Last week we suggested that Israel’s slavery in Egypt was more complex than we sometimes imagine. Recall how Joseph provided bread for Israel in Egypt and married an Egyptian priest’s daughter, it is not hard to imagine how Israel might have fallen into idolatry in Egypt (cf. Ez. 20).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the fourteenth day of the month on the evening the Passover lamb was killed (12:18, cf. 12:6, 8). Just as Passover signifies Israel’s birth, this is the beginning of a new creation week, and is kept from the “first day… until the seventh day” (12:15, cf. 12:2, Gen. 8:13). Leaven literally takes into itself many characteristics of its surroundings, and removing all leaven from the houses signifies the kind of repentance Yahweh is calling Israel to (12:15). This week begins and ends with a holy convocation/sabbath (12:16), and this feast is to be kept because Yahweh is bringing Israel out of Egypt (12:17). Specifically, Yahweh is bringing the “armies” of Israel out of Egypt (12:17, 41, 51), and this underlines the theme of “strength” – Israel is to find her strength in Yahweh. Those who eat leaven are to be “cut off” from Israel (12:15), whether they are native or strangers in the land (12:19). This probably points to future generations (cf. 12:17), but also suggests that some Egyptians may have participated with Israel in the original celebration (see 12:43ff). Being “cut off” is covenantal language from the “cutting” of covenants (Gen. 9:11, 21:27), and first occurs as a warning for those who are not circumcised (Gen. 15:18, 17:14). In Exodus, it was Moses’ son whose foreskin was “cut off” in circumcision (4:25, cf. 8:5). Given the Passover blood and the previous warnings in Genesis, it seems likely that removing the leaven of Egypt is a kind of corporate circumcision for Israel. This also underlines the virility of leaven, but Yahweh requires His people to trust Him.
Obedience & Children
Moses calls for the elders of Israel and gives them the instructions for Passover (12:21, cf. 4:29), and as before, the result is that the people bow their heads and worship (12:27, cf. 4:31). Here the instructions are slightly elaborated: they are to “touch” the blood to the lintel and doorposts of their houses with a bunch of hyssop (12:22). The word here is used in conjunction with several of the proto-Exodus accounts in Genesis: Yahweh “touches” Pharaoh with plagues for the sake of Sarai (Gen. 12:17, cf. Gen. 20:6, Gen. 26:11). It is only used twice previously in Exodus where it occurs in the proleptic Passover in 4:25 and then as a foretelling of this final plague (11:1). This indicates that Israel is in this sense coming under this final plague, but rather than being “touched” by the plague, their houses are “touched” with the Passover blood. Note also that everyone must stay inside the house during the night of the plague (12:22). Here, Moses also explains how this feast will be a memorial throughout the generations of Israel (12:24-27). It is their life-saving “service/labor” to Yahweh as opposed to the “service/labor” for Pharaoh intended to take life. God assumes that their children will ask them about what they are doing (12:26). The parents are instructed to rehearse the story of the original Passover and Exodus, how God struck Egypt and “delivered” the houses of Israel (12:27). The same word for delivered is used to describe how Israel “spoiled/plundered” Egypt (cf. 12:36). Yahweh is the warrior who has fought and conquered Egypt, and He is taking Israel as His plunder. Therefore Israel must look to Him for their strength.
Conclusions & Applications
First, notice the presence of children once again: Pharaoh was trying to kill the children of Israel (Ex. 1), it is the children of Israel who must go to the feast (10:9, 24), Yahweh has done all these wonders so that they may be declared to the children (10:1-2), and now Yahweh gives instructions for passing this story on to their children (12:26-27). Given this narrative, the Exodus should be seen as Yahweh fighting for the children. Salvation is for kids. And we have here a command to tell this story (all the great stories) to our children. But this focus on children is also a statement about the Kingdom of God, and the strength of our God. God ordains strength in the mouths of little ones. As Israel eats a meal with their children and tells the story of God’s deliverance, they are His armies.
Second, this story is true in history, and it is to be personally owned throughout history. This memorial action/story is to be kept throughout the generations (12:14), and the story is that Yahweh struck the Egyptians and delivered our households (12:27). Our new Passover is the Lord’s Supper in which we proclaim the forgiveness of sins in the blood of Christ, the final Passover Lamb. But if the Exodus and subsequent Israelite history teaches us anything it’s that leaving Egypt doesn’t guarantee leaving Egypt. Egypt is in our hearts, in our actions, in our words, and still needs to be purged out (1 Cor. 5:7-8).