15 Mar. Exodus 13:17-14:4

15 Mar. God goes before the Israelites in a pillar of cloud and fire

“When the king sent the people [of Israel] out of Egypt, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country [along the ‘Way of the Sea’], though that was the shortest way [to Canaan]. God said, ‘If they have to fight [the Philistines], they might change their minds and go back to Egypt.’”

“So God led them [south] through the desert towards the Red Sea [Hebrew ‘Yam-suf’, meaning the ‘Reed Sea’]. The Israelites were dressed for fighting when they left the land of Egypt.”

Moses carried the bones of Joseph with him, because before Joseph died, he had made the Israelites promise to do this. He had said, ‘When God saves you, remember to carry my bones with you out of Egypt.’”

“The Israelites left Succoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert.”

“The LORD showed them the way; during the day he went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud, and during the night he was in a pillar of fire to give them light.”

“In this way they could travel during the day or night. The pillar of cloud was always with them during the day, and the pillar of fire was always with them at night.”

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back to Pi Hahiroth and to camp between Migdol and the Red Sea [‘Sea of Reeds’]. Camp across from Baal Zephon, on the shore of the sea.”

“The king will think, ‘The Israelites are lost, trapped by the desert.’ I will make the king stubborn again so he will chase after them, but I will defeat the king and his army.’”

“’This will bring honour to me, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.’ The Israelites did just as they were told.”

          (Exodus 13:17 - 14:4)



Before setting off from Avaris (Rameses), the firstborn of every Israelite family, herd and flock were consecrated to God as a commemoration of the ‘exodus’ (literally the ‘going out’) from Egypt (see Exodus 13:1-16). Jewish families have continued to dedicate their firstborn sons to God to the present day. In the New Testament, Mary and Joseph’s firstborn son, Jesus, was dedicated to God in the Temple at Jerusalem shortly after his birth (see Luke 2:22-23).

God then led the Israelites away from the Nile Delta region of Goshen towards the ‘promised land’ of Canaan - but not eastwards by the direct road that goes up the coast to Philistia (‘The Way of the Sea’). Instead, they followed the desert road south "towards the Red Sea” (Exodus 13:18) (that is, when translated correctly from the Hebrew ‘Yam-suf’, “towards the Sea of Reeds”) (see 2 on yesterday’s map).

In accordance with Joseph’s request before he died (see Genesis 50:25), Joseph’s bones were removed from the small pyramid-shaped mausoleum in the garden of his palace at Avaris and were taken out of Egypt by the Israelites.

The Israelites then moved further south and camped at Etham on the edge of the Eastern Desert (see Exodus 13:20 and 3 on yesterday’s map).

The LORD led his people out of Egypt by going ahead of the Israelites by day in a pillar of cloud, and by showing his dazzling radiance in a pillar of fire by night (see Exodus 13:21-22). In this way, the Israelites could travel either by day or during the cooler night-time.

At Etham, God told Moses to turn back north in order to get the Pharaoh to pursue them (see 4 on yesterday’s map). God assured Moses that, when this occurred, the LORD would defeat the Egyptians and bring glory to his name.

So the Israelites turned north and camped at Pi Hahiroth (‘Mansion of Hahiroth’) between Migdol (meaning ‘a fortified tower’, on the 'Way of Shur' near the border of Egypt) and the Gulf of Suez, opposite the Philistine temple of Baal Zephon (‘Baal (Lord) of the north’).

The exact site of Pi Hahiroth is unknown, but it lies near Ismalia on the route taken today by the Suez Canal through the area of shallow salt marshes and lagoons now known as the Bitter Lakes (see 4 on yesterday’s map).

The photo shows the Eastern Desert of Egypt near Etham.

You can read more about the route of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/25-the-israelites-journey-from-egypt-to-mt-sinai/the-israelites-cross-the-sea-of-reeds/

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