SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS)-Week 41 Exodus 11-12

Welcome to the SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS). This week we will be discussing Exodus 11-12. Since the discussion can turn into a very broad and hijackable thread, we would like the following rules to be adhered to:

  1. These SDMBWBS threads are to deal with the books and stories in the Bible as literature. What I’m hoping to achieve is an understanding of the stories, the time in which they were written, context, and possibly its cultural relevance.

  2. While it is up to the individual to choose to believe or disbelieve any portion, that is not to be the discussion of the thread. If you must, please choose to witness/anti-witness in Great Debates.

  3. The intention is to go through the Bible from front to back in order. While different books are needed to be referred to in order to understand context, please try and keep the focus on the thread’s selected chapter(s)/verse(s).

  4. Since different religions have chosen which books to include or omit, the threads will use the Catholic version of 46 Old Testament Books and 27 New Testament Books. It’s encouraged to discuss why a book was included/omitted during the applicable threads only. BibleHub, as far as I know, is a good resource that compiles many different versions of the verses into one page.(Also the SDMB Staff Reports on Who Wrote the Bible). Please feel free to use whatever source you want, including-and even more helpfully-the original language.

  5. Hopefully we can get through these threads with little to no moderation. A gentle reminder that if a poster comes in and ignores these rules, please use the “report post” function instead of responding.

Links to previous threads:
Genesis 49 & 50 (this includes links to all previous Genesis threads)
Exodus 1
Exodus 2
Exodus 3
Exodus 4
Exodus 5&6
Exodus 7-10

[Exodus 11

New International Version (NIV)](

The Plague on the Firstborn

11 Now the Lord had said to Moses, “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. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)

4 So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.

9 The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

[Exodus 12

New International Version (NIV)](

The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread

12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb[a] for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.

17 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 18 In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. 19 For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. 20 Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”

21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. 23 When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. 28 The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.

29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

The Exodus

31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”

33 The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” 34 So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. 35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 Many other people went up with them, and also large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 With the dough the Israelites had brought from Egypt, they baked loaves of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.

40 Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt** was 430 years. 41 At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt. 42 Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come.

Passover Restrictions

43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal:

“No foreigner may eat it. 44 Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, 45 but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it.

46 “It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.

48 “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. 49 The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”

50 All the Israelites did just what the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.

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In verse 1, the term “drive you out” has appeared before: Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden, and Sarah drove off Hagar. The idea is that Pharaoh will not be simply conceding, but will push the Israelites out.

Verse 2: “Tell the people” - During the plagues there had been no report of Moses speaking to the Israelites. Sarna says, “Now that his mission to Pharaoh is concluded, he once again turns his attention to internal affairs.”

Verse 4: “About midnight” – when everyone is home. The specific night is not disclosed yet.

Verse 5: The text often uses the extremes to mean the entire range (e.g., “knowledge of good and evil” to mean “all knowledge.”) So here, “from Pharaoh … to … the slave girl” covers all of Egypt, regardless of social status. Why the first-born of cattle? Sarna says cattle were worshipped, and so the “Egyptians might have ascribed their misfortune to the work of their own animal-shaped gods instead of to YHVH.”

Verse 6: “loud wailing” The same term (without the adjective “loud”) was used to describe how God heard Israel wailing under Egyptian enslavement (Exodus 3:7.) Justice is very harsh in this text, but it is poetic justice.

Note the verb “you will know” in verse 7.

And the chapter ends, verses 9 – 10, with a recap. The negotiations with Pharaoh are ended, and we conclude and summarize the story of the plagues that began in Chapter 7. Thus, the end of Act 2.


Starts with the establishment of a calendar. In the most ancient calendars, spring was usually the first month of the year (even up to Julius Caesar.) Having their own calendar meant they were emerging as a society, rather than just being slaves under the Egyptian calendar. The names of the months in the earliest Hebrew calendar were simply ordinal numbers: the first month, the second month, etc. Sarna says this is to avoid confusion with the “polytheistic calendars that associated days and months with astral bodies or pagan deities.” (The names of the months in the current Jewish calendar were borrowed from the Babylonian calendar, around 400 BCE.)

The word “community” in v 3 actually comes from the word meaning “witness.”

God commands the Israelites to hold a Passover celebration, preceding the Exodus that it will commemorate. The celebration is based on the family, each family together. Slavery tends to destroy family units and the notion of household, so this is an important step in breaking from slavery and establishing a new society. Also, the plagues happen in public space; the Passover celebration is held in private space. In Temple days (roughly 950 BCE through 70 CE), the festival was a pilgrimage holiday, everyone went to the central sanctuary.

The blood splattered on the door post is a sign, and clearly NOT a magical way of averting evil. It would take considerable courage to mark your doorpost, a public declaration that you are an Israelite. If the plague had fizzled, and Pharaoh decided to extract vengeance for all the misfortunes of the last few weeks, you’ve painted a big target on your door. So, it requires courage and faith in God. (I love the bit in the Cecil DeMille THE TEN COMMANDMENTS when Edward G Robinson – as an assimilated Israelite and quisling – refuses to have blood painted on the door of his luxurious mansion.)

The rules for the Passover reflect the later laws in Leviticus for sacrifice: the animal is slaughtered, the blood is sprinkled on the altar, the meat can’t be eaten past a certain time, the meat must be roasted, and there’s no leaven.

The meal is to be eaten in haste, dressed for travel, ready to leave at any minute – “cloak tucked into belt” (v 11, KJV uses “loins girded.”) The meal is a primal meal: primitive (unleavened) bread, bitter herbs, and roasted meat (the most basic cooking.)

Unleavened bread (Hebrew: matzah) was simple to make: mix flour and water and slop it down on a hot rock to bake in the sun. It was probably like flat pita bread, not the modern crackers with perforations. It’s called the bread of poverty, the bread of affliction, and a bread made hastily. Matzah was later used in temple rituals, and much later became the bread used by Christians for communion wafers.

The lamb (“It is the Lord’s Passover”) – the word in Hebrew is pesach which became paschal in English, used for both the Passover lamb and Easter. Roasting is the simplest and quickest way of cooking meat, it also extracts the blood – eating blood was forbidden back in the Noah story (Gen 9:4) Christianity later applied the imagery of the paschal lamb to Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice.

The description here of the Passover celebration is pretty much the basics today for most Jewish seders (family gathering for festive meal and rituals on first night of the holiday.) We don’t do roast lamb anymore because we don’t do sacrifices since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, but we have a roasted bone on the table as a reminder of the paschal lamb.

In verse 12, the text seems to reflect the idea that idols (the gods of Egypt) have spiritual powers. Presumably, this means that worshiping and serving them creates spiritual feelings in humans. However, the worship is not seen as foolish, but as evil.

Note verse 13: the notion that blood saves. The blood of the covenant (circumcision) and the blood of the Passover lamb are effective means of atonement/saving. Blood represents giving life for life, the blood on the door is a sign. Human sacrifice (a la Egypt) is NOT effective. (Obviously, Christianity will take this up on a much deeper level many centuries later.)

I can’t let this go by without commenting that, over the centuries, the accusation that Jews used the blood of Christian babies in their Passover rituals (called the “blood libel”) was frequently used as an excuse to massacre the Jews and confiscate their property. Sadly, that (ridiculous) accusation arises to this very day – May 2014, it was mentioned by an Egyptian public official in a TV interview, saying it was “well known.”

Back to the text:
Verse 23 personifies the plague as “the destroyer,” an interesting dramatic touch. However, it’s clear that this is all God’s doing, not some demon.

Verse 30-31: Pharaoh’s firstborn is slain, he has to get up during the night, adding minor insult to major injury. He chases the Israelites out, but he still doesn’t acknowledge God, and doesn’t acknowledge that he has acted wickedly. Nor will he ever, in the text.

Verse 41: the term “to the very day” appears rarely in the Pentateuch, usually designating the beginning of a new era. The phrase is literally “in the bone of the day”, the KJV says “selfsame day”, and appears when:
• Noah and family enter the ark (Gen 7:13)
• Abraham is circumcised (Gen 17:23 and 26)
• The Israelites leave Egypt (Exodus 12:17, 41, and 51)
• The death of Moses (Deut 32:48)

Note also verse 49 is the first of many verses that command: do not mistreat strangers, because you yourself were a stranger in the land of Egypt, and know what it is like to be mistreated.

23 When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

OK, so who or what is the destroyer?


Ancient and Medieval commentators thought this meant the Angel of Death (see II Samuel 24:16), which is a little odd since it’s very clear everywhere else that God is doing this, and not any other agent. In angelology, the Angel of Death is often called Metatron (see: ) which is NOT the name of a Transformer.

Modern interpretation is pretty much that it’s just a dramatic/literary anthropomorphism of the plague.

The traditional Jewish answer to this is that yes, the Egyptian firstborns are killed by G-d’s own activity, but among the Israelites, even people who were “scheduled” to die naturally on that night, the Angel of Death will not be allowed to take. Because even a single Israelite death (firstborn or otherwise) on this night would negate the effect that this plague was meant to have on the Egyptians.

Since you left the footnote markers in, I thought I’d reference them

Is there any argument that the Passover lamb was really a young goat? I assume the other is what we’ve already discussed, an attempt to make the 430 years match up with the 400 years mentioned earlier. But does anyone allege that the Masoretic Text actually has an omission?

Depends very much on where you stand. (There’s a great article in the current (July/Aug 2014) issue of Biblical Archaeology Review on the various texts.) We know that there are differences among ancient texts. The Masoretic Test was finalized by Jewish scholars around 1000 CE. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Pentateuch (first five books) from around 100 BCE. The Dead Sea scrolls include copies of all the (Old Testament) books of the bible except Esther, with various dates from 400 BCE top around 100 CE.

There are surprisingly few inconsistencies among the texts, but there are some. The texts were copied by hand, and however faithful the scribe, errors occur. It especially happens when you’re dealing with a long text with no vowels or punctuation. And with many lines beginning with the same phrase (such as, “The Lord spoke, saying”) making it easy to omit a line.

However, which version is “authentic”? Just because one is older doesn’t mean it’s more accurate. Judaism takes the Masoretic Text as sacred, complete, and authoratative, down to the last letter and cantillation.

I haven’t found a single source that documents all the differences. Most of them are fairly minor.


In Jewish law, either a sheep or a goat was valid for the Passover sacrifice (as explicitly stated in Exodus 12:5). Some families used one, some used the other.

Actually, the Talmud says that the scribes who translated the Septuagint ADDED some of the oral traditions to the translation, so that the readers of the translated version would have a more accurate understanding of the original text’s intention. As I mentioned in the thread of two weeks ago, the traditional Talmudic explanation for the discrepancy between the “400”, the “430” and the sum of the Levite genealogies in chapter 6 is that the larger number includes the time that the Patriarchs (the 400 starts from Isaac’s birth, the 430 starts earlier, when G-d made the covenant with Abram) lived as foreigners in Canaan as well as the time spent in servitude in Egypt. This is reflected in the Septuagint.

New thread: Exodus 13