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The context in Exodus 12 makes it abundantly clear that the Israelites left Egypt in the middle of the night:

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt... 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... 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.

For those skeptics out there, Deuteronomy 16:1 clearly spells this out:

Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God, because in the month of Abib he brought you out of Egypt by night.

Numbers 33:3 does not necessarily contradict that, since that could mean that they didnt actually cross the border of Egypt until dawn. But it's clear that they left Goshen when it was still dark.

But in verse 22 Moses commands them not to leave the house until morning:

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.

Did the Israelites not heed this command then? Moses knew well that the Egyptians would rush them out of Egypt, indeed Moses commands them in v. 11 to eat the Pascal lamb in haste:

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.

So it seems like this was part of the master plan to leave Egypt in haste in the middle of the night. So why did God command them to stay in their homes the whole night if they were meant to leave in haste in the middle of the night?? Or better yet, if they were told to stay home until morning why the need to rush through the meal and be on high alert if they weren't able to leave until dawn anyway? What gives?

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  • None of you shall go out of the door - Maybe they climbed out the windows instead of using the door.
    – steveowen
    Apr 10 at 1:50
  • @steveowen I sure hope you are sarcastic.
    – Bach
    Apr 10 at 2:22
  • 1
    Yesterday, I asked Why the need for "haste" at the original Passover, if leaving the house was forbidden before morning? on MiYodea.SE to get the Judaism perspective, but haven't received an answer yet. Apr 11 at 14:07
  • @RayButterworth thanks for sharing! You just validated my question. This really perplexes me. I was just reading v. 22 and I was like, wait a minute, didn't they leave at midnight? So how does Moses tell them not to leave until dawn? Did not heed God's command? And didn't Moses know that they would have leave in haste? You ask it from the other way, and I like that too.
    – Bach
    Apr 11 at 23:41

2 Answers 2

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During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Ex 12:31

There is no reference to midnight regarding the leaving. It would have taken some time - hours to get everything and everyone together and depart. Probably it was a few hours^ from the first of the column till the last stubborn cow. They would have needed some light to get organised as a group. So the first light was foreseeably when the leaving began - at the morning or at least after the morning began.

The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country v33

This requires not an immediate departure there and then, but in haste. 'In haste', logistically is a few hours later.

^ Assuming 1 million people, 50 abreast, that's 20,000 rows long. Assuming only 1 sec between each row of 50 moving, would take over 5 hours to see the last person pass the start point - so now we are after lunch - and none of this allows for animals!

And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall completely burn with fire v10

Here again we see the emphasis is not on the time of leaving, but of the significance of the morning to ensure all the lamb is correctly disposed of. They could not have left in the night (or at midnight) based on this alone. The 1st Passover meal was not a time for relaxed enjoyment with a pitcher of shiraz, it was to be done purposefully and with a view to readiness for departure to another realm - out from captivity towards freedom.

Now you shall eat it in this way: with your garment belted around your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in a hurry—it is the LORD’S Passover. v11

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  • Good answer +1.
    – Dottard
    Apr 10 at 5:50
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    Steve, I'm having a hard time with your answer. If they left at dawn then why did they have to eat the Pascal lamb in haste? They had plenty of time to eat, rest and then leave at dawn, especially if they knew that they weren't able to leave before then. Furthermore, why did the dough not have enough time to ferment if they only left until dawn, they had plenty of time to let the dough rise and bake before dawn. The details just don't add up.
    – Bach
    Apr 10 at 16:16
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The answer is: They left in the morning! So, they eat it in haste to be quickly ready, sanctified right before the angel of vengeance passes by and over, and to offer themselves to the Lord and be done befooooore the departure proceeding when " the Egyptians urged them" and the Israelites left in the morning. Not as people told them. Thanks!

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