The migration by the emerging nation of Israel from Egypt towards the Promised Land, formerly Canaan as recorded in the book of Exodus commenced in 1446 BC. The total number of Israelites at this time is estimated at about two million plus their livestock (Ex 12:37,38).
Background: Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham found himself as a slave in Egypt through the jealousy of his ten older brothers because of their father Jacob’s favouritism for him and his absurd dreams which elevated him above them. The Egyptian king had a disturbing dream that Joseph interpreted as being a period of abundant harvests prior to a period of severe famine. Joseph was put in charge of implementing the preparations to administer the storage and subsequent selling of the grain to the starving multitudes. The famine had affected Joseph’s siblings who were living in Canaan; ultimately, all his family clan of Hebrews came and settled in Egypt, where they increased in number. After 30 years a new king came to power and brought them into servitude or slavery which lasted a further 400 years (Gen 15:13; Ex 1:5-14, 12:40,41; Act 7:6; Gal 3:16,17).
In desperation, they cried out to God and He appointed Moses as their leader. God performed numerous devastating plagues against the Egyptians to bring about this release from slavery. Prior to their departure, the Egyptians who owned many valuable assets were kindly inclined towards the Israelites who ‘borrowed’ these treasures (Ex 12:32-36). Later these riches were used in the construction and functioning of the tabernacle. God wants us His children to claim the enemies’ resources for His service – taking back the spoils.
The night of their departure from Egyptian slavery is known as the Passover, which is one of the sacred annual feasts of the Jews today. This release from bondage is likened to our salvation experience – coming out from sin to serve God in the newness of life as symbolysed by baptism (Rom 6:4; Gal 5:1).
It was during this time that the regulations for living under divine rule were spelled out to God’s people – the 10 Commandments were given, and the tabernacle together with the priestly office was established. In the desert, renowned for its spasmodic rainfall and where little grows, God miraculously provided food and water for them and their livestock as well as giving a cloud of protection from the sun during the day and a pillar of fire at night (Ex 13:21,22, 16:1-17:7). They were learning, first-hand, to depend upon God.
However, they regularly tried God’s patience and were slow to respond in obedience. The journey to their destination took over 40 years of wandering in the wilderness instead of just a matter of days to travel by foot for around 400km into the fertile countryside of the neighbouring country. Because of sin, all those over 20 years (except Joshua and Caleb) perished in the wilderness, not entering into God’s plan for them (Num 14:20-38, 32:11). Although they saw God’s miraculous power they still grumbled, disobeyed, treated Him with contempt, were unfaithful and tested Him. We should search our hearts and deal with any of these or other destructive personal traits.
Am I coming into increasing freedom from the control of sin?
make the journey longer by living ungodly lives as the Israelites did, and the majority never entered in to their inheritance. The purpose of the exodus was to leave in order to enter, yet many never reached the desired destination. They may have left Egypt but ‘Egypt’ never left their hearts.
See also: bondage, Egypt, Exodus (Ex), freedom, Joseph, Joshua, Moses, Passover, plagues, position in Christ, Promised Land, release, test/testing, wilderness wanderings.