B'shallach “After he had let go” from the book of Sh'mot “names” (Exodus) 13:17-17:16
by Dr. Daniel Boley
17 After Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not guide them to the highway that goes through the land of the P'lishtim, because it was close by – God thought that the people, upon seeing war, might change their minds and return to Egypt. 18 Rather, God led the people by a roundabout route, through the desert by the Sea of Suf. The people of Isra'el went up from the land of Egypt fully armed.
• The majority of the Philistines migrated to the area shortly before this time from the Aegean.
Most people react negatively to the term “Philistine.” The dictionary defines a philistine as “a person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.”
Modern research, however, disputes this stereotype. Archeological findings reveal that the Philistines were cultured and sophisticated. The Israelites, God’s chosen people, were quite simple; some would even say primitive by contrast.
The Philistines were part of a seafaring people from the Aegean who appeared in the Near East around 1400 BC, settling on the coastal plain of Israel.
The Bible’s description of the Philistines was controversial for many years. Philistine cities such as Ekron, Gath, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Gaza did not fit the political culture of the Middle East at that time. Also champion-to-champion (“one-on-one”) combat and the armor Goliath wore were unknown in Canaan. Recent discoveries, however, have shown the Greek (Aegean) background of these highly civilized people. The political structure of their cities was similar to the city-states of the Aegean, and combat between champions fills Greek mythology.
Egyptian descriptions of the Philistines support biblical ones. Reliefs and inscriptions found in the temple of Ramses III in Egypt give us insight into the Philistines’ appearance and technology. Their soldiers were quite tall and clean shaven. They wore breastplates and short kilts, and their superior weapons included chariots drawn by two horses. They carried small shields and fought with straight swords and spears. These details affirm our faith in the historical accuracy and reliability of Scripture (see e.g. Judges 1:19, 1 Samuel 13:19-22, and 1 Samuel 17:4-7).
The artifacts discovered in archaeological excavations of Philistine cities show great artistic and technological skill. Their pottery is more aesthetically pleasing than that of neighboring cultures.
The Philistines were successful in several key industries. The Bible affirms their ability to work with the latest in metal technology - iron. Iron tools and weapons, absent from Israelite sites of the same period, are common in Philistine ruins. [Iron mixed with carbon (e.g. from the ash of the smelting fire) produces steel.] Philistine cities give evidence of careful town planning, including industrial zones. The olive industry of Ekron alone includes about 200 olive oil installations. Engineers estimate that the city’s production may have been more than 1,000 tons; 30 percent of entire state of Israel’s present-day production. The sophisticated Philistines represented the latest in technology and culture to the less advanced peoples around them.
The major problem is that their religion was total debased and involved the most immoral practices imaginable. The practices were so horrible that the followers of Yahweh changed the name Beelzebub (meaning “Lord, or Prince, Baal”) to Beelzebul (with the derogatory meaning “lord of the flies”). By New Testament times, the name Beelzebul had become a synonym for the devil. (See e.g. Matthew 10:25 and 12:24). Unfortunately, the values of a culture accompany its benefits and products. (Adapted from Raynard Vaander Laan, That The World May Know, set one)
Conflicts based on world view will be part of this life until the LORD returns and sets all things right.
While we are in the world, we need to guard against its influence.
Ya'akov (Jacob) wrote, in the book most of us call James, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
… God led the people by a roundabout route, through the desert by the Sea of Suf. The people of Isra'el went up from the land of Egypt fully armed.
• How often does the LORD lead us by some “roundabout route through the desert,” while all along it's for our own good?!
How do we respond to that leading?
Isra'el went up from Egypt fully armed … but they were not ready for war.
There's an old adage, don't enter a fight with a weapon that can be taken away and used against you.
Having tools, knowing how to use them, and being proficient with them are three different things. 2 Tim 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (NASB)
19 Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him, for Yosef had made the people of Isra'el swear an oath when he said, “God will certainly remember you; and you are to carry my bones up with you, away from here.”
• Joseph had proven himself to be a godly man, who listened to the LORD, and was used by Him in prophetic ways. Yosef gave the people a word, a promise if you will, that, come what may, God had a plan!
The Hebrew here is not that God would simply help, aid, or remember them, but that He would פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד [pah-qōd yiph-qōd] them:
פָּקַד [pah-qahd] (the root of both these words) primarily means to visit
Strong's: to visit; by analogy, to oversee, muster, charge, care for ….
BDB: to attend to, number, reckon, visit, punish, appoint, look after
being doubled like this is a way of making something emphatic
we might also see here something prophetic – that the LORD would visit His people twice as we see in Yeshua the son of Joseph, the son of David
coming once as the suffering Servant / Messiah (Isa. 53),
fulfilling God's purposes as His sacrificial lamb (John 1:29 and 1 Cor 5:7),
providing redemption and salvation for all who will call on Him, for the Jew first and also for the Gentile (Romans 1:16, 2:9-10)
but also, coming again at the end of the age as the ruling, conquering King of all kings and Lord of all lords (Rev 19:6),
consummating the establishment of His eternal kingdom (Dan. 7:14)
“carry my bones up with you, away from here”
With a quick read it sounds like Yosef was simply telling his descendants to take his bones away from Egypt: away from “here.” As you might suspect, however, there is more to it in the Hebrew:
he made them swear an oath - הַשְׁבֵּעַ הִשְׁבִּיעַ [hahsh-beh-a hish-biy-ah] being a doubled word with the same root meaning: something is emphatic
the root word here is שָׁבַע [sha-va]: to be complete, [derived from שֶׁבַע [sheh-va] (the number seven)]; to seven oneself, i.e. swear (as if by repeating a declaration seven times)
Often at the end of Shabbat we will make a prayerful proclamation of a “good week” to each other seven times: שְׁבוּעַ טוֹב
For Joseph to invoke a doubled seven, this was serious, solemn, and strongly emphatic.
Scripture says he made them swear an oath to carry his bones, his essence, “from this” [מִזֶּה – mi-zeh], which begs the question, “From what?”
Yosef had everything the world could offer: fame, fortune, power, prestige, etc. but he yearned to be in the Land – in the place of the promises of the LORD: nothing in this world can compete with that!
20 They traveled from Sukkot and set up camp in Etam, at the edge of the desert.
• Sukkot is a transliterated Hebrew word meaning booths, tabernacles or shelters. This is where the people had gathered, in a sort of tent city, waiting to buy grain from Joseph.
• The Hebrew words translated “in Etam” can also be translated “with them.” The very name of the place, along with God's pillar of cloud and fire, would remind the people that even though they were “at the edge of the desert” the LORD was still “with them” (בְאֵתָם).
21 Adonai went ahead of them in a column of cloud during the daytime to lead them on their way, and at night in a column of fire to give them light; thus they could travel both by day and by night. 22 Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire at night went away from in front of the people.
• I love this quote I found from A.W. Tozer:
• The LORD's presence in the pillar or column of cloud and fire can be related to the presence of a shepherd with his flock. The good shepherd leads, guides, protects, and provides for his sheep. He cares for them, tends to them, and at times may carry or discipline them. As the sheep graze, nibbling a little here and there, they glance up to see the feet of their shepherd and follow where he leads.
In the same ways the LORD was with His people as He led them through the wilderness, guiding, protecting, and providing for them. He cared for them, tended to them, and at times carried them along and even disciplined them.
He does the same today for those who are His sheep, and He does whatever it takes to shepherd His people (see Jn. 10).
1 Adonai said to Moshe, 2 “Tell the people of Isra'el to turn around and set up camp in front of Pi-Ha-CHirot, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Ba'al-Tz'fon; camp opposite it, by the sea.
• Remember that chapter divisions weren't introduced until 12th Century and verse divisions until the mid-16th Century, so these verses were artificially divided almost 3,000 years after they were written. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapters_and_verses_of_the_Bible, accessed 25Apr16)
As with the names of individuals, place names in Hebrew have meaning. The name may refer to the character of the place, some prominent feature, something significant that happened (or was supposed to happen) there.
פִּי הַחִירֹת can be translated along the lines of “the mouth of the holes,” or “the edge of the caves.” It forms a natural harbor, or “mouth of water,” at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
מִגְדּוֹל means “from” something that is “big” or “great.” Often translated as “watchtower,” from these fortifications the Egyptians could see for miles in any direction and quickly send word to Pharaoh, i.e. by carrier pigeon.
בַּעַל צְפוֹן , which literally means “lord of dark or northward,” was the Canaanite storm god. Because Baʿal Zephon was considered a protector of maritime trade,
sanctuaries were constructed in his honor by his Canaanite and Phoenician devotees.
Think about the situation we have here:
The Israelites have been led by God out of Egypt, by the desert road toward the eastern branch of the Red (or Reed) Sea, also called the Sea of Suf, that we now know as the Gulf of Aqaba.
God's leading is miraculous. Ex 13:21, “Adonai went ahead of them in a column of cloud during the daytime to lead them on their way, and at night in a column of fire to give them light....” Verse 22 says this pillar of cloud and fire never left its place in front of the people.
This is significant because God is about to do something apparently strange and unexpected. God wants us to know that He led His people every step of the way to this point, and now He stops the Israelites and tells them to turn back! Chapter 14, verse 2, “Tell the people of Isra'el to turn around and set up camp in front of Pi Ha-CHirot, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Ba'al Tz'fon; camp opposite it, by the sea.”
God shows us that the confrontation with the Egyptians at Ba'al Tz'fon is not an accident or coincidence. He intentionally turns the Israelites around and leads them to a place that He has chosen for a final great spiritual conflict with the Egyptians that now extends to the Canaanites and Phoenicians. The God of Isra'el is King over all other kings, LORD over all other lords, and GOD above all other gods.
Even though the Israelites had left Egypt “armed for battle” (13:18), they were told, “you only need to be still” because “the Lord will fight for you” (14:14).
This is very much a case of “spiritual warfare”! Remember, the LORD had been triumphing over not only the Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but also over the supposed power of their gods.
Many believed that on this island mountain at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, Ba'al Tz'fon reigned in power and was lord over the sea. Pharaoh may have thought that, at last, this god was going to display his power over the Israelites.
God tells us some of Pharaoh’s reasoning:
3 Then Pharaoh will say that the people of Isra'el are wandering aimlessly in the countryside, the desert has closed in on them.
And the LORD tells us what He is going do next:
4a I will make Pharaoh so hardhearted that he will pursue them; thus I will win glory for Myself at the expense of Pharaoh and all his army ….
And what will be the final outcome?
4b … the Egyptians will realize at last that I am the LORD.
It is no surprise that the LORD stopped Israel and turned them around to meet and defeat not only Pharaoh and his army, but also to display His power over Ba'al Tz'fon and defeat him at the very mountain of his “glory and power.” Not only this, but the One True God would lead His people directly through the sea which the Egyptians, Canaanites, and Phoenicians believed was under the control of Ba'al Tz'fon!
Instead of the Israelites being destroyed, showing Ba'al Tz'fon's lordship of the sea, it would be the Egyptians, Canaanites, and Phoenicians who would discover who was both LORD of the mountain, but also LORD over the sea! There were many ways that God could have chosen to eliminate the Egyptian army; it is no accident that He chose to bring this conflict into the sharpest spiritual focus and to a climax of incredible proportions.
We are left awestruck at the wisdom and power of our God. We can see clearly that God was showing His people, in the most amazing and startling ways, not only that He was Lord over all other gods and over nature, but was teaching His people what ultimately happens to those who worship false gods: they choose destruction for themselves.
But God showed His grace to the rest of the Egyptians who were in bondage following gods who were empty, without power, and unable to save them: “... I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”
In all these things God's glory is at stake, but Isra'el and all the other people that followed the LORD with them were delivered from all their enemies! (adapted from http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/07/12/Confronting-Baal-Zephon-The-Spiritual-Message-of-the-Meeting-of-Israel-and-the-Armies-of-Egypt-at-the-Mountain-Before-the-Sea.aspx, accessed 19Jan16)
Ultimately, all those who know and follow Yeshua will be delivered from all our enemies.
“Hardhearted,” in verse 4, is the last of a series of times we are told about Pharaoh's heart being hard. The word here comes from the Hebrew word חָזַק [kha-zaq] which means to
be strong (figuratively, courageous; strengthen, cure, help, repair, fortify), obstinate; to bind, restrain, conquer
This is one of three different Hebrew words that are all translated “harden” in these chapters of Exodus in referring to Pharaoh's heart.
4c The people did as ordered: and they did so (כֵן [kehn])
כֵן = set upright; just; rightly; thus or so
The LORD gave them directions “and they did so” - they did rightly
Following the LORD's explicit directions is always “right” - e.g. following His written Word.
Following any other directions may or may not be “right”; to know, it needs to be compared with the LORD and His written revelation.
5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people. They said, “What have we done, letting Isra'el stop being our slaves?”
• As long as it would stop a problem or help him, Pharaoh would say, “I have sinned” (e.g. Ex 9:27; 10:16), ask for prayer (e.g. Ex 8:8, 28; 9:28), or even a blessing (Ex 12:32) … but, in time, what is in the heart will show itself and bear fruit – either to life or death.
Mt. 12:33 If you make a tree good, its fruit will be good: and if you make a tree bad, its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.
Or as one speaker put it, “If you have the fruit, you have the root.”
Gal. 5:19 And it is perfectly evident what the old nature does. It expresses itself in sexual immorality, impurity and indecency; 20 involvement with the occult and with drugs; in feuding, fighting, becoming jealous and getting angry; in selfish ambition, factionalism, intrigue 21 and envy; in drunkenness, orgies and things like these. I warn you now as I have warned you before: those who do such things will have no share in the Kingdom of God! 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 humility, self control. Nothing in the Torah stands against such things.
Rom. 8:6 Having one's mind controlled by the old nature is death, but having one's mind controlled by the Spirit is life and shalom.
6 So he [Pharaoh] prepared his chariots and took his people with him – 7 he took 600 first-quality chariots, as well as all the other chariots in Egypt, along with their commanders. 8 Adonai made Pharaoh hardhearted, and he pursued the people of Isra'el, as they left boldly. 9 The Egyptians went after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, with his cavalry and army, and overtook them as they were encamped by the sea, by Pi-HaCHirot, in front of Ba'al-Tz'fon.
• One of the most ancient and reliable means of relaying messages over long distances is the homing or carrier pigeon, still used today:
The Migdol, the great tower or fortress, was built 1640 feet (500 m) above sea level, located at the three way intersection of the Red Sea, gulf of Suez and gulf of Aqaba. It was one of the most important Egyptian military outposts at the time. From its vantage point on the seaside mountain ridge you could get a view for 30 miles each way. It was of huge military and defensive importance.
Homing pigeons had been used for communications in Egypt since 2500 BC, a full 1000 years before the exodus. Large numbers of pigeons were taken to each Migdol until they were needed to fly back “home” to Pharaoh. Homing pigeons generally fly at around 50 mph (80 kph), but have been clocked at 90 mph (140 kph) over short distances, so it would take less than 5 hours for a pigeon to take a message back to Pharaoh. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homing_pigeon, accessed 26Apr16)
Scripture says that Israel went as far as Etam
They went to a place that reminded them that the LORD was “with them”
then God told them to turn back and retrace their steps and camp directly beside the "Migdol" in order for pharaoh to say, “They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.”
Israel spent 8 days camped beside the Reed Sea, on Neweiba Beach, waiting for Pharaoh to arrive. While it would take only five hours for the message to get to Pharaoh that Israel was backtracking, it would take eight days for the army to march there.
God knew Pharaoh's pride would get the better of him, and the LORD used it for His own glory. Pharaoh knew the terrain. Etam was the end of the 200 mile long coastal plain. When Israel started to retrace their steps, Pharaoh chased towards them with his 600 chariots. (adapted from http://www.bible.ca/archeology/bible-archeology-exodus-route-migdol.htm ,accessed 22Jan16)
10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Isra'el looked up and saw the Egyptians right there, coming after them. In great fear the people of Isra'el cried out to Adonai 11 and said to Moshe, “Was it because there weren't enough graves in Egypt that you brought us out to die in the desert? Why have you done this to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn't we tell you in Egypt to let us alone, we'll just go on being slaves for the Egyptians? I would be better for us to be the Egyptians' slaves than to die in the desert!”
• For better or for worse, when we are under pressure what is inside will come out; here it was great fear.
They had seen God's mighty acts and even that He made a distinction between them and the Egyptians, but did they really see the LORD behind those acts? They had known His hand, but did they really know His heart? Do we?
God is perfect and without fault (e.g. Mt. 5:48), God is love (e.g. 1 Jn. 4:8) and therefore His love is perfect; perfect love casts out fear (e.g. 1 Jn. 4:18)
We see here too that the longer we are away from a bad or harsh situation, the more it might be romanticized; especially if we are in another situation which is hard, uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or uncertain.
13 Moshe answered the people, “Stop being so fearful! Remain steady, and you will see how Adonai is going to save you. He will do it today – today you have seen the Egyptians, but you will never see them again!
• “Stop being so fearful!” and יָצַב [ya-tsav] – “remain steady”
◦ יָצַב means: to place, set, stand, or station oneself, to present oneself
◦ It is in the Hithpael verb form which shows the subject acting with full self-involvement driven by the end-benefits. This form depicts highly motivated action given its personal benefits. The doer is shown fully involved acting "from the heart." (The Discovery Bible)
◦ G. Archer, "Hithpael () stresses why the doer is moved to act. The enlightened self-interest (personal dimension) is inferred from the context, [that is, it is] intuitively picked up while reading along." (The Discovery Bible)
What are those personal, end-benefits?
“you will see the salvation of the LORD which He will show you”
“the salvation of the LORD” – אֶת־ יְשׁוּעַת יהוה [et yeshuat yud-hay-vav-hay]
יְשׁוּעַת is a construct of יְשׁוּעַה = Yeshua = salvation, deliverance; welfare, prosperity; victory: it is the name of the Messiah in Hebrew!
• If we will stop being fearful, not allowing ourselves to give in to fear, and
• will take a stand on our reasoned faith in the LORD and His Word
• we will see the LORD's Yeshua!
14 Adonai will do battle for you. Just calm yourselves down!
• “do battle” or “shall fight” from the Hebrew לָחַם [lah-khahm] meaning:
Strong's: to feed on; figuratively, to consume; by implication, to battle (as destruction), BDB: to use as food
It's related to another word you know: לֶחֶם, which means food or bread, as in בֵּית לֶחֶם (Bethlehem) “house of bread” where Jesus, the Bread of Life, was born.
The use of any word in Scripture is important, but it's first and last uses help set the tone and understanding every other time it is used.
We find לָחַם first used in Exodus 1:10 where the Egyptian rulers are expressing a fear that the growing population of Israelites might join their enemies and consume them.
The last three uses of לָחַם are all in Zechariah 14, prophesying of a time still future to us, where again the LORD will לָחַם – fight against and consume – the people battling against Israel's capital: Jerusalem.
“Just calm yourselves down!” The root word here, חָרַשׁ [khah-rahsh], is in the Hiphil verb form, indicating causation; and it is imperfect, depicting continuing, repeated, ongoing action.
חָרַשׁ means to be silent, to keep quiet; to make silent; to be deaf, to show deafness
cause yourselves to be silent; cause yourselves to keep quiet; cause yourselves to be deaf
I see a two-pronged strategy here:
1. Like Ps. 46:10 says, “Be still (חָרַשׁ) and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
I'm reminded of a particular time I was seeking the LORD and direction in my life. A minister told me that instead of running here and there I needed to “sit down, shut up, and listen.”
2. We are to cause ourselves to be deaf to the lies of the world, and the enemy, whose goal and purpose is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10)
15 Adonai asked Moshe, “Why are you crying to Me? Tell the people of Isra'el to go forward! 16 Lift your staff, reach out with your hand over the sea, and divide it in two. The people of Isra'el will advance into the sea on dry ground.
• Around two million people who had just escaped 400 years of slavery appear trapped between the sea and the army of their persecutors, and the LORD says, “Go forward!”
There are times, when following God, that He gives us direction that doesn't make sense to the natural mind; but God already has a plan in place!
17 As for Me, I will make the Egyptians hardhearted; and they will march in after them; thus I will win glory for myself at the expense of Pharaoh and all his army, chariots and cavalry. 18 Then the Egyptians will realize that I am Adonai, when I have won glory at the expense of Pharaoh, his chariots and his cavalry.”
19 Next, the angel of God, who was going ahead of the camp of Isra'el, moved away and went behind them; and the column of cloud moved away from in front of them and stood behind them. 20 He stationed himself between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Isra'el – there was cloud and darkness here, but light by night there; so that the one did not come near the other all night long.
21 Moshe reached his hand out over the sea, and Adonai caused the sea to go back before a strong east wind all night. He made the sea become dry land, and its water was divided in two. 22 Then the people of Isra'el went into the sea on the dry ground, with the water walled up for them on their right and on their left.
• Long before this time the LORD had already created an underwater land bridge that Isra'el and the people with them would use to move forward.
23 The Egyptians continued their pursuit, going after them into the sea – all Pharaoh's horses, chariots, and cavalry. 24 Just before dawn, Adonai looked out on the Egyptian army through the column of fire and cloud and threw them into a panic. 25 He caused the wheels of their chariots to break off, so that they could move only with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Adonai is fighting for Isra'el against the Egyptians! Let's get away from them!”
• God's blessings and His leading is not for any- and everyone, but only for those who are following Him and His Word.
What is a blessing for Isra'el here in walking on a path through the sea, became a curse for the Egyptians who had no relationship with the LORD.
26 Adonai said to Moshe, “Reach your hand out over the sea, and the water will return and cover the Egyptians with their chariots and cavalry.” 27 Moshe reached his hand out over the sea, and by dawn the sea had returned to its former depth. The Egyptians tried to flee, but Adonai swept them into the sea. 28 The water came back and covered all the chariots and cavalry of Pharaoh's army who had followed them into the
sea – not even one of them was left. 29 But the people of Isra'el walked on dry ground in the sea, with the water walled up for them on their right and on their left.
30 On that day, Adonai saved Isra'el from the Egyptians; Isra'el saw the Egyptians dead on the shore. 31 When Isra'el saw the mighty deed that Adonai had performed against the Egyptians, the people feared Adonai, and they believed in Adonai and in his servant Moshe.
• On that day, and for at least that day, the people feared the LORD and believed in Him, and
• believed in His servant who was leading them
1. The Philistines were smart, cultured and sophisticated, but their culture was wholly corrupt: much like our own. Are we so drawn to what the world has to offer that we are in danger of making ourselves enemies of God? (James 4:4)
2. Even though Israel was fully armed God led the people by a roundabout route through the desert. We may be fully armed for whatever lies ahead, but how do we respond when the LORD leads us by a roundabout route, through the desert, or both?
3. God's presence in the pillar of cloud and fire rested on His commandments and led His people through the wilderness. Are we familiar enough with His Word, both written and Personified, to recognize and follow His leading?
4. Recognizing that the LORD will use any tool at His disposal, are we making and keeping ourselves in a spiritual condition to be used by Him?