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COC 18 Exodus 13 study notes

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COC 18: Exodus 13

(not verses 3-10 about passover)


Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me."

  • Stuart notes the connection between the feast of Passover in the spring and the spring as the time when most of the domesticated animals would be giving birth. It was a logical time for them to bring these gifts, these firstborn animals.

Now when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you,

  • At this point everyone would be assuming that in a few months, at the most, they would be there! By next spring they would be in the land, offering next spring’s firstborn to the Lord. They did not know that their own rebellion would mean that another whole generation would pass before they would enter the land.

 12 you shall devote to the LORD the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the LORD.

  • At least from the cattle it was the firstborn males; and that was probably true for humans too. It was probably the firstborn son, though verse 2 doesn’t specifically say that. Verse 16 seems to say it pretty clearly, though Stuart still insists the language here doesn’t definitely limit it to males.
  • Stuart “God here and elsewhere claims ownership of the firstborn of humans and animals, which their families were required to present to him as his property…. His desire was that the Israelites recognize his right to ownership of the first and best, in whatever came to them in spoils of war, or harvest, or offspring…. [This] helped create the spiritual attitude of submission so important for salvation, personal discipline, and blessing.”
  • Devote to the Lord here means “bring to the tabernacle to be used for sacrifice.” Again the Passover was an important time for this: remember that God told them not to appear before Him empty, but to bring a gift. So the Passover was a good time for them to bring these firstborn and give them to the Lord at the tabernacle.

 13 "But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.

  • Stuart “Did God actually want to keep them? No, except in the rarest of instances (as in, e.g., the case of Samuel; I Samuel 1:11). Thus the provision in vv.13, 15 for redeeming the firstborn back into the family by means of a buy-back payment.”
  • The redemption of the donkey here represents the redemption of those animals especially important for work (though they did give the firstborn oxen). In other words, it would be a serious problem if the Lord literally took from each family the firstborn son and the firstborn of the working animals that they didn’t eat. So the firstborn of the goats, lambs, and oxen were literally given to the Lord, but the firstborn of humans and some of the working animals were redeemed so that the family did not actually lose them.
    • Or a simpler answer: the donkey represents any animal that wasn’t acceptable for sacrifice at the temple. These were redeemed and kept.
  • The reference to breaking the neck is unusual. Stuart suggests that it may be talking about a donkey that the family doesn’t need for work, but it isn’t a firstborn that they have to take to the temple. Essentially it’s a donkey they don’t need or want; and so God is saying dispose of it yourself – don’t bring it to the temple. The temple doesn’t take donkeys.
  • Stuart “The ultimate purpose of this instruction was to prepare the Israelites for the death of Christ on their behalf…. If a life is to be restored, it must be bought back (redeemed) by a payment; and that payment is often the substitutionary death of something for something else. Paul’s assertion in I Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23 ‘You were bought with a price,’ follows the logic of the Old Testament redemption system as it foreshadows the redemption price paid by Christ with his own blood.”

 14 "And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come,

  • This son is probably the firstborn son who is redeemed, and Stuart points out that it was especially important for the father to pass along to his firstborn son the great truths about their God. As the heir of his father, it was essential for that son to receive the spiritual inheritance, the spiritual heritage from his father. And this consecration of the firstborn was just one of many tools God gave to the Fathers to pass these things along to their children.
    • Side note: Christmas is a tool! A time when it’s easy for the word of God to be in our mouths, to talk and teach. Don’t miss this teaching opportunity, whether your kids are two or twenty.

saying, 'What is this?' then you shall say to him, 'With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 'It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.' 16 "So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt."


Exodus 22:29-30 You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 "You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.

Exodus 34:19-20 The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep. 20 "You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed.

Numbers 3, entire chapter but esp. 12-13

Numbers 8:14-18

Numbers 18:8f. needs exploring


Christ as firstborn – we studied that sometime recently??



17 Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, "The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt." 18 Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt.

Also v.20 20 Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness.

  • Stuart notes that the Philistines were a significant military power: it was not until several centuries later under the great armies of King David that Israel was really able to defeat them. So this was no match for Israel’s completely unprepared ‘army.’
  • The coastal road from Egypt to Palestine (the Via Maris) ran right through Philistia.
  • Martial array
    • Start says the NIV translation “armed for battle” is not correct, because all this says is that literally they were organized by fifties. Stuart says that at this point they almost certainly aren’t armed at all.
  • Why not just crush the Philistines like the Egyptians?
    • Apparently it was not the right time for such a judgment on the Philistines.
    • God providentially works in and through human involvement – not exclusively of it. Examples: a student and test; a preacher and sermon; a Christian and witnessing. God doesn’t normally choose to supercede the laws of sowing and reaping.
    • Also I Cor. 10:13 principle.
    • Stuart is right, as I noted below, that this shows God’s ‘concern,’ not in a worried sense but in a caring sense.


 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, "God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you."

  • Stuart “The wording ‘gathered to one’s people/fathers’ [used often in the OT], described an expectation of the intermediate state of paradise, from which one would be resurrected, with bodily remains (bones) rejoined and transformed by God’s spirit into a spiritual body with which to inhabit heaven forever. Burial in the same tomb with those who had gone before symbolized faith in that outcome on the part of the deceased.”
  • At this point could interject another “eternity” comment regarding the resurrection and future for everyone.


20 Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

  • God is sending his people out into the wilderness: it’s a scary place for an unprepared people. They’ve had a very narrow world for a long time. They aren’t experienced travelers; they aren’t experienced warriors; they aren’t experienced desert dwellers; they are just beginning to learn about God. There are reminders here of God’s gentleness and graciousness that will sustain them through this.
  • “The somewhat repetitious language of these verses should not lead to the conclusion that there were two separate pillars.” Many verses tell us there was only one: Ex. 14:24, 14:19-20, 40:38, Num. 14:14.
  • Stuart says that “common sense” says the cloud provided shade and some desert relief, but notes that the text doesn’t say that but instead says that it went ahead of them to lead them.
  • “That was the main function of the pillar – a way of allowing the Israelites to look at God so as to be able to follow him without actually seeing him in his very person. The pillar-cloud was a manifestation of Yahweh himself, not merely something he sent them. By reason of being guided by the pillar, the Israelites knew all day every day that God was present with them.” This is clear in verse 21: the LORD went ahead of them. Could also read 14:24, since it will be close at hand for them. Another clear evidence of this is 40:38 – after the tabernacle was built the pillar would remain over the tabernacle when they weren’t traveling. It was the constant symbol of the presence of God there.

Simple, practical thoughts:

  • We owe God everything. The consecration of firstborn is a very small reminder that God has the right to all of our lives. We only have this illusion that we are in charge and that we own ourselves and our stuff.
  • Again this is designed to get them talking about God (v.14)
  • In verse 16, it seems pretty clear that the purpose is to remind them of God’s power in delivering them. But also a reminder that they should have lost the firstborn: they deserved God’s judgment, they should have lost their firstborn. But because of the sacrifice they didn’t. Simple reminder of the gospel: Jesus took the punishment in our place.
  • V.17 really indicates the Lord’s careful care for His people. He did not put them in a position He knew they were not spiritually prepared for. I Cor. 10:13 will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.
  • V.19 God keeps His promises. Joseph was wise enough to know that He could not simply live for this world. He had to consider what was coming after His death: would God keep His promises then? We too have to consider eternity: is God true; does He speak the truth; and will He keep His promises for eternity too? What is my eternal destiny?
  • Vv.21-22 the Lord’s care, seen in this provision of leadership and guidance
  • Exodus 13 reminds us of Christ in two major ways: the lamb sacrificed to take the judgment we deserved; then the Shepherd lovingly guiding His people. (I Cor. 5:7, 10:4 are possible here) John 14:6, but must first realize that God is ruler, we are rebels against God, deserving God’s judgment, without hope.


God’s ownership of all things

God’s provision of the redemption price

God’s wise providence

God’s trustworthiness

God’s gracious leading

Possible PM:

  • Samuel
  • Jesus’ consecration
  • Levites? (probably later in Pent.)
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