Our passage today records the culmination of God’s dealings with Egypt through the plagues. As we will see, God’s purposes will stand, His enemies will be punished, and His people will be saved. This is the way it has always been and forever will be.
Chapter 11 begins with God telling Moses that the time has come, and with this last plague, not only will Pharaoh let Israel go, but he will drive them away. In the Hebrew, it repeats the verb, both of which are intensive verbs – he will not drive them out, he’ll drive drive them out. What we see here is God’s sovereignty working through the free actions of man, and it is for the good of His people. We see in verse 2 the reminder to plunder the Egyptians, but again we see it is God Who will give Israel favor with them (v. 3). Again, God is sovereign, as we also see with the hardening, yet again, of Pharaoh’s heart (v. 10).
And we see that the final plague is the death of the firstborn male of man and beast in Egypt. Remember, the firstborn son always received the double portion of inheritance. He represented the family name for the next generation. So in killing the firstborn, God is showing that, whereas He preserves the offspring (spiritually speaking) of the faithful, the offspring of the reprobate He will cut off. This is represented by the difference between Egypt and Israel (v. 7). But there’s more, because we see here a pointer forward to Christ, the only Son of God, and the firstborn brother of all those of faith (Rom 8:29).
In chapter 12 we have the institution of Passover. The timing of the feast is important to take note of because there will be references back to it later in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). On the fourteenth day of the year, the Passover lamb is killed at twilight, a pointer forward to our Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, and his death in the supernatural darkness on Calvary. The blood put on the door posts and the lintel that saves the household point forward to the blood of Christ spilled on the cross that saves the household of God. The door post (vertical) and lintel (horizontal) prefigure the cross. The judgment God executes on Egypt (12:12) represents the judgment of the damned, which Christ took in our place (like the lamb who died instead of the firstborn). The leaven (used throughout the Bible as a metaphor for sin) taken out of the houses for the Feast of Unleavened Bread points forward to our sin that Christ takes away.
At midnight, God judges Egypt. And as promised, Pharaoh drives Israel out. Actually, all of Egypt drives them out (v. 33). We see that Egypt is willingly plundered like God promised (v. 36). This fulfills the promise not only to Moses (Ex 3:21-22), but the promise to Abraham (Gen 15:13-14). And why did God have Israel plunder Egypt? Well, as we will see a little later in the book, God will have Israel use all of this precious metal to plate everything in the Tabernacle used for the worship of God (they were slaves, they had no gold of their own). We will also see that Israel uses it to make the Golden Calf. In this we see that it is God that blesses us with material wealth in this world, and we have two ways to use it: one right way, and one wrong way.
In 12:37 we see Israel’s journey begin from where God brought them. We also see how the Lord had continued to bless Israel over the 430 years: the 72 men that came to Egypt turned into about 600,000. It is also very important to notice who came out of Egypt: these men, the women and children of Israel, and a mixed multitude (v. 38). We see in this that God’s salvation was never intended for one physical national people. Indeed, through Abraham all families of the earth are blessed! In verse 42 we see that the “once for all” salvation event that was God’s provision (“watching by the Lord”) resulted in a lifelong commitment for the saved to keep their eyes on God, as it were (“watching kept to the Lord”).
This chapter ends with God explaining to Moses and Aaron that the Passover is not for “foreigners”. This is a reference to those who are outside the covenant, not to those outside the physical descent of Israel. This is evidenced in how God allows for “servants” (v. 44) and “strangers” (v. 48) to partake if they take the sign of the covenant (i.e., enter into the covenant), and how He groups together “natives” and “‘strangers” in verse 49 (see Gal 3:28). Verse 51 one more time reminds us Who sovereignly did the saving.
Chapter 13 begins with God requiring the consecration of the firstborn of Israel*. Not only does what has been said previously about the firstborn apply, but there are two other features of this requirement worthy of note. First, as we saw with the history in Genesis and how valuable that firstborn son and heir is, the firstborn represents the “greatest” of that generation. This points us to (as we sill see again) how God requires our very best, and the “first fruits” of all that we gain. Second, God is requiring the firstborn of man and beast. Why? Because while all Israel was saved from slavery, the firstborn of man and beast are those who were saved from death by God through the blood of the lamb (Ex 11:5). In other words, the saved belong 100% to God.
Verse 3 begins Moses’ disseminating of the meaning of Passover to the people of Israel. Contained herein is a reminder of what God has already done (v. 3), the promise of the land (v. 5 – compare 3:8), and then the requirements God places on Israel. This is a pattern that is repeated throughout the Bible, and this is the grace of God: He always acts on our behalf, then He makes us promises that He will yet act, and only then does He ask anything of us – things that are already due to Him in any case!
In verse 17, we see that God leads His people in ways that are for our own good, and that also serve His purposes (as we will see tomorrow). We see that Joseph’s request is honored by Israel (v. 19 – see Gen 50:24-25 and note that it is tied in with God’s promise). In the final two verses of the chapter, we see that God’s presence is with His people to comfort, lead, and guide them. And His presence does not depart from His people. Like the fire at night and the cloud in the day: if we look, He’s always there…
Our passage today is a famous one, and for good reason. In the account of Exodus, we see God judge the wicked, save His people from slavery and death, provide His people with everything they need, Himself be present with them continually, and make promises that are sure to come to pass. And while there is so much typology and symbolism that point us to Christ and His work that comes so many centuries after this event, we need to remember two things. First, Christ is how the true people of God have always been saved. Second, the God of the Exodus is our God – He never changed (never has, never will). I encourage you to go back and read this portion of Scripture again, but this time, remember that this is our history as God’s people. Our God is preserving us in this narrative. What He did at the Exodus was for us.
* We will see in Numbers 3 that God takes the entire tribe of Levi in place of the firstborn of all of Israel.