Exodus 12:37-13:16 Pass It On

massive host… origin… anniversary… prescriptions… allegiance to Yahweh… not intrinsic merit… reinforces claim… next generation… hand, eyes, mouth… object lesson… strong hand of Yahweh…

Exodus 12:37-13:16

And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot [that were] men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, [even] very much cattle.

A massive host (rab)! The phrase seems to imply that others (`ereb) came along (`alah), presumably curious or friendly Egyptians.

And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.

This would be the origin of the feast of unleavened bread (matstah `uggah), sprung from travelers’ urgency.

Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, [was] four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

A fascinating observation, even if I’m a bit unsure how precisely to translate “the same (`etsem) time (yowm).” This already being an anniversary would seem to add weight to the command to observe (shimmur) that night (layil):

It [is] a night to be much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this [is] that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.

Along with some other prescriptions (chuqqah):

And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This [is] the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.

Surprisingly, the focus seems to be on aliens (nekar) and sojourners (towshab). Yet, the focus is not on being a descendant of those who were part of the exodus, as I might have expected, but rather on circumcision (muwl), presumably as a sign of both allegiance to Yahweh and identification with the community (`edah):

All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.

Such equality sounds pretty radical to me. Even today, most established communities have at least some tendency to discriminate against outsiders (ger), with no simple way for them to establish legitimate belonging.

Perhaps this is to emphasize that it is Yahweh (Y@hovah), not any intrinsic merit of their own, which led to their deliverance (yatsa’):

And it came to pass the selfsame day, [that] the LORD did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.

Yahweh then reinforces that claim (qadash):

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, [both] of man and of beast: it [is] mine.

Moses obediently exhorts (‘amar) the people (`am) to remember (zakar) the strong (chozeq) hand (yad) of Yahweh:

And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this [place]: there shall no leavened bread be eaten.

In particular, to observe (`abodah) the feast of unleavened bread after they’ve settled down:

And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month.

He makes a big deal about the absence of leaven (s@’or):

Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.

Apparently in order to impress it on the next generation (ben):

And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, [This is done] because of that [which] the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.

He makes a point of cementing (zikrown) this lesson (‘owth) through hand (yad), eyes (`ayin), and mouth (peh):

And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD’S law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt.

He similarly establishes His right to the firstborn (peter) as an enduring tradition:

And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males [shall be] the LORD’S.

Interestingly, cattle (b@hemah) are sacrificed (`abar) and people (‘adam) are redeemed, but donkeys (chamowr) can apparently go either way:

And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.

The purpose presumably being to provide an object lesson and reminder to following generations:

And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What [is] this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage:

Again pointing to the strong hand of the Yahweh:

And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt.


God, let me never forget the price paid for my redemption, or that it was Your strong hands that were pierced for my transgression. Fill me with a holy desire to purge the leaven from my life, and to give You the first of everything You grant me. May I never forget the day of my salvation, and may my hands, eyes and mouth be filled with You, that generations to come may praise You for Your glory. Amen.

About the Title:

Pass It On was a Christian campfire song I grew up with, rather like a seventies’ Kumbaya.