The Passover story is a gripping drama (see Exodus 11–13). Four centuries of Israelite slavery in Egypt were about to end. The confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh had reached a climax. God sent one final plague, the death of all the firstborn in Egypt who were not protected by the blood of a lamb on the doorpost. That lamb was eaten in the first “Passover” meal, so called because the angel of death “passed over” the protected homes.
The celebration of Passover was to become an essential part of Israel’s religious life. The one narrated here was only the second—the first had been the dramatic original in Egypt. The Israelites would not celebrate Passover again until they entered Canaan, the Promised Land (see Joshua 5:10).
Passover was a serious occasion. All regulations had to be followed exactly. Anyone who failed to celebrate this festival was to be cut off or excommunicated from Israel, which was the same as a death sentence (v. 13).
At the same time, the Lord extended grace. Provision for later observance was made for those who were ceremonially unclean and unable to participate at the time (v. 11). Participation was not limited to Israelites, but the “foreigner residing among you” could also join in (v. 14).
The Passover meal reminded the people of God’s life-saving presence, protection, and guidance throughout the Exodus (vv. 15–23). The main dish, lamb, reminded them of the blood on the doorposts that had saved the lives of their firstborn. The unleavened bread reminded them of their hasty exit when Pharaoh had finally yielded. And the bitter herbs reminded them of their four centuries of slavery and suffering in Egypt, now ended by the powerful hand of the Lord.