebrations recorded in the O.T. In Egypt, Exod. 12; in the wilderness, Num. 9; when Israel entered Canaan, Josh. 5; and in the three great revivals under Hezekiah, 2 Chron. 30; Josiah, 2 Chron. 35; and on the return of the Jews from captivity, Ezra 6.
One celebration of the Passover in the N.T. is recorded in detail, Luke 22. 15-18. The evangelist makes clear the distinction between the celebration of the Passover and the inauguration of that which was new, namely, the first observance of the Lord's Supper, vv. 19-20. It was a dramatic and solemn moment. The old was passing and the new commencing.
The Observance of the Passover Today. Orthodox Jews still observe the Passover, but since the destruction of their temple and their dispersion in A.D. 70, one vital thing is missing. Instead of the roast lamb, there is a dry shank bone and a hard-boiled egg. There is, however, an empty chair for Elijah the prophet who is expected as the forerunner of Messiah, a further evidence of Israel's refusal to recognize that he, in one sense, has already come in the person of John the Baptist and has introduced the true Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Jews have four cups of wine, one of which they call "the cup of blessing". They still sing selections from the Great Hallel, Psas. 113-118. Alas, the vail is still on their minds and hearts, and will only be removed nationally when their Messiah comes in His kingdom glory.
"A Friend of God" by Roger K. Snook. Echoes of Service, Bath. + 120 pp. £2.95 plus 40p. P & P. The Life and Service of Albert Fallaize of Morocco. This is a brief but telling biography of a well loved man of God who with his wife dedicated himself for 32 years to the work of the Lord in Morocco. It is written with a sensitivity to the loving and gracious character that was seen in one who loved his Lord, had a deep affection for the saints and had a great passion for winning souls. His life and work is concisely described in this book. We would commend it as a fitting tribute to a man of God who gave himself to the very end in faithful service to His Lord. He is now "with the Lord"-very far better.