The last divine words of Moses to the people of Israel had to do with God’s purposes. The firstborn of man and beast were the property of God and were to be devoted to Him. The Hebrew belief was that it was the first born male through whom the heritage of life was to be transmitted. It was the death of the first born males of Egypt that was the background for this. The first born of the Egyptians could not be protected by their gods. But the God of the Hebrews could protect that which was his. The firstborn of the Hebrews was to be kept alive by submitting an appropriate sacrifice. In this life, not death was God’s gift to the first born.
In the future celebrations of these events were to be memorials to the power of God in delivering the Hebrew people from the Egyptians. People have a tendency to forget their history. Having religious and national celebrations keep alive such memories. Another reason for the celebration of the Passover was to stir the imagination of the children. In this way the children would seek to understand what God had done for them. This would give the people the opportunity to retell their divine deliverance.
Binding words on their wrist and between their eyes was common in the ancient Near East and is referred to in Deuteronomy 6:8 and 11:18. The Hebrew people would place scripture verses on tiny scrolls and place them in little purses or bags and then tie them with thongs around the wrist or around the head. These were latter called phylacteries which translated “mark” and literally means sign. Wearing these verses would be an open sign to their identity as the people of God and would remind them of His mighty acts of deliverance.
As the deliverance from Egypt was the result of God’s actions, so to was the way selected to travel from Egypt. Central to the book of Exodus and the Bible was that God was leading.
The Hebrew did not leave by the way of the coastal highway. At the time of the Exodus event the coastal highway was under Egyptian control and was defended by Egyptian troops. The coastal highway would not have been the route to take if they wanted to leave in peace.
Instead they traveled the caravan routes into the wilderness. That region was lightly populated and therefore not heavily defended if defended at all. Translated the words “Red Sea” means “Sea of Reeds.” We do not know exactly where it was. It could have been one of several bodies of water along the border of Egypt, where now the Suez Canal exists. It had to be a major body of water in order to block the Israelites and to also overwhelm the pursuing Egyptians.
“The sons of Israel went up in martial array.” The Israelites went forth prepared to fight but God did not intend for them to fight too soon. They also were carrying the bones of Jacob, as he had been promised before he died. (Genesis 50:25)
The Israelites depart Egypt by way of Succoth and Etham. Although many Bible maps show these places we really do not know where exactly they are. Any identification is tentative and unproven.
As they traveled the presence of God was with them. In the Old Testament fire is often used as a symbol for God’s presence, as we saw in the burning bush. The column of cloud and smoke is easily identified as connected with the fire. The fire and the cloud both served as a constant reminder of God’s presence.
Deuteronomy 6:8, Deuteronomy 11:18, Genesis 50:25