The Grateful Debt of the Redeemed

Exodus 13 SCC 9/2/12

         Verses 1 and 2 call for sanctifying the firstborn, verses 3-10, instructs the yearly ritual of the unleavened bread, but then verses 11-16 returns to the discussion of the firstborn. The passage stresses how God redeemed, for this is explained in verses 3 and 4, then in verses 8-10 to the son, and then again in verses 14-16 to the son. So we would have to word the idea with this as the basis: In view of God’s mighty redemption, the redeemed must be separated from evil and set apart to the Lord’s service.


1. In the first part eating the unleavened bread v 7 recalls the night of deliverance in Egypt, and calls for purity (leaven representing that which can permeate and corrupt) 1-10.

God demands that the redeemed be sanctified and set apart (1, 2).

            First, God demands that the redeemed be sanctified to him (13:1, 2). Sancitfy, means “be holy, be set apart, be distinct,” and here “sanctify, set apart.” This is the general principle of the chapter--the firstborn were sacred to God, and must be set apart for His use. Every firstborn (the redeemed in the last plague) were to be God's.

            The same holds true of the NT, i.e., those specially redeemed God may claim for his special purposes. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men 1 Cor 7:23. This is spiritual slavery to the ways of men, the ways of the world, and the ways of the flesh. We are to leave sin and anything else that encourages sin remaining sanctified.


God requires the redeemed to purify themselves (3-10).

            This portion stresses that God requires his redeemed to remember their redemption by purifying themselves. This is the instruction of the Feast of Unleavened bread:

(1) First is the command v 3 to remember with a feast. Then the reminder of the mighty deliverance n v 3 & 9 and then there is the command to keep the feast (vv. 9, 10) again.

(2) “With a mighty hand” occurs in verses 3, 9, 14, and 16 to emphatically emphasize the point. (3) Also, the explanation to the son is repeated in verses 8 and 14.

(4) The time framework of the conquest is found in both verses 5 and 11.


A. The command to keep the feast based on the mighty deliverance 3-8

Remember:  v 3 stresses the basic meaning as everything involved with remembering. This word usually implies that there will be proper action based on what was remembered.

Powerful Hand: They had seen that powerful hand at work through the ‘blows’ God brought upon Egypt. This was convincing evidence that God was at work through Moses. Today the power of God seen in answers to prayer, spiritual growth, and conversions, all is miraculous evidences of God's power. If someone is teaching or preaching the word of God and at the same time demonstrating through his life and ministry the power of God, there should be no fear that the people of God will believe him. When Paul wished to prove he was authentic (i.e., called of God and doing the work of God), he had no letters of commendation other than the believers he led to the Lord (2 Cor. 3:2).

You Shall Observe: 5 Israel was saved from slavery into service for God as remembered by this ceremony ‘this day’ v 3, ‘this month’ v 5, & ‘from year to year’ v 10. For the powerful deliverance gives God the right to demand compliance.


B. The reminder of the deliverance and the command to keep the feast 9-10

            The manner of retaining the great deliverance in the memory of the nation (vv. 8, 9) is they shall teach their children the reasons for the Feast, as a binding law to be a memorial of the deliverance. This will remind the nation of its duties to the Lord in gratitude for the great deliverance.

Sign: v 9 The point of the teaching was obviously meant to keep the Law of God in the mind of the people, to remind them of their duties. That these festivals and consecrations were to be signs and memorials is akin to the expressions used in the Book of Proverbs (3:3, “bind them around your neck . . . write them on your heart”). The people were to use the festivals as outward and visible tokens to remind them to obey what the Law required.

            Picture: (In Exodus 13, God asks the Israelites to remember His provision of deliverance by a sign on their hand and as “…phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt (Ex.13:16).” Exodus 13:1-16 is the basis for Jewish men wearing phylacteries or tefillin (t’FILL-in). The word tefillin comes from a Hebrew word for prayer: “tefilah.” Jews wear these prayer boxes as a reminder of the presence of the Lord, His commandments, and their duty to serve the Lord. Four sections of scripture are included in the tefillin. Two of these are Exodus 13:1-10 and Exodus 13:11-16. The other two segments of scripture are Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Deuteronomy 11:13-21. The boxes are worn during prayer, on the head and arm, as prescribed in the above passages. These boxes serve as capsule-sized reminders of the whole Torah, and as a symbol of God’s covenant with Israel.)


         The purpose of using this ceremony as a sign and a memorial is that the Law might be in their mouth v 9. The point is that they might be ever talking about the Law as their guide as they go about their duties (see Deut. 6:7; 11:19; Josh. 1:8). The reason for what has just been instructed is because the Lord delivered them from bondage. He has the strongest claims on their life.


2. In the second part the dedication of the firstborn was an acknowledgment of the deliverance of the firstborn from bondage 11-16.

God requires the dedication of the firstborn (11-16).

         What is interesting here, is unlike the responsibility in v 2, it is to “give over” v12. The Lord claimed the firstborn, and the Israelite was to cause his firstborn to cross over to Him. The other notable thing is that the child was not retained by the Lord, but redeemed by the Father v 13. So the requirement was for a costly dedication. The Lord here claimed the firstborn as His own. The remarkable thing about this is that the Lord did not keep the firstborn that was dedicated to Him, but allowed the child to be redeemed by his father. It was an acknowledgment that the life of the child belonged to God as the one redeemed from death, and that the child represented the family. Thus, it all referred to the dedication of the redeemed to Him.


Donkey: 13 The owner might not redeem it, but if he did not, he could not keep it, he had to kill it (so either a lamb for it, or the donkey itself). But the donkey could not be killed by shedding blood because that would make it a sacrifice, and that was not possible with this kind of animal under the law.

            This is followed then by the instructions for passing on the explanation from generation to generation v 13-15. So, here a distinction is made: one sacrifices the firstborn animals to the Lord, but the children he redeems v 13 & 15.

Man: 13 The text has “every firstborn of man among your sons.” The addition of “man” is clearly meant to distinguish this instruction from animals.       One was to sacrifice the firstborn animals to the Lord; but the children were to be redeemed by their fathers.

Son: 14 As with verse 8, the Law now requires that the children be instructed on the meaning of this observance. It is a memorial of the deliverance from bondage and the killing of the firstborn.

Mighty Hand: 14 In translation “strength” becomes the modifier, because “hand” specifies where the strength was. But of course the whole expression is anthropomorphic for the power of God.

Stubborn: 15 has “dealt hardly in letting us go” or made it hard to let us go”. The verb is the simple “he made hard” or in the context he “hardened his own heart.” The verb is figurative for “be stubborn” or “stubbornly refuse.” Pharaoh hardened his heart in response to the circumstances God created. God was involved in hardening Pharaoh’s heart through these.

Lesson: They were to remember the deliverance and (1) choose purity (feast of unleavened bread); they were to remember the deliverance and (2) choose dedication (be devoting).

The pattern of the passage now emerges more clearly; it concerns the grateful debt of the redeemed. (1) In the first part eating the unleavened bread recalls the night of deliverance in Egypt, and calls for purity.

(2) In the second part the dedication of the firstborn was an acknowledgment of the deliverance of the firstborn from bondage.



The New Testament will also say, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price, therefore, glorify God in your body” 1 Cor 6:20! Here too the truths of God’s great redemption must be learned well and retained well from generation to generation.

1. Remember you belong to God and daily set yourself apart to Him and for Him and apart from the world.

2. Dedicate and devote yourself to His purposes and will. Initiate and deliberate. Do you? When?