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GOD'S CLAIMS ON THE FIRSTBORN
Rather than God's allowing the people to rush to get out of the borders of Egypt, He calmly insists first on His own claims over Israel. Only in verse 20 of this chapter do we see them leaving Succoth. The Lord calls upon Moses to "sanctify" or "set apart" all the firstborn of Israel and all the firstborn of their domestic animals. It was of course the firstborn who had been preserved by virtue of the blood of the lamb. God claimed these, for even by creation He has rights as regards the first, and this is all the more emphasized by redemption.
THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
When Moses speaks to the people, he introduces the subject of the setting apart of the firstborn by first giving instructions as to the feast of unleavened bread. Israel was to remember this day in which they were redeemed from the bondage of Egypt by the power of the hand of God. Then he first of all strongly forbids them to eat leaven (or yeast) during the seven days of the feast (v.3). This seven days is symbolical of our complete Christian life. For leaven is corrupting, a little of it leavening the whole lump (Galatians 5:9), so that it symbolizes sin. In the sacrifice of Christ (Typified by the Passover) sin has been fully judged, and we today are to recognize this by honestly judging any sin in our own lives, keeping the feast "not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). This keeping the feast refers to our whole life, but has special significance in regard to the Lord's supper.
On this day they were going out in the month Abib (v.4), and when eventually the Lord would bring them into the land He had promised, they were to keep this service of the Passover in the same month every year. In verses 6 and 7 it is doubly insisted again that leaven must be excluded from their homes during the seven days of the Passover observance. On the seventh day there was to be a feast to the Lord. This is written for our admonition. On the negative side, sin is to be excluded; on the positive side, the Lord is to be honored.
This was also to be passed on from generation to generation, the children being well informed of the power and grace of God in bringing Israel out of Egypt's bondage (v.8), just as children of believers today should be taught diligently of the grace and power of God in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, by which we have been delivered from all the bondage of the enemy.
The feast of unleavened bread was to be a sign to them also (v.9), which would (1) affect their hands, that is, it would have an influence over their thoughts; and (2) would be a memorial between their eyes, influencing all their thoughts. (3) that the Lord's law should be in their mouth, all this is also when we rightly regard the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus! For in this we see the strength of the hand of God. For this reason we too are to keep a feast of remembrance to the Lord at its proper time (v.10).
THE FIRSTBORN SET APART
Not only, as in verse 1 and 3, were the firstborn in Israel to be set apart at the time of Israel's liberation from Egypt, but when the Lord brought them into Canaan the same sanctification was required. Animals are mentioned first; every firstborn male was to be the Lord's. The clean animals would be offered in sacrifice to Him but not so the unclean animals. They could be redeemed by the sacrifice of a clean animal.
A donkey is specifically mentioned in verse 13. It could be redeemed by the sacrifice of a lamb, but if its owner would not redeem it, he must break its neck. What a striking picture of the need of man's redemption! For man is unclean by reason of sin, and is likened to the colt of a wild donkey in Job 11:12. If he is not redeemed, then his neck (speaking of his stubborn resistance) must be broken. Therefore in this same verse (13) it is insisted, "All the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem."
Again (v.14-15) it is to be impressed upon the people that their children are to be informed fully of the strength of the Lord's hand in delivering Israel out of Egypt, and that in this deliverance the firstborn in Egypt had been killed, both of men and animals. "Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem." They were not merely to tell their sons about God's deliverance, but in the constant observance of sacrifice to impress upon them the reality and importance of this deliverance.
This redemption of the firstborn was to be a sign, first, upon their hand, that is, having an effect upon the works of their hands; and secondly, as frontlets between their eyes, that is, always kept before their minds. Thus too, our redemption by the sacrifice of Christ is to always affect the way we act and the way we think.
GOD'S SOVEREIGN LEADING OF ISRAEL
When God begins a work He will finish it. This was true for Israel, as it is in the case of every person who is born anew. He would not leave Israel to their own resources as to finding their way to the land of Canaan. He will always lead in the right way. Naturally Israel might have taken the shortest and easiest route to Canaan, but God knew that they would have to encounter enemies, and if seeing war too soon, they might only think of retreating to Egypt (v.17). Just as with Israel, there is another type of enemy we must face before we face the enmity of the world's opposition. Israel must face this enemy at the Red Sea, that is, the enmity of sin in their own hearts. Therefore God led them directly to the banks of the Red Sea, where they would never have gone if He had left them to their own wisdom. Also, with God leading their ranks were kept in order (v.18).
The bones of Joseph were also taken with them, as he had long before commanded. As a sufferer before reigning, he was a type of Christ, and the reminder of Joseph and his history was to remain with Israel for all their wilderness journey. The significance of this for this for us is explained in2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 4:10: "Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our mortal flesh."
Leaving Succoth, They are led by a supernatural manifestation of God's presence, a pillar during the day and a pillar of fire by night. They would not see beyond the cloud nor beyond the pillar of fire, but they were simply called upon to follow. Thus faith is to realize that we do not need to know what may await us even at the end of a day, but to simply follow the evident leading of the Lord at the present time. He will take care of all that may be future. How good if we remain at peace in the confidence of His leading us rightly. Both of these pillars ought to have filled the people with joy in knowing God's perfect care for them.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 13". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany