The Exodus: From Rameses to Succoth / Directions for the Passover / The Festival of Unleavened Bread / The Consecration of the Firstborn
The Exodus: From Rameses to Succoth: Exodus 12.33-42
Perhaps fearing there are more plagues to come, the Egyptians hurry the Israelites out of Egypt. The people do not have time to bake bread – they take the kneading bowls and unleavened dough and leave. Well, they do have time to take the jewelry and clothing the Lord promised, thereby plundering the Egyptians. By the way, the unleavened bread part is in fulfillment of God’s word.
In total, 600,000 men travel from Rameses to Succoth. The HarperCollins editorial note reads: “Counting women, children, and the elderly, the total would well exceed 2 million; a large army comprised perhaps 20,000 soldiers” (104). The crowd had not prepared provisions, their egress was so fast. So they bake the dough to make unleavened bread.
The Israelites had been living in Egypt for 430 years to the day. For generations to come a vigil for the Lord is to be kept by the Israelites on this day.
Directions for the Passover: Exodus 12.43-13.2
More Passover instructions as given by God to Moses and Aaron! (See yesterday’s post for the previous instructions)
- Those who cannot eat it
- Foreigners. (Ex. 12.43)
- “Bound or hired” servants. (see above; Ex. 12.45)
- Uncircumcised people. (see above; Ex. 12.48)
- Those who can eat it.
- A slave who has been purchased and circumcised. (Ex. 12.44)
- The whole congregation of Israel must eat it. (Ex. 12.47)
- An alien who wishes to celebrate it and has had all his males circumcised. Bonus! He will be regarded as a native of the land. (Ex. 12.48)
- How to eat it.
- In the house. Don’t take any meat outside. (Ex. 12.46)
- Do not break the bones of the animal. (Ex. 12.46)
There is then an inversion: The Lord tells Moses to consecrate all the firstborns to God: “Whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine” (Ex. 13.2). This inverts the tenth plague, in which the Lord killed all the firstborns. Here Moses is to dedicate all the firstborns to God; they are made sacred in God’s name. Rather than having their life taken, firstborns by this command receive a protection of sorts.
The Festival of Unleavened Bread: Exodus 13.3-10
Moses gives instructions regarding the festival of unleavened bread, but with a few key differences.
The Israelites escape bondage in Abib, the first month of the year. As a yearly memorial ritual, no leavened bread should be eaten for a week during this month, beginning when the Lord (not Moses…) brings the Israelites into the land of all those foreigners that flows with milk and honey. On the seventh day there is to be a festival to the Lord. No one can leavened bread or even have leaven in their possession. On the seventh day parents should tell their child:
It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.(Ex. 13.8).
It shall serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the Lord may be on your lips; for with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt.(Ex. 13.9)
In later times this comes to be interpreted as a command to wear Tefillin, or phylacteries. These are small boxes connected by a strap that sit upon the forehead and arms. Each box contains scrolls of parchment with prayer written on them.
Exodus 12.26-27 contains a parallel response to a child that is explained in Exodus 13.8. The earlier on occurs during Passover:
And when your children ask you, “What do you mean by this observance?” you shall say, “It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.”(Ex. 12.26-27)
This, of course, is how the story is passed down through the generations, an important theme from the account of the plagues.
The Consecration of the Firstborn: Exodus 13.11-16
Here follows a parallel command for consecration of the firstborn, one that elaborates on the previous command above.
Moses tells the people of the Lord’s command, which will apply as soon as the Israelites enter the land of the Canaanites. All the firstborn male livestock belong to (read: sacrificed to) the Lord. However, donkeys should be redeemed with sheep (i.e. sacrificing a lamb for the donkey [because donkeys are unclean and therefore unfit for sacrifice]). Otherwise the donkey’s neck should be broken. The firstborn males should all be redeemed (i.e. a lamb for the kid [heh, get it, “kid.” Okay, “child” is a better term there]). Then appears the third question from a child:
When in the future your child asks you, “What does this mean?” you shall answer, “By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from human firstborn to the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every male that first opens the womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.” It shall serve as a sign on your hand and as an emblem on your forehead that by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.(Exodus 13.14-16)
The inverse ceremony is completed with the redemption of the firstborns. Note as well the reference to the Lord’s hand bringing Israel out of Egypt and the repetition of the sign on the hand and forehead. There is an awful lot of repetition going on here…
Tomorrow: Something completely different.