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Exodus 12:1-28

Context
The Institution of the Passover

12:1 1 The Lord said 2  to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 3  12:2 “This month is to be your beginning of months; it will be your first month of the year. 4  12:3 Tell the whole community of Israel, ‘In the tenth day of this month they each 5  must take a lamb 6  for themselves according to their families 7  – a lamb for each household. 8  12:4 If any household is too small 9  for a lamb, 10  the man 11  and his next-door neighbor 12  are to take 13  a lamb according to the number of people – you will make your count for the lamb according to how much each one can eat. 14  12:5 Your lamb must be 15  perfect, 16  a male, one year old; 17  you may take 18  it from the sheep or from the goats. 12:6 You must care for it 19  until the fourteenth day of this month, and then the whole community 20  of Israel will kill it around sundown. 21  12:7 They will take some of the blood and put it on the two side posts and top of the doorframe of the houses where they will eat it. 12:8 They will eat the meat the same night; 22  they will eat it roasted over the fire with bread made without yeast 23  and with bitter herbs. 12:9 Do not eat it raw 24  or boiled in water, but roast it over the fire with its head, its legs, and its entrails. 12:10 You must leave nothing until morning, but you must burn with fire whatever remains of it until morning. 12:11 This is how you are to eat it – dressed to travel, 25  your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. You are to eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 26 

12:12 I will pass through 27  the land of Egypt in the same 28  night, and I will attack 29  all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of humans and of animals, 30  and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. 31  I am the Lord. 12:13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, so that when I see 32  the blood I will pass over you, 33  and this plague 34  will not fall on you to destroy you 35  when I attack 36  the land of Egypt. 37 

12:14 This day will become 38  a memorial 39  for you, and you will celebrate it as a festival 40  to the Lord – you will celebrate it perpetually as a lasting ordinance. 41  12:15 For seven days 42  you must eat 43  bread made without yeast. 44  Surely 45  on the first day you must put away yeast from your houses because anyone who eats bread made with yeast 46  from the first day to the seventh day will be cut off 47  from Israel.

12:16 On the first day there will be a holy convocation, 48  and on the seventh day there will be a holy convocation for you. You must do no work of any kind 49  on them, only what every person will eat – that alone may be prepared for you. 12:17 So you will keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because on this very 50  day I brought your regiments 51  out from the land of Egypt, and so you must keep this day perpetually as a lasting ordinance. 52  12:18 In the first month, 53  from the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, you will eat bread made without yeast until the twenty-first day of the month in the evening. 12:19 For seven days 54  yeast must not be found in your houses, for whoever eats what is made with yeast – that person 55  will be cut off from the community of Israel, whether a foreigner 56  or one born in the land. 12:20 You will not eat anything made with yeast; in all the places where you live you must eat bread made without yeast.’”

12:21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel, and told them, “Go and select 57  for yourselves a lamb or young goat 58  for your families, and kill the Passover animals. 59  12:22 Take a branch of hyssop, 60  dip it in the blood that is in the basin, 61  and apply to the top of the doorframe and the two side posts some of the blood that is in the basin. Not one of you is to go out 62  the door of his house until morning. 12:23 For the Lord will pass through to strike Egypt, and when he sees 63  the blood on the top of the doorframe and the two side posts, then the Lord will pass over the door, and he will not permit the destroyer 64  to enter your houses to strike you. 65  12:24 You must observe this event as an ordinance for you and for your children forever. 12:25 When you enter the land that the Lord will give to you, just as he said, you must observe 66  this ceremony. 12:26 When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 67 12:27 then you will say, ‘It is the sacrifice 68  of the Lord’s Passover, when he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck 69  Egypt and delivered our households.’” The people bowed down low 70  to the ground, 12:28 and the Israelites went away and did exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 71 

1 sn Chapter 12 details the culmination of the ten plagues on Egypt and the beginning of the actual deliverance from bondage. Moreover, the celebration of this festival of Passover was to become a central part of the holy calendar of Israel. The contents of this chapter have significance for NT studies as well, since the Passover was a type of the death of Jesus. The structure of this section before the crossing of the sea is as follows: the institution of the Passover (12:1-28), the night of farewell and departure (12:29-42), slaves and strangers (12:43-51), and the laws of the firstborn (13:1-16). In this immediate section there is the institution of the Passover itself (12:1-13), then the Unleavened Bread (12:14-20), and then the report of the response of the people (12:21-28).

2 tn Heb “and Yahweh said.”

3 tn Heb “saying.”

4 sn B. Jacob (Exodus, 294-95) shows that the intent of the passage was not to make this month in the spring the New Year – that was in the autumn. Rather, when counting months this was supposed to be remembered first, for it was the great festival of freedom from Egypt. He observes how some scholars have unnecessarily tried to date one New Year earlier than the other.

5 tn Heb “and they will take for them a man a lamb.” This is clearly a distributive, or individualizing, use of “man.”

6 tn The שֶּׂה (seh) is a single head from the flock, or smaller cattle, which would include both sheep and goats.

7 tn Heb “according to the house of their fathers.” The expression “house of the father” is a common expression for a family.

sn The Passover was to be a domestic institution. Each lamb was to be shared by family members.

8 tn Heb “house” (also at the beginning of the following verse).

9 sn Later Judaism ruled that “too small” meant fewer than ten (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 88).

10 tn The clause uses the comparative min (מִן) construction: יִמְעַט הַבַּיִת מִהְיֹת מִשֶּׂה (yimat habbayit mihyot miseh, “the house is small from being from a lamb,” or “too small for a lamb”). It clearly means that if there were not enough people in the household to have a lamb by themselves, they should join with another family. For the use of the comparative, see GKC 430 §133.c.

11 tn Heb “he and his neighbor”; the referent (the man) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

12 tn Heb “who is near to his house.”

13 tn The construction uses a perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive after a conditional clause: “if the household is too small…then he and his neighbor will take.”

14 tn Heb “[every] man according to his eating.”

sn The reference is normally taken to mean whatever each person could eat. B. Jacob (Exodus, 299) suggests, however, that the reference may not be to each individual person’s appetite, but to each family. Each man who is the head of a household was to determine how much his family could eat, and this in turn would determine how many families shared the lamb.

15 tn The construction has: “[The] lamb…will be to you.” This may be interpreted as a possessive use of the lamed, meaning, “[the] lamb…you have” (your lamb) for the Passover. In the context instructing the people to take an animal for this festival, the idea is that the one they select, their animal, must meet these qualifications.

16 tn The Hebrew word תָּמִים (tamim) means “perfect” or “whole” or “complete” in the sense of not having blemishes and diseases – no physical defects. The rules for sacrificial animals applied here (see Lev 22:19-21; Deut 17:1).

17 tn The idiom says “a son of a year” (בֶּן־שָׁנָה, ben shanah), meaning a “yearling” or “one year old” (see GKC 418 §128.v).

18 tn Because a choice is being given in this last clause, the imperfect tense nuance of permission should be used. They must have a perfect animal, but it may be a sheep or a goat. The verb’s object “it” is supplied from the context.

19 tn The text has וְהָיָה לָכֶם לְמִשְׁמֶרֶת (vÿhaya lakem lÿmishmeret, “and it will be for you for a keeping”). This noun stresses the activity of watching over or caring for something, probably to keep it in its proper condition for its designated use (see 16:23, 32-34).

20 tn Heb “all the assembly of the community.” This expression is a pleonasm. The verse means that everyone will kill the lamb, i.e., each family unit among the Israelites will kill its animal.

21 tn Heb “between the two evenings” or “between the two settings” (בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם, ben haarbayim). This expression has had a good deal of discussion. (1) Tg. Onq. says “between the two suns,” which the Talmud explains as the time between the sunset and the time the stars become visible. More technically, the first “evening” would be the time between sunset and the appearance of the crescent moon, and the second “evening” the next hour, or from the appearance of the crescent moon to full darkness (see Deut 16:6 – “at the going down of the sun”). (2) Saadia, Rashi, and Kimchi say the first evening is when the sun begins to decline in the west and cast its shadows, and the second evening is the beginning of night. (3) The view adopted by the Pharisees and the Talmudists (b. Pesahim 61a) is that the first evening is when the heat of the sun begins to decrease, and the second evening begins at sunset, or, roughly from 3-5 p.m. The Mishnah (m. Pesahim 5:1) indicates the lamb was killed about 2:30 p.m. – anything before noon was not valid. S. R. Driver concludes from this survey that the first view is probably the best, although the last view was the traditionally accepted one (Exodus, 89-90). Late afternoon or early evening seems to be intended, the time of twilight perhaps.

22 tn Heb “this night.”

23 sn Bread made without yeast could be baked quickly, not requiring time for the use of a leavening ingredient to make the dough rise. In Deut 16:3 the unleavened cakes are called “the bread of affliction,” which alludes to the alarm and haste of the Israelites. In later Judaism and in the writings of Paul, leaven came to be a symbol of evil or corruption, and so “unleavened bread” – bread made without yeast – was interpreted to be a picture of purity or freedom from corruption or defilement (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 90-91).

24 sn This ruling was to prevent their eating it just softened by the fire or partially roasted as differing customs might prescribe or allow.

25 tn Heb “your loins girded.”

26 tn The meaning of פֶּסַח (pesakh) is debated. (1) Some have tried to connect it to the Hebrew verb with the same radicals that means “to halt, leap, limp, stumble.” See 1 Kgs 18:26 where the word describes the priests of Baal hopping around the altar; also the crippled child in 2 Sam 4:4. (2) Others connect it to the Akkadian passahu, which means “to appease, make soft, placate”; or (3) an Egyptian word to commemorate the harvest (see J. B. Segal, The Hebrew Passover, 95-100). The verb occurs in Isa 31:5 with the connotation of “to protect”; B. S. Childs suggests that this was already influenced by the exodus tradition (Exodus [OTL], 183, n. 11). Whatever links there may or may not have been that show an etymology, in Exod 12 it is describing Yahweh’s passing over or through.

27 tn The verb וְעָבַרְתִּי (vÿavarti) is a Qal perfect with vav (ו) consecutive, announcing the future action of God in bringing judgment on the land. The word means “pass over, across, through.” This verb provides a contextual motive for the name “Passover.”

28 tn Heb “this night.”

29 tn The verb נָכָה (nakhah) means “to strike, smite, attack”; it does not always mean “to kill,” but that is obviously its outcome in this context. This is also its use in 2:12, describing how Moses killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.

30 tn Heb “from man and to beast.”

31 tn The phrase אֶעֱשֶׂה שְׁפָטִים (’eeseh shÿfatim) is “I will do judgments.” The statement clearly includes what had begun in Exod 6:1. But the statement that God would judge the gods of Egypt is appropriately introduced here (see also Num 33:4) because with the judgment on Pharaoh and the deliverance from bondage, Yahweh would truly show himself to be the one true God. Thus, “I am Yahweh” is fitting here (see B. Jacob, Exodus, 312).

32 tn Both of the verbs for seeing and passing over are perfect tenses with vav (ו) consecutives: וּפָסַחְתִּיוְרָאִיתִי (vÿraiti...ufasakhti); the first of these parallel verb forms is subordinated to the second as a temporal clause. See Gesenius’s description of perfect consecutives in the protasis and apodosis (GKC 494 §159.g).

33 tn The meaning of the verb is supplied in part from the near context of seeing the sign and omitting to destroy, as well as the verb at the start of verse 12 “pass through, by, over.” Isa 31:5 says, “Just as birds hover over a nest, so the Lord who commands armies will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; as he passes over he will rescue it.” The word does not occur enough times to enable one to delineate a clear meaning. It is probably not the same word as “to limp” found in 1 Kgs 18:21, 26, unless there is a highly developed category of meaning there.

34 tn The word “plague” (נֶגֶף, negef) is literally “a blow” or “a striking.” It usually describes a calamity or affliction given to those who have aroused God’s anger, as in Exod 30:12; Num 8:19; 16:46, 47; Josh 22:17 (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 92-93).

35 tn Heb “for destruction.” The form מַשְׁחִית (mashkhit) is the Hiphil participle of שָׁחַת (shakhat). The word itself is a harsh term; it was used to describe Yahweh’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 13:10).

36 tn בְּהַכֹּתִי (bÿhakkoti) is the Hiphil infinitive construct from נָכָה (nakhah), with a preposition prefixed and a pronominal suffix added to serve as the subjective genitive – the subject of this temporal clause. It is also used in 12:12.

37 sn For additional discussions, see W. H. Elder, “The Passover,” RevExp 74 (1977): 511-22; E. Nutz, “The Passover,” BV 12 (1978): 23-28; H. M. Kamsler, “The Blood Covenant in the Bible,” Dor le Dor 6 (1977): 94-98; A. Rodriguez, Substitution in the Hebrew Cultus; B. Ramm, “The Theology of the Book of Exodus: A Reflection on Exodus 12:12,” SwJT 20 (1977): 59-68; and M. Gilula, “The Smiting of the First-Born: An Egyptian Myth?” TA 4 (1977): 94-85.

38 tn Heb “and this day will be.”

39 tn The expression “will be for a memorial” means “will become a memorial.”

sn The instruction for the unleavened bread (vv. 14-20) begins with the introduction of the memorial (זִכָּרוֹן [zikkaron] from זָכַר [zakhar]). The reference is to the fifteenth day of the month, the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. B. Jacob (Exodus, 315) notes that it refers to the death blow on Egypt, but as a remembrance had to be held on the next day, not during the night. He also notes that this was the origin of “the Day of the Lord” (“the Day of Yahweh”), which the prophets predicted as the day of the divine battle. On it the enemy would be wiped out. For further information, see B. S. Childs, Memory and Tradition in Israel (SBT). The point of the word “remember” in Hebrew is not simply a recollection of an event, but a reliving of it, a reactivating of its significance. In covenant rituals “remembrance” or “memorial” is designed to prompt God and worshiper alike to act in accordance with the covenant. Jesus brought the motif forward to the new covenant with “this do in remembrance of me.”

40 tn The verb וְחַגֹּתֶם (vÿkhaggotem), a perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive to continue the instruction, is followed by the cognate accusative חַג (khag), for emphasis. As the wording implies and the later legislation required, this would involve a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Yahweh.

41 tn Two expressions show that this celebration was to be kept perpetually: the line has “for your generations, [as] a statute forever.” “Generations” means successive generations (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 94). עוֹלָם (’olam) means “ever, forever, perpetual” – no end in sight.

42 tn This expression is an adverbial accusative of time. The feast was to last from the 15th to the 21st of the month.

43 tn Or “you will eat.” The statement stresses their obligation – they must eat unleavened bread and avoid all leaven.

44 tn The etymology of מַצּוֹת (matsot, “unleavened bread,” i.e., “bread made without yeast”) is uncertain. Suggested connections to known verbs include “to squeeze, press,” “to depart, go out,” “to ransom,” or to an Egyptian word “food, cake, evening meal.” For a more detailed study of “unleavened bread” and related matters such as “yeast” or “leaven,” see A. P. Ross, NIDOTTE 4:448-53.

45 tn The particle serves to emphasize, not restrict here (B. S. Childs, Exodus [OTL], 183, n. 15).

46 tn Heb “every eater of leavened bread.” The participial phrase stands at the beginning of the clause as a casus pendens, that is, it stands grammatically separate from the sentence. It names a condition, the contingent occurrences of which involve a further consequence (GKC 361 §116.w).

47 tn The verb וְנִכְרְתָה (vÿnikhrÿtah) is the Niphal perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive; it is a common formula in the Law for divine punishment. Here, in sequence to the idea that someone might eat bread made with yeast, the result would be that “that soul [the verb is feminine] will be cut off.” The verb is the equivalent of the imperfect tense due to the consecutive; a translation with a nuance of the imperfect of possibility (“may be cut off”) fits better perhaps than a specific future. There is the real danger of being cut off, for while the punishment might include excommunication from the community, the greater danger was in the possibility of divine intervention to root out the evildoer (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 94). Gesenius lists this as the use of a perfect with a vav consecutive after a participle (a casus pendens) to introduce the apodosis (GKC 337 §112.mm).

sn In Lev 20:3, 5-6, God speaks of himself as cutting off a person from among the Israelites. The rabbis mentioned premature death and childlessness as possible judgments in such cases, and N. M. Sarna comments that “one who deliberately excludes himself from the religious community of Israel cannot be a beneficiary of the covenantal blessings” (Exodus [JPSTC], 58).

48 sn This refers to an assembly of the people at the sanctuary for religious purposes. The word “convocation” implies that the people were called together, and Num 10:2 indicates they were called together by trumpets.

49 tn Heb “all/every work will not be done.” The word refers primarily to the work of one’s occupation. B. Jacob (Exodus, 322) explains that since this comes prior to the fuller description of laws for Sabbaths and festivals, the passage simply restricts all work except for the preparation of food. Once the laws are added, this qualification is no longer needed. Gesenius translates this as “no manner of work shall be done” (GKC 478-79 §152.b).

50 tn Heb “on the bone of this day.” The expression means “the substance of the day,” the day itself, the very day (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 95).

51 tn The word is “armies” or “divisions” (see Exod 6:26 and the note there; cf. also 7:4). The narrative will continue to portray Israel as a mighty army, marching forth in its divisions.

52 tn See Exod 12:14.

53 tn “month” has been supplied.

54 tn “Seven days” is an adverbial accusative of time (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 12, §56).

55 tn The term is נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), often translated “soul.” It refers to the whole person, the soul within the body. The noun is feminine, agreeing with the feminine verb “be cut off.”

56 tn Or “alien”; or “stranger.”

57 tn Heb “draw out and take.” The verb has in view the need “to draw out” a lamb or goat selected from among the rest of the flock.

58 tn The Hebrew noun is singular and can refer to either a lamb or a goat. Since English has no common word for both, the phrase “a lamb or young goat” is used in the translation.

59 tn The word “animals” is added to avoid giving the impression in English that the Passover festival itself is the object of “kill.”

60 sn The hyssop is a small bush that grows throughout the Sinai, probably the aromatic herb Origanum Maru L., or Origanum Aegyptiacum. The plant also grew out of the walls in Jerusalem (1 Kgs 4:33). See L. Baldensperger and G. M. Crowfoot, “Hyssop,” PEQ 63 (1931): 89-98. A piece of hyssop was also useful to the priests because it worked well for sprinkling.

61 tn The Greek and the Vulgate translate סַף (saf, “basin”) as “threshold.” W. C. Kaiser reports how early traditions grew up about the killing of the lamb on the threshold (“Exodus,” EBC 2:376).

62 tn Heb “and you, you shall not go out, a man from the door of his house.” This construction puts stress on prohibiting absolutely everyone from going out.

63 tn The first of the two clauses begun with perfects and vav consecutives may be subordinated to form a temporal clause: “and he will see…and he will pass over,” becomes “when he sees…he will pass over.”

64 tn Here the form is the Hiphil participle with the definite article. Gesenius says this is now to be explained as “the destroyer” although some take it to mean “destruction” (GKC 406 §126.m, n. 1).

65 tn “you” has been supplied.

66 tn The verb used here and at the beginning of v. 24 is שָׁמַר (shamar); it can be translated “watch, keep, protect,” but in this context the point is to “observe” the religious customs and practices set forth in these instructions.

67 tn Heb “what is this service to you?”

68 sn This expression “the sacrifice of Yahweh’s Passover” occurs only here. The word זֶבַח (zevakh) means “slaughtering” and so a blood sacrifice. The fact that this word is used in Lev 3 for the peace offering has linked the Passover as a kind of peace offering, and both the Passover and the peace offerings were eaten as communal meals.

69 tn The verb means “to strike, smite, plague”; it is the same verb that has been used throughout this section (נָגַף, nagaf). Here the construction is the infinitive construct in a temporal clause.

70 tn The two verbs form a verbal hendiadys: “and the people bowed down and they worshiped.” The words are synonymous, and so one is taken as the adverb for the other.

71 tn Heb “went away and did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.” The final phrase “so they did,” which is somewhat redundant in English, has been represented in the translation by the adverb “exactly.”



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