Monday, October 18, 2010

Exodus 11:1-12:14: The Birth of Israel

After the initial meeting with Pharaoh that did not go well, God had promised Moses that not only would Pharaoh eventually let them go, he would actually send them out (6:1). Now Yahweh says that this is going to happen (11:1). He will drive them away “completely” (cf. Gen. 2:1-2, Ex. 29:32, 40:33).

Greatness and Favor
This conversation is apparently a continuation of 10:29 and does not finally finish until 11:8. Yahweh says that now His promises are going to come true (11:1, cf. 6:1; 11:2, cf. 3:21-22). In particular, Yahweh has been in the process of exalting His people. He gives them “grace” in the eyes of the Egyptians (11:3, cf. Gen. 6:8, 39:21). Remember that this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened in Scripture (Gen. 12:14-13:2, ch. 20, ch. 26). God has set a pattern deep in the narrative of Scripture of enslavement then freedom, death and then resurrection, oppression then blessing. The justice of this “plundering” is also seen in the Biblical principles of the “bride price” (Ex. 22:16-17, cf. Gen. 24:22,53; 31:14-16) and freeing of slaves (Dt. 15:12-15). The justice of God demands the protection and provision for weaker members of society, in this case women and slaves. And this pattern is perhaps referenced in 11:1. The word “completely/altogether” may be related to the word for “daughter-in-law/virgin-bride” (e.g. Lev. 18:15, 20:12). Pharaoh will dismiss/send out/divorce the bride-Israel like Abraham dismissed Hagar (Gen. 21 cf. Gen. 3:24). Recall that this same pattern was previewed in Moses’ early life (Ex. 2:17) and prefigured in the last chapter as well (Ex. 10:11, cf. Lev. 21:7, 14, 22:13). The seed of the serpent continues to hound the seed of the woman, but Yahweh has raised up Moses to intervene. This is the story of the entire Bible, the story of all human history: Yahweh, in His grace, makes a difference between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, between the Egyptians and Israel (11:6-7). This results in favor for all of Israel (11:3) and specifically in honor for Moses who is seen as “very great in the land of Egypt” and will end up with Pharaoh’s servants bowing down to him (11:3, 8).

The Birth of Israel
Yahweh says the coming new moon will be the beginning of their months, but this is not merely a statement about their calendar. This is a statement about being born. When a child is born, that is their “beginning of months.” (12:2) From the new moon, the Israelites are to count ten days and take a lamb per house, according to the number of souls, according to the mouths that eat (12:3-4). The lamb must be a spotless, male son of one year from the sheep or the goats (12:5). They are to “guard” the lamb for four days, like the Levites will later guard the tabernacle and congregation (e.g. Num. 3:7-8), and then the whole “congregation” slaughters the lamb “between the evenings” (12:6). While the slaughter takes place house by house, the ritual unites the houses into one congregation. This is the first time the word “congregation” is applied to Israel; previously it has only been a prophecy (Gen. 28:3, 35:11, 48:4). The slaughter of the lamb occurs at the full moon, blood is put on the doorposts and lintels of the houses, and it is eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (12:7-8) – bitter like their lives have been (1:14). All of the lamb is to be consumed either by eating or burning (12:8-10), and the meal is to be eaten while dressed for travel (12:11). Israel is about to emerge from the bloody womb Egypt, a new born son of Yahweh (cf. 4:22-23). It is Yahweh’s Passover, and He will pass through Egypt passing judgment on men, beasts, and gods (12:12). The blood is a sign for Israel that Yahweh will not destroy them (12:13).

Conclusions & Applications
We cannot read these instructions and not be filled with awe and thankfulness for our Lord Jesus Christ and the Greater Exodus that He performed in His death and resurrection. But in order to see the glory of God in the Exodus or in the death of Christ, we have to see at least two things: First, God was completely just in striking down the firstborn of Egypt. Second, the only difference between Egypt and Israel is the blood. Our Triune God is both Just and the Justifier, the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11, Heb. 13:20) and the Spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29, 1 Pet. 1:19). He is our Paschal Lamb, and in Him all judgment is executed on this world. In His death and resurrection, every house covered in the blood was passed over, and the Christian Church was born, a congregation of all the peoples of the earth.

The Church, like Israel, is a bride, and is therefore called to share the one flesh and blood of the Son, but this means dying with Christ because we are a filthy, adulterous bride. When John says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” he is not only identifying the solution, he is also identifying the problem. But to identify the problem as sin is not to oversimplify the problem, it is to name the problem in all its complexity for what it is: enslavement and death. We need a Redeemer who can enter our death, suffer for us, and lead us out to life.

We need to be united to His death, and in this communion, a new humanity is born. Seeing this, we can only cry with the host of heaven: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing (Rev. 5:12). Christ is the greater Moses, and He has been exalted in the sight of all the earth so that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord of all (Phil. 2:5-11).

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