Exodus 13:18
But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(18) But God led the people about.—Or, led the people a circuit—took them, not by the direct route, through Pelusium, past Lake Serbônis, to Rhinocolura and Gaza, but led them by the most circuitous route possible—the way of the Red Sea and the wilderness of Sinai to the Transjordanic region, the land of the Amorites, and so across Jordan to Canaan proper. The passage seems to dispose altogether of Dr. Brugsch’s theory, that the “Red Sea” of the writer of Exodus was the Lake Serbônis, and that it was not until after this lake was passed that their journey was deflected to the south.

The children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.—It is generally agreed that this is a wrong translation. Very few of the Israelites can have possessed suits of armour until after the passage of the Red Sea, when they may have stripped the bodies of the slain Egyptians. Nor has the word used ever the force of “harnessed.” It might mean “with their loins girded,” but such an exposition would deprive the statement made of any force. Loins were always girded in preparation for a journey, and there would be no need to mention the fact. The best explanation is, that the word here means “organised,” “in military order” (Saadia, Gesenius, Lee, Knobel, Cook). It was clearly necessary, to prevent confusion, that a military order should have been adopted, and there are not wanting indications that during the year of contention with Pharaoh such an organisation was introduced and proceeded with. (See Exodus 4:29; Exodus 4:31; Exodus 6:26; Exodus 12:3; Exodus 12:21; Exodus 12:51.) It must have been brought to a high pitch of perfection for the Exodus to have taken place, as it seems to have done, without serious confusion or entanglement.

Exodus 13:18. There were various reasons why God led them through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea. The Egyptians were to be drowned in the Red sea, the Israelites were to be humbled and proved in the wilderness, Deuteronomy 8:2. God had given it to Moses for a sign, Exodus 3:12, Ye shall serve God in this mountain. They had again and again told Pharaoh that they must go three days’ journey into the wilderness to do sacrifice, and therefore it was requisite they should march that way, else they had justly been exclaimed against as dissemblers. Before they entered the lists with their enemies, matters must be settled between them and their God; laws must be given, ordinances instituted, covenants sealed; and for the doing of this it was necessary they should retire into the solitudes of a wilderness, the only closet for such a crowd; the high road would be no proper place for these transactions. The reason why God did not lead them the nearest way, which would have brought them in a few days to the land of the Philistines, was because they were not yet fit for war, much less for war with the Philistines. Their spirits were broken with slavery; the Philistines were formidable enemies; it was convenient they should begin with the Amalekites, and be prepared for the wars of Canaan, by experiencing the difficulties of the wilderness. God is said to bring Israel out of Egypt, as the eagle brings up her young ones, Deuteronomy 32:11, teaching them by degrees to fly. They went up harnessed — The original word for harnessed here is variously rendered: it comes from a root which signifies five, hence some render it five in a rank. The same word is rendered prepared for war, Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12-13. Targum, girded, harnessed. Vulg. armati, armed. So the Seventy, ευζωνοι equipped, διεσκυασμενοι prepared, furnished: thus in Joshua; but in this place of Exodus the Seventy render the word πεντη γενεα, the fifth generation, and translate the passage, In the fifth generation, the children of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt.

13:17-20 There were two ways from Egypt to Canaan. One was only a few days' journey; the other was much further about, through the wilderness, and that was the way in which God chose to lead his people Israel. The Egyptians were to be drowned in the Red sea; the Israelites were to be humbled and proved in the wilderness. God's way is the right way, though it seems about. If we think he leads not his people the nearest way, yet we may be sure he leads them the best way, and so it will appear when we come to our journey's end. The Philistines were powerful enemies; it was needful that the Israelites should be prepared for the wars of Canaan, by passing through the difficulties of the wilderness. Thus God proportions his people's trials to their strength, 1Co 10:13. They went up in good order. They went up in five in a rank, some; in five bands, so others, which it seems rather to their faith and hope, that God would bring them to Canaan, in expectation of which they carried these bones with them while in the desert.Harnessed - More probably, "marshalled" or "in orderly array." There is not the least indication that the Israelites had been disarmed by the Egyptians, and as occupying a frontier district frequently assailed by the nomads of the desert they would of necessity be accustomed to the use of arms. Compare Exodus 1:10. 18. God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea, &c.—This wondrous expanse of water is a gulf of the Indian ocean. It was called in Hebrew "the weedy sea," from the forest of marine plants with which it abounds. But the name of the Red Sea is not so easily traced. Some think it was given from its contiguity to the countries of Edom ("red"); others derive it from its coral rocks; while a third class ascribe the origin of the name to an extremely red appearance of the water in some parts, caused by a numberless multitude of very small mollusca. This sea, at its northern extremity, separates into two smaller inlets—the eastern called anciently the Elanitic gulf, now the gulf of Akaba; and the western the Heroopolite gulf, now the gulf of Suez, which, there can be no doubt, extended much more to the north anciently than it does now. It was toward the latter the Israelites marched.

went up harnessed—that is, girded, equipped for a long journey. (See Ps 105:37). The Margin renders it "five in a rank," meaning obviously five large divisions, under five presiding officers, according to the usages of all caravans; and a spectacle of such a mighty and motley multitude must have presented an imposing appearance, and its orderly progress could have been effected only by the superintending influence of God.

Or, armed, or girt with swords and belts about the fifth rib, as the Hebrew word may imply. But it doth not appear how or whence they should get their arms, nor how the Egyptians would permit so numerous a people to have and to keep arms, especially when they had a long time oppressed and exasperated them, and made them desperate. It is true, some few of them might procure arms, but this word is here used concerning the whole body of them. Others render it by fives, five and five in a rank, that is, by a usual synecdoche, in military order, not doubtfully and fearfully, but confidently and courageously; not confusedly, as men that steal or run away, but in good order, so as one might not hinder another. Which interpretation is strengthened by comparing Joshua 1:14. It may be rendered girt, to wit, about the fifth rib, as the word implies, the place where men used to gird their garments, this being the usual posture for travellers: he implies that they went out resolved upon and prepared for their journey.

But God led the people about,.... Instead of their going to the west, or northwest, towards Gaza, &c. and the Mediterranean sea, the Lord going before them in a pillar of cloud and fire, as after related, directed them to turn off to the right, between the east and south, to the southeast:

through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: the wilderness of Etham, by the Red sea:

and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt or "girt" (m) about the loins under the fifth rib; not with armour, as some (n) understand it, for it is not likely that they could, or that Pharaoh would suffer them to be furnished with armour, but their garments were girt about them, and so fit for travelling; or they went up "by fives" (o), as it may be rendered, either by five in a rank, or rather in five bodies or squadrons, and so marched out, not in a disorderly and confused way, but in great order and regularity. The latter is much more reasonable to suppose, for five in a rank is too small a number for an army of 600,000 men to march in; since allowing the ranks to be but three feet asunder, and a mile to consist of about two thousand yards, the front and rear of the army would be sixty miles distant from each other (p).

(m) "accincti", Fagninus, Vatablus, Cartwright; so Onkelos, Aben Ezra. (n) Kimchi & Pen Melech. (o) "Quintati", Montanus: "quini", Piscater, Rivet. (p) See the Bishop of Clogher's Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 272.

But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up {k} harnessed out of the land of Egypt.

(k) That is, not secretly but openly and as the word signifies, set in order by five and five.

18. Instead of leading them straight on, across the N. part of the isthmus of Suez, by the direct route mentioned above, God led the people about (or round), in the direction of the wilderness,—i.e. the Egyptian wilderness, S. of the Wâdy Ṭumîlât, and West of the N. end of the Gulf of Suez (a shallow extension of which reached perhaps at this time as far N. as L. Timsâḥ: see p. 125 ff.),—to the Red Sea (the Gulf of Suez, or its ancient Northern extension, just referred to).

the Red Sea] Heb., as always, the Sea of sûph; probably, the Sea of reeds. The origin of the name is uncertain. Sûph (outside this expression) is used of reeds or rushes (cf. Luther’s Schilfmeer, ‘Reed-sea’) growing along the Nile (Exodus 2:3 [see note], 5, Isaiah 19:6 †), and of sea-weed (Jonah 2:6 †): it seems also to correspond to the late Eg. thuf, Copt. joouf, ‘papyrus.’ Reeds or rushes however do not grow in the salt water of the Red Sea, though (Di.) clumps of them have been found on spots S. of Suez, where fresh water mixes with the salt; but they abound in Lake Timsâḥ. ‘This lake with its large marshes full of reeds, exactly at the entrance of Goshen, would fulfil all conditions for the Exodus and for the Heb. name’ (W. M. Müller, EB., Red Sea). If it is true that there was once a shallow extension of the Gulf of Suez reaching to L. Timsâḥ, it is possible that it was called by the Hebrews, from these growths, the ‘Sea of reeds’; and that afterwards the name was extended to the ‘Red Sea’ generally (so Di. as well as W. M. Müller).

armed] The Heb. word is a rare one (Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12, Jdg 7:11 †; read also conjecturally by many in Numbers 32:17), and its precise meaning is uncertain. It in any case implies that the Israelites were prepared for hostile encounters.

Verse 18. - God led the people about. Or "led the people a circuit," i.e., made them take a circuitous route to Canaan, the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea - i.e., by the southern wilderness, or what is now called "the wilderness of Sinai." Kalisch shows the wisdom of this course - how it gave time for the nation to be "gradually accustomed to fatigues and hardships by a long and tiresome march in the desert" - to learn obedience to their chief - and finally to be "trained to military discipline and martial, virtue by occasional expeditions against the weaker tribes of the desert." He errs, however, in ascribing the wisdom of the course taken to Moses, since Moses expressly declares that the conception was not his, but God's. And the children of Israel went up harnessed. The word here translated "harnessed," is generally thought to mean either "with their loins girded" (Onkelos, Kimchi, Kalisch) or "in military order" (Gesenius, Lee, Knobel). Ewald, who inclines to the latter of these two senses, suggests that, strictly, it means "in five divisions" - viz., van, centre, two wings, and rearguard. The word is, apparently, a derivative from khamesh, "five." Exodus 13:18Journey from Succoth to Etham. - Succoth, Israel's first place of encampment after their departure, was probably the rendezvous for the whole nation, so that it was from this point that they first proceeded in an orderly march. The shortest and most direct route from Egypt to Canaan would have been by the road to Gaza, in the land of the Philistines; but God did not lead them by this road, lest they should repent of their movement as soon as the Philistines opposed them, and so desire to return to Egypt, פּן: μή, after אמר to say (to himself), i.e., to think, with the subordinate idea of anxiety. The Philistines were very warlike, and would hardly have failed to resist the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan, of which they had taken possession of a very large portion. But the Israelites were not prepared for such a conflict, as is sufficiently evident from their despair, in Exodus 14:10. For this reason God made them turn round (יסּב for יסב, see Ges. 67) by the way of the desert of the Red Sea. Previous to the account of their onward march, it is still further stated in Exodus 13:18, Exodus 13:19, that they went out equipped, and took Joseph's bones with them, according to his last request. חמשׁים, from חמשׁ lumbus, lit., lumbis accincti, signifies equipped, as a comparison of this word as it is used in Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12, with חלוּצים in Numbers 32:30, Numbers 32:32; Deuteronomy 3:18, places beyond all doubt; that is to say, not "armed," καθωπλισμένοι (Sym.), but prepared for the march, as contrasted with fleeing in disorder like fugitives. For this reason they were able to fulfil Joseph's request, from which fact Calvin draws the following conclusion: "In the midst of their adversity the people had never lost sight of the promised redemption. For unless the celebrated adjuration of Joseph had been a subject of common conversation among them all, Moses would never have thought of it."
Exodus 13:18 Interlinear
Exodus 13:18 Parallel Texts

Exodus 13:18 NIV
Exodus 13:18 NLT
Exodus 13:18 ESV
Exodus 13:18 NASB
Exodus 13:18 KJV

Exodus 13:18 Bible Apps
Exodus 13:18 Parallel
Exodus 13:18 Biblia Paralela
Exodus 13:18 Chinese Bible
Exodus 13:18 French Bible
Exodus 13:18 German Bible

Bible Hub

Exodus 13:17
Top of Page
Top of Page