Exodus 13:2
Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XIII.

SANCTIFICATION OF THE FIRSTBORN, AND LAW OF REDEMPTION.

(2) Sanctify unto me all the firstborn.—It was a reasonable demand that the existing firstborn of Israel, spared by God when the Egyptian firstborn were destroyed, should be regarded thenceforth as His, and set apart for His service. The extension of the demand to existing beasts was also reasonable, since they too had been spared. God’s further requirement, that henceforth all the future firstborn should also be His, was intended to perpetuate the memory of the recent deliverance, and to help to fix it in the mind of the nation. The substitution of a redemption in the case of unclean beasts was necessitated by the circumstances of the case, since they could not be sacrificed; and the redemption of the firstborn sons naturally followed when the Levitical priesthood was established, and their services were no longer necessary. (See Numbers 3:40-51; Numbers 18:16.) The Jews still observe the ordinance, so far as the children are concerned, and redeem the son which has “opened the womb” on the thirtieth day after the birth.

Exodus 13:2. Sanctify — That is, command all the people to sanctify; unto me — To my use and service, in a manner I shall hereafter explain; all the firstborn — That are males, as the command is limited, Exodus 13:12; whatsoever openeth the womb — That is, every child which is the firstborn of his mother: so that if a man had many wives, either together or successively, his first child by every one of these was a firstborn, and, if a male, was claimed by the Lord. But if a female came first, and afterward a male, that male was not devoted to God, because it was not the firstborn. Hence the parents were not to look upon themselves as having an interest in their firstborn, if males, till they had first solemnly presented them to God, and received them back from him again. It is mine — By special right and title, as being by singular favour preserved from the common destruction. The firstborn of man, if males, were claimed for the sacred ministrations of the priestly office. But after the Jewish commonwealth was formed, the Levites were chosen to officiate in their stead, Numbers 3:12; and the firstborn were to be redeemed at a certain rate, which was part of the priest’s maintenance, Numbers 18:15-16. And of beast — Which was to be offered to God, if a male: only an ass was to be redeemed.

13:1-10 In remembrance of the destruction of the first-born of Egypt, both of man and of beast, and the deliverance of the Israelites out of bondage, the first-born males of the Israelites were set apart to the Lord. By this was set before them, that their lives were preserved through the ransom of the atonement, which in due time was to be made for sin. They were also to consider their lives, thus ransomed from death, as now to be consecrated to the service of God. The parents were not to look upon themselves as having any right in their first-born, till they solemnly presented them to God, and allowed his title to them. That which is, by special mercy, spared to us, should be applied to God's honour; at least, some grateful acknowledgment, in works of piety and charity, should be made. The remembrance of their coming out of Egypt must be kept up every year. The day of Christ's resurrection is to be remembered, for in it we were raised up with Christ out of death's house of bondage. The Scripture tells us not expressly what day of the year Christ rose, but it states particularly what day of the week it was; as the more valuable deliverance, it should be remembered weekly. The Israelites must keep the feast of unleavened bread. Under the gospel, we must not only remember Christ, but observe his holy supper. Do this in remembrance of him. Also care must be taken to teach children the knowledge of God. Here is an old law for catechising. It is of great use to acquaint children betimes with the histories of the Bible. And those who have God's law in their heart should have it in their mouth, and often speak of it, to affect themselves, and to teach others.Sanctify unto me - The command is addressed to Moses. It was to declare the will of God that all firstborn were to be consecrated to Him, set apart from all other creatures. The command is expressly based upon the Passover. The firstborn exempt from the destruction became in a new and special sense the exclusive property of the Lord: the firstborn of man as His ministers, the firstborn of cattle as victims. In lieu of the firstborn of men the Levites were devoted to the temple services. 2. Sanctify unto me all the first-born—To "sanctify" means to "consecrate," to "set apart" from a common to a sacred use. The foundation of this duty rested on the fact that the Israelites, having had their first-born preserved by a distinguishing act of grace from the general destruction that overtook the families of the Egyptians, were bound in token of gratitude to consider them as the Lord's peculiar property (compare Heb 12:23). Sanctify unto me, to my use and service, in manner as I shall hereafter explain. And sanctify, i.e. command all the people to sanctify, as Moses did, Exodus 13:12.

All the first-born, viz. if they be males, as it is limited, Exodus 13:12.

Whatsoever openeth the womb; every child which is the first-born of his mother: so that if a man had many wives, either together or successively, his first child by every one of these was a first-born. Whether clean or unclean, though in different manner; whereof see Numbers 18:13,15,17. It is mine, by special right and title; as being by my singular care and favour preserved from the common destruction, and therefore I challenge a peculiar interest in them, and do hereby require that they be devoted to me.

Sanctify unto me all the firstborn,.... That is, of males, as the Targum of Jonathan adds, for those, and not females, were only either sacrificed or redeemed, see Exodus 13:12, and this sanctification of them to the Lord signifies the separation or devoting of them to the service of God; if the firstborn of clean creatures they were to be sacrificed, if unclean to be redeemed with a price, and so the firstborn of men, because it was not lawful to sacrifice them; and the money for the redemption of them was given to the priests, the ministers of the Lord, and so to him; who these first, born were is further explained:

whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast; that is, if a male; for, if a female, though it openeth the womb, was not reckoned a firstborn, because not to be offered; nor even a male after the birth of a female, because that openeth not the womb; and so if a man married a widow, and she had had children by her former husband, though she should bring him a son, which was his firstborn, yet not being her's, and not opening the womb, was not subject to this law; but if a man married several wives one after another, or together, who had never been married before, or had had no children; if each of them brought him a son at first birth, they were all of them firstborn, and to be sanctified to the Lord; but the Jews say (u), if a woman at her first birth brought forth a male and a female, the father was free from this law of the redemption of the firstborn, because the female might come forth first: this phrase, "among the children of Israel", shows that this law only belonged to them, and not to the Gentiles; wherefore the Jewish doctors say (w), if a man buys cattle of an Heathen, and sells to him, or is in partnership with him, and gives and takes of him, he is free from the law of the firstborn; for it is said "among the Israelites", and not among others:

it is mine: all creatures, man and beast, are the Lord's by creation; but these firstborn were his in a peculiar manner, and which he reserved to himself, to his own use and service; and the people of Israel were under great obligation to devote them to him, since he had spared all their firstborn, when all the firstborn of the Egyptians, both man and beast, were destroyed: this may denote the special and peculiar interest the Lord has in the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven, through the special, particular, and eternal choice of them in Christ, and the redemption of them to him by the price of his blood; and who, on account both of their election of God, and redemption by Christ, are laid under obligation to give up themselves to God, a holy, living, and acceptable sacrifice, which is but their reasonable service.

(u) Misn. Becorot, c. 8. sect. 4, 5. & Bartenora in ib. (w) lbid. c. 2. sect. 1.

Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. whatsoever openeth] i.e. first openeth; Heb. péṭer, a technical term: so vv. 12, 13 ("" Exodus 34:19-20), 15; Numbers 3:12; Numbers 8:16; Numbers 18:15; Ezekiel 20:26†. The law is cited (but not verbally) in Luke 2:23.

Verse 2. - Sanctify unto me. Not by any positive ceremony, but by regarding it as "set apart unto the Lord" (verse 12) - made over to him, that is, as his own. All the first-born. The Hebrew word used is masculine, and by its proper force limits the command to the first-born males, who alone had been in danger from the tenth plague. Whatever openeth the womb. This clause added definiteness, showing that "first-born" did not contain any reference to any later Birth, and that it applied to every case where a woman's first child was a male. It is mine. Or, "it shall be mine." I claim it. Exodus 13:2Every first-born of man and beast was to be sanctified to Jehovah, i.e., given up to Him for His service. As the expression, "all the first-born," applied to both man and beast, the explanation is added, "everything that opens the womb among the Israelites, of man and beast." כּל־רחם פּטר for רחם כּל־פּטת (Exodus 13:12): כּל is placed like an adjective after the noun, as in Numbers 8:16, כּל בּכור for בּכור־כּל, διανοῖγον πᾶσαν μήτραν for πᾶν διανοῖγον μήτραν (Exodus 13:12, lxx). הוּא לי: "it is Mine," it belongs to Me. This right to the first-born was not founded upon the fact, that "Jehovah was the Lord and Creator of all things, and as every created object owed its life to Him, to Him should its life be entirely devoted," as Kurtz maintains, though without scriptural proof; but in Numbers 3:13 and Numbers 8:17 the ground of the claim is expressly mentioned, viz., that on the day when Jehovah smote all the first-born of Egypt, He sanctified to Himself all the first-born of the Israelites, both of man and beast. Hence the sanctification of the first-born rested not upon the deliverance of the first-born sons from the stroke of the destroyer through the atoning blood of the paschal lamb, but upon the fact that God sanctified them for Himself at that time, and therefore delivered them. But Jehovah sanctified the first-born of Israel to Himself by adopting Israel as His first-born son (Exodus 4:22), or as His possession. Because Israel had been chosen as the nation of Jehovah, its first-born of man and beast were spared, and for that reason they were henceforth to be sanctified to Jehovah. In what way, is more clearly defined in Numbers 8:12.
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