Consecration of Firstborn. 1The LORD spoke to Moses and said: 2Consecrate to me every firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the Israelites,a whether of human being or beast, belongs to me.
3b Moses said to the people, “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of a house of slavery. For it was with a strong hand that the LORD brought you out from there. Nothing made with leaven may be eaten. 4This day on which you are going out is in the month of Abib.* 5Therefore, when the LORD, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perrizites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you will perform the following service* in this month. 6For seven days you will eat unleavened bread, and the seventh day will also be a festival to the LORD. 7Unleavened bread may be eaten during the seven days, but nothing leavened and no leaven may be found in your possession in all your territory. 8And on that day you will explain to your son, ‘This is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9It will be like a sign* on your hand and a reminder on your forehead,c so that the teaching of the LORD will be on your lips: with a strong hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. 10You will keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.
11“When the LORD, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, just as he swore to you and your ancestors, and gives it to you, 12d you will dedicate to the LORD every newborn that opens the womb; and every firstborn male of your animals will belong to the LORD. 13Every firstborn of a donkey you will ransom with a sheep. If you do not ransom it, you will break its neck. Every human firstborn of your sons you must ransom. 14And when your son asks you later on, ‘What does this mean?’ you will tell him, ‘With a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of a house of slavery. 15When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, the firstborn of human being and beast alike. That is why I sacrifice to the LORD every male that opens the womb, and why I ransom every firstborn of my sons.’ 16It will be like a sign on your hand and a band on your forehead that with a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”e
IV. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE ISRAELITES FROM PHARAOH AND VICTORY AT THE SEA
Toward the Red Sea. 17Now, when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the Philistines’ land,* though this was the nearest; for God said: If the people see that they have to fight, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. 18Instead, God rerouted them toward the Red Sea by way of the wilderness road, and the Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt arrayed for battle. 19Moses also took Joseph’s bonesf with him, for Joseph had made the Israelites take a solemn oath, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you must bring my bones up with you from here.”
20Setting out from Succoth, they camped at Ethamg near the edge of the wilderness.
21h The LORD preceded them, in the daytime by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire* to give them light. Thus they could travel both day and night. 22Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people.
* [13:5] The following service: the celebration of the feast of Unleavened Bread now constitutes the Israelites’ service, in contrast to the “service” they performed for Pharaoh as his slaves.
* [13:9] Sign: while here observance of the feast of Unleavened Bread is likened only metaphorically to a physical sign of one’s piety that can be worn as a kind of badge in commemoration of the exodus, from ancient times Jews have seen in this verse also the basis for the wearing of phylacteries. These are small receptacles for copies of biblical verses which Jewish men bind to the arms and forehead as a kind of mnemonic device for the observance of the Law.
* [13:17] By way of the Philistines’ land: the most direct route from Egypt to Palestine, along the shore of the Mediterranean.
* [13:21] A column of cloud…a column of fire: probably one and the same extraordinary phenomenon, a central nucleus of fire surrounded by smoke; only at night was its luminous nature visible; cf. 40:38.