Exodus 12: Death of the Firstborn

So much happens in these 50 verses. You will recall that last week we had the harbinger to the final plague, where God described through Moses that “all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die.”

The chapter begins with a sense of drama fitting to the events about to unfold. God tells Moses and Aaron that their calendar will begin with the present month, setting the stage for the Jewish calendar to begin in accordance with their departure from the land of Egypt (not dissimilar to how our calendar today begins with the birth of Christ). Then, directions are given to the household of Israel that will prevent them from having their firstborn killed.

Directions for the Passover were very specific. Here is a list of some of the requirements:

  • Male lamb without blemish of the first year, taken from sheep or goat
  • Whole assembly of Israel to kill their lamb at twilight on the fourteenth day of the current month
  • Blood of the lamb applied to the doorposts and lintel of their dwelling
  • Whole lamb roasted in fire, eaten with herbs and unleavened bread, remainder to be burned by the morning
  • Participants to eat the lamb with their belts and sandals on, signifying that the act of Passover is the final act that will allow them to depart the land of Egypt

By following these directions explicitly, the children of Israel will exempt themselves from the tenth plague. The text here says that the firstborn of both man and beast will be struck and that God will also be executing judgment on the gods of Israel.

After the instructions for the Passover to save their firstborn, God then gives the children of Israel instructions on maintaining the Passover on a yearly basis as a memorial for how God saved them. This memorial, like others in the Bible, are in place to remind the people of the providence and greatness of God Almighty. After these specific instructions and ordinances are outlined, Moses contacts the elders and instructs them on how to protect against the death of the firstborn.

Verses 29 and 30 paint a truly horrific scene:

“And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck 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 livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.”

Directly after this unspeakable horror, God tells Moses and Aaron to get a move on. They wasted no time in heeding God in leaving. You will recall that the people also were to take riches from the Egyptians in the form of gold and silver and clothing. The children of Israel will successfully leave Egypt and escape the bonds of slavery. They, as well as the Egyptians, are convinced of the power of God, based on the cumulative effects of the plagues. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was leading to the events of Exodus 13 and 14.

The importance of the death of the firstborn in the divine plan for man’s redemption cannot be understated. There are some amazing similarities between the Passover lamb and Jesus Christ:

  • Both Christ and the Passover lamb were without blemish (physical for lamb, spiritual for Jesus)
  • The blood saves in both cases – the Passover lamb’s blood on the posts and lintel as compared with the blood of Christ and how it saves us:
    • I John 1:7: “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”
    • Ephesians 2:13: “But now in ChristJesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
    • Hebrews 9:14: “how much more shall the bloodof Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
  • Both the Jews and modern-day Christians are required to act in order to be saved; Jews in Egypt had to follow the Passover rules while today Christians must believe, repent, and be baptized
    • I Peter 3:21: “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism(not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”

Why did God make so many similarities between the saving of His people under the old covenant with the saving of His people under the new (current) covenant? I think much of the answer can be found in the idea that the new law is an evolution, or perfection, of the old law. Under the old law, faith was not as large of a component as it is today within the salvation paradigm of Jesus Christ. But what God did through the old law was teach man that He has absolute authority and that there are consequences when we sin, when we stray from his design of living. Created as a being with free will, yet in the image of God, mankind had to in a sense be trained to love, honor, and obey God. Consider this passage from Galatians 3:21-25:

“Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

Another dimension to the maturation of God’s design is that salvation is now available for ALL, not just the children of Israel. Continuing on in Galatians 3:26-29:

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

God was preparing us, His greatest creation, for a way to find our way to Him. Sin separated us, but God brought us back together through the sacrifice of His only Son. Nothing can keep any man or woman from Christ except their own unwillingness to approach Him as He has determined. Such is the authority of our Creator. It cannot be negotiated or changed. This is fantastic news. God’s love for us is great, His blessings are bountiful, and His mercy is far-reaching.

Can you think of other similarities between the Passover and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ?

One thought on “Exodus 12: Death of the Firstborn

  1. Good lesson, Cory. One similarity that comes to my mind, is the Jew had to put blood over their doors to signify they were of the Lords family. Today we are also saved by the blood of Jesus and others should be able to see Christ in us. The angel recognized those who were Jewish and we (His children), will also be recognized by how we live our lives.


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