Connections 02.07.2016: Passover


Exodus 12:1-14

The story of the institution of Passover is about the present, the future, and the past.

The narrative opens with “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt . . .” (v. 1). God then proceeds to give them instructions for the Passover observance. Moses and Aaron receive those instructions while the people and they are still captives in Egypt. Their first observance of Passover will be in their place of imprisonment.

The LORD’s Passover instructions begin, “This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you” (v. 2). The last words of the passage are also words of the LORD: “You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance” (v. 14b). So the beginning of Passover anticipates its repeated observance over a long period.

The LORD also told Moses and Aaron to tell the people, “This day shall be a day of remembrance for you” (v. 14a). In their future observances of the day, the people were to remember God’s great saving act through the exodus from Egypt. With each Passover observance, the people of each generation would remember what God had done for their ancestors. Their remembering would empower them to live in their present and to look toward their future, knowing that God was with them and would deliver them, too.

We can imagine the Hebrews on the night of the first Passover, trembling with fear and anticipation as they hurriedly eat the meal, dressed and packed for travel, ready to head out when they get the signal. Were they all thinking about what God had told Moses and Aaron? Did they believe it? No doubt many of them ate the meal in honest trust, praying a version of “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24). Did they wonder if they’d actually make it out of Egypt? Surely some of them ate the meal defiantly, fully expecting to die in the attempt to escape, but determined to eat the Passover as a final act of rebellion.

On that night, the Hebrews all ate the Passover meal. In so doing, they said, “We believe that God is with us right here, even in these hard times. We believe that God has a future for us, one that we can’t even imagine. We believe that in years to come, our descendants will look back on this night and remember, and they will know that God is with them.”

Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper plays a similar role in our lives. We observe it in the course of living our lives as a celebration of Jesus Christ’s presence with us here and now. We observe it as an expression of belief in a future that is ours because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; we “remember the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). And we observe it in remembrance of God’s great saving act through the cross (Luke 22:19).

Hopefully, the effects of the Lord’s Supper stay with us all the time. Hopefully, we live in light of what God is doing, what God will do, and what God has done.


1. What do you think about when you participate in the Lord’s Supper?
2. How does the observance of the Lord’s Supper empower you for living in your present circumstances?
3. Why do you think God wanted the month in which Passover was observed to be the first month on the Hebrews’ calendar?
4. What “perpetual ordinances” do we observe to remind us of who God is and what God has done?
5. The first Passover celebration was designed to protect the Hebrew people. How do we experience God’s protection?

Reference Shelf

Unleavened bread and bitter herbs accompanying the meal reinforce the point about speed of preparation (v. 8). There is no time for dough to rise (v. 34); bitter herbs, picked in the wild, lie ready to hand. The rudimentary simplicity of these side dishes has other connotations. The legislation in vv. 14-19 develops the idea of the purity of a fresh start expressed by unleavened bread. The simple fare is a reminder of persecution in Egypt: Deuteronomy 16:3 terms unleavened bread “the bread of affliction”; “bitter herbs” is from the same root as the verb, “The Egyptians . . . made their lives bitter,” in 1:13-14. Longing for the luscious cultivated vegetables of Egypt will be one of Israel’s temptations in the wilderness (Num 11:5); they thus become a symbol of reenslavement.

William Johnstone, Exodus 1–19, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2014) 228.

The unleavened bread cakes are a keeping of remembrance, the ritual means of reminding Israel of the time, the event, and above all the rescue of YHWH’s intervention on their behalf. Together with the ordered ritual of Passover, the seven days of unleavened bread were intended as a means of making the experience of exodus real to every successive generation of Israelites.

Thus also is the protection of Israel explained in this inserted sequence. It is a protection that in preparation augurs the nature of the tenth wonder, and anticipates and explains the requirement of the dedication of Israel’s firstborn specified in 13:1-16. YHWH’s “destroyer” is to pass throughout Egypt, including the Delta area where Israel lives, and the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts and lintels of Israel is the means of their protection. This act thus becomes another means of actualizing the past in each new present, and a further testimony of the proof of the Presence of YHWH to Israel in Egypt and so to Israel wherever they may come to be, in any period of history.

John I. Durham, “Exodus,” Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Macon GA: Mercer University, 1995), 140-41.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.


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