Summary of passage: The Lord says He will bring one more plague upon Egypt and then Pharaoh will finally relent and let His people go. Tell the Israelites to ask for gold and silver as I (God) have made them favorably disposed to help you. So Moses tells Pharaoh that God will kill every firstborn son in Egypt and every firstborn calf as well. There will be mourning as never seen before. No harm will come to the Israelites. Then everyone will demand us to leave and we will leave. Moses, angry, leaves Pharaoh.
[In Chapter 10 of Exodus we see how Pharaoh banishes Moses from his court because Moses won’t compromise on the Exodus. It seems as if no time has elapsed here and God speaks to Moses in this moment before he leaves Pharaoh for the last time so Moses can warn Pharaoh. Scholars say Moses just threw in here what God had said to him previously. Thus, we are unsure of the time frame here in terms of when God spoke to Moses. We can say though that Exodus 10 and Exodus 11:4 is in the same moment.]
Chapter 12: God gives Moses and Aaron clear instructions for the Passover, which is where God does not harm the Israelites but instead takes the firstborn of every Egyptian and animal. Each Israelite household is to take a lamb without defect and raise it for 14 days. Then at twilight all the lambs must be slaughtered. They must take the blood and mark their doorways with it, which will serve as the sign for me (God) to pass over and not bring the plague. Roast the meat over fire and make haste and be prepared to exit Egypt.
This is to become the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which entailed eating no yeast for a week and doing no work except preparing food. Moses summoned the elders of Israel, gave them the Lord’s instructions, and they obeyed and worshipped.
Everything happened as the Lord said and there was one one house in Egypt without someone dead.
3a) This will be the last plague and Pharaoh will let His people go and he will drive them out completely from Egypt.
b) Verses 4-8: “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt–worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.”
c) Moses does not give Pharaoh time to respond, so angry is he with Pharaoh’s obstinance. We can assume since God sent the plague that Pharaoh acted the same way as he has consistently acted–flippant, defiant, and refusing to release God’s people.
4a) Verses 2-11: Each Israelite household is to take a lamb without defect and raise it for 14 days. Then at twilight all the lambs must be slaughtered. They must take the blood and mark their doorways with it, which will serve as the sign for God to pass over and not bring the plague. Roast the meat over fire, along with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast, and make haste and be prepared to exit Egypt.
b) Verse 13: “…when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Moses tells the elders in verse 27 “It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.” It is the day to be remembered as the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people.
c) Jesus rescued us (His people) from sin and he had to be sacrificed to do so just like the Passover lambs who had to be sacrificed to save and mark God’s people.
d) Personal Question. My answer: Yes.
Conclusions: I had never noticed before how Moses never left Pharaoh and how God spoke directly to Moses so Moses could give Pharaoh the final warning. God keeps His promise from Exodus 4:12 “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say”. I wonder how this occurred. Did Moses pause and listen to God and then repeat God? Or did Moses just open his mouth and God spoke through Moses? I think it would be pretty cool if God’s words just came from my mouth, wouldn’t you?
I also had never noticed how God killed the firstborn cattle and animals in Egypt as well. God already stuck down the livestock in the Plague of the Livestock (Exodus 9) so I’m wondering how much time is actually taken place between these plagues? Obviously enough time for the cattle and the animals to re-populate themselves if God is going to strike them down again.
I also like how we see the first commandment in full on play here and just how jealous God is. “I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.” Love this!! God is going to show Pharaoh once more just how stupid his gods are and how mighty the One, True God is! I love it! This shows God’s justness and it helps me to see man’s need for justice as well and that we are right to seek justice and dole out consequences from those who harm us as God pronounced judgment on the Egyptians. As long as the path is not crossed into revenge I believe is God’s example here.
Since we are made in God’s image, we are like Him as well. And seeing God punish the Egyptians for their sins gives me a new perspective on justice.
End Notes: This is the fulfillment of God’s word (Exodus 4:21-3). The Egyptians gave the Israelites silver and gold to get rid of them. The Israelites saw this as payment for past wages. These riches were later used to adorn the temple.
Why the firstborn? As punishment for Egypt not letting God’s firstborn (Israel) go. There were no exemptions.
Pharaoh would take the fall for this one; there would be no one else to place the blame
The first 9 plagues dealt with nature. Here, this is against man.
For the fourth time we are told that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12, 10:20, 10:27, and 11:10). Yet God never hardened Pharaoh’s heart until he first hardened it against the Lord and His people (Exodus 7:13, 7:22, 8:15, 8:19, 8:32, and 9:7).
Christians today do not usually celebrate the Passover. It has been incorporated into the taking of the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist. The idea is still there–relying on God whom rescued His people. Only for Christians, the ultimate rescue was Jesus.
God starts the calendar over with this event.
The lamb (or goat in Hebrew–either one) was to live with them so that the sacrifice would be meaningful and mourned.
Lamb killed at twilight. Jesus at the last hour. (1 John 2:11).
Presumably this blood would remain as a sign for the Israelites to remember this day.
All of the lamb was to be consumed just like we are to take and feed upon all of Jesus and not just some.
Leaven is seen as a picture of sin. Hence, God’s people needed to begin anew without sin.
The herb hyssop has seen throughout the Bible with blood. Presumably, it helped it stick. We will see hyssop again in our study this year.
The Passover is the Old Testament’s equal to the cross. It was what cleansed God’s people to be with Him before Jesus was sent.
The Israelites obeyed as we are to do. We are not told if any disobeyed or if any Egyptians obeyed.
This final plague was against Osiris, the giver of life to the Egyptians and against Pharaoh himself who thought he was a god.
Interesting read on who exactly was the Pharaoh during this time: http://www.biblewitness.org/pharaoh.htm
Even more detail with all kinds of charts and reasonings–for those who desire more in depth analysis:
Short answer: Thutmose III during Exodus is the most likely candidate.
Fun Fact: This is the first use of the word that would become our word for church. Here it is translated as community. It describes Israel collectively as a religious body.