Highlights From Bible Reading: Exodus 11‒14
Scriptural Questions Answered:12:29—Who were reckoned as firstborn? The firstborn included only males. (Numbers 3:40-51) Pharaoh, himself a firstborn, was not killed. He had his own household. Not the family head but the firstborn son of the household died as a result of the tenth plague.
12:40—How long did the Israelites dwell in the land of Egypt? The 430 years mentioned here includes the time the sons of Israel spent “in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan.” (Reference Bible, footnote) Seventy-five-year-old Abraham crossed the Euphrates River in 1943 B.C.E. on his way to Canaan. (Genesis 12:4) From then until the time 130-year-old Jacob entered Egypt was 215 years. (Genesis 21:5; 25:26; 47:9) This means that the Israelites thereafter spent an equal period of 215 years in Egypt.
Lessons for Us:11:2; 12:36. Jehovah blesses his people. Evidently he was seeing to it that the Israelites were now given wages for their labor in Egypt. They had entered the land as free people, not as captives of war to be enslaved.
14:30. We can be confident that Jehovah will deliver his worshipers at the upcoming “great tribulation.”—Matthew 24:20-22; Revelation 7:9, 14.
6 On occasion, Jehovah gave comfort by specifying a time, near or distant, when his people would be delivered. As the deliverance from Egypt drew near, he told the oppressed Israelites: “One plague more I am going to bring upon Pharaoh and Egypt. After that he will send you away from here.” (Exodus 11:1) When a three-nation alliance invaded Judah in the days of King Jehoshaphat, Jehovah told them that He would intervene in their behalf “tomorrow.” (2 Chronicles 20:1-4, 14-17) Their deliverance from Babylon, on the other hand, was recorded by Isaiah nearly 200 years in advance, and further details were provided through Jeremiah almost a hundred years before the deliverance occurred. How encouraging those prophecies were to God’s servants when the time for deliverance drew near!—Isaiah 44:26–45:3; Jeremiah 25:11-14.
Exodus 12:1-7, 29, 31, 37, 38.
8 Jehovah now reveals to Moses that there will be one more blow against Pharaoh and all the Egyptians, a final one. On the 14th of Abib (Nisan), the firstborn of every Egyptian man and of every animal is going to die. But Israelite households can be spared by carefully following God’s instructions given to Moses. They are to splash some of the blood of a male lamb upon the two doorposts and the upper part of the doorway of their houses and to stay indoors. What happens that night? Let Moses himself tell us: “It came about that at midnight Jehovah struck every firstborn in the land of Egypt.” Pharaoh’s reaction is immediate. Calling Moses and Aaron to him, he tells them: “Get up, get out from the midst of my people, . . . and go, serve Jehovah, just as you have stated.” And go the Israelites do, possibly more than three million of them along with an unnumbered “vast mixed company” of non-Israelites.—Exodus 12:1-7, 29, 31, 37, 38.
9 The nearest route for the Israelites to take is by the Mediterranean Sea and through the land of the Philistines. But that is enemy territory. Hence, likely to save his people from having to engage in warfare, Jehovah leads them by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. Although there are millions of people on the march, this is no disorderly crowd. The Bible record says: “It was in battle formation that the sons of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt.”—Exodus 13:17, 18.
4 Jesus died on Nisan 14, 33 C.E. In Israel, Nisan 14 was the joyous day of the Passover celebration. Each year on that day, families shared a meal that included a young, unblemished lamb. In this way, they remembered the role that the blood of a lamb played in the deliverance of the Israelite firstborn when the angel of death slew the firstborn of the Egyptians on Nisan 14, 1513 B.C.E. (Exodus 12:1-14) The Passover lamb foreshadowed Jesus, of whom the apostle Paul said: “Christ our passover has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7) Like the blood of the Passover lamb, Jesus’ shed blood provides salvation for many.—John 3:16, 36.
Ex. 12:8-13, 29-32
5 But what were the Israelites to do before being set free? It was about the time of the spring equinox in 1513 B.C.E., in the Hebrew month of Abib, later called Nisan. God said that on the tenth day of that month, the Israelites were to start getting ready to follow certain steps on Nisan 14. That day began at sunset because the Hebrew days ran from sunset to sunset. On Nisan 14, each household was to slaughter a male sheep (or goat) and splash some of its blood on the doorposts and lintel of the house. (Ex. 12:3-7, 22, 23) The family was to have a meal of roasted lamb along with unleavened bread and some herbs. God’s angel would pass over the land and slay Egypt’s firstborn, but the obedient Israelites would be protected, and then they could go free.—Ex. 12:8-13, 29-32.
Exodus 12:5, 6
8 Given that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal right after the last valid Passover, this new event would coincide with the day of the Passover. You may have observed, though, that the date of the Jewish Passover shown on some modern calendars may differ one or more days from the date when we commemorate Christ’s death. Why the difference? The answer, in part, involves God’s command to the Israelites. After saying that “the whole congregation of the assembly of Israel must slaughter” the lamb, Moses specified when on Nisan 14 they were to do so.—Read Exodus 12:5, 6.
9 The Pentateuch and Haftorahs points out that Exodus 12:6 says that the lamb was to be slaughtered “between the two evenings.” Some Bible versions use exactly that expression. Others, including the Jewish Tanakh, translate it “at twilight.” Still others, “at dusk,” “during the evening twilight,” or “around sundown.” So the lamb was to be slaughtered after the sun had set but while there was still light, at the start of Nisan 14.
10 In later times, some Jews thought that it would have taken hours to slaughter all the lambs brought to the temple. So Exodus 12:6 was understood to refer to the end of Nisan 14, between the time when the sun started to decline (after noon) and the end of the day at sunset. But if that were the meaning, when would the meal have been eaten? Professor Jonathan Klawans, a specialist in ancient Judaism, noted: “The new day begins with the setting of the sun, so the sacrifice is made on the 14th but the beginning of Passover and the meal are actually on the 15th, although this sequence of dates is not specified in Exodus.” He also wrote: “Rabbinic literature . . . does not even claim to be telling us how the Seder [Passover meal] was performed before the destruction of the Temple” in 70 C.E.—Italics ours.
11 We thus have reason to ask, What of the Passover in 33 C.E.? Well, on Nisan 13, as the day drew near ‘on which the passover victim was to be sacrificed,’ Christ told Peter and John: “Go and get the passover ready for us to eat.” (Luke 22:7, 8) “At length . . . the hour came” for the Passover meal, after sunset on Nisan 14, which would be Thursday evening. Jesus ate that meal with his apostles, and then he instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal. (Luke 22:14, 15) That night he was arrested and tried. Jesus was impaled close to noon on Nisan 14, and that afternoon he died. (John 19:14) Thus, “Christ our passover [was] sacrificed” on the same day as the Passover lamb was slaughtered. (1 Cor. 5:7; 11:23; Matt. 26:2) As the end of that Jewish day approached, Jesus was buried—before the start of Nisan 15.—Lev. 23:5-7; Luke 23:54.
12 But let us go back to the occasion in Egypt. Moses said that in the future, God’s people were to keep the Passover; it was to be a regulation “to time indefinite.” As part of that annual observance, children would ask their parents questions that focused on the meaning of the event. (Read Exodus 12:24-27; Deut. 6:20-23) Hence, the Passover would have meaning as “a memorial” even for children.—Ex. 12:14.
13 As new generations grew up, important lessons would be emphasized, passed on by father to son. One was that Jehovah could protect his worshippers. The children learned that he is not some vague, abstract deity. Jehovah is a real, living God who is interested in his people and who acts in their behalf. He proved this at the time he protected the Israelite firstborn “when he plagued the Egyptians.” He kept the firstborn alive.
19 When the lamb was slaughtered for the Passover meal, the Israelites were not to break any of its bones. (Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:11, 12) What of “the Lamb of God” who came to provide the ransom? (John 1:29) He was impaled with a criminal on each side. The Jews asked Pilate that the bones of the impaled men be broken. This would hasten their death so that they would not be left on the stakes into Nisan 15, a double Sabbath. Soldiers broke the legs of the two impaled criminals, “but on coming to Jesus, as they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.” (John 19:31-34) That matched what was done with the Passover lamb, so this lamb was in that sense “a shadow” of what was to come on Nisan 14, 33 C.E. (Heb. 10:1) Moreover, the way things worked out fulfilled the words at Psalm 34:20, which should strengthen our confidence in prophecy.
15 What else can we learn from Israel’s Exodus from Egypt? That we must obey Jehovah no matter what he asks us to do. The Israelites were obedient in carrying out the detailed preparations for the Passover. They obediently stayed indoors during the night of Nisan 14. When they finally left Egypt, they had to go “in battle formation.” (Exodus 13:18) Today, it is so important that we follow the guidance that comes to us through “the faithful and discreet slave”! (Matthew 24:45) We have to listen very carefully to God’s word behind us, saying: “‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people,’ in case you people should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21) As we get nearer to the outbreak of the great tribulation, we may well receive some detailed instructions. Our safe journey through those troublesome days will depend on our keeping in step with other loyal servants of Jehovah.
16 Jehovah’s people, however, will continue to enjoy the safety of their “real dwelling,” Jehovah God. Like the prophet Habakkuk, they “will exult in Jehovah himself.” They “will be joyful in the God of [their] salvation.” (Hab. 3:18) In what ways will Jehovah prove to be “a real dwelling” during that tumultuous time? We will have to wait and see. But of this we can be sure: Like the Israelites at the time of the Exodus, the “great crowd” will remain organized, ever alert to divine direction. (Rev. 7:9; read Exodus 13:18.) That direction will come theocratically, probably by means of the congregation arrangement. Indeed, the many thousands of congregations around the world appear to be linked to the protective “interior rooms” foretold at Isaiah 26:20. (Read.) Do you value the congregation meetings? Do you act promptly on the direction Jehovah provides through the congregation arrangement?—Heb. 13:17.
11 Among those nourished by Joseph’s expression of faith was Moses. When Moses was 80, he was privileged to carry Joseph’s bones up out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 13:19) About that time, he came in contact with Joshua, who was much younger. For the next 40 years, Joshua served as Moses’ personal attendant. (Numbers 11:28) He accompanied Moses up Mount Sinai and was on hand to meet Moses when he descended from the mountain with the tablets of the Testimony. (Exodus 24:12-18; 32:15-17) What a wellspring of mature counsel and wisdom aged Moses must have been to Joshua!
19 This situation reminds us of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. After striking Egypt with ten devastating plagues, Jehovah led his people, not on the shortest route toward the Promised Land, but down to the Red Sea, where they could easily be cornered and attacked. From a military standpoint, that seemed a disastrous move. If you had been there, would you have obeyed Jehovah’s word through Moses and marched down to the Red Sea with full confidence, knowing that the Promised Land lay in a somewhat different direction?—Exodus 14:1-4.
20 As we read on in Exodus chapter 14, we see how Jehovah delivered his people in an awesome display of power. How such accounts can strengthen our faith when we take the time to study and reflect upon them! (2 Peter 2:9) Strong faith, in turn, fortifies us to obey Jehovah, even when his requirements seem to go contrary to human reasoning. (Proverbs 3:5, 6) So ask yourself, ‘Am I striving to build up my faith through diligent Bible study, prayer, and meditation, as well as by regular association with God’s people?’—Hebrews 10:24, 25; 12:1-3.
10 Next, there is an amazing turn of events. Jehovah tells Moses: “Speak to the sons of Israel, that they should turn back and encamp before Pihahiroth between Migdol and the sea in view of Baal-zephon.” As they follow these instructions, this great multitude find themselves hemmed in between the mountains and an arm of the Red Sea. There seems to be no way out. However, Jehovah knows what he is doing. He tells Moses: “I shall indeed let Pharaoh’s heart become obstinate, and he will certainly chase after them and I shall get glory for myself by means of Pharaoh and all his military forces; and the Egyptians will certainly know that I am Jehovah.”—Exodus 14:1-4.
Ex. 14:13, 14, 29-31
9 At times, we may become so discouraged that we can be in danger of succumbing to the effects of negative emotions. Perhaps we feel unable to care for a certain Scriptural responsibility or privilege of service. Here, too, Jehovah can comfort and help us. To illustrate: When Joshua was commissioned to lead the Israelites against powerful enemy nations, Moses told the people: “Be courageous and strong. Do not be afraid or suffer a shock before them, because Jehovah your God is the one marching with you. He will neither desert you nor leave you entirely.” (Deut. 31:6) With Jehovah’s backing, Joshua was able to lead God’s people into the Promised Land and to victory over all their enemies. Earlier at the Red Sea, Moses had experienced similar divine support.—Ex. 14:13, 14, 29-31.