Matthew Henry Bible Commentary

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Chapter 12

This chapter gives an account of one of the most memorable ordinances, and one of the most memorable providences, of all that are recorded in the Old Testament. I. Not one of all the ordinances of the Jewish church was more eminent than that of the passover, nor is any one more frequently mentioned in the New Testament; and we have here an account of the institution to it. The ordinance consisted of three parts:-- 1. The killing and eating of the paschal lamb, Exodus 12:1-6,8-11. 2. The sprinkling of the blood upon the door-posts, spoken of as a distinct thing (Hebrews 11:28), and peculiar to this first passover (Exodus 12:7), with the reason for it, Exodus 12:13. 3. The feast of unleavened bread for seven days following; this points rather at what was to be done afterwards, in the observance of this ordinance, Exodus 12:14-20. This institution is communicated to the people, and they are instructed in the observance, (1.) Of this first passover, Exodus 12:21-23. (2.) Of the after passovers, Exodus 12:24-27. And the Israelites' obedience to these orders, Exodus 12:28. II. Not one of all the providences of God concerning the Jewish church was more illustrious, or is more frequently mentioned, than the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt. 1. The firstborn of the Egyptians are slain, Exodus 12:29,30. 2. Orders are given immediately for their discharge, Exodus 12:31-33. 3. They begin their march. (1.) Loaded with their own effects, Exodus 12:34. (2.) Enriched with the spoils of Egypt, Exodus 12:35,36. (3.) Attended with a mixed multitude, Exodus 12:37,38. (4.) Put to their shifts for present supply, Exodus 12:39. The event is dated, Exodus 12:40-42. Lastly, A recapitulation in the close, [1.] Of this memorable ordinance, with some additions, Exodus 12:43-49. [2.] Of this memorable providence, Exodus 12:50,51.

The Appointment of the Passover; the Feast of Unleavened Bread. B. C. 1491.

      1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,   2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.   3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:   4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.   5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:   6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.   7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.   8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.   9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.   10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.   11 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.   12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.   13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.   14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.   15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.   16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.   17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.   18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.   19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.   20 Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.

      Moses and Aaron here receive of the Lord what they were afterwards to deliver to the people concerning the ordinance of the passover, to which is prefixed an order for a new style to be observed in their months (Exodus 12:1,2): This shall be to you the beginning of months. They had hitherto begun their year from the middle of September, but henceforward they were to begin it from the middle of March, at least in all their ecclesiastical computations. Note, It is good to begin the day, and begin the year, and especially to begin our lives, with God. This new calculation began the year with the spring, which reneweth the face of the earth, and was used as a figure of the coming of Christ, Song of Solomon 2:11,12. We may suppose that, while Moses was bringing the ten plagues upon the Egyptians, he was directing the Israelites to prepare for their departure at an hour's warning. Probably he had be degrees brought them near together from their dispersions, for their are here called the congregation of Israel (Exodus 12:3), and to them as a congregation orders are here sent. Their amazement and hurry, it is easy to suppose, were great; yet now they must apply themselves to the observance of a sacred rite, to the honour of God. Note, When our heads are fullest of care, and our hands of business, yet we must not forget our religion, nor suffer ourselves to be indisposed for acts of devotion.

      I. God appointed that on the night wherein they were to go out of Egypt they should, in each of their families, kill a lamb, or that two or three families, if they were small, should join for a lamb. The lamb was to be got ready four days before and that afternoon they were to kill it (Exodus 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. See the antiquity of family-religion; and see the convenience of the joining of small families together for religious worship, that it may be made the more solemn.

      II. The lamb so slain they were to eat, roasted (we may suppose, in its several quarters), with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, because they were to eat it in haste (Exodus 12:11), and to leave none of it until the morning; for God would have them to depend upon him for their daily bread, and not to take thought for the morrow. He that led them would feed them.

      III. Before they ate the flesh of the lamb, they were to sprinkle the blood upon the doorposts, Exodus 12:7. By this 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, Exodus 12:12,13. 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. Moses does not mention the fulfillment, in this chapter, yet he speaks of it Numbers 33:4. It is very probable that the idols which the Egyptians worshipped were destroyed, those of metal melted, those of wood consumed, and those of stone broken to pieces, whence Jethro infers (Exodus 18:11), The Lord is greater than all gods. The same angel that destroyed their first-born demolished their idols, which were no less dear to them. For the protection of Israel from this plague they were ordered to sprinkle the blood of the lamb upon the door-posts, their doing which would be accepted as an instance of their faith in the divine warnings and their obedience to the divine precepts. Note, 1. If in times of common calamity God will secure his own people, and set a mark upon them; they shall be hidden either in heaven or under heaven, preserved either from the stroke of judgments or at least from the sting of them. 2. The blood of sprinkling is the saint's security in times of common calamity; it is this that marks them for God, pacifies conscience, and gives them boldness of access to the throne of grace, and so becomes a wall of protection round them and a wall of partition between them and the children of this world.

      IV. 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, of necessity, for many days after they came out of Egypt, Exodus 12:14-20. The appointment is inculcated for their better direction, and that they might not mistake concerning it, and to awaken those who perhaps in Egypt had grown generally very stupid and careless in the matters of religion to a diligent observance of the institution. Now, without doubt, there was much of the gospel in this ordinance; it is often referred to in the New Testament, and, in it, to us is the gospel preached, and not to them only, who could not stedfastly look to the end of these things, Hebrews 4:2,2Co+3:13.

      1. The paschal lamb was typical. Christ is our Passover, 1 Corinthians 5:7. (1.) It was to be a lamb; and Christ is the Lamb of God (John 1:29), often in the Revelation called the Lamb, meek and innocent as a lamb, dumb before the shearers, before the butchers. (2.) It was to be a male of the first year (Exodus 12:5), in its prime; Christ offered up himself in the midst of his days, not in infancy with the babes of Bethlehem. It denotes the strength and sufficiency of the Lord Jesus, on whom our help was laid. (3.) It was to be without blemish (Exodus 12:5), denoting the purity of the Lord Jesus, a Lamb without spot, 1 Peter 1:19. The judge that condemned him (as if his trial were only like the scrutiny that was made concerning the sacrifices, whether they were without blemish or no) pronounced him innocent. (4.) It was to be set apart four days before (Exodus 12:3,6), denoting the designation of the Lord Jesus to be a Saviour, both in the purpose and in the promise. It is very 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. (5.) It was to be slain, and roasted with fire (Exodus 12:6-9), denoting the exquisite sufferings of the Lord Jesus, even unto death, the death of the cross. The wrath of God is as fire, and Christ was made a curse for us. (6.) 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 end of the world (Hebrews 9:26), by the hand of the Jews, the whole multitude of them (Luke 23:18), and for the good of all his spiritual Israel. (7.) Not a bone of it must be broken (Exodus 12:46), which is expressly said to be fulfilled in Christ (John 19:33,36), denoting the unbroken strength of the Lord Jesus.

      2. The sprinkling of the blood was typical. (1.) It was not enough that the blood of the lamb was shed, but it must be sprinkled, denoting the application of the merits of Christ's death to our souls; we must receive the atonement, Romans 5:11. (2.) It was to be sprinkled with a bunch of hyssop (Exodus 12:22) dipped in the basin. The everlasting covenant, like the basin, in the conservatory of this blood, the benefits and privileges purchased by it are laid up for us there; faith is the bunch of hyssop by which we apply the promises to ourselves and the benefits of the blood of Christ laid up in them. (3.) It was to be sprinkled upon the door-posts, denoting the open profession we are to make of faith in Christ, and obedience to him, as those that are not ashamed to own our dependence upon him. The mark of the beast may be received on the forehead or in the right hand, but the seal of the Lamb is always in the forehead, Revelation 7:3. There is a back-way to hell, but no back-way to heaven; no, the only way to this is a high-way, Isaiah 35:8. (4.) It was to be sprinkled upon the lintel and the sideposts, but not upon the threshold (Exodus 12:7), which cautions us to take heed of trampling under foot the blood of the covenant, Hebrews 10:29. It is precious blood, and must be precious to us. (5.) The blood, thus sprinkled, was a means of the preservation of the Israelites from the destroying angel, who had nothing to do where the blood was. 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, Romans 8:1.

      3. The solemnly eating of the lamb was typical of our gospel-duty to Christ. (1.) 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 and satisfaction in him, as we have in eating and drinking when we are hungry or thirsty: see John 6:53-55. (2.) 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. Is Christ divided? Those hat gather much of Christ will have nothing over. (3.) It was to be eaten immediately, not deferred till morning, Exodus 12:10. To-day Christ is offered, and is to be accepted while it is called to-day, before we sleep the sleep of death. (4.) It was to be eaten with bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8), in remembrance of the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt. We must feed upon Christ with sorrow and brokenness of heart, in remembrance of sin; this will give an admirable relish to the paschal lamb. Christ will be sweet to us if sin be bitter. (5.) It was to be eaten in a departing posture (Exodus 12:11); when we feed upon Christ by faith we must absolutely forsake the rule and dominion of sin, shake off Pharaoh's yoke; and we must sit loose to the world, and every thing in it, forsake all for Christ, and reckon it no bad bargain, Hebrews 13:13,14.

      4. The feast of unleavened bread was typical of the Christian life, 1 Corinthians 5:7,8. Having received Christ Jesus the Lord, (1.) We must keep a feast in holy joy, continually delighting ourselves in Christ Jesus; no manner of work must be done (Exodus 12:16), no care admitted or indulged, inconsistent with, or prejudicial to, this holy joy: if true believers have not a continual feast, it is their own fault. (2.) It must be a feast of unleavened bread, kept in charity, without the leaven of malice, and insincerity, without the leaven of hypocrisy. The law was very strict as to the passover, and the Jews were so in their usages, that no leaven should be found in their houses, Exodus 12:19. All the old leaven of sin must be put far from us, with the utmost caution and abhorrence, if we would keep the feast of a holy life to the honour of Christ. (3.) It was by an ordinance for ever (Exodus 12:17); as long as we live, we must continue feeding upon Christ and rejoicing in him, always making thankful mention of the great things he has done for us.

The Passover. B. C. 1491.

      21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.   22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.   23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.   24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.   25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.   26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?   27 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.   28 And the children of Israel went away, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.

      I. Moses is here, as a faithful steward in God's house, teaching the children of Israel to observe all things which God had commanded him; and no doubt he gave the instructions as largely as he received them, though they are not so largely recorded. It is here added,

      1. That this night, when the first-born were to be destroyed, no Israelite must stir out of doors till morning, that is, till towards morning, when they would be called to march out of Egypt, Exodus 12:22. Not but that the destroying angel could have known an Israelite from an Egyptian in the street; but God would intimate to them that their safety was owing to the blood of sprinkling; if they put themselves from under the protection of that, it was at their peril. Those whom God has marked for himself must not mingle with evil doers: see Isaiah 26:20,21. They must not go out of the doors, lest they should straggle and be out of the way when they should be summoned to depart: they must stay within, to wait for the salvation of the Lord, and it is good to do so.

      2. That hereafter they should carefully teach their children the meaning of this service, Exodus 12:26,27. Observe,

      (1.) The question which the children would ask concerning this solemnity (which they would soon take notice of in the family): "What mean you by this service? What is he meaning of all this care and exactness about eating this lamb, and this unleavened bread, more than about common food? Why such a difference between this meal and other meals?" Note, [1.] It is a good thing to see children inquisitive about the things of God; it is to be hoped that those who are careful to ask for the way will find it. Christ himself, when a child, heard and asked questions, Luke 2:46. [2.] It concerns us all rightly to understand the meaning of those holy ordinances wherein we worship God, what is the nature and what the end of them, what is signified and what intended, what is the duty expected from us in them and what are the advantages to be expected by us. Every ordinance has a meaning; some ordinances, as sacraments, have not their meaning so plain and obvious as others have; therefore we are concerned to search, that we may not offer the blind for sacrifice, but may do a reasonable service. If either we are ignorant of, or mistake about, the meaning of holy ordinances, we can neither please God nor profit ourselves.

      (2.) The answer which the parents were to return to this question (Exodus 12:27): You shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, that is, "By the killing and sacrificing of this lamb, we keep in remembrance the work of wonder and grace which God did for our fathers, when," [1.] "To make way for our deliverance out of bondage, he slew the firstborn of the Egyptians, so compelling them to sign our discharge;" and, [2.] "Though there were with us, even with us, sins against the Lord our God, for which the destroying angel, when he was abroad doing execution, might justly have destroyed our first-born too, yet God graciously appointed and accepted the family-sacrifice of a lamb, instead of the first-born, as, of old, the ram instead of Isaac, and in every house where the lamb was slain the first-born were saved." The repetition of this solemnity in the return of every year was designed, First, To look backward as a memorial, that in it they might remember what great things God had done for them and their fathers. The word pesach signifies a leap, or transition; it is a passing over; for the destroying angel passed over the houses of the Israelites, and did not destroy their first-born. When God brings utter ruin upon his people he says, I will not pass by them any more (Amos 7:8,8:2), intimating how often he had passed by them, as now when the destroying angel passed over their houses. Note, 1. Distinguishing mercies lay under peculiar obligations. When a thousand fall at our side, and ten thousand at our right hand, and yet we are preserved, and have our lives given us for a prey, this should greatly affect us, Psalms 91:7. In war or pestilence, if the arrow of death have passed by us, passed over us, hit the next to us and just missed us, we must not say it was by chance that we were preserved but by the special providence of our God. 2. Old mercies to ourselves, or to our fathers, must not be forgotten, but be had in everlasting remembrance, that God may be praised, our faith in him encouraged, and our hearts enlarged in his service. Secondly, It was designed to look forward as an earnest of the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God in the fulness of time, instead of us and our first-born. We were obnoxious to the sword of the destroying angel, but Christ our passover was sacrificed for us, his death was our life, and thus he was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, from the foundation of the Jewish church: Moses kept the passover by faith in Christ, for Christ was the end of the law for righteousness.

      II. The people received these instructions with reverence and ready obedience. 1. They bowed the head and worshipped (Exodus 12:27): they hereby signified their submission to this institution as a law, and their thankfulness for it as a favour and privilege. Note, When God gives law to us, we must give honour to him; when he speaks, we must bow our heads and worship. 2. They went away and did as they were commanded, Exodus 12:23. Here was none of that discontent and murmuring among them which we read of, Exodus 5:20,21. The plagues of Egypt had done them good, and raised their expectations of a glorious deliverance, which before they despaired of; and now they went forth to meet it in the way appointed. Note, The perfecting of God's mercies to us must be waited for in a humble observance of his institutions.

The Death of the Firstborn. B. C. 1491.

      29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.   30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.   31 And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.   32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.   33 And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.   34 And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.   35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:   36 And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.

      Here we have, I. The Egyptians' sons, even their first-born, slain, Exodus 12:29,30. If Pharaoh would have taken the warning which was given him of this plague, and would thereupon have released Israel, what a great many dear and valuable lives might have been preserved! But see what obstinate infidelity brings upon men. Observe, 1. The time when this blow was given: It was at midnight, which added to the terror of it. The three preceding nights were made dreadful by the additional plague of darkness, which might be felt, and doubtless disturbed their repose; and now, when they hoped for one quiet night's rest, at midnight was the alarm given. When the destroying angel drew his sword against Jerusalem, it was in the day-time (2 Samuel 24:15), which made it the less frightful; but the destruction of Egypt was by a pestilence walking in darkness, Psalms 91:6. Shortly there will be an alarming cry at midnight, Behold, the bridegroom cometh. 2. On whom the plague fastened--on their first-born, the joy and hope of their respective families. They had slain the Hebrews' children, and now God slew theirs. Thus he visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children; and he is not unrighteous who taketh vengeance. 3. How far it reached--from the throne to the dungeon. Prince and peasant stand upon the same level before God's judgments, for there is no respect of persons with him; see Job 34:19,20. Now the slain of the Lord were many; multitudes, multitudes, fall in this valley of decision, when the controversy between God and Pharaoh was to be determined. 4. What an outcry was made upon it: There was a great cry in Egypt, universal lamentation for their only son (with many), and with all for their first-born. If any be suddenly taken ill in the night, we are wont to call up neighbours; but the Egyptians could have no help, no comfort, from their neighbours, all being involved in the same calamity. Let us learn hence, (1.) To tremble before God, and to be afraid of his judgments, Psalms 119:120. Who is able to stand before him, or dares resist him? (2.) To be thankful to God for the daily preservation of ourselves and our families: lying so much exposed, we have reason to say, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed."

      II. God's sons, even his first-born, released; this judgment conquered Pharaoh, and obliged him to surrender at discretion, without capitulating. Men had better come up to God's terms at first, for he will never come down to theirs, let them object as long as they will. Now Pharaoh's pride is abased, and he yields to all that Moses had insisted on: Serve the Lord as you have said (Exodus 12:31), and take your flocks as you have said, Exodus 12:32. Note, God's word will stand, and we shall get nothing by disputing it, or delaying to submit to it. Hitherto the Israelites were not permitted to depart, but now things had come to the last extremity, in consequence of which, 1. They are commanded to depart: Rise up, and get you forth, Exodus 12:31. Pharaoh had told Moses he should see his face no more; but now he sent for him. Those will seek God early in their distress who before had set him at defiance. Such a fright he was now in that he gave orders by night for their discharge, fearing lest, if he delayed any longer, he himself should fall next; and that he sent them out, not as men hated (as the pagan historians have represented this matter), but as men feared, is plainly discovered by his humble request to them (Exodus 12:32): "Bless me also; let me have your prayers, that I may not be plagued for what is past, when you are gone." Note, Those that are enemies to God's church are enemies to themselves, and, sooner or later, they will be made to see it. 2. They are hired to depart by the Egyptians; they cried out (Exodus 12:33), We be all dead men. Note, When death comes into our houses, it is seasonable for us to think of our own mortality. Are our relations dead? It is easy to infer thence that we are dying, and, in effect, already dead men. Upon this consideration they were urgent with the Israelites to be gone, which gave great advantage to the Israelites in borrowing their jewels, Exodus 12:35,36. When the Egyptians urged them to be gone, it was easy for the to say that the Egyptians had kept them poor, that they could not undertake such a journey with empty purses, but, that, if they would give them wherewithal to bear their charges, they would be gone. And this the divine Providence designed in suffering things to come to this extremity, that they, becoming formidable to the Egyptians, might have what they would, for asking; the Lord also, by the influence he has on the minds of people, inclined the hearts of the Egyptians to furnish them with what they desired, they probably intending thereby to make atonement, that the plagues might be stayed, as the Philistines, when they returned the ark, sent a present with it for a trespass-offering, having an eye to this precedent, 1 Samuel 6:3,6. The Israelites might receive and keep what they thus borrowed, or rather required, of the Egyptians, (1.) As justly as servants receive wages from their masters for work done, and sue for it if it be detained. (2.) As justly as conquerors take the spoils of their enemies whom they have subdued; Pharaoh was in rebellion against the God of the Hebrews, by which all that he had was forfeited. (3.) As justly as subjects receive the estates granted to them by their prince. God is the sovereign proprietor of the earth, and the fulness thereof; and, if he take from one and give to another, who may say unto him, What doest thou? It was by God's special order and appointment that the Israelites did what they did, which was sufficient to justify them, and bear them out; but what they did will by no means authorize others (who cannot pretend to any such warrant) to do the same. Let us remember, [1.] That the King of kings can do no wrong. [2.] That he will do right to those whom men injure, Psalms 146:7. Hence it is that the wealth of the sinner often proves to be laid up for the just, Proverbs 13:22,Job+27:16,17.

Departure of the Israelites. B. C. 1491.

      37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.   38 And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.   39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.   40 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.   41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.   42 It is a night to be much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.

      Here is the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt; having obtained their dismission, they set forward without delay, and did not defer to a more convenient season. Pharaoh was now in a good mind; but they had reason to think he would not long continue so, and therefore it was no time to linger. We have here an account, 1. Of their number, about 600,000 men (Exodus 12:37), besides women and children, which I think, we cannot suppose to make less than 1,200,000 more. What a vast increase was this, to arise from seventy souls in little more than 200 years' time! See the power and efficacy of that blessing, when God commands it, Be fruitful and multiply. This was typical of the multitudes that were brought into the gospel church when it was first founded; so mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed. 2. Of their retinue (Exodus 12:38): A mixed multitude went up with them, hangers on to that great family, some perhaps willing to leave their country, because it was laid waste by the plagues, and to seek their fortune, as we say, with the Israelites; others went out of curiosity, to see the solemnities of Israel's sacrifice to their God, which had been so much talked of, and expecting to see some glorious appearances of their God to them in the wilderness, having seen such glorious appearances of their God for them in the field of Zoan, Psalms 78:12. Probably the greatest part of this mixed multitude were but a rude unthinking mob, that followed the crowd they knew not why; we afterwards find that they proved a snare to them (Numbers 11:4), and it is probable that when, soon afterwards, they understood that the children of Israel were to continue forty years in the wilderness, they quitted them, and returned to Egypt. Note, There were always those among the Israelites that were not Israelites, and there are still hypocrites in the church, who make a deal of mischief, but will be shaken off at last. 3. Of their effects. They had with them flocks and herds, even very much cattle. This is taken notice of because it was long before Pharaoh would give them leave to remove their effects, which were chiefly cattle, Genesis 46:32. 4. Of the provision made for the camp, which was very poor and slender. They brought some dough with them out of Egypt in their knapsacks, Exodus 12:34. They had prepared to bake, the next day, in order to their removal, understanding it was very near; but, being hastened away sooner than they thought of, by some hours, they took the dough as it was, unleavened; when they came to Succoth, their first stage, they baked unleavened cakes, and, though these were of course insipid, yet the liberty they were brought into made this the most joyful meal they had ever eaten in their lives. Note, The servants of God must not be slaves to their appetites, nor solicitous to wind up all the delights of sense to their highest pitch. We should be willing to take up with dry bread, nay, with unleavened bread, rather than neglect or delay any service we have to do for God, as those whose meat and drink it is to do his will. 5. Of the date of this great event: it was just 430 years from the promise made to Abraham (as the apostle explains it, Galatians 3:17) at his first coming into Canaan, during all which time the children of Israel, that is, the Hebrews, the distinguished chosen seed, were sojourners in a land that was not theirs, either Canaan or Egypt. So long the promise God made to Abraham of a settlement lay dormant and unfulfilled, but now, at length, it revived, and things began to work towards the accomplishment of it. The first day of the march of Abraham's seed towards Canaan was just 430 years (it should seem to a day) from the promise made to Abraham, Genesis 12:2, I will make of thee a great nation. See how punctual God is to his time; though his promises be not performed quickly, they will be accomplished in their season. 6. Of the memorableness of it: It is a night to be much observed, Exodus 12:42. (1.) The providences of that first night were very observable; memorable was the destruction of the Egyptians, and the deliverance of the Israelites by it; God herein made himself taken notice of. (2.) The ordinances of that night, in the annual return of it, were to be carefully observed: This is that night of the Lord, that remarkable night, to be celebrated in all generations. Note, The great things God does for his people are not to be a nine days' wonder, as we say, but the remembrance of them is to be perpetuated throughout all ages, especially the work of our redemption by Christ. This first passover-night was a night of the Lord much to be observed; but the last passover-night, in which Christ was betrayed (and in which the passover, with the rest of the ceremonial institutions, was superseded and abolished), was a night of the Lord much more to be observed, when a yoke heavier than that of Egypt was broken from off our necks, and a land better than that of Canaan set before us. That was a temporal deliverance to be celebrated in their generation; this is an eternal redemption to be celebrated in the praises of glorious saints, world without end.

Directions Concerning the Passover. B. C. 1491.

      43 And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:   44 But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.   45 A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.   46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.   47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.   48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.   49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.   50 Thus did all the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.   51 And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the LORD did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.

      Some further precepts are here given concerning the passover, as it should be observed in times to come.

      I. All the congregation of Israel must keep it, Exodus 12:47. All that share in God's mercies should join in thankful praises for them. Though it was observed in families apart, yet it is looked upon as the act of the whole congregation; for the smaller communities constituted the greater. The New-Testament passover, the Lord's supper, ought not to be neglected by any who are capable of celebrating it. He is unworthy the name of an Israelite that can contentedly neglect the commemoration of so great a deliverance. 1. No stranger that was uncircumcised might be admitted to eat of it, Exodus 12:43,45,48. None might sit at the table but those that came in by the door; nor may any now approach to the improving ordinance of the Lord's supper who have not first submitted to the initiating ordinance of baptism. We must be born again by the word ere we can be nourished by it. Nor shall any partake of the benefit of Christ's sacrifice, or feast upon it, who are not first circumcised in heart, Colossians 2:11. 2. Any stranger that was circumcised might be welcome to eat of the passover, even servants, Exodus 12:44. If, by circumcision, they would make themselves debtors to the law in its burdens, they were welcome to share in the joy of its solemn feasts, and not otherwise. Only it is intimated (Exodus 12:48) that those who were masters of families must not only be circumcised themselves, but have all their males circumcised too. If in sincerity, and with that zeal which the thing required and deserves, we give up ourselves to God, we shall, with ourselves, give up all we have to him, and do our utmost that all ours may be his too. Here is an early indication of favour to the poor Gentiles, that the stranger, if circumcised, stands upon the same level with the home-born Israelite. One law for both, Exodus 12:49. This was a mortification to the Jews, and taught them that it was their dedication to God, not their descent from Abraham, that entitled them to their privileges. A sincere proselyte was as welcome to the passover as a native Israelite, Isaiah 56:6,7.

      II. In one house shall it be eaten (Exodus 12:46), for good-fellowship sake, that they might rejoice together, and edify one another in the eating of it. None of it must be carried to another place, nor left to another time; for God would not have them so taken up with care about their departure as to be indisposed to take the comfort of it, but to leave Egypt, and enter upon a wilderness, with cheerfulness, and, in token of that, to eat a good hearty meal. The papists' carrying their consecrated host from house to house is not only superstitious in itself, but contrary to this typical law of the passover, which directed that no part of the lamb should be carried abroad.

      The chapter concludes with a repetition of the whole matter, that the children of Israel did as they were bidden, and God did for them as he promised (Exodus 12:50,51); for he will certainly be the author of salvation to those that obey him.

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Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35
Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38
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Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Exodus' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary". - Matthew Henry Bible Commentary.

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