For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

13:1.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


13:2.  “Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.”


Sanctify means to set apart for a special purpose; and the firstborn represents what we are by natural birth.  As descendants of our fallen, ruined head, Adam, we have inherited his sinful nature, share in his condemnation, and are in the same need of redemption as he, God’s claim upon us being that of Creator.


13:3.  “And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten.”


Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage is a type or figure of our new spiritual birth which has delivered us from Satan’s dominion, and from bondage to the impulses of our own fallen sinful nature.


As discussed already, leaven represents sin; and leavened bread, the Satanic wisdom of this world, so that this proscription is God’s command to us not to be governed by the world’s wisdom, the need of obedience to His command being demonstrated in what He has written concerning that wisdom, “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish,” James 3:15.


13:4.  “This day came ye out in the month Abib.”


Abib, meaning green ear (of corn), is April.  See comments on 12:2.


13:5.  “And it shall be when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month.”


For the significance of the names mentioned here see comments on 3:8.


13:6.  “Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord.”


Since seven is the number of perfection or completeness; and unleavened bread typifies the Scriptures, these seven days represent the totality of human life during which we are to nourish our spiritual life by studying and obeying the written Word. 


The special feast to be held on the seventh day is the symbolic reminder that the end of the believer’s earthly life ought to be a time of rejoicing rather than mourning, for it ends his earthly travail, and introduces him to eternal rejoicing in heaven.


13:7.  “Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.”


The repeated command to eat unleavened bread continues to emphasize the need to nourish our new spiritual life with spiritual food, the Scriptures; and the reiterated command to ensure that leaven not be “be seen with thee,” stresses the need of clinging tenaciously to sound doctrine.


13:8.  “And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.”


This declares the need to bear a clear testimony before our children, and to instruct them in the things of God.


13:9.  “And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt.”


Some Jews today bind upon their foreheads and arms small pouches called phylacteries, containing portions of the law, but it is very unlikely that God ever intended the adoption of any such custom.  The instruction more probably is to be understood as His command that all our work (symbolized by the hand), and all our thoughts (symbolized by the head, represented here by “between the eyes,”) are to be governed by His Word.  “... in thy mouth” speaks clearly of the need of a verbal testimony also, the corresponding NT truth being declared in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”  And as has been noted already, their deliverance from Egyptian bondage is the OT type of the believer’s having been born again spiritually through faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.


13:10.  “Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.”


There was to be an annual celebration of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, that remembrance feast, Passover, being kept by the Jews even today, they failing to realize that it has been superseded by the weekly remembrance feast of the Lord’s Supper, of which the Passover was merely a type, as it is written, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” 1 Corinthians 5:7.  That the Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated weekly is declared in Acts 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them ....”


13:11.  “And it shall be when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee,”


13:12.  “That thou shalt set apart unto the Lord all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the Lord’s.”


God, because He is the Creator, claimed as His, every firstborn male, whether man or animal.


13:13.  “And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.”


Job 11:12 makes it clear that the ass is a type of man in his natural, i.e., unconverted state, as it is written there, “For vain (empty, hollow) man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt.”  The need therefore, to redeem every firstborn male ass declares symbolically that every man (and woman) is born under condemnation as a descendant of fallen Adam, and needs to be redeemed.  The need to break the neck of the unredeemed ass is the symbolic assertion that every person not redeemed through faith in Christ as Savior will never enter heaven, but will instead be cast into hell to await the resurrection of death, which will result in the consignment of that person - body, soul, and spirit - into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.


As discussed already, the firstborn represents what we are by natural birth: sinners, condemned, unclean, unfit for heaven, hence the imperative of being born again through faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, to save us from hell, and fit us for heaven.


13:14.  “And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage:”


This continues to emphasize the need to instruct our children in the things of God.


13:15.  “And it came to pass when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the Lord slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.”


We have already noted that the firstborn male - the female is comprehended as being in the male - represents what we are by natural birth, and that his need of redemption signifies our need of being born again spiritually.  Because Pharaoh and the Egyptians refused to redeem their firstborn males, all of them died, human and animal alike, this being the symbolic reiteration of the truth that apart from being redeemed through faith in Christ as Savior, all men must remain spiritually dead, and die the second death, i.e., endure eternal torment in the lake of fire.


13:16.  “And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt.”


Since the hand speaks of work; and the head (“between thine eyes”), represents the intellect, the truth being announced here is that we who have been redeemed by Christ’s precious blood are to display in our deeds and thoughts that we are new creatures in Christ, as it is written, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Sin is never to be the deliberate and enjoyed thing in our lives, but rather the accidental and regretted.


13:17.  “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:”


13:18.  “But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.”


Instead of leading them along the King’s highway which led directly to Canaan, God led them into the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula and up by the eastern side of Jordan, so that they had to move directly westward and cross the Jordan in order to enter Canaan; and all of this is replete with spiritual instruction.


First, the wilderness represents what the world becomes to the believer at the moment of conversion.  As the literal wilderness furnishes nothing to support human life, neither does the world supply anything to support spiritual life.  For the forty years of their wilderness wandering the Israelites were dependent entirely on God who fed them with manna (type of the written Word), and who gave them water from the smitten rock (type of Christ smitten at Calvary to supply the water of life).  The manna represents the written Word which is our spiritual food; and the water from the rock, is a type of that same Word to cleanse us.


Their having to move directly westward across the Jordan in order to enter Canaan, has also something to teach us, for Biblical compass directions have also spiritual significance.  North is the direction that speaks of human intelligence, and almost invariably working in opposition to faith, of which the south speaks; and the east speaks of departure from God, as the west does of approach to Him.


Relative to the spiritual significance of the east, when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, they went out eastward, Genesis 3:24; and when Cain was driven out after killing his brother Abel, he too went eastward, Genesis 4:16.


Israel’s having to go westward therefore speaks of approach to God; but since the Jordan is the Biblical symbol of death, their having to cross that river reminds us that as believers we also have to “cross Jordan,” i.e., live as those who are dead to the things of the world, if we are going to enjoy fellowship with God, see Romans 6:8-11, “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him ... Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”


“... harnessed” means equipped for battle: armed: went up in military order: marshalled in fifties.


13:19.  “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.”


This command of Joseph is recorded in Genesis 50:24-26, but inasmuch as he is a type of Christ, Israel’s carrying his bones with them foreshadows the experience of the Church, for Scripture is in a figure the bones of the true Joseph, Christ.  It is in the Scriptures that we carry Him with us on our journey through the wilderness of this present evil world.


13:20.  “And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.”


Succoth meaning booths, lies about five miles east of Jordan on the banks of the Jabbok river, while the location of Etham, meaning with them: their plowshare, is uncertain, but thought to lie just north of lake Timsah.


The meaning of Succoth reminds us that we too are pilgrims and strangers, having no permanent dwelling place here on earth, as it is written, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul,” 1 Peter 2:11.  The meaning of Etham with them: their plowshare, is the symbolic reminder that the Lord is with us, as our “plowshare” going before us to open and prepare our way.


13:21.  “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.”


Since these pillars were for their guidance, as the Old and New Testaments are for ours, the cloudy pillar may represent the enigmatic character of the OT with its types, symbols, and shadows, while the pillar of fire may portray the unambiguous nature of the NT.


The day represents what is clear and easily understood in our lives, but the night speaks of those events that we don’t understand, and about which we all too often tend to question God’s wisdom.  The two guiding pillars teach us that we are to obey the Lord and follow His leading, even when we don’t understand, realizing that what we view as adversity, is as necessary for our good, as is what we consider to be blessing.


13:22.  “He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”


This clearly speaks of the eternally enduring character of God’s Word.

[Exodus 14]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough