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a commentary on Exodus 12 (Part II)
Thank you, Lord, for this day. May it be used for your glory!
Good morning everyone and welcome back to another Biblit! This week we are going to finish Exodus chapter 12. Last week we witnessed the Lord create a new holiday called Passover as well as the Festival of Unleavened bread. We left off the elders rushing off to prepare for the 1st Passover and the coming plague.
Today, we will witness the actual final, climactic plague. The wrath and judgment of God upon Egypt. Join me in this commentary on Exodus 12.
The tenth plague comes swift, but it comes with more pain than the rest of the plagues combined. Exodus boils the whole plague down into one verse:
“The Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.” (Exodus 12:29 ESV).
No one was spared. Young, old, slave, or king, it did not matter; there was not a house in Egypt that didn’t have someone dead. The Bible also tells us an immense cry came from the nation; I imagine you could almost hear it throughout the whole world.
Egypt was one of (if not THE) most powerful nations in the world at this time and in one swift movement, God proved that all their “power” was worthless. All their hustling trying to become a mighty nation was proven futile because they didn’t turn to the Lord. Pharaoh continued to reject God over and over and relied on himself and the Egpytian gods instead. This was the outcome.
Oftentimes the firstborn of Pharaoh was considered divine by the god Amun. God proved once and for all that His power was greater than Pharaoh’s or any of the Egyptian gods.
After the plague, Pharaoh is humiliated and afraid. He calls Moses and Aaron in and commands them to get up and go! As they rush out the door, Pharaoh humbles himself and for the first time calls their people, “Israel.” He declares them a nation and seeks their blessing from the Lord.
Pharaoh is not alone in desiring Israel’s vacancy. All the Egyptians were urgent in sending them out too. They were all afraid of the Lord and did not want to receive any more judgment.
As God had commanded in previous chapters, Israel asked for clothes, gold, and silver from their Egyptian neighbors. The Lord gave favor in Egypt’s eyes and they obliged. This also gives some foreshadowing to a future law found in Deuteronomy regarding what to do when freeing a slave:
“When you set him free, do not send him away empty-handed. Give generously to him from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. You are to give him whatever the Lord your God has blessed you with. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you; that is why I am giving you this command today.” (Deuteronomy 15:13-15 CSB).
We also see a pattern later on where Israel always plunders a nation they have conquered. When Israel plunders Egypt here, it further shows God’s victory over Egypt.
One last fun tidbit on this whole “plundering” Egypt thing. Apparently, the word “plunder” can also be translated as “save.” Perhaps this was one last attempt for Egypt to humble themselves to God and aid His people, thus saving them from further judgment.
Anyways, so Israel leaves Egypt in great haste with plenty of gold and silver to use on the tabernacle later on (God always provides), as well as plenty of unleavened bread. They also have one other interesting group going with them:
“A mixed multitude also went up with them” (Exodus 12:38 ESV).
So there were 600,000 Israelite men (so like 2 million total, though, this is a debated number), and also a group of non-Israelites who feared, trusted, and obeyed God. All in all, ever since Jacob and his family moved to Egypt with a small crowd of 70 people, they have spent 430 years in Egypt. Now they are finally a free nation!
The final piece of chapter 12 looks once again back to the Passover. God adds a couple of rules to the Passover and reminds Israel that He wants them to celebrate the Passover every year as a reminder of how God rescued them from the harsh slavery in Egypt.
It is here that He actually makes the rule that no bones can be broken during the Passover. But it is also here that God declares only the circumcised or covenant members of Israel could partake in the celebration of Passover. He does not exclude anyone based on ethnicity (for they now have non-Israelites living among them) or social status (slaves, rich, anyone can partake).
All God says is that anyone can partake in the Passover as long as they are circumcised and trust in the one true living God.
Wow! What a crazy demonstration of God’s wrath and power. I feel like I need to read it a few times to glean all that I missed. But I definitely see a lot of really cool things about God in this passage. Here are a few:
I want to bring this up first and foremost as it is an important piece to focus on.
Yes, to Egypt, a sinful people, they might think this plague is unfair or something. We’ll get to that in a second. Let’s look from the Israelite’s perspective first.
They were also sinful and deserved death, but God gave them the Passover. He gave them explicit and easy-to-follow instructions on how to receive God’s mercy. Then in one swift act of power, He saves the entire nation.
The thing is that this insane power, a power strong enough to wipe out the firstborn of every family in a swift swipe, a power that obliterated an entire nation and left them in ruin...God did that in order to save His people! That is a mighty God full of love and mercy!
One last tidbit here is that there was a multitude of non-Israelites that went with them in the Exodus. God’s salvation is for everyone!
All He asks, as we see in the Passover rituals, is that those people become circumcised. This is the physical act that resembles a spiritual truth. All that’s required for those people to truly partake in the goodness of God and the remembrance of the Passover, is to trust and have faith in the Lord. They need to be part of His covenant family. They are not excluded based on ethnicity or social status. The only way for them to be excluded is based on faith alone.
Ok, let’s now look at this whole plague from the perspective of Egypt. It’s hard to grasp that they deserved this, right? But didn’t they?
Pharaoh was for all purposes considered Egypt’s god. So it’s only fair he had a major part to play in the coming judgments on ALL of Egypt. The Egyptians put their faith in the wrong god.
That being said, there were plenty of Egyptians that did obey God during the plagues too. When the hail came, some Egyptians hid their animals. We also know now that a mixed group of ethnicities fled with Israel; I don’t know if any were Egyptian, but I like to believe so.
The point is that both Egypt and Pharaoh had chance after chance to obey God, but they continued to trust in themselves and their gods. God is patient, but His wrath is inevitable. It is eventual. And when it comes it is painful to bear.
As Israel leaves, God provides. They are being rushed out, but God already made sure that they had prepared tons of unleavened bread for the festival. He ensured they would be dressed and prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. These were all part of the Passover instructions.
They were ready to go. THEN, he provides favor in the Egyptian’s eyes as they give gold, silver, and clothes. These are the exact things Israel later gives back to the Lord to construct the tabernacle. How cool is that!
God keeps His promises
I think this is a really cool point to remember. God is a promise keeper and in this passage, we see His faithfulness. I want to highlight two specific promises from way back in Abraham’s days:
“Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be resident aliens for four hundred years in a land that does not belong to them and will be enslaved and oppressed. However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions.” (Genesis 15:13-14 CSB).
As we see in this text Israel stayed in Egypt for 430 years and afterward Egypt was most certainly judged. This was a promise God gave to Abraham! Abraham whose grandchild was the one that led Israel into Egypt.
“I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed[a] through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3 CSB).
This is part of the original Abrahamic covenant God made. In Exodus 12 we see that Israel has finally grown to be a great nation, and they are clearly blessed.
We also see in this text that an ethnically diverse group went with Israel, which also answers God’s promise that many nations will be blessed along with them.
Alright, how does this apply to my life? I think we can actually apply every one of those points above to our lives. God saves us, He’s merciful, He is faithful and will provide for all our needs. He promises so so many things to us in His word. Pray His promises back to Him! I’ve talked about these things before. Today I really want to talk about one main point.
As Paul says, we were once slaves to sin:
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness.” (Romans 6:20 CSB).
The thing I love most about Exodus 12 is that the same exact power God shows to Israel when He saves them from slavery in Egypt is the same exact power God uses to save us from the bondage to sin!
He sent Jesus, who sacrificed Himself in the most powerful act of love, in order to save us!
That wrath we witnessed Egypt endure is the same wrath that Jesus took on our behalf! When the Israelites wiped the blood on the doorposts in order to receive God’s mercy, that is the same mercy we receive through faith in Christ Jesus. How marvelous are God’s power and mercy!
Furthermore, we know we still struggle with sin. However, reading this passage in Exodus, we know God has the power to vanquish sin!
All we have to do is call on God’s mighty hand to kill the sin in our lives. Have faith, for He can conquer any and all sins!
Romans says this:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39 CSB).
No sin or struggle in or out of this world can possibly stand between us and God! What an incredible truth to hold onto!
Paul also reminds us in Ephesians:
“Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. For it says:
When he ascended on high,
he took the captives captive;
he gave gifts to people.
But what does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:7-10 CSB).
God’s judgment is real and it is coming. Is He patient, loving, and merciful? Absolutely! But one day there will come a time when we have to face His judgment. Will you face it with the blood of Christ on your doorpost, or will you face it like the unbelieving, God-rejecting Pharaoh?
All are included. No ethnicity or social class will exclude you. All that’s required of you is faith.