Lesson 45

Exodus 12–13

“Lesson 45: Exodus 12–13,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


After Moses warned Pharaoh that the firstborn sons of Egypt would die, he instructed the Israelites how to escape that plague. The Lord explained the feast of unleavened bread, or Passover, which would become a memorial to the Lord’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt. The ordinance of the Passover would help the Israelites look forward to the Messiah’s coming and the deliverance of God’s children from spiritual death.

Suggestions for Teaching

Exodus 12

The Lord institutes the Passover

ancient meal

Israelites eat the Passover feast.

The following foods discussed in Exodus 12 are part of the Passover feast: unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and lamb meat. If possible, you might consider preparing a table with some of these food items before class. Crackers or tortillas might be used as substitutes for unleavened bread; you might use parsley, horseradish, or romaine lettuce for the bitter herbs; and you could use any kind of meat as an example of the lamb. If you are unable to bring food to class, you might show students pictures of some of the specified food or ask students to visualize the foods at the appropriate points in the lesson. Any examples of the Passover feast should be done with reverence and dignity.

Begin the lesson by asking students to try to list from memory the 10 plagues that befell Egypt (see Exodus 7–11). Then invite a student to read Exodus 11:5–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s description of the calamity that would result from the 10th plague.

Explain that the Lord gave very specific instructions for the Israelites to follow in order to escape this plague. If the Israelites would obey those instructions, the Lord would “put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (Exodus 11:7) and protect their firstborn.

Invite students to read Exodus 12:3–14 silently or quietly with a partner, looking for the Lord’s specific instructions that would help Israelite families escape the plague. You might invite them to mark what they find.

  • What did the Lord instruct the Israelites to do? (As students describe what they read, list the following items on the board: lamb, blood, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread.)


Lamb (Jesus Christ)

Blood (Atonement of Jesus Christ)

Bitter herbs (bondage, sin)

Unleavened bread (repentance, removal of sin)

  • According to verse 11, what did the Lord call the meal Israel was to eat? (Write Passover on the board, above the items you listed.)

  • According to verses 12–13, why was it called Passover?

Explain that the foods in the Passover meal and the way the Israelites were supposed to eat the meal were symbolic. This symbolism taught the Israelites about the Lord’s hand in their deliverance.

To help students analyze and understand these symbols, you might start by inviting students to eat or imagine some of the bitter herbs.

  • What part of the Israelites’ lives had been bitter? (As students respond, you may need to point out that as the Israelites ate the bitter herbs, they were to remember their bondage to the Egyptians. Write bondage next to “bitter herbs” on the board.)

  • What else might the bitter herbs have symbolized in the Israelites’ spiritual life? (The bitter herbs are like the effects of sin.)

Invite students to remember when they have felt the bitterness of their sins as they eat the bitter herbs. Explain that sin places us in bitter bondage, unable to return to the presence of God. Write sin next to “bitter herbs” on the board.

Point to the phrase “unleavened bread” on the board. Ask students if they can explain what leaven is. (Leaven, or yeast, causes bread to rise; it also causes bread to spoil and get moldy.) Explain that leaven can symbolize corruption and sin. Invite a student to read Exodus 12:15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Israel was to do with any leaven in their homes. Ask them to report what they find.

  • What do you think removing all the leaven from the home and eating only unleavened bread could symbolize? (As students respond, write repentance or removal of sin on the board next to “unleavened bread.”)

Invite students to eat or imagine some unleavened bread. Ask them to notice what begins to happen to the bitter taste from the herbs. (You may need to point out that the bread cleanses the bitter taste from the mouth.)

Refer to the word lamb on the board. Invite students to silently review verse 5, looking for the Lord’s description of the lamb each family was to sacrifice. Then invite a student to read Exodus 12:46. Ask the class to notice one additional instruction concerning the bones of the lamb.

  • What do you think the lamb might symbolize? (As students respond, write Jesus Christ next to “lamb” on the board.)

Invite students to eat or imagine some of the meat and think about Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to deliver us from our sins.

Invite a student to read Exodus 12:21–23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord would do for the families who put the lambs’ blood around their doors. Point out that the sacrifice of the lamb alone did not bring protection from the destroying angel. Only those who properly marked their doors with the blood of the lamb were promised safety.

  • What kind of death was Israel saved from that first Passover night? (Physical death.)

  • What kinds of death do we all need to be saved from? (Physical and spiritual death.)

  • What do you think the blood of the lamb that saved Israel from death represents? (As students respond, emphasize that Jesus Christ’s Atonement was a blood sacrifice for sin. Write Atonement of Jesus Christ next to “blood” on the board.)

  • Like the Israelites who were protected from physical death by placing the lambs’ blood around their doors, how can we be delivered from spiritual death? (Students may use different words, but they should identify something similar to the following doctrine: We can be delivered from spiritual death through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.)

Invite a student to read Exodus 12:28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a phrase that summarizes how the children of Israel qualified for deliverance. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What would have happened if the Israelites had chosen not to put blood around their doors as the Lord had commanded?

  • What can we learn from the Israelites’ example about what we must do to apply the atoning blood of Jesus Christ in our lives? (Students may use different words, but they should identify something similar to the following principle: We can apply the atoning blood of Jesus Christ through repentance and obedience.)

To help students comprehend the truth and importance of this principle, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Elder Richard G. Scott

“Repentance and obedience are absolutely essential for the Atonement to work its complete miracle in your life. …

“The Atonement was a selfless act of infinite, eternal consequence. … Through it the Savior broke the bonds of death. … It opens the gates to exaltation for all who qualify for forgiveness through repentance and obedience” (“The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 42).

Invite students to read Exodus 12:29–30 silently, looking for what happened to families who did not have the lambs’ blood around their doors. Ask students to report what they find.

Summarize Exodus 12:31–51 by explaining that as a result of this last plague, Pharaoh finally allowed the Israelites to go free.

Exodus 13

The Lord commands the Israelites to remember the Passover after their departure from Egypt

Invite students to share experiences their older family members have had that have helped strengthen the students’ faith.

Summarize Exodus 13:1–7 by explaining that Moses told the Israelites to remember the day they were brought out of Egypt by repeating the Passover feast each year on the anniversary of their deliverance (see Bible Dictionary, “Feasts”). Invite a student to read Exodus 13:8–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Israelites were to tell their children at the Passover feast each year.

  • What did the Lord want the Israelites and their children to remember?

  • According to verse 10, what was the Passover feast?

Invite students to silently read the following verses: Exodus 12:14, 17, 24.

  • According to these verses, how long did the Lord say His people were to keep the ordinance of the Passover?

  • Do we still observe the ordinance of the Passover in our day?

  • What ordinance do we observe today in the place of the Passover to help us remember Jesus Christ? (The sacrament.)

  • How is the sacrament like the Passover feast? (Students may identify a variety of truths, including the following: The sacrament helps us remember the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. Write this truth on the board.)

To help students understand this truth, you might want to draw the following diagram on the board:

passover, atonement, sacrament

Explain that on the evening before Jesus Christ was crucified, He and His disciples shared a Passover meal together. At the end of this meal, Jesus introduced the ordinance we now recognize as the sacrament, which He told His disciples to repeat in remembrance of Him. The following day, as a fulfillment of the Passover, the Lamb of God was sacrificed on the cross for the sins of the world. His sacrifice ended the ordinance of blood sacrifice (see 3 Nephi 9:19–20). After the Savior’s Crucifixion, His followers began to meet on the first day of the week to partake of bread and wine in remembrance of Him (see Acts 20:7).

  • How can understanding the Passover influence your experience of partaking of the sacrament?

Encourage students to think about what they have learned about the Passover and its symbolism the next time they partake of the sacrament.

Summarize Exodus 13:11–22 by explaining that Moses told the children of Israel they were to sacrifice the firstborn males of their flocks and herds to the Lord. They were also to offer a sacrifice for each of their firstborn sons.

Explain that when the Israelites left Egypt, they took Joseph’s bones with them to bury them in the promised land as Joseph had requested. The Lord led Moses and the children of Israel as they traveled in the wilderness.

Consider concluding the lesson by sharing your feelings about the Savior and His sacrifice for you.

Commentary and Background Information

Exodus 12:14, 17, 24. The Passover and the sacrament

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the connection between the Passover and the sacrament:

“At Gethsemane and Golgotha the Savior’s blood was shed. Centuries earlier the Passover had been introduced as a symbol and a type of things to come. It was an ordinance to be kept forever (see Exodus 12). …

“After the crucifixion of the Lord, the law of sacrifice required no more shedding of blood. … The sacrifice thenceforth was to be a broken heart and a contrite spirit—repentance.

“And the Passover would be commemorated forever as the sacrament, in which we renew our covenant of baptism and partake in remembrance of the body of the Lamb of God and of His blood, which was shed for us” (“Atonement, Agency, Accountability,” Ensign, May 1988, 72).

Exodus 12. Placing lamb’s blood on the doorposts clearly identified those who worshipped Jehovah

Consider the courage the ancient Israelites showed when they obeyed the command to place blood on their doorposts. Four hundred years of Egyptian rule likely included persecution for those who openly worshipped Jehovah. Thus, the placement of the lamb’s blood on the doorposts was a bold public statement, a marker that identified those who worshipped Jehovah. How does the courageous example of the ancient Israelites influence the way we live our beliefs and standards as Latter-day Saints? Although we don’t sprinkle blood on our doorposts today, what outward characteristics might distinguish the homes and lives of faithful Latter-day Saints from the homes and lives of others? Are we afraid of persecution or concerned about public opinion and being accepted by the world? Or do we say, as Paul did, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16)?

Exodus 12. The Passover and other feasts

For more details about the Passover and other traditional feasts, see the “Feasts” entry in the Bible Dictionary and the “Passover” entry in Guide to the Scriptures (scriptures.lds.org).

Exodus 12. The Passover

Scripture Reference

The Lord’s Instructions

Possible Symbolism

Exodus 12:3–6

Each Israelite family was to kill a male lamb that was without blemish.

Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God” (John 1:36), was perfect and gave His life for us.

Exodus 12:46

No bone of the lamb was to be broken.

None of Jesus Christ’s bones were broken at the time of His death (see John 19:36).

Exodus 12:8, 15

The Israelites were to eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread. They were to rid their homes of all leaven for seven days.

The bitter herbs reminded the Israelites of their years of bitter bondage in Egypt. The bitter bondage is like the bitterness of our sins.

Leaven, or yeast, causes bread to become moldy. As part of our repentance, we are to rid our lives of anything that can corrupt our spirits.

Exodus 12:9–10

The Israelites were to eat all of the lamb and burn the remains.

We are to receive Jesus Christ’s Atonement completely. No part of His Atonement was wasted. He did not sacrifice Himself needlessly.

Exodus 12:11

The Israelites were to eat the Passover meal in haste, dressed prepared to leave.

We should be ready to leave behind any sinful ways.

Exodus 12:7, 12–13, 29

The sacrifice of the lamb alone did not bring protection from the destroying angel. The lamb’s blood needed to be placed around the doors to protect the people inside from the destroying angel. Safety was promised only to those who properly marked the doors.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ can protect us from the power of Satan as we apply the conditions of repentance in our lives.

Exodus 12:30–31

The deaths of the firstborns in Egypt led to the Israelites’ freedom from bondage.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Firstborn spirit child of Heavenly Father, makes possible our freedom from the bondage of sin.

Exodus 12:47–48

No uncircumcised men shall eat of the Passover.

Only those who have worthily made covenants with the Lord can receive all the blessings the Atonement makes possible.