Thursday, January 19, 2012

Exodus 13:17-22 Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire

"When Pharaoh let the people go,
God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country,
though that was shorter.
For God said, 'If they face war,
they might change their minds and return to Egypt.'

So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.
The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.

Moses took the bones of Joseph with him
because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath.
He had said, 'God will surely come to your aid,
and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.'

After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert.
By day the LORD went ahead of them
in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way
and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light,
so that they could travel by day or night.

Neither the pillar of cloud by day
nor the pillar of fire by night
left its place in front of the people."

Exodus 13:17-22 (NIV)
Some observations:
  • God led the Israelites out of Egypt and toward Canaan using a desert road which led toward the Red Sea.  He could have led them by a more direct path through the country of the Philistines, but if war broke out against them, some might want to give up and return to Egypt.  [That may seem astonishing, but remember that Egypt was all that these Israelites had ever known.  They personally had not been to Canaan, although their ancestors had lived there.]  The NIV Study Bible comments on this verse (v.17) that the direct route was also "...heavily guarded by a string of Egyptian fortresses."  So God knew what He was doing.  He always does.  Sometimes the longest way around really is the shortest way home.
  • The Israelites were armed for battle.  They probably had spears, bows and arrows, and slings.  Perhaps some had obtained other weapons from the Egyptians.  However, it is likely that they were not exactly battle-ready.  Their years of slavery had doubtless helped to increase their endurance and physical strength, and their travels in the desert would form them into a formidable army by the end of their journey.
  • Moses took Joseph's bones with him.  This fulfilled the oath which Joseph made his brothers swear.  Joseph had been confident that God would keep His word and deliver the Hebews from Egypt as He had promised.  Now God had done just that.  Remembering Joseph's confidence in the LORD and seeing that God had indeed kept His word was probably a great comfort to the Hebrews as they began their long journey back to Canaan.
  • After leaving Succoth, they camped at Etham.  I am just starting to examine the possible routes for the Exodus, so that will have to be the subject of another post sometime.  This verse tells us that Etham was on the edge of the desert.
  • The LORD went ahead of them, by day and by night.  He is always the shepherd, leading His people. 

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