וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל־אַהֲרֹן בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לֵאמֹר 12:1
Exod. 12:1 And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron in the land of Egypt saying,
Exod. 12:2 “This month shall be the beginning of months for you. It shall be first in the months of the year for you.”
In this verse the Lord establishes how the years are to be reckoned henceforth. It probably also explains why the scribe, seemingly without reason, added the phrase “in the land of Egypt” in v. 12:1. He might have been emphasizing the fact that while they were still in Egypt, v. 12:2 was meant for all eternity. Although this verse is recognized to address future generations, the next 11 verses are meant for Moses and Aaron and the Hebrews for the coming first Passover only. The emphasis changes to future generations beginning with v. 12:14 and extending to v. 12:21. Then v. 22 to 24 refer to the immediately imminent days, after which the emphasis again is to the future. However, narrative regarding the Lord’s passing over at night is also interjected for a few verses, and finally the future is addressed again at the end of this chapter.
דַּבְּרוּ אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר בֶּעָשֹׂר לַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה וְיִקְחוּ לָהֶם אִישׁ שֶׂה לְבֵית־אָבֹת שֶׂה לַבָּיִת 12:3
Exod. 12:3 “Speak to the whole congregation of Israel saying, ‘On this month’s tenth day, when they have taken for themselves a lamb, every man, according to a house of the fathers, a lamb to a household,
The Hebrew, וְיִקְחוּ, of the tenth word, which is almost universally translated as “and they shall take,” is strange, and doesn’t appear right. It’s as if an extra vav was inserted unnecessarily as a prefix. To top it off, it’s treated as a non-inverting vav when it should be inverting. In the above translation which assumes the vav to be reversing, this verse continues into the next. Then this and that one refer to the time the congregation of Israel was to do what the Lord is telling them. Typically, the next verse is translated to stand on its own, the assumption being that the Lord is already telling Moses and Aaron what to tell the congregation of Israel.
וְאִם־יִמְעַט הַבַּיִת מִהְיֹת מִשֶּׂה וְלָקַח הוּא וּשְׁכֵנֹו הַקָּרֹב אֶל־בֵּיתֹו בְּמִכְסַת נְפָשֹׁת אִישׁ לְפִי 12:4
אָכְלֹו תָּכֹסּוּ עַל־הַשֶּׂה
Exod. 12:4 and if the household would be too small to have a lamb, then he will take, and his neighbor nearest to his house, according to the numbers of souls. Each one for a portion of his food you shall count concerning the lamb.’”
The Lord sets out a formula for how a lamb is to be shared. The reason for this will become clear soon, when the Lord commands that there shall be no leftovers the next morning (see v. 12:10). Therefore, the Israelites are to carefully estimate how much each of them can eat.
שֶׂה תָמִים זָכָר בֶּן־שָׁנָה יִהְיֶה לָכֶם מִן־הַכְּבָשִׂים וּמִן־הָעִזִּים תִּקָּחו 12:5
Exod. 12:5 “The lamb shall be unblemished; a male yearling shall be yours. You shall take it from the sheep or from the goats.”
How can a lamb be taken from the goats? Apparently in the scribe’s time a lamb could be either a young sheep or goat. However some scholars seem to believe that the animal had to be a young sheep, as it was the sacred animal of the Egyptians. Incidentally, a yearling is an animal that is one year old but not yet two.
Exod. 12:6 “And it shall be for you to keep until this month’s fourteenth day; then they, the entire assembly of the congregation of Israel, shall slaughter it at dusk.”
More support, albeit weak, for the day not starting in the evening (assuming dusk may be considered part of the evening)! If the Jewish day were understood to start in the evening, perhaps soon after dusk, this instruction would be directing Hebrews to slaughter the lamb the evening before. That is the dusk of the fourteenth day. If the Jewish day were understood to start in the morning, the time for slaughter is the dusk at the end of the fourteenth day. Then Passover would start on the fifteenth of the month, the night of the full moon, which is when the holiday must start. See my earlier discussion of this important topic at Gene. 1:5.
This verse is generally viewed to contain a perpetual commandment to slaughter the lamb at dusk. According to my second criterion (see rubinhood.org/Introduction), this is not one of the commandments I identify. It is an instruction for the children of Israel for the night of the Lord’s passing over Egypt, a one-time event. The same observation is true for some of the verses in the remainder of this chapter.
There is a rather odd expression in the Hebrew at the end of this verse. Literally, the last two words can be translated as between evenings. I believe it is an idiom meaning at dusk.
וְלָקְחוּ מִן־הַדָּם וְנָתְנוּ עַל־שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת וְעַל־הַמַּשְׁקֹוף עַל הַבָּתִּים אֲשֶׁר־יֹאכְלוּ אֹתֹו בָּהֶם 12:7
Exod. 12:7 “And they shall take some of the blood and put it upon the two sideposts and upon the lintel for the houses in which they will eat it.”
Interesting! When two or more families shared a lamb, only the one house in which they all ate was to be identified by blood. That means that no one who was a first born (and no first-born animals) could remain in the otherwise unoccupied houses.
וְאָכְלוּ אֶת־הַבָּשָׂר בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה צְלִי־אֵשׁ וּמַצֹּות עַל־מְרֹרִים יֹאכְלֻהוּּ 12:8
Exod. 12:8 “And they shall eat the fire-roasted flesh in that night, with unleavened bread. Together with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” [Return to v. 12:18 Notes]
We have here another remarkable discovery that the sages seem to have overlooked. It has been understood for over two thousand years that the tradition of eating unleavened bread on Passover comes from the fact that the Israelites left Egypt in haste and therefore, they didn’t have time for the bread to rise. According to this verse, they were supposed to eat the roasted lamb with unleavened bread on that night, which was hours before they left Egypt. The Israelites already knew to make unleavened bread. It had nothing to do with leaving in haste. I’ll say more about this below.
אַל־תֹּאכְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ נָא וּבָשֵׁל מְבֻשָּׁל בַּמָּיִם כִּי אִם־צְלִי־אֵשׁ רֹאשֹׁו עַל־כְּרָעָיו וְעַל־קִרְבֹּו 12:9
Exod. 12:9 “You must not eat of it raw or soaked at all in water, only if fire roasted, its head together with its legs and with its middle.”
וְלֹא־תֹותִירוּ מִמֶּנּוּ עַד־בֹּקֶר וְהַנֹּתָר מִמֶּנּוּ עַד־בֹּקֶר בָּאֵשׁ תִּשְׂרֹפו 12:10
Exod. 12:10 “But let nothing remain of it until morning, and what would remain of it until morning, you shall burn it to ash.”
One more strange verse that reveals a remarkable fact! We have been told by the sages that the Israelites left Egypt during that night. Then why is this verse here? We shall learn that we don’t really know when the Israelites left. Other verses in this chapter are conflicting and make the time of departure uncertain.
וְכָכָה תֹּאכְלוּ אֹתֹו מָתְנֵיכֶם חֲגֻרִים נַעֲלֵיכֶם בְּרַגְלֵיכֶם וּמַקֶּלְכֶם בְּיֶדְכֶם וַאֲכַלְתֶּם אֹתֹו בְּחִפָּזֹון פֶּסַח 12:11
Exod. 12:11 “And in this manner shall you eat it: With your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.”
All the second-person pronouns, the two instances of you and the five of your, are plural. Thus according to me, these instructions are directed to the individuals of the people. All of the pertinent pronouns in the rest of this chapter are also plural.
וְעָבַרְתִּי בְאֶרֶץ־מִצְרַיִם בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה וְהִכֵּיתִי כָל־בְּכֹור בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מֵאָדָם וְעַד־בְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל־אֱלֹהֵ 12:12
מִצְרַיִם אֶעֱשֶׂה שְׁפָטִים אֲנִי יְהוָה
Exod. 12:12 “And I will pass over in the land of Egypt in that night and slay every first born of both man and beast in the land of Egypt, and I will execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt.”
“I am the Lord.”
Again, as in v. 12:6, given that the day were to start in the evening, the slaying of the first born would occur during the night, following the slaughter of the lamb. That would still be the fourteenth day.
Another interesting tidbit: The word used for And I will pass over, the first in the verse, carries with it a double meaning. The root of the word is also the word for Hebrew.
And one more: The first word has an inverting vav prefix. But this vav shouldn’t be inverting, because the verb it prefixes is in the first-person. Have you read the About Hebrew section of this website?
וְהָיָה הַדָּם לָכֶם לְאֹת עַל הַבָּתִּים אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם שָׁם וְרָאִיתִי אֶת־הַדָּם וּפָסַחְתִּי עֲלֵכֶם וְלֹא־יִהְיֶה בָכֶם 12:13
נֶגֶף לְמַשְׁחִית בְּהַכֹּתִי בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
Exod. 12:13 “And the blood shall be for a sign of yours upon the houses where you are. When I will see the blood, then I will pass over above you and there shall not be a plague of destruction on you during My strike in the land of Egypt.”
Do you think the Lord needed the blood to recognize the inhabitants of each house? Surely not! My guess is that the blood was to demonstrate or highlight the faith of the houses’ inhabitants for future generations. Remember, all this was according to God’s goals for the Jews and for humanity. This event has teleological significance.
Exod. 12:14 “And this day shall be for a memorial for you, and you shall observe it, the Lord’s feast, an everlasting ordinance; throughout your generations you shall celebrate it.”
From v. 12:3 to v. 12:13 the Lord has been instructing Moses on what the Israelites should do from the tenth day of the month to the fourteenth. These instructions are not for future generations. Therefore, they are not to be construed as commandments. Beginning with this verse, the Lord is describing how the memorial holiday of Passover shall be observed in future years. Therefore, they are commandments.
הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל מִיֹּום הָרִאשֹׁן עַד־יֹום הַשְּׁבִעִי
Exod. 12:15 “Seven days you shall eat only unleavened bread. In the day before, you shall put away leaven from your houses. If anyone eats anything leavened from the first day to the seventh day, then that soul shall be cut off from Israel.”
The two pronouns you are plural, so this verse applies to every individual (according to me).
In this verse The Lord tells us, “In the day before, you shall put away leaven from your houses.” What exactly does this mean? First, what is the meaning of leaven? Defined as a noun, leaven is a substance, typically yeast, that is added to dough to make it ferment and rise. Here, it may mean more, The sages and rabbis have enlarged the meaning of leaven in this verse to include anything that puffs up or is puffed up. Thus it has become almost synonymous with pride, a usually undesirable emotion. The definition doesn’t end here. In fact, anything that has touched a leavened substance has also been defined as leaven. Moreover it has even become associated with dirt. As a result, the practice of preparing for Passover has become an intensive extended spring cleaning activity and an exercise in futility.
Futility? Why futility? Simple. Because according to the Jewish experts leaven includes dirt and anything that has touched leaven. So when cleaning, we must use new cleaning materials of some kind. Cloth, paper towels, brushes, etc. Well, once that material touches any surface, such as a kitchen counter top, it immediately becomes contaminated by the leaven that had previously come in contact with the surface. So the material can no longer be used. Just one swipe and it’s outlived its usefulness for Passover cleaning. To live up to the standard set by the rabbis, one would have to use an impossibly large number of cleaning articles for weeks before the holiday begins. Even if that were practical, how are we supposed to live during this long cleaning period? How do we use the home while it’s being cleaned? Almost anything we would do would contaminate the newly cleaned surfaces. We would most certainly have to relocate during the cleaning process.
One more remark unrelated to the above discussion: I don’t know what you believe about death, but the scribe and the Israelites believed that when someone died, that soul was bound up with her (the Hebrew for soul is feminine) ancestors, as mentioned repeatedly throughout the bible. It seems to me, to be cut off from Israel would mean that the soul in question would not be gathered to its ancestors upon death. I imagine this exclusion would have been seen as some particular kind of dire punishment. [Return to Exod. 35:2]
וּבַיֹּום הָרִאשֹׁון מִקְרָא־קֹדֶשׁ וּבַיֹּום הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִקְרָא־קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם כָּל־מְלָאכָה לֹא־יֵעָשֶׂה בָהֶם 12:16
אַךְ אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל לְכָל־נֶפֶשׁ הוּא לְבַדֹּו יֵעָשֶׂה לָכֶם
Exod. 12:16 “And in the first day a holy convocation, and in the seventh day a holy convocation, shall be yours. You shall not do any work during them, except that one may eat according to any appetite; that only may be done for you.” [Return to Exod. 13:5]
וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת־הַמַּצֹּות כִּי בְּעֶצֶם הַיֹּום הַזֶּה הֹוצֵאתִי אֶת־צִבְאֹותֵיכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם 12:17
אֶת־הַיֹּום הַזֶּה לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם חֻקַּת עֹולָם
Exod. 12:17 “And you shall celebrate unleavened bread, for in this same day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. So you shall observe this day throughout your generations, an everlasting ordinance.”
As I interpret this verse, the Lord is not speaking here to the Israelites of that day, but to future generations. The reason for my view is that the Hebrew word for “I brought… out” is in the perfect (past) tense, but at this time the completion of that event was still several days in the future.
Exod. 12:18 “In the first month, in the month’s fourteenth day, in the evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the month’s twenty-first day, in the evening.”
In this verse one could easily assume that we have corroboration for the Jewish day going from sunset to sunset. However, if we examine the wording carefully without prejudice, we must reach a contrary conclusion. More >>
בַּגֵּר וּבְאֶזְרַח הָאָרֶץ
Exod. 12:19 “Seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses. If anyone, whether a foreigner or a native of the land, eats leaven, then that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel.”
This is another fascinating and revealing verse. The Lord says “… if anyone … eats….” If it is forbidden to have leaven in the house or to eat leaven, why is dirt considered to be included in leaven? I see the rabbi-ordained meticulous housecleaning in preparation for Passover as a commendable form of spring cleaning. But why must it include removing utensils and implements that have been thoroughly cleansed of leaven? Admittedly, in biblical times the discarding of these items may have been a byproduct of the prohibition against leaven, but in our time it’s no longer necessary. By the way, the prohibition stated here is a repetition of the same in v. 12:15. But there the word used is חָמֵץ, meaning anything leavened, whereas in this verse the word used is מַחְמֶצֶת, meaning leavened or leavening dough. Thus the prohibition is extended in this verse to clarify that one is not to eat merely bread that is leavened, but even dough that is about to rise or can rise.
Incidentally, the way this verse is written, namely the leaven mentioned in the first statement is referred to in the second statement as not to be eaten, implies something significant to me. I think what the Lord is saying here is that leaven that could be eaten, whether hidden or out in the open, or that is being eaten, shall not be found in our houses. The verse doesn’t mean that inedible leaven must not be found, only edible leaven.
כָּל־מַחְמֶצֶת לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ בְּכֹל מֹושְׁבֹתֵיכֶם תֹּאכְלוּ מַצֹּות 12:20
Exod. 12:20 “You shall not eat any leaven. You shall eat unleavened breads in all your habitations.”
וַיִּקְרָא מֹשֶׁה לְכָל־זִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם מִשְׁכוּ וּקְחוּ לָכֶם צֹאן לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתֵיכֶם וְשַׁחֲטוּ הַפָּסַח 12:21
12:21 Then Moses called to all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take a lamb for yourselves, according to your families, and slaughter the Passover offering.”
וּלְקַחְתֶּם אֲגֻדַּת אֵזֹוב וּטְבַלְתֶּם בַּדָּם אֲשֶׁר־בַּסַּף וְהִגַּעְתֶּם אֶל־הַמַּשְׁקֹוף וְאֶל־שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת מִן־הַדָּם 12:22
אֲשֶׁר בַּסָּף וְאַתֶּם לֹא תֵצְאוּ אִישׁ מִפֶּתַח־בֵּיתֹו עַד־בֹּקֶר
Exod. 12:22 “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip in the blood that is in the basin and touch to the lintel and to the two doorposts some of the blood that is in the basin. And you shall not go out, any man, of the door of his house until morning.”
וְעָבַר יְהוָה לִנְגֹּף אֶת־מִצְרַיִם וְרָאָה אֶת־הַדָּם עַל־הַמַּשְׁקֹוף וְעַל שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת וּפָסַח יְהוָה עַל־ 12:23
הַפֶּתַח וְלֹא יִתֵּן הַמַּשְׁחִית לָבֹא אֶל־בָּתֵּיכֶם לִנְגֹּף
Exod. 12:23 “When the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians and see the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, then the Lord will skip over above the door and He will not direct the destroyer to go into your houses to smite.”
וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה לְחָק־לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ עַד־עֹולָם 12:24
Exod. 12:24 “And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and for your children until the end of time.”
Verses 12:21 to 12:23 are again pertinent to the imminent Passing over. Starting in v. 12:25, and continuing to v. 12:27, Moses again addresses future Passovers.
Exod. 12:25 “And it shall be, when you come to the land that the Lord will give to you as He promised, then you shall keep this service.”
Is there additional meaning that is not immediately obvious from the words in this verse? On the surface, it appears to be an unnecessary repetition (actually in diminished form) of the previous verse. Is the additional meaning implied here that the Hebrews were not to keep the service until they reached the Promised Land? That seems reasonable, as we will learn later, because when the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness, they eat only manna and quail. However, we know from Numb. 9:3 to 9:5 that at least one Passover was observed in the wilderness at Sinai after the Tabernacle was erected. See Deut. 2:6 for additional thoughts about the Israelites’ menu.
Exod. 12:26 “And it shall be when your children shall say to you, ‘What is this service to you,’ [Return to Exod. 13:14]
וְאֶת־בָּתֵּינוּ הִצִּיל וַיִּקֹּד הָעָם וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲוּ
Exod. 12:27 then you shall say to them, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord because He passed over above the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt on His smiting the Egyptians, and He delivered our houses.’” And the people bowed down, and they worshiped.
וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיַּעֲשׂוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת־מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן כֵּן עָשׂוּ 12:28
Exod. 12:28 And the children of Israel went and did; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
וַיְהִי בַּחֲצִי הַלַּיְלָה וַיהוָה הִכָּה כָל־בְּכֹור בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבְּכֹר פַּרְעֹה הַיֹּשֵׁב עַל־כִּסְאֹו עַד בְּכֹור 12:29
הַשְּׁבִי אֲשֶׁר בְּבֵית הַבֹּור וְכֹל בְּכֹור בְּהֵמָה
Exod. 12:29 And it was in the middle of the night that the Lord slew every first born in the land of Egypt, from the first born of Pharoah sitting on his throne to the first born of the prisoner who was in the prison dungeon, and every first born of beast.
וַיָּקָם פַּרְעֹה לַיְלָה הוּא וְכָל־עֲבָדָיו וְכָל־מִצְרַיִם וַתְּהִי צְעָקָה גְדֹלָה בְּמִצְרָיִם כִּי־אֵין בַּיִת אֲשֶׁר 12:30
Exod. 12:30 And Pharoah rose up at night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great shriek in Egypt, for there was no house in which there was none dead.
וַיִּקְרָא לְמֹשֶׁה וּלְאַהֲרֹן לַיְלָה וַיֹּאמֶר קוּמוּ צְּאוּ מִתֹּוךְ עַמִּי גַּם־אַתֶּם גַּם־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּלְכוּ עִבְדו 12:31
Exod. 12:31 And he called for Moses and for Aaron at night and said, “Rise up! Go from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. So leave! Serve the Lord as you have spoken.”
Exod. 12:32 “Also your sheep, also your cattle, take as you have spoken, and go, and you should bless me also.” [Return to Exod. 16:3]
וַתֶּחֱזַק מִצְרַיִם עַל־הָעָם לְמַהֵר לְשַׁלְּחָם מִן־הָאָרֶץ כִּי אָמְרוּ כֻּלָּנוּ מֵתִים 12:33
Exod. 12:33 And the Egyptians prevailed upon the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said, “We are all dying.”
וַיִּשָּׂא הָעָם אֶת־בְּצֵקֹו טֶרֶם יֶחְמָץ מִשְׁאֲרֹתָם צְרֻרֹת בְּשִׂמְלֹתָם עַל־שִׁכְםָם 12:34
Exod. 12:34 And the people snatched up their dough before it could leaven, their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes on their shoulders.
וּבְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל עָשׂוּ כִּדְבַר מֹשֶׁה וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם כְּלֵי־כֶסֶף וּכְלֵי זָהָב וּשְׂמָלֹת 12:35
Exod. 12:35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses, and they asked from the Egyptians jewels of silver and jewels of gold and clothes.
וַיהוָה נָתַן אֶת־חֵן הָעָם בְּעֵינֵי מִצְרַיִם וַיַּשְׁאִלוּם וַיְנַצְּלוּ אֶת־מִצְרָיִם 12:36
Exod. 12:36 And the Lord gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians for what they asked of them, and they despoiled the Egyptians.
וַיִּסְעוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵרַעְמְסֵס סֻכֹּתָה כְּשֵׁשׁ־מֵאֹות אֶלֶף רַגְלִי הַגְּבָרִים לְבַד מִטָּף 12:37
Exod. 12:37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children.
This verse seems a bit out of place. It would seem to me to be better suited for the end of this chapter. I’ll have more to say there. Nevertheless, the multitude leaving Egypt must have numbered well over a million, and also much livestock.
Exod. 12:38 And also a mixed multitude went up with them, and sheep and oxen, cattle exceedingly laden. [Return to Exod. 16:3]
וַיֹּאפוּ אֶת־הַבָּצֵק אֲשֶׁר הֹוצִיאוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם עֻגֹת מַצֹּות כִּי לֹא חָמֵץ כִּי־גֹרְשׁוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם וְלֹא יָכְלוּ 12:39
לְהִתְמַהְמֵהַּ וְגַם־צֵדָה לֹא־עָשׂוּ לָהֶם
Exod. 12:39 And they baked the dough that they had brought from Egypt, but it was not leavened, as they were expelled from Egypt and were not able to linger, so they also did not prepare victual for themselves.
This verse is the basis for the belief that the Israelites ate unleavened bread because they left Egypt too hastily. They indeed left Egypt hastily, but they had time to leaven their bread while they were still in Egypt. All they had to do was introduce the leavening agent into the flour before they left.
Exod. 12:40 Now the period during which the children of Israel dwelled in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.
וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וְאַרְבַּע מֵאֹות שָׁנָה וַיְהִי בְּעֶצֶם הַיֹּום הַזֶּה יָצְאוּ כָּל־צִבְאֹות יְהוָה מֵאֶרֶץ 12:41
Exod. 12:41 When it was at the end of four hundred and thirty years, then it was on this same day all the hosts of the Lord came out of the land of Egypt.
This day has to have been the 430th anniversary of Jacob’s entry into Egypt. Now some Jews believe that the 430 years is to be counted from Isaac’s birth, not from Jacob’s entry into Egypt. But if we read Gene. 15:13 carefully, the Lord clearly prophesies that the seed of Abraham will live in Egypt for 430 years. As the period of slavery lasted for 400 years, this having been stated in Gene. 15:13, the Israelites must have become enslaved 30 years after Jacob arrived in Egypt. However, we are also told in Exod. 1:7 that the children of Israel had increased abundantly by the time of their enslavement. They must have had many children in the thirty years since they had arrived, and they also prospered greatly. Reread what I say about this in Exodus Chapter 1. [Return to Exod. 1:8]
לֵיל שִׁמֻּרִים הוּא לַיהוָה לְהֹוצִיאָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם הוּא־הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה לַיהוָה שִׁמֻּרִים לְכָל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל 12:42
Exod. 12:42 It was a night of observance to the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt. It is the same night of observance to the Lord for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.
Exod. 12:43 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover offering: No foreigner shall eat of it.”
The narrative of the events of the first Passover began after v. 12:27, in which the Lord told the people what to say to their children in future times. The narrative ends with v. 12:42. Here the Lord is giving instructions again. We might surmise that these instructions are still for future Passovers. We merely have to examine the next few verses to be reasonably assured of this. In v. 12:45 the Lord speaks of a hired hand. Did the Israelite slaves have hired hands? Hardly likely! Yet a sliver of doubt disturbs my mind. Who tended the huge herds and flocks that the Israelites apparently had? May I assume that some Egyptians were friendly and helped with the animals? As far as I can imagine, the only other possibility is that not all the Israelites were slaves. There had to be at least some who were engaged in maintaining the Israelite community and possibly working for Egyptians and their families. I don’t know what else to think. If that’s the case, though, I’m faced with a measure of ambiguity here. I can’t be sure whether the Lord is again speaking of the imminent passing of the angel of death or of future Passovers. There are conflicting verses until the end of this chapter, and in truth the ambiguity cannot be resolved at this point. The Lord does seem to be speaking of future Passovers. However, according to the last two verses in this chapter, the Lord appears to be speaking still of the immanent Passover four days hence. But in Numbers Chapter 9 we will read some of these same words and there we can be assured that the words refer to future Passovers.
I assume that a foreigner is defined as someone who is not of Israel and is merely passing through -- that is, not sojourning. See v. 12:45. [Return to Exod. 35:34]
וְכָל־עֶבֶד אִישׁ מִקְנַת־כָּסֶף וּמַלְתָּה אֹתֹו אָז יֹאכַל בֹּו 12:44
Exod. 12:44 “But every servant, any man who is bought for money, and you will have circumcised him, then he may eat of it.”
תֹּושָׁב וְשָׂכִיר לֹא־יֹאכַל־בֹּו 12:45
Exod. 12:45 “A sojourner or a hired hand shall not eat of it.”
I have to assume that this sojourner is also classified as a foreigner, and both he and the hired hand are uncircumcised.
בְּבַיִת אֶחָד יֵאָכֵל לֹא־תֹוצִיא מִן־הַבַּיִת מִן־הַבָּשָׂר חוּצָה וְעֶצֶם לֹא תִשְׁבְּרוּ־בֹו 12:46
Exod. 12:46 “In one house must it be eaten. You shall not take any of the flesh from the house out of doors, and you shall not break a bone of it.”
Here we learn that if the paschal lamb is shared by two families, they must both eat it in the same house. It shall be carefully divided, because no bone is to be broken. Why do you suppose it is that no bone is to be broken? The sages apparently assumed it signified the haste with which the people were to eat the paschal meal. For me it is a memorial commandment that reminds us of what we did in the original Passover. After all, this is a perpetual memorial holiday in accordance with v. 12:14.
In addition, there are two pronouns, you, in the verse. The first is singular, the second is plural. As I see it, the first one means that the sharing families may not remove any of the flesh from the house in which it is eaten, and the second, that no individuals of the two families (or perhaps neither family) may break any bone of the lamb.
כָּל־עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל יַעֲשׂוּ אֹתֹו 12:47
Exod. 12:47 “All the congregation of Israel shall observe it.”
וְכָל־עָרֵל לֹא־יֹאכַל בֹּו
Exod. 12:48 “And when a stranger would sojourn with you and he would keep the Passover to the Lord, let every male of his be circumcised, and then he may come near to keep it, and he shall be as a native of the land. But any uncircumcised shall not eat of it.” [Return to Levi. 16 notes]
תֹּורָה אַחַת יִהְיֶה לָאֶזְרָח וְלַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתֹוכְכֶם 12:49
Exod. 12:49 One law shall be for the native and for the stranger sojourning among you.”
On the face of it, this verse appears to conflict with previous verses in this chapter. So I have asked myself, is there a way to interpret this verse to make it not conflict? And is it even a commandment? Or is it simply an observation? Remember, this is the Lord speaking to Moses and Aaron four days or so before the first Passover. Perhaps what this means is that the stranger sojourning among the children of Israel cannot ignore these laws. He must abide by them as the Israelite does. He must observe commandment 12 if he is a foreigner or an uncircumcised sojourner. If this is indeed the meaning of this verse, then it is still a commandment, but not for the children of Israel. Thus it is not one of the recognized commandments. Therefore, because I believe this is the correct interpretation, I have omitted it from the list of commandments.
וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כָּל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת־מֹשֶׁה וְאֶת־אַהֲרֹן כֵּן עָשׂוּ 12:50
Exod. 12:50 Thus did all the children of Israel. As the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
Exod. 12:51 So it was in this same day that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.
From this verse tradition has it that all the Israelites left Egypt during the night of the plague of the death of the firstborn. But if we accept this assertion, are we then missing another miracle here? Let’s see. We know that a mixed multitude of at least one million left Egypt. Let’s assume for argument’s sake, that the people left in groups of ten abreast on average. After all, the paths into the wilderness were not broad highways. Ignoring the passage of the livestock, let’s also assume that groups (of ten people) passed in intervals averaging every five seconds. So we have about 100,000 groups moving at the rate of one group every five seconds. For the groups to have left Egypt in one night or even one night and the next day is naturally impossible. The passing would have taken 500,000 seconds. That’s about five days and nights and an additional 18 hours. No doubt another miracle that the people left six times faster.
Torah Commandments in this Chapter:
4. The month of Aviv (now Nisan} shall be the first month of each year. V. 12:2
5. You shall observe the Passover on the 15th day of the first month forever. V. 12:14
6. You shall eat unleavened bread for seven days. V. 12:15
7. On the day before the Passover you shall put away all leaven from your houses. V. 12:15
8. You shall observe a holy convocation on the first and seventh days V. 12:16
9. You shall do no work on the first and seventh days, other than preparing food. V. 12:16
10. No leaven shall be found in your houses for seven days. V. 12:19
11. You shall explain to your children why the celebration is observed. V. 12:27
12. No foreigner shall eat of the paschal lamb. V 12:43
13. No sojourner or hired hand (unless circumcised) shall eat of it. V. 12:45
14. The paschal lamb shall be eaten in one house. V. 12:46
15. None of the flesh of the paschal lamb shall be taken from the house. V. 12:46
16. None of the bones of the paschal lamb shall be broken. V. 12:46
17. No one uncircumcised may eat of the paschal lamb. V. 12:48