And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
The Book of Exodus introduces that new epoch in the scriptural history of sacrifices when they began to be regulated by fixed laws, to be part of a national economy.
I. The offering of the firstborn was the dedication and consecration of the whole Jewish nation. The firstborn represented its strength, its vitality, its endurance. This act signified that its strength lay only in its dependence on God's strength, that its vitality came from the life which is in Him, that it would endure from generation to generation, because He is the same and His years fail not.
The calling of the Israelites was the calling to confess a Redeemer of Israel, a righteous Being who had brought out their fathers from the house of bondage.
II. Moses taught the people that by looking upon themselves as beings surrendered and sacrificed to the God of truth, the Deliverer of men, by feeling that they held all the powers of their minds and bodies as instruments for the great work in which He is engaged,—thus they might be a nation indeed, one which would be a pattern to the nations, one which, in due time, would break the chains which bound them to visible and invisible oppressors.
III. When once we understand that we are witnesses for God, and do His work, self-sacrifice can never be an ambitious thing—a fine way to get the reputation of saints or the rewards of another world. It will be regarded as the true ground of all action; that on which all the blessed relations of life stand; that which is at the same time the only impulse to and security for the hard and rough work of the world.
F. D. Maurice, The Doctrine of Sacrifice deduced from the Scriptures, p. 49.
References: Exodus 13:17, Exodus 13:18.—J. Jackson Wray, Light from the Old Lamp, p. 83; W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 184; G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 6. Exodus 13:17-19.—Parker, vol. ii., p. 316. 13:17-14:4.—Expositor, 2nd series, vol. vi., p. 448.
Exodus 13:18These words expound to us a whole philosophy of life. The way of the wilderness has become a household word in Christendom, and this decision of Jehovah is the proclamation of the law of man's earthly life. God leads none of us by the rapid and easy path to knowledge, fortune, or happiness. The short way might bring us to rest and glory sooner, but the rest would relax and the glory blind us. We travel by a longer, harder path; that muscle may be disciplined by toil, courage assured by conquest and self-government, studied in many a season of shame and pain. Then the crown will fit us, rest will be calm and noble activity, and glory we shall wear like kings.
Among the special reasons why the Israelites were guided by the way of the wilderness, the following may be noted:—
I. They had been sated with the magnificence of man's works; God led them forth into the wilderness to show them His works in their native grandeur, and to refresh their exhausted hearts and spirits by the vision of the splendour of His world.
II. God led them forth by the way of the wilderness that He might reveal not nature only, but Himself. He led them into the wilderness, as He leads us, that He might meet with them, speak with them, reveal Himself to them, and teach them to know themselves in knowing Him.
III. God led them into the wilderness that He might there cultivate their manly qualities,, and fit them to hold the possessions they might win.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Soul's Exodus and Pilgrimage, p. 58.
References: Exodus 13:19.—Parker, vol. ii., p. 316. Exodus 13:21.—J. Jackson Wray, Light from the Old Lamp, p. 309. Exodus 13:21, Exodus 13:22.—J. Hamilton, Works, vol. v., p. 154. Exodus 13:22.—J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 391. 13—Parker, vol. ii., p. 82. 14—Expositor, 2nd series, vol. v., pp. 281, 442, vol. vi., pp. 232, 448. Exodus 14:10.—Parker, vol. ii., p. 92.
Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.
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.
This day came ye out in the month Abib.
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.
Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD.
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.
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.
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.
Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.
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,
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.
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:
He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.