Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Exodus
Book: Exodus
Chapter: 13

The First-born sanctified to God The remembrance of the
Passover commanded. (1-10) The firstlings of beasts set apart.
(11-16) Joseph's bones carried with the Israelites, They come to
Etham. (17-20) God guides the Israelites By a Pillar of Cloud and
Fire. (21,22)

1-10 In remembrance of the Destruction of the First-born of
Egypt, both of Man and of Beast, and the deliverance of the
Israelites out of Bondage, the First-born males of the
Israelites were set apart to the Lord. By this was set before
them, that their lives were preserved through the Ransom of the
Atonement, which in due time was to be made for Sin. They were
also to consider their lives, thus ransomed from Death, as now
to be consecrated to the service of God. The parents were not to
look upon themselves as having any right in their First-born,
till they solemnly presented them to God, and allowed his title
to them. That which is, By special Mercy, spared to us, should
be applied to God's honour; at least, some grateful
acknowledgment, in Works of Piety and Charity, should be made.
The remembrance of their coming out of Egypt must be kept up
every Year. The Day of Christ's resurrection is to be
remembered, for in it we were raised up with Christ out of
Death's House of Bondage. The Scripture tells us not expressly
what Day of the Year Christ Rose, but it states particularly
what Day of the Week it was; as the more valuable deliverance,
it should be remembered weekly. The Israelites must keep the
Feast of unleavened Bread. Under the Gospel, we must not only
remember Christ, but observe his holy Supper. Do this in
remembrance of him. Also care must be taken to teach children
the knowledge of God. Here is an old Law for catechising. It is
of great use to acquaint children betimes with the histories of
the Bible. And those who have God's Law in their Heart should
have it in their mouth, and often speak of it, to affect
themselves, and to teach others.

11-16 The firstlings of beasts not used in Sacrifice, were to be
changed for others So used, or they were to be destroyed. Our
souls are forfeited to God's Justice, and unless ransomed By the
Sacrifice of Christ, will certainly perish. These institutions
would continually remind them of their duty, to Love and serve
the Lord. In like manner, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, if
explained and attended to, would remind us, and give us occasion
to remind one another of our profession and duty.

17-20 There were two ways from Egypt to Canaan. One was only a
few days' Journey; the other was much further about, through the
Wilderness, and that was the way in which God chose to lead his
people Israel. The Egyptians were to be drowned in the Red Sea;
the Israelites were to be humbled and proved in the Wilderness.
God's way is the right way, though it seems about. If we think
he leads not his people the nearest way, yet we may be sure he
leads them the best way, and So it will appear when we come to
our Journey's End. The Philistines were powerful enemies; it was
needful that the Israelites should be prepared for the wars of
Canaan, By passing through the difficulties of the Wilderness.
Thus God proportions his people's trials to their strength, 1Co
10:13. They went up in good order. They went up in five in a
rank,So some; in five Bands, So others, which it seems rather to
mean. They took the bones of Joseph with them. It was an encouragement to
their Faith and Hope, that God would bring them to Canaan, in
expectation of which they carried these bones with them while in
the Desert.

21,22 The Lord went before them in a Pillar, or appearance of
the Divine Majesty. Christ was with the Church in the
Wilderness, 1Co 10:9. Those whom God brings into a Wilderness,
he will not leave nor lose there, but will take care to lead
them through it. It was great satisfaction to Moses and the
pious Israelites, to be sure that they were under Divine
guidance. Those who make the Glory of God their End, and the
Word of God their rule, the Spirit of God the guide of their
affections, and the Providence of God the guide of their
affairs, may be sure that the Lord goes before them, though they
cannot see it with their eyes: we must now live By Faith. When
Israel marched, this Pillar went before, and pointed out the
place of encampment, as Divine Wisdom saw fit. It sheltered By
Day from the heat, and gave Light By night. The Bible is a Light
to our feet, a lantern to our paths, with which the Saviour's
Love has provided us. It testifies of Christ. It is to us like
the Pillar to the Israelites. Listen to that voice which cries,
I am the Light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk
in Darkness, but shall have the Light of Life, Joh 8:12. Jesus
Christ alone, as shown in the Bible, and as the Holy Spirit, in
answer to Prayer, recommends him to the soul, is the Way, the
Truth, and the Life, Joh 14:6.