The Plague of the Firstborn and the Passover (Exodus 11:1-12:42)

As a final display of judgment upon Egypt, God sets out to kill the firstborn in the land.  But as he has done so often before, the Lord declares that he will not kill the firstborn of Israel.

But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.  Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. (Exodus 11:7)

It is not until a little later in the story that we come to learn that the distinction will apply only to those Israelites who believe God and obey his word to stay inside a house that has been marked by the blood of a male lamb without defect (Exodus 12:5).  In my initial entry on the Exodus narrative, it was put forth that had the Egyptians accepted the plague of blood over the land and repented, that no further judgment was needed.  We continue to see that being played out in today’s story.  It is the Jews who are under the blood which are spared the wrath of God, but all those non-Jews who live apart from the blood covering on the doorposts and lintels that are forced to undergo a horrific judgment: The loss of their firstborn children and animals.  The cost of refusing to hear and obey the words of God are indeed great – for not only does death come upon the land, but so does financial disaster.  We are told,

Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask for articles of silver and gold…The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.” (Exodus 11:2, 12:36)

The allusions cannot be clearer to the life of Christ and the reaction of all who repent and all who don’t.  Christ is proclaimed as the Lamb of God many times, but there is one instance in the Letter to the Corinthians that builds upon the Passover theme.

Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast — as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1Corinthians 5:7)

In this passage, Paul clearly equates our Lord Jesus with the lamb whose blood keeps away the wrath of God as he judges the world for its rebellion and sin.  The world lives under judgment for refusing to obey the Lord, but when an individual is saved, they enter into a house whose door and lintel is covered in the blood of Jesus; in fact, they themselves are washed in the blood of the lamb and become a pure as snow.  In fact, everyone who repents and believes that good news that Christ died for his or her sin and has risen for the victory of life has

“…come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)

And it is the communion meal, which visually represents these truths, in the same way that the Passover represented it to the Jews before the coming of Christ.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1Corinthians 11:26)

There is one other detail of the story, which I would like to draw to the reader’s attention.  God declares,

“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” (Exodus 12:2)

Why would God instruct these about to be redeemed people that their entire calendar and way of demarcating time is to be centered on this act of redemption?  I believe the answer is simple, God wanted to instill into the people the centrality of his redeeming love for his people.  In establishing the Passover as central, God was stating that all the rest of life begins in this one act.  As we fast forward to the New Testament, we can understand this parallel as being established in the act of baptism.  When a believer is baptized they too rise from death to life and truly their entire future has just begun.  Read Romans 6 for further elaboration on this thought.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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