Sanctify the firstborn, part 1. Unleavened Bread. Sanctify the firstborn, part 2. Pillar of Fire and Pillar of Cloud.
VERSE 1. The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
VERSE 2. “Sanctify to me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of animal. It is mine.”
Sanctify. The Hebrew word is קַדֶּשׁ־ (“qad·deš- “). It means set apart, consecrate.
VERSE 3. Moses said to the people, “Remember this day, in which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten.
Remember this day. To be delivered out of bondage is to see your dreams fulfilled. It is a day to be remembered. And celebrated!
Was there any special moment when you were delivered? How can you remember that day? How can you celebrate it?
Abib. This was the month of ripe grain. It was roughly March-April.
Later, Abib will be referred to by the Babylonian name of Nisan.
VERSE 5. It shall be, when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month.
a land flowing with milk and honey. This expression first occurred in Exodus chapter 3:
Exodus 3:8. I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
VERSE 6. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD.
the seventh day shall be a feast. For the ancient Hebrew people, the day of rest was a feast. A festival!
VERSE 7. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and no leavened bread shall be seen with you. No yeast shall be seen with you, within all your borders.
VERSE 8. You shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’
You shall tell your son. The Hebrew people are to explain what they are doing. And why.
They are training their children in the ways of discipleship They are passing on their faith to the next generation!
that which the LORD did for me. This explanation is not theoretical. It is not memorized from a catechism.
It is personal: “that which the LORD did for ME.”
VERSE 9. It shall be for a sign to you on your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt.
VERSE 10. You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.
VERSE 11. “It shall be, when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanite, as he swore to you and to your fathers, and will give it you,
VERSE 12. that you shall set apart to the LORD all that opens the womb, and every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have. The males shall be the LORD’s.
you shall set apart. The Hebrew word is וְהַעֲבַרְתָּ֥ (“wə·ha·‘ă·ḇar·tā”). It means to pass over, through, or by, pass on.
VERSE 13. Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and you shall redeem all the firstborn of man among your sons.
VERSE 14. It shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ that you shall tell him, ‘By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage.
VERSE 15. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of livestock. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that opens the womb, being males; but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’
VERSE 16. It shall be for a sign on your hand, and for symbols between your eyes; for by strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”
a sign on your hand, and for symbols between your eyes. This is the origin of the תפילין (“Tefillin”). In English we call them “phylacteries.”
They are small boxes containing Bible verses. One goes on the forehead; the other on the arm.
Observant Jewish people still wear them while praying.
VERSE 17. When Pharaoh had let the people go, God didn’t lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt”;
VERSE 18. but God led the people around by the way of the wilderness by the Sea of Suf; and the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt.
VERSE 19. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the children of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones away from here with you.”
VERSE 20. They took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.
VERSE 21. The LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them on their way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light, that they might go by day and by night:
The LORD went before them. The LORD God led the people by a visible sign:
- During the day, it was a pillar of cloud
- At night, it was a pillar of fire
This visible means of guiding them was no subtle thing. There may have been two million Israelites. The sign would need to be convincing for them all.
The nighttime pillar of fire was likely an awesome, terrifying thing. Perhaps it was hundreds of feet in diameter, stretching from the ground all the way into the outer atmosphere or into deep space.
Its luminescence to the human eye was probably near the human threshold of pain, for miles in every direction.
Similarly, the daytime pillar of cloud was probably not subtle. We image it was not unlike a tornado, hungry and darting about, so obvious as to be quite convincing even to the extreme skeptic.
It would have needed to be so big. Otherwise, how could two million Israelites have seen it? And be convinced?
Given the configuration of their desert encampment, we estimate some people would have been two or three miles away. For them to see it, it had to have been enormous. It would have needed to be at least as big as a tornado.
Numbers 9:15. On the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, even the Tent of the Testimony. At evening it was over the tabernacle, as it were the appearance of fire, until morning.
VERSE 22. the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, didn’t depart from before the people.
didn’t depart from before the people. This pillar of cloud and fire predicts the visible presence of God that filled the brand new temple right after King Solomon dedicated the temple.
See 1 Kings chapter 8 and 2 Chronicles chapter 6.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.