Exodus 13:1

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).


Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn.
I. THAT THE GOOD ARE REQUIRED TO SANCTIFY THEIR FIRSTBORN UNTO THE LORD. "All the firstborn" — that is to say, the most excellent of their possessions, the most valuable, and that which is viewed with the greatest regard.

1. This sanctification of the firstborn was required by the Divine commandment.

2. This sanctification of the firstborn was a grateful acknowledgment of the Divine mercy in sparing the firstborn from the midnight destruction. Heaven never asks more than it gives, or more than is consistent with the gratitude of a devout heart to bestow.

3. This sanctification of the firstborn was to be associated with the deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt.


III. THAT THE GOOD ARE REQUIRED TO CONNECT THE SANCTIFICATION OF THEIR FIRSTBORN WITH SACRIFICE. "And all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem" (ver. 14). This redemption was to be by sacrifice. Parents need reminding of this duty.

1. Because they are liable to forget the service which past mercy requires of them.

2. Because they are apt to be selfish in the use of their property.

3. Because they are not sufficiently spiritually minded to see God in their property, and therefore forget His claims.

4. Because they do not like to pay the redemption price.

IV. THAT THE GOOD ARE TO TEACH THE RIGHT OF GOD TO THE FIRSTBORN, TO THEIR POSTERITY (vers. 14, 15). Children are very inquisitive. They will ask questions, even about religious matters. At such times they should be carefully and solemnly instructed in Divine truth. The family is the best school for the young. They should early be taught the meaning of self-sacrifice, and the moral grandeur of giving to the Lord. Even the young have their firstborn, which they can be taught to give to the Lord; and if they grow up in the spirit of this obligation they will in after days, impart to it a truer meaning, and give to it a more solemn influence than before they were capable of. Lessons:

1. That the good must sanctify their best things to the Lord.

2. That this can only be done by the redemption of the Cross.

3. That the young must be early taught their obligation to the Lord.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

1. A command.

2. A duty.

3. A privilege.

4. A benediction.

5. A prophecy.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

I. OBSERVE THE FIRST RULE: "Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn of man." As the redemption of the firstborn of the more valuable animals was graciously commuted by the sacrifice of less valuable ones, so there was a commutation for the firstborn of man; not indeed by inferior substitutes as in the former case, but by his fellowman — by the institution of a priesthood, "sanctifying," or setting apart, the whole tribe of Levi in place of the firstborn of all Israel. But as this arrangement had not yet transpired at the period of the text, the explanation was deferred till then, that in the meanwhile the whole nation might fully realize the amount and weight of their liability to God; and further, that when Levi was sanctified, the whole Levitical priesthood — a priesthood of their brethren, "bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh" — might symbolize the High Priesthood of the Mediator who "was in all things made like unto His brethren," that He too "might also make intercession for the sins of the people." This lies at the root of the Levitical principle, the layagency in the church of God. Admirable is the advice of Jethro to his son-in-law, and incidentally it bears upon this subject. "This thing," that is, the whole burthen of the work, "is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone... Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens." Thus the work of religion, benevolence, and rule was divided, subdivided, and redivided still, from considerable districts down to classes of tens, as we should desire to see the work of God among ourselves distributed among our lay deacons and elders, district visitors, collectors and Sabbath-school teachers, who in their respective ministries should act on the suggestion of Jethro, "The hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves."

II. Secondly, the text presents the rule of consecrated WEALTH — "Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn of beasts." On this point there is some difficulty. "All the firstborn of cattle" were given to the Lord by sacrifice; and yet in the forty-fifth verse of the third chapter of Numbers the whole of the cattle of the Levites were considered as a substitute for the firstlings of the general cattle, just as all the men of the Levites were accepted as the substitute for all the firstborn of men from the rest of the tribes. Possibly the cattle firstlings were redeemed, as the excess of human firstborn over the number of the firstborn of the Levites were, by the half-shekel atonement for each, which was payable at the census or periodical numbering of the people. It is probable that David's omission of this payment was the sin which incurred God's heavy displeasure in that unseasonable numbering of the people, which, in omitting the soul. tax for atonement, seemed numbered for David himself, and not for God. Be this as it may, the Lord claimed all the firstborn of their beasts, which were the staple property in the ruder forms of society.

III. The text presents its demand for consecrated TIME. We need not dwell upon the Sabbath, or the Divine claim upon the sevenths of our time. Assuming we are all agreed that this, the minimum of God's requirement, is due from every man, we may deplore the manner in which, for the most part, even this holy debt is discharged. The abuse of the Sabbath and insubordination to its constantly recurring, bounden, and emphatic law, lies at the root of the national irreligion. There is a significancy in the proportion of the Divine demand of only a tenth of all other things, but a seventh of our time.

(J. B. Owen, M. A.)

"It is Mine." This is the language of God in reference to each one of us. It is Mine.




(J. S. Exell, M. A.)


1. By common nature,

2. By common grace.

3. By a special right.

(1)In His nature, Christ is Firstborn, as Son of God.

(2)In His office, by special prerogative.

(a)For the kind, in that He was Mediator, God and Man in unity of person, and the only Redeemer of His Church.

(b)For undertaking of His office.

(c)For the accomplishing His office, in His resurrection. He is called the First-begotten, or Firstborn of the dead, two ways:

(i)In respect of His Father, who first begot Him from the dead;

(ii)In regard of Himself, whose privilege it was to raise up Himself from the dead by His own power.

II. The firstborn of Israel was the second, and NEXT TO THE FATHER OF THE FAMILY, yea, after the father instead of the father. So is Christ to His family, the Church; He performs all offices of a careful and tender father, and" takes on Him, not the affection only of a father, but even —

1. The name of a father (Isaiah 9:6).

2. The office of a father.

(1)He supplies the means of spiritual life, as they of natural.

(2)He nurtures and teacheth His Church.

(3)He provides for the present, and bestows the inheritance of eternal life.

III. The firstborn HAD THE PRE-EMINENCE AMONG THE BRETHREN, and were chief in office and authority, rulers in the house after their fathers, and priests in the family, before the Levitical order was established. Herein they were special types of Jesus Christ; who in all things must have the pre-eminence, as first in time, in order, in precedency, and in the excellency and dignity of His person.

IV. The firstborn HAD A DOUBLE PORTION IN GOODS (Deuteronomy 21:17). Signifying —

1. The plenitude of the spirit and grace in Christ, who was anointed with oil of gladness above His fellows.

2. The pre-eminency of Christ in His glorious inheritance, advanced in glory and majesty incomprehensible by all creatures. Use —(1) Out of the occasion of the law of the firstborn, learn that the more God doth for any man, the more he ought to conceive himself to be the Lord's, and the more right and interest the Lord challengeth in him.(2) If Christ be the true firstborn, of whom all they are but types, we must give Him the honour of His birthright.(3) Here is a ground of much consolation.(a) In that Christ being the truth of the firstborn, from Him the birthright is derived unto us believers, as it was from Reuben unto Judah, and we partake of the same birthright with our head. For here is a difference between the type and truth of the firstborn. They had all their privileges for themselves: but Christ not for Himself but for us.(b) Being God's firstborn throughout, we are dear unto God.(c) God takes notice, and avenges all wrongs done to the saints, because they are His firstborn.(4) Seeing in Christ the firstborn we attain the birthright; let every Christian beware of profaneness, and passing away his birthright as Esau, who sold his birthright for pottage (Hebrews 12:16).(5) Learn to grow in conformity with our Elder Brother Christ, with whom we cannot be equal, but like as brothers. We must be like Him in affection, like Him in affliction, like Him in the combat, and like Him in the crown.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

When Bishop Selwyn spoke to Sir John Patteson, then a widower, of the desire of his splendidly gifted son, Coleridge, to join him in the New Zealand Mission, the father's first exclamation was: "I cannot let him go!" but he immediately added, "God forbid I should stop him!" And he closed the conversation by saying: "Mind, I give him wholly, not with any thought of seeing him again. I will not have him thinking he must come home to see me."

A young man was about to enter the foreign missionary work. A gentleman said to the young man's father, "It's hard to give up the boy." "Yes," replied the father, "but it's just what we've been expecting." "How so?" inquired the friend. "When he was a little baby," answered the father, "his mother and I went to a missionary meeting. An appeal, most earnest and touching, was made for men to become missionaries. We ourselves could not go. When we returned home the baby lay asleep in his crib. We went to the crib. His mother stood on one side, I on the other. We together laid our hands on his forehead, and prayed that it might be God's will for him to become a foreign missionary. We never spoke to him of what we did. But all through these twenty-five years we have believed that our prayer about him would be answered, and answered it now is. Yes, it is hard to give up the boy, but it's what we've been expecting."

Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Hivite, Hivites, Israelites, Jebusites, Joseph, Moses, Pharaoh
Etham, Red Sea, Succoth
Saying, Spake, Speaketh, Spoke
1. The firstborn are sanctified to God
3. The memorial of the Passover is commanded
11. The firstborn of man and beast are set apart
17. The Israelites go out of Egypt, and carry Joseph's bones with them.
20. They come to Etham
21. God guides them by a pillar of a cloud, and a pillar of fire

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Exodus 13:1-2

     4442   firstfruits
     4605   animals, religious role
     5199   womb
     5652   babies
     5688   firstborn
     5707   male and female
     5724   offspring

Exodus 13:1-10

     8644   commemoration

Exodus 13:1-16

     7410   phylactery

Thought, Deed, Word
'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.'--EXODUS xiii. 9. The question may be asked, whether this command is to be taken metaphorically or literally. No doubt the remembrance of the great deliverance was intrusted to acts. Besides the annual Passover feasts, inscriptions on the door-posts and fringes on the dress were appointed for this purpose. And the Jews from a very early period, certainly before our Lord's
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Fifth Day. Holiness and Redemption.
Sanctify unto me all the first-born.'--Ex. xiii. 2. 'All the first-born are mine; for on the day I smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt I sanctified unto me all the first-born in Israel: mine they shall be: I am the Lord.'--Num. iii. 13, viii. 17. 'For I am the Lord your God that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.'--Lev. xi. 45. 'I have redeemed thee; thou art mine.'--Isa. xliii. 1. At Horeb we saw how the
Andrew Murray—Holy in Christ

June the Tenth Pillars of Cloud and Fire
"The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud." --EXODUS xiii. 17--xiv. 4. I need His leadership in the daytime. Sometimes the daylight is my foe. It tempts me into carelessness. I become the victim of distraction. The "garish day" can entice me into ways of trespass, and I am robbed of my spiritual health. Many a man has been faithful in the twilight and night who has lost himself in the sunshine. He went astray in his prosperity: success was his ruin. And so in the daytime I need the
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

The Personality of Power.
A Personally Conducted Journey. Everyone enjoys the pleasure of travel; but nearly all shrink back from its tiresomeness and drudgery. The transportation companies are constantly scheming to overcome this disagreeable side for both pleasure and business travel. One of the popular ways of pleasure travel of late is by means of personally conducted tours. A party is formed, often by the railroad company, and is accompanied by a special agent to attend to all the business matters of the trip. A variation
S.D. Gordon—Quiet Talks on Power

"The Lord Hath Need of Him. " Mark xi, 3
What! of an Ass? Yes, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world." He gets renown to Himself by "using things which are despised." Let us never despair of the most foolish of men, if he become the servant of Jesus. It is said of the great John Hunt, that when a young man, he gave no promise of the talents he shewed in the work of the Ministry. We have spoken with one who knew him before his conversion, who made us smile as he described his gait and style of life. Yet this ungainly ploughboy
Thomas Champness—Broken Bread

Entangled in the Land
"For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in."--Exodus 14:3. ISRAEL WAS CLEAN escaped from Egypt. Not a hoof of their cattle was left behind; nor foot of child or aged man remained in the house of bondage. But though they were gone, they were not forgotten by the tyrant who had enslaved them. They had been a very useful body of workers; for they had built treasure cities and storehouses for Pharaoh. Compelled to work without wages,
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 37: 1891

Letter xxxvi. To Pope Damasus.
Jerome's reply to the foregoing. For the second and fourth questions he refers Damasus to the writings of Tertullian, Novatian, and Origen. The remaining three he deals with in detail. Gen. iv. 15, he understands to mean "the slayer of Cain shall complete the sevenfold vengeance which is to be wreaked upon him." Exodus xiii. 18, he proposes to reconcile with Gen. xv. 16, by supposing that in the one place the tribe of Levi is referred to, in the other the tribe of Judah. He suggests, however, that
St. Jerome—The Principal Works of St. Jerome

Letter xxxv. From Pope Damasus.
Damasus addresses five questions to Jerome with a request for information concerning them. They are: 1. What is the meaning of the words "Whosoever slayeth Cain vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold"? (Gen. iv. 5.) 2. If God has made all things good, how comes it that He gives charge to Noah concerning unclean animals, and says to Peter, "What God hath cleansed that call not thou common"? (Acts x. 15.) 3. How is Gen. xv. 16, "in the fourth generation they shall come hither again," to be reconciled
St. Jerome—The Principal Works of St. Jerome

Epistle xxviii. To Augustine, Bishop of the Angli .
To Augustine, Bishop of the Angli [136] . Gregory to Augustine, &c. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will (Luke ii. 14); because a grain of wheat, falling into the earth, has died, that it might not reign in heaven alone; even He by whose death we live, by whose weakness we are made strong, by whose suffering we are rescued from suffering, through whose love we seek in Britain for brethren whom we knew not, by whose gift we find those whom without knowing them we sought.
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great

Jesus Living at Nazareth and visiting Jerusalem in his Twelfth Year.
(Nazareth and Jerusalem, a.d. 7 or 8.) ^C Luke II. 40-52. ^c 40 And the child grew [This verse contains the history of thirty years. It describes the growth of our Lord as a natural, human growth (compare Luke i. 80); for, though Jesus was truly divine, he was also perfectly man. To try to distinguish between the divine and human in Jesus, is to waste time upon an impracticable mystery which is too subtle for our dull and finite minds], and waxed strong [His life expanded like other human lives.
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Healing of the Woman - Christ's Personal Appearance - the Raising of Jairus' Daughter
THERE seems remarkable correspondence between the two miracles which Jesus had wrought on leaving Capernaum and those which He did on His return. In one sense they are complementary to each other. The stilling of the storm and the healing of the demonised were manifestations of the absolute power inherent in Christ; the recovery of the woman and the raising of Jairus' daughter, evidence of the absolute efficacy of faith. The unlikeliness of dominion over the storm, and of command over a legion of
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

Jesus' Last Public Discourse. Denunciation of Scribes and Pharisees.
(in the Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, a.d. 30.) ^A Matt. XXIII. 1-39; ^B Mark XII. 38-40; ^C Luke XX. 45-47. ^a 1 Then spake Jesus ^b 38 And in his teaching ^c in the hearing of all the people he said unto ^a the multitudes, and to his disciples [he spoke in the most public manner], 2 saying, ^c 46 Beware of the scribes, ^a The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat: 3 all things whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Old Testament Canon from Its Beginning to Its Close.
The first important part of the Old Testament put together as a whole was the Pentateuch, or rather, the five books of Moses and Joshua. This was preceded by smaller documents, which one or more redactors embodied in it. The earliest things committed to writing were probably the ten words proceeding from Moses himself, afterwards enlarged into the ten commandments which exist at present in two recensions (Exod. xx., Deut. v.) It is true that we have the oldest form of the decalogue from the Jehovist
Samuel Davidson—The Canon of the Bible

Circumcision, Temple Service, and Naming of Jesus.
(the Temple at Jerusalem, b.c. 4) ^C Luke II. 21-39. ^c 21 And when eight days [Gen. xvii. 12] were fulfilled for circumcising him [The rite was doubtless performed by Joseph. By this rite Jesus was "made like unto his brethren" (Heb. ii. 16, 17); that is, he became a member of the covenant nation, and became a debtor to the law--Gal. v. 3] , his name was called JESUS [see Luke i. 59], which was so called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. [Luke i. 31.] 22 And when the days of their
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Cavils of the Pharisees Concerning Purification, and the Teaching of the Lord Concerning Purity - the Traditions Concerning Hand-Washing' and Vows. '
As we follow the narrative, confirmatory evidence of what had preceded springs up at almost every step. It is quite in accordance with the abrupt departure of Jesus from Capernaum, and its motives, that when, so far from finding rest and privacy at Bethsaida (east of the Jordan), a greater multitude than ever had there gathered around Him, which would fain have proclaimed Him King, He resolved on immediate return to the western shore, with the view of seeking a quieter retreat, even though it were
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

Among the People, and with the Pharisees
It would have been difficult to proceed far either in Galilee or in Judaea without coming into contact with an altogether peculiar and striking individuality, differing from all around, and which would at once arrest attention. This was the Pharisee. Courted or feared, shunned or flattered, reverently looked up to or laughed at, he was equally a power everywhere, both ecclesiastically and politically, as belonging to the most influential, the most zealous, and the most closely-connected religions
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

Concerning the Communion, or Participation of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Concerning the Communion, or Participation of the Body and Blood of Christ. The communion of the body and blood of Christ is [1104] inward and spiritual, which is the participation of his flesh and blood, by which the inward man is daily nourished in the hearts of those in whom Christ dwells. Of which things the breaking of bread by Christ with his disciples was a figure, which even they who had received the substance used in the church for a time, for the sake of the weak; even as abstaining from
Robert Barclay—Theses Theologicae and An Apology for the True Christian Divinity

The Third Day in Passion-Week - the Last Controversies and Discourses - the Sadducees and the Resurrection - the Scribe and the Great Commandment - Question
THE last day in the Temple was not to pass without other temptations' than that of the Priests when they questioned His authority, or of the Pharisees when they cunningly sought to entangle Him in His speech. Indeed, Christ had on this occasion taken a different position; He had claimed supreme authority, and thus challenged the leaders of Israel. For this reason, and because at the last we expect assaults from all His enemies, we are prepared for the controversies of that day. We remember that,
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

Third Withdrawal from Herod's Territory.
Subdivision D. The Transfiguration. Concerning Elijah. (a Spur of Hermon, Near Cæsarea Philippi.) ^A Matt. XVII. 1-13; ^B Mark IX. 2-13; ^C Luke IX. 28-36. ^c 28 And it came to pass about eight days { ^a six days} ^c after these sayings [Mark agrees with Matthew in saying six days. Luke qualifies his estimate by saying "about." But if we regard him as including the day of the "sayings" and also the day of the transfiguration, and the other two as excluding these days, then the three statements
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The book of Exodus--so named in the Greek version from the march of Israel out of Egypt--opens upon a scene of oppression very different from the prosperity and triumph in which Genesis had closed. Israel is being cruelly crushed by the new dynasty which has arisen in Egypt (i.) and the story of the book is the story of her redemption. Ultimately it is Israel's God that is her redeemer, but He operates largely by human means; and the first step is the preparation of a deliverer, Moses, whose parentage,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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