Foreshadows of Christ and Calvary: A Typical Passover (Exodus 12)

The Apostle Paul gives divine sanction to consider the Passover lamb as a type of Christ and His work at Calvary (1Co 5:7). The historical Passover occurred once in the land of Egypt. Every Passover since was merely a memorial of that unique night (Exo 12:14). Likewise, Calvary was a once-for-all event (1Pe 3:18), but believers gather on the first day of every week to remember Him and His work as He commanded.

The word “Passover” is a translation of the Hebrew word pesach, the root of which basically means “to defend” or “protect.” Linguists suggest the word closely resembles an Egyptian word which means “to spread wings over.” Isaiah 31:5 uses the same root word to describe the Lord of Hosts hovering over and defending Jerusalem as a bird with outstretched wings. Israel knew exactly this blessing in Egypt that Passover night. It was the destroying angel who passed through the land as the executor of the justice of God. Where was the Lord of Hosts? He was hovering protectively over every house where the blood had been applied (cf. v23). The imagery is exactly that used by the Lord Jesus, again in relation to Jerusalem. He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luk 13:34 KJV). Such is the grace of God: He took them out from under His wings and placed them on His wings, even eagles’ wings to bear them out of Egypt and unto Himself (Exo 19:4).

The Setting of the Feast (vv1-2)

According to Josephus, it was the seventh month that God now made the first, the “beginning of months” (Nisan). This explains the six-month difference in the Jews’ religious and civil calendars even to the present day. God was blotting out six months of the year to mark a new beginning with His people. God also made a new beginning at Calvary. Mankind in the flesh (indicated by the number six) was brought to an end. Through the ages of God’s dispensational dealings, Adamic manhood had proved an abject failure; thus the old man was judicially condemned and terminated by God at the cross (Rom 6:6). The death of Christ has introduced a new era – a new beginning of months. Dear believer, rejoice that your position is now “in Christ” and no longer “in Adam”!

The Selection of the Lamb (v3)

The lamb was relatively unseen amongst the flock until it was taken on the tenth day, being kept up until the fourteenth day (v6). The family observed the lamb for four days, not to check its suitability but in order that they might appreciate its perfections. How beautifully this reminds us of the Lord Jesus who spent so many private years in relative obscurity amongst His own. Yet the Father’s eye was ever upon Him and declared His perfection at the Jordan (Luk 3:22). For the best part of four years, He came into the public gaze and was again declared unblemished, not only by the Father, but even the worst of sinners (Luk 23:4,14,41). Interestingly, Sir Robert Anderson calculated the triumphal entry as the 10th of Nisan, AD 32, the cross being the very same day the Passover lamb was slain (14th of Nisan, AD 32).[1]

The Sufficiency of the Lamb (v4)

If the household was too small to eat a whole lamb, it could be shared. We might say, “The house could be too little for the lamb, but never the lamb too little for the house.” We are reminded of the complete sufficiency of the Saviour. The Bible does not teach limited atonement. Christ has made propitiation for all; indeed, “he is the propitiation” (1Jn 2:2). The one, therefore, who limits the scope of propitiation limits the Person who is the propitiation. Christ is still sufficient, not only for every sinner, but also for every believer, whatever the trial or difficulty.

The Specifics of the Lamb (v5)

The lamb must be “without blemish,” a word rendered “undefiled,” “sound,” “perfect” and “complete” elsewhere in the OT. Peter speaks of Christ as a Lamb “without blemish and without spot” (1Pe 1:19), which, in the Pentateuch, is a requirement of the red heifer alone (Num 19:2). “Without spot” relates to the heifer’s birth – it must be born without any spot of white or grey hair. “Without blemish” reminds us that no imperfection could appear in its life. What a beautiful picture of the Lamb of God. He was born holy and lived holy! He was without spot at His birth and without blemish in His life. It is astounding to think that the Church will one day be presented to Christ “not having spot” and “without blemish” (Eph 5:27).

The Slaying of the Lamb (v6)

The lamb must be killed and likewise, Christ must go to Calvary, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb 9:22) for sins. The life of Christ alone could never save, but only condemn us. Note that the thousands of lambs which must have been slain on Passover night are reduced here to one (“it”). Thus, Jehovah speaks of one representative lamb slain by the whole congregation of the nation of Israel (cf. Act 4:27). Furthermore, the lamb was to be slain “at even,” or “between the evenings.” This is a Hebrew phrase to describe the time of the setting sun between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., exactly the time Christ died on the cross (Mar 15:34).

The Striking of the Blood (v7)

Not only must the blood of the lamb be shed (propitiation), but it must also be sprinkled or applied to the doorpost and lintel (substitution). Blood merely in the basin was not enough for the firstborn. It must be presented to the doorpost by a definite act of the will. The picture reminds us of the plain difference between propitiation and substitution. Christ is the propitiation sufficient for all, but only the believer can claim Christ as substitute through the obedience of faith. Faith is here illustrated by hyssop, a small common plant that sprang even from the wall (1Ki 4:33). We thank God that, in our personal experience, faith came by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. It is not the quality or amount of faith that saves, but simply the act and exercise of faith.

[1] Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince, Kregel (1984).