I didn't know what consecrate actually meant, but I gathered from the context of the verse that these sons were to be set apart, made sacred for God. To be given over to God for His purpose. To let go of your own plans for something, and give it to God.
Moses then reiterates to Israel what God had said about the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
- Commemorate this every year.
- No yeast whatsoever, not even in your homes, (in the NIV, within the borders)
- Celebrate for seven days, and then hold a festival for God on day 7.
How important is this commemoration? It will be like a sign on the hand and a reminder on the forehead that God's law is to always be on their lips, as God brought them out of Egypt in His might. What kind of might? Well, lets consider the plagues...the frogs, the blood, the flies, hail, gnats, locusts and the death of the firstborn. Who could control that type of phenomena without being the one who created it? And it was overwhelming to those it intended to punish...or teach...and separate from those who were to be protected. God can do that.
God then explains this consecration of the firstborn. They all belong to God. God kind of set this in motion with the precedent of Abraham and Isaac back in Genesis 22. When Israel gets into the land promised to Abraham, they will consecrate their firstborn sons to God. They will also set aside the firstborn of each of their livestock to God. If the Israelites want to, they can redeem a lamb for the firstborn donkey. The lamb takes the place of the ass. However, if they choose not to redeem the ass, they must break it's neck. Apparently, thats what I'm reading.
This consecration of the firstborn is done in order to remember how God took the firstborn of the Egyptians, and yet offered a way for Israelites to be spared this horror. Future generations who were not witness to this deliverance will receive this consecration as a sort of object lesson about God's power and wilingness to spare their firstborn sons.
This is the second time God has spared the firstborn...the first being the aforementioned Abraham and Isaac episode. God also provided a substitute to take the place of the sacrifice/firstborn with the blood of a sheep...or lamb. And there was much rejoicing.
So God was leading the people out of Egypt. Whether there was some sort of a visual sign, or God led them with some sort of a mystical conscious connection, that's not really the point. He led them not through the lands of the Philistines, because he knew if the Israelites were to encounter war, they freak out and want to go back to Egypt, to their slavery. Israel probably wasn't ready for war. They spent 430 years as slaves. There was no sense of fight in them, only submission. God instead led them the long way, through the wilderness and to the Red Sea.
Interesting that Moses had the bones of Joseph with him. Weird. After 430 years, Joseph still hadn't been buried in the land of his people. In Genesis 50:25, Joseph told Israel before he died that God would hold them accountable if they didn't bring his bones out of Egypt. Fair enough, Joe, you're coming with us. So they had to be stored away somewhere for all that time...
Oh, and it is written that God led Israel with a pillar of clouds during the day, and a pillar of fire during the night. So that settles that.