Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Exodus 13:1-16 Observe the Passover, Consecrate the Firstborn

This is another one of those chapters which needs to be considered as a unit, for to split it up otherwise would negate some of the elements which tie it together.  For example, in this chapter, I see several smaller sections:

Verses 1-2 speak of how the firstborn belongs to the LORD.
Verses 3-10 speaks of the importance of  continuing to observe the Passover.
Verses 11-15 return to the theme of the firstborn and then...
Verse 16 seems to sum up that both of these actions (observing the Passover and consecrating the firstborn) will be perpetual reminders of how the LORD delivered the Israelites out of Egypt with a mighty hand.

Let's see what we can discover within these sections.

Verses 1-2
"The LORD said to Moses, 'Consecrate to me every firstborn male.
The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me,
whether man or animal.' "

Exodus 13:1-2 (NIV)
Exodus 13:1-2 is fairly straightforward:  Because the LORD had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he wanted them to consecrate to Him all the firstborn males of Israel.  The comment on Ex. 13:2 from the NIV Study Bible is instructive on this point:  "God had adopted Israel as his firstborn (see 4:22 and note) and had delivered every firstborn among the Israelites, whether man or animal, from the tenth plague (see 12:12-13).  All the firstborn of Israel were therefore his."

Verses 3-10
"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 Abib, 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 forefathers 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 the 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 (NIV)
Some observations:
  • Passover was to be celebrated in order to commemorate the day the LORD brought the Israelites out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  Note that this focuses on the might of the One who brought them out as well as the fact of their deliverance.
  • Five times (in five verses -- v.3-7) the prohibition against eating yeast during the Passover week is emphasized.
  • The Exodus took place in the month of Abib.  The Israelites were to celebrate the Passover in that month as well.
  • The observance of Passover would also be a reminder to the Israelites "that the law of the LORD is to be on your lips." (v.9)  The Israelites had obeyed the LORD regarding the Passover lamb, and the sprinkling of its blood upon the door-frames of their houses.  They had eaten the Passover dinner according to the LORD's directions and in a manner which symbolized their readiness to move out at the LORD's command.  Observance of the Passover would continue to be a reminder that they should practice continued obedience to the word of the LORD.  However, the emphasis is not on what they did, but on what the LORD did for them in delivering them out of Egypt.
  • The Passover was to be observed "...at the appointed time year after year".

Verses 11-15
"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 forefathers,
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 every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal.
The is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb
and redeem each of my firstborn sons.' "

Exodus 13:11-15 (NIV)

  • The LORD would certainly bring them into the land He had promised on oath to them and their forefathers.
  • The firstborn male of every womb, man or animal, belonged to the LORD.  The animals were to be sacrificed to the LORD, while the humans were to be redeemed.  The NIV Study Bible (pg.107) comment on v.13 notes: "Redeem...The verb means 'obtain release, often (as here) by means of payment."  It also notes that the donkeys were to be redeemed rather than sacrificed because they were considered an 'unclean' animal.  The sons of the Israelites were to be redeemed because, as the same NIV Study Bible indicates, "Humans were to be consecrated to the LORD by their life, not by their death." (Genesis 22:12, Numbers 3:39-51, Romans 12:1)
  • The Passover observance would provide the opportunity for the Israelites to tell the history of the Exodus to their children.

     Verse 16

    "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 13:16 (NIV)
    Finally, verse 16 repeats the fact that the observation of the Passover and the sacrifice/redemption of the firstborn males of Israel would be a reminder of the way that the LORD had brought them out of Egypt with his mighty hand.

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