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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 13

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-2


Verses 1, 2:

"Sanctify" qadesh, "separate, or set apart." Jehovah instructed Moses to "set short" all first-born in Israel as belonging exclusively to Him. This was not done by a formal ceremony, but by declaring it to be so in all future generations.

The first-born of all domestic animals were the Lord’s own, to be offered to Him in sacrifice. But unclean animals, which might not be offered, were to be redeemed by a ransom payment, v. 13. The first-born of the people were likewise to be redeemed, vv. 13, 15. The exact method of redemption was settled later, see Nu 3:40-51; 18:16.

Verses 3-4

Verses 3, 4:

"This day" is the first day of Israel’s journey out of Egypt. It was to be a perpetual remembrance to Israel, as the day in which Jehovah delivered them "by strength of hand," or by His powerful protection."

Verse 4 is the first mention of the name of the month in which Israel was delivered: the month Abib. The name means "greenness," indicating that it was in the Spring.

Verses 5-7

Verses 5-7:

Compare v. 5 with 3:8, 17, which lists six nations in the Land of Canaan. The present list omits the Perizzites, perhaps because they were less important than the others.

The command to "keep this service" is a repetition of Ex 12:25.

The future observance of the Passover was to cover seven days, see Ex 12:15, 16; Le 23:6-8. The first and last days of this week, were to be especially holy.

Repetition is a favorite method of teaching. Doubtless this made a lasting impression as to the importance of the Passover rite.

Verses 8-10

Verses 8-10:

Verse 8 is a repetition of Ex 12:26, 27. It stresses the importance of parental instruction to children. This principle was later incorporated into the Law, De 6:4-13, regarding not only the Passover, but all the Law.

This is a valid principle today. It is the responsibility of parents, particularly of fathers, to instruct their children in the Word and way of the Lord, see Eph 6:4. Too many attempt to shift this responsibility to the schools, the church, the government - and then are dismayed when their children do not learn moral values.

Compare v. 10 with Ex 12:14, 24.

Verses 11-13

Verses 11-13:

This is the "law of the firstborn," introduced in v. 2.

"Set apart" (v. 12) is especially fitting for animals, as a provision to assure the firstborn would not be mixed with the others of the flocks or herds.

The "ass" was the only beast of burden the Israelites took with them out of Egypt, see Ex 20:17. Camels were used only rarely among the Egyptians. Horses were exclusively used in warfare. The ass was an unclean animal and might not be offered as sacrifice to Jehovah. The firstborn male ass must be redeemed by the offering of a lamb. If not, then the animal’s neck must be broken. There would be monetary loss if one refused to redeem the ass.

Every firstborn male son of Israel was to be redeemed by a certain ransom payment. Verse 13 does not specify what this payment would be; that was set later, Nu 3:47, as five shekels of the sanctuary.

Verses 14-16

Verses 14-16:

Compare verse 14 with Ex 12:26. This is the explanation of the law of the firstborn, and how this was to be taught to future generations.

Pharaoh would hardly let us go" is literally, "Pharaoh hardened himself so as not to let us go:" Following the ninth plague, Pharaoh flatly refused Moses’ request to let Israel go with their cattle. And Moses flatly refused to go without them.

"Token" oth, "sign," something openly manifest.

"Frontlet" totaphoth, from tuph, "to bind." This refers to something bound on the forehead or arm, particularly phylacteries. These were prayer bands consisting of passages from the Law (Ex 13:1-16; De 6:4-9; 11:13; 21), which were placed in small leather cases and fastened to the left arm and/or forehead. They were worn by all male Israelites during morning prayer, except on the Sabbath and special religious observances.

The "frontlet" on the head denoted that this was to be remembered, in the mind. On the hand or arm denoted the strength of Jehovah which delivered Israel from Egypt.

Verses 17-19

Verses 17-19:

The shortest, most logical route from Egypt to Palestine lay along the Mediterranean sea-coast. One traveling from Tanis to Palestine would travel almost due east to Pelusium, then to Rhinocolura, and along the coast to Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ashdod. The marsh region between Tanis and Pelusium was, during the 18th and 19th Dynasties, surmounted with an embankment causeway connecting the two cities.

God chose not to lead Israel by the shortest, most common route. He led them by a circular route, south from Tanis then east, through the Sinai Peninsula. The purpose: Israel was newly-freed people, ill-equipped for the fighting they would encounter. They had no codified system of law by which they were regulated. They must learn the necessary military skills, become hardened by the travels and trials encountered in the Sinai; and most important, they must have a law to regulate their government and society. All they experienced in the Sinai would be useful in their preparation to possess the Land. And this could only be gained by the time spent in the desert.

This illustrates God’s leadership today. He may not always lead in the way that seems logical to men, see Isa 55:8, 9. But He always leads in the way that is best for His obedient child.

"Harnessed" chamusim, the only occurrence of this Hebrew word in the Old Testament. It means "girded," or "armored." A military term, it suggests that Israel’s march was in military order. The term is related to khamesh, "five," which suggests that in the initial march, the people were divided into five groups

Moses fulfilled the last request which Joseph made years earlier, cf. Ge 50:25, 26. The coffin carrying Joseph’s remains accompanied Israel on their journey from Egypt to the Land of Promise.

Verses 20-22

Verses 20-22:

The present sites of Succoth and Etham are uncertain. Etham was the rendezvous point at "the ege of the wilderness," a place dividing Egypt from the Sinai.

Jehovah provided a means by which He would lead Israel on their journey. By day, He led with a "pillar of cloud." This cloud remained with them throughout their wilderness journey. By night, the cloud became a "pillar of fire." The Orientals often traveled at night, to avoid the scorching heat of the day.

The cloud by day and fire by night typify the leadership of the Holy Spirit, in the life of God’s child today.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 13". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-13.html. 1985.
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