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ART. I. — STUDIES ON THE BIBLE, No. IV. The Exodus;
Passover; Priesthood; Borrowing the Jewels.*
One of the leading epochs in sacred history was formed by the departure of the Hebrews from the land of Egypt. The chosen seed was originally in a succession of individuals : Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the children of Jacob the visible church expanded into a family. The sojourn in Egypt consolidated the separate clans into the unity of a common life; and the exodus transformed twelve tribes of bondsmen, apparently helpless, into a nation of kings and priests, powerful in numbers and resources, compacted together by a community of race and traditions, and inspired by the sense of an exalted destiny.
In order to obtain a clear insight into the narrative of the exodus, it is necessary to appreciate what was peculiar in the destruction of the first-born of Egypt, and in the incidents
* HELPS TO THE STUDY.- On the Passover: Hengstenberg's Auth. Pent. 2: 294. Witsius' Covenants, B. IV, chap. ix. M’Donald's Pent. 1: 209, 2: 268-272. Kurtz' Old Cov't. 2: 294-311. Fairbairn's Typol. 2: 404. Kitto's Cyclo. Art. “Passover." Orme's Lord's Supper, 10-27. McGee's Atone. Disserta. 35. Bib. Sac. 1845. p. 405. Calvin's Harm. Pent. 1: 220, 456, 458.
The Priesthood, etc.: Kurtz, 3: 203-6. Fairbairn, 2: 244-275. Hengstenberg, 2: 329-340.
Borrowing the Jewels: Hengstenberg, 2: 417. Kurtz, 2: 319. McDonald, 2: 57. Calvin on Ex. iii: 22 and xi: 2. Rosenmüller on Ex. ii: 22. Kitto Art.
Weights and Measures." Arbuthnot's Tables. Hebrew Concordance sub voce Shahal. 13
connected therewith. Before the series of plagues began, Jehovah gave this commission to Moses: “Thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my first-born; and I say unto thee, Let my son go that he may serve me; and if thou refuse to let him go, behold I will slay thy son, even thy first-born.” Ex. iv: 22, 23. From these words it appears, first, that the destruction of the first-born was, from the beginning, contemplated as the crowning act in the series of calamities about to be inflicted on Egypt. The preceding plagues were, therefore, merely preliminary to that. The nine were in the nature of warnings, the tenth was a work of final judgment. That destruction, secondly, was relevant to the sin of Egypt; according to a well-known principle in the divine government whereby the leading characteristic of the sin is reiterated in the leading characteristic of the punishment; as in the law of retaliation, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The oppression of Israel, God's first-born son, was the crime—the destruction of the firstborn sons of the oppressors, was the penalty. The visitation, thirdly, was purely supernatural. Unlike most of the other wonders, it did not rest on any natural basis; that is to say, it was not a curse native-born to the country, under a form intensely aggravated by the power of God, but it was altogether a strange terror; a species of retribution never before employed, never since repeated. To this it should be added, fourthly, that the plague was not introduced by human intervention. During the progress of the ten wonders, the ministries engaged rose in dignity. The first three were brought forward by the instrumentality of Aaron in the use of his rod; at the fourth, and thence onward, the most prominent part was assigned to Moses; but in the tenth Moses warned the Hebrews that it was impending, and then stepped aside at the approach of the Jehovah-Angel. It was, therefore, an immediate manifestation of supernatural power. God had said to the king, “I will slay thy son, even thy first-born.”
Among the incidents connected with this visitation of God, the institution of the Passover was, perhaps, the most important. By divine command, each family of the Hebrews selected, on the tenth day of the current month, a lamb or a kid without blemish, a male of the first year. On the fourteenth day of the month, at evening, it was killed; its blood was sprinkled upon the door-posts and lintels of the house; the body of the lamb was roasted entire, and eaten by the whole family with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They partook of the repast in haste, with their loins girded, sandals on their feet, and staff in hand, ready, at a given signal, to set off for Canaan. About midnight the Almighty went through the land smiting the first-born of Egypt, but passing over the houses the door-posts of which were marked with the blood of the paschal lamb. Hence the ceremony was called the feast of the Passover, and it was appointed to be observed annually, as a perpetual ordinance. Various amendments were afterward introduced into the law of the Passover, adapted to a settled church-state ; but these need not be dwelt upon in this place. The fundamental ordinance may be found in Ex. xii: 1-20; the persons allowed to be present are described in xii: 43-49; the original ordinance is abridged in xxiii: 15, in xxxiv: 18, and in Lev. xxiii: 4; further directions as to the communicants are contained in Num. ix: 1-4; and the sacrifices associated with the feast are mentioned in Num. xxviii: 16–25; and the final form of the ritual, adapted to the Mosaic institutes of worship and to the condition of the church in Canaan is of record in Deut. xvi: 1–12.
Nothing is more strictly defined in these Scriptures, than the relation between the shedding of blood and the redemption of Israel from the destruction of the first-born. The Hebrews as well as the Egyptians had been guilty of idolatry; therefore the first three plagues were laid upon both people alike. Afterward the Hebrews were spared while the Egyptians were punished. But in the final execution of judgment, a new principle was associated with the grace by which the chosen seed were saved from death ; the principle of redemption by the shedding and sprinkling of blood. The victim divinely selected was a lamb or a kid without blemish ; the officiating priest, in the absence of a sacerdotal order, was the head of the family; the altar, in the absence of a public place of sacrifice, was the doorway of the house; the sprinkling of the blood upon the lintels and door-posts was an act of obedience to God, and of faith in his promise; the passing over of the houses which were marked by the blood, was an act of