Lectionary Calendar
Monday, March 4th, 2024
the Third Week of Lent
There are 27 days til Easter!
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Exodus 12

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 2


‘This month shall be … the first month of the year to you.’

Exodus 12:2

Egypt behind—Sinai before—Canaan beyond—this is the exact account of the position of Israel when God said to him, ‘This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.’ Redemption was the starting point of the new: from it all that follows shall take a new character, a new life.

The text is chosen, all will understand, not with a view to historical retrospects, but to the circumstances of this day, and of this congregation—kept alive by Him who created, to take part in the public worship of the first Sunday of a new year. ‘This shall be to you the beginning of months: the first month of the year to you.’

I. The idea of a new start is naturally attractive to all of us.—We are fatigued, we are wearied, we are dissatisfied, and justly so, with the time past of our lives. O for a gift of amnesty and of oblivion! O for some one to say to us, ‘The past is gone and done with—nothing shall come back from it to scare, to encumber, or to accuse,—God and man have agreed together to bury it in the earth, to drown it in the depths of the sea!’ Let us have a ‘beginning of months’ once again; let this be indeed ‘the first month’ of a second first year!

There are senses, indeed, in which this is impossible. The continuity of life cannot be broken. Neither lapse of time, nor division of time; neither transition from childhood to youth, nor from youth to uttermost age; neither change of place, nor change of position, nor change of circumstance, nor change of companionship; neither joy nor sorrow; neither prosperity nor disappointment; neither pain nor love (the two most powerful factors in man’s life) can snap in twain the unity of this being, or make me, save for a few rare and fallacious moments, so much as dream that I am not the thing I was. When any accidental evidence comes to me out of the past—the sight of an old letter, to me or from me—the greeting of a former schoolfellow, unseen for twenty or thirty years—I start as I recognise my present self in the mirror of that past—the same ‘mixture of a man’—the same good points, whether of mind or heart, which I hoped were new—the same bad points, whether of feeling or character, which I flattered myself were the creatures of circumstance, recent, accidental, evanescent. I seem to understand—and it is no pleasant discovery—in such confrontings of the old self and the new, how it is that Scripture is able to fix that character which to us appears ever dissolving—how it may be possible for God in the great day, without witnesses, without a jury, to judge a man as one thing all along, all through, and not many—even to write his epitaph, as He has done for so many in the pages of His Book—‘He did that which was good,’ or, ‘He did that which was evil,’ ‘in the sight of the Lord’—his name, and his mother’s name, and his birth, and his burial!

There is a continuity, a unity, an identity, which annihilation only—nay, not annihilation—could destroy. And there are those who overlook this—deal too lightly, too flippantly, with this re-beginning which is our text—are startled, almost angry, if they find the Israel of Sinai bewraying by his murmurings his identity with the Israel of Egypt’s flesh-pots, or the Israel of Canaan itself dwelling contentedly amidst ‘abominable idolatries’ which he was commissioned and charged and set there to exterminate. Against this false teaching we must earnestly warn such as will hearken. It will come to us, most often, in the garb of evangelical doctrine, true and scriptural and salutary in its principle—wrong only, yet most wrong, in its inferences and its corollaries.

II. ‘The beginning of months’ is made so by an Exodus.—The Passover, the sprinkling of sacrificial blood, the faith thus evidenced, the part thus taken, the choice thus made, the lot thus cast in with God and His people as against Egypt and its ‘pleasures of sin for a season’—this was the starting-point. Brethren, it is so still. Redemption, the Redemption of the world—undertaken as at this season, completed on Calvary, by our Lord Jesus Christ—this is the groundwork of the new life. It is no re-commencement of the life to write a new year in our books or on our letters. This is indeed a change marked in sand, written in water—a mere name, a mere fancy, if we treat it as anything but just a signal or symbol of God’s call and of our duty. We waken in the new as we slept in the old. This is nothing. If there be in any of us a real desire for change—for a life different in kind from the former—for a life higher, nobler, purer, more real, more consistent, more spiritual—plant your foot firmly upon redemption. See the Paschal Lamb bearing the sins of the world. Behold Him, Divine and Human, undertaking to deliver man, coming into the world to save sinners, making atonement for us, opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers. View the enterprise in this large, bold, broad way. Believe that it was successful. Believe that your sins were there. See God, your Father, in His Son Jesus Christ: and doubt not that He who spared not Him will spare nothing else that is good.

Dean Vaughan.


(1) ‘There is nothing so great, nothing so supreme for thought now, as the coming, in our wrong-doing world, of that kingdom of Christ which holy men from the beginning of time have looked forward to. And, as we enter on another year, when new and gigantic developments of the working of evil sound alarm, prayer is what the Spirit is pressing on us.’

(2)‘Charge not thyself with the weight of the year,

Child of the Master, faithful and dear.

Choose not the cross for the coming week,

For that is more than He bids thee seek.

Bend not the arms for to-morrow’s load:

Thou may’st leave that to thy gracious God,

“Daily” only He saith to thee.

“Take up thy cross and follow Me.” ’

(3) ‘God is the ruler of time. We do not invent years and months and weeks. These are really, when searched into, the creations and appointments of the Divine Power. New days are new opportunities. New days enable us to forget the evil of all yesterdays. Consider the dawning year in this light, and the opening day. The true birthday of a man is the day on which his soul was born into a purer and nobler life. A birthday may be determined by a vow. The birthday of the body is the poorest of all anniversaries. When the great idea entered the mind, inspiring and ennobling it, and filling it with Divine enthusiasm, the man was truly born. We are entitled to date our existence from our regeneration, otherwise our memory might become an intolerable torment. Regeneration destroys the recollections of remorse. Man is breaking a Divine ordinance when he goes beyond the day of his re-creation, and insists upon making alive again all the iniquities that corrupted and degraded his earliest life. Beautiful is the word beginning. It is one of the first words in the Bible. God Himself alone could have invented that word. It is a dewy term; it is tender with the brightness of morning; it is beautiful with the bloom of Heaven; a very holy and most helpful word. Blessed is the man who knows he has begun his life again, and who can confidently date his best existence from a point in time which separates him from every evil and accusing memory.’

(4) ‘It is a good thing for us to keep up such anniversaries as affect us as a people, or as households, or as believers in Jesus Christ. “He clung,” says the biographer of Baron Bunsen, “with affection to signs and seasons, and days and years, though not to the extent that would have degenerated into superstition; a date once marked by an event for good seemed to him a point round which all that was good and desirable might cluster for ever.” ’

Verses 22-23


‘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,’ etc.

Exodus 12:22-23

The night of the Passover was ‘a night much to be remembered.’ Wherever a Jew exists it is to this night he points, as the proudest epoch in his people’s history. The feast of the Passover is full of typical meaning. Notice, first, that this was a little judgment day. The children of Israel were to be delivered by a direct visitation of God. There are three great truths brought out in this narrative.

I. The universality of condemnation.—God was going to save the Israelites, but before He saved them He must condemn them. He sent Moses with a message couched in the language of symbol, which clearly showed that the Israelites were guilty no less than the Egyptians. The lamb was to be the representative of the firstborn son, who must die for the sins of his family. The Israelite and the Egyptian are brought under one common charge of guilt, and there they all stand, ‘condemned already.’

II. The great truth of substitution.—God sends Moses to His people and bids them choose ‘for every family a lamb.’ The lamb was instead of the firstborn. Christ is the ‘Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.’

III. The third truth taught is appropriation.—The Israelite would not have been safe if he had merely killed the lamb; he had to sprinkle its blood on the lintel and on the two sideposts. When we repose our confidence in the Person of Christ, we have taken the bunch of hyssop and dipped it in the blood, and from that moment we are safe.

—Canon Hay Aitken.


(1) ‘The Passover-feast, kept as a united national act of obedience, was the first act of the independent and free nation; organised under Jehovah, their invisible king. Observe that the national history dates from a Divine deliverance; as we date from the coming to earth of our Incarnate Saviour. Get illustrations of the atonement of the Lord Jesus from the Passover. Work out the following points:—(1) The victim it provides. (2) The sacrifice it requires. (3) The duty it enjoins (ver. 7). (4) The spirit it demands. (5) The peril it averts. (6) The extent it contemplates.’

(2) ‘The paschal lamb being without blemish fitly shadowed forth the perfection of His character; its age, how He was to be cut off in the flower of His days; the charge not to break its bones, represents literally what took place in our Lord’s case; and the charge to roast it with fire is a foreshadowing of the severity of His sufferings, while the bitter herbs with which it was to be eaten tells of the sorrow for sin with which it behoves us to receive the Saviour; and the eating itself, and the sprinkling of the blood, are indications of the appropriation which we need to make of Him by faith in order that we may live by Him, and of the necessity of having His blood applied to our hearts and consciences in order that it may cleanse us from all sin. The whole speaks of Christ, and is meaningless except as it speaks of Him.’

(3) ‘None but the circumcised could partake. O! my soul, hast thou put off from thee the filthiness of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, so only canst thou be sure of having a right to the body and blood of the Lamb.’

Verse 43


‘This is the ordinance of the passover.’

Exodus 12:43

Between the announcement of the closing plague and the night of its actual accomplishment, a considerable interval must have elapsed. Time was given, in the wise delay of God, for the widespread preparations that were necessary; a last opportunity was afforded Pharaoh to realise the awful consequences of his obstinacy; and Moses was instructed, in this lull before the storm, how to celebrate the Passover Feast, so that it should not only answer the purpose of the moment, but be a witness to succeeding generations. What, then, was to be the manner of this feast? It was to be a feast, not of leisure, but of haste. It was not to be eaten at ease and with happy lingering; men were not to be dressed as if for some quiet repast. Loins must be girded, shoes must be on the feet, the hand of every man must grasp a staff; it was a feast of expectancy and eagerness; of men on the point of starting on a journey. Everyone knows what the feast itself consisted of—it was a lamb without blemish, a male of the first year. The lamb was to be roasted with fire, and unleavened bread was to be prepared, then with the unleavened bread and bitter herbs it was to be eaten. But first, the blood of the lamb was to be gathered in a basin, and with that blood the doorposts and the lintels of every house which sheltered a family of Israelites was to be sprinkled.

I. Such, then, were the directions of Moses, and they were loyally and literally obeyed. From north to south, wherever the Hebrews dwelt, all things were ready on the fateful night. A deepening sense of doom spread over Egypt, a growing certainty of deliverance stirred in Israel; everything pointed to the striking of an hour when the arm of Almighty God would be revealed. And as before a storm there is often an ominous hush, and Nature seems conscious of impending ruin, so was it in the doomed country of the Pharaoh. At midnight on the fourteenth of Nisam the blow fell. In the palace, in the lonely cottage, in the prison-cell, wherever there was a bloodless lintel there was death. And such a cry arose of agony and heartbreak as rang in the Hebrews’ ears for many a day. To the Egyptians it was a cry of woe; but to the Israelites it was the call of freedom—what strange diversities of meaning God can bring out of the accents of a single voice! The wail that spoke of desolated homes spoke also of release from bitter hardship. For Pharaoh rose up in the night with all his servants, and he called for Moses and Aaron there and then. He said, ‘Rise up, get you forth from among my people, and go, serve the Lord as ye have said.’ So on the early dawn of the fifteenth day of Nisam the children of Israel started on the journey of which they had dreamed through many a weary day, but which was to be so different from their dream.

II. There were both safety and sustenance in the lamb.—On the night of the Passover God commanded the Israelites that none of them should stir beyond the door. Outside—in the street—there was no promise of protection; inside, they were absolutely safe. Now why was that? Was it lest in the darkness the angel of destruction might misknow them? Not so; it was that all might learn that nowhere was there safety but behind the blood. And what was that blood that was sprinkled on the doorposts? It was the blood of the lamb that had been slain. And what was the flesh that the waiting people fed on? It was the flesh of that same lamb whose blood was sprinkled. So through the one lamb they were redeemed from death, and sustained for the labours and trials of their journey. Is not that true also of the Lamb of God?—a name that immediately recalls this scene. He does not merely redeem us and then leave us. He saves us and He satisfies us too. Sprinkled with His blood we fear no destroying angel; fed with His flesh we are strong to take our journey:—

Bread of Heaven, on Thee we feed,

For Thy flesh is Meat indeed.

III. We should make a study of the Lamb as it occurs in Scripture.—In that parable and picture of the Saviour, there is a widening and expanding glory. First, we have the lamb for the individual, when Abel offered the firstlings of his flock. Then here, in the story of the Passover, we have an instance of the lamb for the family. In a later chapter ( Exodus 29:38-39) we meet with the lamb for the people; in the words of the Baptist we have the Lamb for the world; and the glorious expansion reaches its greatest in Revelation ( Revelation 7:14) where we find the Lamb for all heaven.


(1) ‘Let me be sure that I have clear conceptions of Christ my Passover. If one should ask me what meanings I attach to Him and to His work and redemption, I would have a definite answer to return.

And let me ring out my joy in Christ my Passover. A greater deliverance than the exodus from Egypt He has wrought for me. How cowardly it is, how sinful, to be silent regarding His mighty deeds! Nay, come and hear, children, friends, neighbours, all; and I will tell what He has done, and is doing, and will continue to do for ever and ever.’

(2) ‘Is it not well for me to recall the years of the right hand of the Most High? Is it not wise to remember my Lord’s mighty doings in the past? “It is a night to be much observed.”

The God of those who went before me was a living God. People question to-day whether there is any Maker and Governor of the world. But my fathers, for whom He did great things, were sure of Him, and would have doubted their own personality sooner than doubt His. They bid me believe and be persuaded that He lives.

And the God of the ancient saints was an accessible God. In their hours of need they spoke to Him, spoke simply and fervently and every day. And they were confident that He answered them; they had innumerable convincing proofs of it.

And the God of my progenitors was a promise-keeping God. They leaned on His engagements. They pleaded them at His throne. They ensnared and enmeshed Him in His own words, as Luther says the Syrophenician mother entangled Christ. And soon He rose from His place; He girt His Church with strength and beauty. So I am rebuked for fainting on the day of adversity; I am sent on my way with a merry heart.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Exodus 12". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/exodus-12.html. 1876.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile