What To Do?

Exodus 13:17,18 – And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: 18 But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.


Some say it was 10 days journey, but others say it was 3 days journey.  Therefore if Israel had the necessary faith, they could have journeyed toward Canaan, defeated the first Canaanites, then worshipped God with the sacrifices explained in Egypt.


Some commentaries state it was necessary for God to bring Israel south from Egypt instead of the shorter northern route for reasons that would be revealed later. 

(John Gill) Exodus 13:17,18 is the only reason mentioned for not leading them this way; but there were other “secret” reasons for it, which afterwards opened in Providence, as the doing that wonderful work for them,

  1. leading them through the Red sea as on dry land,
  2. and the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in it;
  3. and by being brought into a wilderness, a solitude, they would be in the fittest place to receive and attend to the body of laws given them,
  4. and where they were formed into a commonwealth and church state, previous to their entrance into, and possession of, the land of Canaan;
  5. and here also they were humbled, tried and proved,
  6. and had such instances of the power and goodness of God to them, as were sufficient to attach them to his service, and lay them under the greatest obligation to him, as well as would be of use to strengthen their faith and hope in him in future times of difficulty and distress.


I firmly believe John Gill is wrong about this.  Israel should have been so filled with faith and belief in Christ, they would willingly have given their lives to obey.  Think of this:

  1. Exodus 14:11 – Israel was almost cursing Moses and God, and was saying God did not know what he was doing when he brought them out of Egypt. 
  2. Exodus 15 – Israel did rejoice when the Egyptian army was destroyed in the Red Sea, but 30 days later (Exodus 16) they were still murmuring and complaining against God.
  3. Exodus 20:18-21 – Israel received the law of God in the wilderness, but it was by force.  They did not want to hear the voice of God, rather wanting God to speak to Moses. 
  4. Israel was formed into a commonwealth, and organized as a nation in the wilderness, but all this could just as easily have been done in the Promised Land.  Remember that the circumcision of Israel occurred after Israel crossed the Jordan River, before any of the cities of the Promised Land were captured.  All the organization for the travel of Israel in the wilderness was temporary, and was used only during the wilderness wandering.  The real establishment of Israel as a nation was done after they conquered the Promised Land. 
  5. Exodus 13:25-30 – If Israel was humbled and tried in the wilderness, they were not proved, but miserably failed. 

1)      That entire generation died in the wilderness because of their lack of faith in God. 

2)      Exodus 14:10 – the entire congregation of Israel was thinking of stoning Caleb and Joshua, who desired they take the Promised Land. 

3)      Exodus 14:11,12 – God was going to disinherit Israel and make a great nation of Moses. 

4)      Exodus 14:34 – God told Israel they would wander in the wilderness 40 years (a year for a day of the spies). 

5)      Exodus 14:40 – Rebellious Israel decided to rebel further and try to take the Promised Land even after God told them it was too late.  Israel lost the battle. 

  1. To quote John Gill - and had such instances of the power and goodness of God to them, as were sufficient to attach them to his service, and lay them under the greatest obligation to him, as well as would be of use to strengthen their faith and hope in him in future times of difficulty and distress.  Where John Gill got this idea, I have no idea.  The generation of Israel that came out of Egypt did not seem to ever be obligated to God for anything at all.  They were continually full of doubt, murmuring against God, and complaining at Moses and the other people God put over them to lead them.  I believe God revealed to Israel on every hand his wonderful provision and love, but Israel refused to use the faith God gave to them, continually desiring to live by sight, not by faith.  The result of their rebellion is seen by that entire generation dying in the 40 year wilderness wandering. 


God’s perfect plan for Israel:

1.      Go into Egypt during the famine, seen because God provided a savior for them (Joseph). 

2.      After the famine was over, Israel was to leave Egypt, return to the land of Canaan, and gradually take over the land, driving the inhabitants out of the land.  If the parents who dwelt in Egypt had understood God’s plan for them, and not been so comfortable in Egypt, they would have obeyed God, left Israel, and spared the nation much grief. 


The way God worked with Israel because of their unbelief. 

1.      When Israel decided to stay in Egypt, God removed one dynasty and established another, who would put hard bondage on Israel. 

2.      God made Israel miserable in Egypt, and they called on God to deliver them from that nation. 

3.      God prepared and sent Moses to be their deliverer. 

4.      Israel (like us) did not want to suffer at all, or be persecuted, but wanted all the blessings of God without any of the necessary dedication to God and his will. 

5.      Israel showed their lack of dedication to God in Exodus 5:20-21 when they rejected Moses as their leader.  Things were not working out as they visualized them, and the entire nation did not want to go through any trouble.  They wanted God’s deliverance, but did not want to do the work necessary to be delivered.  Many of God’s people, and God’s churches, are like this today. 

6.      Exodus 13:17,18 – God knew the rebellion of Israel, therefore would not lead them directly into the land of Canaan through the land of the Philistines, which was a three days journey.  Israel could have, if they had only believed, conquered the Promised Land 40 years before they did.  They could have received all the organization of their nation after they got into the Promised Land.  Instead God led them through the way of the Red Sea.  The Bible teaches predestination, election, and all that, but the Bible also teaches that God works through us to fulfill his eternal will.  God’s eternal determination will certainly be done, and God will work in us whatever he needs to work to perform that will.  It would be much better for us if we would obey his perfect will, and not doubt as Israel doubted.  Never fear, however, God will accomplish what he set out to accomplish.