Scripture: Exodus 12:1-13
1The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month will be the first month; it will be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell the whole Israelite community: On the tenth day of this month they must take a lamb for each household, a lamb per house. 4 If a household is too small for a lamb, it should share one with a neighbor nearby. You should divide the lamb in proportion to the number of people who will be eating it. 5 Your lamb should be a flawless year-old male. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You should keep close watch over it until the fourteenth day of this month. At twilight on that day, the whole assembled Israelite community should slaughter their lambs. 7 They should take some of the blood and smear it on the two doorposts and on the beam over the door of the houses in which they are eating. 8 That same night they should eat the meat roasted over the fire. They should eat it along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Don’t eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over fire with its head, legs, and internal organs. 10 Don’t let any of it remain until morning, and burn any of it left over in the morning. 11 This is how you should eat it. You should be dressed, with your sandals on your feet and your walking stick in your hand. You should eat the meal in a hurry. It is the Passover of the Lord. 12 I’ll pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I’ll strike down every oldest child in the land of Egypt, both humans and animals. I’ll impose judgments on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be your sign on the houses where you live. Whenever I see the blood, I’ll pass overyou. No plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Theme- God calls us to recognize there is sacrifice involved in liberation
- Why does God escalate the blows against Egypt from darkness to the death of the firstborn and was this decision influenced by Pharaoh’s comment in 10:28 that Moses was not allowed in his presence any longer?
- What was the purpose of the lamb and why was it so important that it was completely consumed?
- What was the size of an Israelite household and what is this command supposed to teach about community?
- What was the significance of the blood on the doorposts?
Related Texts: Matt. 26:17-30, Mk. 14:10-26, Lk. 22:14-23, Jn. 19:36, 1 Cor. 11:23-34
Exodus 11:1-9 is a continuation of 10:28 and shows God’s words to Pharaoh before Moses is permanently banned from Pharaoh’s presence. Chapter 12 is a retelling of God’s plan to the Israelites following Moses’ departure from Pharaoh’s presence.
The death of the firstborn is again presenting Pharaoh with a dilemma. He can either maintain his claim that his power maintains Egypt and risk the death of his firstborn or he can release God’s firstborn.
In this passage Pharaoh represents the embodiment of the gods of Egypt and the judgment is they are impotent to maintain life within the land.
The lamb represents a blood sacrifice and is a recognition that life is sacred to God.
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God’s confrontation with Pharaoh and the deities of Egypt has hit the tipping point. Pharaoh has told God’s emissaries they will not be allowed back in his presence and in doing this has thrown down the gauntlet to God. Pharaoh’s words to Moses and Aaron represent one last attempt to take control over the situation and to display his power over both Israel and Egypt. God has been attempting to prove to Pharaoh that God is in control and Pharaoh has now closed the door to any further conversation. So far God has used signs to demonstrate control over food, water, economy, health, and environment there is only one area that God has to this point spared- life. And since Pharaoh has now ended the conversation God demonstrates control over that realm also. But why attack all Egypt, why not the Pharaoh’s house alone? Because it is doubtful that anything short of a widespread plague would have impacted Pharaoh. If only Pharaoh’s son had died Pharaoh would have accused Moses of murdering his son through magic, but a widespread plague obviously has divine origins and Pharaoh will be forced to admit his power does not rival the God Moses is serving. A widespread plague of death is the only sign that will strike hard enough for Pharaoh to understand that he has met his march.
But understanding the “why” of this plague is only one of many aspects of this event and we see another in the fact that Moses leaves Pharaoh’s presence and for the first time gives Israel instructions on how to prepare for one of God’s portents. Until this point Israel has been sidelined in this story and if Israel is mentioned it is to emphasize, they will not be impacted by the sign. Why would God give Israel commands for this event when such instructions were not needed for the previous signs? The reason is that Israel must now begin to understand who they are, they are God’s firstborn and the inheritors of Abraham’s blessing. Much like Moses had to take part in the covenant of circumcision in Exodus 4, Israel must recognize the sanctity of their community. God is about to give Pharaoh one last choice; Pharaoh can keep his firstborn or God’s but not both. Israel must also recognize that the price of their freedom was the blood of another. There is far more at work in this story than I am going to highlight, but Israel is to slaughter a lamb and in that there is recognition that blood was shed to free them from oppression. Those who participated in Passover were sitting in the shade of that blood and had a visual picture of the price of freedom. They saw the cost of injustice, they saw the sacrifice, and they saw what God did to free them. While the Israelites were thinking of this they were also aware of the larger community around them, those who were also part of God’s chosen people. This was a community event; we tend to forget this by thinking of small immediate family groups. A year-old lamb will produce more than 50 lbs. of meat, how many American families can eat that amount? The event of deliverance from Egypt demonstrated to Israel they were one unified people not simply because individuals were gathered together doing the same thing, but because without a larger community they could not accomplish God’s orders.
Such a concept is often foreign to us, we tend to think in terms of the individual, my sins require sacrifice, we gather for worship as individuals each doing the same thing. The symbols of Passover were to remind the people they were part of a larger whole which was liberated, not as a collective of individuals, but as a community- the firstborn. Jesus picks up on this language when he brings his disciples to the Upper Room, he tells the disciples that the bread and cup he gives are similar to what the Passover meant, but to unite a new family around the liberation from an even more powerful oppressor than Pharaoh, sin itself. This liberation still has a cost, just like the liberation from Pharaoh, and still produces a community, the cost is not the firstborn of Egypt, but Jesus himself. Jesus was not replacing the Passover feast; he was adding a new rite that would mark God’s new work.
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