Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in issue no. 1 (weeks 1-4; January 5-26, 2020) of The Lookout magazine, and is also available online at www.lookoutmag.com.
Lesson Aim: Celebrate the Lord’s deliverance.
By Mark Scott
It has been said that the Lord is rarely early, but never late. At just the right time he sent his Son (Galatians 4:4). And at just the right time God brought his people out of Egyptian slavery. The message of this text (and Exodus 11, 12 at large) is “Over and Out.” The Destroyer passed over and the people went out. God brings life out of death. The final plague brought death to Egypt, but when the Destroyer passed over, God made a festival of life out of the occasion. The Passover was not a sacrifice for sin. It was a meal, eaten in haste, that celebrated liberation, deliverance, and new life.
The Preparation for Deliverance | Exodus 12:21-23
Everything of significance requires preparation. The Passover was no different. Moses summoned (called) the elders (a term that designates age more than office) to prepare for a night unlike any other. The preparation involved four steps. First a lamb had to be selected (taken hold of; seized). Next the lamb had to be slaughtered and the blood drained out. Of course the lamb would be roasted and eaten, but the main purpose marked out in this text had to do with the lamb’s blood. Next, hyssop (a medicinal leafy branch that was used as a paintbrush) was dipped into the blood and then applied to the doorframe (upper doorpost). Finally the door was shut until the next morning. Other steps of observance would grow up around this festival in the years to come (e.g. bitter herbs, bread, eggs, etc.).
The blood from the Passover Lamb provided a symbolic covering for God’s people. There is no real death angel in the text. God himself, as the life giver and destroyer (corrupter or waster), would strike down (smite) the Egyptians but pass over the doorways that were covered in blood. By God’s promise and grace, and by the Passover preparations, the people of God would celebrate their deliverance. The omitted part of our text tells how the tradition of this festival was passed on to future generations (vv. 24-28).
The Pain in Deliverance | Exodus 12:29-30
Pain was a necessary part of God’s ultimate deliverance through Christ (Romans 3:24, 25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). When the clock struck twelve, the pain in Egypt began. That pain was all encompassing. In the first confrontation that Moses had with Pharaoh (Exodus 4:23) God had promised that the firstborn of Pharaoh would die. But the pain was not unique to Pharaoh’s household. From the throne to the dungeon (house) the firstborn died—and even to the firstborn of livestock (bahemah—large animals) too.
Death wakened the sleepers. A loud wailing (great cry of distress) was heard in Egypt. Since every family had someone who was firstborn, there was not a house without someone dead. There is no deliverance without pain.
The Plundering for Deliverance | Exodus 12:31-42
When the cry of death reached Pharaoh’s palace he summoned (same word in 10:21) Moses and Aaron. The king had earlier told Moses that when he saw Moses again, Moses would surely die (Exodus 10:28). But Pharaoh was totally defeated and he could not usher Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt fast enough. The king’s stubborn heart had turned to putty as a result of Yahweh having defeated all of his idols and gods. He wanted them to go, leave, worship, and take their animals. In the end he requested that Moses bless him, which shows the level of his defeat. One of the most powerful nations on earth had been brought to its knees.
The deliverance was so complete that Israel plundered (plucked or stripped) Egypt. The Egyptians joined Pharaoh’s voice and urged (strongly encouraged) Israel to leave. The Israelites requested articles of silver and gold and clothing, and the Egyptians gladly cooperated because they were favorably disposed to Israel.
Israel grabbed their unleavened bread and their kneading troughs and moved from Rameses (perhaps a city they had helped build or at least where they had gathered) to Sukkoth (Tell el-Maskhutah near Lake Timsah). Six hundred thousand men along with their families (a total of two million?) and livestock moved out. In addition many other people went with them (Numbers 11:4). Some of these would be incorporated into Israel, and others would be a thorn in Israel’s side later.
God had made good on his promise. Evidently the most accurate figure on the number of years of their captivity was 430. The text says, “to the very day.” Paul agreed with this (Galatians 3:17). Four hundred years (Genesis 15:13) and 450 years (Acts 13:20) are evidently estimates. It was a dark and stormy night. But a new day dawned for God’s people, a day that would be celebrated for the generations to come.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
Image: Detail of the Israelites eating the Passover lamb. From a Dutch engraving (1728). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.