Exodus 13 – Go Priestly – The Consecrated Life

Posted: July 17, 2011 by pastorerichann in Bible Studies / Helps, Theology
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The following is some extra background material, relevant scripture passages, and applicable quotes from our recent study in Exodus on the law of the firstborn and the consecrated life.


Hebrew: qadash “to consecrate, to set apart, to sanctify, to make holy” 

Exodus 13:1-16. After an introductory statement about the Israelites’ firstborn (vv. 1-2), who were to be dedicated for the service of the Lord (since they were spared the 10th plague)… Moses addressed the people again about the Passover and the Unleavened Bread feasts (vv. 3-10), and then returned to the subject of the firstborn (vv. 11-16).

“Once in the land of promise (Ex. 13:11), the firstborn sons and male animals were to be dedicated to the Lord (cf. v. 2; Numb. 18:15). Animals were included because they too benefited from the redemption which God provided in the 10th plague (Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt, p. 154). Since donkeys were considered ceremonially unclean animals (Lev. 11:2-4) they could not be sacrificed, but they could be redeemed (Heb. padah, “to buy back for a price“) by lambs sacrificed in their place. Of course, since human sacrifice was unacceptable the Hebrews’ sons were also to be ‘redeemed.’ This too would have teaching value in the home (cf. Ex. 12:26-27; 13:8). The Egyptian firstborn were slain, in judgment, and the Israelite ‘firstborn’ were either slain (the animals) in substitutionary sacrifice or redeemed (the sons). Like the Feast of Unleavened Bread (vv. 7-9) the consecration of the firstborn was a sign and symbol, a reminder of God’s powerful deliverance (v. 16). both were reminders of God’s gracious deliverance from the land of bondage”  (Walvoord and Zuck – The Bible Knowledge Commentary p. 130)

“Closely linked with the account of Israel’s release from Egypt and the Passover was the consecration of all the firstborn in Israel. The connection of v. 1 with the preceding events is secured by comparing the repeated reference to ‘that very day’ (12:41, 51) with ‘this day’ (13:3) and ‘today, in the month of abib, you are leaving’ (vs. 4). Therefore, the sanctification of all firstborn was commanded by God probably at Succoth, the first stopping place after the Exodus (12:37); and it fell within the seven days set aside for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (12:15).”

“The general principle is set forth in v. 2: every ‘firstborn’ (Heb. bekor0 male of both man and beast (as explained in vv. 12-13), i.e., the first ‘offspring’ (that which opens the womb) belongs to the Lord and is therefore ‘to be set apart’ (qadash) from common usage for holy purposes. Thus God set aside the seventh day, the tabernacle, the tribe of Levi – and here all firstborn. The basis for God’s claim was not connected here with his lordship over all creation (Ps. 24;1 et al.); but as KD point out (2:33) from Numbers 3:13 and 8:17, it was based on the fact that God had already set apart to himself the firstborn in Israel on the day he smote all the firstborn of Egypt. Their sanctification did not rest on their deliverance from the tenth plague, but rather on God’s adoption of Israel as his “firstborn” led to his delivering them. From that time onward, that spared nation would dedicate the firstborn of its men and beasts in the way detailed in vv.12-16 in commemoration of God’s acts of love and his deeds that night.

(11-16) “As Israel ‘passed over’ the Red Seas and the destroyer ‘passed over’ their firstborn, so now they were ‘to cause to pass over’ or ‘give over’ to the Lord a;; their firstborn when they entered the land (v. 12). (Notice the connection between the ‘Passover’ and the ‘Passing Over’ of the death angel in the comment on 12:13). Only two slight modifications (v. 13) were made to this principle: (1) all firstborn male humans (firstborn females were exempted) were to be redeemed (padah) or ‘bought back at a price’ … (2) donkeys were to be ‘bought back’ or ‘ransomed’ (padah) by a lamb or kid since donkeys were ‘unclean’ animals and therefore unfit for sacrifice … to prevent any refusal to follow this command to ransom their animals, the Israelites were to kill them by breaking their necks.”

The obligation of the firstborn to serve the LORD in some nonpriestly work around the sanctuary was later transferred to the Levites who became God’s authorized substitutes for each firstborn boy or man (Num 3). When the number of Levites was exhausted, additional males could be ransomed or redeemed at a price of five shekels apiece. Verses 15-16 again reiterate the explanation: the firstborn were owned by the LORD; for he dramatically spared them in the tenth plague, and he had previously called them to be his firstborn in 4:22″ (Walter Kaiser, Jr. Expositors Bible Commentary; Frank E. Gaebelein Gen. Ed. pp. 382-383) 

FIRSTBORN: First son born to a couple and required to be specially dedicated to God. The firstborn son of newly married people was believed to represent the prime of human vigor (Gen. 49:3; Ps. 78:51). In memory of the death of Egypt’s firstborn and the preservation of the firstborn of Israel, all the firstborn of Israel, both of man and beast, belonged to Yahweh (Ex. 13:2,15; compare 12:12-16). This mean that the people of Israel attached unusual value to the eldest sons and assigned special privileges and responsibilities to him. He was presented to the Lord when he was a month old. Since he belonged to the Lord, it was necessary for the father to buy back the child from the priest at a redemption price not to exceed five shekels (Num. 18:16)…

The firstborn of a clean animal was brought into the sanctuary on the eighth day after birth (Ex. 22:30). If it were without blemish, it was sacrificed (Deut. 15:19; Num. 18:17). If it had a blemish, the priest to whom it was given could eat it as common food outside Jerusalem (Deut. 15:21-23), or it could be eaten at home by its owner, Apparently the firstborn of clean animals were not to be used for any work since they belonged to the Lord (Deut. 15:19). The firstborn of an unclean animal had to be redeemed by an estimation of the priest, with the addition of one-fifth (Lev. 27:27; Num 18:15). According to Exodus 13:13; 34:20, the firstborn of an ass was either ransomed by a sheep or lamb, or its neck had to be broken. Figuratively, Israel was God’s ‘firstborn’ (Ex. 4:22; Jer. 31:9) and enjoyed priority status. God compared His relationship to Israel with the relationship of a father and his firstborn son. Within Israel, the tribe of Levi represented the firstborn of the nation in its worship ceremony (Num. 3:40-41; 8:18). Christ is the ‘firstborn’ of the Father (Heb. 1:6 NIV) by having preeminent position over others in relation to Him. He is also described as firstborn among many brethren‘ (Rom. 8:29) and ‘firstborn of all creation’ (Col. 1:15 NAS). Paul (Col. 1:18) and John (Rev. 1:5) refer to Christ as ‘firstborn from the dead’ – the first to rise bodily from the grave and not die again. Hebrews 12:23 refers to the ‘church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.’ Christian believers united with and as joint heirs of Christ, enjoy the status of ‘firstborn’ in God’s household” (Walker – from Holman Bible Dictionary – p.493)

 Some more relevant N.T. passages on the theme of the “consecrated” life:

I Peter 2:4-5 “Coming to Him as to a living stone rejected by men, but chosen by God and precious” (5) “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”

Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (2) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”

I Cor. 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”  (20) “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s”   

Colossians 3:1-5 “if then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God” (2) “Set your mind on things above not on things on the earth” (3) “For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” … (5) “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry”

“Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervours, or uncommanded austerities; it consists of thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wills” (Scottish theologian John Brown as quoted from “The Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges p. 46-47)

“Whenever we seriously contemplate the holiness of God, our natural reaction is to say with Isaiah, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Is. 6:5). A Serious view of the holiness of God – His own moral perfection and infinite hatred of sin – will leave us, as it did Isaiah, seeing with utter dismay our own lack of holiness. His moral purity serves to magnify our impurity” … “You, too, if you diligently pursue holiness, must often flee to the Rock of your salvation. You flee there, not to be saved again but to confirm in your heart that you are saved through His righteousness alone” (Jerry Bridges from The Pursuit of Holiness pp 43, 45) 


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