Exodus 13


‘The LORD said to Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.” Exodus 13:1-2

Consecration Of The Firstborn

Just like the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, the consecration of the Firstborn was to be a memorial which was passed down from generation to generation. Remember that Israel was God’s firstborn, Exodus 4:22.

It was God who sent the plague of the firstborn against Egypt, and now God claims the firstborn for Himself. Because God had spared the firstborns of His people, He now wants His people to take on the responsibility of dedicating their firstborn male children or animals to Him. The firstborn now belonged to God, He owned them.

‘Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast. Today, in the month of Aviv, you are leaving. When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony in this month: For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to the LORD. Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the LORD is to be on your lips. For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.’ Exodus 13:3-10

The day Israel came out of Egypt, was a day of freedom and was to be celebrated, Exodus 12:14-20. This was the month of Aviv, the commands we read here are the same as we find back in Exodus 12:26-27.

Notice that this day and celebration was to be a ‘sign’, it was a sign to remind them of how God miraculously freed them from Egypt. This was all about what God had done, not what they had done because without God and His power they would still be slaves in Egypt.

Notice God says, ‘this observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the LORD is to be on your lips.’ In other words, God wanted the deliverance from Egypt to be constantly at hand and before their eyes.

The Jews used this passage to institute the practice of the wearing of phylacteries, small boxes holding parchment with Scriptures on them, held to the forehead or hand with leather straps, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 / Deuteronomy 11:13-21 / Matthew 23:5.

‘After the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your ancestors, you are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the LORD. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons. “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.” Exodus 13:11-16

The giving of the firstborn was to happen when they reached the promised land. However, not only were all the firstborn males of Israel to be given to the Lord but so were all the firstborn animals. The firstborn animals were to be given to the Lord as a sacrifice.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following concerning the Canaanites.

‘In the land of the Canaanites there actually were six races of those peoples supplanted by Israel, but in Exodus 13:5, only five were listed, the Perizzites, a minor group, being omitted. Here, they were all referred to as Canaanites, there being, in fact, some thirty-two nations or petty-states included in the general designation.’

The words, ‘give over’ literally mean to pass over to the Lord. It’s the same word used to describe Canaanite practices of sacrificing children to their gods, 1 Kings 16:3 / Ezekiel 20:31. It’s possible that the Lord deliberately used this word to mark the distinction between this dedication and that of the Canaanites.

Notice if the firstborn was unacceptable to sacrifice, that is an unclean animal or a human, then a substitute was offered to redeem the firstborn from God. If the firstborn was an animal, the substitute was a clean animal and if the firstborn was a human, the substitute was money.

Notice again the words, ‘it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead.’ These Scriptures were to be remembered concerning Israel’s deliverance. Other Scriptures were also written and placed in the phylacteries, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 / Deuteronomy 11:13-21.

‘When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.” After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.’ Exodus 13:17-22

Notice if God had taken them directly through the Philistine country, the journey would have taken two weeks, but God decided to take them the longer route.

The reason is simple, if they had gone through the Philistine’s land they would have encountered Philistine warriors and because the Israelites were not trained for warfare, they would have suffered at the hands of the Philistines and wanted to return to Egypt.

This is the reason why God took them to south Mount Sinai, God never allows us to face more than we are able to bear, He knows exactly what we can and what we can’t handle, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

No one knows what the Red Sea is called such, some believe the waters turned red from microscopic life, others believe it was because of the shells on the shore, or the rocks may have been red. Others believe it is because of the reflection of the setting sun turned the waters red in appearance.

The word ‘ready’ or ‘armed’ as the KJV translates it, literally means harnessed, the idea is that they were all organised, around three million of them, were organised in coming out of Egypt.

Joseph had been mummified after his death, Genesis 50:25-26, and his body has been in Egypt for four hundred years up to this point, and so the Israelites took his body to bury him in Canaan, Joshua 24:32.

We should remember that not only were the remains of Joseph taken from Egypt to be buried in Canaan but so were the remains of the patriarchs taken and buried in Canaan, Acts 7:10.

Sukkoth was the first camping place of the children of Israel when they left Egypt and the word itself means ‘booths’ or ‘huts’. This is where the children of Israel set up their temporary dwellings, which they lived in until they came to the Promised Land.

Apparently, the cloud appeared and began leading them to the camp called ‘Etham’. This must have been a phenomenal sight to behold as this cloud suddenly appears at the front of the camp.

Granted clouds are normal occurrences, they are everywhere but a cloud that is vertical in shape and a cloud that moves in front of you. A cloud that then transforms into a fiery light at night would have been amazing to witness. And it must have been large enough so that everyone travelling could see what direction to go, Psalm 84:11 / Psalms 105:39.

And when it came to night-time, the fire was so bright, it enabled the travellers to continue travelling even after the sun had set. This pillar led the children of Israel toward the Red Sea in that first week when they were eating ‘unleavened bread.’

But, as we shall see in the next chapter, Pharaoh will have a change of heart about letting Israel leave and dispatched his chariots to turn them back.

They caught up with them at the Red Sea but then the pillar did something truly unexpected. The pillar moved to defend them, positioning itself between the Egyptians and Israel, Exodus 14:19-20. The cloud and fire were constant reminders that God was with them.

Go To Exodus 14