The Passover, Exodus 12-13:16

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.  The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.” –Exodus 12:1-8

You may read Exodus 12-13:16 here: Bible Gateway.

God instituted the holiday of Passover. So begins God’s story of redemption, the central theme of the Bible. Redemption means “to buy back” or “to save from captivity by paying a ransom.” A slave could be purchased by offering an equivalent or superior slave in exchange. This is a picture of how God chose to buy us back from captivity to sin and spiritual death. But God didn’t purchase us with a superior slave.  Instead, He offered His perfect sinless Son so we could live with Him forever.

In Old Testament times, God accepted symbolic offerings: an animal’s life for the sinner’s life.

For the Israelites to be spared from the death plague, a lamb without defects had to be killed. God commanded its blood be placed on the door frames of each home. The innocent lamb was a substitute for the person who would have died in this final plague—another picture, or symbol, of Christ being our sacrificial Lamb.

God didn’t spare the firstborn of the Israelites because they were more righteous than the Egyptians, but rather by His grace alone. God also made provision for non-Israelites to participate in Passover if they acknowledged their faith in the Abrahamic Covenant, as demonstrated through circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14; Exodus 12:48-49). Since a large number of non-Israelites left Egypt with Israel (v 38), It’s likely that many Egyptians converted as a result of the plagues and were spared death through Passover’s provision.

The Passover is proof of God’s possession of Israel. The firstborn of Israel belonged to God as a result of the Passover, and all of Israel was God’s possession as a result of the Exodus. All of the commandments and requirements which God placed upon the Israelites were predicated upon the fact that they were a people who belonged to Him.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Like the redemption of the firstborn and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover was to become a permanent part of Israel’s religious liturgy (12:24-25). The Passover not only memorializes God’s mighty hand in Israel’s deliverance from slavery, but also serves as instruction and a reminder for Israel’s future generations (12:26-27; 13:8, 14-16).

Believers today also experience a deliverance and restoration to God. When Jesus came and ushered in the New Covenant, He made repeated animal sacrifice no longer necessary. His sacrificial death on the cross enables the believer’s redemption—deliverance from spiritual death and slavery to sin—through belief and trust in Him. By taking the penalty we deserve, Christ’s blood sacrifice covers us, sparing us from the spiritual death we deserve because of our sin (Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:13-15, 23-26).

I found the following 38 minute video, “Christ in the Passover”, really interesting and insightful. David Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, links the ancient Festival of Redemption and Christ as the Lamb of God in a meaningful visual sermon demonstration. If you have time, I encourage you to view it, especially as Passover draws closer. . . . Blessings!

8 thoughts on “The Passover, Exodus 12-13:16

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  2. Hi KD,

    A thought about your post if I may:

    Do we not feel any shame or awkwardness that God (either directly, or by sending an angel on his behalf) killed a nation’s worth of children? Tell me if I’m wrong, but if another religion had a festival celebrating the killing of children, we would all condemn that religion as twisted and barbaric, but for some reason, Christianity and Judaism get a free pass.

    I would like to know your thoughts on this, and how you reconcile the the concept of a pro-life God with what the scriptures say about God.


    • Damien, Passover isn’t a celebration of the killing of “a nation’s worth” of children. Technically speaking, not all the children of the nation were killed, just the firstborn males. That, however, is of no real comfort to a person who really is asking a question about the goodness of God and the goodness of two world religions. And it should be noted that Passover doesn’t celebrate the killing of Egyptian children, but the sparing of Hebrew children. That’s more than a technical difference. Neither Christians nor Jews are glad that Egyptians were killed. That’s not even part of the celebration. Passover really isn’t about the Hebrew innocents versus their Egyptian counterparts at all. Instead, it is a celebration of the fact that after Egypt had offered safe harbor to the Israelites, it enslaved them instead— literally. And after centuries of this cruelty, after long negotiations with its ruler to bring about a peaceable end to their bondage, after the making and breaking of agreements (treaties), God acted forcefully to free the Israelites from slavery. Surely an enlightened individual like you couldn’t argue that it would have been morally preferable to leave Israeli children in slavery so that Egyptian children could live in prosperity and comfort. The price of the abolition of slavery in our own country was the death of multiple thousands of boys and young men. Tragic? Certainly! Who in their right mind or heart would look over our shoulders at the Civil War and celebrate the killing of hundreds of thousands of Confederates? But was it worth the price of African-American children’s (and adults’) freedom? We have decided collectively as a people that it was indeed worth it, but we do not celebrate the slaughter of the Southerners. We are not given a free pass; we bear the weight of that historic sorrow still.
      In a more modern application of a similar ethical dilemma, when a loved one receives an organ transplant, no one takes joy in the death of the donor, but gives thanks that their loved one was allowed a new lease on life. If their is even a modicum of decency in the hearts of the family of the organ recipients, they will grieve for the other family even while they celebrate and give thanks that their own loved one was thusly spared. The recipient and his/her friends and family don’t “get a free pass”; they always think honorably about the family who lost a loved one in the world’s worst transaction of the day.


      • Hi KD,

        I am glad to see you acknowledge the contradiction I am trying to highlight, which is more than what some believers have achieved.

        Yes, you are correct that Passover doesn’t so much celebrate the deaths of people as much as it does the release of Israel – but this misses the point on a couple of things.
        1) Passover – this literally refers to the fact that the ‘Angel Of The Lord’ passed over the houses of people to kill their children (and that an omnipotent and omniscient God needed reminding which houses not to touch).
        2) It didn’t actually quite achieve its aim (the clean release of Israel to go to the desert), because later on in the Bible, when Israel actually gets up to leave, the Pharaoh changes his mind and tries to get Israel back – this is where we get the account of the parting of the Red (or Reed) Sea.

        I’m yet to reconcile a God that Christians say is pro-life, with what I read in the Bible (which God apparently wrote).

        Some replies to your comments:

        “Surely an enlightened individual like you couldn’t argue that it would have been morally preferable to leave Israeli children in slavery so that Egyptian children could live in prosperity and comfort”

        You call me enlightened? Nah. I prefer rational 🙂
        I agree with the sentiment, but I don’t agree with the method. God demonstrates such awesome powers as being able to make the sun stand still, or teleport his apostles from one place to another, or send bears to kill people, but somehow thought that killing innocent children was the solution to the problem – remember, these children did nothing! It was the attitude of one person, one person alone, that God was fighting against.
        Surely, a God of infinite wisdom and infinite power and infinite creativity is able to make a solution that shouldn’t involve killing children, no?

        “The price of the abolition of slavery in our own country was the death of multiple thousands of boys and young men. Tragic? Certainly!”

        This episode in American history is actually quite condemning for Christians. The motto of the Confederate government was “Deo Vindice”, and there were dozens, literally dozens of books written by priests, pastors and ministers of Christian religions that encouraged and fortified the attitudes of slavery.
        So then we have this problem – 1) God is pro-slavery (which the Confederate people believed, and is backed up by Exodus 21), and the Union used lethal force to interrupt the practices of God-fearing believers, or 2) God is against slavery, and has no problem letting hundreds of thousands of people die for the right theology.
        Which one is it?

        “But was it worth the price of African-American children’s (and adults’) freedom?”

        Agreed. We should keep this up!
        I just think God was either conspicuously absent from the whole episode, or was actually on the Confederate side of the equation (I’m yet to find a proper Christian rebuttal to the problem of God-endorsed slavery in the Bible, though I would be happy if you tried, as you seem to have more compassion than other believers I’ve come across).

        Thanks for replying, have a great week and safe Easter!

      • Hi Damien,
        I’m really not a debater. But I appreciate that you are respectful, so I’ll respond to some of your points. The idea that God or Christianity encourages or approves slavery is incorrect. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one. None of us are perfect, but if a “Christian” consistently doesn’t act according to God’s principles, he/she shouldn’t be taken seriously as a true follower (in my opinion). Why do you skip over the fact that many Christians were involved in the abolition of slavery?
        You want to know God’s opinion of slavery? Anybody who was caught selling another person into slavery was to be executed. However, since voluntary slavery was widely practiced during biblical times, the Bible (Old Testament) proscribes laws to protect the lives and health of slaves. The Apostle Paul (author of much of the New Testament) virtually ordered the Christian Philemon to release his Christian slave from his service to “do what is proper”. Also, many verses from the New Testament show that God values slaves as much as any free person. He doesn’t label people like humans do. He is not partial to anyone’s standing before other people. Have you read the New Testament?
        You are correct in describing God as omnipotent, omniscient, with infinite wisdom, infinite power, and infinite creativity. He needs no reminders. . . . God always achieves His aim. But, again, His timing and His ways are far beyond our ability to understand. He is also perfect in justice and mercy. He longs to show mercy to those who turn from sin and turn to Him.
        If you ask me the reason why I find great hope in following Jesus, I can offer several reasons. But if you ask me to defend every action God has taken—or is reported to have taken in history—I’m not adequate to the task. Who can fully explain God, or His thoughts and actions? Obviously, I believe God is good. I’ve experienced His goodness in my own life. But I also acknowledge that in this life none of us are immune to suffering due to the consequences of sin, even if it’s only from one person’s sin.
        Wishing you a great Easter, Damien.

  3. I’d like to add something important to this discussion. We should remember that Pharao had already killed all the firstborn of the Israelites years before the Exodus, when the child Moses was secretly saved. This helps us to understand that innocent children had already died. By killing the firstborn of the Egyptians, God was exercising justice about what had happened to his people and he didn’t do it without the possibility for Pharao to repent (He actually gave him ten plagues for him to turn from evil. Nothing would have happened to the Egyptian children if it wasn’t for Pharao’s stubbornness. God doesn’t delight in the death of innocent people and He ALWAYS provides a way out. But if the receiver simply continues to reject his guidance, He’s left with no choice but to exercise justice, no matter how painful it is. I think Damien should also consider this point in order to understand this Bible passage properly.

    Best wishes!


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