13:9 1 It 2 will be a sign 3 for you on your hand and a memorial 4 on your forehead, 5 so that the law of the Lord may be 6 in your mouth, 7 for 8 with a mighty hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt.
13:16 It will be for a sign on your hand and for frontlets 9 on your forehead, for with a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.” 10
1 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.
2 tn That is, this ceremony.
3 tn Heb “for a sign.”
4 tn Heb “for a memorial.”
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.
6 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.
8 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.
9 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).
10 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.