SANCTIFICATION OF THE FIRSTBORN, AND LAW OF REDEMPTION.
(2) Sanctify unto me all the firstborn.—It was a reasonable demand that the existing firstborn of Israel, spared by God when the Egyptian firstborn were destroyed, should be regarded thenceforth as His, and set apart for His service. The extension of the demand to existing beasts was also reasonable, since they too had been spared. God’s further requirement, that henceforth all the future firstborn should also be His, was intended to perpetuate the memory of the recent deliverance, and to help to fix it in the mind of the nation. The substitution of a redemption in the case of unclean beasts was necessitated by the circumstances of the case, since they could not be sacrificed; and the redemption of the firstborn sons naturally followed when the Levitical priesthood was established, and their services were no longer necessary. (See Numbers 3:40-51; Numbers 18:16.) The Jews still observe the ordinance, so far as the children are concerned, and redeem the son which has “opened the womb” on the thirtieth day after the birth.
A land flowing with milk and honey.—See Note on Exodus 3:8.
Thou shalt keep this service.—Kalisch concludes from this verse, and from Exodus 12:25, that there was no obligation upon the Israelites to keep the Passover until they obtained possession of Canaan. He holds that two Passovers only were celebrated before that event—one by Moses in the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 9:1-5), and the other by Joshua at Gilgal, in the plain of Jericho (Joshua 5:10-11).
Thou shalt redeem.—Since the ass was unclean. In Egypt he is said to have been “Typhonian;” and Set, the Evil Principle, is represented with long ears, which may be those of an ass, cropped towards the upper extremity. The redeeming of an ass with a lamb (or kid) was favourable to the owner, since the ass colt must have been of considerably more value.
If thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck.—There will always be in every nation those who grudge to make any offering to God, and who will seek to evade every requisition for a gift. To check such niggardliness, the present law was made. It would be effectual without requiring to be put in force.
All the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.—This was declared in anticipation of the arrangement afterwards to be made, whereby the tribe of Levi was taken in lieu of the firstborn for the service Of the sanctuary (Numbers 3:40-45), and an obligation was imposed on Israelites of other tribes to “redeem” their sons by a payment of five shekels for each to the priests (Numbers 18:15-16).
(17) God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines.—In Exodus 13:17-19 the writer interposes some parenthetic remarks, which are not a continuation of the narrative interrupted (Exodus 12:42), but rather reflections that occur to him. The starting point of the journey being Tanis or Rameses, in the Eastern Delta, not far from the sea, he sees that the shortest, and apparently the easiest, route for the Israelites to have pursued would have been that which led along the coast, from Tanis to Pelusium, thence to Rhinocolura, and from Rhinocolura to Gaza, Ascalon, and Ashdod, the chief towns of the Philistines. The distance along this line was not more than about 200 miles, and might have been accomplished in a fortnight. He anticipates an inquiry, Why did they not pursue this route? The reply is, that such was not the will of God; and the reason why it was not His will is further given—“The people would probably have repented when they saw war, and would have returned to Egypt.” It is implied that the Philistines were already a strong and warlike people, which they may well have been, though not mentioned in the contemporary Egyptian monuments. The Egyptians mention by name very few of the nations of Syria, and the few names which they put on record can seldom be identified.
Although that was near.—Rather, because that was near. God did not, because it was near, lead them that way, but another.
When they see war.—If the Philistines are to be regarded as identical with the “Purusata” of the Egyptian remains, they must be viewed as one of the most warlike people of the time. Even leaving aside this identification—which is very uncertain—we must view them as one of the most important of the tribes inhabiting the lower Syrian region. In Joshua’s time they already possessed their five strong fortresses—Gaza, Ascalon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron (Joshua 13:3); and during the period of the Judges they raised themselves to the leading position in the Palestinian region. Palestine derives its name from them, and would not have obtained the name unless they had been a very remarkable race. We can well understand that the Israelites after four centuries of slavery would have been an ill match for the Philistines, and that, if defeated or intimidated, they might have felt that no course was open to them but a return to Egypt.
The children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.—It is generally agreed that this is a wrong translation. Very few of the Israelites can have possessed suits of armour until after the passage of the Red Sea, when they may have stripped the bodies of the slain Egyptians. Nor has the word used ever the force of “harnessed.” It might mean “with their loins girded,” but such an exposition would deprive the statement made of any force. Loins were always girded in preparation for a journey, and there would be no need to mention the fact. The best explanation is, that the word here means “organised,” “in military order” (Saadia, Gesenius, Lee, Knobel, Cook). It was clearly necessary, to prevent confusion, that a military order should have been adopted, and there are not wanting indications that during the year of contention with Pharaoh such an organisation was introduced and proceeded with. (See Exodus 4:29; Exodus 4:31; Exodus 6:26; Exodus 12:3; Exodus 12:21; Exodus 12:51.) It must have been brought to a high pitch of perfection for the Exodus to have taken place, as it seems to have done, without serious confusion or entanglement.
Exodus 13:20And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.THE JOURNEY RESUMED.
(20) They took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham.—The exact positions of both Succoth and Etham are uncertain, and can only be conjectured; but they probably lay to the southeast of Tanis, between that city and the Bitter Lakes. Succoth may have been at or near Tel Dafneh, about fifteen miles from Tanis, and Etham near the modern Ismailia, on the verge of the desert. Dr. Brugsch’s identification of Etham with the Egyptian Khetam is highly improbable, since the Hebrew aleph never replaces the Egyptian kh, which is a very strong guttural. E-tham would mean “the house of Turn,” and point to a temple of the Sun-god, who was specially worshipped in the Eastern Delta, at Heliopolis, Patumus, and elsewhere.
To go by day and night.—The night journeys of the people are mentioned again in Numbers 9:21.