Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,God commands all the first-born to be consecrated, Exodus 13:1,2. The day of their going forth out of Egypt to be had in remembrance, Exodus 13:3. The feast of unleavened bread to be kept in the land of Canaan, Exodus 13:5-10. The firstlings of beasts to be set apart for the Lord, Exodus 13:12. The reason of it, Exodus 13:15. The way God led them into the wilderness, Exodus 13:18. Moses carries Joseph’s bones out of Egypt, Exodus 13:19. Israel encampeth at Etham, Exodus 13:20. God conducteth them by a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, Exodus 13:21,22.
No text from Poole on this verse.
Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.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.
And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten.No text from Poole on this verse.
This day came ye out in the month Abib.See Exodus 12:2, in the spring-time, the most proper season for a long journey.
And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month.This service; which is spoken of before, and in the following verses. From this place it is evident the Israelites were not obliged to this service in the wilderness without a particular command from God. See Deu 12:1,9.
Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD.No text from Poole on this verse.
Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.No text from Poole on this verse.
And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.No text from Poole on this verse.
And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD'S law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt.The celebration of this feast shall be to thee instead of a mark which a man makes, or a ring, or any thing else which he puts upon his hand or arm, to bring any thing to his remembrance; for such things his eye is most frequently fixed upon. Compare Song of Solomon 8:6 Isaiah 49:16 Jeremiah 22:24 Haggai 2:23.
A memorial between thine eyes; instead of any monument or memorial, which is placed between, and therefore directly before a man’s eyes, which he can scarcely overlook, and therefore must needs bring to remembrance the thing which he would not forget. Such proverbial phrases are usual in Scripture, as Deu 6:8 Proverbs 3:3 6:21 7:3; and are not to be understood literally, as the superstitious Jews understood them, who hence derive their custom of wearing scrolls of parchment upon their foreheads, and arms, and garments, which they call phylacteries, wherein they wrote certain portions of Scripture. But they might as well have added parcels of God’s law to be kept in their mouths, because it follows,
that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth; from whence we may better infer that neither mouth, nor hand, nor eyes are to be properly understood, for then, it had been an improper method to fasten a parchment between their eyes, that it might be in their mouths; but figuratively, as they are commonly understood in Scripture.
Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.Heb. From days to days. But days in the Hebrew tongue are oft put for a complete year. Of which see Genesis 4:3 Leviticus 25:29 Amos 4:4.
And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee,The land of the Canaanites, under which general name all the other nations are contained, as being all the children of Canaan.
That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD'S.Thou shalt set apart, i. e. separate it from the rest, resign thy right in it to God. Heb.
Cause it to pass, not through the fire, as that verb is used, Deu 18:10 2 Kings 16:3; but under the rod, as it is used, and more fully expressed, Leviticus 27:32, which was the rite when any thing was separated and consecrated to God.
The males shall be the Lord’s, devoted to him, either to be sacrificed, if it was clean, or to be otherwise destroyed, if it was unclean, as it here follows.
And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.The ass was an unclean creature, and therefore this rule was to be observed in all other unclean creatures, as appears,
1. Because the reason of this law is common to all such.
2. By comparing this place with Numbers 18:15.
3. Because the first-born of all beasts were appropriated to God; and because many of them were unclean, and so could not be sacrificed, there was no other way of offering them to God, but by redemption, or a price paid for them. And the single exception of the price of a dog in this case, Deu 23:18, doth sufficiently intimate that the price of all other unclean creatures was allowed and required. The ass alone is here named for all the rest, because this creature was most common, and most useful, and yet was not to be spared; whence it was easy to infer, that this course was much rather to be observed in other creatures which were of less use.
Thou shalt break his neck; or, cut off his neck, or head, as the word is used, Deu 21:4 Isaiah 66:3; because being consecrated. to God, it was not to be applied to any profane or common use.
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:Which is added to teach parents in all succeeding ages, that it is their duty to instruct their children in the word and works of God, and in the nature and reasons of every particular kind or part of God’s worship and service. See Deu 15:5 Psalm 66:4 Hosea 2:14.
And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.No text from Poole on this verse.
And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt.For frontlets; instead of frontlets. The sense is, This practice shall make your deliverance from Egypt as fresh and evident to you, and to your children, as any thing which you see hanged or written upon one another’s foreheads. See Ezekiel 9:4. It seems strange to me, that they that understand the sign on the hand, and the memorial between the eyes, Exodus 13:9, metaphorically, should understand the
frontlets between the eyes in this place properly, seeing the phrase is perfectly the same; only here is a more particular allusion to the custom of the Egyptians, which used to wear some devices upon their foreheads, which probably they called totaphoth, which were memorials of their idols, or of something relating to them. And therefore it seems unlikely that he should here prescribe the use of the same things to the Jews; and the more probable meaning of the phrase is only this, that this practice would be as effectual and useful a remembrancer of this mighty and glorious work of God in bringing them out of Egypt, as those contrivances were to the Egyptians of their idols.
And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:The Philistines, a fierce and warlike people, whereof they had sad and late experience, 1 Chronicles 7:21.
That was near; there being this way but a few days’ journey between Egypt and Canaan. Peradventure: God speaks after the manner of men, for nothing was unknown nor uncertain to him. Though the Hebrew particle pen doth not always imply doubting, but ofttimes only signifies lest, as Genesis 3:3 38:23 Numbers 20:18.
When they see war; which they were likely to do, because the war would probably be long and hot, and their bodies were much weakened, and their spirits and courage broken, by a tedious and grievous bondage; and therefore it was fit that before they were called to such sharp conflicts, they should be hardened by the labours of a long and troublesome journey, and their faith should be strengthened by further experience of God’s power, and faithfulness, and goodness, and by the glorious appearance of God at Mount Sinai, and those commands, promises, and encouragements there given them. But though this which is here mentioned was one, yet it was not the only reason of his counsel, but there were other causes of it; the Egyptians were to be drowned in the sea, the Israelites to be further tried, Deu 8:2 and full measure to be allowed to the iniquity of the Amorites. And they return to Egypt; as afterwards they attempted to do, Num 15, upon a like occasion.
But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.Or, armed, or girt with swords and belts about the fifth rib, as the Hebrew word may imply. But it doth not appear how or whence they should get their arms, nor how the Egyptians would permit so numerous a people to have and to keep arms, especially when they had a long time oppressed and exasperated them, and made them desperate. It is true, some few of them might procure arms, but this word is here used concerning the whole body of them. Others render it by fives, five and five in a rank, that is, by a usual synecdoche, in military order, not doubtfully and fearfully, but confidently and courageously; not confusedly, as men that steal or run away, but in good order, so as one might not hinder another. Which interpretation is strengthened by comparing Joshua 1:14. It may be rendered girt, to wit, about the fifth rib, as the word implies, the place where men used to gird their garments, this being the usual posture for travellers: he implies that they went out resolved upon and prepared for their journey.
And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.The bones of Joseph, and the other patriarchs, as appears from Acts 7:16. The oath was taken only by the parents, but because the matter of it was not personal, and of particular concernment to them, but common to them and their children, therefore it obliged both the parents and their children, as Moses here signifieth.
And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:The Lord, the Son of God, whose presence and conduct the Israelites had in the wilderness, as appears from 1 Corinthians 10:4,9; compare Hebrews 11:26; who is sometimes called the Angel of the Lord, Exodus 14:19, because he was and was to be his Father’s Angel or Messenger, sent by God unto men to ratify his covenant with them; whence he is called the Angel of the covenant, Malachi 3:1, as he is upon another account called the Angel of his presence, Isaiah 63:9.
Went before them, not by local motion, but by his gracious and powerful operations for and about them. The pillar was but one, Numbers 9:15,16, having two different appearances and uses, of a cloud by day, to defend them from the heat, Psalm 105:39, which in those parts was excessive; and of a fire by night, to illuminate them. It was a cloud erected towards heaven, like a pillar upwards; but downwards flat and broad, spread over the body of the people, and afterwards more eminently over the tabernacle.
To lead them the way, which was altogether necessary in those vast and pathless deserts, Numbers 10:33 Deu 1:33.
He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.Whilst they continued in the wilderness, and had need of such direction.