The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 25: The Exodus
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With their loins girt, with sandaled feet, and staff in
hand, the people of Israel had stood, hushed, awed, yet
expectant, awaiting the royal mandate that should bid them go
forth. Before the morning broke, they were on their way. During
the plagues, as the manifestation of God's power had kindled
faith in the hearts of the bondmen and had struck terror to their
oppressors, the Israelites had gradually assembled themselves in
Goshen; and notwithstanding the suddenness of their flight, some
provision had already been made for the necessary organization
and control of the moving multitudes, they being divided into
companies, under appointed leaders.
And they went out, "about six hundred thousand on foot that
were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up
also with them." In this multitude were not only those who were
actuated by faith in the God of Israel, but also a far greater
number who desired only to escape from the plagues, or who followed
in the wake of the moving multitudes merely from excitement
and curiosity. This class were ever a hindrance and a snare to
The people took also with them "flocks, and herds, even very
much cattle." These were the property of the Israelites, who had
never sold their possessions to the king, as had the Egyptians.
Jacob and his sons had brought their flocks and herds with them
to Egypt, where they had greatly increased. Before leaving Egypt,
the people, by the direction of Moses, claimed a recompense for
their unpaid labor; and the Egyptians were too eager to be freed
from their presence to refuse them. The bondmen went forth
laden with the spoil of their oppressors.
That day completed the history revealed to Abraham in
prophetic vision centuries before: "Thy seed shall be a stranger in a
land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict
them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall [p. 282] serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with
great substance." Genesis 15:13, 14. [* See Appendix, Note 3.] The four
hundred years had been fulfilled. "And it came to pass the selfsame day,
that the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by
their armies." In their departure from Egypt the Israelites bore
with them a precious legacy, in the bones of Joseph, which had
so long awaited the fulfillment of God's promise, and which,
during the dark years of bondage, had been a reminder of Israel's
Instead of pursuing the direct route to Canaan, which lay
through the country of the Philistines, the Lord directed their
course southward, toward the shores of the Red Sea. "For God
said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war,
and they return to Egypt." Had they attempted to pass through
Philistia, their progress would have been opposed; for the Philistines,
regarding them as slaves escaping from their masters, would
not have hesitated to make war upon them. The Israelites were
poorly prepared for an encounter with that powerful and warlike
people. They had little knowledge of God and little faith in Him,
and they would have become terrified and disheartened. They
were unarmed and unaccustomed to war, their spirits were
depressed by long bondage, and they were encumbered with women
and children, flocks and herds. In leading them by the way of
the Red Sea, the Lord revealed Himself as a God of compassion
as well as of judgment.
"And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in
Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before
them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by
night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and
night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the
pillar of fire by night, from before the people." Says the psalmist,
"He spread a cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the
night." Psalm 105:39. See also I Corinthians 10:1, 2. The standard
of their invisible Leader was ever with them. By day the cloud
directed their journeyings or spread as a canopy above the host.
It served as a protection from the burning heat, and by its
coolness and moisture afforded grateful refreshment in the parched,
thirsty desert. By night it became a pillar of fire, illuminating
their encampment and constantly assuring them of the divine
presence. [p. 283]
In one of the most beautiful and comforting passages of Isaiah's
prophecy, reference is made to the pillar of cloud and of fire
to represent God's care for His people in the great final struggle
with the powers of evil: "The Lord will create upon every dwelling
place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and
smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for
above all the glory shall be a covering. And there shall be a
tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for
a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain."
Isaiah 4:5, 6, margin.
Across a dreary, desertlike expanse they journeyed. Already
they began to wonder whither their course would lead; they were
becoming weary with the toilsome way, and in some hearts began
to arise a fear of pursuit by the Egyptians. But the cloud went
forward, and they followed. And now the Lord directed Moses
to turn aside into a rocky defile, and encamp beside the sea.
It was revealed to him that Pharaoh would pursue them, but
that God would be honored in their deliverance.
In Egypt the report was spread that the children of Israel,
instead of tarrying to worship in the desert, were pressing on
toward the Red Sea. Pharaoh's counselors declared to the king
that their bondmen had fled, never to return. The people
deplored their folly in attributing the death of the first-born to the
power of God. Their great men, recovering from their fears,
accounted for the plagues as the result of natural causes. "Why
have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?"
was the bitter cry.
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