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Exodus 13:3-16

Context

13:3 Moses said to the people, “Remember 1  this day on which you came out from Egypt, from the place where you were enslaved, 2  for the Lord brought you out of there 3  with a mighty hand – and no bread made with yeast may be eaten. 4  13:4 On this day, 5  in the month of Abib, 6  you are going out. 7 

13:5 When 8  the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, 9  then you will keep 10  this ceremony 11  in this month. 13:6 For seven days 12  you must eat 13  bread made without yeast, and on the seventh day there is to be 14  a festival to the Lord. 13:7 Bread made without yeast must be eaten 15  for seven days; 16  no bread made with yeast shall be seen 17  among you, and you must have no yeast among you within any of your borders.

13:8 You are to tell your son 18  on that day, 19  ‘It is 20  because of what 21  the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 13:9 22  It 23  will be a sign 24  for you on your hand and a memorial 25  on your forehead, 26  so that the law of the Lord may be 27  in your mouth, 28  for 29  with a mighty hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 13:10 So you must keep 30  this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year. 31 

13:11 When the Lord brings you 32  into the land of the Canaanites, 33  as he swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it 34  to you, 13:12 then you must give over 35  to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. 36  Every firstling 37  of a beast that you have 38  – the males will be the Lord’s. 39  13:13 Every firstling 40  of a donkey you must redeem 41  with a lamb, and if you do not redeem it, then you must break its neck. 42  Every firstborn of 43  your sons you must redeem.

13:14 44 In the future, 45  when your son asks you 46  ‘What is this?’ 47  you are to tell him, ‘With a mighty hand 48  the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the land of slavery. 49  13:15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused 50  to release us, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of people to the firstborn of animals. 51  That is why I am sacrificing 52  to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb, but all my firstborn sons I redeem.’ 13:16 It will be for a sign on your hand and for frontlets 53  on your forehead, for with a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.” 54 

1 tn The form is the infinitive absolute of זָכַר (zakhar, “remember”). The use of this form in place of the imperative (also found in the Decalogue with the Sabbath instruction) stresses the basic meaning of the root word, everything involved with remembering (emphatic imperative, according to GKC 346 §113.bb). The verb usually implies that there will be proper action based on what was remembered.

sn There is a pattern in the arrangement of vv. 3-10 and 11-16. Both sections contain commands based on the mighty deliverance as reminders of the deliverance. “With a mighty hand” occurs in vv. 3, 9, 14, 16. An explanation to the son is found in vv. 8 and 14. The emphases “sign on your hand” and “between your eyes” are part of the conclusions to both halves (vv. 9, 16).

2 tn Heb “from a house of slaves.” “House” is obviously not meant to be literal; it indicates a location characterized by slavery, a land of slaves, as if they were in a slave house. Egypt is also called an “iron-smelting furnace” (Deut 4:20).

3 tn Heb “from this” [place].

4 tn The verb is a Niphal imperfect; it could be rendered “must not be eaten” in the nuance of the instruction or injunction category, but permission fits this sermonic presentation very well – nothing with yeast may be eaten.

5 tn The word הַיּוֹם (hayyom) means literally “the day, today, this day.” In this sentence it functions as an adverbial accusative explaining when the event took place.

6 sn Abib appears to be an old name for the month, meaning something like “[month of] fresh young ears” (Lev 2:14 [Heb]) (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 106). B. Jacob (Exodus, 364) explains that these names were not precise designations, but general seasons based on the lunar year in the agricultural setting.

7 tn The form is the active participle, functioning verbally.

8 tn Heb “and it will be when.”

9 tn See notes on Exod 3:8.

10 tn The verb is וְעָבַדְתָּ (vÿavadta), the Qal perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive. It is the equivalent of the imperfect tense of instruction or injunction; it forms the main point after the temporal clause – “when Yahweh brings you out…then you will serve.”

11 tn The object is a cognate accusative for emphasis on the meaning of the service – “you will serve this service.” W. C. Kaiser notes how this noun was translated “slavery” and “work” in the book, but “service” or “ceremony” for Yahweh. Israel was saved from slavery to Egypt into service for God as remembered by this ceremony (“Exodus,” EBC 2:383).

12 tn Heb “Seven days.”

13 tn The imperfect tense functions with the nuance of instruction or injunction. It could also be given an obligatory nuance: “you must eat” or “you are to eat.” Some versions have simply made it an imperative.

14 tn The phrase “there is to be” has been supplied.

15 tn The imperfect has the nuance of instruction or injunction again, but it could also be given an obligatory nuance.

16 tn The construction is an adverbial accusative of time, answering how long the routine should be followed (see GKC 374 §118.k).

17 tn Or “visible to you” (B. Jacob, Exodus, 366).

18 tn The form is the Hiphil perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive, carrying the sequence forward: “and you will declare to your son.”

sn A very important part of the teaching here is the manner in which the memory of the deliverance will be retained in Israel – they were to teach their children the reasons for the feast, as a binding law forever. This will remind the nation of its duties to Yahweh in gratitude for the great deliverance.

19 tn Heb “day, saying.” “Tell…saying” is redundant, so “saying” has not been included in the translation here.

20 tn “it is” has been supplied.

21 tn The text uses זֶה (zeh), which Gesenius classifies as the use of the pronoun to introduce a relative clause after the preposition (GKC 447 §138.h) – but he thinks the form is corrupt. B. S. Childs, however, sees no reason to posit a corruption in this form (Exodus [OTL], 184).

22 sn This passage has, of course, been taken literally by many devout Jews, and portions of the text have been encased in phylacteries and bound on the arm and forehead. B. Jacob (Exodus, 368), weighing the pros and cons of the literal or the figurative meaning, says that those who took it literally should not be looked down on for their symbolic work. In many cases, he continues, it is the spirit that kills and the letter makes alive – because people who argue against a literal usage do so to excuse lack of action. This is a rather interesting twist in the discussion. The point of the teaching was obviously meant to keep the Law of Yahweh in the minds of the people, to remind them of their duties.

23 tn That is, this ceremony.

24 tn Heb “for a sign.”

25 tn Heb “for a memorial.”

26 tn Heb “between your eyes” (KJV and ASV both similar); the same expression occurs in v. 16.

sn That these festivals and consecrations were to be signs and memorials is akin to the expressions used in the book of Proverbs (Prov 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.

27 tn The purpose of using this ceremony as a sign and a memorial is that the Law might be in their mouth. The imperfect tense, then, receives the classification of final imperfect in the purpose clause.

28 sn “Mouth” is a metonymy of cause; the point is that they should be ever talking about the Law as their guide as they go about their duties (see Deut 6:7; 11:19; Josh 1:8).

29 tn This causal clause gives the reason for what has just been instructed. Because Yahweh delivered them from bondage, he has the strongest claims on their life.

30 tn The form is a perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive, functioning as the equivalent of an imperfect of instruction or injunction.

31 tn Or “every year,” or “year after year.”

32 tn Heb “and it will be when Yahweh brings (will bring) you.”

33 sn The name “the Canaanite” (and so collective for “Canaanites”) is occasionally used to summarize all the list of Canaanitish tribes that lived in the land.

34 tn The verb וּנְתָנָהּ (unÿtanah) is the Qal perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive; this is in sequence to the preceding verb, and forms part of the protasis, the temporal clause. The main clause is the instruction in the next verse.

35 tn The unusual choice of words in this passage reflects the connection with the deliverance of the firstborn in the exodus when the Lord passed over the Israelites (12:12, 23). Here the Law said, “you will cause to pass over (וְהַעֲבַרְתָּ, vÿhaavarta) to Yahweh.” The Hiphil perfect with the vav (ו) provides the main clause after the temporal clauses. Yahweh here claimed the firstborn as his own. The remarkable thing about this is that Yahweh 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, the observance referred to the dedication of all the redeemed to God.

sn It was once assumed by some scholars that child sacrifice lay behind this text in the earlier days, but that the priests and prophets removed those themes. Apart from the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for anything like that, the Law forbade child sacrifice, and always used child sacrifice as the sample of what not to do in conformity with the pagans (e.g., Deut 12:31). Besides, how absurd would it be for Yahweh to redeem the firstborn from death and then ask Israel to kill them. See further B. Jacob, Exodus, 371.

36 tn Heb “every opener of a womb,” that is, the firstborn from every womb.

37 tn The descriptive noun שֶׁגֶר (sheger) is related to the verb “drop, cast”; it refers to a newly born animal that is dropped or cast from the womb. The expression then reads, “and all that first open [the womb], the casting of a beast.”

38 tn Heb “that is to you.” The preposition expresses possession.

39 tn The Hebrew text simply has “the males to Yahweh.” It indicates that the Lord must have them, or they belong to the Lord.

40 tn Heb “and every opener [of a womb].”

41 tn The verb תִּפְדֶּה (tifdeh), the instructional imperfect, refers to the idea of redemption by paying a cost. This word is used regularly of redeeming a person, or an animal, from death or servitude (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 109).

42 tn The conditional clause uses an imperfect tense; this is followed by a perfect tense with the vav consecutive providing the obligation or instruction. The owner might not redeem the donkey, but if he did not, he could not keep it, he had to kill it by breaking its neck (so either a lamb for it, or the donkey itself). 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. See G. Brin, “The Firstling of Unclean Animals,” JQR 68 (1977): 1-15.

43 tn Heb “and every firstborn of man among your sons.” The addition of “man” is clearly meant to distinguish firstborn humans from animals.

sn One was to sacrifice the firstborn animals to Yahweh, but the children were to be redeemed by their fathers. The redemption price was five shekels (Num 18:15-16).

44 sn As with v. 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 in Egypt.

45 tn Heb “tomorrow.”

46 tn Heb “and it will be when your son will ask you.”

47 tn The question is cryptic; it simply says, “What is this?” but certainly refers to the custom just mentioned. It asks, “What does this mean?” or “Why do we do this?”

48 tn The expression is “with strength of hand,” making “hand” the genitive of specification. 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.

49 tn Heb “house of slaves.”

50 tn Heb “dealt hardly in letting us go” or “made it hard to let us go” (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 110). The verb is the simple Hiphil perfect הִקְשָׁה (hiqshah, “he made hard”); the infinitive construct לְשַׁלְּחֵנוּ (lÿshallÿkhenu, “to release us”) could be taken epexegetically, meaning “he made releasing us hard.” But the infinitive more likely gives the purpose or the result after the verb “hardened himself.” The verb is figurative for “be stubborn” or “stubbornly refuse.”

51 tn The text uses “man” and “beast.”

52 tn The form is the active participle.

53 tn The word is טוֹטָפֹת (totafot, “frontlets”). The etymology is uncertain, but the word denotes a sign or an object placed on the forehead (see m. Shabbat 6:1). The Gemara interprets it as a band that goes from ear to ear. In the Targum to 2 Sam 1:10 it is an armlet worn by Saul (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 110). These bands may have resembled the Egyptian practice of wearing as amulets “forms of words written on folds of papyrus tightly rolled up and sewn in linen” (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:384).

54 sn The pattern of the passage now emerges more clearly; it concerns the grateful debt of the redeemed. In the first part eating the unleavened bread recalls the night of deliverance in Egypt, and it calls for purity. In the second part the dedication of the firstborn was an acknowledgment of the deliverance of the firstborn from bondage. They were to remember the deliverance and choose purity; they were to remember the deliverance and choose dedication. The NT will also say, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price, therefore, glorify God” (1 Cor 6:20). Here too the truths of God’s great redemption must be learned well and retained well from generation to generation.



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