Gleanings In Exodus
by A. W. Pink
18. The Exodus From Egypt
"And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading-troughs being hound up in their clothes upon their shoulders. And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment. And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians" (Ex. 12:33-36). At last was fulfilled the promise made by Jehovah to Abraham more than four hundred years before. He had said, "Know of a surety that 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" (Gen. 15:13). Literally had this been fulfilled. The experiences of Abraham’s seed in Egypt was precisely as God had said. But He had also declared to Abraham, "And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance" (Gen. 15:14). This, too, was now made good. There were no provisos. no ifs or peradventures. "Afterward shall they come out with great substance." So God had decreed, so it came to pass. So had God promised, so He now made good His word.
"And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years. even the self-same day it came to pass that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt" (12:41). Upon this verse we commented briefly in our last paper. Those who went forth from the land of bondage are here termed "the hosts of the Lord." Israel were the Lord’s hosts in a threefold way: First, by covenant purpose, by the eternal choice of a predestinating God; Second, by creation, who had made them for Himself; Third, by purchase, for He had redeemed them by precious blood. "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’ (12:51). The last three words in this quotation show that Israel did not issue from Egypt as a disorderly mob. How could they, seeing that it was the Lord who "brought them out!" God is riot the author of confusion. There is a supplementary word in 13:18 which brings this out in further detail: "The children of Israel went up by five in a rank (margin) out of the land of Egypt." A similar example of Divine orderliness is to be observed in connection with our Lord feeding the hungry multitude. In Mark 6:29 we are told that Christ commanded the disciples to "make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And we are told "they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties." The fact that Israel went forth by "five in a rank" exemplified and expressed God’s grace, for five in Scripture ever speaks of grace or favor. There is another word in Psalm 105:37 which adds a beautiful touch to the picture here before us. There we are told, "He brought them forth also with silver and gold; and there was not one feeble person among their tribes." How this illustrates the need of diligently comparing Scripture with Scripture if we would obtain the full teaching of the Word on any subject! Nothing is said of this in the historical narratives of Exodus; it was reserved for the Psalmist to tell us of this Divine miracle, for miracle it certainly was, that not a single one in all that vast host was sickly or infirm.
"And Moses took the hones of Joseph with him; for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you" (13:19). This was no ancestor or relic worship, but an act of faith, the declaration of Joseph’s belief that the destination of Israel was to be the land which God had promised to give to Abraham and his seed, which promise the faith of Joseph had firmly laid hold of. During their long bondage in Egypt this commandment which Joseph gave concerning "his bones" must have often been the theme of converse in many of the Hebrew households; and now, by taking with him the embalmed remains, Moses showed his sure confidence that a grave would be found for them in the land of promise. Nor was his confidence misplaced, as Joshua 24:33 shows: "And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem."
Hebrews 11:22 tells us that this commandment which Joseph gave was "by faith," and here, hundreds of years after, we behold God’s response to the faith of His servant. Moses had much to occupy him at this time. An immense responsibility and undertaking was his—to organize the "armies of Israel" and lead them forth in orderly array. But in simple dependence Joseph had put his dying trust n the living God, and it was impossible that he should be disappointed. Therefore did Jehovah bring to the mind of Moses this command of Joseph, and caused him to carry it out. Blessed demonstration was it of the faithfulness of God.
But what, we may ask, is the typical lesson in this for us? Every other detail in the exodus of Israel from Egypt, as well as all that preceded and followed it, has a profound significance and spiritual application to us. What, then, is foreshadowed in Israel carrying the bones of Joseph with them as they commenced their journey across the wilderness toward the promised land? If we bear in mind that Joseph is a type of Christ the answer will not be difficult to discover. 2 Corinthians 4:10 gives us the N.T. interpretation: "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our bodies." It is the power of the cross applied to the mortal body which ever craves present ease and enjoyment. It is only by "keeping under" the body that the life of Jesus (the new nature) is manifested by us.
"And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children" (12:37). "Rameses means ‘child of the sun.’ It was a fortress the Israelites, as slaves, had helped to build for the Egyptians. It was named after one of their great kings, whose remains, as a mummy, are now in the British Museum. He was the Pharaoh who oppressed Israel so cruelly, and the father of the Pharaoh who pursued the Israelites and was drowned in the Red Sea. He was a great warrior; he conquered Ethiopia and other lands." Typically, Rameses speaks of that system: ‘This present evil world,’ from which the grace and power of God delivers His elect, that system over which the mighty fallen angel, Satan, presides as Prince.
"So here, on the very threshold of their journey, we have a strange and wonderful parable—a picture that everyone who knows the rudiments of astronomy can appreciate. As the literal Israel was called out of the domains of the ‘child of the sun’ to journey to a land unknown to them, so is the spiritual Israel—the Church—called out from the realm described in the book of Ecclesiastes as ‘under the sun’—all this kingdom in which the planets (‘wanderers’) move in their never-ceasing revolutions around the sun—to go to that undiscovered realm, in which, because what of it is visible to the eye is at such an inconceivable distance from us that their movements can hardly be detected at all, we call them fixed stars—that calm, immovable heaven of heavens that we see gazing at us every night, unperturbed and untouched by anything that can occur in our solar system of wanderers, where our earth, like the rest, is a poor restless wanderer in a path that never arrives anywhere. How graphically Solomon describes all our life ‘under the sun’, its mirths, its cares, its toils, its joys, and its sorrows, as unceasing ‘vanity and vexation of spirit’! . . .‘The thing that hath been is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun’ (Eccl. 1:9).
"To that ‘third heaven,’ as Paul calls it (2 Cor. 12), that Paradise altogether beyond and free from any of the influences of our planetary system, the believer is going. We belong not to the world. Chosen in Christ before this world’s foundation, we belong to an eternal realm beyond and apart from all men’s ambitions, schemes, philosophies, religions (Eph. 1:4-10).
"Such a calling is mysterious. No wonder Paul, even when in the very act of trying to explain it to us. lifts up an earnest prayer that a spirit of wisdom and revelation might be given us, so that we might be able to "know what is the hope of His calling’ (Eph. 1:18). It is all so new; it is all so unearthly; its doctrines, its maxims, its hopes and fears, its rules of conduct, are all so different to what is ‘under the sun’" (C. H. Bright).
"And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth." "Succoth" means "booths" or "tents." This spoke plainly of the pilgrim character of the journey which lay before them. This was one of the great lessons learned by the first pilgrim: "Here have we no continuing city" (Heb. 13:14); for "by faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise" (Heb. 11:3). Booths are all that we have down here, for "our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20). But, blessed be God, the day is now near at hand when we shall exchange our temporary "tents" for the eternal "mansions" of the Father’s House.
"And a mixed multitude went up also with them" (12:38). Very solemn is this; it was a wily move of the Enemy. Scripture presents him in two chief characters—as the roaring lion and as the cunning serpent. The former was exemplified by the cruel oppressions of Pharaoh; the latter, in what is here before us. Satan tried hard to keep some, at least, of the Israelites in Egypt; failing in this, he now sends some of the Egyptians to accompany Israel to Canaan! This "mixed multitude" would doubtless be made up of Egyptians and others of different nations who resided in Egypt. A variety of causes and motives might prompt them. Some, through inter-marriages with the Israelites (Lev. 24:10), and now loth to part with their relatives; others, because afraid to remain any longer in a land so sorely afflicted with Divine judgments, and now rendered desolate and untenable; others, because quick to perceive that such wonders wrought on behalf of the Hebrews plainly marked them out as a people who were the favorites of Heaven, and therefore deemed it good policy to throw in their lot with them (cf. 9:20). But it was not long before this "mixed multitude" proved a thorn in the side of Israel. It was this same "mixed multitude" who first became dissatisfied with the manna and influenced Israel to murmur. (See Num. 11:4.)
It has been well said that "when a movement of God takes place men are wrought upon by other motives than those by which the Holy Spirit stirs the renewed heart, and a mass attach themselves to those who are led forth." Witness the fact that when God "called Abraham alone" (Isa. 51:2), Terah (his father) and Lot (his nephew) accompanied him (Gen. 11:31). Witness the Gibeonites making a league with Joshua (Josh. 9). So, too, we find that after the Jewish remnant returned from the captivity "a mixed multitude" joined themselves to Israel (Nehemiah 5:17), though later "they separated from Israel all the mixed multitudes" (Nehemiah 13:3). So, too, we read of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7)! And these things are recorded for our "learning." This fellowshiping of believers with unbelievers, this sufferance of the ungodly among the congregation of the Lord, has been the great bane of God’s saints in every age, the source of their weakness, and the occasion of much of their failure. It is because of this the Spirit of God says, "wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate" (2 Cor. 6:17).
"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" (13:17). How this reminds us of Psalm 103:13, 14: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so that Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust." This people who had spent many long years in slavery were now starting out for the promised land, and it is beautiful to see this tender concern for them. It exemplifies a principle of general application in connection with the Lord’s dealings with His people. The Lord is not only very compassionate, but His mercies are "tender" (James 5:11). The Lord does not suffer His "babes" to be tested as severely as those who are more mature; witness the various trials to which He subjected Abraham—the command for him to offer Isaac was not the first but the last great test which he received. It was so here with Israel. Later, there would be much fighting when Canaan was reached, but at the beginning He led them not the way of the land of the Philistines, for that would have involved warfare. He had respect unto their weakness and timidity. "The Lord, in His condescending grace, so orders things for His people that they do not, at their first setting out, encounter heavy trials, which might have the effect of discouraging their hearts and driving them back" (C.H.M.)
"God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines." This is the first thing noticed by the Holy Spirit after Israel left the land of Egypt—God chose the way for His people through the wilderness. Unspeakably blessed is this. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delighteth in his way (Ps. 37:23). We are not left alone to choose our own path. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). And what is it that the Spirit uses in His leading of us to-day? In this, as in everything, it is the written Word—"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet," to reveal the pitfalls and obstacles of the way, "and a light unto my path"—to make clear the by-paths to be avoided (Ps. 119:105). What a full provision has been made for us! Nothing is left to chance, nothing to our own poor reasoning—"we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
"But God led the people about through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea (13:8). It is often said that the "wilderness had no place in the purpose of God for Israel. But this is certainly erroneous. It was God Himself who led the people round about "the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea." It was God’s original intention that Israel should take exactly the route which they actually followed. Not only is this evident from the fact that the Pillar of Cloud led them each step of their journey to Canaan, but it was plainly intimated by the Lord to Moses before the exodus took place. At the very first appearing of Jehovah to His servant at Horeb (Ex. 3:1—see our note on this in Article 4), He declared, "When thou has brought forth the people out of Egypt ye shall serve God upon this mountain." God’s purpose in leading Israel to Canaan through the wilderness, instead of via the land of the Philistines, was manifested in the sequel. In the first place, it was in order that His marvelous power might be signally displayed on their behalf in bringing them safely through the Red Sea. In the second place, it was in order that Pharaoh and his hosts might there be destroyed. In the third place, it was in order that they might receive Jehovah’s laws in the undisturbed solitude of the desert. In the fourth place, it was in order that they might be properly organized into a Commonwealth and Church-state (Acts 7:53) prior to their entrance into and occupation of the land of Canaan. Finally, it was in order that they might be humbled, tried, and proved (Deut. 8:2, 3), and the sufficiency of their God in every emergency might be fully demonstrated.
"And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night" (13:20, 21). Very precious is this. Just as Jehovah—the covenant God, the promising God, the One who heard the groanings of Israel, the One who raised up a deliverer for them—reminds us of God the Father, just as the Lamb—without spot and blemish, slain and its blood sprinkled, securing protection and deliverance from the avenging angel—typifies God the Son; so this Pillar of Cloud—given to Israel for their guidance across the wilderness—speaks to us of God the Holy Spirit. Amazingly full, Divinely perfect, are these O.T. foreshadowings. At every point the teaching of the N.T. is anticipated. But the anointed eye is needed to perceive the hidden meaning of these primitive pictures. Much prayerful searching is necessary if we are to discern their spiritual signification.
This "pillar" was the visible sign of the Lord’s presence with Israel. It is called "a pillar of cloud" and "a pillar of fire." Apparently its upper portion rose up to heaven in the form of a column; its lower being spread out cloudwise, over Israel’s camp. Note how in Exodus 14:24 the two descriptive terms are combined, showing that the "pillar" did not change its form, as a "cloud" by day and a "fire" by night as is popularly supposed; but, as stated above, it was one—a "pillar of fire" in its upper portion, a "cloud" below." It is clear, though, from subsequent scriptures (Num. 14:14, etc.), that the whole "cloud" was illuminative by night-time "to give them light in the way wherein they should go" (Nehemiah 9:12). Let us now consider some of the points in which the Cloud typified the Holy Spirit.
1. The "Cloud" was not given to Israel until they had been delivered from Egypt. First, the slaying of the Pascal Lamb, then the giving of the Cloud. This is the order of the N.T. First, the death of God’s Lamb, followed by His resurrection and ascension, and then the public descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. So, also, is it in Christian experience. There is first the sinner appropriating by faith the death of Christ, and then the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell that soul. It is on the ground of Christ’s shed blood—not because of any moral fitness in us—that the Spirit of God seals us unto the day of redemption. Strikingly is this order observed in the epistle to the Romans—the great doctrinal treatise of the N.T. There, as nowhere else so fully, is unfolded God’s method of salvation. But it is not until after the believing sinner is "justified" (5:1) that we read of the Spirit of God. In 2:4-10 we get repentance; in 3:22-28, faith; and then in 5:5 we read, "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us!"
2. The ‘Cloud" was God’s gracious gift to Israel. No word is said about the people asking for this Guide. It came to them quite unsought, as a tender provision of God’s mercy. Do we not find the same thing in the Gospels? At the close of His mission the Lord Jesus told the disciples of His departure, of His return to the Father. And though we read of them being troubled and sorrowful, yet there is no hint that any of the apostles requested Him to send them another Comforter. The purpose to do this proceeded alone from Himself—"I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter" (John 4:16).
3. The Cloud was given to guide Israel through their wilderness journey. What a merciful provision was this—an infallible Guide to conduct them through the tract-less desert! "The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way" (Ex. 13:21). In like manner, the Holy Spirit has been given to Christians to direct their steps along the Narrow Way which leadeth unto life. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14).
4. The Cloud gave light. "And by night in a pillar of fire to give them light" (Ex. 13:21). Beautifully does Nehemiah remind their descendants of this hundreds of years later: "Thou leadest them in the day by a cloudy pillar and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go" (Neh. 9:12). By day or by night Israel was "thoroughly furnished." For a similar purpose is the Holy Spirit given to Christians. He is "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (Isa. 11:2). Said the Lord to His apostles, "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
5. The Cloud was given for a covering: "He spread a cloud for a covering" (Ps. 105:39). This Cloud was for Israel’s protection from the scorching heat of the sun in the sandy desert where there was no screen. Beautifully has this been commented upon by one who knew from an experience of contrast the blessedness of this merciful provision of God for Israel: "To appreciate what the cloud was to Israel, we must transport ourselves in imagination to a rainless country like Egypt. We lived many years on the coast of Peru—hundreds of miles as rainless as Egypt. We recalled with horror that some English hymn writer had sung the glories of a "cloudless sky, a waveless sea." In a small schooner, becalmed under a tropical sun off the coast of Equador, we tasted the awfulness of a waveless sea, and in Peru for half the year we had a cloudless sky, and rainless always. How beautiful the distant clouds looked, away off there on the peaks of the lofty Andes. We could not but feel, ‘What must be the soothingness of bring under a cloud like those Indians who lived up there in that happy fertile region of clouds amid the valleys and mountains!’ Therefore, that cloud must have been a welcome sight to those ex-slaves, accustomed to labor in the fields under the sun of Egypt. It was a proof to them of the all-mighty power of Jehovah. He could give them a cloud where there was nothing in Nature to form clouds. He could furnish a shelter to His people when no other people had a shelter (C. H. Bright). So, too, is the Holy Spirit our Protector—we are "sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30).
6. God spoke from the Cloud: "He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar (Ps. 99:7). The Psalmist is here referring back to such passages as Exodus 33:9—"And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses" (Num. 12:5). In like manner the Holy Spirit is to-day the Spokesman for the Holy Trinity, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev. 2:3).
7. This Cloud was darkness to the Egyptians: "And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. and it was a cloud and darkness to them" (14:20). Fearfully solemn is this. God not only reveals, but He also conceals: "At that time Jesus answered and said. I thank Thee, O Father. Lord of, Heaven and Earth, because Thou host hid these things from the wise and prudent" (Matthew 11:25). It is so with the Holy Spirit—"The Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive" (John 14:17).
8. This Cloud rested upon the Tabernacle as soon as it was erected. "So Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation. and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle, and Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle" (Ex. 40:33-35). How strikingly this foreshadowed the coming of the Holy Spirit upon that Blessed One who tabernacled among men, of Whom it is written, "We beheld His glory (John 1:14). So, too, the Holy Spirit came upon the twelve apostles on the day of Pentecost and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4).
9. All through Israel’s wilderness wanderings this Cloud was never taken away from them: "Yet Thou in Thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness; the pillar of the cloud departed not from them" (Neh. 9:19). Despite all Israel’s failures—their murmurings, their unbelief, their rebellion—God never withdrew the Cloudy Pillar! So, too, of the Holy Spirit given to believers the sure promise is, "He shall give you another Comforter, that He may (should) abide with you forever" (John 14:16).
10. It is blessed to learn that the Cloud shall once more descend upon and dwell among Israel. When God regathers His scattered people, when He resumes His covenant relationship with them, and brings them to a saving knowledge of their Messiah-Redeemer, then shall be fulfilled the ancient promise, "When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a Cloud and smoke by day and a shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the Glory shall be a defense" (Isa. 4:6). What a truly marvelous type of the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit was the fiery and cloudy "pillar!"