Exodus 11:1-12:13

December 12, 2017

When the sovereignty of God comes up for discussion, we sometimes make the mistake of assuming that we are automatically understood to be talking about his sovereignty rather than someone else’s. As the narrative of Exodus has shown, a battle took place in ancient Egypt. It did not consist of hand-to-hand or sword-on-sword combat, but two wills clashed: the will of Pharaoh, the false demi-god and so-called mediator between the Egyptian peoples and their pagan deities and God, who is actually God. Of course, “battle” gains usage somewhat graciously, out of a sort of gentility to Pharaoh, who never has a chance. Nevertheless, when a Power Five conference team plays a much lesser team during the first week of the college football season, we still refer to that as a game, so we shall call the confrontation between God and Pharaoh a battle. 


Exodus 11 does not reveal much that we would not have already gleaned and discerned from the previous ten chapters, but as the word of God has been delivered to people who have proved themselves forgetful and hard-headed, it never hurts to have a little repetition. God has declared in this chapter that he will strike at the very heart of Egypt: its firstborn. Notice in this short chapter that God initiates and accomplishes all the actions related to this last plague. Moses acts only insofar as he serves as the agent of revelation. Given this fact, we should take care with this text in at least two ways.


First, as we read it, the question of God’s justice and moral character may arise. We should not find ourselves surprised, nor should we take offense at such a question. The Bible proves difficult for its readers at times. We should recognize that any difficulty we have with the revelation of God does not spring from a defect in the text, rather the reader lacks understanding. Should we expect different from ourselves when we possess intellects marred by sin? Of course not. This post shall not plumb the depths of God’s justice in the face of the evil in this world. Rather, this particular paragraph merely points to the potential question that may arise. How do we talk about it? Prayerfully and humbly.


Second, as we will want to argue for God’s perfect moral character from eternity past, here’s one thing we do not do: we do not attempt to get God off the hook for his action here. 11:4 specifically says that the LORD goes out to Egypt to bring sorrow to every house. When we attempt to get God off the hook, we attempt something Scripture never does. God does not feel the need to defend himself through philosophical gymnastics or theological innovation here. 


Care taken, the proverbial cream that rises to the top of Exodus 11 consists of the sovereign action of God that reveals Pharaoh as a non-god rather than a demi-god. God’s use of Moses to speak his curses and warnings also undercuts Pharaoh’s supposed place as the mediator between the gods and their people. Moses shall speak on behalf of God, not Pharaoh. God shall act in the land of Egypt with complete authority, not Pharaoh. Therefore, God’s wonders become multiplied in Egypt, not Pharaoh’s (11:9). The people shall remember the deeds of Almighty God to his glory and the foolish stubbornness of Pharaoh to his shame.


Exodus 12 proves pivotal for the entirety of the canon of Scripture as it begins to describe the Passover. Of course, space shall not permit a full treatment of the topic, but it does remain for a few words to be said. The children of Israel shall not fall victim to the curse of the plague. No, they receive instruction from God on how to exercise their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on this terrible night. The death of a lamb of a sheep or goat will prove necessary per God’s decree. The shed and spread blood of these animals will be the sign that the people believe God. The blood does not carry in itself any sort of mystical power as if God taught a magical spell to mask the people from his power. Instead, when people smear the blood of a slaughtered sheep or goat on their door frames, they testify to their belief in what God said. [1]


While much can, should be, and has already been said regarding Passover, discussion here shall be brief. As people who possess the New Testament along with the Old, we recall that Jesus’s crucifixion took place during the time of Passover. All four canonical Gospels record this detail. The Evangelists reorient this observance around the sacrifice of Jesus. He serves as the ultimate and final Passover lamb. 


While the blood of the animals had no power in itself, that does not make it insignificant. Note that all the people were to slaughter these animals around the same time, twilight (12:6). This first Passover was no serene time. With the people slaughtering so many animals at the same time, the whole of Goshen became filled with the sounds of death. The people clearly saw the price of their deliverance: blood from the neck of a lamb. The thought resounded in their minds: if not this animal, then my child. This lamb for my child. This lamb in my child’s place. Therefore, the idea of a substitute comes into play. How do we know Jesus’s cross serves as a substitute for sinners? He became the Passover lamb that goes to death that another would go to life. He becomes the price of deliverance from bondage. 


Not only did God provide prescription for the preparation of the meal, roasting the lamb along with eating bitter herbs and unleavened bread, he also instructed the people how to eat it. They remained in a state of preparedness to leave. They waited for the word to move out, to move on from Egypt. Their deliverance did not allow delay. They ate fully dressed, shoes on their feet, and with their staffs in their hands. Given the way the staff was associated with travel, this would be like eating with your car keys in one hand. 


The preparedness to depart at any moment raises the question: are you ready to be delivered? Are you ready for God to save you? That question might seem silly, but think of it this way: are you ready for your sin to no longer enslave you? The Hebrews certainly had suffered under the weight of slavery to a false god, and they (at least at this point) were ready for a new order, a life freed from the day-in-day-out beatings and berating of their taskmasters. In light of Jesus’s coming as the ultimate sacrifice to provide the avenue out of bondage to sin, we must ask ourselves and those around us this: are you ready to have the chain of your sin pulled from your back? Are you ready to see an ankle that bears no shackle? Do you see? Have your eyes been opened to the obvious? That this sin is killing you inside and out? Just about everyone else can see it, even other sinners, though they see not their own chains. Do you see, and are you ready? Are you ready to receive you Passover lamb, Jesus who is the Christ? 


Come sinner and lay aside your muddy bricks and toil for nothing. Receive instead the Savior who provides eternal liberty and escape from the wrath of God.



[1]Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2 of The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, eds. E. Ray Clendenen, Kenneth A. Matthews, and David S. Dockery (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2006), 278.


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