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Posted 28 June 2020 - 08:28 AM

Harry Whittaker

Published by:


130 Hednesford Road Cannock

Staffordshire U.K.

1st Impression 1986


Printed by:
North West Print Limited

Danefield Road, Sale, Cheshire.


1. A New Beginning     

2. The Lamb     

3. Unleavened Bread    

4. The Sacrifice of Passover    

5. The Passover Meal   

6. What mean ye?     

7. Not a bone broken           

8. Passover Judgment

9. The Passovers of Jesus        

10. Three Days and Three Nights         

11. Did Jesus eat the Passover? 

12. Other Passovers        

13. Hezekiah’s Passover 

14. Second Coming at Passover


To my brothers and sisters in Christ who heard all this at an American Bible School. It was a week of fellowship that will not be forgotten.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 08:31 AM

For the sake of completeness chapters 10 and 11 have been included here from “Studies in the Gospels”.


1. A New Beginning


The Passover is a familiar story which belongs to Israel. It belongs also specially to Jesus and to his New Israel. In this running commentary on Exodus 12 all these aspects of meaning are to be touched on. But there will be special emphasis on the New Testament links with this impressive sequence of commandments given by God to Moses and Aaron.


The First Month —Abib, Nisan


First, Passover was to mean a re-organization of Israel’s calendar. Apparently up to this time the month Tisri began the year. Now, with a six months’ switch, the seventh month (Abib, Nisan) became the first, and the first became the seventh. Strangely enough (or is this to be expected?), for long generations the Jews have persisted in calling Tisri “Rosh Ha-Shanah”, the head or beginning of the year, presumably because of the important feasts associated with it – Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles.


There is here a plain intimation to the New Israel also that “Christ our Passover” is to mean a new beginning. It was a sound instinct (even though initiated by an apostate Roman church) which switched enumeration of the years from A.U.C. (ab urbe condita, the founding of the city of Rome) to the familiar B.C. – A.D., even though an error of 4,5, or 6 years was made in the process.


Individually all New Israelites should learn to make a new beginning. It is the world which celebrates natural birthdays (and even celebrates them with murder: Gen. 40:20-22; Mt. 14:6-10). Instead, in the spirit of Psalm 90:12, it is anniversaries of the New Birth which need to be marked by the New Israel with both rejoicing and devout thanksgiving.


Obscure N.T. Allusions


Paul has just this emphasis in two allusions to Ex. 12:18 which are completely lost in the English version. There the Hebrew text is literally: “In the first” (note AV italics), which Septuagint turns into an unusual verb meaning: “making a beginning with the offering of sacrifice.” It is this word which Paul uses in his remonstration to the Galatians: “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect in the flesh” (3:3). He seems to be comparing these Galatian Gentiles to those Gentiles who affiliated themselves with Israel in their departure from Egypt (Ex. 12:38). all saved by the blood of a Lamb.


Also, to the Philippians: “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6); i.e. as though reaching forward from Passover in Egypt to inheritance of the Land of Promise.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 08:31 AM



Gesenius derived the name Nisan somewhat obscurely from Hebrew netz, making it the month of flowers. But the name of the next month Ziv means just that. On the other hand Passover is traditionally associated with lilies, and hence the subscription Shoshannin to Psalms 44,68 which Thirtle has identified as Passover psalms. Certainly Ps. 68:6,7 makes specific allusion to the first Passover deliverance; and Ps. 44:22 laments that God’s people, and not the lambs, are being slain. (More on this with reference to Hezekiah’s Passover).


Hebraistically, it seems more likely that Nisan is to be connected with a verb meaning “to set out on a journey” (Ex. 12:37; 15:22: Ps. 80:8).


The other name for this month – Abib – means “ripening corn.” It was the month of the barley harvest. On the day after the Passover sabbath the first-ripe sheaf of barley was waved before the Lord. (Lev. 23:10-14). If, early in Nisan, there was no sign of the first-ripe barley being ready on the 16th, an intercalary month was inserted into the year, thus setting Passover back by 29 days. The use of the old name Abib in Ex. 23:15 is a possible indication that that portion of the Law of Moses is a repetition of what belongs to a pre-Passover period.


The Septuagint version turns Abib into “the month of the new things,” and it is with reference to this that Paul, in his allusion to “Christ our Passover” exhorts his readers to become “a new lump.”

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 08:32 AM

The Passover lamb was to be without blemish, “a male of the first year... from the sheep or from the goats.” It need not be considered just a coincidence that this feast took place in the first month under the first sign of the zodiac Aries, the Ram, for in Creation God appointed the constellations “for signs and for seasons” (Gen. 1:14), this last word mo’edim certainly having reference normally (in about 150 places) to holy convocations or feasts of the Lord, among which Passover was outstandingly important.
“From the sheep or from the goats” obviously means an ordinary lamb or kid, one like all the rest. The fitness of this detail in prefiguring Christ is evident enough when consideration is given to the dozens of places where the New Testament emphasizes how really and truly the Redeemer shared the frail human nature of those he came to save.
Yet, with the symbolism of sheep and goats in the Lord’s familiar picture of the Last Judgment demanding that a distinction be seen between the two kinds (Mt. 25:33,34,41), how remarkable it is that at no time have the Jews shown any disposition to slay and roast and eat a Passover goat! Always a lamb! “I beheld, and lo ... a Lamb as it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). How utterly unfitting it would have been for John to see a kid of the goats receiving the Book of Life.
This idea is made the stronger by the words: “without blemish.” No lameness, no disease, no maggot in the skin. All well-pleasing to the offerer of the sacrifice and to the God of redemption who so appointed it for the saving of His people.
Peter’s allusion to the Passover lamb clamours for attention: “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold (readily handed over by the Egyptians to their Israelite neighbours) ... but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot; who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the (Jewish?) world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:18-20; for more Passover allusions in this chapter, see v.2,4,5 RV, 13).

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 08:33 AM

The Choosing of the Lamb


The lamb was to be set aside for its important role on the 10th day of the month. Such an endearing creature was bound to become a cherished member of the family, and not with the children only, so that by the time the 14th day came and the lamb had to be slain there would be real sadness and even tears at having to part with so delightful a pet.


Not only this general consideration but also the specific detail – the 10th day – has a pointed connection with the death of Christ, for it was “six days before the Passover” when Jesus came to that well-loved home in Bethany (Jn. 12:1), and there at the meal-table he was anointed by Mary with “ointment of spikenard, very costly.” Since the Passover meal was eaten on the 15th Nisan, then, reckoning back six days, and reckoning inclusively (as is the Jewish method; see ch. 10 on this), this day of special anointing must have been the 10th Nisan. In other words, Mary was consciously identifying Jesus as “the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world.”


This would explain why the Lord voiced such deep appreciation of her action at the very time when she became a target for the criticism of the twelve:


“Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.”


Here the word “kept” is not to be read as meaning “saved up” for this occasion. Reference to a good concordance will readily reveal that in John this Greek word is used of keeping a commandment (e.g. 8:51,55; 9:16; 14:21-24) – in this instance, the Passover commandment.


Other details in this moving incident chime in with the conclusion just reached. It has been maintained that there is contradiction in detail between the records in John and those in Matthew, Mark. The fourth gospel says Mary anointed the feet of Jesus, but the other gospels specify the anointing of his head. The fact is that both are correct, and both harmonize with the prescribed Passover ritual:


“Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs” (Ex. 12:9).


A very unusual and hitherto puzzling detail in Mark 14:3 now finds ready explanation. This  gospel describes the ointment as “pistic nard” (see RVm). The adjective here makes no sense at all (note the vague guesses in RVm), until it is realised that Mark has made a beautifully descriptive word out of the Greek word for “faith.” Mary used “faith ointment” in her anointing of Jesus. Her act was more than an expression of thanks or adoration. She – and she only at that time? – had the faith to see Jesus as the true Passover lamb for the saving of God’s New Israel.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 08:34 AM

The Type continued


The prophecy embodied in the Passover lamb is made yet more impressive by an extension of the Passover ritual prescribed in Leviticus 23. There (v.10-14) Israel were instructed to wave before the Lord, on the morning after the Passover sabbath, a sheaf of first-ripe barley. Here is Christ the first-fruits of the resurrection. And, as counterpart to this, at Pentecost two wheaten loaves baked with leaven were likewise to be presented before the Lord – an easy type of Jewish and Gentile sinners sharing the merits of the Lord’s sacrifice and resurrection.


With the sheaf of barley, at Passover, there was also to be offered “a he-lamb without blemish of the first year, for a burnt offering.” Since the burnt offering signified consecration to God, this is, in effect, Christ the Passover lamb raised from the dead and re-consecrated to the service of his Father. And in the year that Christ died, the day after the Passover sabbath was a Sunday – Easter Sunday! More on this in chapter 11.


“I beheld, and lo ... a lamb as it had been slain.” But now the Lamb is alive again, and has the right to take from the right hand of the Ancient of Days, a book, which is the Book of Life.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 08:35 AM



There are certain features of the Law of the Passover which in later days Jews found very difficult of observance, so the rabbis concluded that such details belonged specially to what they called the Egyptian Passover and therefore need not be observed in the nation’s later celebrations – such items as:


The sprinkling of blood on the door.

The use of hyssop.

Eating in haste.

No going out of the house on Passover night.


Even so, traces of some of these ideas, including also the selection of the lamb on the 10th Nisan (already touched on), are to be found in the gospel narrative of the Lord’s death, as will be seen.


One commandment which the Jews treated as specially important was the repeated instruction about leaven:


“On the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses.”  

(12:18,19). Substantially the same commandment concerning this Feast of Unleavened Bread comes in 12:15; 13:6,7.


A Contradiction?


This observance was to be partly in commemoration of the haste with which the people left Egypt, taking their dough with them before it was leavened (12:34,39); and partly because of the symbolic meaning God wished them to associate with it:


“Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction” (Dt. 16:3).


There was appropriateness enough here, for no­body preferred unleavened bread to leavened, at least not for so long a time at once.


But a difficulty arises here, for Paul’s incidental reference to this observance pointedly suggest a different interpretation:


“Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast (of unleavened bread), not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:7,8).


Clearly there is a marked difference between the affliction of Egyptian bondage and the sincerity and truth of a devout Christian spirit. Can it be that Paul read “affliction” as meaning the rigour of self-discipline? This would be more in harmony with his own phrasing. (Or is it that, just as Is. 53:12 – “he was numbered with the transgressors” – is interpreted in three different ways in the New Testament, so also this Passover detail was intended to have more than one meaning?).

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 08:36 AM

“No leaven in your houses”


From time immemorial the Jews have generalised this commandment regarding leaven to mean the exclusion of all kinds of dirt (for under both Old and New Covenants leaven is uniformly a symbol of corruption; e.g. Lev. 2:11; 6:17; 1 Cor. 5:8; Mt. 16:6,11; 13:33).


Accordingly it has long been Jewish practice to make a thorough spring-cleaning of the house before Passover; and before the meal itself every corner is searched with the aid of a lighted candle to make sure that no dirt remains – except for one small heap of dust deliberately left for this occasion. Then with dustpan and brush (a feather) this last specimen of “the old leaven” is carefully removed and thrown out. There can now be conscience-clear participation of the holy feast.


There was a great Passover (2 Chr.35) in the days of the prophet Zephaniah (1:1), who makes allusion to this part of the Passover ritual in words of solemn warning:


“I will search Jerusalem with candles, and will punish the men that are settled on their lees” (1:12; this last phrase with reference to the four cups of wine at Passover?).


Much more impressive is our Lord’s own personal responsibility to this Passover practice. For at the first and last Passovers of his ministry he did a rigorous spring-cleaning in his Father’s  house at the very time when Jews everywhere were getting rid of “leaven” from their own houses.


It has become almost a dogma among the modernists that regarding this cleansing of the temple John has a serious chronological dislocation. Of course, they say, there was only one cleansing of the temple, in the last week, but John (or someone else – mistaken identity!) blundered in placing this at the beginning instead of the end of the ministry.


This is pathetic. Once the real point of the Lord’s action is understood in the light of the Passover commandment, there is no reason at all why Jesus should not have cleansed his Father’s house more than once. Indeed, since there were four Passovers in the ministry, it is almost a matter of surprise that the gospels do not tell of four, instead of only two, such occasions.


Paul’s counsel on this Passover duty is very pointed. Only Jesus has the right to purge the Father’s house of “leaven.” The disciple is called upon to concentrate on his own fitness for the New Passover: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat ...” (1 Cor. 11:28). Not that a man is called upon to pronounce himself “without blemish and without spot” in his partaking at the Lord’s Table, for in that case it would be a ceremony only for hypocrites. But he is required to bring to this sacrament a spirit of “sincerity and truth,” not only “discerning the Lord’s body” but also frankly acknowledging his own desperate need.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 08:37 AM



“The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening,” that is, of the 14th Nisan. “Between the two evenings” (AVm), which is the literal reading of the Hebrew text, is a strange phrase susceptible of more than one interpretation.


The rabbis agreed that it means the hours between “the sun’s decline” and sunset. But that first phrase is too vague to be of any use at all. In the time of Jesus, after bringing forward the evening sacrifice (normally mid-afternoon, about 3 o’clock, “the ninth hour”) the slaying of the lambs began forthwith and went on until not long before sunset. Even so, because there were so many thousands  of them, the task was only achieved by dint of having many priests on duty, all of them geared up to a superb piece of organization.


All the carcases were drained of blood which was cast at the base of the altar of burnt offering, whence – percolating through the rock – it eventually mingled with the waters of the Kidron some hundreds of feet below.


Incidentally, the idea, sometimes urged, that our Lord ate the Passover meal (the Last Supper) twenty-four hours earlier than normal, is not tenable, for as sacrifices of the Lord all the lambs had to be slain in the temple court, and it is inconceivable that priests would permit the normal procedure to be anticipated by an hour, let alone a full day.


The Two Evenings


The commentators seem not to have noticed that in more than one place the gospels provide a fairly precise interpretation of “between the two evenings.”


John says that the feeding of the five thousand took place at Passover (6:4). The sending away of the crowd to find food was suggested by the disciples “when even was come” (Mt. 14:15RV). For such a multitude, the organization of the people into groups, the distribution of bread and fish, the eating of the meal, and the gathering up of the fragments would be bound to occupy two hours at least. Then came the move to “take him by force and make him king” (Jn. 6:15), frustrated by Jesus sending away his disciples and then getting rid of this uncomfortably enthusiastic crowd. Matthew rounds off this long sequence with the astonishing words: “and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (14:23).


There can, then, be no manner of doubt that this gospel is deliberately directing attention to “the two evenings” on a very exciting Passover, fairly clearly defining the period as that between mid-afternoon and sunset.


It is interesting to note that when Abraham offered his covenant sacrifices this equally significant transaction took place between the two evenings (Gen. 15:12,17).


But most pointed of all is the remarkable fact that our Lord died on a Passover day “between the two evenings,” for “from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour” (Mt. 27:45) – from noon till 3 – and it was soon after daylight returned that Jesus made his great cry and died.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 08:38 AM

What kind of Sacrifice?
The lambs were to be slain by “the whole assembly.” Presumably in Egypt this was done by the head of each household in his own home. Thereafter this slaying took place at the altar of the Lord, but was still done by the head of each group sharing the lamb. Thus was emphasized more emphatically than in any other temple sacrifice that “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” With unperceived dramatic irony the mob rejecting Jesus shouted the same truth: “His blood be on us and on our children.”
Whether in Egypt or in Jerusalem, the slaying of the lamb was to be regarded as a holy offering: “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover” (12:27). “It is a passover unto (or, for) the Lord” (12:11 Heb.). Then, what kind of offering was it?
The smearing of the blood on side-posts and lintel of the door is comparable to the way in which, by specific instruction, the blood of a sin offering was smeared on the horns of the altar of burnt offering (Lev. 4:25) or was sprinkled before the veil (4:6) or on the Day of Atonement was splashed on the mercy-seat (16:15).
— But the eating of the lamb at a holy meal was, in effect, the sharing of a peace offering (Dt. 12:6,7).
And the final instruction to burn completely the remains of the Passover meal pointedly suggests the main feature of the burnt offering (Lev. 1:9).
The eating of unleavened cakes (matzoth) is like the meal offering (Lev. 2:5,6).
Thus the Passover was every kind of sacrifice combined in one. It is a fact which the believer in “Christ our Passover” rejoices in, for it surely means that whenever he comes to the Lord’s Table, whatever his great need there it is met in his partaking of Christ.
Does he feel acutely the need for forgiveness? Then Christ is his expiation, his sin offering.
Does he know the personal duty to begin afresh a life of complete dedication to God? Then Christ is his whole burnt offering. Without him there can be no re-consecration of one’s life.
Does he specially crave fellowship with the Lord and his family? Here that need is fulfilled in a Love Feast, a meal of holy fellowship, Christ our peace offering.
Would he, in thankfulness, dedicate special works of devotion to God? Then only in Christ, his meal offering, can such a gift be rendered untarnished by human weakness.
It is significant that the proper order of the sacrifices, as indicated in Leviticus, is carefully followed in the Passover instruction (Ex. 12:7, 8abc).

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:08 AM

The Blood of the Lamb


Before sunset on that great day in Egypt the door of each Israelite home was smeared with the blood of the lamb. It was an open declaration of faith that, as God had promised release from this bondage, so He would most certainly perform.


It was not sufficient to say:


“My Egyptian neighbours will laugh at me if I do this. And, anyway, what difference can this strange operation make to my belief that I am covered by the virtue of this sacrifice? The lamb has been slain, Isn’t that the important thing?”


The perverse Israelite who adopted such an attitude signed the death warrant of his son. Today the perverse “believer” who adopts such self-excuse regarding Christian baptism signs his own death warrant. So also the man who assures himself that he will be delivered whether he eats of the holy meal or not. Is anyone at liberty to play fast and loose with the sacraments of the Lord?


Again, this may be done not only in a spirit of blithe optimism but also as a deliberate turning away from Christ, expressing contempt for the all-important sacrifice he made for sinners. It is only close association with “the blood of Christ who ... offered himself without spot (Passover language!) to God” that can “purge your conscience from dead works” (Heb. 9:14). If instead a man treats lightly the sacrifice of Christ, “counting the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing,” it is as though he deliberately put the blood of the Lamb on the ground, thus “treading under foot the Son of God ... doing despite to the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29).


On the other hand, intellectual difficulties as to what possible connection there might be between the Passover blood and deliverance from Egypt, would in no way hinder the promised angelic protection. A man may fail to see what logical connection there might be between the forgiveness of his sins and the shedding of the blood of Christ two thousand years ago, and two thousand miles away; if he accepts the divine assurance about this, then he has nothing to worry about.


There is no need to comprehend and hold a closely-reasoned logical doctrine of atonement. Fervent faith in the fact of it is what is important.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:09 AM

Blood on the Door


It is not amiss to enquire why the blood should be used in the particular way commanded. Why not a cross or a circle put on the door itself? Or would not blood on the lintel only or on just one of the doorposts serve as good a purpose?


There is reason to believe that later generations were intended to see special meaning in this appointment, for the blood-stains took the form of a letter in the Hebrew alphabet – either ה (He; see Ps. 119:33), or ח (Cheth; 119:57).


The first of these suggests either of two possible intentions. All letter of the Hebrew alphabet have also a specific meaning. ה means “Behold!” – it was probably the Baptist’s ejaculation when he said: “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Alternatively, ה is the main part of  יה Yah, the divine Name which Yah Himself added to the names of Abram and Sarai.


Or, if the letter is read as ח (the distinction is a very fine one, easy to miss), then Cheth means “a fence.”


Then is it just a remarkable coincidence that, on the eve of Passover, Jesus prayed for his disciples, saying: “Holy Father, keep (ח) through thy Name (יה) those whom thou hast given me” (Jn. 17:11)?




It was specified that the blood should be applied by means of hyssop, the leaves functioning as a kind of brush, and the stem giving added reach for the lintel. Some months later the law of the leper (Lev. 14:4) required the use of hyssop when a leper was cleansed (hence Ps. 51:7). This may have been the re-statement of a law already known. But in any case at later Passovers the record would remind Israel that they were to see themselves as a race of lepers who had been “washed from their sins” and their “robes made white in the blood of a Lamb.”


It is obvious that in his record of the crucifixion the apostle John saw special Passover meaning in a bystander’s use of hyssop for the assuaging of the Lord’s thirst. The wine (vinegar), sponge and hyssop must have been provided (by whom?) for the relief of the crucified. The narrative (Jn. 19:28-37) has palpable Passover connections – wine, hyssop, death, sabbath, not a bone broken, the shedding of blood. Such details as these, not invented but pointedly set down to alert the reader’s understanding and conscience, are characteristic of John’s symbolic style and spiritual insight.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:10 AM



The lamb was to be roasted (Ex. 12:8). No other mode of preparation was acceptable. Yet regarding this very detail certain modernists seem to take pleasure in exposing what they deem to be a direct contradiction in the Passover recapitulation in Deuteronomy 16. There, at verse 7, the word “roast” (AV) is different, and really means “seethe, simmer, or boil;” but Exodus says: “not sodden at all with water.”


The reconciliation of these varying instructions is simple. Exodus is about the Passover meal itself, whereas the other is about peace offerings eaten during the ensuing week of unleavened bread – as the rest of Dt. 16:7 clearly intimates: “and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go into thy tents.” This could not possibly be on the morning after the Passover proper, for in that case the journey home would be made on the special sabbath, the holy convocation. So it must refer to the holy convocation at the end of the week (Ex. 12:16).


“Roast with Fire”


In John’s gospel this emphasis on “roast with fire” is given an indirect application to the Lord Jesus. At the first Passover, of his ministry, when he cleansed the temple, “his disciples remembered (there and then, or after his resurrection?) that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (Jn. 2:17; Ps. 69:9). These words have to do with the action of fire (the verb comes in J1. 1:20; Ps. 78:63 LXX). So, in this Passover context, here is Jesus not only, like a diligent householder, removing all “leaven” but also by that very act condemning himself to be slain as a Passover lamb.


“In haste”


Originally the meal was to be eaten “in haste” (12:11), or possibly “in trepidation” (Ps. 31:22; 116:11; Dt. 20:3). If the latter meaning, this would be because of awe springing from the knowledge of impending divine action of a drastic character.


But not only “in haste.” Every individual was to be fully prepared to move off when the moment arrived – loins girt, shoes on feet, and staff in hand. Everything about that Egyptian Passover was stamped with urgency.


The same spirit should (but does not always) animate those who learn how, through the blood of the Lamb, they too may be delivered from bondage.


“And now why tarriest thou? (said Ananias to Saul of Tarsus no longer blind) arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling the name of the Lord upon thyself” (Acts 22:16).


So also the Ethiopian eunuch when he learned faith in Christ: “See, water! what doth hinder me to be baptized” (8:36).


It is difficult indeed to understand the leisurely casual spirit with which some drift towards baptism, as though it were not a matter of supreme importance.


It is difficult also to understand why those eager for baptism are kept waiting until they have concluded a twelve-months course of instruction.


In another of his Passover allusions Peter shows no sympathy for a perfunctory disposition: “Wherefore (because Holy Scripture speaks so emphatically about the sufferings of Christ and the glory that shall yet follow) gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and set your hope completely (absolutely) on ... the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). Peter was not concerned with physical preparedness, but that the loins of the mind be girt about with truth.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:11 AM

Bitter herbs


Other elements of the Passover meal were, of course, the unleavened bread and also bitter herbs. The rabbis recommended that these last be mixed into a paste made to resemble the mortar used by Israelite slaves when building for their Egyptian task-masters – this because the word “bitter” is the same as in Exodus 1:14: “And they (the Egyptians) made their lives bitter with hard bondage in mortar and in brick ...”


Such a detail bids the believer in Christ look for its counterpart in his own experience. It is surely this – when a man has become a thorough-going convert to faith in Christ he can look back on the former days and appreciate how completely he was then in bondage and without hope of anything better. But this great sense of relief is only possible if he knows that his sins are forgiven, and that he truly has gone forth to freedom.


Too many? Too few?


There was to be careful estimate that the company gathered at any one Passover meal must not be so large that any might go unsatisfied: “according to every man’s eating ye shall make your count for the lamb” (12:4).


So also – need it be said? – must be the spiritual meal for those gathering to celebrate the Passover of the Lord Jesus. If any go from the Lord’s Table with a sense of unsatisfied hunger, some servant of Christ has failed in his duty. It is a serious thing.


But there was also the other possibility – that “the household be too little for the lamb” (12:4). In that case, “let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls.”


There is an interesting principle here. There was to be true fellowship in this salvation specially with one’s nearest neighbours. In the life in Christ, what corresponds to this? What lesson is to be learned? Is this an instruction to the believer not to consider seeking fellowship with any ecclesia further away than that which is nearest to him? In these days of much “running to and fro in the earth” there is sometimes sore temptation to use one’s mobility, to satisfy spiritual selfishness. Or, per contra, should this principle be lifted away from geographical considerations, and be seen as an instruction to join in the holy meal with those who are “next neighbours” in the truest and best sense of the term?


Regarding this, one thing is clear: fellowship in the Lord’s Passover is essential; a brother in Christ is not at liberty to decide that he will “break a factious loaf in solitude.” On this the Passover commandment is explicit: “In one house shall it be eaten: thou shalt not carry forth aught of the flesh abroad out of the house” (12:46). The one who does this forbidden thing declares by that act that his is a false fellowship. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 Jn. 2:19).


Hebrews 2:14 appears to make an enlightening allusion to this Passover commandment about neighbours sharing: “For-as-much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise (p a r a p l é s i ō s, as a next neighbour) took part (s.w. 1 Cor. 10:17,21) of the same (flesh and blood).” It would almost seem as though here literal flesh (of the Lamb) and literal blood (on the door) are referred to, though this can hardly be insisted on. But, remarkably, Jesus is alluded to not as the Lamb but as the next neighbour sharing in the feast and its benefits. With the other strongly emphatic phrases taken into account: “he also himself2 likewise took part3 of the same,4" this must surely be the most forceful passage in all Holy Scripture concerning the true nature of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:11 AM

Who shall partake?


There is a remarkable triple emphasis on the comprehensive and yet exclusive character of the Passover:


 “All the congregation of Israel shall keep it” (12:47). Since the context specifically mentions circumcision, this would include all the children. Passover was for the family. But–


“There shall no stranger eat thereof” (12:43).


“A sojourner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof” (12:45), that is, except he be circumcised (v.44).


It is easy to imagine that in the great Judaist controversy in the early church, the zealots for the Law would make a great play with such passages as these, applying them in a strictly literal sense, when instead, as concerning all other Passover details, the spirit of the commandment is what concerns those in Christ (Eph. 2:12,13).


Since a true baptism is what initiates a man into the New Israel, this must be the criterion to decide who is and who is not qualified to be present at the Lord’s Table. It is significant that all Israelites, regardless of personal character or standing, were not only urged but commanded to share in the Passover, for they were all bondslaves of Egypt. Then does it not follow that all who belong to the New Israel and know themselves to be in bondage to their sins and crave for deliverance should be not only welcomed at the New Passover but positively commanded not to neglect it?

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:12 AM



No less than four times it was urged that in the rising generation there should be a spirit of earnest enquiry concerning Passover and all that it stood for:


“And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say ...” (12:26).


“And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying ...” (13:8).


“And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this, that thou shalt say unto him ...” (13:14).


“And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean these testimonies ...? then thou shalt say unto thy son...” (Dt. 6:20,21).


To this persistent questioning the answer is always the same: Cruel bondage in Egypt, a great deliverance, the Lord’s mighty hand!


All through the centuries this feature of the Passover ritual has never been neglected. At an appropriate moment in the course of the meal one of the children present, prepared beforehand, puts this question to the father of the family: “What mean ye by this service?”


The rabbis laid it down that “the more fully he explains, the better.” But in practice the answer is always given in the very words of the Exodus record.


Psalm 78 is surely a Passover psalm, for its emphasis on instruction of children is unequalled anywhere else in Scripture:


  1. “Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
  2. We will not hide it from their children,
  3. shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord ...
  4. ... which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children,
  5. that the generation to come might know them, even the children that should be born,
  6. who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God...
  7. and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation ..”


The rest of the psalm, another 64 verses, develops that final admonition into an awe-inspiring and frightening catalogue of Israel’s bleak unfaithfulness from which continued Passover observance was intended to save the nation.


“It shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes” (13:16).


The spiritual intention behind this exhortation is plain for all to see. Yet today Israel is content with the letter of the commandment whilst sadly letting slip its real purpose. A leather thong round the forearm and a phylactery on the forehead both have prominence in an elaborate ritual performed by many who now and for long years have believed that God only does for them what they do for themselves. Yet this faithless philosophy was vetoed from the very first Passover: “No manner of work shall be done, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you” (12:16). Justification by works – that incurable Jewish way of life – was forbidden from the very first day of their new existence.


How the New Israel needs to learn similar lessons regarding their better Passover!


From earliest days children should be present at the Breaking of Bread service and, however they divert their restless minds during most of the proceedings, as soon as they are capable of any degree of understanding, there should be insistence on all such things being put aside when parents are offering thankful prayer and are sharing the tokens of a new and better deliverance. In how many homes is the need to have this brief period of special solemnity simply explained to the children?

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:14 AM

The Lord’s first Passover


In all this Jesus set the example. At his first Passover after bar-mitzvah he seemed to display remarkably little parental respect by his over-stay in Jerusalem. Yet when, on the third day, those distracted seekers tracked him down he was in his Father’s house. “Wist ye not that I must be among my Father’s men?” (this is the only sensible translation of the familiar words).


Some have filled out for themselves a mistaken mental picture of the situation. He was not precociously making these learned men look foolish by the religious conundrums he fired at them. Rather, he was – of course – fulfilling his true part at Passover, asking: “What mean ye by this service?”


No doubt he was already learning, when only twelve, that there was a greater slavery than that in Egypt, a bondage calling for the sacrifice of a Lamb “without blemish and without spot.”


Years went by, and at another Passover Mary lost her boy once again in Jerusalem. On that dire day did she find comfort from the memory of how on that earlier occasion she had found him on the third day, and among his Father’s men?




This re-telling at Passover of the story of an ancient deliverance the Jews have always called Haggada, the Shewing-forth, taken from the key word in the asking ritual: “And thou shalt shew thy son in that day ...” (Ex. 13:8).


It was with reference to this that Jesus assured his disciples that already provision was made for their Haggada in his absence from them. They would have their special Passover celebration, and at it the Comforter “will shew you things to come ... shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (Jn. 16:13,14).


More generally this stands true at every Breaking of Bread service: “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew forth the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26).


Yet another allusion to Haggada is lost to the readers of Peter’s first Epistle through variation in translation:


“... the things which are now reported (shewn) unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit” (1:12). It is only a context of several other Passover allusions which ensures this interpretation. And “the things” Peter had in mind were “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow” (1:11).

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:14 AM



It was certainly the custom in the time of Christ (although lacking explicit Passover commandment) for the celebration to be concluded with the singing of what was called the Hallel, or at least a portion of it. The Hallel was the sequence of Psalms 113-118.


The hymn sung by the Lord and his eleven (Mt. 26:30) was almost certainly this, even though (see chap. 11) their supper came twenty-four hours before the Jewish Passover. Twelve resonant men’s voices singing in unison would raise an impressive hymn of praise.


Psalms 116-118 would be specially appropriate to the solemnity of this occasion during which Jesus had been making it more plain than ever that his mortal hours were now numbered:


“The cords of (a sacrificial) death (see 118:27) compassed me about, and the pains of Sheol gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul ... What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord ... Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints ... I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid ... I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me ... I will not fear: what can man do unto me? ... I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over to death.”


Infringing the Sabbath


Two other details of the Passover ritual call for attention.


“That which remaineth of it (the roasted lamb) ye shall burn with fire” (12:10). This is remarkable, for that night and next morning would be part of the special sabbath (12:16). Some months later the Law given through Moses was to mete out the ultimate penalty to a man gathering sticks for a fire on the sabbath (Num. 15:32ff). Also, it was on that 15th Nisan when Israel were bidden take up their burdens and begin their migration.


Can it be that there is here a designed hint to teach those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb that they are not to regard themselves as bound by the forms and precepts of the Law?

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:17 AM

Not a bone broken


Of much more pointed significance is the warning: “Neither shall ye break a bone thereof.”


Until this is considered with reference to Christ it appears to be of no consequence at all. But on the day of crucifixion it became a most vital item of Passover observance.


After the ninth hour (= 3 p.m.) the rulers of the Jews made a special journey to Pilate’s headquarters to press the urgency of having the corpses of the crucified men interred before sunset and the beginning of the sabbath. Considering the strength of Jewish convictions regarding such things the request seemed very reasonable.


But why did these enemies of the Lord ask that the legs of the three victims be broken? If they wished to ensure that the men, if not already dead, would die very speedily, why use such a strange method to hasten this end? Why not do what the Roman soldier, detailed to this task, actually did to Jesus – apply a violent spear thrust to the region of the heart?


It has been urged, rather artificially, that breaking the legs with a mallet would immediately throw the entire weight of the body on to the arms in such a way as to make breathing almost impossible. Thus death of an already much weakened man would quickly ensue.


This is a fallacy based entirely on imagination, for a man can hang by his hands for an almost indefinite period and continue breathing without any difficulty. Such an explanation springs from lack of appreciation of the motives of those evil rulers.


Seen from a different angle the situation becomes much more intelligible.


These men were in a panic. They had succeeded in getting this Jesus of Nazareth condemned and crucified, but only to realise as the day dragged on, that, in one respect after another, impressive correspondences had been piling up between the ritual concerning the Passover lamb and the death of the Man they feared and hated. Now they began to see that he was likely to do them more damage in his death than in his life, for his disciples would be left with a superb Biblical weapon to use against them.


They would have proof galore that this Jesus was “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.”


But now their proposal, agreed to by Pilate, would leave them free from worry. For, if such claims were made on Jesus’ behalf they would triumphantly scotch them with the pungent quotation: “Neither shall ye break a bone thereof.” But Pilate caused his bones to be broken, so that settles it – this Nazarene is no Lamb of God!


And of course Pilate readily acceded to the request because he was quite incapable of appreciating its theological over-tones.


Yet here is one of the most remarkable of all the impressive examples in the Bible of the operation of the Ways of God’s Providence. That Roman legionary broke the legs of the first and the third, and came to Jesus last of all. Why should he do such a strange thing as that? Then a quick glance made it immediately evident that Jesus was dead already. He could be left. No need to break his legs. Then what kind of impulse was it which caused the soldier suddenly to raise his spear and thrust it under the ribs of this corpse, thus in his ignorance providing the ground for the yet future fulfilment of another Scripture: “They shall look on him whom they pierced?”


The priests had sought to vitiate one prophecy, yet instead, all inadvertently, they provided the fulfilment of another. And before the day was out, the knowledge of this would add considerably to their consternation. They went to their beds frightened men.

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:18 AM

“His Body broken...”?


It is now of some importance to enquire why apparently Paul refers to the body of Jesus as broken (1 Cor. 11:24) – and he who wrote thus was no longer Saul the Pharisee!


It will not do to urge, as some have attempted, that Paul had in mind the breaking of the Lord’s body, but not of his bones. Then what was broken? – his flesh? But whoever talked of breaking flesh? This is a gross misuse of language.


Others have taken refuge in the textual reading, unworthily adopted by not a few modern versions (e.g. RV, RSV, NEB): “This is my body which is for you” – an insipid reading, at best!


These devices are unnecessary once it is noticed that the Greek participle “broken” is continuous in form. But to speak of the Lord’s body as being continuously broken makes no sense at all.


Try again:


“He took bread: and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this (i.e. this bread) which is (now) being broken for you is (i.e. represents) my body.”


There is now no hint of contradiction of the Passover prototype.


A much-needed lesson


It still remains to ponder the symbolic meaning behind this insistence that no bone be broken. Several trenchant passages make the meaning plain but unpalatable.


“We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30 – a pointed reference to the risen Christ: Lk. 24:39).


In his enunciation (in the same epistle) of basic truths, Paul puts first this foundation truth:


“There is one Body” (4:4).


It is this Body which is not to be broken. Those who do break it either set themselves in the same class as evil priests glad to see the bones of Christ broken, themselves meantime keeping themselves clean (sic!) that they might eat a worthless passover; or else they are like Pilate who casually conceded his own connivance, knowing no better.


Through a long chapter of blunt and almost brutal logic (1 Cor. 12), Paul begins from “The Body is one, and hath many members,” and goes on to argue through one illustration after another that, far from being despised and severed, all members must cohere in a harmonious working. Some organs may be deemed to have neither practical use nor ornamental value. Nevertheless they are not to be severed, even though diseased and something of a hindrance (you are to amputate only for gangrene; 2 Tim. 2:17). Indeed, Paul argues very pointedly that less comely parts of the Body are to be made more comely by an undeserved amount of attention and care.


Alas, how this aspect of Passover and New Testament symbolism has gone ignored through the past century. It is surely the greatest sin of the Christadelphians Body that it has, time and again, tolerated massive surgical operations which Holy Scripture bluntly forbids. It is a sin unforgiven because unrepented of. Nay, there are some – shame on them! – who positively glory in the dismembering that has taken place. What sort of blood is on their door posts?

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