The Sanctification of the First-Born
Exodus 13:1-3, 11-17
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…

This command has its basis in the fact that on the night when God executed his tremendous judgment against Egypt, the first-born of Israel was spared. Because this great mercy had been shown to Israel, the first-born of man and beast were ever afterwards to be reckoned as specially belonging to Jehovah. The first-born of the generation then living was his by direct purchase; all later first-borns were to be his by grateful dedication. It was required, in addition, that the first-born of man, as well as of unclean beasts, should be "redeemed." This may have been designed to teach that the lives of these later first-borns were as truly forfeited by sin as were those of the original first-born, on the night of the exodus; and that the nearer the relation in which the individual stands to God, the more pressing becomes the need for atonement.

I. REDEMPTION IS BY SUBSTITUTION. This is well illustrated by the law for the redemption of unclean animals (ver. 13; cf. Numbers 18:15). The firstling of an ass, being unclean, could not be offered on the altar. It was, therefore, to be redeemed by the substitution of a lamb. If not thus redeemed, its neck was to be broken. This teaches the further lesson - unredeemed life must die. It was on the same principle that the lamb was substituted for the first-born on the night of the exodus. This law does not specify the mariner of the redemption of the first-born of male children, but it was probably originally by a lamb also. The redemption was subsequently effected by a money-payment of five shekels (Numbers 18:16). This gave prominence to the idea of a ransom, already implied in the use of the word "redeem." The principle of the redemption was still the substitution of life for life, the money-payment pointing back to the lamb or other victim of which it was the price. Jesus has fulfilled the type under both its aspects. He has redeemed us by the substitution of his holy life for our sinful ones (Hebrews 9:26-28). His life has been given as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6).

II. REDEEMED LIFE BELONGS TO GOD (vers. 1, 12, 15). As all later generations of Israel were represented in that first one, so all later first-borns were represented in those of the night of the exodus. By redeeming them from death, God purchased the firstborn of Israel in a peculiar manner to himself. What held true of the first-born, held true, in-a wider sense, of the nation as a whole, and holds true now of all believers. They are God's, because God has redeemed them. We must not seem to lessen the natural claim which God has upon our service. All souls are God's; and no moral being has a right to use his powers otherwise than for the glory of him who gave them. But in a special manner Jehovah claims redeemed life for himself. "I have redeemed thee, thou art mine" (Isaiah 43:1). "Ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:20).


Parallel Verses
KJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

WEB: Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

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