All Ate the Same Spiritual Food (Paedocommunion)
“You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever.“
Exodus 12.24 (ESV)
Those who say the covenant children of Israel were not participants in the Passover meal are wrong. Those who use Exodus 12.26 to deny children the Lord’s meal are wrong. They say that we can see from the question “What do you mean?” that the children were outside the meal. They are wrong.
The question “What does this ritual mean to you?” does not mean the children were alienated, but that the meal was culminating in its didactic purpose: to inculcate in a new generation of eaters the unity of past and of future generations in one Israel. This truth is transmitted through the sharing of Passover.
I have laid out a display and commentary of verses that ask “What does this mean?” in a little PDF which you can download here: [ “Passover the Little Sons Too” ]. I suggest opening the PDF so that you can look over the verses as they are referenced in this blog post.
I hope to demonstrate both in the PDF and in this post that seeing such verses removes the idea that Exodus 12.26 could be a limiting verse. So the goal is to compare the language of Ex 12.26 with similar verses and show that limiting Passover based on this verse is contrary to this type of formulaic covenant instruction, and it is contrary to the context of the near passages.
AS IT SHOULD BE
In the institution of the Passover, God relates to Israel that their children will ask what the Passover means, and that they are commanded to give a specific answer: God was merciful to our houses. The meal is a household meal protecting all in the house (not just the firstborn – see: Exodus 12.22-23). The question is from within the household. The answer is a household salvation.
The Covenant, my son!!! The promise to Abraham!
…and to Isaac!
…and to Jacob!
…and to me!
…and to you my son!
…and to your sons as a statute forever you will also keep and keep keeping this meal.
Certain brilliant men like Jean Calvin were wrong on paedocommunion.
John Calvin says that Exodus 12.26 demonstrates that partakers must wait until old enough to ask its meaning, an assertion he makes with no logic or demonstration. He just asserts. Consequently, the Reformed tradition has held onto all the pieces of Calvin’s unusually faulty logic found in Institutio [4.16.30]. More on that in a future post called “For a Brief Moment, Calvin Goes Insane.”
Here is Exodus 12.26, the offending verse, in context:
You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26And when your sons say to you, ‘What does this service mean to you?’ 27you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.'”
Calvin’s assertion cannot be substantiated from this passage. In fact, verse 24’s scope of command, and verse 27’s scope of historical backdrop both militate against this reading Calvin gives.
WHAT DOES THIS KIND OF QUESTION MEAN TO YOU?
The question of “your sons” is “What does this ritual mean to you?” Does this mean that the sons were on the outside looking in to the Passover, or does it imply an idealized question as an opportunity to institute a required explanation of the covenantal meaning of the meal?
This kind of “what meaning” question is not found in this passage alone. It is a regular format to the institution of covenant practices in the Torah, and this format of question is used regularly for God to give the right answers to the questions children will ask from within the covenant. Two examples we will see are these:
- The firstborn are redeemed, and later they ask why.
- Covenant children are bound by the Law of their God, and they ask what his Law means.
This example is great because it is right in the next chapter, Exodus 13:
11“When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, 12you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s.13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”
Exodus 13.11-16 (ESV)
The firstborn wants to know what the practice of the dedication of the firstborn means. His status as firstborn doesn’t wait on his question. His question is motivated by his participant status.
I have elided some of the verses here, but you can see the flow through this familiar passage. Notice that the law is successive (v.2), is didactic (v.3), and is going to be asked about from within (v.20):
1“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?‘ 21then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23Andhe brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’
The son asks about his FATHER’s law (v.20), but we have already heard throughout that the command is for father and for son.
There is plenty more to see, but the PDF takes care of showing other related examples.
The conclusion of this four-part series is still yet one post away. In this part (3), I have hopefully shown that
there is no textual reason to think that Ex 12.26 limits passover to adults,
the larger context sounds much more clearly like all eaters are included
the same kind of question acts in other passages in ways that contradict the use of Ex 12.26 for restriction
In short: Passover provokes children to question why we feast in THIS way. The answer is, because God was merciful to FAMILIES of COVENANT HOUSEHOLDS, the way he is merciful to our family during this meal today.
[Part 4] will show great and clear evidence that the whole family was called for in the Passover institution.
TO DOWNLOAD A PDF of this entire study click here: [What Does This Mean to You?]