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FIRST INSTITUTION OF THE PASSOVER.
THE INSTITUTION OF THE PASSOVER AND THE REASONS FOR IT.—In the interval allowed by God, according to the precedent of former announced plagues, between the warning concerning the first-born and the execution, Moses received instructions for the institution of a new religious rite, founded possibly upon some previous national usage, but so re-shaped, re-cast, and remodelled as to have an entirely new and fresh character. In all Eastern nations, the coming in of spring was observed as a jocund and festive time, with offerings, processions, and songs of rejoicings. When the date of the vernal equinox was known, it was naturally made the starting-point for these festivities. Early flowers and fruits, the fresh ears of the most forward kinds of grain, or the grain itself extracted from the ears, were presented as thank-offerings in the temples; hymns were sung, and acknowledgments made of God's goodness. Such a festival was celebrated each year in Egypt; and it is so consonant to man's natural feelings, that, if the family of Jacob did not bring the observance with them from Palestine, they are likely to have adopted it, when they became to some extent agriculturists (Deuteronomy 11:10) under the Pharaohs. It is, however, a pure conjecture (Ewald) that the name given to this festival was Pesach, from the sun's "passing over" at this time into the sign of Aries. The real name is unknown, and there is every, reason to believe that the term Pesach was now for the first time given a religious sense (upon the ground noticed in Exodus 12:11, Exodus 12:12) to what was in reality a new rite. God, being about to smite with death the first-born in each Egyptian house, required the Israelites to save themselves by means of a sacrifice. Each Israelite householder was to select a lamb (or a kid) on the tenth day of the current month (Exodus 12:3), and to keep it separate from the flock until the fourteenth day at even, when he was to kill it, to dip some hyssop in the blood (Exodus 12:22) and to strike with the hyssop on the two posts and lintel of his doorway (Exodus 12:7), so leaving the mark of the blood on it. He was then the same night to roast the lamb whole, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8-10). He was to have his dress close girt about him, his sandals on his feet, and his staff in his hand; to be prepared, that is, for a journey. If he did all this, God, when he went through the land to smite and destroy, would "pass over" the house upon which there was the blood, and spare all that dwelt in it. Otherwise the plague would be upon them to destroy them (Exodus 12:11, Exodus 12:13). Such were the directions given for immediate observance, and such was the Passover proper. The lamb itself was primarily the Pesach (Exodus 12:11), the "pass," which secured safety. From this the name spread to the entire festival. Having, by the directions recorded in Exodus 12:3-13 instituted the festival, God proceeded, in Exodus 12:14-20, to require its continued celebration year after year, and to give additional rules as to the mode of its annual observance.
1. The festival was to last seven days.
2. No leavened bread was to be eaten during that space, and leaven was even to be put away altogether out of all houses.
3. On the first day of the seven and on the last, there was to be "a holy convocation" or gathering for worship.
4. No work not strictly necessary was to Be done on these days.
Other directions were given at a later date.
1. Besides the Paschal lamb, with which the festival commenced, and which was to be a domestic rite, public sacrifices were appointed for each day of the seven—to consist of two young bullocks, one ram, seven lambs, and one goat, with appropriate "meat-offerings" (Numbers 28:19-24).
2. On the second day of the feast, "the morrow after the sabbath," the first fruits of the harvest were to be presented in the shape of a ripe sheaf (of barley) which was to be a wave-offering, and to be accompanied by the sacrifice of a lamb with meat and drink offerings (Leviticus 23:10-14). By this regulation the festival was made to embody the old spring feast, and to have thus a double aspect.
The Lord spake.—According to the Biblical record, neither Moses nor Aaron introduced any legislation of their own, either at this time or later. The whole system, religious, political, and ecclesiastical, was received by Divine Revelation, commanded by God, and merely established by the agency of the two brothers. In the land of Egypt. The introduction of these words seems to show that we have here a separate document on the subject of the Passover, written independently of what has preceded, some time after the exodus, and placed here without alteration, when Moses gathered together his various writings into a single work.
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months. The Israelite year would seem to have hitherto commenced with the autumnal equinox (Exodus 23:16), or at any rate with the month Tisri (or Ethanim), which corresponded to our October. Henceforth two reckonings were employed, one for sacred, the other for civil purposes, the first month of each year, sacred or civil, being the seventh month of the other. Abib, "the month of ears"—our April, nearly—became now the first month of the ecclesiastical year, while Tisri became its seventh or sabbatical month. It is remarkable that neither the Egyptians nor the Babylonians agreed with the original Israelite practice, the Egyptians commencing their year with Thoth, or July; and the Babylonians and Assyrians theirs with Nisannu, or April.
Speak ye unto all the congregation. Under the existing circumstances Moses could only venture to summon the elders of Israel to a meeting. He necessarily left it to them to signify his wishes to the people. (See Exodus 12:21.) A lamb. The Hebrew word is one of much wider meaning than our "lamb." It is applicable to both sheep and goats, and to either animal without limit of age, In the present case the age was fixed at a year by subsequent enactment (Exodus 12:5); but the offerer was left free with respect to the species. It is curious that, such being the case, the lamb alone should, so far as appears, ever have been offered. According to the house of their fathers. Literally, "for a father's house," i.e. for a family.
If the household be too little for the lamb—i.e; "too few to consume it at a sitting." Usage in course of time fixed the minimum number at ten. (Joseph. Bell. Jude 1:6Jude 1:6.9, § 3.) The whole family, men, women and children participated. The lamb was generally slain between the ninth hour (3 p.m.) and the eleventh (5 p.m.). Let him and his neighbour take it according to the number of the souls. If there were a household of only five, which could not possibly consume the lamb, any large neighbouring family was to send five or six of its number, to make up the deficiency. Every man according to his eating, etc. It is difficult to see what sense our translators intended. The real direction is that, in providing a proper number of guests, consideration should be had of the amount which they would be likely to eat. Children and the very aged were not to be reckoned as if they were men in the vigour of life. Translate—"Each man according to his eating shall ye count towards the lamb."
Your lamb shall be without blemish. Natural piety would teach that "the blind, the lame, and the sick" should not be selected for sacrifice (Malachi 1:8). The Law afterwards expressly forbade any blemished animals—"blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed"—to be offered for any of the stated sacrifices, though they might be given as free-will offerings (Le Exodus 22:20-25). The absence of blemish was especially important in a victim which was to typify One "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." A male. As standing in place of and redeeming the first-born of the males in each family. Of the first year. Perhaps as then more approaching to the ideal of perfect innocence. The requirement was not a usual one. Or from the goats. Theodoret says the proviso was made for the relief of the poorer class of persons; but practically it seems not to have taken effect. When people were poor, their richer neighbours supplied them with lambs (Kalisch).
Ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day. The interval of four days (see Exodus 12:3) was probably intended to give ample time for the thorough inspection of the lamb, and for obtaining another, if any defect was discovered. The precept is not observed by the modern Jews; and the later Targum (which belongs to the sixth century after Christ) teaches that it was only intended to apply to the first institution; but the text of Exodus is wholly against this. The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it. One of the main peculiarities of the Paschal sacrifice was this—that the head of each family was entitled—in the early times was required to offer the sacrifice for himself. In it no one intervened between the individual and God. Thus it was recognised that the whole nation was a nation of priests, as are Christians also, according to St. John (Revelation 1:6) and St. Peter (1 Peter 2:5). The intervention of Levites at a late date (2Ch 30:17; 2 Chronicles 35:5, etc.) was contrary to the original institution. In the evening. Litterally, "between the two evenings." This phrase has been explained in two ways. Some regard the first evening as commencing when the sun begins visibly to decline from the zenith, i.e. about two or three o'clock; and the second as following the sunset. Others say, that the sunset introduces the first evening, and that the second begins when the twilight ends, which they consider to have been "an hour and twenty minutes later" (Ebn Ezra, quoted by Kalisch). The use of the phrase in John 16:12, and the command in Deuteronomy 16:6—"Thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun," seem to be decisive in favour of the second explanation. The first arose out of the later practice. When the lambs were sacrificed in the temple by a continual succession of offerers, it became impossible to complete the sacrifices in the short time originally allowed. Of necessity the work of killing the victims was commenced pretty early in the afternoon, and continued till after sunset. The interpretation of the direction was then altered, to bring it into accord with the altered practice.
They shall take of the blood. The blood, which, according to Hebrew ideas, "is the life," and so the very essence of the sacrifice, was always regarded as the special symbol of that expiation and atonement, with a view to which sacrifice was instituted. As by the Paschal sacrifice atonement was made for the house, which was therefore to escape unscathed, the sign of atonement was to be conspicuously placed upon it. And strike. The "striking" was to be by means of a bunch of hyssop dipped in the blood (Exodus 12:22). The selection of the doorway as the part of the house to receive the stains of blood is probably to be connected with the idea that the secondary agency producing death, whatever it was, would enter by the door—and if the door showed the house to have been atoned for, would not enter. The upper door-past. The word used is elsewhere translated "lintel" (Exodus 12:22, Exodus 12:23); but it seems properly to mean the latticed window which was commonly placed over a doorway in Egyptian houses, and which is often represented in the facades of tombs. It is derived from a root signifying "to look out."
Roast with firs. The meat of sacrificial meals was commonly boiled by the Hebrews (1 Samuel 2:14, 1 Samuel 2:15). The command to roast the Paschal lamb is accounted for:
1. By its being a simpler and quicker process than boiling;
2. By a special sanctity being regarded as attaching to fire;
3. By the difficulty of cooking the animal whole unless it were roasted. Justin Martyr's statement that for roasting two wooden spits were required, placed at right angles the one to the other, and thus extending the victim on a cross, will seem to many a better ground for the direction than any of these. And unleavened bread. See below, verse. 18. With bitter herbs. Literally, "with bitternesses." That herbs, or vegetables of some kind, are intended, there is no reasonable doubt. The Mishna enumerates endive, chicory, wild lettuce, and nettles among the herbs that might be eaten. It is a strange notion of Kurtz's, that the bitter herbs were a condiment, and "communicated a more agreeable flavour to the food." Undoubtedly they were a disagreeable accompaniment, and represented at once the bitterness of the Egyptian bondage (Exodus 1:14) and the need of self-denial, if we would feed on Christ.
Eat not of it raw. The injunction appears to moderns superfluous; but an ὠμοφαγία, or eating of the raw flesh of victims sacrificed, seems to have been practised by several heathen nations in ancient times, more especially in the worship of Dionysus or Bacchus. Its head with its legs. The lamb was to be roasted whole—according to some, as a symbol of the unity of Israel, and especially of the political unit which they were to become so soon as they quitted Egypt; but, as we learn from St. John (John 19:36), still more to prefigure the unbroken body of Him whom the lamb especially represented, the true propitiation and atonement and deliverer of His people from the destroyer, our Lord Jesus Christ. The purtenance thereof. Rather, "the intestines thereof." The Jewish commentators say that the intestines were first taken out, washed, and cleansed, after which they were replaced, and the lamb roasted in a sort of oven.
Ye shall let nothing of it remain till the morning. The whole of the flesh was to be consumed by the guests, and at one sitting, lest there should be any even accidental profanation of the food by man or animal, if part were put away. The English Church, acting on the same principle of careful reverence, declines to allow any reservation of the Eucharistic elements, requiring the whole of the consecrated bread and wine to be consumed by the Priest and communicants in the Church immediately after the service. That which remaineth—i.e; the bones, and any small fragments of the flesh necessarily adhering to them. Ye shall burn with fire. Thus only could its complete disappearance, and seeming annihilation be secured. It does not appear that this burning was viewed as a sacrificial act.
With your loins girded, etc. Completely prepared, i.e; to start on your journey—with the loose wrapper (beged), ordinarily worn, collected together and fastened by a girdle about the waist; with sandals on the feet, which were not commonly worn in houses; and with walking-sticks in the hand. There were some Jews who regarded these directions as of perpetual obligation; but the general view was that they applied to the first occasion only, when alone they would have answered any useful purpose. You shall eat it in haste. As not knowing at what moment you may be summoned to start on your journey, and as having to see to the burning of the bones after the flesh was eaten, which would take some time. It is the Lord's Passover. Very emphatic words! "This is no common meal," they seem to say, "it is not even an ordinary sacrificial repast. The lamb is Jehovah's. It is his pass-sign—the mark of his protection, the precious means of your preservation from death. As such view it; and though ye eat it in haste, eat it with reverence."
For I will pass through, etc. God now proceeds to give the reason for the institution of the new ceremony, and to explain the new term pesach. "I have commanded this rite," He says, "because I am about to go through the whole land of Egypt as a destroyer, executing judgment; I am about to smite and kill every one of the firstborn both of man and beast. I shall enter into every house, and slay the first-born in it, unless I see upon the house the token of the blood of the lamb. In that ease I shall pass over the house, and you will escape the plague." It would clear the sense if the opening words of Exodus 12:12 were translated—"For I shall go through," instead of "pass through." The word translated "pass through" has no connection at all with that rendered "pass over." Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. These words are exegetical of the word "beast," which immediately precedes. Animal worship was an important part of the religion of the Egyptians. At four great cities, Memphis, Heliopolis, Hermonthis, a sort of suburb of Thebes, and Momemphis in the Western Delta, animals were maintained, which were viewed as actual incarnations of deity—the Apis Bull at Memphis, a bull called Mnevis at Heliopolis, one termed Bacis or Pacts at Hermonthis, and at Momemphis a White Cow. If any of these were at the time animals that had "opened the womb," death must have fallen upon them. Thus would judgment have been executed, literally, upon Egyptian "gods." But, besides these, the whole country was filled with sacred animals, regarded as emblematic of certain particular deities, and as belonging to them. Sheep were sacred to Kneph, goats to Khem, cows to Athor, cats to Pasht, dogs and jackals to Anubis, lions to Horus, crocodiles to Set and Sabak, hippopotami to Taouris, cynocephalous apes to Thoth, frogs to Heka. A sudden mortality among the sacred animals would be felt by the Egyptians as a blow struck against the gods to whom they belonged, and as a judgment upon them. It is scarcely necessary to understand literally the expression "all the gods," and to defend it by the assertion that "not a single deity of Egypt but was represented by some beast." Such an assertion cannot be proved; and is probably not correct. It has often been remarked, and is generally allowed, that Scripture uses universal expressions, where most, or even many, of a class are meant. I am the Lord. Rather as in Exodus 6:8, "Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment, I, Jehovah."
The blood shall be to you for a token, etc. The blood was not to be a token to the Israelites, but to God for them. Translate—"and the blood shall be as a token for you upon the houses that you are there." It shall distinguish the houses in which you dwell from the others. I will pass over you. This is the emphatic clause. God would pass by, or over the house on which the blood was, spare it, slay none of its inmates; and from this action of His, the lamb itself, and the feast whereof it was the principal part, were to be termed "the Passover." It has been proposed to connect the Hebrew pesach with the Egyptian pesh, "to stretch, or extend (protection)"; but the name "Tiphsach," borne by the place of passage over the Euphrates (1 Kings 4:24), would seem to indicate that "crossing," or "passing over" is the primary meaning of the root.
Hitherto the directions given have had reference, primarily and mainly, if not wholly, to the first celebration of the Passover on the night preceding the Exodus. Now, it is announced,
(1) That the observance is to be an annual one; and
(2) That it is to he accompanied with certain additional features in the future. These are
(a) the eating of unleavened bread for seven days after the killing of the Passover;
(b) the putting away of leaven out of the houses;
(c)the holding of meetings for worship on the first day and the last; and
(d) the observance on these days of a sabbatical rest.
This day shall be to you for a memorial. Annual festivals, in commemoration of events believed to have happened, were common in the religion of Egypt, and probably not wholly strange to the religious ideas of the Hebrews. (See the "Introduction" to this chapter.) They were now required to make the 14th of Abib such a day, and to observe it continually year after year "throughout their generations." There is commendable faithfulness in the obedience still rendered to the command at the present day; and it must be confessed that the strong expression—throughout your generations and as an ordinance for ever—excuse to a great extent the reluctance of the Jews to accept Christianity. They have already, however, considerably varied from the terms of the original appointment. May they not one day see that the Passover will still be truly kept by participation in the Easter eucharist, wherein Christians feed upon "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"—the antitype, of which the Paschal lamb was the type—the true sustenance of souls—the centre and source of all real unity—the one "perfect and sufficient sacrifice, and oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world"? The Church requires an Easter communion of all her members, proclaims that on that day, Christ our passover being slain, we are to keep the feast; and thus, so far as in her lies, maintains the festival as "an ordinance for ever," to be observed through all her generations.
Seven days. There is no indication that the week of seven days was admitted by the ancient Egyptians, or even known to them. Apparently, the nation which first adopted it was that of the Babylonians. Abraham may have brought it with him from "Ur of the Chaldees;" and from him it may have passed to Jacob, and so to Moses. That the week was known in the family of Abraham before the giving of the law, appears from Genesis 29:27, Genesis 29:28. Unleavened bread is typical of purity of heart, leaven being an emblem of corruption (Matthew 16:6-12; 1 Corinthians 5:7). "Leaven," says Plutarch, "comes from corruption, and corrupts the dough with which it is mixed; and every fermentation seems to be a putrefaction." The primary command to celebrate the first passover with unleavened instead of leavened bread (Genesis 29:8), must be attributed wholly to this symbolism. But the permanent institution of a "feast of unleavened bread," to last a week, had a double bearing. Partly, it was designed to deepen and intensify the conviction that corruption and impurity disqualify for religions service; but it was also partly intended as a commemoration of the fact, that in their hasty flight from Egypt the bread which they took with them was unleavened The requirement to "put away leaven out of their houses" is probably intended to teach, that for family worship to he acceptable, the entire household must be pure, and that to effect this result the head of the household must, so far as he can, eject the leaven of sin from his establishment. Whosoever eateth … shall be out off from Israel. Expelled, i.e, from the congregation, or excommunicated. If a man wilfully transgresses any plain precept of God, even though it be a positive one, he should he severed from the Church, until he confess his fault, and repent, and do penance for it. Such was the ', godly discipline" of the primitive Church; and it were well if the Churches of these modern times had more of it.
On the first day there shall be an holy convocation. After the Paschal meal on the evening of the 14th of Abib, there was to be a solemn assembly of the people on the next day for religions worship. The name "convocation;" applied to these gatherings, seems to show that originally the people were summoned to such meetings, as they still are by the muezzin from the minarets of mosques in Mahommedan countries, and by bells from the steeples of churches in Christian ones. And on the seventh day. On the 22nd of Abib—the seventh day after the first holy convocation on the 15th (see Le Exodus 23:4-8). Only two of the Jewish festivals were of this duration—the feast of unleavened bread, and the feast of tabernacles (Leviticus 23:39-42). The Christian Church has adopted the usage for Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Whitsuntide, where the last day of the week is known technically as "the octave." No manner of work shall be done in them. Festival-days were in all countries days of abstention from the ordinary business of life, which could not conveniently be carried on conjointly with attendance at the services, meetings, processions, etc; wherein the festival consisted. But absolute cessation from all work was nowhere strictly commanded except among the Hebrews, where it appears to have been connected with the belief in God's absolute rest after the six days of creation. The command here given was solemnly repeated in the law (Le Exodus 23:6-8).
In this self-same day. The 15th of Abib—the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. Have I brought your hosts out. This expression seems to prove that we have in the injunctions of Exodus 12:14-20, not the exact words of the revelation on the subject made by God to Moses before the institution of the Passover, but a re-casting of the words after the exodus had taken place. Otherwise, the expression must have been, "I will bring your hosts out." As an ordinance for ever. Easter eve, the day on which Satan was despoiled by the preaching of Jesus to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19), and on which the Church first realises its deliverance from the bondage of sin by the Atonement of Good Friday, is the Christian continuance of the first day of unleavened bread, and so answers to this text, as Good Friday to the similar command in Exodus 12:14.
In the first month. The word "month" seems to have accidentally dropt out of the Hebrew text. In the evening. The Hebrew day commenced with the evening (Genesis 1:5); but the evening here intended is that at the close of the 14th of Abib, which began the 15th. Similarly, the evening of the 21st is here that which commenced the 22nd.
This is not a mere "vain repetition" of Exodus 12:15. It adds an important extension of the punitive clause—"that soul shall be cut off from Israel"—from Israelites proper to proselytes. We are thus reminded, at the very time when Israel is about to become a nation and to enter upon its inheritance of exclusive privileges, that no exclusion of the Gentries by reason of race or descent was ever contemplated by God, either at the giving of the law, or at any other time. In Abraham all the families of them were to be blessed (Genesis 12:3). It was always open to any Gentiles to join themselves to Israel by becoming "proselytes of justice," adopting circumcision and the general observance of the law, and joining the Israelite community. The whole law is full of references to persons of this class (Exodus 20:10; Exodus 23:12; Le Exodus 16:29; Exodus 17:10; Exodus 18:26; Exodus 20:2; Exodus 24:16; Numbers 35:15; Deuteronomy 5:14; Deuteronomy 16:11-14; Deuteronomy 24:17, Deuteronomy 24:19; Deuteronomy 27:19; Deuteronomy 29:11, etc.). It must have been largely recruited in the times immediately following the exodus from the "mixed multitude" which accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38), and from the Kenites who joined them in the wilderness (Numbers 10:29-31; Judges 1:16). Born in the land—i.e; an Israelite by birth—"the land" is, no doubt, Canaan, which is regarded as the true "Land of Israel" from the time when it was assigned by God to the posterity of Abraham (Genesis 15:18).
Here again there is no repetition, but an extension. "Ye shall eat nothing leavened," not only no leavened bread (Exodus 12:15), but no leavened cake of any kind. And "in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread," i.e; wherever ye dwell, whether in Egypt, or in the wilderness, or in Palestine, or in Babylonia, or in Media, this law shall be observed. So the Jews observe it everywhere to this day, though they no longer sacrifice the Paschal lamb.
The advantages of an ecclesiastical calendar.
With their new position as an independent nation, and their new privileges as God's redeemed people (Exodus 6:6), the Israelites received the gift of a new ecclesiastical calendar. Their civil calendar remaining as before, their civil year commencing with Tisri, about the time of the autumnal equinox, and consisting of twelve months of alternately twenty-nine and thirty days, they were now commanded to adopt a new departure for their sacred year, and to reckon its commencement from Abib or Nisan, which began about the time of the vernal equinox, or March 21. This was advantageous to them in several ways.
I. IT SECURED THEM A TIME OF RELIGIOUS RETROSPECT AND CONTEMPLATION, NOT ALREADY OCCUPIED BY WORLDLY CARES. The commencement of a civil year naturally brings with it various civil and worldly cares, which occupy the mind, demand the attention, and distract the thoughts. The worldly position has to be reviewed, accounts made up, stock taken, debts claimed and paid, subscriptions renewed or discontinued, agents communicated with, orders given, arrangements made in some instances for the whole of the coming twelvemonth; and the result is, that the mind of most men is then so occupied, not to say harassed, that it cannot turn itself with any vigour or freshness to the contemplation of things heavenly and spiritual. Of great value then, and importance, is it that religion should have a separate time to itself for a review of the spiritual position, for the taking of stock in a religious sense, the balancing of the account with heaven, the forming of plans for the spiritual life beforehand, since that life has as much need to be carefully provided for as the worldly life. The opening of a year being the natural time for such a review, the new arrangement made naturally suggested it, and provided a quiet time for it.
II. IT GAVE THE IDEAS CONNECTED WITH THE FESTIVAL ABOUT TO BE INSTITUTED A GREATER HOLD ON MEN'S THOUGHTS THAN MIGHT OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN THE CASE. Everyone recognises the importance of a new beginning. A religion naturally strikes its key-note at the commencement of its round of services. As the coming of Christ into the world is the very essence of Christianity, the ecclesiastical year of Christendom commences with Advent. Thus Christians are taught that the foundation-stone of their religion, the root out of which it all springs, is the Incarnation. For Mosaism the key-note was deliverance from Egypt, and covenant relationship with God as His people by means of sacrifice. Deliverance from Egypt was redemption from servitude, and the commencement of a free national life. Sacrifice was the appointed means of keeping up and renewing the covenant relationship begun in circumcision. In the Passover these two thoughts were blended together, and Israel had to meditate on both. The one thought was necessary to call forth that loving trust in the favour and goodness of God, which lies at the root of all acceptable service; the other was needed to give ease to the conscience, to reassure the trembling sinner, and remove his sense of a guilt that separated him from God, and made his circumcision unavailing. The prominence given to these ideas by the position of the Paschal Festival, impressed them upon the minds of the Israelites as fundamental and vital truths.
III. IT GAVE THE RELIGION GENERALLY A STATUS AND A POSITION OF INDEPENDENCE, WHICH INCREASED MAN'S RESPECT FOR IT. In all times and countries the suspicion occurs to some, that religion is but a form of statecraft, a politic invention of governors to render government more easy. Anything that marks the co-ordinate authority of Church and State in their separate spheres, and especially the independence of the Church, is valuable, as an obstacle to Erastianism, and an indication of the Church's inherent right to regulate Church affairs. An ecclesiastical calendar distinct from the civil calendar is no doubt a little matter; but it implies an important principle, and is perhaps not without some influence over the general tone of thought and feeling in a country.
The Passover Proper.
The Passover may be viewed:—
I. AS A COMMEMORATIVE RITE. Instituted with reference to the tenth plague, and as a means by which the first-born of the Israelites might be saved from destruction, but accompanied by ceremonies which were connected with the prospective departure of the whole nation out of Egypt, the Passover feast, as established "by an ordinance for ever," commemorated two distinct and different things.
(1) The passing over of the houses of the Israelites by Jehovah, when he went through the land in the character of "destroyer" (Exodus 12:23), to smite the first-born; and
(2) the hurried departure of the nation out of Egypt in the night, with bread for their journey, which they had not had time to leaven (Exodus 12:34). It was thus intended to remind them of two great mercies; the lesser one being the escape of their first-born from sudden death, and the greater one the deliverance of the whole people from the bondage and affliction of Egypt, with the consequence of such deliverance, the establishment of them as a nation under the direct government of God, and under laws which were communicated to them by God himself at Sinai. Man is so apt to forget the benefits which God confers upon him, that it has been found necessary, or at least desirable, in almost all countries, to establish, by authority, days of commemoration, when national deliverances, national triumphs, national recoveries, shall be brought prominently before the mind of the nation, and pressed upon its attention. The Passover must be regarded as one of the most effective of such commemorative ceremonies. It has continued to be celebrated for above three thousand years. It brings vividly to the recollection of the Jew that night of trepidation and excitement, when the lamb was first killed, the blood dashed upon the doorposts, and the sequel waited for—that night, when "about midnight" was heard "a great cry," and in every house the Egyptians bewailed one dead—that night, in which, after the cry, a murmur arose, and the Egyptians became "urgent" (Exodus 12:33), and insisted that the Israelites should quit the land forthwith. It has all the political advantage of a great national celebration; and it exalts the political idea by uniting it with religious enthusiasm.
II. AS A FEAST OF THANKSGIVING. The sacrifices of the Paschal week, with the exception of the Paschal lamb and the daily goat, must be viewed as thank-offerings. They consisted of fourteen bullocks, seven rams, and forty-nine lambs of the first year, provided by. the priests, and offered to God in the name of the nation. They were burnt on the altar as holocausts, accompanied by meat-offerings of flour mingled with oil. At the same time individuals offered their own private thank-offerings. So far, the special object of the thanksgiving was the great deliverance, with which might be conjoined, in thought, God's further mercies in the history of the nation. On the second day of the feast, however, another subject of thankfulness was introduced. The season of the year was that in which the earliest grain ripened in Palestine; according to a conjecture already made, it was the time when the return of spring had been long celebrated among the Semites by a traditional observance. As "each return of the Passover festival was intended to remind the Israelites of their national regeneration" (Kalisch), it was thought appropriate to bring the festival into connection with the regeneration of nature, and the return of vernal vegetation. On the second day, therefore, a sheaf of the first ripe barley was offered as the first-fruits of the coming harvest, and thanks were rendered to God for his bounty in once more bringing to perfection the fruits of the earth. During the remainder of the week, both subjects occupied the thoughts of the worshippers, who passed the time in innocent festivities, as songs, music, and dancing.
III. AS A SYMBOLICAL CEREMONY. We have not to guess at the symbolical meaning of the Passover, as of so much that is contained in the Jewish law. Scripture distinctly declares it. "Christ, our Passover, is slain," says St. Paul; "therefore let us keep the feast." Christ, who was prefigured and foreshown in every sacrifice, was symbolised especially by the Paschal victim. He was "the Lamb of God' (John 1:29), "without spot or blemish" (1 Peter 1:19), "holy, harmless, undefiled" (Hebrews 7:26); offered to keep off "the destroyer," saving us by His blood from death (Acts 20:28); slain that we might feed upon His flesh (John 6:51). The Paschal lamb, when prepared for sacrifice, presented, as Justin Martyr informs us, a lively image of the Saviour upon "the accursed tree," being extended on a cross formed of two wooden spits, one longitudinal, and one transverse, placed at right angles each to the other. "Not a bone of it was to be broken," that it might the better typify Him whom God preserved from this indignity (Psalms 34:20; John 19:33). It was to be consumed entirely, as Christ is to be taken entire into the heart of the faithful (Galatians 4:19). Scripture also distinctly declares the symbolical meaning of the unleavened bread. "Let us keep the feast," says St. Paul, "not with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." He who would feed on Christ must first put away from him all corruption and impurity, eject all leaven out of the house wherein his spirit dwells, make himself fit to sit down at that heavenly banquet, by getting rid of all those "evil things which come from within, and defile the man" (Mark 7:23). There may be some doubt, however, as to the symbolism of the "bitter herbs," which Scripture leaves unexplained. The exegesis, that the bitter herbs symbolised the sufferings of the Israelites in Egypt, if taken as exhausting the meaning, is unsatisfactory. The memory of past sufferings inflicted by others is not a necessary accompaniment of present festal joy, though it may enhance that joy by contrast. The "bitterness" should be something that is always requisite before the soul can find in Christ rest, peace, and enjoyment—something that must ever accompany that rest, peace, and enjoyment, and, so long as we are in the flesh, remain inseparable from it. Two things of this kind suggest themselves—repentance and self-denial. The bitter herbs may perhaps symbolise both, pointing on the one hand to the important truth, that real repentance is a continuous act, never ceasing, while we live below, and on the other to the necessity of men's "taking up their cross daily," and striving towards perfectness through suffering.
The Passover continued in the Eucharist.
It was expressly declared that the Passover was instituted to be observed as a feast "by an ordinance for ever." Jews are justified in remaining Jews, if they cannot otherwise continue to celebrate it. But they can. The Passover is continued in the Eucharist. Hence St. Paul's words at Easter time—" Christ, our Passover, is crucified for us; therefore let us keep the feast" (1. Corinthians Exodus 5:7, Exodus 5:8).
I. THE EUCHARIST IS THE AFTER COMMEMORATION OF THE EVENT, WINCH THE PASSOVER PEFIGURED AND FORESHADOWED. The reality underlying both being the Lord's death upon the cross as a propitiation for the sins of man, this death was set forth in anticipation by the Paschal sacrifice; it is now "shown forth" after the event, in the Eucharist, "until Christ come" (1 Corinthians 11:26). The bread and wine represent the humanity of Christ as truly as the Paschal lamb represented it. The Eucharistic ceremony is "a perpetual memory (ἀνάμνησις) of his precious death," and in some respects a more lively setting forth of that central event of history than ever was the Paschal ceremony.
II. THE EUCHARIST SETS FORTH THE CHRISTIAN'S DELIVERANCE FROM BONDAGE, AS THE PASSOVER DID THE JEW'S. The true bondage is the bondage of sin. This is the "Egypt" from which man requires to be delivered. The death of Christ, which the Eucharist "shews forth," is the one and only remedy for sin, the one and only means Whereby it becomes possible for man to shake off the grievous yoke from his shoulders, and become free. By His meritorious sacrifice the guilt of sin is removed; by His assisting grace, given most abundantly through the Eucharist, the power of sin is destroyed, and its taint gradually purged out of our nature.
III. THE EUCHARIST IS A FEAST OF THANKSGIVING TO THE CHRISTIAN, AS THE PASSOVER FESTIVAL WAS TO THE JEW. The very name of Eucharist, which became the usual name of the Holy Communion as early as the second century, indicates how essential a feature of it thanksgiving was felt to be. "We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee, we give thee thanks for thy great glory, O Lord God"—this is the general key-note of Eucharistic services. And naturally. For, if the Jew had much to thank God for, the Christian has more. Redemption, justification, assisting grace, sanctification, union with Christ—clear and distinct promise of everlasting life—are his, and crowd upon his mind in connection with this sacrament.
IV. THE EUCHARIST, LIKE THE PASSOVER, IS A FEAST UPON A SACRIFICE. In the Passover, as generally in sacrifices, the victim was first offered on behalf of the sacrificers—in this case the household, and then the flesh of the victim furnished a solemn sacrificial meal to the members of the household. In the Eucharist, where the true victim is Christ himself, whose sacrifice upon the cross is alone propitiatory, a commemoration of the death of Christ is made, and then there follows a feast of the most sacred kind. Whatever benefits may have flowed from participation in the Paschal festival are far exceeded by those attached to the "Supper of the Lord." The Jew felt himself by participation in the Passover festival incorporated anew into the community of Israel; the Christian, by worthy participation in the Eucharist, is engrafted anew into Christ.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The beginning of months.
The exodus from Egypt was the birthday of the nation of Israel. In commemoration of this great event, the day from which the (religious) year began was changed. The month Abib was thenceforth to be "the beginning of months." The civil year continued to begin with Tisri (cf. Exodus 23:16).
I. REDEMPTION, THE TRUE STARTING-POINT OF HUMAN EXISTENCE. The day when salvation comes to a man's house (Luke 19:9; Acts 16:34) is the true "beginning of days" to him.
1. It is the commencement of a new life. "Born again" (John 3:3); "passed from death into life' (John 5:24); "a new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17). "The years we spent before we turned to the Lord are not worth counting; the best that can happen to them is to be buried out of sight" (Dr. J. M. Gibson).
2. It is the day of separation from the world. Some think that up to this time the Israelites had used the Egyptian calendar, which began about the time of the summer solstice. "From this time, however, all connection with Egypt was to be broken off, and the commencement of the sacred year was to commemorate the time when Jehovah led them forth to liberty and independence" (Geikie).
3. It is the day which begins the journey to heaven. Redemption is the beginning of the new life: it is, however, but the beginning. The wilderness journey follows it. Conversion is not a resting-place, but a starting-point. It begins, but does not complete, salvation.
II. TIME, A MEMORIALIST OF GOD'S MIGHTY WORKS. Even on so immaterial a thing as time, God has inscribed a memorial of His three greatest works.
1. Creation. He has built into the structure of the week an imperishable record of the six days' work.
2. The Exodus. The order of the year in Israel was made to testify to the deliverance from Egypt.
3. The Christian redemption. The advent of Christ has founded an era. The bitterest enemy of the Gospel is compelled to do it, at least, the involuntary homage of dating his years from the Lord's advent. By his use of the Christian calendar, the infidel testifies unwittingly to the power of the religion which he seeks to overthrow.
III. THE SPHERES OF THE SACRED AND THE CIVIL ARE DISTINCT. One indication of this, even in the polity of Israel, is seen in the fact that the sacred year began in one month, and the civil in another.—J.O.
God's last and overwhelming blow was about to be struck at Egypt. In anticipation of that blow, and in immediate connection with the exodus, God gave directions for the observance of a Passover.
I. THE PASSOVER IN ITS CONNECTION WITH THE HISTORY. For details of the ritual, see the verses of the chapter.
1. The design of the Passover was to make plain to Israel the ground on which its salvation was bestowed—the ground, viz; of Atonement. "The more recent plagues had fallen on Egypt alone. The children of Israel were saved from them. But though the salvation was obvious, the way of salvation had not yet been indicated. But now that the last and heaviest plague is about to fall, not only will Israel be saved from it, but the ground on which (the whole) salvation is bestowed will be made plain."
2. The connection of the Passover with the exodus. In this relation it is to be viewed more especially as a purificatory sacrifice. Such a sacrifice was peculiarly appropriate on the night of leaving Egypt, and one would probably have been appointed, even had no such special reason existed for it as the judgment on the first-born.
3. The connection of the Passover with the judgment on the first-born. Israel was God's Son, His firstborn (Exodus 10:22), and is in turn represented by his first-born; and so with Egypt. Because Pharaoh would not let Israel (God's first-born) go, God had declared his purpose of smiting "all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast" (Exodus 12:12); the punishment in this case, as frequently in God's Providence (cf. Isaiah 30:16), taking a form analogous to the sin it is designed to chastise. "The first-born represented the family, so that judgment of the first-born stood for judgment upon all, and redemption of the first-born stood for the redemption of all" (Dr. Gibson). Accordingly, not the firstborn merely, but the entire household, as represented in him, was redeemed by the blood of the Passover, and joined in the subsequent feast upon the lamb (Exodus 12:8). Note, there was a peculiar fitness in the Passover being instituted at this particular crisis.
(1) The death of the firstborn was a judgment pure and simple; not, like the hail, locusts, etc; an admonitory plague.
(2) It gave a heightened and impressive character to the salvation that redemption by blood, redemption by power, and the emergence of the people from slavery into distinct existence as a people of God, were thus seen going hand in hand. The analogy with the Christian redemption is obvious.
4. The teaching of the Passover. It taught the people
(1) that naturally they were as justly exposed to wrath as the people of Egypt. "Whether viewed in their individual or in their collective capacity, they were themselves of Egypt—collectively, a part of the nation, without any separate and independent existence of their own, vassals of the enemy, and inhabitants of the doomed territory—individually, also, partakers of the guilt and corruption of Egypt" (Fairbairn). "If the test had been one of character, it is quite certain that the line would not have been run so as to range all Egypt on the one side, and all Israel on the other. No one can suppose that all the real worth and excellence were on the side of the latter, and all the meanness and wickedness on the side of the former. In fact, the children of Israel had shared only too deeply in the sins of Egypt, and, accordingly, if they are to be saved, it must be on some other ground than their own merits" (Gibson).
(2) That the medium of their salvation—the ground on which it was bestowed—was blood of atonement. It is vain to deny that the Passover victim was truly a propitiatory sacrifice. The use made of its blood is proof sufficient of that. The lamb died in room of the first-born. Sprinkled on the door-posts and lintels, its blood sheltered the inmates of the dwelling from the stroke of the destroyer (Exodus 12:21-24). "A sinless victim, the household might, as it were, hide behind it, and escape the just punishment of their sins" (Kohler in Geikie). The Passover thus emphatically taught the necessity of atonement for the covering of guilt. No thoughtful Israelite but must have deeply realised the truth, "Without shedding of blood is no remission' (Hebrews 9:22).
(3) The solidarity of the nation. The observance of the Passover was to be an act, not of individuals, but of households and groups of households, and in a wider sense, of the nation as a whole. The Israelites were thus taught to feel their unity as before God—their oneness in guilt as in redemption.
(a) In guilt. Each was involved in guilt and doom, not only through his own sins, but through the sins of the nation of which he formed a part (cf. Isaiah 6:5; Matthew 23:35).
(b) In redemption. This was beautifully symbolised in the eating of the lamb. The lamb was to be roasted entire, and placed on the table undivided (Exodus 12:9). "By avoiding the breaking of the bones (Exodus 12:46), the animal was preserved in complete integrity, undisturbed and entire (Psalms 34:20)… There was no other reason for this than that all who took part in this one animal, i.e. all who ate of it, should look upon themselves as one whole, one community, like those who eat the New Testament Passover, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7), of whom the apostle says (1 Corinthians 10:17), 'We being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.'" (Bahr.)
(4) It pointed to an atonement in the future. For, manifestly, there lay in the blood of the lamb no real virtue to take away sin. It declared the necessity of atonement, but could not adequately provide it. The life of a beast was no proper substitute for the life of a first-born son. The Passover, therefore, from its very nature, is to be viewed as a type. It pointed on to Christ, in whom all the types of sacrifices find complete fulfilment.
(5) The various features of the ritual were symbolic. The unleavened bread was indicative of haste (Deuteronomy 16:3); the bitter herbs of the affliction of Egypt, etc. These circumstances, like the blamelessness of the victim, the sprinkling of the blood, etc; had also spiritual significance. See below, Homily on Exodus 12:21-29. It is to be remarked, in general, that "the earthly relations then existing, and the operations of God in connection with them, were framed on purpose to represent and foreshadow corresponding but immensely superior ones, connected with the work and kingdom of Christ." (Fairbairn.)
II. THE PASSOVER AS AN ORDINANCE FOR LATER GENERATIONS (Exodus 12:14, Exodus 12:24 Exodus 12:28). In this respect, the Passover is to be viewed—
1. As an historical witness to the reality of the events of the exodus. See below; also Homily on Deuteronomy 16:1-9. The Passover, like the Lord's Supper, was an institution which, in the nature of things, could not have been set up later than the event professedly commemorated.
2. As a perpetuation of the original sacrifice. The blood of the lambs was year by year presented to God. This marked that the true sacrifice had not yet been offered (Hebrews 10:1-3). Now that Christ has died, and has "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 10:12), there is no room for further sacrifice, and the Lord's Supper is to be regarded as simply a commemorative ordinance and means of grace. The doctrine of the mass has no foundation in true scriptural analogy.
3. As a means of grace. It was a feast, collecting the Israelites in great numbers at the sanctuary, and reviving in their minds the memory of the great deliverance, in which had been laid the foundation of their national existence. The lamb, slain on their behalf, roasted with fire, and set on the table before their eyes, to be handled and eaten by them, in solemn observance of a Divine command, gave them a vivid sense of the reality of the facts they were commemorating. The Lord's Supper, in like manner, is a powerful means of impressing mind and heart, an act of communion on the part of Christian believers, and a true source of nourishment (through spiritual participation in Christ) to the soul.
4. The observance of the Passover was connected with oral instruction (verses 26, 27). This was a further guarantee for the handing down of a faithful, ungarbled tradition of the meaning of the ceremony; added to the interest of the service; took advantage of a favourable opportunity to impress the minds of the young; and helped to keep alive in all classes of the community a vivid remembrance of God's mighty works.
III. THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD (Deuteronomy 16:14-21). The ordinance for this feast was probably given at Succoth, on the day succeeding the exodus (see Deuteronomy 16:17, and Exodus 13:5-8). It is inserted here on account of its internal connection with the Passover. It is to be viewed—
1. As a memorial of the haste with which the Israelites left Egypt. The Israelites had evidently intended to leaven their dough on the night of the exodus, but were prevented by the haste (verse 34). "For thou earnest out of the land in haste" (Deuteronomy 16:3). This is the historical groundwork of the institution.
2. As a symbol of spiritual truth.
(1) The feast lasted seven days, a complete circle of time.
(2) It was rounded off at the beginning and end by an holy convocation. This marked it as a sacred period.
(3) Sacrifices were offered during its course (Numbers 13:16-26; Deuteronomy 15:2).
(4) The bread eaten was to be unleavened. So strict was the injunction on this point that the Israelite found eating leaven during these seven days was to be "cut off," i.e; excommunicated. The general idea of the feast was, therefore, to represent what redeemed life in its entirety ought to be—a life purged from the leaven of "malice and wickedness," and devoted to God's service in "sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). "The exodus formed the groundwork of the feast, because it was by this that Israel had been introduced into a new vital element" (Keil). The "walk in newness of life" follows on redemption. We may apply the precept about "cutting off from Israel" to the exclusion of immoral and impure members from the Church.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The institution of the Passover.
Moses has now done with requesting and threatening Pharaoh. He leaves Pharaoh to the terrible smiting hand of Jehovah, and turns, when it is quite time to turn, to his own people. He who would not listen had to be left for those who would listen. It is now manifest that Moses is to be profitably occupied with matters which cannot any longer be delayed. It was needful to give warning concerning the death of the first-born to the Israelites quite as much as to Pharaoh. For some time they had been the passive, the scarcely conscious objects of Divine mercy and power. Painfully conscious they were of the physical hardships which Pharaoh inflicted on them, but they had little or no thought of deprivations and hindrances with respect to higher things. God had been leading them forward by a way they knew not, and now the hour has come for them to know the way and walk in it with understanding, choice, circumspection, and diligence. All at once, from being passive spectators in the background, they came forward to be prime actors in the very front; and God is here telling them through Moses what to do, and how they are to do it. More is to be done than simply wait for God's coming at midnight: that coming has to be made ready for with great solemnity and minuteness of preparation.
I. NOTICE HOW JEHOVAH HERE BRINGS THE VOLUNTARY ELEMENT INTO THE DELIVERANCE OF HIS PEOPLE AND THEIR CONNECTION WITH HIM. They are to be delivered, only as they are willing to be delivered. They are to signify their willing regard to conform with the will of God. The matter is made almost a personal one; if not brought before every Israelite, it is brought before every head of a household. Hitherto the immunities of the people during the course of the plagues had been secured in a mere external way. The protection belonged to a certain territory, and the Israelites had to exert no attention, take no trouble, in order to secure the protection. God kept the flies, the hail, and the darkness out of Goshen without requiring any mark upon the habitations and property of His people. But now, as the last visitation from God draws nigh, they have to take a part, and a very decided part, in making their exemption effectual. Jehovah comes, treating all who are in Egypt as belonging fully to Egypt, and it is for the Israelites to show by some significant act the deep difference which separates between them and the Egyptians. There had been, up to this time, certain differences between the Egyptian and the Israelite which did not depend upon the Israelite's choice. The Egyptian was master, and the Israelite slave; assuredly the Israelite had not chosen that. An Egyptian might soon lose all trace of his personal ancestry, but every Israelite could trace his ancestry back to Jacob, to Isaac, to Abraham; and this was a matter he had not chosen. The Egyptian belonged to a nation which had been smitten with nine plagues, but from the later and severer of these the Israelite dwelling in Goshen had been free; yet this freedom had been secured without making it to depend on the Israelite's own action. But now, as the day of redemption draws near, Jehovah reminds every Israelite that underneath all the differences which, in carrying out His purposes, He may make to exist among men, there is a common humanity. Before Him who comes smiting at midnight there is neither Israelite nor Egyptian, bond nor free; everything depends on the sprinkled blood; and the sprinkled blood depends on whether the Israelite has put it on his door of his own accord. If, that night, the Israelite did not of his own accord make a difference between himself and the Egyptian, then no natural distinction or past immunity was of the slightest avail. Even already it is being shown that circumcision availeth nothing, but a new creature. Israel can only be truly Israel as he is Israel inwardly. The mark upon the door without must come from the perfect heart and willing mind within. The only great abiding differences between man and man are such as we, fully considering our position, concur in making of our own free will True it is that we cannot establish and complete these differences in our own strength; but it is very certain that God will not do this—indeed, by the very limitations of the thing to be done, he cannot—except as we willingly and with alacrity give him opportunity.
II. In these instructions for the Passover, GOD BRINGS THE FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENT OF PURE FAITH INTO ACTIVE EXERCISE. In Hebrews 11:28 we are told that by faith Moses kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them. And this faith extended from Moses to every head of a household in Israel. The whole instructions imply a trustful, disciplined spirit, on the part of those receiving them. Up to this time nothing had been required of them except to stand still and wait while God dealt with Pharaoh. They are left on one side, treated as helpless captives, whom it is vain to ask for what they cannot give. But now they are asked for something, and they have not only to render it willingly, but with the obedience of faith (Romans 16:26). They are asked to slay a number of lambs, the number being determined according to a settled proportion. When the lambs are slain, the blood is to be sprinkled on the doors of each Israelite dwelling, and the flesh, prepared in a peculiar and exact way, is to be eaten by the inhabitants. Well, what should all this have to do with the protection of Israel? How should it advance the captives towards deliverance? If God had told them to get ready swords and spears, and discipline themselves for battle there would have been something intelligible in such instructions, something according to the schemes of human wisdom. But God does not deliver as men would deliver. It pleased him, in the fulness of time and by the foolishness of a slain lamb and sprinkled blood to save Israel. And yet it was not the slain lamb and sprinkled blood that saved by themselves. Moses and Aaron might have slain so many lambs and sprinkled their blood, and yet there would have been no efficacy in them. Their efficacy as protectors was not a natural efficacy. The efficacy lay in this: that the lambs were slain and the blood sprinkled in the obedience of faith. The thing done and the spirit in which it is done—truth and faith-go together in resistless power. There must be truth; faith by itself does nothing; for a man may believe a lie and then where is he? There must be faith; truth by itself does nothing; just as food does nothing unless a man takes it into his stomach. Of course it was quite possible for a sceptical Israelite to say, "What can there be in this sprinkled blood?"—and the very fact that such a question was possible shows how God was shutting his people up to pure faith. He asks them to act simply on the word of Moses. That word was now to be a sufficient reason for their conduct. Moses had done enough to show from whom he came. It is interesting to notice how faith stands here, asked for, the first thing, by Moses, even as it was afterwards by Jesus. As the Israelites believed because Moses spoke, so we must believe because Jesus speaks. Jesus speaks truth because it is true; but we must receive it and believe it, not because in our natural reason we can see it as true, but because of the ascertained and well-accredited character of him who speaks it. And we must show our faith by our works, as these Israelites did. It was not required of them to understand how this sprinkled blood operated. They acted as believing that it would operate, and the indisputable fact is that they were saved. It is a great deal more important to have a thing done, than to be able to understand all the ins and outs by which it is done. A man does not refuse to wind up his watch, because he cannot understand its intricate mechanism. His purposes are served, if he understands enough to turn the key. And so our purposes are served, if we have enough practical faith in Jesus to gain actual salvation through him. Exactly how Jesus saves, is a question which we may ask again and again, and vainly ask. Let us not, in asking it, waste time and risk eternity, when by the prompt and full obedience of faith, we may know in our experience, that however obscure the process may be, the result itself is a real and abiding one.
III. Looking back on this passover lamb in the light of the finished work of Jesus, we see HOW AMPLE A TYPE IT IS OF HIM WHO WAS TO COME AFTER AND STAND BETWEEN THE BELIEVING SINNER AND THE AVENGING GOD.
1. The lamb was taken so as to bind families and neighbours together. This reminds us of Him, who gathers round himself, in every place, those who form the true family, the new family; joined together not after the temporary, dissolving order of nature, but after the abiding, ever-consolidating order of grace. Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, there the true Lamb of God is present in all those relations of which the passover lamb gave but a foreshadowing. The true families are made by the coalescence of those who, living in one neighbourhood, have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
2. The passover lamb was without blemish. Consider what is said in this respect of Jesus.
3. It was a male of the first year. So Jesus was taken in the freshness and strength of his manhood (Luke 3:23).
4. The flesh of the lamb was eaten in the company for which it had been slain. It is only when we bear in mind the first passover in Egypt, that we reach the significance of all that was said and done on the night when Jesus sat down for the last passover feast with his disciples. Jesus took the bread and said: "Take, eat; this is my body." There was to be no more killing of the lamb; the bread, easily made and easily portioned out, took its place. But still the Lord had to say "this is my body." A body had to be thought of as eaten, and not mere bread. Really, when we look into the matter, we find that the sprinkling of the blood was only part of the protection; the eating was protective also. Assuredly the sprinkling by itself would have counted for nothing, if the eating had been omitted. When the blood was sprinkled, it illustrated faith in him who comes between God and the sinner. When the flesh was eaten, it illustrated faith in him whose life becomes our life. Being unblemished, he makes us unblemished, and being acceptable to God, he makes us acceptable also.
IV. We observe that even before the event to be commemorated was accomplished JEHOVAH MADE CAREFUL PROVISION FOR A MEMORIAL OBSERVANCE. Thus another indication is given to us, as to the completeness and order with which his plans were laid. Directions are given for the present need, and along with them are combined directions by which the record of this great liberating event may be transmitted to the remotest generations. Henceforth, the beginning of the year is to date from the month of these dealings with the first-born. Then there was also the appointment of the feast of unleavened bread. So crushing was the blow of Jehovah, and so precipitate the consequent action of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, that the Israelites were hurried out of the land with their dough before it was leavened. Here then in this domestic operation of preparing the daily bread was an opportunity given of setting forth once a year the complete separation which God had effected between the Israelites and the Egyptians. When for seven days no leaven was put in the bread, the great fact to be called up was this: that the Egyptians had hastened the Israelites out of the land. This memorial act called up at once the great change which God had produced, and in a comparatively short time. But a little while before and the Egyptians were spoiling the Israelites, demanding from them bricks without straw; now the Israelites are spoiling the Egyptians, getting gold and silver and raiment from them in profusion, and with the utmost good-will.
V. ALL THE OTHER PREPARATIONS FOR JEHOVAH'S VISIT WERE TO BE CROWNED BY MAKING PULL PREPARATIONS FOR DEPARTURE. Jehovah was coming to open the prison-doors and strike off the fetters; and he would have the captives ready to march on the instant. He is the God who makes all things to work together for good to them who are called according to his purpose. To him who is truly and devoutly obeying God, nothing comes but he is able to meet it. The obedient is never taken at a disadvantage; he is never defrauded of a great opportunity. The children of Israel were to eat the lamb in full readiness for the journey; even though it might plausibly be said that it was a making ready before the time. The lesson is, obey God in everything where as here the terms of his requirement are plain to the understanding and imperative to the conscience. Reasons are not for you, who know only in part, but for him to whom the darkness and the light are both alike.—Y.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
I. THE DAY OF DELIVERANCE THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA IN THE HISTORY OF GOD'S PEOPLE (Hebrews 11:1, Hebrews 11:2).
1. It Was then only that the history of the nation as the people of God began. Before they had been told of God's favour towards them; they now knew it. "Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we have heard him ourselves" (John 4:42).
2. God's final deliverance begins a new era for his people. "Behold! make all things new."
3. This has its correlative type in Christian experience now. The true life of the servant of God dates from the hour of his deliverance from the bondage of sin. "If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold all things are become new." Before Israel lay the experience of God's care and love, Sinai, the giving of the law, etc. Before us ties the deepening knowledge of his love, and of his will, the priestly service, etc.
II. THE COMMAND TO MAKE IT THE BEGINNING OF MONTHS.
1. The remembrance of God's grace makes the soul the dwelling-place of humbleness and trust.
2. It is joy and strength for service.
3. It is consecration; in the brightness of that unmerited grace the life is claimed for God; the ear is opened, the heart is touched and changed; we forget things that are behind, and reach forth to things that are before.—U.
The Passover lamb a prophetic picture of Christ and his salvation.
I. FOR WHOM THE SACRIFICE AVAILS.
1. The families of Israel, the household of faith. There is no other bulwark against the visitation of the angel of death, and it shields these only.
2. Those who feed upon him. Saving faith must be a real, appropriating faith. Mere assent to a form of words avails nothing, neither can a mere intellectual Conviction of the truth of Christianity or apprehension of the plan of salvation; it must be the soul's food.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE SACRIFICE. A lamb without blemish; gentleness and blamelessness. He who dies for us is accepted, because he is faultless. The sin-bearer must be sinless. This is redemption's great central mystery. But though the eternal reason of it may not be understood, the wisdom of it is shown in our experience. The power which changes us lies in this, that Christ died not for sins of his own, but solely for ours. "He bore our sins, in his own body on the tree."
III. HIS STORY.
1. The lamb kept for four days within the house foretold that God's accepted sacrifice should come forth from the homes of Israel. The four days may symbolise the nearly four years of our Lord's ministry.
2. The day and hour of the Saviour's death (Exodus 12:6).
3. His death was to be Israel's act; "the whole assembly" were to slay it.
(1) Our sins nailed him to the tree. He was stain by our iniquities.
(2) Israel's act in the murder of the holy and just one was the expression of the sin which is in us all. None are free from this awful blood guiltiness, save the repentant and pardoned.—U.
Christ his people's salvation and strength.
I. THE MEANS OF SAFETY Exodus 12:7-13).
1. They took the blood and struck it on the door posts and the lintel. We must appropriate Christ's atonement. We must say by faith, "he died for me."
2. They passed within the blood-stained portals. Christ's blood must stand between us and condemnation, between us and sin. Our safety lies in setting that between oar soul and them. The realising of Christ's death for our sins is, salvation.
II. THE MEANS OF STRENGTH FOR THE ONWARD WAY. Feeding upon Christ. While Egypt was slumbering Israel was feasting. While the world is busy with its dreams we must feast upon the joy of eternity, and, comprehending with all saints the infinite love of Christ, be filled with all the fulness of God. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you."
III. HOW CHRIST MUST BE PARTAKEN OF.
1. With unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The old leaven of malice and wickedness must be put away, and the feasting on Christ's love must be accompanied with repentance and self denial. There may be now and again a momentary glimpse of Christ's love where sin is not parted with, but there can be no communion, no enduring vision.
2. Christ must be taken as God has set him before us, in the simplicity of the Gospel, with nothing of man's invention, addition, or diminution. The Gospel remedy avails only when taken in the Gospel way (Exodus 12:9, Exodus 12:10).
3. He must b? partaken of in the union of love. The Passover is a social, a family feast. Those who refuse to seek church-fellowship are despising God's arrangements for their own salvation, and proving themselves devoid of the spirit which, loving him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.
4. He must be partaken of with the pilgrim spirit and preparedness (Exodus 12:11). They who will be saved by Jesus must take up their cross and follow him.—U.
The Passover feast the type of the Christian life.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S LIFE IS AN UNCEASING FESTIVAL.
1. It is unending, deepening joy. Other joys fade, this brightens.
2. It is a growing appropriation of the Lamb of God. Our union with him grows ever closer, fuller. Is this our experience? A nominal Christianity will never save us. Are we feeding on Jesus? Are we in. him and be in us?
II. IT IS THE KEEPING IN REMEMBRANCE OF A PAST DELIVERANCE, AND THE ANTICIPATION OF A GREATER.
1. There was present safety from the destroyer.
2. On the morrow there was to be the passing out from amidst the broken bonds of Egypt to the promised inheritance. The feast pointed backward, the types onward. We have forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, and the expectation of his coming the second time without sin unto salvation. Faith, and love, and hope the threefold glory of Christ's people.
III. IT Is A LIFE OF HOLINESS. From the beginning to the end of the feast the old leaven was not to be found in the dwellings of Israel. The soul that turns back to sin is cut off (Exodus 12:15, Exodus 12:18-20). What was a mere accompaniment in the type, is a fruit of life in Christ.
IV. IT IS A FELLOWSHIP OF ALL BELIEVERS. It Was not only a family feast. It began and it closed with an assembly of the whole congregation. There are separate churches still, as there were families then. But the union of all believers must be recognised and rejoiced in.—U.
HOMILIES BY H.T. ROBJOHNS
Exodus 12:1-28; 43-51
"It is the Lord's Passover" (Exodus 12:11). After Pharaoh's refusal to see Moses again, Jehovah comes more manifestly into the history, in the last judgment and deliverance of his people. Three great events crowd now into a single night, the Passover, the slaying of the first-born, the march out. Consider now the Passover.
I. ITS NECESSITY.
1. Israel must be separated from Egypt. This idea of separation runs through all Hebrew history from the time of Abraham to this hour. But to a large extent Israel had now become merged into the Egyptian race, catching the plagues of its idolatry and sins. Great separating acts necessary—e.g; as in some of the earlier visitations, in the tenth, in the passover, in the exodus, in the Red Sea.
2. To this end Israel must be atoned afresh with God. The tenth plague was a miracle of pure judgment: for Israel to escape the penalty of its sin, an atonement necessary. That atonement was the passover.
II. ITS DESIGNATIONS. They were these: "A passover unto Jehovah: a sacrificial-slaying of pass-over unto Jehovah:" "The sacrifice of the feast of the passover," Exodus 12:11, Exodus 12:27; Exodus 34:25. Here we have four distinctive ideas.
1. The Objective of the passover was God. "Unto Jehovah." Like prayer intended to benefit man, but its objective God. Herein lies the distinction between Scriptural and unscriptural ideas of atonement.
2. The pass-over was a Sacrifice. [For the argument, see Kurtz, vol. 2:297, 298, Eng. ed.]
3. The result was a Passing-over. The stained lintel a bridge over which Jehovah was to pass in dread judicial progress through the land.
4. And a more remote result, the ushering in of a Festal Life for Israel. The festival of the passover foreshadowed the coming life of liberty.
III. THE LAMB. After expository development of the leading incidents, the following truths will emerge in relation to the antitype.
1. The objective of the death of Christ is God. The Socinian formula runs: "The death of Christ was not to reconcile God to man, but man to God." The scriptural doctrine is that the atonement does both: but reconciles man to God, by first atoning God with man.
2. Christ is "without blemish and without spot."
3. The atoning Christ was deliberately selected, and fore-appointed.
4. Kept in view of the world, that His worth, beauty and destiny might suitably affect men; as the lamb went in and out, for four days, the homes of Israel.
6. The death was Sacrificial.
7. The result a Passing-over of judicial wrath.
8. But the sacrifice must be appropriated. The blood on the posts of the door a sign of the appropriating faith of the people. Here may be brought out the idea, that the door was the only possible altar at that moment of history. The idea of sacrifice had come down from patriarchal times; but there was no law of sacrifice, for as yet there was no nation to which to give it, and therefore there was no temple, and so no altar. Every family must be atoned for apart; every house was then a temple, and every door an altar.
9. Then, faith in Christ's atonement begins for us high Festival.
IV. THE MEAL. Show that the meal was much more than a mere supper to prepare for a journey. It had in it spiritual significance, in relation to the Christ.
1. The Atoning Christ is the Food of the Soul (John 6:51). This for the very simple reason, that the truth of the atonement is central, supreme, and comprehensive.
2. An uncorrupted Christ. The lamb was roasted, i.e; was pure flesh acted on by fire; not sodden, diluted with water, or any way corrupted.
3. A perfect Christ, no bone broken. So on the cross a Christ divided is not sufficient for the nourishment of the soul, e.g; Christ as an "elect spirit of the race;' or as one in whom the "God-consciousness ' received high development; or as example; Teacher, etc. Christ in his whole nature, character and office.
4. The enjoyment of Christ and of his salvation will depend on the memory of the slavery of sin. "Bitter herbs."
5. The christian life is to be characterised by simplicity and sincerity. Note that unleavened bread is simply pure meal, all water Parched out by the action of fire. For the significance see the Christian Rabbi, Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:6-8.
6. The end of soul nutriment is the Pilgrim-Life. Each with staff in hand that night.
7. To the banquet, to the Exodus, to the Pilgrim-Life, all are welcome, on conditions, 12:43-45. In that case, first circumcision; then coming under the sprinkled blood, were needful. The analogy is clear. Note! at the moment, when the distinction between Israel and Egypt was most marked, then did the catholicity of true Judaism most appear. In Abraham all mankind was to be blessed.—R.
HOMILIES BY G.A. GOODHART
If one died for all then all died.
Pharaoh's heart still hardened. The crowning judgment needs no intermediary; Jehovah will reveal His own right arm. Exodus 11:4. "Who shall live when God doeth this?" He who obeying His word shelters himself beneath His shadow. See:—
I. THE PREPARATION.
1. A carefully selected victim. Exodus 11:5, deliberately set apart four days beforehand. Pure within; innocence typified by inexperience, "the first year." Pure without, "no blemish."
2. A carefully conducted purification. The partaker of the sacrificial feast must endeavour after a purity resembling that of the victim. Leaven, evil, must be purged out that he may offer and receive worthily.
II. THE PASSOVER. A sarifice to save from death, Exodus 5:6, Exodus 5:7. Notice
(1) Obedience ensured safety. The judgment was to go forth against the first-born; but the lamb slain—his blood duly sprinkled—would be accepted as a substitute. Obedience all that was demanded.
(2) The meaning of the command. Few types are arbitrary; almost always some ground of relation between them and the thing typified, even though we may not see it. Here the pure lamb represents the offerer as he ought to be; it says in his name "I would be pure; I would dedicate myself wholly to thy service; accept me, not for what I am but for what Thou canst make me. Take this lamb for me; make me as this lamb!" Obedience saves, but that which is commanded shadows forth the final result to be achieved by obedience.
2. Sustenance to nerve for duty. Lamb not merely to be killed but eaten. The people saved from the destroyer are to be released also from the oppressor; to commence at once the life of liberty. Strength needed for the march. That which saves is that which supports, if the lamb represents the offerer as he ought to be, feeding upon the lamb will represent feeding by faith upon the ideal thus figured. To become righteous we must hunger and thirst after righteousness, Matthew 5:6. Dedication is the starting-point, but the road is persistent obedience, and they only can walk that road who feed upon the ideal first set before them (Philippians 3:12-14).
III. CHRIST OUR PASSOVER. The type leads naturally to the great antitype.
1. Our sacrifice.
(1) Pure, perfect. Slain for us. By faith accepting his work, peace with God; shelter from the avenging angel. This is what we mean by substitution—Christ died for me. Notice however:—
(2) Accepting this sacrifice we must still regard it as representative. Pleading its efficacy, we not merely mean "Forgive me for Christ's sake," but also, "I would be like Christ, I would give myself up wholly to Thy will even as he has done—Accept me in him, make me like him!" The doctrine of substitution is only explained by this underlying doctrine of identity, it could not otherwise be a doctrine of salvation.
2. Our sustenance. We too, saved in Christ, have to march on along the road which leads from slavery to freedom. To do this we must feed upon our ideal, "inwardly digest" it. What we ought to be; what we hope to be; what Christ is. Our great advantage over the Jew is that our ideal is realised in a person. To feed upon it is to feed upon Christ. To attain it is to be like Christ, to be one with him.
Application. Christ died for us. True, but Christ dying for us implies that we also die with him. Dedication of a substitute not enough unless self is dedicated in the substitute. Very well wishing to be happy, and the hope of many is little more than this. God, however, means us to be holy, and there is no easy road to holiness. Accept the ideal, accept Christ out and out, we shall find him more than an ideal: he will strengthen and sustain us till we attain it. Forget what the ideal is; forget what dedication means; we may yet find that it is possible for those who are saved from bondage to perish in the wilderness.—G.
THE FIRST PASSOVER. Having received the Divine directions as to the new rite, if not with all the fulness ultimately given them, yet with sufficient fulness for the immediate purpose, Moses proceeded to communicate the Divine Will to the people under his protection. Having already aroused the jealousy and hatred of Pharaoh, he could not summon a general assembly of the people, but he ventured to call a meeting of the elders, or heads of principal families, and through them communicated the orders which he had received to the entire nation. We find, in the directions which he gave, two small points which are not comprised in the record of God's words to him.
1. The designation of the "hyssop," as the instrument, by which the blood was to be placed on the side-posts and lintel (Exodus 12:22); and,
2. The injunction not to quit the house "until the morning." These points may have been contained in the original directions, though omitted from the record for brevity; or they may have been added by Moses of his own authority. On the other hand, several very main points of the original directions are not repeated in the injunctions given to the elders, though there can be no doubt that they were communicated.
Draw out—i.e; "Withdraw from the flock." (See Exodus 12:3.) A lamb. The word used is generic, and would not exclude the offering of a goat.
A bunch of hyssop. The hyssop was regarded as having purging or purifying qualities, and was used in the cleansing of the leper (Le Exodus 14:4), and of the leprous house (ibid. 51-52), and also formed an element in the "water of separation" (Numbers 19:6). It was a species of plant which grew on walls, and was generally low and insignificant (1 Kings 4:33), yet which could furnish a stick or stalk of some length (John 19:29). It must also have been a common plant in Egypt, the wilderness, and Palestine. Two suggestions are made with respect to it. One, that it was a species of marjoram (Origanum Aegyptiacum, or O. Syriacum ) common in both Egypt and Syria; the other that it was the caper plant (Capparis spinosa), which abounds especially in the Desert. It is in favour of this latter identification, that the modern Arabic name for the caper plant is asaf or asuf, which excellently represents the Hebrew ezob, the word uniformly rendered in our version by "hyssop" The blood that is in the basin. The Septuagint and Vulgate render—"that is on the threshold." Saph—the word translated "basin" has the double meaning. None of you shall go out. Moses may well have given this advice on his own authority, without any Divine command. (See introductory paragraph.) He would feel that beyond the protection of the blood of the lamb, there was no assurance of safety.
Compare Exodus 12:12, Exodus 12:13 which are closely followed. The only important difference is, the new expression, "The Lord will not suffer the destroyer to come in," which has generally been regarded as implying, that the actual agent in the killing of the first-born was a "destroying angel." But it is to be noted that elsewhere Jehovah himself is everywhere spoken of as the sole agent; and that in the present passage the word used has the meaning of "destruction" no less than that of "destroyer." Bishop Lowth's idea of an opposition between God and the destroying angel (Comment on Isaiah 31:1-9.Isaiah 31:5) is scarcely tenable.
To thee and to thy children. The change from the plural to the singular is curious, Perhaps, we are to understand that Moses insisted on the perpetuity of the ordinance to each of the elders severally.
The land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised. See above, Exodus 3:8-17; Exodus 6:4; and compare Genesis 17:8; Genesis 28:4, etc.
When your children shall say unto you, what mean ye by this service. Apparently, Moses adds these injunctions by his own sole authority. He assumes that curiosity will be aroused by the strange and peculiar features of the Paschal ceremony, and that each generation in succession will wish to know its meaning and origin.
It is the sacrifice. It has been denied that the Paschal lamb was, in the true sense of the word, a sacrifice (Carpzov and others). But this passage alone is decisive on the question, and proves that it was. Moreover, it was offered in the holy place (Deuteronomy 16:5, Deuteronomy 16:6 ); the blood of it was sprinkled upon the altar, and the fat was burnt (2 Chronicles 30:16; 2 Chronicles 35:11). Compare also Exodus 23:18; Numbers 9:7; Deuteronomy 16:2. The people bowed the head and worshipped. Rather, "and made obeisance." Compare Exodus 4:31. By "the people" seems to be meant "the elders of the people." (See Exodus 4:21.)
So did they. The long series of miracles wrought by Moses and Aaron had so impressed the people, that they yielded an undoubting and ready obedience.
No safety for man beyond the limits protected by the Lamb's atoning blood.
No Israelite was to pass beyond the door of his house until the morning, lest he should be destroyed by the destroyer. Within the precincts, protected by the blood of the lamb, he was safe. Let Christians beware of stepping beyond the limits whereto the atoning blood extends. Those step beyond the limits—
I. WHO TEMPT GOD BY DALLYING WITH SIN. Atonement has been made for us, we feel We have had moments of assurance that atonement and forgiveness are ours. We have had an impression that we were safe. At once the Evil One begins to whisper to our hearts that there is no longer any need of our walking warily, of our being afraid to put ourselves in temptation's way, of our flying all contact with evil; and we are too apt to listen to his suggestions, to regard the danger of falling from grace as past, and to allow ourselves a liberty in which there is too often awful peril. We draw near the confines of sin, confident that we shall sin no more; and lo! we are entangled in the meshes. And why? Because we have gone beyond the limits protected by the atoning blood. We have opened the door and stepped out. We have turned our backs upon the redeeming marks and put them behind us. We have been over-trustful in our own strength.
II. WHO ARE PUFFED UP BY THE THOUGHT OF THEIR SPIRITUAL ATTAINMENTS AND PRIVILEGES. "Pride goeth before a fall." Pride was the great temptation of the Jew, who felt himself one of God's peculiar people, to whom pertained "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises" (Romans 9:4). And pride often tempts the Christian, who has realised the work of Christ on his behalf, and the greatness of the salvation wrought for him. But pride is one of the deadly sins, and at once severs the soul from Christ. The blood of the covenant does not extend its protection over the paths which are trodden by the foot of pride. He who enters on them has wandered beyond the door which bears the redemption-marks, and is open to the assaults of the destroyer.
III. WHO FOLD THEIR HANDS AND CEASE TO BE ZEALOUS OF GOOD WORKS, AS THOUGH THEY HAD ALREADY ATTAINED. Though we cannot, by anything that we can do, merit our own salvation, or redeem ourselves or others (Psalms 49:7), yet God will have us "work while it is day," and the atoning blood of Christ atones for those only who are "careful to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8). Idleness, apathy, sloth, are contrary to his will and his word; and the man who indulges in them has strayed beyond the prescribed limits and lost the needful protection. Well for him if he discovers his mistake in time to return, and ,6 do again the first works" (Revelation 2:5), and so regain the lost shelter! It is needless to say that the atoning blood can avail none who
(1) reject the atonement; or,
(2) despise it, by giving it no thought; or,
(3) trample it under foot by leading an immoral and ungodly life. These are as far removed from its protection as were the Egyptians.
Exodus 12:26, Exodus 12:27
The obligation of men to teach the true meaning of rites and ceremonies to their children.
The rites and ceremonies of a religion are liable to be misunderstood in two ways.
1. They may be regarded as unimportant, trifling, nay, even as superstitious—a weight and an encumbrance on true vital religion. Or,
2. They may be assigned more importance than is their due; considered to be that in which religion mainly consists, believed to have an inherent power and efficacy which is far from belonging to them. Men are prone to extremes; and most persons are naturally inclined either unduly to exalt, or unduly to depreciate religious ceremonies. Of the two evils, undue depreciation would seem to be the worse, for the following reason:—
I. UNDUE DEPRECIATION OF CEREMONIES
(a) tends to make them of little service to men when they actually take part in them, since they neither prepare themselves properly beforehand, so as to derive from them the benefit they might, nor enter into them with much heart at the time of their occurrence, nor help their effect by devout meditation upon them afterwards.
(b) It causes an infrequent participation in the ceremonies by the depreciators, who, expecting but little benefit in the future, and being conscious of but little benefit in the past, allow small obstacles to prevent their attendance at services which they do not value.
(c) In extreme cases, it produces either complete abstention from, or sometimes actual abrogation of the rite, whereby advantages are forfeited on the part of whole sections of believers which would otherwise have been enjoyed by them. Thus the Society of Friends loses the benefit of both sacraments, with sad results to the spiritual life of numbers.
II. UNDUE EXALTATION OF CEREMONIES has the advantage of at any rate retaining them in use, so that their benefit is not wholly lost. It often, however, greatly lessens the benefit
(a) by exaggerated and superstitious views of its nature, and
(b) by the attribution of the benefit to the mere formal participation in the rite irrespective of the participator's preparation, attention, and devoutness at the time. Further, it is apt to produce such a reliance on the ceremonies as is unfavourable to practical efforts at improving the moral character and making advances towards Christian perfection. Careful instruction in the true nature and value of ceremonial observances is thus of the highest importance; and parents should perhaps scarcely wait till their children "ask the meaning" of public worship, baptism, confirmation, the Lord's supper, etc; before enlightening them on the true nature and value of each. In so doing, it will always be of use to set forth the historical origin of each usage, to show when and how it arose, and to draw attention to what Scripture says on the subject. Men's private views are various, and may be mistaken, but the Scriptures cannot but be true; and a knowledge of what is contained in the Bible with respect to each Christian rite or ceremony will be an excellent basis for the formation of a sound and healthy opinion on the subject when, in the course of time, the different views of different sections of believers come to be known.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Christ our Passover.
The Passover was an eminent type of Christ. It was probably to it the Baptist referred when he said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John L 29). Paul gives a decisive utterance on the question in the words: "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7).
I. POINTS OF ANALOGY BETWEEN THE TRUE PASSOVER AND ITS TYPE.
1. In both the death of a blameless victim. The lamb, physically blameless (Exodus 12:5); Christ, morally faultless. A sinful world needs a sinless Saviour. It has one in Christ. The sinlessness of Christ, a moral miracle. Proofs of this sinlessness.
(1) Christ asserts his own freedom from sin (John 8:29-46; John 14:30).
(2) In no part of his conduct does he betray the least consciousness of guilt. Yet it is admitted that Jesus possessed the finest moral insight of any man who has ever lived.
(3) His apostles, one and all, believed him to be sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).
(4) His enemies could find no fault in him (Matthew 26:60; Matthew 27:23, Matthew 27:24).
(5) The very traitor confessed the innocence of Christ (Matthew 27:4).
(6) The delineation of his character in the gospels bears out the averment of his moral blamelessness.
(7) The captious efforts which have been made, by fixing on a few paltry points in the gospel narratives to impeach Christ's sinlessness, indirectly prove it. "As if sin could ever need to be made out against a real sinner in this small way of special pleading; or as if it were ever the way of sin to err in single particles, or homoeopathic quantities of wrong' (Bushnell).
2. In both, the design is to secure redemption from a dreadful evil. In the one case, from the wrath of God revealed against Egypt in the smiting of its first-born. In the other, from the yet more terrible wrath of God revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Romans 1:18). "Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10). "Saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:9).
3. In both, the principle of the deliverance is that of vicarious sacrifice. The lamb was substituted for the first-born. It protected the house, on whose door-posts the blood was sprinkled, from the stroke of the avenger. The substitutionary character of the death of Christ is, in like manner, affirmed in innumerable Scriptures. Jesus "died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). He "suffered for sins, the just for the unjust" (1 Peter 3:18). He gave "his life a ransom for many ' (Matthew 19:28). His blood is a propitiation (Romans 3:25). There is just ground for the remark of Coleridge (we quote from memory) that a man who would deal with the language of his father's will, as Unitarians on this and other points do with the language of the New Testament, would be liable to an action at law.
4. In both, there was need for an act of personal, appropriating faith. "The people bowed the head, and worshipped. And the children of Israel went away, and did as the Lord had commanded "(Exodus 12:27, Exodus 12:28). "Through faith (they) kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood," etc. (Hebrews 11:28). Their faith showed itself in sprinkling the blood on their door-posts and lintels, and in sheltering themselves under it. Nothing short of this would have availed to save them. So it is not knowledge about Christ, but faith in him; personal application to his blood, and trust in it as the means of salvation, which secures our safety. Faith is the bunch of hyssop.
5. In both, the slain lamb becomes the food of the new life. There was, on the part of the Israelites, a sacrificial feast upon the flesh of the lamb. This denoted, indeed, peace and fellowship with God, but it was also an act of nourishment. Similarly, under the Gospel, the new life is nourished by feeding upon Christ. We make him ours by inward appropriation and assimilation, and so are spiritually nourished for all holy service (cf. John 6:1-71.). Minor typical features might be insisted upon (male of the first year, roast with fire, not a bone broken, unleavened bread, hitter herbs of contrition, etc.), but the above are the broad and outstanding ones.
II. THE SURPASSING EXCELLENCE OF THE TRUE PASSOVER. It belongs to the nature of a type that it should be surpassed by the antitype. The type is taken from a lower sphere than the thing which it represents. So completely, in the case of the passover, does the reality rise above the type, that when we begin to reflect on it the sense of likeness is all but swallowed up in the sense of disproportion. How great,
1. The contrast in the redemptions. The redemption from Egypt, though spiritual elements were involved in it, was primarily a redemption from the power of Pharaoh, and from a temporal judgment about to fall on Egypt. Underlying it, there was the need for a yet greater redemption—a redemption from the curse of a broken law, and from the tyranny of sin and Satan; from death spiritual, temporal, and eternal. It is this higher redemption which Christ has achieved, altering, through his death, the whole relation of God to man, and of (believing)man to God.
2. The contrast in the victims. That, an irrational lamb; this, the Eternal Son of God in human nature, the Lord's own Christ.
3. The contrast in the efficacy of the blood. The blood of the passover lamb had no inherent virtue to take away sin. Whatever virtue it possessed arose from God's appointment, or from its typical relation to the sacrifice of Christ. Its imperfection as a sacrifice was seen
(1) In the multitude of the victims.
(2) In the repetition of the service (Hebrews 10:1-3).
But what the flowing of the blood of millions of lambs, year by year slain in atonement for sin could not achieve, Christ has achieved once for all by the offering up of his holy body and soul. The dignity of his person, the greatness of his love, his holy will, the spirit of perfect self-sacrifice in which he, himself sinless, offered himself up to bear the curse of sin for the unholy, confers upon his oblation an exhaustless meritoriousness. Its worth and sufficiency are infinite (Hebrews 10:10-15; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 2:2).
4. The contrast in the specific blessings obtained. The difference in these springs from the contrast in the redemptions. Israel obtained
(1) Escape from judgment.
(2) Outward liberty.
(3) Guidance, care, and instruction in the desert.
(4) Ultimately, an earthly inheritance.
We receive, through Christ,
(1) Pardon of all sins.
(2) A complete justifying righteousness, carrying with it the title to eternal life.
(3) Renewal and sanctification by the Spirit.
(4) Every needed temporal and spiritual blessing in life.
(5) Heaven at the close, with triumph over death, the hope of a resurrection, and of final perfecting in glory.—J.O.
Exodus 12:26, Exodus 12:27
What mean ye by this service?
Apply to the Lord's Supper.
I. A QUESTION TO BE PUT BY THE COMMUNICANT TO HIMSELF. Qualification for the Lord's table includes "knowledge to discern the Lord's body," as well as "faith to feed upon him."
II. A QUESTION LIKELY TO BE PUT TO THE COMMUNICANT By HIS CHILDREN.
1. The children are presumed to be spectators of the ordinance. It is well that children should be present during the administration of the sacraments. It awakens their interest. It leads them to inquire.
2. The ordinance is fitted to attract attention. An external interest attaches to it. It appeals to the senses. The symbolic acts and movements prompt to inquiry.
3. It furnishes an excellent opportunity for imparting instruction. Children will attend to an explanation of the sacraments, who will pay little attention to a book or a sermon. The symbolism of the ordinance aids instruction; makes it vivid and impressive.
III. A QUESTION WHICH THE CHRISTIAN PARENT SHOULD BE ABLE TO ANSWER TO HIS CHILDREN. It is a sad matter when a parent is incapable of sitting down, and instructing his children in the meaning of the sacramental symbol. It betrays something worse than ignorance; not improbably, a total want of spiritual religion.
IV. THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION INVOLVES A STATEMENT OF THE GREATEST VERITIES OF OUR FAITH. The Jew had to answer to his child—"It is the sacrifice, of the Lord's passover," etc. (Exodus 12:27). The Christian has to answer, "It is the memorial of our Lord's death, in atonement for our sins." He has to tell—
1. How we were in guilt and danger.
2. How, for the love wherewith he loved us, Christ gave himself up to the death for our redemption.
3. How, for his sake, we are forgiven and accepted.
4. How the ungodly world has still God's wrath resting upon it. It is wonderful to reflect how simply, yet how perfectly, God has provided for the handing down of a testimony to these great truths in the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. The pulpit may fail to preach the doctrine of atonement; Rationalistic and Unitarian teachers may deny it; but as often as the Lord's Supper is observed, on the model of the New Testament, the truth is anew proclaimed in unmistakable symbols. To give a child a satisfactory explanation of the Lord's Supper, embodying the words of institution, would be almost of necessity, to preach a sermon on the atonement.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The children's question in Canaan.
I. IT WAS A QUESTION TO BE EXPECTED. The service was one to provoke curiosity. It was not some daily action of the household, of which the children learned the meaning and purpose almost unconsciously. The grinding of the corn, the kneading of the dough, in a very short time explained themselves. But when as the beginning of the year drew round, it brought with it these special observances, the slaying and eating of the lamb and the seven days of unleavened bread, there was everything to make a child ask, "What is this being done for?" God makes one thing to fit into another. He institutes services of such a kind, with such elements of novelty and impressiveness in them, that the children make it easier for them to be instructed in the things that belong to his will. And what was true concerning this passover service, is also true, more or less, concerning all that is revealed in the Scriptures. The great facts of Divine revelation are such as to provoke curiosity, even in a child's mind. If it be true that the Scriptures are given to guide us all the way through life, then what is more reasonable to expect than that God will have placed much in them to stir up attention and inquiry from those who are just at the beginning of life?
II. HENCE THIS WAS A QUESTION TO BE ENCOURAGED. Every advantage was to be taken of childish curiosity. Inquisitive children are often reckoned a nuisance, and told to be quiet; yet such a policy as this, though it may save trouble in the present, may lead to a great deal more trouble in the future. A stupid child who never asks questions, is to be reckoned an object of pity and a source of peril. God has always in mind how to make each generation better instructed than the one going before; more obedient to him, and more serviceable for his purposes. The temptation of the grown people in Israel was to undervalue what was going on in the minds of their children. Remember how Mary and Joseph suffered through their want of forethought on this point. The God who watches human beings all the way from the cradle to the grave knows well how children, even very little children, have their own thoughts about things; and he wanted the people to give them every encouragement and information. One question wisely answered leads to the asking of other questions. Thus, by the continuance of an inquiring mood in the mind, and thus only, is profitable information to be given. Information is not to be poured into the mind as into a bucket; it must be taken as food, with appetite, and digestive and assimilating power. Thus if the question were not asked, if, while the passover preparations were being made, a child stood by in stolid unconcern, or ran away heedlessly to play, such conduct would fill a wise parent with solicitude. He would look upon it as being even more serious than a failure of physical health. He would do all he could by timely suggestions to bring the question forth. Ingenuity and patience may do much to bring curiosity into action, and if the question were not asked it would have to be assumed. The narrative of the passover was a most important one for every Israelite child to hear and remember; and if only the narrative was begun, it might soon excite the requisite and much desired interest.
III. IT WAS A QUESTION WHICH GAVE GREAT SCOPE FOR USEFULNESS TO THE CHILDREN IN THE ANSWERING OF IT. God, indeed, directs how it is to be answered; but of course, it is not meant that there was to be a formal, parrot-like confinement to these words. What, for instance, could be more gratifying to the children, who in after times asked this question, than to begin by pointing out to them, how God himself expected them to ask this question? Then the words he had directed Moses to provide for an answer, might be repeated. But it would have been a poor spiritless answer, unpleasing to God, and profitless to the children, if it had stopped with the bare utterance of the words in Exodus 12:27. There was room for much to be said, that would very peculiarly impress the mind of a thoughtful child. It might be reminded that whereas, now, little children were born in the freedom of Canaan, some among their forefathers had been born in the bondage of Egypt. It might be told of that Pharaoh who had threatened the men* children with destruction. In particular, the story of the infant Moses might be told. So now, in those parts of the world where the idols are abolished, and former idolaters are gathered round the throne of grace for Christian worship, an opportunity is given for explaining to the children, in how much better a state, and with how much better surroundings they are brought up. "What mean ye by this service?' was a question which could be answered in form, and yet with such absence of heart, as utterly to chill and thwart the eager inquirer. Whereas, if it were only answered with evident care, with amplitude of detail, with loving desire to interest and satisfy, then the child thus favoured, would be laid under great obligations to be thankful in feeling, and devoted in service. A question of this sort gave great opportunity. Happy those who could seize the opportunity at once, and use it to the full.
IV. IT WAS A QUESTION WHICH CAME TO CALL EVERY ISRAELITE, AT THE ANNUAL OBSERVANCE OF THE PASSOVER, TO A CAREFUL CONSIDERATION OF HIS OWN FEELINGS WITH RESPECT TO IT. It was a question which helped to guard against formality. A little child may render a great service, without knowing it, even to a grown man. God can send the little ones, to test, to rebuke, to warn, to stir out of lethargy. "What mean ye by this service?" How is the Israelite of the grown generation to answer this question? He may tell the child what the service is intended for, the historical facts out of which it arose, and the Divine appointments concerning it; but after all, this is no real answer to the question. It may be an answer to satisfy the inquiring child, and yet leave the person who has to give it, with a barbed arrow in his memory and conscience. Notice the precise terms of the question. What mean ye by this service? How should the child ask in any other terms? It looks and sees the parents doing something new and strange; and to them it naturally looks for explanation and guidance. The question is not simply, "Why is this thing being done?' but "Why are you doing it, and what do you mean by it?" It became only too possible in the lapse of ages, to go through this service in a cold, mechanical, utterly unprofitable way. Not so, we may be sure, was it observed the first time in Egypt, on the night of deliverance. Then all was excitement, novelty, and overflowing emotion. Be it ours, in considering all outward and visible acts in connection with religion, all symbolic and commemorative institutions, to ask ourselves in great closeness and candour of personal self-application, "What mean we by this service?' Do we mean anything at all, and if so, what is it that we mean? To answer this is not easy: it is not meant to be easy. Perhaps one great reason why there are such marked and unabated differences of opinion with respect to Baptism and the Lord's Supper is, that we have never sufficiently considered the question, "What mean ye by these services?' It is hard work to be quit of mere superstition, mere clinging to outward observances as matters of custom, tradition, and respectability. It is very certain that to this question of the children, put in all its particular emphasis, only too many fathers in Israel would have been forced to reply, "We do this thing because our fathers did it." Remember that forms are, in themselves, nothing to the invisible, spiritual God. Their value is as containing, protecting and expressing what we have to present. That which pleased Jehovah and profited Israel was not the outward passover service, but the intelligence, the perceptions, the gratitude, the aspirations, and the hopes that lay behind it.—Y.
Israel and the sacrifice for sin.
I. CHRIST SLAIN BY US. The lamb's blood was not only shed for them, but also by them. The crucifying of Jesus by the Jews, the revelation of what lies in every unrenewed heart. "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced."
II. WHAT IS NEEDFUL FOR SALVATION.
1. Appropriating faith. It was the blood applied with their own hands to the door of the dwelling that saved those within. It is not enough that the blood be shed. Is it upon our gates? Have we set it by faith between us and destruction?
2. It must be applied as God directs us. It was sprinkled on the lintel and doorposts—not within, but without. It is not enough that we believe. We must make open profession of our faith.
3. We must abide within until the day dawn and salvation come. To put that blood (which should be between us and the world) behind us, no longer to hide within it but to forget it, is to renounce salvation. Are we without or within the blood-stained gateway? We are saved if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.
II. GOD'S COVENANT GIVES PERFECT SECURITY (Exodus 12:25). The shed blood stands between us and death. The awe and joy of redeemed Israel, a faint emblem of the awe and joy which we shall feel, who shall see the judgment of sin but only from afar.
IV. THE DUTY OF THE REDEEMED.
1. Perpetual remembrance (Exodus 12:23). We must, in the ordinance of Christ's own appointment, shew his death till he come.
2. The handing down the knowledge of salvation (Exodus 12:26, Exodus 12:27). Christians should glory in the story of the Cross.
Exodus 12:29, Exodus 12:30
THE TENTH PLAGUE. At last the time had come for the dealing of the final blow. Nine plagues had been sent, nine inflictions endured, and no serious effect had been produced. Once or twice Pharaoh had wavered, had made profession of submitting himself, had even acknowledged his sin. But each time he had relapsed into obstinacy. Now at length the fiat had gone forth for that last plague which had been announced the first (Exodus 4:23). Pharaoh's own son, his firstborn, the heir to his throne, was smitten with death, in common with all the other male Egyptians who had "opened the womb." What the effect on the king would have been, had he alone suffered, we cannot certainly say. As it was, the whole population of the country, nobles, tradesmen, peasants, suffered with him; and the feeling aroused was so intense that the popular movement left him no choice. The Egyptians everywhere "rose up in the night" (Exodus 12:30), and raised "a great cry," and insisted that the Israelites should depart at once (Exodus 12:33). Each man feared for himself, and felt his life insecure, so long as a single Israelite remained in the land.
At midnight. As prophesied by Moses (Exodus 11:4). The day had not been fixed, and this uncertainty must have added to the horror of the situation. The first-born of Pharaoh. We have no proof that the eldest son of Menephthah died before his father, unless we take this passage as proving it. He left a son, called Seti-Menephthah, or Seti II, who either succeeded him, or reigned after a short interval, during which the throne was held by Ammonmes, a usurper. The first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon. This phrase takes the place of another expression, viz. "the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill" (Exodus 11:5). In both cases, the general meaning is, "all, from the highest to the lowest." This is perhaps the whole that is in the writer's thought; but it is also true that captives in dungeons were in some cases employed in turning hand-mills (Judges 16:21). And all the first-born of cattle. Rather, "of beasts." There is no limitation of the plague to domesticated animals.
And Pharaoh rose up in the night, and all his servants. This general disturbance differentiates the present visitations from that which came upon the host of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35). Then, the calamity came with such silence and secrecy, that the deaths were not suspected until men rose to go about their various tasks in the morning Now, every household seems to have been aroused from its sleep in the night. We must suppose sharp and painful illness, terminating after a few hours in death. The disaster itself may have been one from which Egypt often suffers in the spring of the year (Kalisch); but its attacking all the firstborn and no others, and no Israelites, as well as its announcement, plainly showed it to be miraculous. There was a great cry. See the comment on Exodus 11:6. For there was not a house where there was not one dead. This is perhaps a slight hyperbole. There would be many families in which there was no son; and some houses might contain no male who had opened the womb. It is always to be borne in mind, that the language of Scripture—especially where exciting and tragical events are narrated—is poetical, or at the least highly rhetorical.
Exodus 12:29, Exodus 12:30
The death of the first-born.
From the death of the first-born we may learn:—
I. THE SEVERITY OF GOD'S LONG DEFERRED JUDGMENTS. That punishment will overtake the wicked sooner or later was the conviction of heathendom no less than of the Jewish and Christian worlds. Horace says—"Judgment may halt, but yet it rarely fails to overtake the guilty one at last." Tibullus—"Wretch, though at first thy sin no judgment meet, vengeance will come at length with silent feet." But the greater heaviness of the punishment that is long deferred does not appear to have attracted their notice. Yet experience might have taught it them. Who has not seen the long triumphant career of a thoroughly bad man, crowned with success for years, seeming to turn all he touched to gold, "flourishing," as the Psalmist has it, "like a green bay tree," yet ending in calamities and misfortunes so striking, and so heaped one upon another, as to draw general attention? It is invidious, perhaps, to note instances; but the present generation has seen at least one example among the crowned heads of Europe. And Scripture is full of examples. How long God's Spirit strove with men in the antediluvian world, as they proceeded from one wickedness to another, heaping up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath, till the flood came and swept away the ungodly! For what a prolonged term of years must the long-suffering of God have borne with the cities of the plain, as they more and more corrupted themselves, till in all Sodom there were not ten godly men left! And then, how signal the punishment! Again, what an instance is Ahab of the operation of the law! Flourishing in every way, in spite of his numerous sins—his idolatries, cruelties, selfishness, meanness, hatred of God's servants—victorious over Benhadad, supported by all the forces of Jehoshaphat, encouraged by his successes to undertake an aggressive war against Syria—and then struck down in a moment, slain by an arrow shot at a venture (1 Kings 22:34)—his blood licked up by dogs—his wife and seventy sons murdered! The Pharaohs and the Egyptians had now worked their wicked will on Israel for a century or more, since the king arose "who knew not Joseph"—all this time they had been treasuring up to themselves wrath (Romans 2:5)—and now it had fallen upon them in full force. Let sinners beware of trying the forbearance and long-suffering of God too far—let them tremble when all goes well with them, and no punishment comes. Let them be assured that the account of their offences is strictly kept, and that for each they will have to suffer. Delay does but mean accumulation. However long suspended, the bolt will fall at last, and it will be proportioned in its severity to the length of the delay, and the amount of the wrath stored up.
II. THE SUDDENNESS WITH WHICH THEY COME UPON MEN. It was night—it was the hour of repose, of peace, silence, tranquillity. All had gone to rest unsuspectingly. No one anticipated evil. Each said to himself, as he lay down, "To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant," when suddenly, without warning, there was death everywhere. Fathers saw the light of their eyes snatched from them—mothers beheld their darlings struggling in the agonies of dissolution. A shrill, prolonged cry sounded throughout the land. So the flood came upon man unawares (Luke 17:27)—and a sudden destruction overthrew the cities of the plain (ib. 28, 29)—and Ahab found himself mortally wounded when he was thinking of nothing but victory—and in the height of his pride Herod Agrippa was seized with a fearful malady—and Uzziah's leprosy smote him in a moment—and in the night of his feast was Belshazzar slain. Wicked men are for the most part thinking of nothing less when the judgments of God fall upon them. They have said to their soul—"Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry," when the dread sentence goes forth—"Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee." God's judgments often come in the night. We know not what a day, nor what a night may bring forth. Let us commend our souls to God when we lie down to rest, and repeat the prayer of the Litany against sudden death.
III. THE IMPARTIALITY WITH WHICH THEY ARE DEALT OUT UPON ALL CONDITIONS OF MEN. "Pale death smites equally the poor man's but and the king's palace," says a heathen moralist. And so it is with all God's judgments. He is no respecter of persons. "Without respect of persons he judgeth according to every man's work" (1 Peter 1:17). Greatness furnishes no security against him. His messengers can enter the palace, elude the sentinels, pass the locked doors, make their way into the secret chamber, smite the monarch, sleeping or waking, with disease, or death, or frenzy. Nor can obscurity escape him; "All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." The lowest dungeon, the most wretched garret, the obscurest cellars are within his ken, their inmates known, the moral condition of each and all of them noted. His judgments find men out as easily in the darkest haunts of vice, or the most wretched abodes of poverty, as in royal mansions. And as greatness will not prevent him from chastising, so neither will meanness The "woman behind the mill," the "captive in the dungeon" are his creatures and his servants, no less than the great, and must be either his true servants, or rebels against his authority. If they are the-latter, their obscurity and insignificance will not save them from his judgments, any more than the great man's greatness will save him. Vice must not look for impunity because it is low-placed, and hides itself in a corner.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The death of the first-born,
On this see Exodus 11:4-7. Observe here—
I. THIS JUDGMENT IS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE OF REPRESENTATION. Hitherto, the plagues had fallen on the Egyptians indiscriminately. Now, a change is made to the principle of representation. Egypt, Israel also, is represented in its first-born. When a death-penalty was to be inflicted, the lines had to be drawn more sharp and clear. We are reminded that this principle of representation holds a vitally important place in God's moral government. The illustrations which more immediately affect ourselves are, first, the representation of the race in Adam, and second, its representation in Christ (Romans 5:12-21). Hence it is not altogether fanciful to trace a relation to Christ even in this judgment on the first-born.
1. Christ is the great first-born of the race. We catch some glimpse of this by looking at the matter from the side of Israel. Israel, as God's son, his first-born, is admitted to have been a type of Christ (cf. Matthew 2:15). Much more were the first-born in Israel—the special representatives of this peculiar feature in the calling of the nation—types of Christ. They resembled him in that they bore the guilt of the rest of the people. But Christ, as the Son of man, sustained a relation to more than Israel. He is, we may say, the great First-born of the race. Egypt as well as Israel was represented in him.
2. The death of Christ is not only God's great means of saving the world, but it is God's great judgment upon the sin of the world. It is indeed the one, because it is the other. There is thus in the death of Christ, beth the Israel side and the Egypt side. There is some shadow of vicarious endurance of penalty—of the one suffering for, and bearing the guilt of, the many—even in the destruction of Egypt's first-born.
3. The death of Christ, which brings salvation to the believing, is the earnest of final doom to the unbelieving portion of the race. This also is exhibited in principle in the history of the exodus. In strictness, the first-born were viewed as having died, both in Israel and Egypt. The Egyptian first-born died in person; the Israelitish first-born in the substituted Lamb. The death of a first-born in person could typify judgment in the room, or in the name, of others; but the first-born being himself one of the guilty, his death could not (even in type) properly redeem. Hence the substitution of the lamb, which held forth in prophecy the coming of the true and sinless first-born, whose death would redeem. But Christ's death, to the unbelieving part of mankind—the wilfully and obstinately unbelieving—is a prophecy, not of salvation, but of judgment. God's judgment on sin in the person of Christ, the first-born, is the earnest of the doom which will descend on all who refuse him as a Saviour. And this was the meaning of the death of the first-born in Egypt. That death did not redeem, but forewarned Egypt of yet worse doom in store for it if it continued in its sins. The first-born endured, passed under, God's judgment, for the sin of the nation; and so has Christ passed under, endured God's judgment, for the sin even of the unbelieving. Egypt, not less than Israel, was represented in him; but to the one (Egypt as representative of hostility to the kingdom of God) his death means doom; to the other (Israel as representative of the people of God) it means salvation.
II. THIS JUDGMENT COMPELLED PHARAOH TO RELAX HIS HOLD ON ISRAEL. It was the consummating blow. Imagination fails in the attempt to realise it. As we write, accounts come to hand of the terrific storm of Oct. 14, attended by a lamentable loss of life on the Berwickshire coast of Scotland. The storm was sudden, and preluded by an awful and ominous darkness. Cf. with remarks on ninth plague the following:—"I noticed a black-looking cloud over by the school, which shortly spread over all the sky out by the Head. Sea, sky and ground all seemed to be turning one universal grey-blue tint, and a horrible sort of stillness fell over everything. The women were all gathering at their doors, feeling that something awful was coming. No fewer than 200 fishermen and others are believed to have perished, the village of Eyemouth alone losing 129. So connected by intermarriage is the population of the villages and hamlets, that there is scarcely a family in any of them which is not called to mourn its dead. The scenes are heart-rending. Business in every shape and form is paralysed." An image this, and yet how faint, of the cry that went up in Egypt that night, when in every house there was found one dead. Yet no stroke less severe would have served the purpose, and this one is to be studied in view of the fact that it did prove effectual for its end. Observe,
1. It was a death-stroke. Death has a singular power in subduing and melting the heart. It is the most powerful solvent God can apply to a rebellious nature. It is sometimes tried when gentler means have failed. God removes your idol. He lays your dear one in the dust. You have resisted milder influences, will you yield to this? Your heart is for the moment bowed and broken, will the repentance prove lasting, or will it be, like Pharaoh's, only for a time?
2. It is a death-grip upon the soul which is needed to make sin relax its hold upon it. "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gut hold upon me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul" (Psalms 116:3, Psalms 116:4). God comes in the preaching of his law, and lays his hand, a hand carrying death in it, upon the soul of the trembling transgressor, who then for the first time realises the fatal and unspeakably awful position in which he has placed himself by sin. It is a death-sentence which is written in his conscience.
3. That which completes the liberation of the soul is a view of the meaning of the death of christ. Terror alone will not melt the heart. There is needed to effect this the influence of love. And where is love to be seen in such wonderful manifestation as at the Cross of Christ? What see we there? The first-born of the race expiring in awful agony under the judgment of God for our sins. Is not this a spectacle to melt the heart? It is powerful enough, if earnestly contemplated, to make the Pharaoh that is within us all relinquish his grip upon the captive spirit. What read we of the prospective conversion of Israel?—"They shall look on Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son; and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born" (Zechariah 12:10). See again, Acts 2:36, Acts 2:37, "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts," etc. Cf. also Revelation 2:7. The Cross inspires mourning—
(1) By the spectacle it presents of holy suffering.
(2) By the recollection of who it is that there suffers.
(3) By the thought that it is our own sins which are the cause of this suffering.
(4) By the thought that it is the judgment of God in the infliction of the curse of sin which the Holy one is thus enduring.
(5) By the conviction of sin, and the dread of Divine justice, thus awakened.
(6) Above all, by the infinite love shown in this gift of the Son, and in the Son's willingness to endure this awful agony and shame for our salvation.—J.O.
THE DISMISSAL The first action seems to have been taken by Pharaoh. The "cry" of the people had no doubt been heard in the palace, and he was aware that the blow had not fallen on himself alone, and may have anticipated what the people's feelings would be; but he did not wait for any direct pressure to be put upon him before yielding. He sent his chief officers (Exodus 11:8) while it was still night (Exodus 12:31), to inform Moses and Aaron, not only that they might, but that they must take their departure immediately, with all the people, and added that they might take with them their flocks and herds. The surrender was thus complete; and it was accompanied by a request which we should scarcely have expected. Pharaoh craved at the hands of the two brothers a blessing! We are not told how his request was received; but that it should have been made is a striking indication of how his pride was humbled. The overture from Pharaoh was followed rapidly by a popular movement, which was universal and irresistible. The Egyptians "rose up" everywhere, and "were urgent upon the people," to "send them out of the land in haste" (Exodus 12:33); and to expedite their departure readily supplied them at their request with gold and silver and raiment (Exodus 12:35), thus voluntarily spoiling themselves for the benefit of the foreigners. The Israelites, long previously prepared for the moment which had now arrived, made their final arrangements, and before the day was over a lengthy column was set in motion, and proceeded from Rameses, which seems to have been a suburb of Tunis, to an unknown place called Succoth, which must have lain towards the south-east, and was probably not very remote from the capital
And he called for Moses and Aaron. Kalisch understands this as a summons to the King's presence, and even supposes that the two brothers complied, notwithstanding what Moses had said (Exodus 10:29). But perhaps no more is meant than at Pharaoh's instance Moses and Aaron were summoned to an interview with some of the Court officials (see Exodus 11:8). As ye have said. Literally, "according to your words." The reference is to such passages as Exodus 8:1, Exodus 8:20; Exodus 9:1, Exodus 9:13.
Also take your flocks and your herds. Pharaoh thus retracted the prohibition of Exodus 10:24, and "gave the sacrifices and burnt-offerings" which Moses had required (Exodus 10:25). Bless me also. Pharaoh was probably accustomed to receive blessings from his own priests, and had thus been led to value them. His desire for a blessing from Moses and Aaron, ere they departed, probably sprang from a conviction—based on the miracles which he had witnessed—that their intercession would avail more with God than that of his own hierarchy.
The Egyptians were urgent upon the people. The Egyptians feared that, if any further delay took place, the God of the Hebrews might not be content with slaying all the first-born, but might punish with death the whole nation, or at any rate all the males. It is easy to see how their desire to get rid of the Israelites would expedite matters, and enable all to set out upon the journey on the same day.
The people took their dough. They probably regarded dough as more convenient for a journey than flour, and so made their flour into dough before starting; but they had no time to add leaven. Their kneading-troughs. This rendering is correct, both here and in the two other places where the word occurs (Exodus 8:3, and Deuteronomy 28:5). Kneading-troughs would be a necessity in the desert, and, if like those of the modern Arabs, which are merely small wooden bowls, would be light and portable. The dough and kneading-troughs, with perhaps other necessaries, were carried, as the Arabs still carry many small objects, bound up in their clothes (i.e; in the beged or ample shawl) upon their shoulders.
The children of Israel did according to the word of Moses. See above, Exodus 11:2. They borrowed. On this mistranslation, see the comment upon Exodus 3:22. It is plain that the gold and silver articles and the raiment, were free-will gifts, which the Egyptians never expected to see again, and which the Hebrews asked and took, but in no sense "borrowed." Hengstenberg and Kurtz have shown clearly that the primary meaning of the words translated "borrowed" and "lent," is "asked" and "granted," and that the sense of "borrowing" and "lending" is only to be assigned them when it is required by the context.
So that they lent unto them such things as they required. Rather, "So that they granted them what they asked." They spoiled the Egyptians. See the comment on Exodus 3:22, ad fin. The result was that the Israelites went forth, not as slaves, but as conquerors, decked with the jewels of the Egyptians, as though they had conquered and despoiled them
Israel's going forth from Egypt a pattern to oppressed Churches.
Churches are sometimes enslaved and oppressed by the civil power. In unsuspecting confidence they have accepted the State's protection, and entered into certain relations with it, supposed to be mutually advantageous. But, as time has gone on, the terms of the original arrangement have been disregarded; the civil power has made encroachments; has narrowed the Church's liberties, has behaved oppressively towards it, has reduced it to actual slavery. A time comes at last when the bondage is felt to be intolerable; and the Church demands its liberty, claims to go out from under the yoke of the oppressor. Under such circumstances the following analogies are noticeable:
I. THE OPPRESSED CHURCH, LONG REFUSED THE LIBERTY WHICH IT HAS BEEN DRIVEN TO CLAIM, IS APT AT LAST TO BE "THRUST OUT" BY ITS OPPRESSOR. The early efforts of a down-trodden church after freedom are strenuously opposed, denounced as at once wrongful, foolish, and futile, sometimes punished by an increase in the oppression. The Church is set to "make bricks without straw." If this process fails, and the demand for freedom continues, the claims made are perhaps at the next stage derided. (See Exodus 5:2.) They are then for a long time determinedly and persistently refused. If occasionally a seeming concession is made, it is scarcely made before it is retracted. If still the Church will not give way, but continues the struggle, a crisis arrives. The State finds itself in difficulties. One inconvenience after another befals is in consequence of the prolonged conflict. At length it comes to be felt that the inconveniences of the struggle exceed the benefits of the connection; and a sudden change of policy takes place. The Church is sent adrift; cut away like an encumbering mass of wreck; bidden to shift for itself, and trouble the State no more. The State is glad to be rid of it.
II. THE EMANCIPATED CHURCH FINDS ITSELF, ON EMANCIPATION, SURROUNDED BY DIFFICULTIES AND PERPLEXITIES. In the first place, the attitude of the State towards it is apt to be hostile; and an attempt may even be made to coerce it and force it to resume its old position. Apart from this, it labours under many disadvantages. It has recollections of the "flesh-pots of Egypt," which offer a strong contrast to the fare whereto it is reduced. It has to enter on a dull and wearisome course; to plod forward toilsomely, painfully. It finds its movements hampered by encumbrances. All these things are against it. But if the nerves be braced to bear, if the will be resolute to turn away from all thought of the "flesh-pots," if the fact of freedom be kept before the mind's eye and the old ills of slavery held in recollection, the difficulties of the early journey will pass away, the presence of God will be revealed, and after forty years of trial, the wilderness will have been passed through, and there will be a triumphant entrance into Canaan.
III. THE EMANCIPATED CHURCH HAS A RIGHT TO TAKE WITH IT ALL ITS OWN PROPERTY, AND IS ENTITLED, IF OCCASION ARISE, TO "SPOIL THE EGYPTIANS." Moses and Aaron would not stir without their flocks and herds—the main wealth of a pastoral nation. "Not a hoof," they said, "should be left behind" (Exodus 10:26). So the emancipated Church should take with her whatever is her own into the wilderness. She must not relinquish her property to the oppressor. It is really not hers, but God's: she is trustee to God for it. She is entitled to say that she "knows not with what she must serve the Lord till she is come out." And she is entitled to ask for parting gifts when she is about to quit a known shelter and to confront the perils and dangers of an unknown future. If God gives her favour in the eyes of those whom she is leaving, she will do well to require of them their silver and their gold and their raiment—all that they have most precious—and take it with her, not as "borrowed" wealth, but as endowment freely "given," intentionally made over for a permanence, out of goodwill and affection, or out of compassion and pity. She will find a proper use for all that is most rich and most rare in the service of the sanctuary.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
It has come then to this, that Pharaoh is glad to beg a blessing from the man whom at first he had so contemptuously spurned. "And bless me also."
I. THE WICKED MAN IS OFTEN MADE PAINFULLY AWARE OF THE MISERABLENESS OF HIS OWN PORTION, AS COMPARED WITH THAT OF THE GODLY. He may be, often is, even when he refuses to acknowledge it, secretly conscious of the superior happiness of the good man. There come times, however, when severe affliction, the sense of a gnawing inward dissatisfaction, or special contact of some kind with a man of genuine piety, extorts the confession from him. He owns that the good man has a standing in the Divine favour; enjoys an invisible Divine protection; and is the possessor of a peace, happiness, and inward support, to which his own wretched life is utterly a stranger.
II. THE WICKED MAN HAS SOMETIMES DESIRES AFTER A SNARE IN THE GOOD OF GOD'S PEOPLE. He envies them. He feels in his heart that he is wretched and miserable beside them, and that it would be happiness to be like them. He says with Balaam, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and: let my last end be like his" (Numbers 23:10).
III. THE WICKED MAN, IN HIS TIME OF TROUBLE, WILL OFTEN HUMBLE HIMSELF TO BEG THE PRAYERS OF THE GODLY. And this, though but a little before, he has been persecuting them. He feels that the good man has power with God.
IV. THESE FEELINGS OF THE WICKED MAN ARE USUALLY TRANSIENT.—J.O.
The blow had been so measured by infinite wisdom as to produce precisely the desired effect. Pharaoh "called for Moses and Aaron by night," etc. Observe—
I. PHARAOH IS NOW AS ANXIOUS TO GET RID OF THE ISRAELITES AS FORMERLY HE WAS TO KEEP THEM. It had been predicted at the beginning that this would be the issue of God's dealings with him (Exodus 6:1). Note,
1. Pharaoh's folly in resisting the demand of God so long. He has to concede everything at last. Had he yielded at the beginning, he could have done so with honour, and with the happiest results to his dynasty and kingdom. As it is, he has gained nothing, and has lost much, nearly all. He has ruined Egypt, suffered severely in his own person, lost his first-born, and irretrievably forfeited his prestige in the eyes of his subjects. Foolish king! and yet the same unequal and profitless contest is being repeated in the history of every sinner!
2. The dismissal is unconditional. No more talk of leaving the little ones, or the flocks and herds; or even of returning after the three days' journey. Pharaoh wants no more to do with this fatal people. No one could any longer dream of the Israelites returning, or expect them to do so. They were "thrust out altogether" (Exodus 11:1).
3. He seeks a blessing (Exodus 12:32). He wished Moses to leave a blessing behind him. He would be blessed, and still continue in his sins. Beyond letting Israel go, he had no intention of renouncing his idols, and becoming a worshipper of the God he had so long defied. Many would like to be blessed, while cleaving to their sins.
II. THE EGYPTIANS ARE AS EAGER AS THEIR MONARCH TO SEE THE ISRAELITES SAFELY OUT OF EGYPT.
1. They were affrighted. "They said, we be all dead men' (Exodus 12:33). They were perfectly right. Had Israel been detained longer, their nation would have been destroyed. It would be well if every sinner had as clear a perception of the effects of persistence in his evil.
2. They were urgent to send the people away. Not simply because this was what Jehovah had commanded, but because they were terrified to have them in their midst any longer. The Israelites were a people of ill-omen to them. They wished to get rid of the nation at once and for ever. This is not without significance. We remember how the Gadarenes besought Jesus that he would depart out of their coasts (Matthew 8:34). Worldly people have no liking for the company of the converted. Society bustles them out of its midst. Their old companions betray a singular uncomfortableness in their presence. They would rather have done with them. "Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways" (Job 21:14). Alas! the world that desires to be rid of the society of God's people will one day get its wish. The separation they would fain hasten will take place, and for ever (Matthew 25:46).
3. They were willing to buy the departure of Israel (Exodus 12:35, Exodus 12:36). The Israelites asked, and the Egyptians freely gave, of jewels of gold, of jewels of silver, and of raiment. Thus, singularly did Providence provide for the enriching of the people in the hour of their exodus. They went forth, not in squalor and disorder, but as a triumphant host, laden with the spoils of the enemy. The spoils of the world will yet turn to the enrichment of the Church.
III. THE ISRAELITES MAKE NO DELAY IN AVAILING THEMSELVES OF THE OPPORTUNITY OF FREEDOM (Exodus 12:34). Pharaoh did not need to tell them twice to leave the land. Their dough was unleavened, but, binding up their kneading-troughs in their clothes upon their shoulders, they prepared at once for departure. There are supreme moments in every man's history, the improvement or non-improvement of which will decide his salvation. Many other things at such a moment may need to be left undone; but the man is insane who does not postpone everything to the making sure of his deliverance. Such times are not indolently to be waited for. The Lord is to be sought at once. But God's ways of saving are varied. The seeking, as in Augnstine's case, may go on a long time before God is found.—J.O.
THE DEPARTURE. There are, no doubts, great difficulties in conceiving the departure on one day, from one place, of "six hundred thousand that were men, beside children." The difficulty is increased when we find (from Numbers 1:3-43) that by "men" is meant males above twenty years of age. The entire body of Israelites is thus raised from over half a million to over two millions. The whole narrative, however, supposes some such number; and it is accepted by the best critics, as Ewald, Kalisch, Kurtz, Canon Cook, and others. As these two millions must have lived dispersed over a considerable space, and there could have been no advantage in their all assembling at Rameses (Tunis), we are probably to suppose the main body with Moses and Aaron to have stared from that place, while the others, obeying orders previously given, started from all parts of Goshen, and converged upon Succoth, which was the first rendezvous. Each body of travellers was accompanied by its flocks and herds, and followed by a number of slaves, dependants, and sympathisers not of Hebrew birth (Exodus 12:38), which still further enlarged their numbers. The extremely open character of the country, and the firmness of the soil at the time of year, would facilitate the journey. There was no marching along roads, which indeed did not exist. Each company could spread itself out at its pleasure, and go its own pace. All knew the point of meeting, and marched towards it, in converging lines, there being no obstacle to hinder them. Arrived in the vicinity of Succoth, they could bivouActs without hurt, in that fine climate, in the open air.
From Rameses. It has been doubted whether this "Rameses" is the same place as the "Raamses" of Exodus 1:11. But the doubt scarcely seems to be reasonable. The two words differ only in the pointing. Brugsch has clearly shown that Rameses (Pa-Ramesu) was a town newly built in the reign of Rameses II; partly erected by himself, in the immediate vicinity of the old city of Tanis or Zoan. It was the favourite capital of both Rameses II. and Menephthah. Succoth. The meaning of the word "Succoth" is "booths." Mr. Greville Chester tells us that "huts made of reeds" are common at the present day in the tract south-east of Tunis, and suggests that the Succoth here mentioned may have been at Salahiyeh, fifteen miles due south of Tunis. Tel-Defneh, at the same distance to the south-east, is perhaps a more probable site. Six hundred thousand. See the Introductory paragraph. At the time of the numbering recorded in Numbers 1:1-54, the males above twenty years of age were 625,550. Beside children. Rather, "beside families." The word used includes all the women, and the children under twenty.
A mixed multitude went up also with them. Kalisch supposes that these strangers were native Egyptians, anxious to escape the tyranny of the kings. Canon Cook suggests that they were "remains of the old Semitic population" of the Eastern provinces. Perhaps it is more probable that they consisted of fugitives from other subject races (as the Shartana) oppressed by the Pharaohs. We have again mention of this "mixed multitude" in Numbers 11:4, where we find that they were the first to regret the "flesh and the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlick" which they had eaten in Egypt freely (Numbers 11:5). They thus set a bad example, which the Israelites followed. And flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. Compare Exodus 10:26. It has been noticed that this is important, as lessening the difficulties connected with the sustentation of the Israelites in the wilderness. But it increases, on the other hand, the difficulties connected with the march, and with the possibility of finding pasture for such large flocks and herds in the Sinaitic peninsula.
Unleavened cakes. Some of the modern Arabs make such cakes by simply mixing flour with water, and attaching flat circular pieces of the dough thus formed to the sides of their ovens after they have heated them. (Niebuhr, Description de l'Arabie,? 45, and Philippians 1:0, F.) Others put a lump of dough into the ashes of a wood fire, and cover it over with the embers for a short time. All Arab bread is unleavened. They were thrust out of Egypt. Compare Exodus 12:33.
In the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, after they had received permission to set out, two things are principally remarkable:
1. All were of one mind—none hung back;
2. A mixed multitude cast in their lot with them, elected to accompany them, and resolved to share their fortunes. The first of these two facts shows—
I. THAT IN TIMES OF EXCITEMENT, UNDER DIVINE GUIDANCE, A WHOLE NATION WILL ACT AS ONE MAN. Critical times are favourable to the formation of a national spirit. Let a powerful invader threaten a people, and differences are at once forgotten, quarrels made up, party spirit held in abeyance. All unite with equal zeal against the common enemy. Or again, let any wave of strong feeling come upon a people, desire of unity, or of freedom, or of taking part in a great enterprise, like the crusades, and much the same unanimity prevails. Such a spirit is found among the Jew-s who returned from the captivity with Zerubbabel, when in the seventh month they "gathered themselves together to Jerusalem as one man" (Ezra 3:1), to set up the altar of burnt offerings. Such a spirit appears again in the time of Nehemiah, when all the people with one accord kept a solemn fast on the 24th of Tisri (Nehemiah 9:1), and then "sealed to the covenant" (Nehemiah 10:1-29). But it was not very frequently exhibited. When proclamation was made by Cyrus the Great that all Israelites who chose might quit his dominions and "go up to Jerusalem and build the house of the Lord" (Ezra 1:3), it was only a portion of the nation, "whose spirit God had raised," that went forth. But now the whole people was of one mind. Braced by the severe discipline of suffering, their spirits raised—their whole moral tone exalted—by the long series of signs and wonders which they had witnessed, encouraged by the Divine promise of a "land flowing with milk and honey," and confident in the leadership of Moses, they all arose "as one man," left their abodes, their lands, their farming implements, their utensils, their furniture, and started for the rendezvous of Succoth. Such waves of popular feeling have been known from time to time, but scarcely to this extent. When Oubacha started on Jan. 5, 1771, with 70,000 families of Calmucks from the banks of the Volga for China, 15,000 families remained behind. But God now inspired the whole Israelite nation with one unanimous feeling; and all left Egypt together. The other fact shows—
II. THAT THE ENTHUSIASM OF A UNITED NATION IS CONTAGIOUS, AND EXCITES OTHERS BEYOND ITS LIMITS TO FOLLOW ITS EXAMPLE. The contagious character of a revolutionary spirit has often been noticed. Even the war spirit, when strongly felt, is apt to be contagious, and to overleap national boundaries. Here we see that a righteous enthusiasm will also, on some occasions, catch hold of those seemingly beyond its range, who are in contact with it, and sweep such alien elements into its vortex. The "mixed multitude" who joined the Israelites had none of the reasonable grounds for hoping to better their condition that the Israelites had; but they entertained nevertheless expectations of, somehow or other, sharing in their advantages. They may have contained,
1. Some native Egyptians, connected with the Hebrews by marriage, for the example of Joseph is likely to have been followed;
2. Some slaves anxious for freedom;
3. Some members of oppressed races, held to labour in Egypt, as the Israelites had been. The later facts of the history show—
III. THAT NEITHER OF THESE TWO FORMS OF ENTHUSIASM IS TO BE RELIED UPON AS PERMANENT. The enthusiasm of Israel cooled wonderfully when they found themselves shut in between the host of Pharaoh and the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-12). It was revived by the safe passage through the sea, but faded again rapidly under the toils and the monotony of the wilderness. Nor was that of the "mixed multitude" more lasting. They appear to have been the first to grow sick of the continual manna, and to have "lusted" after the rich and varied diet of Egypt (Numbers 11:4). The Israelites were seduced by them into similar misconduct; and the quails, and the plague which followed the quails (Numbers 11:31-33), were the consequence. Enthusiasm is a thing with which we cannot dispense; as a motive force for initiating a great movement, it is invaluable; but we must not trust to it for the accomplishment of anything which requires long and sustained effort. It is an abnormal and excessive stir of feeling, which must be followed by re-action. As it dies away, we must seek to supply its place by the ever increasing force of habit, which may be depended on for continuance.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The exodus as a fact in history.
The exodus from Egypt lay at the foundation of the national life of Israel. It appears in the history as a supernatural work of God. The subsequent legislation assumes it to have possessed this character. The bond of covenant declared to exist between the people and Jehovah had its ground in the same transaction. They were God's people, and were bound to adhere to him, and to obey his laws, because he had so marvellously redeemed them. Every motive and appeal in the later books is drawn from the assumed truth of the events related here, and of those which happened afterwards in the wilderness. Obviously, therefore, the history of Israel presupposes the truth of this history; while if the narrative of the exodus, as here recorded, is admitted to be true, we are in immediate contact with supernatural facts of the most stupendous order. We do not mean to discuss the question in detail, but the following points may be indicated as suitable for popular treatment.
I. OBJECTIONS. We touch only on that which relates to the number of the people (Exodus 12:37). The difficulty here is two-fold.
1. To account for the growth of the nation of Israel from seventy persons to over 2,000,000 in the space of time allowed for that increase. On this see the exposition. The difficulty is not serious
(1) if we take the plain wording of the history, and admit that the sojourn in Egypt lasted 430 years (Exodus 12:40);
(2) if we do the narrative the justice of allowing it to remain consistent with itself, the increase, on its own showing, being exceptional and marvellous (Exodus 1:7, Exodus 1:14, Exodus 1:20).
(3) If we admit that the descendants of the households which doubtless accompanied Jacob into Egypt, are included in the numbers. But this supposition, however probable in itself, is really not necessary to vindicate the numbers. The truth is, that granting a highly exceptional rate of increase, with 430 years to increase in, the numbers, as will be seen on calculation, appear small, rather than too great. They certainly could not have been much less than the history makes them. The problem is quite soluble even on the hypothesis of the shorter reckoning, in favour of which there is not a little to be said (see Birk's "Exodus of Israel").
2. To account for the possibility of so vast a multitude, including women and children, with flocks and herds, effecting an exodus in a single night (and day). The feat in question is certainly unparalleled in history. Even granting what the narrative (as against Colenso) makes perfectly clear, that the Israelites were in a state of tolerably complete organisation, had ample warning to prepare for starting on that particular night, and had for months been on the tip-toe of expectation, as plague after plague descended on Egypt, it is still an event so stupendous as to be difficult of realisation. The narrative itself, however, does not fail to represent it as very extraordinary. And in pronouncing on its possibility, there are several circumstances not always, perhaps, sufficiently taken into account. Justice is not always done
(1) to the perfectly superhuman efforts a nation can sometimes make in a great crisis of its history. Even an individual, at a time when feeling is highly strained, is capable of efforts and achievements, which, to read of them in cold blood, we might judge to be impossible.
(2) To the order and discipline of which masses of people become capable when called to face an emergency on which they feel that existence itself depends. The picture sometimes drawn of a disorderly rabble pouring out of Egypt has no foundation in the history, and is false to psychology and experience. The narratives of shipwrecks (the Kent, the London, etc.), show us what crowds are capable of in the way of order and discipline, even with certain death staring them in the face. When a people, under the influence of one great overmastering idea, are called upon to execute difficult movements, or to unite their efforts towards one great end, it is incredible what they can accomplish. The feeling of solidarity takes possession of them. They are of one heart and soul. The mass moves and works as if one mind possessed it, as if it were a machine. Orders are obeyed with promptitude; movements are executed with rapidity and regularity; men are lifted for the time out of their littlenesses, and display a spirit of willingness, of helpfulness, and of self-sacrifice truly wonderful. All these conditions were present on the night of the exodus: the result was what might have been anticipated—the people were brought out with wonderful rapidity, and in regular order; "they went up harnessed"—"five in a rank" (Exodus 13:18).
(3) We must add to these considerations, the singularly exalted state of the religious consciousness in the companies of the Israelites. Everything in their position combined to awe and solemnize them; to fill them with an overmastering consciousness of the Divine presence; to inspire them with boundless and grateful joy, yet a joy tempered with the awful sense of death, as forced upon them by the destruction of the first-born, and the lamentations of the bereaved Egyptians. This also would exercise a powerful and steadying influence upon their thoughts and behaviour, and would aid them in taking their measures with decision and speed.
II. PROOFS. Those who pile up the difficulties of the Bible seldom do justice to the difficulties on the other side. We have to ask—
1. Is it not absurd to say that so extraordinary an event as, in any case, this exodus of Israel from Egypt must be admitted to have been, happened in the full light of the most powerful civilisation of ancient times, while yet the people who came out did not know, or could not remember, or could ever possibly forget how it happened? (Cf. Exodus 12:42.) The Israelites themselves did not believe that they did not know. They had but one story to give of it—the story that rings down in their psalms to latest generations—the same story which, with minute circumstantial detail, is embodied in these chapters.
2. If this is not how the children of Israel got out of Egypt, will the critic show us how they did get out? It is admitted on all hands that they were once in; that they were in bondage; that Egypt was at that time ruled by one or other of its most powerful monarchs; that they came out; yet did not come out by war, but peaceably. How then did they make their way out? If the whole history was different from that of which we have a record, how came it that no echo of it was preserved in Israel, and that this sober and matter-of-fact relation has come to take its place?
3. There is the institution of the Passover—a contemporary memorial. We have already expressed our belief that this ordinance was of a kind which could not have been set up at a time later than the events professedly commemorated by it. Glance at the alternative hypothesis. The basis of the institution, we are asked to believe, was an ancient spring festival, on which were grafted by degrees, as the tradition formed, the rites and ideas of a later age. This hypothesis, however, is not only unproved, but violates every law of historical probability. It must in any case be admitted
(1) that the exodus took place at the time of the alleged agricultural festival.
(2) That the festival thereafter assumed a new character, and was observed, in addition to its agricultural reference, as a memorial of the escape from Egypt.
(3) That the use of unleavened bread in connection with it had reference to the haste of the flight.
(4) Further, that an essential part of this festival was the offering of a sacrifice.
(5) That, being at bottom a spring festival, it must have been observed, with but few interruptions, all down the later history of Israel. But if so much is admitted, we seem driven to admit more. For it is undeniable that the festival, as observed among the Jews, was connected most especially of all with the fact of a great judgment, which was believed to have fallen on Egypt on the night of the exodus, and from which the Israelites had been mercifully delivered by the sprinkling of the lamb's blood upon the door-posts; a memorial of which was preserved in the name (Pass-over). "The relation to the natural year expressed in the Passover, was less marked than that in Pentecost or Tabernacles, while its historical import is deeper and more pointed. That part of its ceremonies which has a direct agricultural reference—the offering of the omer—holds a very subordinate place." (Dict. of the Bible.) It is for the sceptic, therefore, to explain how that which enters into the inmost meaning and heart of the observance, could possibly have been engrafted on it as an accident at a later period—yet a period not later than accords with the ritual prescribed in these very ancient written laws: how, moreover, the people could not only be persuaded to accept this new reading of an old familiar ordinance, but to believe that they had never known any other: that this had been the meaning and ritual of the ordinance from the beginning.
4. We have not as yet alluded to the Pentateuch, but of course the fact is not to be overlooked that the work before us claims to be historical; that it was probably written wholly or in large part by Moses himself; and that in style, circumstantially, vividness of narration, and minute accuracy of reference, it bears all the marks of a true and contemporary history.—J.O.
The mixed multitude.
The mass of this mixed multitude which left Egypt with Moses, would consist of foreign settlers in the Delta, victims, like the Hebrews, of the tyranny of the Pharaohs, and, like them, glad to take this opportunity of making their escape (cf. Exodus 1:10). The enthusiasm of a great body of people is contagious. When the Israelites left Egypt, numbers would be moved to leave with them. Recent events, too, had doubtless produced a powerful impression on these mixed populations; and knowing that God was with Israel, they naturally expected great benefits from joining the departing nation. They had not calculated on the trials of the desert, and afterwards "fell a-lusting" (Numbers 11:4), provoking Israel to sin, and bringing wrath upon the camp.
I. MULTITUDES JOIN THE RANKS OF THE CHURCH WHO HAVE LITTLE IN COMMON WITH HER SPIRIT AND AIMS. They are like the mixed crowd of hangers-on, which left Egypt with Israel. Their ideas, traditions, customs, maxims of life, habits of thought and feeling generally, are foreign to those of the true Israel of God. Yet they are moved to join the Church—
1. From motives of self-interest.
2. Under transient convictions.
3. Caught by a wave of religious enthusiasm.
4. Under partial apprehensions of the importance of religion.
5. Because others are doing it.
They hang of necessity on the outskirts of the Church, taking little interest in her work, and acting as a drag upon her progress.
II. THERE ARE MANY BY WHOM THE CHURCH WILL NOT BE BENEFITED, WHOSE ADHERENCE SHE IS YET NOT ENTITLED TO REFUSE. The "mixed multitude" were not forbidden to go with Israel. Because, perhaps, they could not altogether be prevented. It is kindlier, however, to believe that Israel allowed the mixed crowd to accompany it, in the hope of ultimately incorporating them with the people of Jehovah. The Church is certainly not at liberty to encourage nominal adherence. She must do her very utmost to dissuade men from mere empty profession. Neither to swell her numbers, nor to add to her wealth, nor to increase her respectability in the eyes of the world, nor under a mistaken idea of "comprehension," must she open her doors to those who are known to be ungodly, or who give no evidence of serious religious intentions. Yet neither must she draw her lines too stringently. She must not presume to judge the heart, or to deal with men otherwise than on the ground of their professed motives and beliefs. She must teach, exhort, warn, and rigorously exclude all whose lives are openly inconsistent with the Gospel; but she must at the same time exercise great charity, and rather include ten who may possibly prove unworthy, than mistakenly exclude one whom Christ would be willing to receive. The responsibility in the matter of religious profession must, in great measure, be allowed to rest with the individual who professes. The Church is to consider, not only what is best for her, but the duty she owes to the world, in laying hold of those who are yet very imperfect, and training them for Christ.
III. NOMINAL ADHERENTS, HOWEVER, ARE NO SOURCE OF STRENGTH, BUT A GREAT WEAKNESS TO THE CHURCH. It may be the Church's duty to bear with them, but she can never derive benefit from them. She may benefit them, and in that hope should treat them tenderly, but they will never benefit her. They will be a drag upon her activity. In proportion to their numbers they will exert a chilling and detrimental influence. They will stand in the way of good schemes. They will "fall a-lusting," and provoke discontent. The morale of a Church can scarcely avoid being lowered by them. What then? Put them out? Not so. We shall work in vain to separate tares and wheat, and we are forbidden to act on this principle (Matthew 13:24-31). But,
1. Let us do what we can to keep down their number. Many churches and church office-bearers are greatly to blame for the indiscriminate way in which they receive persons to communion. We are bound to abide by the principles above laid down; but consistently-with these principles it should be our care to keep down nominal adherence as far as that is possible. Many of the character of the "mixed multitude" will find their way into the Church without our seeking for them, or giving them any encouragement.
2. Let us do what we can to change their nominal adherence into real adherence. Seek their good. Be not overcome by their evil, but try to overcome it by superior goodness.
3. Beware of their influence, and seek to keep it in check.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
Egypt's sorrow: Israel's joy.
I. THE JUDGMENT OF EGYPT EMBLEM AND PROMISE OF THE WORLD'S JUDGMENT.
1. The time of visitation; midnight, when all were wrapt in deepest slumber and, notwithstanding the warning which had been given, busy only with dreams. The world will be surprised in the midst of its false security. "As it was in the days of Noel etc.
2. Its universality. There were none so high that God's hand did not reach them, and none so low that they were overlooked.
3. The after anguish. The whole nation, steeped the one moment in deceitful slumber, the next torn with the most heartrending and hopeless grief. Their sin had slain their dearest and best.
4. It is a hopeless sorrow. Their grief cannot bring back their dead. The anguish of the wicked, like Esau's, will find no place for repentance.
II. THE DELIVERANCE OF ISRAEL THE EMBLEM AND PROMISE OF THE FULL ENFRANCHISEMENT OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
1. All that God had ever asked for them is granted. The demand for freedom to the people of God, and the breaking of the yoke laid upon the poor, will yet be obeyed in fear by the persecutor and the oppressor.
2. It is pressed upon them with all the eagerness of deadly fear. Israel never so desired the boon as the Egyptians that they should now accept it. The persecutors will come and worship at the Church's feet.
3. They go forth laden with the treasures of Egypt (Isaiah 60:5-17).
4. They go forth awed by the proof of God's faithfulness. To a day had he kept the promise given to the fathers (Exodus 12:41). The prophecies, now dim and misunderstood, will then be read in the light of God's deeds, and like Israel of old, we shall know that God has kept the appointed time.—U.
HOMILIES BY H.T. ROBJOHNS
March at midnight.
"This is that night of Jehovah" (Exodus 12:42). Observe the striking words of the text! "The night of Jehovah," a night in which he specially appeared and acted on behalf of Israel. For a description of the scenery of this eventful night see Dr. W. M. Taylor's "Moses," 99-101. In the treatment of this subject considerable exposition will be necessary. For material, see expository section of this commentary. It may, in order to include all important points, be marshalled thus (under each head we give suggestive hints):—
I. THE HAND THAT SMOTE. Most, if not all the nine earlier plagues, had a natural basis, the tenth had none. It was purely supernatural. They blended mercy (first warning and then withdrawal) with judgment. This was pure judgment. In them there was indeed a call to faith, but also room for unbelief. The demonstrations of God are seldom absolute. But the tenth judgment was awfully impressive. There is very little evidence of any secondary instrumentality, angelic, or any other; but see in the Hebrews 12:13, Hebrews 12:23. Jehovah this time smote with his own hand.
II. THE VICTIMS. Firstborns. Of all beasts. Of men. But here distinguish between the first-borns of fathers and of mothers. In the tenth plague it was so, that the first-borns of mothers were the destroyed (Exodus 13:2). Now, these were the "sanctified" unto the Lord, first, as "living sacrifices," and as representing the consecration of each family, and then of the entire nation. But failing this consecration, their lives were forfeited. This was the case at that moment with the Israelites and Egyptians alike. In the case of the Egyptians the life of the first-born was taken, in that of the Israelites atoned for. Hence emerges a law of the Kingdom of God, that every soul that will not voluntarily consecrate himself to the Lord, must involuntarily come under the cloud of condemnation.
III. THE OBJECTIVE. The gods of Egypt (Exodus 12:12). This was so with the nine plagues, it was especially so with the tenth. The heir to the throne was regarded as an incarnation of the Deity; by this plague God pronounced him common clay with the rest. But the first-born of animals also fell. This was a blow again st the animal worship of the land.
IV. COMPLETENESS OF THE VICTORY. Here discuss whether Pharaoh's permission was conditioned or unconditioned; and show that with Pharaoh's resistance God's demands increased, and that the king's surrender must have been absolute, in spite of 14:8, 9. Note the pathos of the prayer of the now broken-hearted, "Bless me also," 12:32.
V. THE BATTLE ARRAY. See Hebrews 13:18. Perhaps a good translation, instead of "harnessed," would be "militant," as including the outer armedness, and the inner valorous and jubilant spirit; both which ideas are in the original. Observe; the nine or ten months of preparation, the organisation in which the "elders" and Hebrew "clerks" of the works may have taken part, the arms they surely possessed, as witness the battle at Rephidim—how probably they had become marshalled into detachments—and places of rendezvous been appointed.
VI. THE FESTAL RAIMENT. Israel "asked," Egypt "gave," under Divine influence (Exodus 12:36), gold, silver, and raiment; these might be regarded as the "spoils" of Israel's victory, under God. These spoils were such as women might ask of women (see Exodus 3:22—"neighbour" is Feminine in the Hebrew), and such as women value. They were to be put not only on themselves, but on sons and daughters. The contributions of the Egyptian women must have been immense in quantity and value. Now then, why this spoiling? That Israel might march, not like a horde of dirty, ragged slaves, but in festal army. Compared with the slavery of Egypt the future might have been one long holiday, one holy day unto the Lord.
VII. PARTAKERS OF THE JOY (12:38). Low caste people probably; even as it is at this day in the mission field of India. But the lesson is obvious—the Lord's salvations are for the sinful, the outcast, and the miserable.
VIII. TRUTHS SUGGESTED.
1. The moment of salvation is the beginning of a new time. Israel's history as a nation dates from that night (122). So the history of a soul dates from its conversion to God.
2. The new time is a festal time.
3. The redeemed should assume festal attire (Luke 15:22), a bright eye, a cheerful countenance, etc.
4. Still he must don armour, and the Church must be militant.
5. The Church should welcome all comers; for the miserable need salvation, and the most rude are capable of some service. Comp. Deuteronomy 29:11, with Exodus 12:38.
6. The salvations of God are full-orbed in their completeness. From the months of preparation till Israel went out in festal array, all was complete.
7. The moment of salvation is to be held in everlasting remembrance (see Exodus 12:42). So of the still greater salvation.—R.
The narrative of the departure from Egypt is followed, not unnaturally, by a notification of the length of the sojourn, which is declared to have been a space of four hundred and thirty years. In the "Introduction" to the Book, we have examined the question, which here arises,
1. As to the soundness; and
2. As to the true meaning, of the Hebrew text, and have arrived at the conclusion that it is sound, and that it means what it says, viz; that 430 years elapsed between the arrival of Jacob in Egypt, with his sons, and sons' sons, and their families, as related in Genesis 46:1-27, and the commencement of the exodus. The time is required by the genealogy of Joshua (1 Chronicles 7:22-27). It is in remarkable accordance with the traditions that Joseph was the minister of Apspi, and that the Jews went out under Menephthah. If not absolutely required for the multiplication of the race from "seventy souls" to above two millions, it is at any rate more in accord with that fact than the alternative number, 215. It is twice repeated, so that "the mistake of a copyist" is almost impossible.
The sojourning of the children of Israel, which dwelt in Egypt. Rather, "Which they sojourned in Egypt." Four hundred and thirty years. Literally "thirty years and four hundred years."
The self-same day … all the hosts went out. The setting forth upon the journey is regarded as the "going out"—not the actual exit, which was only effected by the passage of the Red Sea.
It is a night to be much observed. We must suppose that some of the Israelites actually commenced their march before the night was over, being "hastened" by the Egyptians (Exodus 12:33), and having all things in readiness; but the bulk of the people can scarcely have started before daybreak. This is that night of the Lord—i.e; the night concerning which directions had been already given (Exodus 12:6-11)—the only "night" for which any observances were appointed. In their generations. To all time—so long as they continue to be a people. On the bindingness of this commandment, see the comment on Exodus 12:14 of this chapter.
God's discipline of his chosen ones.
I. THE TRIALS OF GOD'S PEOPLE APE SEVERE, BUT HAVE A JOYFUL END AT LAST, The sojourn in Egypt was from first to last an affliction (Genesis 15:13). It was only on account of the famine in Canaan that Jacob consented to change his abode and his condition. In Canaan he and his had been free; had "served" no one; had lived like the sons of the desert. But in Egypt, even during the lifetime of Joseph, they entered on a species of servitude. Not only were they Pharaoh's subjects, but to some extent his servants (Genesis 47:6). They were no longer free to come and go as they chose. They had a certain province assigned to them. They had, it is probable, to pay rent for their lands (Genesis 47:26). After a certain time, during which they suffered only this "light affliction," the severe oppression began. Their lives were "made bitter with hard bondage, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field" (Exodus 1:14); then their children were massacred (ib. Exodus 12:22); lastly, they were required to "make bricks without straw' (Exodus 5:7-19). So with God's people generally. They are given a time of suffering. They have to learn to "endure hardness." But God afflicts them as a discipline, and makes even their worst afflictions tend to their growth in grace. At last their trial time is over. Sometimes in this world, oftener in another, they find their Canaan, and "enter into rest."
II. THE TRIAL-TIME SEEMS LONG; BUT GOD DETERMINES ITS LENGTH, AND APPORTIONS IT TO THE NEEDS OF THE PARTICULAR CASE. Four hundred and thirty years is a long space, even in the life of a nation. It is about the period of time which separates us from the rebellion of Jack Cade and the commencement of the "Wars of the Roses." The severe oppression of Israel was not, however, nearly so long as this. Perhaps it lasted only about a century. In any case, times and seasons are in God's hands, and as he fixed four centuries for the entire servitude many years before it began (Genesis 15:13), so, we may be sure, he fixed the term in his own counsels for the severe oppression. And it is doubtless the same with individuals. God knows what kind and length of chastisement they need, and assigns to each of his chosen ones the term of suffering that is needful for him.
III. IF THE TRIAL-TIME ENDS HERE, AND A SEASON OF HAPPINESS SUPERVENES, IT IS WELL TO OBSERVE YEARLY THE DAY OF THE CHANGE AS A DAY OF THANKSGIVING TO GOD. As national mercies are rightfully commemorated by national "days of thanksgiving," so the special blessings vouchsafed to individuals should receive private commemoration. The day, or night, that brought us out of the Egypt of sin, is especially worthy of such honour. Wherever known, it should be "observed unto the Lord."
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
View it in three lights.
I. AS AN EMANCIPATION OF SLAVES. God is the sworn foe of the slave-holder. Only in a very modified sense was slavery tolerated in Israel; and the laws were such as gradually to undermine the system. Historically, God's religion has proved itself the great slave-liberator.
1. In Egypt. Here were two millions of a slave population set free in a single night.
2. In Israel. Consider the effect on the abolition of the slave system of the single precept in Exodus 12:44 of this chapter. The slave sat down with his master on equal terms at the board of the passover. The same thing happened in the Christian Church. When the Lord's Supper was dispensed, the Christian slave remained; the master, if he was only a catechumen or a penitent, retired.
3. In Christian countries. Christianity, it is true, did not preach a crusade against slavery—a course which would only have led to a slave-revolt—but it inculcated truths and principles which undermined the system. Slavery was the corner-stone of the ancient civilisations. Philosophers defended it. The pagan religions did nothing to overthrow it. But the Christian Church took up from the very first the cause of the slave. The master who ill-treated his slave was excommunicated. He was compelled to marry the female slave whom he had seduced. He sat with his slave at the Lord's table. The slave might hold office in the church, and thus become, in a spiritual point of view, the superior of his master. The influence of the Church was used to secure the liberation of the slave. Under Domitian, a prefect of Rome, named Chromatius, freed one thousand four hundred slaves who had become Christians, saying, "Those who have become the children of God ought to be no longer slaves of men." Says J. S. Mill, "In an age when the weak were prostrate at the feet of the strong, who was there but the Church to plead to the strong for the weak?" (Dissert. 2.155). The emancipation of four millions of American slaves—so long a blot on a so-called Christian civilisation—has been accomplished in our sight, a second exodus. "We can say to-day that, with some trifling exceptions, the soil of Christian nations is free from the disgrace of slavery. Under what influences have the efforts been produced which have brought about such a result? We have only to look at recent facts, and we see the whole clearly. What men, in the middle of last century, were the first to advocate and emancipate slaves? The Quakers of America, who held that bondage was contrary to the Gospel. What men have pleaded the cause of the negroes in the English Parliament with the most power and perseverance? Decided Christians—Wilberforce and Buxton. What spirit animated the book called Uncle Tom, which acted so powerfully upon opinion in favour of the negroes? A spirit steadfastly Christian. To what sentiment did the Czar of Russia appeal, when he gave liberty to twenty millions of men? Read his proclamation of Feb. 19th, 1864." (Ernest Naville.) Revealed religion—the religion of the Bible, is thus the great liberator of the slave.
II. As, TEMPORAL DELIVERANCE OF THE CHURCH. Many such deliverances has the Church, both in Old and in New Testament times, experienced since. Deliverances under the Judges; destruction of Sennacherib; edict of Cyrus, and return from captivity; Maccabaean Era. Read Christian Church history. See the Church emerging triumphant, laden with the spoils of the foe, from the days of persecution under the Roman Emperors. Later instances in the Albigenses, in the Lollards of England, in the Huguenots of France, in the Covenanters of Scotland, etc.
III. As A TYPE OF A GREATER DELIVERANCE THAN ITSELF. Redemption from sin and wrath through Christ. See previous Homilies.—J.O.
SUPPLEMENTARY ORDINANCE WITH RESPECT TO THE PASSOVER. The position of these verses is curious. We should have expected them to have followed immediately on Exodus 12:20, or else to have been reserved for the further consideration of the subject in Exodus 23:1-33. It is suggested, in order to account for their place, that they formed the matter of a special revelation made to Moses at Succoth. They comprise three main points:—
1. The absolute exclusion of all uncircumcised persons from participation in the passover rite;
2. The extension of the rite (implied in Exodus 23:19) to all full proselytes; and,
3. The injunction that not a bone of the lamb should be broken. (This last is repeated in Numbers 9:12)
This is the ordinance of the passover—i.e; "This is the law, in respect of the persons who are to partake of it"—there shall no stranger eat thereof, or literally, "No son of a stranger shall eat thereof." By a "stranger" here is meant one of a foreign race who wishes to retain his foreign character and to remain uncircumcised. Compare Exodus 12:48.
Every man's servant that is bought for money. Or "every man's slave." The Mosaic Law found servitude existing, and left it existing, only guarding against its extreme abuses (Exodus 21:20-27). It put no check on the traffic in slaves. When thou hast circumcised him. The Jewish commentators say, that the desire of the slave to receive the rite and become a Jew is here implied. But it would seem rather, that opposition and refusal is not thought of as possible (see Genesis 17:13, Genesis 17:17). The case is like that of baptism among the barbarous nations, where no sooner was the king converted than a general order went forth for the baptism of his subjects, which no one thought of resisting. Then shall he eat thereof. It was a principle of the Jewish law that the slaves should be admitted to complete religious equality with the native Israelites. (compare Le Exodus 22:11).
A foreigner. Literally "a so-journer"—i.e; a foreigner who is merely passing through the land, or staying for a time, without intending to become a permanent resident. The Septuagint πάροικος well expresses the meaning. An hired servant. It is assumed that the "hired servant" will be a foreigner; and intended to guard against any compulsion being put upon him.
In one house shall it be eaten. Compare the directions in Exodus 12:3-10, which imply this, and see the comment on Exodus 12:10. Neither shall ye break a bone of it. Kalisch thinks that the lamb was a symbol of the unity of the nation, and was therefore not to have any of its bones broken. This view may be a true one, without being exhaustive. It may have been to mark the unity of the Church in Christ that his bones were not broken, and in view especially of that unity, that the type was made to correspond in this particular with the antitype. (See John 19:33-36.)
All the congregation … shall keep it. Rather "shall sacrifice it." (Compare Exodus 12:6.)
Exodus 12:48, Exodus 12:49
And when a stranger, etc. Here we have the positive ordinance corresponding to the implied permission in Exodus 12:19, and modifying in the most important and striking way the prohibitive enactment of Exodus 12:43. The "stranger," even if he only "sojourned" in the land, was to be put on exactly the same spiritual footing as the Israelite ("One law shall be," etc.) if only he and his would be circumcised, and so enter into covenant,
Thus did all the children of Israel—i.e; the Israelites, at their first passover, acted in accordance with these precepts, especially in admitting to the feast all circumcised persons, whether natives or foreigners, and rejecting all the uncircumcised.
This verse should be transferred to the commencement of the next chapter, which should run as follows:—"And it came to pass—on the self-same day that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies—that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying," etc. The word "armies," which at first sight may seem inappropriate, occurs also in Exodus 6:26. It is probably intended to mark that the people were thoroughly organised, and marshalled in divisions resembling those of an army.
Passover precepts realised in Christian practice.
The precepts were:—
I. THAT NO UNCIRCUMCISED STRANGER, NOT EVEN THOUGH A HIRED SERVANT IN A HEBREW FAMILY, SHOULD EAT OF IT. Formally, baptism corresponds to circumcision, both of them admitting into covenant with God; and thus the rule of Christian communities generally, that the reception of baptism must precede that of the Lord's Supper, is a carrying out of this precept. But it is also carried out in another way. Spiritually, the correspondent to the circumcision of the flesh is the circumcision of the spirit; and thus all Churches which warn the wicked from approaching the Lord's table, do their best to enforce the precept, "No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof." Hired servants of the Church, unless circumcised in heart, are as unfit to communicate as those who have no external connection with Divine things. Nay, may we not say more unfit?
II. THAT ALL THE CONGREGATION OF ISRAEL, FREEMEN AND SLAVES ALIKE, SHOULD EAT OF IT. The frequent exhortation of all Christian Churches to all their members to receive the Communion, especially at Easter-time, and the general allowance of the duty by those who have any real sense of religion constitute a realisation, to a considerable extent, of this precept in Christian practice. It is to be wished that the realisation were complete. The joint participation of freemen with slaves has always charactcrised the Christian Church; and though there have been Christian communities which have acted differently, the cases are too exceptional to deserve much notice, and are disappearing as slavery disappears.
III. THAT IT SHOULD BE EATEN IN ONE PLACE, AND NONE OF IT CARRIED FORTH. Churches which allow not only reservation, but the carrying forth of the holy elements to the bedsides of the sick, break at any rate the letter of this precept. But the Reformed Churches, which disallow even reservation, keep close to it.
IV. THAT NOT A BONE OF IT SHOULD BE BROKEN. This precept can only be spiritually observed, for in the Christian passover, the "flesh" to be eaten has no "bones." But it is spiritually kept wherever communicants are warned against dividing Christ in their thoughts, against separating his humanity from his Divinity, or against practising special devotion to any separate portion of his person, as to his "Sacred Heart" or his "Five wounds." It was the essence of one of the early forms of heresy to "divide Christ;" and on this account the Church of England protests in her second article of religion, that in him "two whole and perfect natures are joined together in one person, never to be divided, whereof is One Christ."
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The spirit of the Passover ordinance.
The features to be specified reappear in the Lord's Supper. The ordinance was—
I. EXCLUSIVE. (Exodus 12:43, Exodus 12:45, Exodus 12:48.) A stranger, an uncircumcised person, and a hired servant, were not to be permitted to oat of it. Their relation to Israel was wholly external. In like manner, the Lord's Supper is exclusive. It excludes the stranger to the death of Christ, the uncircumcised in heart, and those who sustain a merely legal and hireling relation to the Church. These have "neither part nor lot" in the matter.
II. YET CATHOLIC. (Exodus 12:48, Exodus 12:49.) The sojourning stranger who wished to keep the passover had only to be circumcised—he and his males—to be admitted to the ordinance. He was then to be as one born in the land. This catholicity of spirit, and kindliness to foreigners, blending with a stern exclusiveness in religion, is characteristic of the whole Mosaic code. Cf. Vinet on the tolerance and intolerance of the Christian religion ("Vital Christianity"). The Lord's Supper is the most catholic of ordinances. It overleaps all barriers of race, nationality, clime, and religion. At the Lord's table there is neither Greek, nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free.
III. EQUALISING. (Exodus 12:44.) The master and slave sat down at the same board. See last homily. Christianity is the great social equaliser.
IV. UNIFYING. (Exodus 12:46, Exodus 12:47.)It taught the congregation to feel its unity.
1. The lamb was to be eaten in one house.
2. Not a bone of it was to be broken. "Through the unity and integrity of the lamb given them to eat, the participants were to be joined into an undivided unity and fellowship with the Lord, who had provided them with the meal" (Keil).
3. All the congregation were to eat it. The Lord's Supper, in like manner, is a social meal, in which the Church, eating "one bread," and drinking "one cup," declares itself to be "one body" (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 10:17). "The preservation of Christ, so that not a bone was broken, had the same signification; and God ordained this that he might appear as the true Paschal Lamb, that was slain for the sins of the world."—J.O.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
The Law of the Passover.
I. WHAT GOD REQUIRES IN ITS OBSERVANCE.
1. God demands purity of communion. No stranger is to cat of it.
(1) Our holy things are not to be profaned. The life of Christ is lowered and endangered by indiscriminate admission to the Lord's table.
(2) They are not to be degraded into superstitious rites. When they are given as if salvation resided in them, we are substituting idols for the unseen Saviour. The only safeguard for purity of worship is purity of communion.
2. It is not to be carried out from the midst of the household of faith. The peace and fellowship of the Gospel are only for the circumcised in heart.
3. Communion with Christ to be characterised by reverence and holy awe: not a bone of him is to be broken.
4. Every wall of partition is removed. All who believe have a right to join in the feast (Exodus 12:41-49); but they must come with the mark of God's people,—a circumcised heart.
II. THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH IS BLESSED NOT ONLY WITH SAFETY BUT ALSO WITH DELIVERANCE. "Thus did all the children of Israel … and on the self-same day" they passed out of Egypt (Exodus 12:50, Exodus 12:51). Fellowship with Christ is deliverance from the bondage of evil.—U.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Exodus 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent