Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
Ex 13:1, 2.
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
MEMORIAL OF THE
3. Moses said unto the people, Remember this day--The day that
gave them a national existence and introduced them into the privileges
of independence and freedom, deserved to live in the memories of the
Hebrews and their posterity; and, considering the signal interposition
of God displayed in it, to be held not only in perpetual, but devout
house of bondage--literally, "house of slaves"--that is, a
servile and degrading condition.
for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this
place--The emancipation of Israel would never have been obtained
except it had been wrung from the Egyptian tyrant by the appalling
judgments of God, as had been at the outset of his mission announced to
There shall no leavened bread, &c.--The words are elliptical,
and the meaning of the clause may be paraphrased thus:--"For by
strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place, in such
haste that there could or should be no leavened bread eaten."
4. month Abib--literally, "a green ear," and hence the month
Abib is the month of green ears, corresponding to the middle of our
March. It was the best season for undertaking a journey to the desert
region of Sinai, especially with flocks and herds; for then the winter
torrents had subsided, and the wadies were covered with an early and
5-7. when the Lord shall bring thee--The passover is here
instituted as a permanent festival of the Israelites. It was, however,
only a prospective observance; we read of only one celebration of the
passover during the protracted sojourn in the wilderness
but on their settlement in the promised land, the season was hallowed
as a sacred anniversary
in conformity with the directions here given.
8. thou shalt show thy son in that day, saying--The
establishment of this and the other sacred festivals presented the best
opportunities of instructing the young in a knowledge of His gracious
doings to their ancestors in Egypt.
9. it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, &c.--There
is no reason to believe that the Oriental tattooing--the custom of
staining the hands with the powder of Hennah, as Eastern females now
do--is here referred to. Nor is it probable that either this practice
or the phylacteries of the Pharisees--parchment scrolls, which were
worn on their wrists and foreheads--had so early an existence. The
words are to be considered only as a figurative mode of expression.
that the Lord's law may be in thy mouth, &c.--that is, that it
may be the subject of frequent conversation and familiar knowledge
among the people.
12, 13. every firstling, &c.--the injunction respecting the
consecration of the first-born, as here repeated, with some additional
circumstances. The firstlings of clean beasts, such as lambs, kids, and
calves, if males, were to be devoted to God and employed in sacrifice.
Those unclean beasts, as the ass's colt, being unfit for sacrifice,
were to be redeemed
17. God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines,
although that was near, &c.--The shortest and most direct route
from Egypt to Palestine was the usual caravan road that leads by
Belbeis, El-Arish, to Ascalon and Gaza. The Philistines, who then
possessed the latter, would have been sure to dispute their passage,
for between them and the Israelites there was a hereditary feud
(1Ch 7:21, 22);
and so early a commencement of hostilities would have discouraged or
dismayed the unwarlike band which Moses led. Their faith was to be
exercised and strengthened, and from the commencement of their travels
we observe the same careful proportion of burdens and trials to their
character and state, as the gracious Lord shows to His people still in
that spiritual journey of which the former was typical.
18. God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of
the Red Sea, &c.--This wondrous expanse of water is a gulf of the
Indian ocean. It was called in Hebrew "the weedy sea," from the forest
of marine plants with which it abounds. But the name of the Red Sea is
not so easily traced. Some think it was given from its contiguity to
the countries of Edom ("red"); others derive it from its coral rocks;
while a third class ascribe the origin of the name to an extremely red
appearance of the water in some parts, caused by a numberless multitude
of very small mollusca. This sea, at its northern extremity, separates
into two smaller inlets--the eastern called anciently the Elanitic
gulf, now the gulf of Akaba; and the western the Heroopolite gulf, now
the gulf of Suez, which, there can be no doubt, extended much more to
the north anciently than it does now. It was toward the latter the
went up harnessed--that is, girded, equipped for a long journey.
The Margin renders it "five in a rank," meaning obviously five
large divisions, under five presiding officers, according to the usages
of all caravans; and a spectacle of such a mighty and motley multitude
must have presented an imposing appearance, and its orderly progress
could have been effected only by the superintending influence of
19. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him--in fulfilment of
the oath he exacted from his brethren
(Ge 50:25, 26).
The remains of the other patriarchs (not noticed from their obscurity)
were also carried out of Egypt
(Ac 7:15, 16);
and there would be no difficulty as to the means of conveyance--a few
camels bearing these precious relics would give a true picture of
Oriental customs, such as is still to be seen in the immense
pilgrimages to Mecca.
20. encamped in Etham--This place is supposed by the most
intelligent travellers to be the modern Ajrud, where is a
watering-place, and which is the third stage of the pilgrim-caravans to
Mecca. "It is remarkable that either of the different routes eastward
from Heliopolis, or southward from Heroopolis, equally admit of Ajrud
being Etham. It is twelve miles northwest from Suez, and is literally
on the edge of the desert" [Pictorial Bible].
21, 22. the Lord went before them--by a visible token of His
presence, the Shekinah, in a majestic cloud
called "the angel of God"
(Ex 14:19; 23:20-23;
Ps 99:6, 7;
Isa 63:8, 9).