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This night is still remembered by Jewish people each year during the festival called Passover. The exodus—God’s liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt—is one of the most important events in all Scripture. For over 400 years, God’s covenant people lived as outsiders in Egypt. For as long as that last generation could remember, they had been slaves living embittered lives under a cruel regime. But God heard their cries and acted finally and decisively to rescue them. Now it is time to go home, to a land they have never seen, a land of promise and prosperity. They return not as slaves but as free people, a powerful force for God in the world. The exodus leaves a permanent mark on the people of Israel. It is celebrated in song, recorded in Scripture, and commemorated in a festival; the prophets even see a day when a new exodus is coming.

13 Eternal One (to Moses): 1-2 Set apart all of the firstborn and dedicate them to Me. The first male offspring—both human and animal—that opens the womb among the people of Israel belongs to me.

Moses (to the people): Remember this day, the day when you departed from Egypt and left behind lives of slavery. For the strong hand of the Eternal has freed you from Pharaoh and his Egypt. In observing this day, be careful not to eat any food containing yeast. You are leaving today in the month of Abib. When He leads you into the land which He promised your ancestors He would give to you—a wide, open space flowing with milk and honey, a land currently inhabited by the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Amorites, and Jebusites—I want you to observe the following festival during this month: For seven days, you are to eat only bread made without yeast. On the seventh day, celebrate a feast in honor of the Eternal. Remember the directive: only bread made without yeast can be eaten during the seven festival days. Don’t keep any bread with yeast around; in fact, get rid of all yeast anywhere in your territory during those days. You are to explain to your children on that day, “We observe this feast because of what the Eternal did for me when I came out of Egypt.” This festival will be a sign to you—like a mark stamped on the back of your hand or a reminder written across your forehead—so that the Eternal’s instruction will never be far from your lips. For He led you out of Egypt with a strong hand. 10 Observe what I have decreed at the designated time every year.

11 The Eternal will lead you into the land He promised you and your ancestors—the land where the Canaanites are now living. 12 You are to dedicate to Him every offspring that opens the womb—your firstborn sons and the firstborn male of all your livestock—for they belong to Him. 13 You may redeem every firstborn of a donkey by sacrificing a lamb in its place. If you choose not to redeem it, then you must break its neck. But you must redeem all of your firstborn sons and not sacrifice them.

14 There will come a time when your children ask you, “What is this thing we are doing?” You will say, “With a strong hand the Eternal led us out of Egypt and freed us from lives of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh’s heart was as hard as stone, and he refused to release us, the Eternal killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt (both humans and animals). That is why I sacrifice the firstborn male of all our livestock to Him, but then I redeem every firstborn son by sacrificing a substitute.”

16 These practices will be like a mark stamped on the back of your hand and a reminder written across your forehead, a constant reminder that the Eternal led us out of Egypt with a strong hand.

17 After Pharaoh sent the people out, God did not take them by the coastal road that runs through the land of the Philistines, even though that was the nearest and easiest route. Instead, God said, “For if they see battle with those contentious Philistines, they might regret their decision and then return to Egypt.” 18 So God chose a different, longer path that led the community of His people through the desert toward the Red Sea. The Israelites marched out of the land of Egypt like an army ready for battle.

19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath, “God will certainly come and rescue you. Carry my bones with you when you leave this place.”[a]

20 The people of Israel departed from Succoth and set up camp in Etham at the edge of the desert. 21 The Eternal went on ahead to guide them during the day in a cloud shaped like a pillar; at night He appeared to them in a fire shaped like a pillar to light their way. So they were able to travel by day and by night. 22 The Eternal did not remove the cloud pillar or the fire pillar; by day and by night it continued to go ahead of the people.


  1. 13:19 Genesis 50:25

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