Exodus 12 presents the original Passover as a special meal eaten with speed and anxiety. There was nothing gay or light-hearted about it, no one reclined, leisurely nibbling at this or that as if he had all the time in the world. As darkness fell, moving toward midnight, there was the soundless approach of One, who had held his wrath in control long enough, had tolerated rebellion long enough and who would now grimly punish captors and set prisoners free.
The trembling, maybe whispering slaves, hid behind closed doors under the protection of the blood of the spotless lamb on which the family fed. Their doorposts and lintels liberally smattered blood shed in death that certainly saved the dwellers from dying. 'The Destroyer' was about this night and while his intentions had been made perfectly clearhe would deliver a final stroke that would break the fetters of Israel's long slaverythere was danger even for Israelites.
It was to be eaten by a nation that survived by grace. The plagues had been falling on EgyptIsrael's enemies. Israel knew what it was like to be exempted from the scourge of flies and ulcerated cattle. This kind of 'favouritism' would tempt the Israelites to despise the Egyptians, to feel smug, self-righteous and superior; but the solemn words about a flock-animal (sheep or goat), about its death would go a long way to balance things.
His words to Moses were, 'When I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt' (12:13). No word about seeing their good works, their faithfulness, their loyalty, their fleshly connection with Abraham--'when I see the blood'. No word either about seeing their crimes, their injustices, bitterness and insolence--'when I see the blood'. Between them and death stood that which died to keep them from dying
In the final analysis what made the difference between the dying and the living was not character or ethnic pedigree but the blood of an innocent sacrifice.
It was to be eaten in unity as a nation--as one people. They were sanctified in families and neighbors (12:4) but their families were brought together under the clear word (12:3), 'Tell the whole community of Israel' they are to do this or that. Here is a unity meal in which the whole community of Israel is brought under the protection of the blood and marked out as a having-been-ransomed people. There are no individuals or individual families here except as they were part of the Community.
This oneness, this cohesiveness was underlined by the way the meal was to be eaten. The lamb was to be roasted whole (not boiled or soddened which produces the breaking down of tissue, dissipation); the smoke of it arising like the smoke of a burnt offering, whole and entire. It was to be completely eaten or, at least, totally disposed of (12:8-10). The sacrifice was not to be dismembered but left whole (12:46) and by morning, the meal was to be completed, finished, done with. Everyone acted in concert--a nation acted as one in doing what was done in one continuous act.
It was to be eaten by a nation in haste (12:11) for it was a nation ready to move. So that for all its somberness, this was a meal which had implicit in it the word of promise. 'I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely' (11:1). Bread made without yeast (12:8) would later remind Israel of what God had promised as a result of the final and decisive plague (12:39; Deuteronomy 16:3). Egypt would be glad to be rid of them and so hurry them out of the land.
It was to be eaten by a nation that remembered its afflictions as they toiled under taskmasters. But it would come to remind them also of their hurried lives while in Egypt, the endless labor, no time to relax and bake their bread with yeast, allowing it to rise. So it would be the 'bread of affliction' (Deuteronomy 16:3). Driving home the point of slavery and adding to the restless nature of their lives 'bitter herbs' (12:8).
It was to be eaten by a covenanted nation that renounced evil and devoted itself to Yahweh. The absence of yeast from all their dwellings also served the purpose of reminding them who and whose they were. The word chemotz means 'bitter' or 'sour' and easily lended itself to the notion of what spreads corruption. The NT has numerous references which undergird that idea. Israel purged their homes of ferment prior to the Passover. And only those who were circumcised could eat, those who were covenanted to God within the Abrahamic community.