“This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.” Apparently what the Israelites had been recognizing as the beginning of their year was now becoming the beginning of their real existence. The translation of the word month means new moon. The month in question was Abib, the equivalent of our April – May.
Surrounding nations did have some sort of spring religious festival. For the Israelites this festival, the Passover, was tied precisely to their deliverance from Egypt. The mighty acts of God served as a basis for this celebration.
Instructions were given for the selection of the lamb and its preparation. But this was not in any way a typical sacrifice. The first matter of importance was the daubing of the blood. Blood was the seal of life for the Hebrews. This plague that was about to come was a visitation of death. Daubing blood on the door post and the threshold was God saying to them that he had blocked the entrance of death by His gift of life. In a similar way the blood of Jesus bars the access of spiritual death to us.
The entire lamb was to be eaten and what was not consumed was to be burned. By the Israelites eating the lamb they became identified with it. In that way the lamb became a part of their life. The Israelites were also told to eat the lamb in haste. This was because they had to be ready to go when God had opened the way.
It is also important to remember that the death blow to the first born of the Egyptians was also a blow to their gods. Yahweh said, “On all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments.” The blood was a sign of God’s protection, of His gift of life.
Also there was no distinction between Israelite and Egyptian; it was not a question of race but one of faithful obedience to God. Whoever did not trust and obey would not be spared. In this last plague, deliverance became a matter of faith. Did one believe God enough to obey Him?
A seconded feast was observed along with the Passover. “The Feast of the Unleavened Bread.” The Passover was a one night affair but the Feast of the Unleavened Bread was to be a seven day observance. It may be that the prohibition against using leaven was the belief it was intrinsically evil. Leaven was a symbol for corruption. When Moses gave the command for this festival to the Hebrews, he cited as the reason for the use of unleavened bread the haste with which they had to depart. There was no time to wait for the leaven to work through the dough. (Exodus 12:33-34)
Moses gathered all the elders of Israel and told them how to observe the Passover. Moses described in detail how to put the blood on the doorposts and the lintel. The word lintel is translated “basin,” which also used to mean threshold. It is probable that the lamb was slain at the entrance and his blood poured out upon the threshold. Then it would have been applied to the sides and top. Therefore the doorways would have been blocked by the blood of the Lamb.
For their protection no one was to “go outside the door of his house until morning.” The Destroyer had been intercepted. “Not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you.” The “destroyer” is commonly accepted as the angel of death. The Hebrews would not have understood this in any way as demonic, for God had clearly stated that He was going to be the One passing through the night of death. (Exodus 11:4-5)
The Israelites were told this was to be a perpetual celebration of theirs on the anniversary of their deliverance. In the far distant days their children would have no idea what this festival meant or the experience they were about to go through. The children’s questions would have been natural and must have an answer. Even to this day the questions of the children are built into the Passover observance of contemporary Judaism. It was not Moses’ point that instruction to the children should be a part of the ritual it was that the children would naturally ask these questions about the ritual. It was then that the ultimate responsibility of teaching the children what God had done was that of the parents and leaders.
The elders responded with wonder and awe, as they “bowed low and worshiped.” There is another message hidden here. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. In spite of all Moses’ efforts there had not been any movement toward their freedom. With renewed emphasis, they were told they had a future in God’s Promised Land. They were given rituals to celebrate when they arrived at their destination. This gave them a renewal of hope. On the night of darkness and death they were looking forward to light and life with God.
No way can we today recapture the devastation of Egypt on the night of death. The stillness of the night was suddenly broken by the uncontrollable cry of weeping. Forgetting his wrathful pledge that he would never see Moses and Aaron again, Pharaoh sent for them. Burdened with grief Pharaoh urged them to depart. The mighty Pharaoh cried out with agony his final words to Moses and Aaron to “bless me also.” Not any of the gods of Egypt been able to protect the first born. Not even the god-king himself had been able to do so.
In their departure the Hebrews asked the Egyptians for gifts. We must not understand this as neither bribery nor thievery. The Israelites were going into the wilderness and would be in need of supplies of food and clothing. They would also be in need of treasure to buy needed supplies along the way. Throughout their journey they would come across nomads from who they could make purchases.
The Israelites left Egypt behind. The number of the Israelites gives a problem. “Six hundred thousand men” seems far too large although the same number is given in Numbers 11:21. A number this high would make the total Hebrew population about two to three million. That many people could have walked out of Egypt at any time they had wanted to. The Pharaoh Ramses in his greatest battle had only twenty thousand fighting men. Among the many proposed solutions, the most likely one focuses upon the Hebrew word that is translated “thousand.” This word is also used in the Old Testament and in other ancient literatures as either “clan” or “fighting unit.” This would give the total population of about twenty-five thousand and would fit all the biblical evidence. A more detailed consideration of this figure is discussed in The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 1pp. 349-351.
|“These are the names of the sons of Israel [see Children of Jacob] who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the offspring of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.” (Exodus 1:1-5 RSV)
And so Jacob, whose name God had changed to Israel, entered Egypt. All of the Israelites that existed in the world at the time were in that small group. They would remain there for 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41) until the Exodus.
Despite their eventual hardships, the Israelites had large families and grew very numerous:
“But the descendants of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong; so that the land was filled with them.” (Exodus 1:7 RSV).
Although there is no record of the precise number that left Egypt in the Exodus, a military census taken not long after listed the number of men 20 years of age and older who could serve in the army as 603,550 (Exodus 38:26). From that number, the total Israelite population of that time has been estimated at approximately 2 to 3 million.
How can a small group become a nation of millions in just over 4 centuries? A simple bit of arithmetic shows that it was easily possible. If the average Israelite family consisted of 4 children by the time the parents were 27 years old (the Bible record shows that families then were actually much larger), that would provide for a doubling of the population every 27 years (2 children to replace the parents, and 2 children to account for population growth). 430 years divided by 27 years is about 15 generations during the time Israel was in Egypt.
Beginning with the original 70 people, growth of the Israelite nation using our factors above would have been:
v 140 people after 27 years
v 280 people after 54 years
v 560 people after 81 years
v 1,120 people after 108 years
v 2,240 people after 135 years
v 4,480 people after 162 years
v 8,960 people after 189 years
v 17,920 people after 216 years
v 35,840 people after 243 years
v 71,680 people after 270 years
v 143,360 people after 297 years
v 286,720 people after 324 years
v 573,440 people after 351 years
v 1,146,880 people after 378 years
v 2,293,760 people after 405 years
The example is of course a rough estimate, but it does prove the point that the Israelites could easily have increased to a great number in the given time.
By: Wayne Blank
As the Israelites left they were accompanied by a mixed multitude. “A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock.” We are not told who exactly these people were. They may have been other slaves with Semitic backgrounds. They could also have been Egyptian hangers on who had been taking Moses seriously. But since they did not have the faith of Israel, they became a source of problems all along the way. (Numbers 11:4)
We return here for a few verses on the regulations governing participation in the Passover. The Passover was to be a family celebration. Slaves could observe it if they were a part of the covenant relationship through circumcision. The only strangers who could participate were those whose whole family had become a part of the covenant relationship. It was by divine intent that only those who had publicly identified themselves with the Israelite family could take part. No exceptions were to be made.
Numbers 11:21, Numbers 11:4