Four hundred years after the Exodus, David wrote in Psalm 30:5—
Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
During the Exodus experience, Moses wrote in Psalm 90:14—
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Some fifteen hundred years later, Christ’s disciples entered the dark night of despair only to discover on resurrection morning their sorrow turned to joy!
So it happened exactly 1,480 years before that a tragic night was turned to a joyful day! After 430 years in Egypt, Israel encounters the God of Surprising Outcomes. In Exodus 12:29-51, we have a story of death and new life.
It takes faith and hope to experience the God of Surprising Outcomes. Nine plagues on Egypt have demonstrated the power of Yahweh. Now with their faith and hope resting in Yahweh, the Israelites sprinkle the blood of unblemished lambs on the top and both sides of the doorframe. They eat the roasted lamb in haste with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, cloak tucked into their belt, sandals on their feet, a staff in hand and standing up—ready for the impossible—the Exodus.
It took faith to be delivered that night. Undoubtedly, the Egyptians thought all these things were foolishness, but God’s Word had spoken and that was enough for Moses and his people.
Opening the sacred pages of Scripture to Exodus 12:29-30, we read—
At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of
Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon,
and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the
Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a
house without someone dead.
The final stroke came at midnight of Abib 15, 1446 B.C. It happened in the middle of the night, when that entire world was dark. The darkness of the night matched the darkness of the deed. No household was spared, not one. Indeed, no barnyard escaped. It was a deed done while all were asleep; it was not a public execution, though the effects were public indeed.
As hard as it is to say, the victims were primarily children—boys and girls—whoever happened to be the firstborn in the family.
It was selective and sudden (infant) death syndrome throughout Egypt that night. How loud the weeping and crying must have been from parents, even Pharaoh screamed in the dark!
The Pharaohs had sowed death with their genocide of the Hebrew boys at birth and now came the reaping! Not even the Hebrews would have rejoiced at death of Egyptian children whose lives had been snuffed out because of what the adults had done.
President Clinton vetoed the partial birth abortion bill on Wednesday. In light of this judgment brought on Egypt because of the Pharaohs, we had better pray for the LORD to have mercy on our children or for the President to have a change of heart, or for a change of President!
Pharaoh’s hard-heart had brought upon Egypt this terrible judgment. God had instructed Moses in Exodus 4:22-23—
Then say to Pharaoh, `This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so that he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'”
We draw back and shutter at the God of the OT. Yet, Americans have dropped bombs on the German cities and on Japanese cities—killing thousands of children while asleep and awake during World War II.
It is one thing to speak of American bombs, but it seems almost blasphemous that God is the one who “drops the bomb.” The text does not back off from identifying the subject of this judgment: AT MIDNIGHT THE LORD STRUCK DOWN ALL THE FIRSTBORN IN EGYPT.
The loud weeping certainly would have grieved the Hebrew hearts as well. Only the blood of the unblemished lambs sprinkled on the door posts had saved their children from God’s destroyer. Exodus 12:31-33—
During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people,
you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!”
While it was still dark, Pharaoh summons the two brothers and orders the Israelites out of Egypt. No compromises are offered this time! Everyone in Egypt understood the laws of CAUSE and EFFECT— SOWING and REAPING that night. The Israelites must leave—the sooner the better!
The Egyptians did not know where the judgment of God would end. God had taken their firstborn; what would He do next? Perhaps He would bring death to all Egyptians, so Pharaoh and the people told the Israelites to get out of the land because they feared for their own lives.
Amazingly, Pharaoh the King of Egypt begged Moses and Aaron, “AND ALSO BLESS ME.” Israel was both blessed and a means of blessing others—even though in this case that blessing fell on an unrepentant heart.
With His MIGHTY HAND and OUTSTRETCHED ARM, Yahweh performed the greatest act of redemption in the OT. German scholars affirm its importance when they refer to the OT as HEILSGEPSCHICHTE, which means HISTORY OF REDEMPTION. Just as the redemption brought about by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ constitutes the main theme of the NT, so the redemption brought about by God’s MIGHTY ACTS OF JUDGMENT constitutes a main theme not only of the Book of Exodus, but of the entire OT as well.
OT redemption and NT redemption are not identical, of course. The Exodus redemption was NATIONAL and CORPORATE, whereas the redemption affected by Jesus’ death on Calvary is INDIVIDUAL and PERSONAL.
OT redemption at the time of the Exodus was primarily PHYSICAL and POLITICAL, whereas NT redemption is primarily SPIRITUAL, with the PHYSICAL to come at the Rapture. But the similarities between the two are striking indeed.
In both cases, death was the terrible price necessary to bring about redemption, in both cases the specific redemptive act became the most important event in history of God’s people, and in both cases, the redemptive event is periodically celebrated by means of a joyful ceremony having its origin in the Passover meal. Both acts of redemption bring freedom along with the hope of a new home.
Deliverance has a threefold aspect. First, it is God’s purpose to have a redeemed people. Second, it is His choice to create a people from Abraham for Himself. Third, it is redemption by the innocent blood of a lamb that God accomplishes His purpose.
So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed towards the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.
When the LORD acts, redemption comes swiftly! Christ will come quickly at His Second Coming! We need to be watching and ready! Symbolic of the haste in which they were to leave Egypt, God’s people carried unleavened dough on their shoulders. Yeast would become a symbol of evil and thus the unleavened dough symbolized a fresh start with God.
The Israelites asked for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. It was God’s way of simply collecting back wages for their years of slave labor in Egypt. This plundering of Egypt was later set to music in Psalm 105:37-38—
He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold, and from among their tribes none faltered. Egypt was glad when they left, because dread of Israel had fallen on them.
Their status has now changed! No longer slaves; they are free! They have stripped clean the valuable possessions of Egypt. No longer poor; they are now rich! Gold and silver is theirs! They have taken off the clothes of bondage and they are dressed in new clothes! What a picture of salvation! Paul says in Philippians 4:19—
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
And He guides His people on the narrow road that leads to life. Exodus 12:37-39—
The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. With the dough they had brought from Egypt, they baked cakes of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.
THE ISRAELITES JOURNEYED FROM RAMESES TO SUCCOTH. RAMESES means CHILD OF THE SUN. It was a fortress the Israelites, as slaves, had helped to build. It was named after one of Egypt’s great kings, whose remains, as a mummy, I saw in the British Museum last October. Typically, Rameses speaks of the system of “this present evil world” from which God delivers His people, that system over which Satan presides as prince. Israel is called to leave life under the child of the sun— Pharaoh.
SUCCOTH means BOOTHS or TENTS. This spoke plainly of the pilgrim character of the journey, which lay before them—leaving the city to live in tents. Just as Abraham did when God called him to leave city of Ur to live in tents as he traveled to and over the Promised Land.
ABOUT SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND MEN ON FOOT, BESIDE WOMEN AND CHILDREN left for the Promised Land. If a family averaged four people, approximately 2.5 million people left Egypt!
MANY OTHER PEOPLE WENT UP WITH THEM. It was a MIXED MULTITUDE. There are two ways to look at this mixed multitude. On the positive side, freedom for Israel means freedom for others. God’s promise to Abraham, in Genesis 12:3, of a blessing to “all peoples on earth,” receives another fulfillment in this swarm of foreigners who were impressed enough by the power of God to leave Egypt with Israel after all the plagues had been performed.
When the people of God are liberated, not only their own kind can come along. The benefits of freedom have a fallout effect on all those with whom they come in contact, whether they are people of faith or not! So it has been throughout the centuries, often in spite of efforts by the people of God to become a community unto themselves.
God’s redemption is not for the chosen few; it’s for the sake of the world. Freedom for Israel means freedom for others.
The LORD was teaching Israel in the Exodus that they were to be the light of the world—to proclaim His salvation to the nations—to reach out to others and have them share in His salvation. Imagine the Israelites telling their Gentile neighbors why God spared their firstborn from the Destroyer and themselves from plagues on Egypt. How many invitations must have been made to join them in the Exodus? How many have you invited along on the adventure of faith?
On the negative side, A MIXED MULTITUDE may also signify trouble. Satan tried hard to keep some the Israelites in Egypt. Having failed, he sends some of the Egyptians with the Israelites! Jesus said that the enemy would sow tare even among the wheat during the church age.
Scripture presents Satan as the roaring lion and the cunning serpent. The lion was exemplified by the cruel oppressions of Pharaoh; the serpent is what is here before us. This MIXED MULTITUDE would prove to be a thorn in the side of Moses according to Numbers 11:4—
The rabble [MIXED MULTITUDE] with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!
When the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity, they returned with a mixed multitude from whom they were made to separate according to Nehemiah 13:3. The fellowshipping of believers with unbelievers has been a great virus of God’s saints in every age, the source of their weaknesses, and the occasion of much of their failure. 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 warns—
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
With this mixed multitude of the Exodus, we see the difficult task of discernment. At times, we must reach to those who are lost, and at times we are to separate from them.
Notice that LARGE DROVES OF LIVESTOCK, BOTH FLOCKS AND HERDS came out with them! Both people and animals are liberated. Freedom has an effect on more than human beings do. This theme is sounded again and again in the Scriptures. We see it in the Fourth Commandment, Deuteronomy 5:14:
But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.
We see it in David’s declaration in Psalm 36:6—
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.
We see it in Paul’s anticipation of redemption at the end of the age in Romans 8:22—
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Israel’s God is One who is about redeeming the entire creation. Isaiah 11:6 predicts that in the millennial kingdom of Christ—
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come.
Like the Exodus, Calvary occurred exactly on God’s timetable: not a day too soon or a day too late—to the exact day. God’ works on a divine calendar. That is seen in the 430 YEARS, which is an interval of time God uses throughout Scripture. For instance, it was 430 years from the Flood to the Abrahamic Covenant; 430 years from Israel’s arrival in Egypt to the Exodus; and 430 years from Malachi to Christ. God knows what He is going to do and when He is going to do it.
The LORD’S VIGIL that night refers to keeping watch over the people of Israel on this death-filled night. Not only did the Destroyer pass over their houses, but Yahweh kept vigil—making certain not one Israelite covered by blood died. This is a testimony to a quiet but active bonding of God to Israel. Psalm 121:7-8 captures this point well—
The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore.
Thus, Israel is to observe the Passover in the generations to come. Israel’s keeping remembers God’s keeping.
Jacob and his family had arrived in Egypt 430 years to the day. Exodus 1:1-5 reports—
These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.
God’s Word is certain and unbreakable; He has kept His promises to Abraham recorded in Genesis 15:13-16
Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill-treated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
We know little of the age of a generation in this period. Abraham was 100 years old when His son Isaac was conceived and Moses died at 120 years of age. Since God said the fourth generation would come back, it appears a generation stood for a hundred years.
Jacob’s family, consisting of twelve families, totaling seventy people entered Egypt, and now twelve tribes of some 600 family groups, totaling approximately 2.5 million exits. Remember the numbers of the Israelites were increasing so greatly that Pharaoh ordered the killing of the baby boys at birth because of their sheer numbers amounted to a threat against Egypt.
Notice that ALL THE LORD’S DIVISIONS LEFT EGYPT. They did not leave as a disorderly mob, but in rank-and-file. This was probably the greatest parade of all time. God is a God of order. When Christ fed the five thousand, we read in Mark 6:39-40—
Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.
Mixed groups of people come out of Egypt, but a community of FAITH is to be formed. Since Gentiles are part of the Exodus, God establishes regulations to bring non-Israelites into the community of faith. Exodus 12:43-50—
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: “No
foreigner is to eat of it. Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it. “It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.
“An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.” All the Israelites did just what the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron.
Exodus and Passover must be tied together if the experience of redemption is to continue to be a living reality for Israel.
Israel is not to keep YAHWEH for themselves; they are to share Him with the world by living a holy life that will attract others to Him. When others desire to become a part of the community of faith, they are to submit in obedience to God’s terms.
No one was allowed to participate in the Passover meal unless he was circumcised and thus a member of the community of faith. This excluded temporary residents, hired workers, aliens, and all foreigners.
Circumcision formed the grand boundary line between the Israel of God and all the nations that were upon the face of the earth; and the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ forms the boundary between the Church and the world. It matters not, in the smallest degree, what advantages of person or position a man possessed, he could have no part with Israel until he submitted to that flesh-cutting operation.
In the OT economy, a circumcised beggar was nearer to God than an uncircumcised king. So, also, now there can be no participation in the joys of God’s redeemed, except by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which sweeps away all pretensions, levels all distinctions, and unites all in one holy congregation of blood-washed worshipers.
Furthermore, each Passover lamb was to remain in one house. It parts were not to be divided and eaten in separate homes; it was to be the basis of a fellowship meal stressing the unity and joy of the participants. No bones of the Passover lamb was to be broken foreshadowing the Lamb of God according to John 19:33-36—
But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled, “Not one of his bones will be broken.”
Surprisingly, the Exodus began on the Sabbath—they entered into their rest. Exodus 12:51—
And on that very day the LORD brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.
What a day of rejoicing it must have been! Yes, weeping was for a night, but joy came in the morning!
Deliverance from Egypt is not yet complete! The Red Sea Crossing lies ahead, but the Exodus has begun. The liberation of Israel is not simply being brought out of Egypt, a matter of geographical placement; it is being delivered from the hand of the Pharaoh, the embodiment of the evil one!