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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 13

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verses 14-17


‘And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage,’ etc.

Exodus 13:14-17

The Book of Exodus introduces that new epoch in the scriptural history of sacrifices when they began to be regulated by fixed laws, to be part of a national economy.

I. The offering of the firstborn was the dedication and consecration of the whole Jewish nation.—The firstborn represented its strength, its vitality, its endurance. This act signified that its strength lay only in its dependence on God’s strength, that its vitality came from the life which is in Him, that it would endure from generation to generation, because He is the same and His years fail not.

The calling of the Israelites was the calling to confess a Redeemer of Israel, a righteous Being who had brought out their fathers from the house of bondage.

II. Moses taught the people to look upon themselves as beings surrendered and sacrificed to the God of truth, the Deliverer of men, by feeling that they held all the powers of their minds and bodies as instruments for the great work in which He is engaged. Thus they might be a nation indeed, one which would be a pattern to the nations, one which, in due time, would break the chains which bound them to visible and invisible oppressors.

III. When once we understand that we are witnesses for God. and do His work, self-sacrifice can never be an ambitious thing—a fine way to get the reputation of saints or the rewards of another world. It will be regarded as the true ground of all action; that on which all the blessed relations of life stand; that which is at the same time the only impulse to and security for the hard and rough work of the world.

Rev. F. D. Maurice.


(1) ‘The firstborn had been specially saved, and so were specially God’s. On them was branded the one brief word, “Mine.” What a lesson for us all, who have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ! We are His by right of purchase, and we must be His in choice and life, and sanctified by His own indwelling and possession. And when we have taken up this position with respect to God, we may count on His strong Hand.’

(2) ‘The first thing was to teach Israel obedience. This was done by the strict rules connected with Passover. They were taught in most appalling manner that they who obeyed to the letter were safe, but all the firstborn in Egypt not sheltered beneath the Blood were dead men. After this, all were very particular to obey orders, “they went up harnessed” (marg., “by five in a rank”), already orderly and under command.’

Verse 18


‘But God led the people about.’

Exodus 13:18

In the song of Moses we are reminded that God led His people about, instructed them, and kept them as the apple of His eye ( Deuteronomy 32:10); and in this we have a beautiful example of His tender consideration for His own. ‘He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.’

I. There were two routes to Canaan, the nearest of which was through the land of the Philistines; but to take that way would have exposed the people to the very sights that so abashed ten out of the twelve spies. They would have seen war (see Numbers 13:33). The Philistines might even have come out against them in embattled array, and have forbidden them to pass through their territories, as afterward Edom did ( Numbers 20:18-20). This would have had the effect of discouraging and driving them back, and it would not have been wise to expose them to such an ordeal, so soon after their first start on their pilgrim-way.

II. Thus God deals with us still.—He tempers the wind to the shorn lamb. He has many things to say, but refrains until we are well able to bear them. He does not lead us directly and swiftly to the goal of our quest and His promise, but takes a long and circuitous route.

III. Patience and faith are severely tested, but we realise, as we look back, that we were being saved from sights and sounds which would have been too much for us. Besides, there are many and varied lessons which can only be learnt by the wilderness-route. There we are humbled, proved, and taught; we learn that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word of God; we discover the immeasurable extent of the Divine resources by which we are succoured and enriched.


(1) ‘God leads none of us by the rapid and easy path to knowledge, fortune, or happiness. The short way might bring us to rest and glory sooner, but the rest would relax and the glory blind us. We travel by a longer, harder path; that muscle may be disciplined by toil, courage assured by conquest and self-government, studied in many a season of shame and pain. Then the crown will fit us, rest will be calm and noble activity, and glory we shall wear like kings.’

(2) ‘We must not expect to have a swift and easy course to the home of our souls. God still leads His people about. Often in life there comes a tedious waiting time; we are prevented from going straight forward; it is evident that some obstruction has been permitted to divert our course. At such times let us believe still in His leading, only that He has some special reason which we may not at the time apprehend. Perhaps there are lessons to learn, experience to acquire, strength to gain by the wilderness march, which will more than compensate for the further delay. But whatever comes, let us follow the pillar of cloud by day, and rest beneath the brooding pavilion of the glowing pillar of fire by night.’

(3) ‘They went at first eastward, towards Palestine, then were turned to the south till they encamped before Pihahiroth. This was the beginning of many such marches to and fro, seemingly purposeless, but necessary to make warriors of them.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Exodus 13". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/exodus-13.html. 1876.
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