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Exodus 12:37-13:16; Redemption; the Firstborn Belong to God

02/13 Exodus 12:37-13:16 Redemption; Firstborn Belong to the LORD


We’ve been away from the book of Exodus for some time now, so before we jump back in to chapters 12 and 13, I’ll try to give a very sweeping summary of the first 12 chapters of the book and sketch out where we are going from here.

Exodus is a book about redemption and the presence of God among his people. Exodus is the focal point of the Torah, or the five books of Moses, as it describes the founding of Israel as God’s chosen nation. Exodus is about a God who acts on behalf of his people, in response to their prayers, a God who always keeps his promises and uses weak and foolish things to shame the wise and the strong. God hears the cries for help from his people, and he triumphs over the Pharaoh using a handful of women who determine to obey God rather than man, whatever the cost. He raises up his deliverer, who is misunderstood and rejected by his own people, exiled into the wilderness. He becomes savior to the gentiles, and learns shepherding in the desert. God reveals himself unexpectedly as the self-existent one, and reveals what he will do to rescue his people. The news is received initially with worship, but as the realization sets in that things will get worse before they get better, the people run back to their old slave-master for help and call down curses on God’s chosen deliverer. God, in his great mercy toward a sinful and rebellious people, unleashes his mighty acts of judgment against Egypt to deliver his people. In these, he demonstrated decisively his sovereign superiority over all the gods the Egyptians worshiped. God points us to Christ our passover sacrificed for us; to Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as he establishes the means for deliverance from his own justice on the firstborn.

In chapter 12, we have instructions for the passover ritual, we see the Egyptians ejecting the people from the land in response to God’s final decisive blow, and we see Israel plundering the Egyptians of their valuables. In chapter 13, God asserts his ownership over everyone and everything, and demands holiness in his people. In chapter 14 God leads his people through the Red Sea and crushes the pursuing Egyptian army.

To help orient ourselves as to where we are in the book, let’s review a basic outline of God’s action in Exodus: (Longman, p.34):

Exodus 1-18 God saves Israel from Egyptian bondage

Exodus 19-24 God gives Israel His law; where he formally takes them to be his people and defines for them his covenant relationship with them.

Exodus 25-40 God instructs Israel to build His Tabernacle; the place where he will once again dwell with his people.


My prayer as we study the book of Exodus together is that we enjoy the presence of almighty God with us, that we acknowledge ourselves as undeserving recipients of his love and grace, that we embrace Jesus as our passover lamb slaughtered in our place, that we experience Jesus who shepherds us through the wilderness, that we are brought out from under the cruel bondage of sin and into the glorious freedom of joyfully serving the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Ethnic diversity; theological unity

Exodus 12:37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. 40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.

In verse 38 we are told that a mixed multitude accompanied the Israelites as they went out of Egypt. This is a crowd of diverse ethnic background, apparently convinced by God’s mighty acts that YHWH really is the only true God, and they would be better off siding with the Israelites and their God than remaining behind in devastated Egypt. Remember God’s promise to Abraham that he would bless the nations through his offspring (Gen.18:18; 22:18)? Even an Egyptian could escape God’s wrath by following God’s instructions and coming under the blood. Because of this mixed multitude accompanying Israel in the exodus, parameters had to be established. The meal commemorating the redemption from slavery was an exclusive meal. Not all were welcome. But this exclusivity was not based on ethnicity. People from every tribe and tongue and people and nation were welcome to participate, but only those who had embraced YHWH as their God and submitted to the sign of covenant relationship with him.

12:43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired servant may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” 50 All the people of Israel did just as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

There was to be one standard, one law for natives and aliens alike. Acceptance of the terms of the covenant relationship with this rescuing God. Those who rejected the covenant relationship with YHWH were to be excluded. There was room for ethnic diversity, but there must be theological unity.

The Firstborn

The final blow against Egypt was the death of the firstborn. God has exclusive rights over his creation, to do with it as he pleases. Life and death are in the hands of no one but God. There are no accidents in God’s universe. God says:

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Back in Exodus 4, Moses was instructed by God:

Exodus 4:22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”’

God had demanded the release of his firstborn son. If Pharaoh refused, the consequences would be the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn son. This is exactly what happened. God kept his word. This Pharaoh’s predecessor had ordered the execution of all male infants born to Israel. Now God personally saw to the execution of all the firstborn males of Egypt. This was the price God paid to set his people free. God as Creator has sovereign rights over his creation. God as Redeemer has double authority over his people. We must be reminded of his sovereign rights over us.

Exodus 13:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”

… 11 “When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For 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 animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”

God demanded that all firstborn be consecrated to him. To consecrate was to dedicate, to sanctify, or set apart as holy, to be offered to the Lord. The consecration of the firstborn was similar to the tithe, where part was given as a recognition and reminder that God owned the whole. It is clear in scripture that not just the firstborn, but everyone and everything belong to God.

Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

Deuteronomy 10:14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.

Job 41:11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

Psalm 50:12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

God owns all things. He can do with his possessions whatever he wills. He demanded that the firstborn of anything that was considered clean – fit for eating or offering – would be sacrificed to him. All the firstborn of unclean animals must either be redeemed – by a substitute clean animal sacrificed in its place, or it was to be destroyed. Isn’t it interesting that man is placed in the same category as unclean animals unfit for sacrifice – humans must be redeemed. This is a pattern we have seen throughout Genesis. In Genesis 22, God had demanded that Abraham sacrifice his promised son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham was obediently following God’s instructions, when at the last minute God stopped him and provided a substitute ram to be sacrificed in his place. But that was not the first time. All the way back in Genesis 3, our first parents rebelled against God and then hid from God because they knew that the wages of sin is death. But God did not put them to death. Instead, he clothed them with skins of animals, sacrificed in their place as a substitute. All this points to Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29). He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24). Verse 16 tells us that the awareness of God’s right and our redemption is to be taught by fathers to their sons, and we are to be constantly reminded that we were bought with a price.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying; Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

You are not your own. You were bought with a price. We need to be constantly reminded of this. It is our responsibility to pass this truth on to the next generation. We no longer sacrifice animals because the once for all sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient for all time to cover all our sins (Rom.6:10; Heb.7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10).

Romans 6:10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Hebrews 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 9:12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9:26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

We need to be reminded of how the Lord by his strong hand brought us out from the house of slavery. We need to be reminded that we were bought with the once for all blood of Jesus the Lamb of God. Today we have a different reminder. ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19).

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment