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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 13

 

 

Verses 1-16

Exodus 13:1-16. Laws about Firstborn and Mazzoth: Exodus 13:1 f. P. Law of Firstborn.—Here all are sacred to Yahweh; in J (Exodus 13:12 f., Exodus 34:19 f.) and E (Exodus 22:29 f.) all males, the ass to be redeemed with a lamb; in D male firstlings of herd and flock, to constitute a sacrificial feast for the owner and his family at the sanctuary; in P (Numbers 18:15-18, cf. Leviticus 27:26 f. Ps) the firstborn of men and unclean beasts to be redeemed, of clean beasts to be sacrificed and eaten by the priests not the owner. Animal firstlings, as among other peoples, were sacrificed either simply in thankfulness for fruitfulness bestowed and expected, or with the further idea of sanctioning the use and enjoyment of later offspring. The sacredness of human firstborn (Exodus 12:29*, Exodus 22:29*, Numbers 3:11-13*) followed by analogy, or, as Driver supposes (CB, p. 409f.), as the unrecognised sequel of a long-forgotten primitive practice of the actual sacrifice of the firstborn, of which the discovery at Gezer of infants buried in jars is probable evidence. [J. G. Frazer, however, thinks that they were still-born or died soon after birth, and were preserved in this way by the parents in hope that they would be re-born. He points to the absence of signs that they had been put to death.—A. S. P.] An edifying justification of the custom was found in the sparing of Heb. firstborn at the Exodus. Modern study of the mysteries of heredity has lent new ground for attaching sacredness to the birth which proves the due transmission of the capacity for parentage to the individual mother. And if the first is reckoned sacred, it is not so likely that later births will be counted common. Christian tradition from the earliest times loved to tell of the Presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple, not without symbolic sacrifice (Luke 2:23). The late idea that the Levites replaced the firstborn is found in Numbers 3:11-18*.

Exodus 13:3-10 J (Rd). Law of Mazzoth (Exodus 13:3 Rd, Exodus 13:4 J, Exodus 13:5 Rd, Exodus 13:6 J Exodus 13:7-9 Rd, Exodus 13:10 J).—Hardly any legislation can be traced to J beyond the little code in Exodus 34:14-28 which prescribes (Exodus 13:18 a) the observance of Mazzoth. But it appears that this and the next paragraph in the main belong to J, and are reproduced here to enforce their historical connexions. The verses assigned above to Rd show marks of the school of D. Possibly in part they may be due to Rje, a precursor of D. Points of comparison with P are:—the old Canaanitish name for the first month, "Abib," i.e. the month of the fresh young ears (Leviticus 2:14 Heb.); the hâg or pilgrimage on the seventh not the first day; no "holy convocations" with enforced rest. "This day ye go forth" (Exodus 13:4 J) applies to the day of the Exodus: "Remember this day" (Exodus 13:3 Rd) enforces the later observance. For the terms of the promise and the oath in Exodus 13:5, see Exodus 3:8* and Genesis 24:7*, and for the stress on instruction in Exodus 13:8-14 see Exodus 12:26*. The restriction to unleavened bread was (Exodus 13:9) to be an equivalent of the pagan practices of branding or tattooing some sacred mark on the body as a charm, or wearing some badge on the forehead (cf. p. 110, and Driver, CB). In Exodus 13:9 there is a mixture of the styles of D and P which suggests a late editor. The Heb. of Exodus 13:10 is characteristically different from Exodus 12:24.

Exodus 13:11-16 J (Rd). Law of Firstborn (Exodus 13:11-13 J, Exodus 13:14-16 Rd).—On Exodus 13:11 f. see Exodus 13:3-10*. The ass, as unclean, could neither be eaten nor sacrificed (contrast Judges 6:4*): so its firstling must be redeemed by a lamb, less valuable, while Leviticus 27:7 prescribes a higher scale, and makes the rule general, "if it be an unclean beast." Obedience to this law also was to serve (Exodus 13:16) for a badge (cf. Exodus 13:9) and for "frontlets" (cf. Deuteronomy 6:8*).


Verses 17-20

Exodus 13:17-20. Route of the Exodus (Exodus 13:17-19 E, Exodus 13:20 P).—The religious insight of the writer ("God led the people") is sounder than his knowledge of history: the Philistines' presence cannot have been the reason for avoiding the usual and shortest route, the N. or coast road, for they were immigrants of a later date (p. 56, Amos 9:7*). The choice of the more easterly route, of the two now as then most practicable, probably arose from the aim to reach Kadesh. The host went "by the way to the (Egyptian) wilderness to the Red Sea"—better "Reed-sea," as Luther. The N.W. arm then probably extended from Suez into Lake Timsâh, which grows reeds, which are not now found in the salt Red Sea. (On the route see further p. 64.) It is not certain that the rare Heb. (Exodus 13:18 b) is rightly rendered "armed"; "in ordered ranks" is perhaps better. For Exodus 13:19 see Genesis 50:25. In Exodus 13:20 we first meet the formula with which the stages of the journey are described in P (cf. Numbers 33:5-49, etc.). Etham may best be placed near Ismailia, N. of L. Timsâh.


Verse 21

Exodus 13:21 f. J. The Guiding Pillar.—Faith in the Divine guidance (cf. Exodus 13:17* E) is by J expressed in symbolic form. On a wilderness journey everyone needs a guide. By night and day the unsleeping keeper of Israel leads them with His pillar of fiery cloud. E, who connects guidance with "the angel of God" (Exodus 14:19 a), also tells of a "pillar of cloud" (Exodus 33:9 f., etc.) which descends to the door of the sacred tent, as the sacramental sign and pledge of Yahweh's approach to speak with Moses. In P the fiery cloud that had shrouded Sinai, the mount of vision (Exodus 24:15-18 a), rests on the completed Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38), and its rising is the signal for resuming the march. That God's people should achieve faith in God's presence with them as Guide, Revealer, and Protector was the essential thing. Under what specific aspect and through what particular symbol they expressed their faith at different times it is less important to know. Possibly some practice, like the carrying of a brazier with its smoke and flame at the head of a Greek or Persian army or Arab caravan, was the outward and visible source of the symbolic expressions. Gressmann picturesquely compares the appearance of Vesuvius in eruption in 1905, furnishing a landmark by day and night with its smoke and fire. Presumably he believes Mt. Sinai to have been an active volcano on the horizon (cf. next paragraph).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 13:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/exodus-13.html. 1919.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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