Book 4 - Chapter 9: Of the Passover - by Herman Witsius

The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius

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Herman Witsius (1636-1708)

Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).

Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.

This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.

Chapter IX: Of the Passover

I. THE whole doctrine of the passover has been learnedly and copiously, beyond what can well be expressed, unfolded by the very laborious Samuel Bochart, Hierozoic. lib. ii. c. 50. But because that most excellent and invaluable book is rarely to be found in the hands of the youth under our tuition, we have thought proper in this chapter to exhibit, in a compendious way, what he has handled at large; yet, in such a manner, as to follow at times our own judgment, and now and then intersperse what observations we have made from other authors. We will therefore briefly run over these seven particulars. 1. The appellation of the passover. 2. Its time. 3. Its place. 4. Its ministers. 5. Its guests. 6. Its rights. 7. Its mystery.

II. The name pascha is Chaldee, as Philo justly observes. In Hebrew it is called פסח, Pesach, by the ancients Phase and Phasec. The root פסח, signifies to pass over. Josephus renders it ὑπερβάσια: Philo, διαβατήρια. Just as there were also sacrifices called for passage a Lacedemon, that is, for the happy progress of an expedition. But it is thus called Pascha, because God, while he slew the first born of the Egyptians, passed over the doors of the Israelites, on seeing the posts thereof sprinkled with the blood of the lamb, Exod. 12:13. Thus Isa. 31:5, God delivers Jerusalem by passing over it, while he takes due vengeance on other people. But the term Pascha is of various acceptations, denoting: 1st. The passing over of the angel, who while he smote the first born of the Egyptians, passed over the houses of the Israelites, 2dly. The lamb which was slain in memory of this deliverance, Exod. 12:21, “kill the passover;” Luke 22:7, then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. 3dly. The sacrifices then usually offered to God along with the lamb, Deut. 16:2: “Thou shalt sacrifice the passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd.” 4thly. The festival days on which these things were solemnized, Luke 22:1, “Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the passover.” Seeing Christ our Lord suffered at that time, hence some of the ancients who were not acquainted with Hebrew literature, derived the name Pascha from the Greek πασχω, I suffer.

III. The time is expressly specified, Lev. 23:5, in the fourteenth day of the first month, at even (between the two evenings) is the Lord’s passover. Where observe: 1. The month. 2. The day. 3. The hour or time of the day. The month, Abib, is mentioned Exod. 13:4: elsewhere called Nisan, Neh. 2:1, Est. 3:7. אביב signifies in Hebrew, an ear of corn, as yet fresh or green. Hence was the name of the month; because in those warmer countries, and especially in Judea, in that month which answers partly to our March, partly to our April, the standing corn necessary for the support of life, according to Philo, begins to ripen; and at that time the Israelites began to put the sickle to the standing corn, Deut. 16:9, and on the second day of the Paschal solemnity, they offered to God a handful of the first fruits; but why the same month is, in Chaldee, called ניסן Nisan, is not so evident. A great man conjectures it ought to be written Nissan, as is done by Josephus, or the dagesch struck out of the latter ס to be made by a long vowel; as ניסן Nisin, is often put for נסין, Nisin, that is, standards. And thus the appellation Nisan is very properly taken from the warlike ensigns or standards, with which, in that month, they first took the field. And this very time the Jews understand to be intended, 2 Sam. 11:1, “And it came to pass, that after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle.” For a like reason, the two former spring months were called by the Bithynians Στρατειος and Ἄρειος, as by the Romans, Martius, from Mars. But this month is called the first, namely, of the sacred or ecclesiastical year, from the exodus out of Egypt, being otherwise the seventh of the civil year, whose beginning was about autumn, and whose first month was called Tisri. And there was the express command of God for this, Exod. 12:2, “this month,” namely Abib, compare Exod. 13:4, “shall be unto you the beginning of months, it shall be the first month of the year to you.”

IV. The day of this first month, set apart for the passover, was the fourteenth. The hours, or time of the day, was between the two evenings; the one of which was a little past noon, when the sun began to descend, the other a little before the setting of the sun. Not only the Hebrews distinguished their evenings in this manner, as may be seen in Buxtorf’s lexicon under the word ערב; but also some of the Greeks, according to the testimony of Eustathius, ad lib. xvii. Odyss. “According to the ancients, the evening is two-fold; for the late evening, according to them, is the latter part of the evening towards sun-set: the other the early evening, the first of the evening following just upon noon.” See also Hesychius, under the word Δείλη. Within the compass, therefore, of that time, in which the sun begins to decline, and in which he sets, the passover was to be slain and roasted, that it might be eaten on the beginning of the fifteenth day, which was at sun-set. Josephus says that the Paschal lambs were killed, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, that is, from three in the afternoon till five, Bell. Jud. lib. vii. c. 17.

V. As to the place, the passover was celebrated the first time in Egypt, Exod. 12:21; then in the wilderness of Sinai, Numb. 9:5; and in Egypt, indeed, every one slew it in his own house, as there was no altar, no place set apart for God there. But after the Exodus, none were allowed to kill the passover any where, but in the place which God had chosen, as is expressly enjoined, Deut. 16:5, 6. But that place was not Jerusalem only, after Solomon built the temple there, but also the very court of the temple, where they usually killed the other sacrifices. For God placed his name, and caused it to dwell, not so much in the whole city, as in the temple. The Jews all agree in this: “they kill the passover as they do other sacrifices, only in the court of the temple,” says Maimonides, lib. de Pasch. c. i. sect. 3. And a very learned English author has shown, that this is confessedly the opinion of the Karaites or scripturarian doctors of the Jews.

VI. And the reason is obvious: for every one knows it was not allowed to kill the sacrifices, but in the court of the temple. But that the passover was a real sacrifice, is evident from the following arguments. 1st. Because the Scripture in express words calls its זבח, sacrifice, Exod. 12:27, “it is the sacrifice of Jehovah’s passover.” Though this word, in other places, denotes any feast whatever, made up of slain animals, as Prov. 17:1, yet that it is here to be taken in its most common and sacred sense, we gather from this: because ובח, the paschal sacrifice, was a type of that most real sacrifice of Christ, concerning which, Paul says, 1 Cor. 5:7, “Christ our passover ἐθύθε is sacrificed for us.” Josephus and Philo likewise everywhere call the paschal lambs, θυσίαι or θύματά, that is, according to the interpretation of Rufinus hostiæ, sacrifices. 2dly. Because the persons celebrating the passover, are said to offer the offering to Jehovah, Numb. 9:7, 13. 3dly. Because the blood of the paschal lamb, as of a true sacrifice, was offered to the Lord; which may be gathered from the words of Moses, Exod. 23:18, “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread, neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning” of my sacrifice, that is, of my passover, as even Onkelos has it, the blood of my sacrifice; and Jonathan, the blood of the libation of my passover. Add a parallel passage, Exod. 34:25, “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven, neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of passover, be left unto the morning.” 4thly. Because the blood of the paschal lamb was sprinkled as well as the blood of the other sacrifices. In 2 Chron. 30:16, speaking of the passover it is said, that the priests sprinkled the blood, which they received from the hands of the Levites: also chap. 35:11, “and they killed the passover, and the priests sprinkled the blood from their hands.” And none is ignorant that this belongs to a sacrifice. Maimonides observes well, on this occasion, that the sprinkling is of great importance, as being the foundation of the offering. And Peter, alluding to this, says, that we are elected unto sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, 1 Pet. 1:2. As therefore we have a more clear representation of the sacrifice of Christ in the passover, besides so many arguments, it is plain we are by all means to assert that the passover was a true sacrifice. And if so, it could not be properly killed anywhere but in the court of the temple.

VII. The straitness of time and place is in vain objected; as if it were not possible within the compass of the two evenings, to present and offer at one altar, so many thousand lambs. Concerning the prodigious number of these; see an extraordinary history or fable in Lightfoot on John 12:12. For, that the court of the Temple was very extensive appears from the twenty-two thousand oxen, and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep, which Solomon offered there at the dedication of the Temple, 1 Kings 8:63, and the sacrifices without number offered by the rest of the people, 2 Chron. 5:6: moreover, there were very many disengaged priests at leisure for four hours, if circumstances so required, to be employed in offering these lambs. And those very persons who tell us, there was such a prodigious number of paschal lambs, at the same time tell us, that the number could not be ascertained, but by the priests who offered in the court.

VIII. The ministers here, were 1st, The common people. 2dly, The Levites. 3dly, The priests. It belonged to the common people, not only to bring the paschal sacrifices to the priests, but also, if they pleased, to kill them. Which Philo, after the manner of orators exaggerates, when he writes, lib. de decalogo: “That at the feast of the passover every one indiscriminately sacrificed, the law granting on one extraordinary day once a year, the office of priest to the whole people, to offer sacrifice for themselves.” God himself seems to have granted that privilege to all the people, Exod. 12:6: “And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it.” Nor was this peculiar to the passover, as Philo speaks, but allowed to the common people in the case of any other sacrifice, namely, to kill the sacrifices, even the most holy, whether for themselves, for private persons, or for the whole congregation; as Maimonides has more accurately observed than Philo, de Ingress. Sacerd. in Sanct. c. ix. §. 14: and the thing is clear from Scripture. See concerning the burnt-offering, Lev. 1:3, 4, 5; concerning the peace-offering, Lev. 3:2; and concerning the sin-offering, Lev. 4:24.

IX. But when private persons did not choose to kill the passover, or were not allowed on account of uncleanness, the Levites were substituted for this work in their room, because they were more skilful and expeditious. We have an example, 2 Chron. 30:17: “For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified; therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the Lord.” Similar to this is the passage, Ezra 6:20.

X. The business of the priests was to sprinkle at the altar the blood received from the common people or the Levites, as we have already shown from 2 Chron. 30:16, and 35:11. They also alone burnt the fat on the altar, as the Jews constantly assert. Instead of all others let us only hear Maimonides, de pasch. c. i. §. 14. Who, after he had described a large circle of priests around the altar, with basons of gold and silver, adds, when any of them had killed the passover, the blood was received in a bason by the next priest, who was to deliver it the a second, and so on, till it came to the priest next the altar, who poured it out at once at the bottom of the altar, and returned the bason empty which he had received full. After the blood was poured out, as he says elsewhere, ver. 6, they strip the paschal lamb of his skin, and opening his belly take out the fat on the inwards and burn it leisurely as in every sacrifice. Which they might do during the whole night till the morning dawn. Which is a further confirmation that the passover was a true sacrifice.

XI. As to the guests, they were in the first place all true born Israelites, if they were not excluded by legal uncleanness. For, Exod. 12:6, 47, “all the congregation of Israel” is commanded to solemnize the passover; and then the proselytes, who “were circumcised and became Jews,” Est. 8:17; whether they were bondmen born in the house, or bought with money, or mercenary, or inmates of the land of Canaan, subject to no bondage, or in fine, those whom they called proselytes of righteousness, who, upon being circumcised, had a right also to eat the passover, Exod. 12:48: “And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to Jehovah, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall he as one that is born in the land; for, no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.”

XII. It is a question, whether women were likewise excluded by the same law that the uncircumcised were, especially as the law commanded the males only to repair to the three festivals, Exod. 23:17, and 34:23; Deut. 16:16. It would seem they were not. 1st, Because women cannot be numbered among the uncircumcised, nor accounted as such, for circumcision did not belong to them, but they were reckoned along with their circumcised parents or husbands. 2dly, Because all the congregation of Israel, as we have just shown, is commanded to celebrate the passover. But the women make a part of this congregation, Deut. 29:11. 3dly, That the women together with the men celebrated these solemn festivals, appears from the example of Elkanah, who yearly carried with him his two wives, with his sons and daughters, to Shiloh to the solemn festivals, 1 Sam. 1:3, 4. Joseph also and the holy virgin, repaired yearly to Jerusalem to the feast of the passover, Luke 2:41. From which it appears, that the same thing may be concluded concerning all the pious women in those times. 4thly, From a parity of reason; because in other eucharistical sacrifices, or שלמים, peace-offerings, women also had their portion: thus Elkanah gave to his wife Peninnah, and to all her sons and daughters, parts of the sacrifice; but to Hannah, whom he loved, a worthy, a double portion, 1 Sam. 1:4, 5. When David likewise offered eucharistical sacrifices, he dealt out a part of them to all Israel, as well to the women as men, 2 Sam. 6:18. And the daughters of the priests ate of the sacred food, Numb. 18:11, 19. And why may we not suppose that women also partook of the passover, which was a kind of eucharistical sacrifice or peace-offering? 5thly, We add the testimony of Maimonides, who says, that women were not only admitted to the paschal feasts, but also at times there was a company which consisted only of women, de Pasch. c. ii. §. 5.

XIII. We must not, however, omit here the observation of the rabbins, who distinguish between the command concerning the passover, and concerning the not eating leavened bread. They say, that all were absolutely bound to this last, females as well as males. This law not to eat leavened bread, Exod. 13:3, is, say they, “at every time and in every place, equally binding on males and females.” see Hottinger. jus. Hebr. sect. iv. §. xxii. But the command concerning women’s appearing at Jerusalem to keep the passover is nowhere to be found in express terms. Hence it is said in Talm. Hierosol. Tract. Kidduschin, fol. 61, col. 3, “the passover of women is a discretionary thing.” But those women who were led by a zeal for religion, were accustomed to present themselves before God, in order to partake of this sacrifice, Lightfoot, ad. Luc. 2:43.

XIV. The guests who partook of the paschal lamb, are commanded to meet by houses or families, Exod. 12:3: “They shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.” But if a house had not a number sufficient to consume a lamb, the neighbours were to be called in, till a just number was made up, ver. 4. The Jewish masters took care that the number of guests should not be under ten, nor above twenty. Which Jonathan’s paraphrase on Exod. 13:4, and Josephus, de Bell. Jud. lib. xvii. c. vii. observe. In those companies or societies, called φρατρίας by Josephus, by the Hebrews, חבורות, men and women sat down together, old men and young, whole and sick, masters and servants, and in fine, every Jew that could eat a morsel of flesh, not excluding even young children.

XV. They who were legally unclean, whether by touching a dead body, or by a leprosy, or whose seed went from them, or by any other accident, and women in their monthly courses, were debarred from the passover, Num. 9:6. Persons thus polluted, till the time for their purification was elapsed, were not permitted to taste the flesh, either of the paschal lamb, or of any peace-offering, under pain of being cut off, Lev. 22:3, &c. And therefore, the Jews being to eat the passover, would not enter the judgment hall lest they should be polluted, John 18:28. But, under king Hezekiah, many tribes of Israel broke this law, for a great part of them had not sanctified themselves as they ought. Yet God, being appeased upon the prayer of the pious king, forgave those who were truly converted, 2 Chron. 30:17, &c.

XVI. But lest they who were unclean at the time of that passover, should be deprived of such an excellent sacrament for a whole year, a second passover was, at God’s command, appointed for them in the second month; on which a person on a journey afar off was bound to attend, if he was not able to come to Jerusalem at the stated time of the passover, Numb. 9:10, 11. The Jewish masters fix a journey afar off*, at fifteen miles without the walls of Jerusalem; so that a person, at that distance from the city on the fourteenth day of the month, might lawfully keep the second passover. But why should he not rather set out on the preceding day, in order to be at the feast, and not suffer himself to be straitened in time? For if any one who set out on a journey was retarded by the invincible slowness of his beasts, or by a disorder in his feet, or any accident of the like nature, such a person was not accounted to be on a journey afar off, but to be אנוט, detained by force. Philo therefore, de vita. Mosis, lib. iii. seems to have better understood the meaning of this law, when he applies the following things to those, “who on account of a journey afar off, are hindered from sacrificing with the rest of the nation. For, (says he,) they who travel and live in other parts of the world, are not guilty of any sin, for which they are deprived of the common honour with the rest. Especially, as one country cannot contain so populous a nation, but is obliged to send out colonies into many places.” Concerning this second passover of the unclean, there are excellent observations in Selden, de Synedriis, lib. ii. c. i.

XVII. In the rites prescribed by Moses, there are five things to be observed: 1. The appointment of the paschal lamb. 2. The preparation. 3. The slaying. 4. The roasting. 5. The eating of it.

XVIII. The paschal beast was to be שה, “a small cattle or beast, a lamb or kid,” Exod. 12:3; for that name is common to both: Deut. 14:4, ye shall eat “a small beast, of sheep, and of goats:” thus also, Exod. 12:5, it is emphatically added, “ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats.” However, it is probable that the pious used this liberty in such a manner, that they more frequently offered a lamb, as a more acceptable sacrifice to God, because, in sheep there is a greater degree of meekness, docility, and innocence. And therefore it is, that though Christ is in so many different places, proposed to us, under the type of a lamb, yet we never once observe that he is pointed out under the denomination of a kid. And therefore, Theodoret, quæst. 24, in Exod., seems not to have given a bad explication of the meaning of the Law-giver: “That he who has a sheep should offer it, but he who has none should offer a kid.”

XIX. We are not to think that oxen were made use of in the paschal sacrifice, strictly so called; though in Scripture, even they are called by the name of the Passover; as Deut. 16:2: “Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock, and the herd;” and 2 Chron. 35:8. “They gave unto the priests for the passover-offerings two thousand and six hundred small cattle, and three hundred oxen:” and again, ver. 9. “They gave unto the Levites, for passover-offerings, five thousand small cattle, and five hundred oxen.” The appellation, passover, when it comprehends oxen, is taken in a larger sense, and then denotes those peace-offerings, which were killed at the passover festival, in order to feast on them with joy, before Jehovah. Thus, in the solemn passover under king Hezekiah, “They did eat throughout the feast seven days, offering peace-offerings,” 2 Chron. 30:22. To this also, it seems, we should apply what John relates, 18:28, that the Jews would not enter the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; “but that they might eat the passover;” not certainly the paschal lamb, which they had eaten at the same time that Christ did, the day before, but the sacrifices that were usually offered for the seven days of the feast, which were hence also called Passovers. We therefore infer, that the sacrifice appropriated to the passover consisted of a lamb or a kid only.

XX. The Law-giver requires three things, in the lamb or kid to be offered; that it be sound, “a male, and of the first year,” Exod. 12:5. To be sound, signifies to be without defect and blemish, Lev. 22:19, 20, 21. The blemishes in a sacrifice are described at large, ver. 22. God would have a male, because the more excellent things are to be offered to him; but a male is more excellent than a female, Mal. 1:14. In fine, it was to be בן שנה, the Son of a year, or of the first year. By which expression is not meant a lamb, come to, but short of his first year. For every beast was, from its eighth day, pure, or fit for sacrifice, Exod. 22:30, Lev. 22:27. From the eighth day, therefore, if we regard this general law, a lamb might be offered, till it completed its first year. After which the Jewish masters exclude it from sacrifice. Yet to me it seems more natural, by a lamb of the first year, to understand that which is almost a year old, at which time it is come to its proper size, and its most grateful relish. Nor can I imagine that the ancient believers were so minutely nice, in calculating the time that they accounted their lambs profane, directly on the commencement of the second year; or that they set down the nativity of their cattle in journals, lest they should mistake in a minute.

XXI. The preparation of the paschal lamb consisted in the keeping it up, or setting it apart, which was done on the tenth day, and continued until the fourteenth, on which it was to be killed, Exod. 12:3. The Jews give the following reasons for this command: 1st, Lest they should forget it, if they delayed it, and took no care about it, till the very moment of their departure, since they would then be hurried with a variety of business. 2dly, That they might more exactly observe whether the lamb had any blemish. 3dly, That they might have an opportunity, from the sight of the lamb, to converse together concering their redemption out of Egypt. 4thly, That they might have time to prepare themselves for keeping the approaching solemnity.

XXII. The killing of the lamb followed upon its separation. Exod. 12:6: “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel shall kill it.” The blood was to be received in a bason, and a bunch of hyssop to be dipt therein, with which they are to strike or sprinkle the lintel, and the two side-posts of the house, ver. 22. The lintel, I say, not the threshold, lest those that passed should trample under foot the sacred blood, which was instead both of a sacrifice and a sacrament. For why should not true religion have the same effect on them that superstition had on the people of Ashdod, who, for a long time, would not tread on the threshold of their temple after Dagon had fallen on his face upon it? 1 Sam. 5:5: God himself shows the reason of this sprinkling, Exod. 12:13. “And the blood shall be to you, for a token upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you, to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” Not that there was any natural efficacy in the blood of the lamb, or that God stood in need of a sign to distinguish his own people, 2 Tim. 2:19. But this sign was given to the Hebrews, that thereby they might be confirmed and assured of their deliverance. Heb. 11:28, “Through faith Moses kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he, that destroyed the first-born, should touch them.

XXIII. God gave a command about roasting it, Exod. 12:9. “Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire.” First, God forbids the eating it raw. Not that this is to be understood of what is quite raw; for the Israelites knew this of themselves. They were not so voracious as usually to feed on flesh altogether undressed. It is therefore meant of that, which is not sodden or roasted enough, as the Jewish masters well explain it. For in that great hurry, with which the first passover was enforced, and so great a number of paschal lambs, it might easily happen that some of them might be only half done or scorched, unless the law-giver had provided against it, by an express command. A thing not without its mystery, as we shall presently see. But it was not sufficient to have the lamb perfectly done, unless also done in that manner which God prescribed, namely, roasted, not boiled. This was quite otherwise, than in the other peace-offerings, whose flesh was customarily boiled, in order to be eaten, both by the people and the priests, even at the paschal solemnity. Wherefore, 2 Chron. 35:13, these things are accurately distinguished: “And they roasted the passover with fire, according to the ordinance, but the other holy offerings sod they in pots, and in caldrons, and in pans.” Where observe, that in both cases the word בשל is used, to show that it is applied both to boiling and roasting, according to the nature of the subject.

XXIV. The roasting is followed by the eating it. Where first, we are to observe the dress or attire of those who were to eat it, which they were to do with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staff in their hand, Exod. 12:11; which is the dress of travellers, and of those who undertake something laborious. For the garments of the Orientals being long and flowing, and generally ungirded, were to be tucked up, when either they addressed themselves to a journey or some laborious work, that they might be no impediment to them, 2 Kings 4:29. And a person girded, does not seldom denote an industrious person, whom the Greeks call ἐὺζωνος ἀνηρ, a man well girded, and the Hebrews חלוין And none is ignorant, that a staff is proper for a journey, as travellers are thereby supported in dangerous places, and defend themselves with it against aggressors and wild beasts; see Gen. 32:10. Mark 5:8. Nor was the rod of Moses, which is so celebrated, any thing but a traveller’s staff, Exod. 4:2.

XXV. Their being commanded to eat the passover with shoes on their feet, seems to be to the same purpose. For it is probable, while the Israelites were in Egypt, they were generally without shoes; at least they did not use them daily during their severe bondage. As in the flourishing state of the Jews, we have examples of persons being unshod, even in Judea. As this want of shoes was less hazardous to the Israelites in Egypt, God was pleased to provide them with shoes, when they were now to undertake a tedious, hard, and rough journey. In other cases, one’s being bare-footed was a sign of submission and devotion, Exod. 3:5. Hence that saying of the Pythagoric school, “do thy religious worship and adoration bare-footed.” And Berenice, the sister of king Agrippa, “came bare-footed before the tribunal,” to prefer her suit to Florus, who exercised great cruelties against the Jews, Joseph. de Bell. Jud. lib. ii. c. 15. This putting on of shoes, was not therefore a part of religious worship, but a symbol of their approaching journey.

XXVI. We shall not grudge to subjoin, because of the affinity of the subject, what Zaba Zago relates, in Damianus a Goes, concerning the manners of the Ethiopians. He affirms, they cannot enter their churches, but unshod. Because, says he, the Ethiopic churches are not like that country where the people of Israel ate the paschal lamb, on their departure out of Egypt, in which place God commanded them to eat it with shoes on their feet, and their loins girded, on account of the defilement of the country; but are like Mount Sinai, where God spoke to Moses, saying, “Moses, Moses, put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” And this Mount Sinai is the parent, from which our churches have derived their origin; just as the apostles from the prophets, and the New Testament from the Old. Thus far he; but the observation appears to me to be idle and silly: like those to which the Easterns are too much addicted.

XXVII. But to return from this digression. Moreover, God was, Exod. 12, pleased to command them to eat the passover with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Plutarch relates, that among the Romans, the Flamen Dialis, or priest of Jupiter, was forbidden the use of leaven, in Quæst. Roman. Because, as leaven arises from a state of corruption, so also when it is mixed it corrupts the lump. Nor was only the paschal lamb to be eaten with unleavened bread, but God commanded the Israelites to abstain from leaven for seven whole days, Exod. 12:15. Since the five intermediate days of these seven were working days, God ordered the first and last to be accounted festival; for as on the first they were set at liberty from such a hard and grievous bondage, so on the seventh the Red Sea swallowed up Pharaoh and all his host. And this divine institution served to perpetuate the memory of both these among his people. But of what sort these bitter herbs were, we are neither much inclined to inquire, nor is it of great importance. Whoever would know the opinions of the Jewish masters on this head, may consult our great author, Bochart. We hasten to other matters.

XXVIII. God also forbade them to break so much as a bone of the paschal lamb, Exod. 12:46; Numb. 9:12. This law seems likewise to have a reference to their being commanded to eat it in haste; for they who are in hurry do not spend time in breaking and taking the marrow out of the bones. But a mystery also lay concealed in this law, of which presently.

XXIX. There was another law, not to leave any of the flesh of the lamb until the morning, but to burn what remained thereof, Exod. 12:10. Of this kind were the laws in all sacred feasts, see Exod. 16:19; Lev. 7:15, and Lev. 22:30, excepting only the flesh of the offering of a vow, or a voluntary offering, Lev. 7:16, 17. The design of these laws was to preserve the sacred food from corruption, and from being put to profane uses. In the lamb they were to take special care, that its remains should neither hinder nor clog the Israelites, who were now to depart; nor yield matter of derision to the Egyptians, nor become a prey to dogs; and, perhaps, also to prevent their becoming an object of idolatry as the brazen serpent was.

XXX. Moreover, God commanded that none should go out at the door of his house, until the morning, Exod. 12:22. lest they should meet with the destroying angel, who, indeed, could have distinguished the Israelites even out of their houses; but, they were to be taught, that their safety consisted in keeping themselves, as it were, under the protection of the blood of the lamb, with which they had sprinkled the posts of their doors. If they had rejected this sacrament of their security, they would thereby have also rendered themselves unworthy of the grace that was represented by that sign.

XXXI. In fine, it was ordained to be eaten in one house, and none of the flesh to be carried out, Exod. 12:46. This law seems to be joined with ver. 4, in which those families, which were so small as not to be able to eat a whole lamb, are commanded to join with their neighbouring families. But here, lest any should think that the lamb could be halved, and one half carried out to the absent family, the law directs two families joining together to eat the lamb in one house, and carry none of its flesh abroad; because so salutary a victim could not be divided, and nothing but an entire lamb, in every house, could rescue that house from the imminent destruction.

XXXII. But we are to observe, that some of those ceremonies were perpetual; as the killing, roasting, and eating the lamb, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, without breaking a bone, &c. Others, again, were used only once, and nowhere else but in Egypt. To this may we reckon: 1st. The law concerning the keeping up the lamb, for the space of four days, before it was to be killed. God would have this done in Egypt, lest the Israelites, when among their enraged enemies, should not have lambs, if they were obliged to look out for them at the very last: but in Judea, they had nothing to fear of this kind, and it would have been no easy matter for those who came a great way to the city, to provide themselves precisely at that time, as the greatest part did not come till the preparation for the feast, or at most, the day before, and then purchased from these who usually exposed lambs to sale in the temple, John 2:13, 14. It also appears, from the history of Christ’s last passover, that the disciples asked their master, only on the first day of unleavened bread, “Where wilt thou that we go and prepare, that thou mayest eat the passover?” Mark 14:12: consequently, they had not kept up a lamb four days before. 2dly. The law concerning striking the lintel and side-posts with the blood of the lamb, because the reason which God gave for this command could only respect Egypt, Exod. 12:12, 13: and from 2 Chron. 30:15, 16, and chap. 35:5, 6–10, 11, we learn, that in Judea, the paschal lambs were killed in the court of the temple, and there their blood was poured out. Nor does it appear that any part of this blood was carried into private houses, to be sprinkled on their door-posts. 3dly. The law concerning the eating the passover, with their loins girded, with shoes on their feet, a staff in their hands, and with haste. Because these things had a respect to that long and tedious journey, they were in a few hours to take; but after they had performed that journey, they ate it quietly and ungirded, not standing, but sitting, not in haste, but at leisure; as is plain from the example of Christ, who sat down on a couch, in an upper room, with his disciples. 4thly. The law not to stir abroad out of their houses, lest they should meet the destroying angel, as in like manner appears from the example of Christ and his disciples, who, in that very night, in which they kept the passover, repaired to the mount of Olives, Matt. 26:30.

XXXIII. It now remains that we explain and briefly show the mystery of the passover, and to what all this pomp of ceremonies tended. And, in general, it is certain that two benefits were shadowed forth thereby; the one temporary, and peculiar to the people of Israel; the other eternal, and common to all true believers in Christ. On the former we shall cursorily hint a few things: on the latter be more distinct and explicit.

XXXIV. And, 1st, The very name Pascha, which, as we have said, signifies a passing over, reminded the Israelites of the angel who passed over their houses without touching them, in that night in which he fell on the Egyptians in such a manner, that not a house was free from the slaughter, Exod. 12:30. 2ndly, The bitter herbs, with which they were to eat the lamb, signified the bitter life they had led in Egypt, under hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, Exod. 1:14, so that they justly might cry out, as they afterwards did in the Babylonish captivity, Lam. 3:15, that they were filled with bitterness, and made drunken with wormwood. This they testified in the passover, saying to each other, as Maimonides de Pasch. c. ii. §. 40, relates, “We have eaten that bitter thing, because the Egyptians embittered the life of our fathers in Egypt, as it is written,” Exod. 1:14. 3rdly. The unleavened bread, also, which was but little grateful to the palate, was eaten for the same end. Wherefore the master of the family, when he distributed the pieces of it to his domestics, addressed them thus: “This is the bread of affliction, which our fathers did eat in the land of Egypt,” in the very words of Moses, Deut. 16:3. They therefore set down the unleavened read only in pieces, because not whole but pieces of bread are given to the poor. 4thly. Most of the other rites signified to the Israelites, that, being now called to liberty by God, they were, as soon as possible, to betake themselves out of that state of bondage. And therefore they are commanded to eat in a standing posture, with their loins girded, with shoes on their feet, and leaning on their staves, and in haste, because that very moment they were to depart. They were not to eat it boiled, but roasted, that being sooner done; and with unleavened bread, that they might not slip the opportunity of departing, should they stay till the lump was leavened. 5thly. However, as it is necessary to explain dumb signs by words; so, when their children asked what this ceremony meant, they were commanded to answer: “This is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses,” Exod. 12:27.

XXXV. But a deeper mystery was veiled under these things, of which we are now to speak. And that we may do it with greater exactness, we will show that four things are represented by this sacrament. 1. The very person of Christ. 2. The sufferings he bore for us. 3. The fruits of his sufferings. 4. The manner we are made partakers of them.

XXXVI. The Scriptures frequently represent the person of Christ under the type of a lamb, John 1:29, 36. On account of his meekness and humility, Matt. 11:29; the simplicity of his manners, 1 Pet. 1:19; his extraordinary patience, Isa. 53:7; which was the more amazing in him, that though he was able to take vengeance, and deliver himself, yet he voluntarily submitted, and, by an astonishing transformation from the lion of the tribe of Judah, became a lamb: and thus Samson’s riddle was fulfilled in Christ, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness,” Judges 14:14. This same lamb feeds us with his flesh, gives us his blood to drink, and, in fine, clothes us with his wool, Rom. 13:14. Gal. 3:27. But there were peculiar circumstances in the paschal lamb.

XXXVII. For, first, as the lamb was taken out of the flock, so also was Christ from among his brethren, Deut. 18:15, being a partaker of flesh and blood, and in all things like unto his brethren, Heb. 2:14, 17. Secondly. The lamb was to be perfect; Christ, in like manner, is a lamb without blemish and without spot, 1 Pet. 1:19, who through the Eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, Heb. 9:14. Thirdly. The same lamb was to be a male, a symbol of vigour, strength and excellency; so Christ also is that man, Jer. 31:22, the man child, Rev. 12:5. Fourthly, it was to be of the first year, that is, young and of a most grateful savour, and of the greatest vigour, in order to represent: 1. That Christ was not to continue long among men, but to be cut off in the flower of his age. 2. That he is the sweetest food of the soul, beyond all the dainties of this world, Cant. 5:16. 3. That his sacrifice is of perpetual and of the greatest efficacy. Fifthly, Nor is it in vain that the lamb was, for the space of four days, separated from the fold. Thus also was it with Christ, if we reckon prophetic days for years, see Ezek. 4:6. For at his thirtieth year, he left his mother’s house, as a fold, where he was born and brought up, and was crucified the fourth after, but it likewise deserves observation, that Christ came to Jerusalem to the feast, and to his last passover, on that very day on which God had commanded the lamb to be kept up in Egypt; namely, the tenth of the month Nisan. For, six days before the passover, he came to Bethany, John 12:1; that is, on the ninth of the month Nisan, the day after he went to Jerusalem, ver. 11, to present himself to be offered to God.

XXXVIII. Let us now consider the sufferings of Christ, the manner, place, and time, these being all signified by the passover.

XXXIX. As to the manner. 1st. The lamb was to be killed, and that by the whole multitude of the congregation of Israel: so the priests, scribes, and pharisees, with the whole body of the people, conspired to the slaying of Christ; for, not being satisfied with mockings, smitings, and scourgings, they ceased not, till he was given up to death, Luke 23:18, and they cried out, all at once, saying, Away with this man. 2dly. There is likewise an argument as to the kind of death. For, as the blood of the lamb, so that of Christ was also shed; both for the people. Nor was the blood of the lamb poured out on the ground, but, as something precious, received in a bason, because it represented the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot, 1 Pet. 1:19; for that blood is the perpetual treasure of the church, which Christ even at this day offers to the Father, and is for ever to offer, or present. 3dly. The lamb was not to be eaten raw, or not sufficiently done. Christ was also to suffer indeed, and not in a superficial manner: his cup was not to pass, till it was drunk up to the bottom. 4thly. The roasting of the lamb at the fire, expresses the burning heat of divine wrath justly kindled against sinners, with which Christ, who presented himself as surety for sinners, was to be scorched. Hence those complaints, Psa. 22:14, 15 “My heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my bowels: my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws.” See what we have observed concerning the peculiar manner of this roasting, book ii. c. x. §. 26.

XL. The place where both the passover and Christ was slain are both the same. For the paschal lamb was, from the days of David, to be killed at Jerusalem; the place which God had chosen for himself, to cause his name to dwell there. But it was there that Christ suffered, as himself foretold. “It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” Luke 13:33. And Luke 18:31. “Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets, concerning the Son of man, shall be accomplished.”

XLI. There is also a manifest similitude with respect to the time. The passover was killed in the middle of the month Nisan, at the full moon, between the two evenings, that is, according to Josephus, from the ninth to the eleventh hour. On that very month, day, and hour, Christ was cut off; as is remarked, not without reason, by Matthew, chp. 27:46, 50. Some observe, that in the month Nisan, after the equinox, the days come to be longer than the nights; to signify that a new light then arose upon the world, when Christ dispelled the darkness of error and ignorance. And there are others, who, by the full moon, will have the fulness of time, and, by the two evenings, the evening of the world, and the last times to be shadowed forth, in which Christ offered himself a sacrifice, according to that of the apostle, Heb. 9:26, “Once in the end of the world hath he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Which are at least ingenious, if not solid reflections.

XLII. It now follows that we consider the consequences and fruits of this sacrifice; and indeed they are most excellent and abundant. For, first, the posts and lintels of the Israelites were sprinkled with the blood of this lamb, that they might avoid the common calamity, and be preserved from the destroying angel: to teach us that the justice of God spares all whose consciences are sprinkled with the blood of Christ, Isa. 52:15, “He shall sprinkle many nations.” This is that “sprinkling of the blood” of Christ, this is that “blood of sprinkling,” spoken of by Peter and Paul, 1 Pet. 1:2, Heb. 12:24. We are therefore no longer to dread the sword of the avenging angel. For whether an angel of darkness, “God hath delivered us from the power of darkness, through the blood of his Son,” Col. 1:13, 14: or an angel of heaven, “Having made peace through his blood, he hath reconciled all things unto himself, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven,” ver. 20.

XLIII. Secondly, on the night the lamb was slain, the Israelites received full power to deliver themselves from the Egyptian bondage: to teach us, that Christ, by his blood, has redeemed us from the bondage of the devil, the world, and sin, in order to call us to the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Heb. 2:14, 15, John 8:36.

XLIV. Thirdly, in that very night, the God of Israel inflicted his judgments on the Gods of the Egyptians, Exod. 12:12, Numb. 33:4: namely, four judgments, if we may credit Jonathan, whose words in his paraphrase are these: “Their molten images were melted down, their idols of stone cut down, those made of earth, ground to powder; in fine, those of wood reduced to ashes.” Though we cannot avouch this for truth, as the Scripture is silent, yet it is certain God’s threatenings were not without their effect. And whatever they signified, we see an illustrious fulfilment of them in the death of Christ; whereby the middle wall of partition being broken down, by which many nations, who had been separated from the Jews, being called to the knowledge of the true God, cast their idols to the moles, and to the bats. Isa. 2:10.

XLV. Fourthly, the month Abib, before the institution of the passover, was the seventh month of the Jewish year: but when God instituted the passover, he commanded, that it should for the future be accounted the first, and from it they should begin to reckon their sacred or ecclesiastical year. This month began with the spring; at which time, when God sendeth forth his Spirit, all things are created, and the face of the earth is renewed. Psa. 104:30. And this may also be applied to Christ, who introduced a new age, and abolished old things, in order to change them for the better: “Behold,” says he, “I make all things new.” Rev. 21:5. So that now we justly reckon time, not from the first creation of the world, which seems to have happened on Tisri, the first month of the civil year, but from the rising of a more auspicious star, at the illustrious Epiphany or manifestation of our Saviour: for such new miracles of divine goodness cause former things, in comparison of these, “not to be remembered, nor come into mind.” Isa. 65:17.

XLVI. Moreover, we are to show, in what manner the Israelites were made partakers of the benefits they obtained by means of the lamb. And here two things were required. 1st. That they were to sprinkle the lintel and door-posts of their houses with the blood of the lamb. 2dly. To eat its flesh. For if any of the Israelites neglected either of these, they thereby rejected the grace annexed to these commands.

XLVII. By the door posts of the houses are meant our hearts, because God sprinkles these with the blood of his Son, Heb. 10:22, “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” And the hearts of men lie as open before God as the door posts of our houses to us, 1 Sam. 16:7: the doors of our hearts are to be set open, that by them the king of glory may come in, Psa. 24:7, Rev. 3:20. But we may be said to sprinkle our hearts with the blood of Christ, when, by a stedfast faith, we embrace the doctrine of the cross, and apply to ourselves the merits of his sufferings. We are however to take care that we do not sprinkle on the threshold, what we are commanded to sprinkle on the lintel and posts of the door, that it may not be trampled under foot, lest the apostle’s threatenings should be executed on us, which he denounced against those, who “tread under foot the Son of God, and account the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, an unholy thing,” Heb. 10:29.

XLVIII. By the same faith also the flesh is to be eaten. For why hast thou teeth, and a stomach? [Is it not to eat?] Believe, and thou hast eaten. This eating is absolutely necessary to salvation, John 6:53, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, ye have no life in you.”

XLIX. The flesh of the lamb was to be eaten neither altogether raw, nor half-done. And they are guilty of this crime, who digest not these mysteries by proper and diligent meditation: meditation is to the soul what concoction or digestion is to the stomach. Hence, according to Petronius, to publish to the public indigested thoughts, is to publish things not yet properly concocted and digested by an attentive meditation.

L. The whole lamb was likewise to be eaten, that nothing might remain: neither is it sufficient to receive Christ in part: as if one would be willing to enjoy his glory, but not partake of his sufferings; or to have him for his redeemer, but not for his Lawgiver and Lord; or as if one, not thinking it sufficient to trust in the merits of Christ, should place his hope of salvation partly in his own works, or in the intercession and mediation of others.

LI. What remained that could not be consumed, because of the small number of guests, was not suffered to be reserved to the next day, but was to be burnt with fire. This may be applied partly to the type, partly to the thing signified. The type was not to be reserved to another time. From the day the light of the Gospel appeared, what regarded the shadows was to cease and be abolished. As to the thing signified, whoever feeds upon Christ by a true faith, will not be found empty or hungry on the morrow; nor does he stand in need of a new Christ, or a new offering of him. For as “by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” Heb. 10:14, so “he that cometh to him shall never hunger, and he that believeth on him shall never thirst,” John 6:35. Wherefore thou art under no necessity to reserve any thing of thine own for thyself, with which to make up a deficiency in Christ, when thou hast once apprehended him by faith.

LII. In the mean time, they were so to eat the flesh of the lamb as not to break a bone of it. To break the bones of the lamb, is to pry and search into things that exceed our capacity. As if it was not sufficient for faith to be fed with things obvious, unless we attempted to search into those things, the knowledge of which is forbidden, and the discovery dangerous. To pry into such things is to come off with damage in the attempt. This brings to mind that saying of Moses, Deut. 29:29: “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed, belong unto us and our children for ever;” and that excellent saying of Jerome, Prov. 25:27, though not so agreeable to the Hebrew, “The curious prier into his majesty, shall be overwhelmed with his glory.”

LIII. The bitter herbs, with which the lamb was to be eaten, signify the necessity of communion with him in his sufferings, Phil. 3:10, if we would have communion with him in his glory; we are to wear a crown of thorns with Christ, that a crown of glory may succeed; “if we suffer, we shall also reign with him,” 2 Tim. 2:12. Nor are these things to be applied only to the external afflictions of the body; but also to the internal distresses of the vexed soul, grieving for sin in a godly manner, fearing the wrath of God, without which, the sweet consolations of the Lord Jesus, which he applies only to the mourners in Zion, Isa. 61:3, are usually neither tasted nor felt.

LIV. Nor is it in vain, that leaven is so often and so expressly forbidden those who are invited to eat of the lamb. For, in Scripture leaven is the symbol of corruption and especially of hypocrisy, Luke 12:1. Paul has written very properly to this purpose, 1 Cor. 5:7, 8: “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of malice, and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Leaven might also be applied to pride, because the leavened lump directly rises or puffs up, or to hatred and animosity, which embitter the soul. Now, whoever has communion with Christ, ought doubtless to be purged from all these vices, because he, in whose mouth was found no guile, 1 Peter 2:22, cannot endure hypocrites; nor he, who became obedient even unto the death of the cross, Phil. 2:8, the proud; nor he, who is our peace, Eph. 2:14, the contentious; and therefore he offered himself in order to reconcile us both to God and to one another.

LV. But strangers, the defiled, the uncircumcised, were excluded from the paschal lamb, because righteousness hath no fellowship with unrighteousness, nor light any communion with darkness, nor Christ any concord with Belial, 2 Cor. 6:14, 15. Nevertheless whoever he be, that from a sense of his own uncleanness, has recourse humbly to the grace of God in Christ, ought not therefore to despond; for, “the good Jehovah pardoneth every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, Jehovah the God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary,” 2 Chron. 30:18, 19.

LVI. Again, the Israelites in Egypt were commanded to eat the lamb, girded, shod, and leaning on their staves. To which rites we may see frequent allusions in Scripture. Christ, Luke 12:35; Paul, Eph. 6:14; and Peter, 1 Peter 1:3. command us to have our loins girded about; to signify, that the souls of believers are to be girded about with truth and soberness; to be ready for the heavenly journey, for the work of the Lord, for the conflict with spiritual wickednesses in heavenly places; to all which undertakings, flowing and trailing garments are an impediment. Paul, Eph. 6:15, speaks of feet shod with the preparation or promptitude of the gospel of peace. For, the Gospel is to be preached with cheerfulness, and confessed and walked in without stumbling. God himself is the believer’s staff, on whom he leans, and to whom he commends his soul. Faith also is instead of a staff, because by it we are said to stand, Rom. 11:20; 1 Cor. 16:13. But we are to take particular notice, that this is the attire of travellers, which is the condition of all who are partakers of Christ. For in this life they are strangers and in their way to a better country, Psa. 39:13, 1 Peter 2:11.

LVII. The Israelites were also commanded to eat it in haste, because there was danger in delay from the Egyptians, who were soon to press them to be gone. And this is also applicable to us, because many enemies have a design upon us, the journey is long, the time short, and we feeble and easily apt to flag. Wherefore, as Lot was to go out of Sodom, and the Israelites out of Egypt, so we are commanded to make haste, to stretch every nerve, in order to escape the jaws of the devil, imitating those violent men who take the kingdom of heaven by force, Matt. 11:12, and remembering Lot’s wife who perished by her delay, Luke 17:32.

LVIII. Lastly, we are to observe, that the lamb was to be eaten in one house, out of which it was not lawful to go for fear of meeting the angel of death. This house is the church, out of which there is no salvation, no communion with Christ. Let the false Nicodemists take notice of this, who imagine they can sculk in safety among the Egyptians, and think it sufficient, if they believe in their heart, though with their mouth they confess not the Lord Jesus, separating what the apostle has joined together, Rom. 10:9. And therefore, if they be wise, let them not forsake the assembling themselves together with us, Heb. 10:25. And having once entered this house let them never leave it lest they be condemned for apostates, concerning whom Paul speaks, Heb. 6:4, 5, 6, and 10:38, 39; and Peter, 2 Peter 2:20, 21.

Bible Verse:

“I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless,” (Gen. 17:1).

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