#114. Are the Israelites forbidden to leave their houses during the night of the Passover OR do they leave their houses? (Ex 12:22 vs Ex 12:31-32)


During the night of the Passover, Yahweh sends his Destroyer out over Egypt to kill all the firstborns. The Israelites themselves are protected by the apotropaic blood rite of the Passover (#109-110): the lamb’s blood smeared on the doorposts of all the Israelites’ houses ward off the evil of the Destroyer. Thus they are commanded not to leave their houses “until morning”—lest Yahweh’s Destroyer strike them down too!

Yet later in the narrative (Ex 12:31-34) they do indeed leave their houses. First, Pharaoh cries with terror during the evening and beckons Moses and Aaron to come. And then we are informed that all of the children of Israel immediately depart, supposedly during the evening! Or is it?

9 thoughts on “#114. Are the Israelites forbidden to leave their houses during the night of the Passover OR do they leave their houses? (Ex 12:22 vs Ex 12:31-32)

  1. Couldn’t the problem be fixed by just translating sunrise as the other potential: oxen? Strong’s # 1241

    Then it would read (translated straight from the Hebrew): Do not exist to proceed to come forth, man, that to let go, amid household being, unto oxen.

    That would make sense, as we are told: 12:29 And it came to pass at midnight, that the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the first-born of livestock.

    Therefore the Hebrews would have kept man unto the firstborn of the livestock inside.
    The problem is gone.
    (Occam’s razor)

  2. Craig,
    Which still places our understanding of the scriptures in the hands of fallible men just the same. I suppose we will have to agree to disagree. If you want to study the texts as they’ve been interpreted to fit your theology, you’re welcome to do so. This blog just takes a different approach, one that attempts to be more objective. It’s not “dumbing down” the texts, but rather refusing to dress them up in garb designed to reinforce assumptions and conclusions chosen before even laying eyes on the texts themselves. A hermeneutic that takes as a given that God inspired the texts in a certain way is already setting the stage for the conclusions it wants to reach. While that may be important for seminary students learning how to shore up their faith and interpret the “right” readings, we can’t pretend it’s a completely honest approach. Deciding the outcome before touching the evidence never is. I just want to be clear on that. But if that’s not why you’re studying the Bible, then that’s ok too, I suppose. We can’t dissuade you from the approach that means the most personally to you. Thanks for your respectful response as well!

    Dr. DiMattei,
    Thanks! I used to be fairly evangelical before I realized just how many unchecked assumptions I’d carried into my reading. Turns out we can’t tell the text what to say after all.

  3. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this subject. I’m a theology major so the study of “God” and His Word are what I’m passionate about. The scriptures are not one directional. They are not, self interpreting. That sort of reasoning leads to gross heretical thinking. The passages need interpretation and the Bible clearly calls for the work of interpretation. This is why we teach a well declared, solid and systematical hermeneutic. We must look at history, theology, language and interpretation in our hermeneutic. I’m not clear on which translation you suggest that contains the accurate stand alone interpretation. Is it KJV, NASB, ESV? When you study Greek, you will learn the many twists and turns a translator takes in translation from one ancient language to another in presenting a text. We are too far away from the culture and the THEOLOGICAL ASSUMPTIONS of the era in which it is written. This means that the most accurate translation contain judgment calls; mostly dictated by theology, which means that every Bible reader must become an interpreter.

  4. Thanks for the respectful reply. I would never differentiate the Bible being written only by man and not The Holy Spirit. A basic undergraduate hermeneutics course acknowledges that. If you “dumb down” the text to be only man inspired, you then bring a Sovereign and infallible God to a human literary level. That’s not a God to worship. Books such as “how to read the bible for all it’s worth” and the “hermeneutical spiral” support my claim

  5. Craig, you’re missing the point. The very idea that The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible is a human belief pinned onto the text after the fact. The view that each book of the Bible is and should be part of one cohesive whole is also a belief people bring to the texts, not a view derived from the texts themselves. Maybe God had something to do with the Bible, maybe He didn’t, that’s not the focus of real biblical studies, that’s doctrine and theology. You start out with the assumption that the texts must conform to your beliefs, and apparently beat them into submission with ad-hoc theology when they don’t. Why not let the texts speak for themselves, and try to understand what they actually say, rather than what your a priori assumptions demand they “should” say? That’s all Dr. DiMattei wants to do here. Cluttering the discussion with later theological interpretations just obscures the actual words.

    1. Daniel,

      That is succinctly and elegantly put. Spot on.


      You’re still missing the point, and that point is the biblical texts themselves and their authors, their messages, and their beliefs — not yours! and not what later readers said about the texts, nor the theological constructs they imposed, and still impose, upon these texts, etc. You place more emphasis on centuries-later subjective-reader oriented beliefs about the texts, rather than listening to the texts themselves on their own terms, their messages. You approach these texts with a theological “given”—divine inspiration—but studying the texts themselves would refute this centuries-later imposed hermeneutic framework. The framework merely functions to legitimate your own beliefs about the texts (because it’s circular; it starts with the hermeneutic/theological given and ends there as well) while negating the beliefs, views, values, etc. of the 70+ authors that make up this anthology of ancient literature. Rather, I’m challenging you to start with the texts on their terms and in their historical context, have an empty and objective mind, and see where the texts lead you. For example, what did the author of Leviticus believe? What was his worldview? When might he have written his text, and to whom? And more advanced: why did this author believe what he did? Who was he? And even more advanced: Why does the Yahweh in this text refute and contradict the Yahweh in Deuteronomy? And this leads us to: who wrote Deuteronomy? What did he believe and why? Etc…

      In other words, theology is all about legitimating one’s religious views and beliefs, and that includes theological/hermeneutic views about these ancient texts. Biblical studies is not about me, you, my beliefs or disbeliefs, nor those of later readers, etc. It’s not about finding comfort in reading these texts as supporting modern theological views and values. Rather it’s about learning about the texts themselves, what they say and do not say, and furthermore understanding why they say and proclaim what they do—their authors’ beliefs not those of its readers!

      Again, I think Daniel says it well.

  6. Last time I took hermeneutics in seminary ( which was last year ) the professor, which holds several degrees including a PhD in Theology, stated that the Bible is written by two authors, Man and The Holy Spirit; therefore, if you cannot read what the Holy Spirit is revealing to you, which is Jesus Christ in every book of the Bible, then you are reading it incorrectly. Abuse of text is when an individual reads only the allegorical perspectives and disregards the proper exegesis. I understand the difference between isegesis and exegesis. I can applaud your passion for the exegetical position of the text, however, God is beyond space and time and so if he meant for none of the narratives to apply to us today, then why waist the time writing the narratives down and preserving them for more than 3500 years? The truth is, unless you were there in conversations with Moses, you cannot argue that God inspired him to write only the events that took place for historical or record keeping reasons. You obviously have not connected the Old and New Testament narratives properly. Jesus is revealed several times in the Old Testament including, His encounter with Hagar, Isaac and at the creation of world. It’s called a “theophany.” Exodus 12 is a historical narrative for the greater meta narrative of the scarlet thread of redemption through Christ. The Bible does not record the revelation of the text because the Holy Spirit inside you reveals that. (1st John 2:27) Contextually, the Israelites were using blood sacrifices to atone for their sins. There’s a reason it’s an “unblemished”lamb they sacrificed with, in the exodus narrative. The Bible has no contradictions, you are merely reading it from an authors perspective and not a spiritual one. My “beliefs” are that Bible is written by Man and The Holy Spirit and that God reveals His message through it in order to have a relationship with His creation. We won’t know all the answers until we see Him. The Bible is interpretive as well as we have sin still in us from the fall, and that’s why we disagree. I can still love you as a creation of God ;)

    Good day

  7. So a few things come to mind. First, the blood on the doorposts represent Jesus’s blood and the house represents the body of Christ. The Israelites in the house represents those in God’s kingdom so putting blood over the doorpost is covering ourselves with the blood of Christ so the enemy cannot destroy us. Therefore, Christ was died around 3pm and darkness was over all the land ( representing the night of the Passover in exodus ) since Jesus is the Passover, when he was found resurrected the next morning, that coincides with the death angel being conquered in the exodus Passover. The time between is unaccounted for so once the blood was placed on the doorposts, it didn’t matter when the people covered with the blood left their homes.
    The other interesting point is that a day in the Jewish calender begins at sunrise and ends at sunset, not midnight to 11:59 pm like our day does, this is why Jesus could eat the Passover meal with the disciples, yet still be crucified on the same day, because in Jewish law, you could not murder someone during Passover but since He was tried at 9a, The meal was already finished the night prior and He died the same (Jewish ) day right before the day changed. It had to match the exodus Passover event in exodus 12 :)
    God Bless

    1. You are joking right? It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a gross, careless, and negligent display of ignorance toward these ancient texts. Really? None of what you have written is in the text, and this line of fanciful and abusive “interpretation” merely accomplishes one thing: it reveals your main concern is with your beliefs—i.e., it’s all about you and your beliefs—and conversely reveals your ignorance and/or lack of interest in what the text itself actually says on its own terms and in its own historical context, and conversely what it does not say. I apologize for my bluntness, but it’s hard to tolerate such disingenuous toward these ancient texts. With absolutely no knowledge about, nor concern for, the actual authors of these texts, what they intended, the whys behind the composition of their texts, to whom they were writing, prompted by what historical crisis, etc. you blatantly and carelessly impose your own beliefs and views onto these ancient documents. The text could almost say anything and you would merely transform it into confirming and stating your own personal beliefs—again, at the expense of (knowing) the text and its authors!

      Our goal here is to be as honest and faithful to the texts as objectively possible—not to our subjective views about them, nor the theological assumptions that readers living centuries after these texts were written imposed upon these texts, which were forged by their own concerns and beliefs.

      The proper line of reasoning that you should have adopted is: Hmmm…. my tradition tells me these beliefs about these texts, which were obviously forged from these readers’ own beliefs and historical concerns, while conversely the text itself reveals radically different beliefs and viewpoints. There’s the conversation to have—not to carelessly neglect, abuse, and interpret away the beliefs and views of these ancient authors.

      This is a site devoted to the texts and understanding these texts as their authors intended—that’s on their terms, not yours or those of later readers living centuries after these texts were written; that’s in their historical and literary contexts, not yours or those of later readers. The above is merely an assertion of your own beliefs which comes at the expense of the text, its author, and his beliefs!

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