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1.And the Lord spake. Although the institution of the Passover in some degree appertains to the Fourth Commandment, where the Sabbath and Feast-days will be treated of; yet, in so far as it was a solemn symbol (308) of their redemption, whereby the people professed their obligation to God their deliverer, and in a manner devoted themselves to His dominion, I have not hesitated to insert it here as a supplement of the First Commandment. The observation of the day itself will again recur in its proper place; it will only be suitable to observe here, that God enjoined this ceremony in order that He might wholly bind the people under obligation to Himself alone, and that from it the Israelites might learn that they should never turn away from Him, by whose kindness and hand they were redeemed. For by these means He had purchased them to Himself as His peculiar people; and, therefore, whenever He reproves them for declining from His pure worship, He complains that they were forgetful of this great favor, the memory of which ought to have been sufficient to retain them. In effect, then, the celebration of the Passover taught the Israelites that it was not lawful for them to have regard to any other God besides their Redeemer; and also that it was just and right for them to consecrate themselves to His service, since He had restored them from death to life; and thus, as in a glass or picture, He represented to their eyes His grace; and desired that they should on every succeeding year recognize what they had formerly experienced, lest it should ever depart from their memory. First, let us define what the Passover (Pascha) is; (309) I use its trite and ordinary name. In its etymology there is no difficulty, except that the passage (transitus) of God, is equivalent to His leaping over, (transilitio) whereby it came to pass that the houses of the Israelites remained untouched; for Isaiah, (310) speaking of the second redemption, unquestionably alludes to this place, when he says, I will leap over Jerusalem. The reason, then, for this expression being used is, that God’s vengeance passed over the Israelites, so as to leave them uninjured. With respect to the twofold mention by Moses of a passing-over, observe that the same word is not used in both places; but Pesah (311) refers to the chosen people, and Abar to the Egyptians; as if he had said, my vengeance shall pass through the midst of your enemies, and shall everywhere destroy them; but you I will pass over untouched. Since, then, God was willing to spare His Israel, He awakened the minds of the faithful to the hope of this salvation, by the interposition of a sign; (312) whilst He instituted a perpetual memorial of His grace, that the Passover might every year renew the recollection of their deliverance. For the first Passover was celebrated in the very presence of the thing itself, to be a pledge to strengthen their terrified minds; but the annual repetition was a sacrifice of thanksgiving, whereby their posterity might be reminded that they were God’s rightful and peculiar dependents (clientes). Yet both the original institution and the perpetual law had a higher reference; for God did not once redeem His ancient people, that they might remain safely and quietly in the land, but He wished to bring them onward even to the inheritance of eternal life, wherefore the Passover was no less than Circumcision a sign of spiritual grace; and so it has an analogy and resemblance to the Holy Supper, because it both contained the same promises, which Christ now seals to us in that, and also taught that God could only be propitiated towards His people by the expiation of blood. In sum, it was the sign of the future redemption as well as of that which was past. For this reason Paul writes, that “Christ our Passover is slain,” (1 Corinthians 5:7;) which would be unsuitable, if the ancients had only been reminded in it of their temporal benefit. Yet let us first establish this, that the observation of the Passover was commanded by God in the Law, that He might demand the gratitude of His people and devote to Himself those who were redeemed by His power and grace. I now descend to particulars. God commands the Israelites to begin the year with the month in which they had come out of Egypt, as if it had been the day of their birth, since that exodus was in fact a kind of new birth; (313) for, whereas they had been buried in Egypt, the liberty given them by God was the beginning of a new life and the rising of a new light. For though their adoption had gone before, yet, since in the mean time it had almost vanished from the hearts of many, it was necessary that they should be in a manner re-begotten, that they might begin to acknowledge more certainly that God was their Father. Wherefore He says in Hosea,
“I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no God but me,” (Hosea 12:9, and Hosea 13:4;)
because He had then especially acquired them to Himself as His peculiar people; and He speaks even more clearly a little before,
“when Israel was a child, then I loved him,
and called my son out of Egypt.” (Hosea 11:1.)
Now, although it was common to the race of Abraham with other nations to begin the year with the month of March; yet in this respect the reason for it was different, for it was only to the elect people that their resurrection was annually put before their eyes. But, up to that time, the Hebrews themselves had begun their year with the month of September, which is called in Chaldee Tisri, and in which many suppose that the world was created; because immediately on its creation the earth produced ripe fruits, so that its fecundity was in perfection. And still there remains among the Jews a twofold manner of dating and counting their years; for, in all matters which relate to the common business of life, they retain the old and natural computation, so that the first month is the beginning of Autumn; but, in religious matters and festivals, they follow the injunctions of Moses; and this is the legal year, beginning nearly with our month of March, (314) yet not precisely, because we have not their ancient embolisms; for, since twelve circuits of the moon would not equal the sun’s course, they were obliged to make an intercalation, lest, in progress of years, an absurd and enormous diversity should arise. Thence it happens that the month Nisan, in which they celebrated the Passover, begins among the Jews sometimes earlier, and sometimes later, according as the intercalation retards it.
(308) Memorial. —Fr.
(309) This paragraph not in French.
(310) Isaiah 31:5 C.’s own translation of the words rendered in our A. V., “passing over he will preserve it,” i.e., Jerusalem, is “transiliens servabit;” that of Bishop Lowth is “leaping forward, and rescuing her.” In his note on the passage, he expresses the opinion that the action described by the word
(312) “Symbolum.” — Lat. “Signe ou Sacrement.” — Fr.
(313) “Une facon de faire renaistre;” a means of bringing about the new birth of the Church. — Fr.
(314) There is a considerable abbreviation of this passage in the French.
3.Speak ye unto all. A question is asked on this passage, why, when one Lamb alone was offered in sacrifice for the reconciliation of the Church, and God was propitiated by the blood of one Christ alone, He should have commanded a lamb to be slain in every house, as if there were to be a special sacrifice for every one apart? The reply is easy; because, although all were protected from destruction by the same blood, and the general rite united them altogether into fellowship in the same expiation, yet still it was not unreasonable that, by that special application, so to speak, God would have every family separately reminded, so as to feel the grace more peculiarly conferred on itself. Thus now-a-days we have all the same baptism, whereby we are ingrafted in common into the body of Christ; yet His baptism is conferred on every individual, that they may more surely acknowledge that they are partakers in the adoption, and therefore members of the Church. God, then, in commanding them to slay a lamb in every house, did not wish to draw away the people to different grounds of hope, but only to shew them in a familiar way, that all houses were under obligation to Him, and that not only the salvation of the whole people ought to be confessed to come from Him, but that His singular blessing ought to shine forth in every family. The cause of his desiring the neighbors to be added if the number of people in one house were not, sufficient to eat the Passover, was that nothing might be left of it; and this amongst others appears to have been the chief reason why the whole lamb was to be consumed, viz., lest they should mix this sacred feast with their daily food, and also lest its dignity should be diminished by appearing in the form of tainted meat. Perhaps, too, God provided this, lest any superstition should creep in from the preservation of the remnants; and therefore commanded the very bones to be burnt.
5.Your lamb shall be without blemish. We shall see elsewhere, that in all their sacrifices prescribed by the Law they were diligently to beware, lest there should be any spot or fault in them; and by this the people were reminded, that the expiation was not legitimate, unless it possessed the utmost perfection, such as is never to be found in men. It is not to be wondered, therefore, that God should now require the Passover to be of one year old, and without blemish, that the Israelites might know that in order to propitiate God, a more excellent price was required than could be discovered in the whole human race; and since such excellency could much less exist in a beast, the celestial perfection and purity of Christ was shewn forth by this visible perfection of the lamb, or kid. It was with reference to this also that; they were commanded to keep it up separate from the rest; of the flock, from the tenth until the fourteenth day of the month. As to God’s will, that the side-posts and lintel should be sprinkled with blood, by this sign He plainly taught them, that the sacrifice would profit none but those who were stained and marked with Christ’s blood; for this sprinkling was equivalent to their bearing each one the mark: of His blood upon their forehead. And, in effect, Christ, by the outpouring of His blood, has not delivered all, but only the faithful, who sanctify themselves with it. That internal sprinkling indeed holds the first place, which Peter teaches us to be effected by the power of the Spirit, (1 Peter 1:2;) yet by this external sign the Israelites were instructed that they could not be protected from God’s wrath, except by holding up against it the shield of the blood. And this corresponds with the lesson learnt above, that the same universal sacrifice was offered particularly in every house, in order that thus its peculiar instruction might affect them more seriously, when generally it would have been uninteresting and ineffectual. I prefer to be ignorant as to why He required the flesh to be roasted and not boiled, rather than to invent such unfounded subtleties, as that Christ was, in a manner, roasted on the Cross. A nearer approach to the truth appears to me to be, that God desired thus to mark their haste, because, when their implements were all packed up, the meat would be more easily roasted on a spit than cooked in the pot. And this also is the tendency of the precept respecting the manner of eating it, in which three things are to be observed, the unleavened bread, the sauce of bitter herbs, and the girded loins, together with the rest of the costume of travelers. Undoubtedly God commanded the bread to be made without leaven on account of their sudden departure, because He would snatch his people out of Egypt, as it were, in a moment; and, therefore, they baked unleavened loaves out of flour hurriedly kneaded. (315) It was required that the remembrance of this should be renewed every year, in order that their posterity might know that their deliverance was afforded them from above, since their fathers hastily took flight without having made any preparation for their journey; for any greater preparation would have thrown some shade upon the divine grace, which shone forth more brightly on account of their want of food. God would have them content with bitter herbs, because hasty travelers, and especially in an enemy’s country, are satisfied without delicacies, and whatever sauce they meet with is very grateful to their taste, nor does its bitterness seem offensive to them, as it does in seasons of abundance and ease. Possibly too they were reminded of their former condition; for under so dire and bitter a tyranny nothing could be sweet or pleasant. But their haste was still more plainly represented by their eating the lamb hurriedly with their shoes on their feet, and their loins girded, and leaning on their staves. Men pass from their suppers to bed and to repose; and therefore the ancients used both to take off their shoes and to lie down to it; but the people’s necessity inverts this order, since they were compelled to fly immediately from their supper. And hence the reason is subjoined, “it is the Lord’s passover;” since they escaped in safety amidst the confusion, and when the sword of God was raging. We must, however, bear in mind what we have already said, that the use of this sacrament was twofold, both to exercise the people in the recollection of their past deliverance, and to nourish in them the hope of future redemption; and therefore the passover not only reminded them of what God had already done for His people, but also of what they were hereafter to expect from Him. Consequently there is no doubt that the Israelites ought to have learnt from this rite that they were redeemed from the tyranny of Egypt on these terms, viz, that a much more excellent salvation still awaited them. But this spiritual mystery was more clearly laid open by the coming of Christ; and therefore Paul, accommodating this, ancient figure to us, commands us, because
“Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” to “keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice, and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
(1 Corinthians 5:7.)
God therefore formerly wished the houses, in which the Passover was celebrated, to be free from all corruption; and far more does it become us now to take care of this, lest the sacrifice wherewith Christ has redeemed us from eternal death, should be polluted by any leaven of wickedness. To the same effect (316) is what follows, warning us lest we should be devoted to the attractions of the world, and lest our course should be delayed by the enticements of pleasure; but that we are pilgrims on earth, and should be ever girt and ready to make haste; and that although the cross of Christ be bitter, yet we should not refuse to taste it.
(315) “N’ayant pas logsir d’avoir du pain ordinaire;” not having time to make ordinary bread —Fr.
(316) “Nous avons aussi a prendre instruction touchant les herbes ameres, et equipages des voyageurs,” etc.; we must also receive instruction from the bitter herbs, and their equipment as travelers. —Fr.
12.For I will pass through the land. This refers to the first passover, the night in which they were to be delivered from Egypt; and God expressly declares that He will be the judge against the false gods, because it then especially appeared how utterly unable they were to help, and how vain and fallacious was their service. The absurd commentary of some of the Rabbins (317) is tame and far-fetched, that the idols should be cast down, because by the single miracle of their redemption, all superstitions were magnificently overturned, and whatsoever men believed about idols was condemned as folly and delusion. God therefore affirms, that he would not only conquer the nation itself, but its very gods. Perhaps Isaiah alludes to this passage when he says,
“Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt; and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence,” (Isaiah 19:1;)
for wherever He has appeared as the Savior of His people, He has asserted His glory in opposition to all impious and corrupt religions.
(317) C. found in S. M. that Onkelos and the Rabbis said the Egyptian idols were laid prostrate. — W.
14.And this day shall be unto you. This is spoken of its annual celebration, which was as well a monument of their exodus as a symbol of their future deliverance. As to its being called a rite, or ordinance for ever, (edictum soeculi,) I admit that by this expression perpetuity is meant, but only such as would exist until the renovation of the Church; and the same explanation will apply to circumcision, as well as to the whole ceremonial of the Law; for although by Christ’s coming it was abolished as concerns its use, yet did it only then attain its true solidity; and therefore the difference between ourselves and the ancient people detracts nothing from this perpetual statute; just in the same way as the new Covenant does not destroy the old in substance, but only in form. A little further on, where he says, “save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you,” verse 18; the meaning is, that they must cease from every work, except the preparation of their day’s food; and this exception is expressly made, that they may not permit themselves to violate their sacred festivals by other business.
15.Whosoever eateth leavened bread. This law specially refers to the keeping of the Passover. God had before forbidden the use of leaven; and He now enacts the punishment to be inflicted, if any should neglect the prohibition, and mingle leaven with the Paschal feast. But it is not without reason that we have postponed to this place what Moses has joined together with the institution of the Passover; for the plan proposed by us demands that the political laws, which sanction God’s worship by the denunciation of punishments, should occupy their peculiar place. From the punishment it appears that, although it may be in itself a trifling matter to abstain from leaven, (as Paul teaches that “bodily exercise profiteth little,” 1 Timothy 4:8,) yet, inasmuch as in this ceremony the redemption of the people was kept in memory, it was a very gross crime not to observe whatever God had prescribed, for we must estimate the importance of the rites of the law from their object. (69)
I have here omitted what Moses has related in the beginning of the chapter up to this verse, because it pertains to the perpetual doctrine of the Law. I shall hereafter insert it in its proper place. But., since here also God gave precepts as to the observation of the Passover, I have thought it right to interweave them with the history; because Moses does not merely teach here what God would have observed by His people in all ages, but relates what He required on a particular occasion. But my readers are to be reminded that some precepts are temporary, and some perpetual, like the Law itself. Of this we may see a clear and familiar example in the chapter before us. For up to this place, Moses had explained what; would be the due observation of the Passover year by year for ever; but now he only relates historically, that, on the night in which the people went forth, they celebrated the Passover according’ to God’s command. I shall, therefore, lightly touch upon what is here repeated; since a more fitting place for a full exposition will be, when we come to the doctrine of the law. The word
21.Then Moses called for all the elders. His address is especially directed to the elders, that they might afterwards repeat it to the multitude; for he could not have been heard at the same time by so great a number of people. But, although the disorganization of the people had been terrible under that severe tyranny, still God willed that certain relics of order should be preserved, and did not suffer those, whom He had adopted, to be deprived of all government. This also had been an availing means of preserving their unity, so that the chosen seed of Abraham should not be lost. But Moses here only speaks of the sprinkling of the blood; because he had already addressed them as to the eating of the lamb. He therefore commands branches of hyssop to be dipped in the blood, which had been caught in the basin, and every one’s lintel and two side-posts to be sprinkled with this. By which sign God testified that He will preserve His people from the common destruction, because they will be discerned from the wicked by the mark of blood. For it was necessary that the Israelites should first be reminded, that by the expiation of the sacrifice, they were delivered from the plague, and their houses preserved untouched; and, secondly, that the sacrifice would profit them, only if its conspicuous sign existed among them. We elsewhere see that the Paschal lamb was a type of Christ, who by His death propitiated His Father, so that we should not perish with the rest of the world. But, already of old time, He desired to bear witness to the ancients under the Law, that He would not be reconciled to them otherwise than through the sacrifice of a victim. And there is no doubt that by this visible symbol He raised up their minds to that true and heavenly Exemplar, whom it would be absurd and profane to separate from the ceremonies of the law. For what could be more childish than to offer the blood of an animal as a protection against the hand of God, or to seek from thence a ground of safety? God, then, shows that He spares the Israelites on no other condition but that of sacrifice; from whence it follows, that the death of Christ was set before them in this ordinance, which alone constituted the difference between them and the Egyptians. But at the same time He taught that no advantage was to be expected from the blood poured forth, without the sprinkling; not that the external and visible sprinkling produced any good effect, but because by this familiar rite it was useful that the ignorant should be brought to perceive the truth, and that they might know that what was put before them Visibly must be spiritually fulfilled. It is notorious from the testimony of Peter, (1 Peter 1:2,) that our souls are sprinkled with the blood of Christ by the Spirit. This was typified by the bunch of hyssop, (141) which herb possesses great cleansing power, and therefore, was often used in other sacrifices also, as we shall hereafter see in the proper places.
(141) There has been much discussion as to the plant to which this name is given. “In no instance,” says the Illustrated Commentary, “has any plant been suggested, that at the same time had a sufficient length of stem, to answer the purpose of a wand or pole, and such detergent qualities, as to render it a fit emblem of purification.” The author himself has no question but. that it was of the genus Phytolacca; which combines, in a remarkable manner, these two qualities. Dr. Royle, however, considers it to have been the caper-plant, (Capparis spinosa,), which possesses another important condition wanting in the Phytolacca, viz., that it still grows in the countries to which it is attributed in Scripture.
23.For the Lord will pass through. He forbids them to go out during the night, lest they should mix themselves with the Egyptians, but commands them to keep quietly under the protection of the blood. By this sign they were admonished that they also were exposed to destruction, if they did not separate themselves from the unbelievers under the safeguard of the blood. Afterwards the promise: is added, that, provided this were done, the angel would pass them over, and inflict no injury upon them, because God would acknowledge the houses so marked as His own. Wherefore, it is again repeated, that they should alone be safe by the blessing of the blood, who should not neglect to sprinkle themselves with it; because faith alone confers upon us the salvation which is obtained by the slaughter of the victim. The angel, whom God had delegated for afflicting Egypt, is here undoubtedly called “the destroyer;” and, although He often executes His judgments by evil angels, it is to be gathered from other passages that this was one of the elect angels, who also was the minister of the people’s deliverance under Christ as the Head.
24.And ye shall observe this thing. He again repeats the precept as to its annual celebration, and expressly says, that, when they have come into the land, the recollection of their deliverance is yearly to be revived by this rite. He adds, however, what he had not before touched upon, that they should also teach their children, since, without the aid of this teaching, it would have been an unmeaning and useless spectacle. For doctrine may justly be called the life of sacraments, without which no rigor remains in them, so far are they from imparting to us any life. Lest, then, the passover should be a lifeless ceremony, God in this place enjoins that it shall not be mute; for in these words, “when your children shall say unto you,” Moses does not mean that they are to wait until their children make inquiry of their own accord, and anticipate the zeal of their parents; but he only indicates the age when they are capable of being taught. Yet, at the same time, he indirectly exhorts the children to teachableness, when their age admits of their understanding what the passover signifies, and enjoins them diligently to inquire into the use of the ceremony; that thus religion may be handed down, and may ever flourish amongst the people. Since, then, the Paschal Lamb corresponds with the Holy Supper, we may gather from hence, that none can be duly admitted to receive it, but those who are capable of being taught.
25.When ye come into the land. He now adds that this rite must be annually observed, in order that the memory of this extraordinary grace might never perish. But since a commandment is given respecting the continual observation (142) of the Sabbath, I postpone its explanation to a more appropriate place; except I would cursorily remark, that the proclamation of the blessing is annexed to the sign; because otherwise it would be an empty and unmeaning proceeding. God, therefore, would have the fathers proclaim it unto their children, so that the knowledge of their redemption, being handed down by tradition, may flourish in all ages. The word
(142) The word “Sabbath,” which is not translated in the French, is probably an accidental interpolation.
29.And it came to pass, that at midnight. Lest the hand of God should be hidden in this miracle, as well in the preservation of the people as in taking vengeance upon the Egyptians, Moses sets forth its power by many circumstances. For he both relates that the destruction took place at midnight, which was the time prescribed by God, and then adds, that all the first-born of the land were smitten, from the son of the king to the son of the captive in the dungeon. It is thus that he indicates proverbially the most abject persons, as he had said before, “unto the first-born of the maidservant that is behind the mill.” For it could only be by an extraordinary miracle that this calamity could affect every house without exception, at the same hour, especially when it extended even to the beasts. Thirdly, he recounts that all the Egyptians were aroused suddenly, and manifestly convinced that the God of Israel was wroth with them. Fourthly, that Pharaoh humbly prayed of Moses to lead forth the people in haste; nay, that he even importunately thrust them out. Yet not even by such clear and solid proofs has the dishonesty and impudence of some been prevented from attempting to upset by their falsehoods this memorable work of God. The calumnies are too well known which Josephus refutes in his reply to Apion the Grammarian; and it appears from Justin (144) that they were generally received. Nor can we wonder that the devil should have employed all sorts of artifices, so that by the introduction of various fables he might efface from men’s minds the redemption of the Church. But here also was manifested the admirable wisdom of God, that the futility of these absurdities refutes itself, without the use of any arguments against them. Perhaps there was no intention to deceive on the part of profane writers, when they reported these frivolous and silly stories about the Jews; for doubtless Strabo (145) desired to give the true history of the origin of circumcision when he wrote his foolish and unfounded fables. Nor did even Cornelius Tacitus, (146) although he wrote with malignant and virulent feelings, intentionally put himself to shame; but when by the impulse of Satan they obscured God’s glory, they were smitten with blindness and folly, so that their ridiculous want of truth might be discovered even by children; from whence, however, some sparks of fact may still be elicited, because God would not suffer so memorable an operation to be altogether forgotten, of which these blind men were the proclaimers, when the devil was using their aid to obliterate its memory.
(144) Vide Justini Hist., lib. 36 cap. 2.
(145) Vide Strabonis Geog., lib. 17
(146) C. Tacit. Hist., 5:3, 4.
31.And he called for Moses. It is not probable that God’s servants were recalled into the presence of Pharaoh; but the sense of this passage must be sought for in the prediction of Moses. Pharaoh, therefore, is said to have called them, when, by sending to them his chief courtiers, he compelled their departure. And this is sufficiently proved by the context, because it is immediately added, that the Israelites were by the Egyptians compelled to go out: in haste. Therefore, although Pharaoh never should have seen Moses from the time that he threatened him with death if he came to him again, there is nothing absurd in saying that he called for him when he sent his nobles to him with his command. The perturbation of an alarmed and anxious person is expressed to the life in these words, — “Rise up, get you forth, both ye and your children; go, serve the Lord; also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said.” For he takes no less precaution lest he should give any occasion for delay, than he had before been diligent in bargaining. Whilst, then, he hastily cuts off all objections, the change in the man betrays itself, for the same God who had before hardened his iron heart has now broken it. Hence, too, that cry — the signal of despair — “We be all dead men;” hence, too, their readiness to give willingly of their substance, and to dress up in spoils those whom they had pillaged before. Nor indeed does he without reason repeat that this favor proceeded from divine inspiration, since there would never have been such liberality in robbers as willingly to proffer whatever precious things their houses possessed, and to give them to the Israelites, now ready to depart, whom they knew to be justly hostile to them on account of so many injuries. And that the children of Israel should be so prompt to obey, who before had been either slow, or inconstant, or sullen, or rebellious, was brought about by the guidance of the Spirit, who turned their hearts in a moment; since God well knew how to dispose opportunely all the springs of action.
37.And the children of Israel journeyed. Although it is probable that they were more widely dispersed, since that district could not have contained so great a multitude, especially when the Egyptians occupied it together with them; still because the recollection of the promise remained among them, from whence some hope of their redemption always was preserved, it is not wonderful that they should have preferred to be kept within narrow bounds, to their great inconvenience, rather than, by seeking other habitations, to separate from the main body. That this was the peculiar abode of the nation is plain also from what has gone before, where Moses related that they were forced to servile tasks in building those fortified cities wherein they might be shut up, as in prison. In the number of men which he reports, he commends the incredible miracle of God’s favor in increasing and multiplying their race. Thus is the effrontery of the impious refuted who think it a sufficient ground for their sneers, that this great people could not in so short a time have naturally proceeded from a single family; and therefore they burst out into unrestrained and blasphemous laughter, as if Moses were simply relating what had happened, and not rather extolling the extraordinary power of God in the sudden increase of His Church. But we know that it was no more a matter of difficulty for the Creator of the whole world to exceed the ordinary course of nature, in the multiplication of a particular nation, than at the beginning to produce speedily many people from one man and woman; and again, after the deluge, to renew the human race by a miraculous augmentation. Now, this is the peculiar character of the Church, that in producing and preserving it, God exerts unusual power, that it may be separated from the common condition of mankind; for although it sojourns on earth, yet is its nature in a manner heavenly, that the work of God may shine forth more brightly in it. No wonder then if, contrary to usual custom, it should emerge, as it were, from nothing, if it grows in the same way and makes continual progress. Such an example does Paul set before us in Romans 4:0., in the person of Abraham. But whilst the impious despisers of God betray their stupidity in their wicked audacity, when they estimate this work of God by their own senses and by common reason, so, too, do they foolishly err who attempt to defend Moses by philosophical arguments; for his intention was very different, viz., to show that the promises were not unfulfilled, “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore,” (Genesis 22:17, and Genesis 12:2, and Genesis 15:5,) the effect of which promises was beyond human comprehension.
38.And a mixed multitude. Although Abraham possessed many servants, yet is it scarcely probable that in the famine Jacob maintained any other persons in his family besides his own children, whom he could hardly so sustain as to preserve them from dying of hunger. And since Moses, in relating their coming into Egypt, does not mention any servants, we may conjecture that they brought no great number, because necessity compelled them to be content at any rate with a few. From hence we gather that the mixed multitude, which united themselves with the Israelites, were either the offspring of Egypt, or had migrated from the neighboring countries to take up their habitation there; as fertile lands often attract many strangers to them by the pleasures of abundance. The same expression is used in Nehemiah 13:3, where it is said that “the mixed multitude” was separated from the true Israelites, lest all should promiscuously arrogate to themselves the same dignity, and, thus the Church should be polluted by a confused admixture, But if any should think it absurd that ungodly men, with no better hope before them, would voluntarily forsake a rich and convenient habitation in order to seek a new home as wanderers and pilgrims, let him recollect that Egypt had now been afflicted by so many calamities that by its very poverty and devastation it might easily have driven away its inhabitants. A great part of the cattle had perished; all the fruits of the earth were corrupted; the fields were ravaged and almost desert; we need not, therefore, wonder if despair should have caused many sojourners to fly away, and even some of the natives themselves. It may be also that, having been inhumanly treated, they shook off the yoke of tyranny when a way to liberty was opened to them.
But although God gave His people a ready departure, still He did not choose to let them go out altogether without any inconvenience; for they go not out satiated with food, nor having delicately supped, but are compelled to carry in their bags unbaked masses of dough, that they may eat bread burned or toasted on the embers in their journey. By this example we are taught that God’s blessings are always mingled with certain inconveniences, lest too great delight should corrupt the minds of the godly.
40.Now the sojourning of the children of Israel. The beginning of this period is not reckoned from the coming down of Jacob, for it is very clear from other passages, that, from the time that Jacob entered into Egypt to the Exodus, not more than 230 years at most had passed. (147) The Jews generally only reckon 210; but Moses includes also the period during which Abraham and his children were not in possession of the promised land. The meaning therefore is, that from the time that the inheritance of the land of Canaan was given to Abraham, the promise was suspended for 400, years before his posterity enjoyed their right. For Paul also thus explains this difficulty, (Galatians 3:17,) where he says, that God had confirmed his covenant with Abraham 430 years before the law was promulgated. Moses, therefore, dates the commencement of this period from the sojourning of Abraham, when he was still the lord of the land of Canaan by the just title of donation. With respect to the omission of the thirty years in the 15th chapter of Genesis, in this there is no contradiction, because the land had already been promised to Abraham some years previously, though, so far from obtaining dominion over it, he had scarcely been permitted to occupy it as “a stranger.” Therefore God apprizes him, that 400 years still remained before he would put his descendants into possession of it; and, consequently, that the little time which had elapsed was not sufficient for the trial of his patience, but that both for himself and for his posterity there was need of extraordinary endurance, lest they should faint under the weariness of the long delay. Moreover, there is no departure from the usual manner of speaking, in His not exactly reckoning the number of years. More than 400 years, some twenty, or thereabouts, indeed, remained; but, since God had no other object than to exhort His people to patience, He does not accurately compute or define the exact number of years, because it was sufficient to put before them 400 years in a round sum. In the same way, it is added in the next verse, “at the end of 430 years,” viz., from the time that Abraham had begun to be the legitimate lord of the land; for Moses wished to show, that although God had long delayed the fulfillment of His promise, still His truth and faithfulness were certainly proved, not only because He had precisely performed what He had proraised, but because He had observed the: foreappointed time. He calls the people, weak as they were, by an honorable title, “the hosts of the Lord,” both to enforce again the power of God’s blessing, and to give due honor to His grace in ruling and marshalling so confused a band. Although soldiers may be accustomed to obedience, and have learnt from exercise to keep their ranks; although they may have generals, commandants, and captains, and banners also under which to range themselves, still it is a very difficult thing to march an army of 20,000, or 30,000 men by night without. confusion, and in good order; how great a miracle was it, then, for 600,000 men, with women and children, much baggage, herds, and flocks, and other encumbrances, to pass by night through the midst of enemies, and all to escape safely without a single exception! To the same effect, Moses repeats in the last verse of this chapter, that “the Lord did bring the children of Israel out — by their armies,” as much as to say, that there was no confusion in that immense multitude; since God performed the part of an incomparable Leader in His marvelous power.
(147) This sentence is omitted in the French. The Latin is, “Hebraei communiter tantum decem recensent.” A reference, however, to R. Sal. Jarchi explains it, “you will find, (he says,) that from the arrival of the Israelites in Egypt to the time of their departure, was 210 years.” —In loco. Compare the LXX.
42.It is a night to be much observed. He shows that the Israelites have good cause for sacrificing to God with a solemn ceremony year by year for ever, and for celebrating the memory of that night; and that the Passover was instituted in token of their gratitude. But this admonition was very useful, in order that the Israelites should retain the legitimate use of this solemn feast-day, and that it might not grow into a mere cold ceremony, as is often the case; but that rather they might profitably, and to the advancement of their piety, exercise themselves in this emblem of their redemption. At the same time, he teaches that this so inestimable a benefit was not to be celebrated in one, or two, or three generations, but that as long as the people should remain it was worthy of eternal remembrance, and that it might never be forgotten, the Passover was to be sacredly observed.
Moreover we must remark, that the generations of the ancient people were brought to an end by the coming of Christ; because the shadows of the Law ceased when the state of the Church was renewed, and the Gentiles were gathered into the same body.
43.This is the ordinance of the passover. Since the passover was the sacred bond whereby God would hold the elect people in obligation to Himself, He forbids all strangers from partaking of it; because a promiscuous permission to eat of it would have been an unworthy profanation. And in fact, since this is a supplement to the First Commandment, it only addresses itself to those unto whom is directed the preface of the Law, “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.” We know that among the Gentiles none but the initiated (318) were admitted to their sacred rites. This was an absurd imitation (319) of this true and lawful ordinance; because such a condition is only applicable to the institution of God, lest strangers should promiscuously usurp the testimonies of His grace, with which He honors His Church alone. For circumcision was then like a hedge, which should distinguish heathen nations from the holy race of Abraham; if, then, any should wish to celebrate the passover together with the elect people, it was necessary that he should be circumcised, so as to attach himself to the true God; though God did not merely refer to the outward sign, but to the object, viz., that all who were circumcised should promise to study sincere piety. Moses, therefore, first of all, excludes all strangers who were unclean through their uncircumcision; and then he adds two exceptions, viz., that servants bought with money should be circumcised, (which was a necessary requirement;) and that free and independent persons, if they chose to embrace the same alternative, should also be received to the passover. Hence it appears that this rite was not only peculiar to God’s people, but that it was a sign of the future redemption. For strangers could not testify that they were sharers in that redemption which had been promised to the race of Abraham alone; and, therefore, the ceremony of the sacred feast would have been vain and useless to them. Nor does Moses refer only to that mixed multitude which had followed the Israelites out of Egypt; but prescribes a law respecting all strangers, who for many succeeding ages should come on business into the land. No doubt but that, in celebrating the passover, they would have expected another redemption; since that which was already vouchsafed to the children of Abraham had not extended to them. For although they might be reckoned among the people, yet did no portion of the land in consequence fall to their lot, nor was their condition improved as to temporal rights; (320) but it was only that they might become members of the Church. From the analogy between the Holy Supper and the Passover, this law remains in force now, viz., that no polluted or impure person should intrude himself at the Lord’s table, but that only the faithful should be received, after they have professed themselves to be followers of Christ. (321) And this is expressed also in the words, “One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger,” etc., Exodus 12:49; viz., that the ordinance of the sacrament should be solemnly observed by all, and that thus they should equally participate in the grace offered to them in common, and that in this respect the condition of all should be equal, though it differed as to their inheritance of the land.
(318) “Ceux qui y estoyent sollennellement introduits, et comme emmatriculez;” those who had been solemnly introduced to them, and as it were, matriculated. — Fr.
(319) “Vray est que cela n’a este qu’une singerie: mais tant y a que le diable a voulu contrefaire ce qui est du vray ordre et legitime, lequel doit estre observe en tous sacremens, c’est puis qu’ils sont tesmoinages de la grace speciale de Dieu envers son Eglise, qu’on ne les doit pas prostituer a tons venans;” it is true that this was but a monkey-like imitation; but whilst the devil has thus wished to counterfeit the true and legitimate, order, which should be preserved in all sacraments, it is because they are the testimonies of the special favor of God to His Church, that they must not be prostituted to all comers. — Fr.
(320) Omitted in the French.
(321) “Fait protestation de leur roy et Chrestiente;” made open profession of their faith and Christianity. — Fr.
46.Neither shall ye break a bone thereof. I am not certain why God desired no bone to be broken; unless that this might also be a sign of haste; because people at table seldom partake of the marrow, unless when their entertainment is protracted. For I fear there is too much subtlety in the explanation which some give, that the virtue of Christ, which is represented by the bones, is not diminished whilst we feed on His flesh. But the former opinion which I have glanced at above, as it is the simplest, so also it is by no means unsuitable here; that they were commanded, when they were standing in readiness for their journey, and eating hurriedly, to burn the bones in order to prevent all delay. What God commanded as to the lamb, He chose to have openly fulfilled in the person of His only-begotten Son; that the truth corresponding with its type, and the substance with its shadow, might shew that God would be reconciled to His people by no other blood than Christ’s. Whence it is again clear that the ancients under the Law were instructed by the Paschal Lamb as to the future redemption, for otherwise this passage could not have been properly accommodated to Christ. But when the Evangelist quotes it, (John 19:33,) he takes it for granted that thus was typically shewn what God would bestow by His Son. Hence it came to pass that He was distinguished by this visible mark, which proved Him to be the true Passover. But, in order that no bone of Christ’s should be broken, God’s providence wonderfully interfered. The soldiers were commanded to hasten the death of Christ, no less than that of the robbers, by breaking their bones. They execute their intention on the robbers, but lest they should attempt the same on Christ, it is certain that they were restrained by a divine power, so that the wholeness of His bones might be a presage of the approaching redemption.
50.Thus did all the children of Israel. This chiefly refers to the slaying of the Paschal lamb with its adjuncts, although I do not deny that allusion is also made to the other circumstances attending their sudden departure. But it is not so much their promptitude and alacrity which are praised, as the wondrous power of God in fashioning their hearts, and directing their hands, so that, in the darkness of the night, amidst the greatest disturbances, in precipitate haste, with nothing well prepared, they were so active and dexterous. Meanwhile, Moses concludes, from the obedience of the people, that nothing was done without the command and guidance of God; from whence it is more clearly manifest that He was the sole author of their deliverance.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Exodus 12". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany