Today we begin Exodus Chapter 14.
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For the King James version, click here.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’-Exodus 14:1-3
In leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God showed His skills as a master war strategist.
He demonstrated a perfect understanding of the geographical terrain the Israelites were traveling through and expertly dealt with the psychological complexities of Pharaoh’s maniacal ego.
The Israelites were making good progress towards their destination when all of a sudden God stopped them in their tracks and told them to encamp at place called Pi ha-Hiroth.
In Hebrew Pi ha-Hiroth would be the “mouth of the gorge” and it was located at the edge of the Red Sea.
Now why would God have the Hebrews turn around and backtrack towards a totally different direction?
We are told it was all part of God’s plan to confound Pharaoh as he wanted him to think the Hebrews were wandering in confusion in the Sinai desert wilderness.
One may wonder, how was Pharaoh able to know the movements of the Israelites given that they were now quite far removed from Egypt?
I don’t think this question is too difficult to answer.
We’re talking about a population of about 3 million people in addition to hundreds of thousands of animals.
Think about it.
This would be like having the State of Kansas suddenly pick up and leave.
Everybody in the region would have been aware of what was going on.
And don’t forget, the Israelites were NOT blazing a new trail.
As I mentioned earlier, they were traveling along the well-established “Way of the Wilderness” route.
In addition, Pharaoh had also instructed the commanders of the many military outposts situated throughout the Sinai to report the movements of the Israelites back to him.
This was done by using smoke signals and signal fires, a communication system that had been in use for centuries prior to Exodus.
Now one has to wonder what was going on in Pharaoh’s mind throughout all of this?
As far as he had been told by Moses, Israel was only going to be gone for three days to hold a festival to their God.
However, as Pharaoh’s actions will later reveal, he never really trusted that this was the case.
One common psychological principle I have found to be true in both myself and others is that what one tends to suspect of others usually originates from within the structure of our own thoughts and assumptions.
In my case, I have difficulty trusting other people and feel like I have to be cunning and deceptive in order to avoid being taken advantage of.
Since this is the psychological framework from which I operate, I also assume others are the same way.
Pharaoh knew that if he was Moses, he most likely would have said anything such as “Look, we’re only gonna take a short-day vacation” just to create the chance to get the hell out of Egypt and escape slavery forever.
So I doubt Pharaoh ever really believed Moses’s story about taking a short 3-day reprieve.
If Pharaoh had believed Moses, there is no way he would have risked the well-being of his nation in a war with the Almighty Creator of the universe.
Another important point we need to address is why was Pharaoh able to chase after Israel into the Sinai when they were no longer in Egypt?
The answer is simple.
The Sinai Peninsula was Egyptian-held territory.
Although the Sinai wasn’t a part of Egypt proper, it was controlled by Egypt.
Sinai was important to Egypt because it was a good source of copper and served as a strong geographic buffer between them and the surrounding Middle Eastern nations who were constantly trying to gain the upper hand, which is the way of nations since time immemorial
So understand that the reason Pharaoh was free to send his soldiers after Israel is because technically they were still in Egyptian territory.
If the Sinai had been controlled by some other nation, Pharaoh, by sending his soldiers there would have been declaring war on whichever nation held control.
So, until Israel crossed over the Sinai either onto the Arabian Peninsula to the east or the Land of Canaan to the north, they were still not yet 100% free from Egypt.