1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Sanctify to me all the first-born. Whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast, it is mine."
3 And Moses said to the people, "Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place. There shall no leavened bread be eaten. 4 This day you came out in the month Abib. 5 And it shall be when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And there shall no leavened bread be seen with you, neither shall there be leaven seen with you in all your quarters. 8 And you shall show your son in that day, saying, 'This is done because of that which the LORD did to me when I came forth out of Egypt.' 9 And it shall be for a sign to you upon your hand and for a memorial between your eyes so that the LORD'S law may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.
11 "And it shall be when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, 12 That you shall set apart to the LORD all that opens the womb. And of every first-born that comes of a beast which you have, the males shall be the LORD'S. 13 And every first-born of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb. And if you will not redeem it, then you shall break his neck. And all the first-born of man among your children you shall redeem. 14 And it shall be that your son shall ask you in time to come, saying, 'What is this?' Then you shall say to him, 'By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage. 15 And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both the first-born of man and the first-born of beasts. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD all that opens the womb, being males, but all the first-born of my children I redeem.' 16 And it shall be for a token upon your hand and for frontlets between your eyes. For by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt."
17 And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near, for God said, "Lest perhaps the people repent when they see war and they return to Egypt." 18 But God led the people about through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up armed from the land of Egypt. 19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had strictly sworn the children of Israel, saying, "God will surely visit you and you shall carry up my bones from here with you." 20 And they took their journey from Succoth and encamped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them in the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, to go by day and night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night from before the people.
[v.2a] - Christ is the sanctified, set-apart, first-born of His Church. See John 17:19; Romans 8:29; Hebrews 12:23.
[v.2b] - Quoted in Luke 2:23. See also, Numbers 3:13, 8:17.
[v.3-10] - The feast of unleavened bread was to be a yearly reminder of the redemption God gave to the Israelites when He delivered them from the bonds of Egypt. Now that Christ has come and the Lamb of God (John 1:29) has been sacrificed once and for all (Hebrews 10:10), Christians are to observe the sacrament of communion as a celebration of Christ's redeeming power, for He said, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19-20; 1st Corinthians 11:23-26). See also, Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24.
[v.11-13] - Take note that this is a sort of type and shadow of Christ. Christ, when His time was appointed after His birth, was declared holy (Luke 2:23) as not only the first-born of Joseph and Mary, but also the first-born of God. Since Christ is the first-born Lamb of God and came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), He has fulfilled this part of the law in that we are all unclean sinners, born into the sinful nature of the flesh, and He has offered Himself the price for the redemption of His elect.
[v.14-16] - From Robert Hawker's Commentary: "Observe how the Israelite is taught to ascribe salvation wholly to the LORD." Reference, Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9.
[v.17-22] - The Israelites basically had two main routes to take through the wilderness: 1) by the way of the Philistines, and 2) by the way of the Red Sea. Even though the way of the Philistines was the shorter of the two routes, God had instead chosen to take the Israelites by the way of the Red Sea. The initial reason for this decision is to avoid war with the Philistines, who were a very formidable army. The long-term reason for this decision is given in Deuteronomy 8:2, which says, "And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not." Even though it is fully within His ability to give swift deliverance—and He sometimes does this—God will at times choose to lead us down a much longer path to deliverance in order that He might humble us to rely wholly upon Him, test us in our faith in Him, and to show us that whatever way He leads us is the right way (Psalm 107:7).
[v.19] - Reference, Genesis 50:24-25; Joshua 24:32; Hebrews 11:22.
[v.21-22] - The Israelites were constantly under the divine guidance and protection of God. Christians, as God's chosen people, are likewise under the guidance and protection of His Word and Spirit. Matthew Henry offers an interesting point concerning the cloud and fire by saying, "Some make this cloud a type of Christ. The cloud of his human nature was a veil to the light and fire of his divine nature; we find him (Revelation 10:1) clothed with a cloud, and his feet as pillars of fire. Christ is our way, the light of our way and the guide of it." Just as the cloud and fire were always with the people of Israel, Christ will always be with His chosen flock. Reference, Psalm 121:4-8; Isaiah 4:5; Matthew 28:20; 1st Corinthians 10:1-13.