Exodus 13


God establishes the law concerning the first-born, and

commands that all such, both of man and beast, should be

sanctified unto him, 1, 2.

Orders them to remember the day in which they were brought

out of Egypt, when they should be brought to the land of

Canaan; and to keep this service in the month Abib, 3-5.

Repeats the command concerning the leavened bread, 6, 7,

and orders them to teach their children the cause of it, 8,

and to keep strictly in remembrance that it was by the might

of God alone they had been delivered from Egypt, 9.

Shows that the consecration of the first-born, both of man

and beast, should take place when they should be settled in

Canaan, 10-12.

The first-born of man and beast to be redeemed, 13.

The reason of this also to be shown to their children, 14, 15.

Frontlets or phylacteries for the hands and forehead commanded,


And the people are not led directly to the promised land, but

about through the wilderness; and the reason assigned, 17, 18.

Moses takes the bones of Joseph with him, 19.

They journey from Succoth and come to Etham, 20.

And the Lord goes before them by day in a pillar of cloud, and by

night in a pillar of fire, 21,

which miracle is regularly continued both by day and night, 22.


Verse 1. The Lord spake unto Moses] The commands in this

chapter appear to have been given at Succoth, on the same day in

which they left Egypt.

Verse 2. Sanctify unto me all the first-born] To sanctify,

kadash, signifies to consecrate, separate, and set apart a

thing or person from all secular purposes to some religious use;

and exactly answers to the import of the Greek αγιαζω, from a,

privative, and γη, the earth, because every thing offered or

consecrated to God was separated from all earthly uses. Hence a

holy person or saint is termed αγιος, i.e., a person

separated from the earth; one who lives a holy life, entirely

devoted to the service of God. Thus the persons and animals

sanctified to God were employed in the service of the tabernacle

and temple; and the animals, such as were proper, were offered in


The Hindoos frequently make a vow, and devote to an idol the

first-born of a goat and of a man. The goat is permitted to run

wild, as a consecrated animal. A child thus devoted has a lock of

hair separated, which at the time appointed is cut off and placed

near the idol. Hindoo women sometimes pray to Gunga (the Ganges)

for children, and promise to devote the first-born to her.

Children thus devoted are cast into the Ganges, but are generally

saved by the friendly hand of some stranger.-Ward's Customs.

Whatsoever openeth the womb] That is, the first-born, if a

male; for females were not offered, nor the first male, if a

female had been born previously. Again, if a man had several

wives, the first-born of each, if a male, was to be offered to

God. And all this was done to commemorate the preservation of the

first-born of the Israelites, when those of the Egyptians were


Verse 5. When the Lord shall bring thee into the land] Hence it

is pretty evident that the Israelites were not obliged to

celebrate the Passover, or keep the feast of unleavened bread,

till they were brought into the promised land.

Verse 6. Unleavened bread]

See Clarke on Ex 12:15; and "Ex 12:16".

Verse 9. And it shall be for a sign-upon thine hand] This

direction, repeated and enlarged Ex 13:16, gave rise to

phylacteries or tephillin, and this is one of the passages which

the Jews write upon them to the present day. The manner in which

the Jews understood and kept these commands may appear in their

practice. They wrote the following four portions of the law upon

slips of parchment or vellum: Sanctify unto me the first-born,

Exod. xiii., from verse 2 to 10 Ex 13:2-10 inclusive.

And it shall be, when the Lord shall bring thee into the land,

Exod. xiii., from verse 11 to 16 Ex 13:11-16 inclusive.

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, Deut. vi., from

verse 4 to 9 De 6:4-9 inclusive.

And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently, Deut.

xi., from verse 13 to 21 De 9:13-21 inclusive. These four

portions, making in all 30 verses, written as mentioned above, and

covered with leather, they tied to the forehead and to the hand or


Those which were for the HEAD (the frontlets) they wrote on four

slips of parchment, and rolled up each by itself, and placed them

in four compartments, joined together in one piece of skin or

leather. Those which were designed for the hand were formed of

one piece of parchment, the four portions being written upon it in

four columns, and rolled up from one end to the other. These were

all correct transcripts from the Mosaic text, without one

redundant or deficient letter, otherwise they were not lawful to

be worn. Those for the head were tied on so as to rest on the

forehead. Those for the hand or arm were usually tied on the left

arm, a little above the elbow, on the inside, that they might be

near the heart, according to the command, De 6:6:

And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine

heart. These phylacteries formed no inconsiderable part of a

Jew's religion; they wore them as a sign of their obligation to

God, and as representing some future blessedness. Hence they did

not wear them on feast days nor on the Sabbath, because these

things were in themselves signs; but they wore them always when

they read the law, or when they prayed, and hence they called them

tephillin, prayer, ornaments, oratories, or incitements

to prayer. In process of time the spirit of this law was lost in

the letter, and when the word was not in their mouth, nor the law

in their heart, they had their phylacteries on their heads and on

their hands. And the Pharisees, who in our Lord's time affected

extraordinary piety, made their phylacteries very broad, that they

might have many sentences written upon them, or the ordinary

portions in very large and observable letters.

It appears that the Jews wore these for three different


1. As signs or remembrancers. This was the original design, as

the institution itself sufficiently proves.

2. To procure reverence and respect in the sight of the heathen.

This reason is given in the Gemara, Berachoth, chap. i: "Whence

is it proved that the phylacteries or tephillin are the strength

of Israel? Ans. From what is written, De 28:10: All the people

of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the

LORD ( Yehovah) and they shall be afraid of thee."

3. They used them as amulets or charms, to drive away evil

spirits. This appears from the Targum on Canticles viii. 3

So 8:3:

His left hand is under my head, &c. "The congregation of Israel

hath said, I am elect above all people, because I bind my

phylacteries on my left hand and on my head, and the scroll is

fixed to the right side of my gate, the third part of which looks

to my bed-chamber, that demons may not be permitted to injure me.

One of the original phylacteries or tephillin now lies

before me; it is a piece of fine vellum, about eighteen inches

long, and an inch and quarter broad. It is divided into four

unequal compartments; the letters are very well formed, but

written with many apices, after the manner of the German Jews. In

the first compartment is written the portion taken from

Ex 13:2-10; in the second, Ex 13:11-16; in the third,

De 6:4-9; in the fourth, De 11:13-21, as before related. This

had originally served for the hand or arm.

These passages seem to be chosen in vindication of the use of

the phylactery itself, as the reader may see on consulting them at

large. Bind them for a SIGN upon thy HAND; and for FRONTLETS

between thy EYES; write them upon the POSTS of thy HOUSE and upon

thy GATES; all which commands the Jews take in the most literal

sense. To acquire the reputation of extraordinary sanctity they

wore the fringes of their garments of an uncommon length. Moses

had commanded them, Nu 15:38, 39, to put fringes to the borders

of their garments, that when they looked upon even these distinct

threads they might remember, not only the law in general but also

the very minutiae or smaller parts of all the precepts, rites, and

ceremonies belonging to it. As those hypocrites (for such our

Lord proves them to be) were destitute of all the life and power

of religion within, they endeavoured to supply its place with

phylacteries and fringes without. The same principles distinguish

hypocrites every where, and multitudes of them may be found among

those termed Christians as well as among the Jews. It is probably

to this institution relative to the phylactery that the words,

Re 14:1, allude: And I looked, and, lo, a hundred and

forty-four thousand having his Father's name written on their

foreheads. "That is," says Mr. Ainsworth, "as a sign of the

profession of God's law; for that which in the Gospel is called

his NAME, (Mt 12:21,) in the prophets is called his LAW,

(Isa 42:4)." So again antichrist exacts the obedience to his

precepts by a mark on men's right hands or on their foreheads,

Re 13:16.

Verse 13. Every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a

lamb] Or a kid, as in the margin. In Nu 18:15, it is said: "The

first-born of man shalt thou surely redeem; and the firstling of

an unclean beast shalt thou redeem." Hence we may infer that ass

is put here for any unclean beast, or for unclean beasts in

general. The lamb was to be given to the Lord, that is, to his

priest, Nu 18:8, 15. And then the owner of the ass might use it

for his own service, which without this redemption he could not

do; see De 15:19.

The first-born of man-shalt thou redeem.] This was done by

giving to the priests five standard shekels, or shekels of the

sanctuary, every shekel weighing twenty gerahs. What the gerah

was, See Clarke on Ge 20:16. And for the shekel,

See Clarke on Ge 20:16.

It may be necessary to observe here that the Hebrew doctors

teach, that if a father had neglected or refused thus to redeem

his first-born, the son himself was obliged to do it when he came

of age. As this redeeming of the first-born was instituted in

consequence of sparing the first-born of the Israelites, when the

first-born both of man and beast among the Egyptians was

destroyed, on this ground all the first-born were the Lord's, and

should have been employed in his service; but he permitted the

first-born of a useful unclean animal to be redeemed by a clean

animal of much less value. And he chose the tribe of Levi in place

of all the first-born of the tribes in general; and the five

shekels were ordered to be paid in lieu of such first-born sons as

were liable to serve in the sanctuary, and the money was applied

to the support of the priests and Levites. See this subject at

large in Nu 3:12, 13, 41, 43, 45, 47-51.

Verse 16. It shall be for a token, &c.]

See Clarke on Ex 13:9.

Verse 17. God led them not through the way of the land of the

Philistines, &c.] Had the Israelites been obliged to commence

their journey to the promised land by a military campaign, there

is little room to doubt that they would have been discouraged,

have rebelled against Moses and Aaron, and have returned back to

Egypt. Their long slavery had so degraded their minds that they

were incapable of any great or noble exertions; and it is only on

the ground of this mental degradation, the infallible consequence

of slavery, that we can account for their many dastardly acts,

murmurings, and repinings after their escape from Egypt. The

reader is requested to bear this in mind, as it will serve to

elucidate several circumstances in the ensuing history. Besides,

the Israelites were in all probability unarmed, and totally

unequipped for battle, encumbered with their flocks, and certain

culinary utensils. which they were obliged to carry with them in

the wilderness to provide them with bread, &c.

Verse 18. But God led the people about] Dr. Shaw has shown that

there were two roads from Egypt to Canaan, one through the valleys

of Jendilly, Rumeleah, and Baideah, bounded on each side by the

mountains of the lower Thebais; the other lies higher, having the

northern range of the mountains of Mocatee running parallel with

it on the right hand, and the desert of the Egyptian Arabia, which

lies all the way open to the land of the Philistines, to the left.

See his account of these encampments at the end of Exodus.

See Clarke on Ex 40:38.

Went up harnessed] chamushim. It is truly astonishing

what a great variety of opinions are entertained relative to the

meaning of this word. After having maturely considered all that I

have met with on the subject, I think it probable that the word

refers simply to that orderly or well arranged manner in which the

Israelites commenced their journey from Egypt. For to arrange,

array, or set in order, seems to be the ideal meaning of the word

chamash. As it was natural to expect that in such

circumstances there must have been much hurry and confusion, the

inspired writer particularly marks the contrary, to show that God

had so disposed matters that the utmost regularity and order

prevailed; and had it been otherwise, thousands of men, women, and

children must have been trodden to death. Our margin has it by

five in a rank; but had they marched only five abreast, supposing

only one yard for each rank to move in, it would have required not

less than sixty-eight miles for even the 600,000 to proceed on

regularly in this way; for 600,000 divided by five gives 120,000

ranks of five each; and there being only 1,760 yards in a mile,

the dividing 120,000 by 1,760 will give the number of miles such a

column of people would take up, which by such an operation will be

found to be something more than sixty-eight miles. But this the

circumstances of the history will by no means admit.-Harmer. The

simple meaning therefore appears to be that given above; and if

the note on the concluding verse of the preceding chapter be

considered, it may serve to place this explanation in a still

clearer point of view.

Verse 19. Moses took the bones of Joseph]

See Clarke on Ge 50:25.

It is supposed that the Israelites carried with them the bones or

remains of all the twelve sons of Jacob, each tribe taking care of

the bones of its own patriarch, while Moses took care of the bones

of Joseph. St. Stephen expressly says, Ac 7:15,16, that not only

Jacob, but the fathers were carried from Egypt into Sychem; and

this, as Calmet remarks, was the only opportunity that seems to

have presented itself for doing this: and certainly the reason

that rendered it proper to remove the bones of Joseph to the

promised land, had equal weight in reference to those of the other

patriarchs. See Clarke on Ge 49:29.

Verse 20. Encamped in Etham.] As for the reasons assigned on

Ex 13:17, God would not lead the Israelites by the way of the

Philistines' country, he directed them towards the wilderness of

Shur, Ex 15:22, upon the edge or extremity of which, next to

Egypt, at the bottom of the Arabian Gulf, lay Etham, which is the

second place of encampment mentioned. See the extracts from Dr.

Shaw at the end of Exodus. See Clarke on Ex 40:38.

Verse 21. The Lord went before them] That by the LORD here is

meant the Lord Jesus, we have the authority of St. Paul to

believe, 1Co 10:9: it was he whose Spirit they tempted in the

wilderness, for it was he who led them through the desert to the

promised rest.

Pillar of a cloud] This pillar or column, which appeared as a

cloud by day, and a fire by night, was the symbol of the Divine

presence. This was the Shechinah or Divine dwelling place, and

was the continual proof of the presence and protection of GOD. It

was necessary that they should have a guide to direct them through

the wilderness, even had they taken the most direct road; and how

much more so when they took a circuitous route not usually

travelled, and of which they knew nothing but just as the luminous

pillar pointed out the way! Besides, it is very likely that even

Moses himself did not know the route which God had determined on,

nor the places of encampment, till the pillar that went before

them became stationary, and thus pointed out, not only the road,

but the different places of rest. Whether there was more than one

pillar is not clearly determined by the text. If there was but

one it certainly assumed three different appearances, for the

performance of THREE very important offices. 1. In the day-time,

for the purpose of pointing out the way, a column or pillar of

a cloud was all that was requisite. 2. At night, to prevent that

confusion which must otherwise have taken place, the pillar of

cloud became a pillar of fire, not to direct their journeyings,

for they seldom travelled by night, but to give light to every

part of the Israelitish camp. 3. In such a scorching, barren,

thirsty desert, something farther was necessary than a light and a

guide. Women, children, and comparatively infirm persons, exposed

to the rays of such a burning sun, must have been destroyed if

without a covering; hence we find that a cloud overshadowed them:

and from what St. Paul observes, 1Co 10:1, 2, we are led to

conclude that this covering cloud was composed of aqueous

particles for the cooling of the atmosphere and refreshment of

themselves and their cattle; for he represents the whole camp as

being sprinkled or immersed in the humidity of its vapours, and

expressly calls it a being under the cloud and being baptized in

the cloud. To the circumstance of the cloud covering them, there

are several references in Scripture. Thus: He spread a CLOUD for

their COVERING; Ps 105:39.

And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount

Zion, and upon her assemblies, A CLOUD and SMOKE BY DAY, and the

shining of a FLAMING FIRE by night; for upon all the glory shall

be a DEFENCE, (or COVERING,) Isa 4:5; which words contain the

most manifest allusion to the threefold office of the cloud in the

wilderness. See Nu 9:16-18, &c.

Verse 22. He took not away the pillar of the cloud] Neither

Jews nor Gentiles are agreed how long the cloud continued with the

Israelites. It is very probable that it first visited them at

Succoth, if it did not accompany them from Rameses; and that it

continued with them till they came to the river Jordan, to pass

over opposite to Jericho, for after that it appears that the ark

alone was their guide, as it always marched at their head. See

Jos 3:10-11, &c. But others think that it went no farther with

them than Mount Hor, and never appeared after the death of Aaron.

We may safely assert that while it was indispensably necessary it

continued with them, when it was not so it was removed. But it is

worthy of remark that the ark of the covenant became its

substitute. While a miracle was necessary, a miracle was granted;

when that was no longer necessary, then the testimony of the Lord

deposited in the ark was deemed sufficient by Him who cannot err.

So, under the Gospel dispensation, miracles were necessary at its

first promulgation; but after that the canon of Scripture was

completed, the new covenant having been made, ratified by the

blood of the Lamb, and published by the Holy Spirit, then God

withdrew generally those outward signs, leaving his word for a

continual testimony, and sealing it on the souls of believers by

the Spirit of truth.

It is also worthy of remark that the ancient heathen writers

represent their gods, in their pretended manifestations to men, as

always encompassed with a cloud; Homer and Virgil abound with

examples of this kind: and is it not very probable that they

borrowed this, as they did many other things in their mythologic

theology, from the tradition of Jehovah guiding his people through

the desert by means of the cloud, in and by which he repeatedly

manifested himself?

1. EXTRAORDINARY manifestations and interpositions of providence

and grace should be held in continual remembrance. We are liable

to forget the hole of the pit whence we were digged, and the rock

whence we were hewn. Prudence and piety will institute their

anniversaries, that the merciful dealings of the Lord may never

be forgotten. The passover and the feast of unleavened bread,

by an annual commemoration, became standing proofs to the children

of Israel of the Divine origin of their religion; and are

supporting pillars of it to the present day. For when a fact is

reported to have taken place, and certain rites or ceremonies have

been instituted in order to commemorate it, which rites or

ceremonies continue to be observed through succeeding ages, then

the fact itself, no matter how remote the period of its occurrence

may have been, has the utmost proofs of authenticity that it is

possible for any fact to have; and such as every person pretending

to reason and judgment is obliged to receive. On this ground the

Mosaic religion, and the facts recorded in it, are indubitably

proved; and the Christian religion and its facts, being

commemorated in the same way, particularly by baptism and the

Lord's Supper, stand on such a foundation of moral certainty as

no other records in the universe can possibly boast. Reader,

praise God for his ordinances; they are not only means of grace to

thy soul, but standing irrefragable proofs of the truth of that

religion which thou hast received as from HIM.

2. A serious public profession of the religion of Christ has in

all ages of the Church been considered not only highly becoming,

but indispensably necessary to salvation. He who consistently

confesses Christ before men shall be confessed by him before God

and his angels. A Jew wore his phylacteries on his forehead, on

his hands, and round his garments, that he might have reverence in

the sight of the heathen; he gloried in his law, and he exulted

that Abraham was his father. Christian! with a zeal not less

becoming, and more consistently supported, let the words of thy

mouth, the acts of thy hands, and all thy goings, show that thou

belongest unto God; that thou hast taken his Spirit for the guide

of thy heart, his word for the rule of thy life, his people for

thy companions, his heaven for thy inheritance, and himself for

the portion of thy soul. And see that thou hold fast the truth,

and that thou hold it in righteousness.

3. How merciful is God in the dispensations of his providence!

He permits none to be tried above what he is able to bear, and he

proportions the burden to the back that is to bear it. He led not

the Israelites by the way of the Philistines, lest, seeing war,

they should repent and be discouraged. Young converts are

generally saved from severe spiritual conflicts and heavy

temptations till they have acquired a habit of believing, are

disciplined in the school of Christ, and instructed in the nature

of the path in which they go, and the difficulties they may expect

to find in it. They are informed that such things may take place,

they are thus armed for the battle, and when trials do come they

are not taken by surprise. God, the most merciful and kind God,

"tempers even the blast to the shorn lamb." Trust in him

therefore with all thy heart, and never lean to thy own


4. The providence and goodness of God are equally observable in

the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. The former was the

proof of his providential kindness by day; the latter, by night.

Thus he adjusts the assistance of his grace and Spirit to the

exigencies of his creatures, giving at some times, when peculiar

trials require it, more particular manifestations of his mercy and

goodness; but at all times, such evidences of his approbation as

are sufficient to satisfy a pious faithful heart. It is true the

pillar of fire was more observable in the night, because of the

general darkness, than the pillar of cloud was by day; yet the

latter was as convincing and as evident a proof of his presence,

approbation, and protection as the former. It is the duty and

interest of every sound believer in Christ to have the witness of

God's Spirit in his soul at all times, that his spirit and ways

please his Maker; but in seasons of peculiar difficulty he may

expect the more sensible manifestations of God's goodness. A good

man is a temple of the Holy Spirit; but he who has an unholy

heart, and who lives an unrighteous life, though he may have an

orthodox creed, is a hold of unclean spirits, and an abomination

in the sight of the Lord. Reader, let not these observations be

fruitless to thee. God gives thee his word and his Spirit, obey

this word that thou grieve not this Spirit. The following

figurative saying of a Jewish rabbin is worthy of regard: "God

addresses Israel and says, My son, I give thee my lamp, give me

thy lamp. If thou keep my lamp, I will keep thy lamp; but if thou

quench my lamp, I will extinguish thy lamp:" i.e., I give thee my

word and Spirit, give me thy heart and soul. If thou

carefully attend to my word, and grieve not my Spirit. I will

preserve thy soul alive; but if thou rebel against my word, and

quench my Spirit, then thy light shall be put out, and thy soul's

blessedness extinguished in everlasting darkness.

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