Exodus 13:2 Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb… both of man and of beast
“To sanctify means to consecrate or to set apart from common to sacred use. The firstborn of Israel, both man and beast, having been preserved from death by the grace of God, were now as a token of gratitude to be consecrated to his service. Not only was this divine decree to remind Israel of her redemption from death in Egypt, but it also carried with it the memory of a heavenly council in which the Firstborn of the Father was consecrated as the Lamb to be slain, the servant of all who would believe and obey.
“The firstborn of every family was to be consecrated to the service of Jehovah as a priest, while the firstborn of all clean animals were to be offered as a sacrifice. The firstborn of unclean animals were to be redeemed by the offering of a lamb or kid. The law was a constant reminder that all things belonged to God, who had given his own firstborn as the great and last sacrifice. Obviously, it was also a reminder of what the Lord had done in preserving the firstborn of Israel in Egypt. Afterwards the tribe of Levi was consecrated to the priestly service in lieu of the firstborn of all the tribes. Still, the firstborn of the other tribes were released from this bond only by the payment of a redemption tax of five shekels apiece to the priests of the temple. Joseph and Mary complied with this law when they brought the Christ child to the temple forty days after his birth (Luke 2:23-24).” (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1999], 51)
Exodus 13:3-10 Remember the feast of unleavened bread and teach its significance to your children
We were taught this lesson in the last chapter. The repetition is helpful but also gives us a clue that the Book of Exodus is a compilation of more than one record. Certain things are repeated when the text jumps from one author to another.
“Because of this duplication and some conflicting details… scholars assign this paragraph to the J source and Ex 12:14-20 to the P source.” (The Jewish Study Bible, ed. by A Berlin & MZ Brettler [New York, Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2014], 123)
The “P source” is thought to have been the oldest source of them all. It was written after the Israelites settled in the Promised Land and was characterized by “the great amount of priestly legislation it contains.” The “J source” came much later and is suspected to have been written in the days of King David and King Solomon, about 1000-930 BC. (The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. by G. A. Buttrick et al [New York, Abingdon Press, 1952] vol. 1, p. 189, 194)
If you wonder how the text might be different if it came from Moses speaking in first person, then read Moses chapter 1 and compare the tone and spirituality to Exodus. There is a huge difference. Though the first 5 books of the Bible are attributed to Moses, they were composed of two or more “independent documents which had been woven together by a redactor.” A scholar named Hermann Gunkel said of Genesis, “its final form was complex in the extreme—the product of centuries of assimilation and development of material drawn from many sources.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, 1:191)
LDS students understand the message of salvation better than the redactors and compilers of the Old Testament. This is hard to realize at first, but the truths of the Restored Gospel make one an expert on the Messianic meaning of the Old Testament. The scribes who put together the final form of the document were more concerned with Jewish Nationalism than salvation through the merits of the Messiah.
Exodus 13:13 every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb
God wants the firstborn of man and beast—except for the asses. Some are dumb--, some are stupid--, some are jack--, some are smart--; so He doesn’t want them. That’s understandable. Which would you choose to symbolize the Firstborn?
Exodus 13:16 it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes
“In Deut. 6:8 and 11:18… God’s words are to be ‘bound’ as a sign on the arm and as a frontlet on the forehead, and this is accompanied by the injunction to write those words on the doorposts and city gates. In that context, the command is meant literally… referring to tefillin, or phylacteries, small leather capsules fastened to the forehead and the upper arm by leather straps, and containing the paragraphs in which these verses appear (Exod. 13:1-10, 11-16; Deut. 6:5-9, 11;13-21).” (The Jewish Study Bible, 124)
Latter-day Saints, like everyone else, look at these phylacteries with wonder. They seem to be a little peculiar, but that should not be too surprising since God has declared he would have a “peculiar people” (Deut. 14:2). What methods do we use to keep the law of God always on our mind and close to our heart? For most of us, we don’t have to look farther than our underwear drawer.
Exodus 13:17 God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines
There was a well-defined trade route that went up the west coast of Palestine. That would have been both convenient and quick. If the Israelites were ready to inherit the Promised Land, they could have been there in a few weeks. This is a Biblical example of the journey being more important than the destination. Are there times when God has taken you “the long way” in order to bring you into the Promised Land? Sometimes there is a price to pay to become acquainted with God.
Consider the Mormon Pioneers who suffered in the Martin and Willie handcart companies:
“One of the best-known and best-loved stories of the Mormon pioneers is the testimony of Francis Webster, a member of the Martin Handcart
Company. Although his name has increasingly become associated with his statement, he is still better known as the unnamed old man in
the corner of a Sunday School class who arose to silence criticism directed toward those who allowed that company to come west:
I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Hand Cart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that Company and my wife was in it. . . . I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there.
Was I sorry that I chose to come by hand cart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Hand Cart Company.” (https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/BYUStudies/article/viewFile/7130/6779)
Exodus 13:19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him
“Before Joseph died he gave his family definite instructions that he was not to be buried in Egypt. He knew by revelation that in the future the house of Israel would be led by Moses and Aaron (see Joseph Smith Translation, Gen. 50:36-38) out of Egypt and return to the land of Canaan. He gave instructions that when such occurred they were to take his body with them and place it in the sepulchre with his father. The text of this passage as found in Gen. 50 is clarified in the Joseph Smith Translation, and hence is cited here:
Therefore, Joseph said unto his brethren, God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land, unto the land which he sware unto Abraham, and unto Isaac, and to Jacob.
And Joseph confirmed many other things unto his brethren, and took an oath of the children of Israel, saying unto them, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.
So Joseph died when he was an hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and they put him in a coffin in Egypt; and he was kept from burial by the children of Israel, that he might be carried up and laid in the sepulchre with his father. And thus they remembered the oath which they sware unto him (Joseph Smith Translation, Gen. 50:36-38; italics indicate clarification in the JST).
“The exact length of time from Joseph's death until the exodus led by Moses is not known, but it could be as many as three hundred years. In keeping with Joseph's desires, the book of Exodus reports: ‘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 hence with you’ (13:19).
“After another forty years, as Joshua took the children of Israel into Canaan, it is written:
And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph (Josh. 24:32).
“It is to be noted in the foregoing passage that the Israelites did not deposit Joseph's body in the cave with his father as he had requested, which would have been at Hebron, at least forty-five miles to the southwest from Shechem. The reasons for this failure are not given in the record. Possibly there were political reasons, either due to conditions at Hebron, or perhaps the descendants of Joseph wanted his body in their own inheritance near Shechem as a matter of status.” (Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 546-547)
Exodus 13:21 the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them the way and by night a pillar of fire
Do we forget how extraordinary it would be to have a pillar of a cloud over the camp during the day and a pillar of fire at night? That is a daily visible miracle—a daily visible proof that God is with them. When the cloud moved, the camp of the Israelites moved. When it stayed, they camped. It was their Liahona—their guidance through the wilderness. As the Holy Ghost is given to us to help us navigate the wilderness of mortality, God gave the Israelites a visible proof that he went up with the camp (Num. 14:14).
“So long as the cloud rested upon the tabernacle the children of Israel remained encamped; when it ascended, they broke up the encampment to proceed onward. Thus the cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night became the sign for camping and for breaking camp and moving forward until the time their wilderness journey ended. (Exodus 40:34-38.) Such was the symbol of the divine presence. Their path could only be that path in which he led them, and it must be in the patience of faith that they waited upon him. ‘Whether it was by day or by night whether it were two days, or a month, or a year,’ they journeyed or rested at his command (Numbers 9:21-22). Further, the cloud was a symbol of his presence and their right to appear before him and seek his blessings.” (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1999], 69)
George Albert Smith
Then we remember how later, when the children of Israel were led into the wilderness by Moses, although they were surrounded by the arms of love of our Heavenly Father, so to speak—he fed them manna from heaven; the rock of Horeb was cleft in order that they might have living water; he gave unto them that sure witness of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; they were led by a prophet of the Lord and yet there were large numbers of them, even under that influence, who absolutely refused to observe the teachings of our Heavenly Father, failed to take advantage of his wise counsels, and the result was they did not have the opportunity of even seeing the promised land. (Conference Report, April 1933, Second Day—Morning Meeting 67 - 68)
We shall go back to Jackson County. Not that all this people will leave these mountains, or all be gathered together in a camp, but when we go back there will be a very large organization consisting of thousands, and tens of thousands, and they will march forward, the glory of God overshadowing their camp by day in the form of a cloud, and a pillar of flaming fire by night, the Lord's voice being uttered forth before his army. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 15: 364)
We pray continually for the redemption of Zion, for the Lord to hasten the time when we can return and establish the centre Stake of Zion, and build up the great temple of the Lord upon which his glory will rest as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. We pray that we may be sanctified, that we may be made pure in heart; and we pray that the Lord will teach us his will continually, and reveal unto us precisely his mind, so that we may have the mind of Christ, and know precisely what to do. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 9: 136)