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 ready for battle.-Exodus 13:17-18
We’re at that part of Exodus where the focus of the book now shifts to the actual Exodus itself.
Right off the bat, God makes it clear to the Israelites the route they are NOT to take.
They are commanded to stay away from the “way of the land of the Philistines” or the “road through the Philistine country” depending on your translation.
This was actually a well-known and long established trade route that began at the stores city of Ra’amses.
There are a couple of important reasons why God insisted the Israelites stay away from this well-worn highway.
First, there were Egyptian fortresses situated at strategic locations all along this road.
These military outposts served to monitor and guard Egypt from foreign invasion as well as protect merchants and traders from the many bands of robbers who made their living by attacking traveling caravans.
Second, there was always the possibility the surrounding Philistines, Canaanites and Hittites, feeling threatened by this mob of Hebrew wanderers, would decide to attack Israel.
Why would Israel, a ragtag mob of helpless slaves, be considered a threat?
Well, think about the sheer number of people we’re looking at here.
We’re talking about a 600,000 man army and that’s not even taking into consideration their wives, children and the mixed multitude that joined them.
The total figure would have come to about 2 to 3 million.
What if a similar number of Muslim Syrians just got up and decided to migrate to the United States all at once?!
Trust me, in a panic, the US would react by doing everything in its power to prevent this from happening, because the impact of such a mass migration would be incalculable.
In addition, I’m pretty sure word got around pretty quick of just how powerful this Hebrew deity protecting the Israelites was.
Any government in their right minds would have good reason to be afraid of this mass arrival of Israelite wanderers.
On the other side of the coin, Israel’s departure was going to be devastating for Egypt.
We aren’t told Moses had informed Pharaoh that his original request for a mere 3-day sojourn had changed to plans of permanently leaving.
Nevertheless, I think Pharaoh realized after unwittingly authorizing the loss of one-fourth of Egypt’s population which included its entire skilled workforce, that there was no way this was going to be some temporary journey.
Israel was SEPARATING from Egypt forever.
There are two powerful spiritual takeaways here.
FIRST, if you belong to God, then trust me, slowly but surely, God is in the process of PERMANENTLY separating you from this world.
Remember, in Scripture, this world is metaphorically represented by Egypt.
This separation may be painful and may include permanent separation from your wife, children, or other family members.
Although we aren’t given any instances of this happening, suppose that within either one of the Hebrew or mixed multitude families, disagreement had arisen about whether or not it was really a good idea to follow YHVH out of Egypt.
Suppose one or two of the members decided to NOT leave Egypt with their family.
Or maybe it was the opposite situation where the majority of the family members decided to stay in Egypt and only one or two members decided to obey God and leave for the Promised Land.
Personally, this has been my situation as I am the only believer in my family.
So what do you think would have happened in a situation like this?
As painful and heartbreaking as it is to contemplate, a permanent and irreversible SEPARATION of flesh-and-blood family members would have been the inevitable result in such a case.
SECOND, I think this part of Scripture demonstrates that if we trust HASHEM, He will guide us in the path we should take.
God knew His people well enough to know that if they were thrust into a situation where they would have had to fight their way to the Promised Land, many of them would have become disheartened and opted to return to the familiar, “safe” and “secure” life they had known in Egypt.
This is just human nature.
It can be downright scary plunging headfirst into the new life God has prepared for us.
What many of us try to do is keep one foot in our familiar and comfortable old life while simultaneously trying to step into the unknown BUT EXCITING AND ADVENTUROUS way of walking with God.
Unfortunately, in this case, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
You must trust God 100%.
But be encouraged and reassured.
HASHEM knows the best path you should take.
Better than any human on the face of the planet.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”-Matthew 19:29
“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. “When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.-John 10:3-4
But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.)-Acts 8:26
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.-Acts 9:10-11