Exodus 14:5
And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?
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(5) The heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people.—No doubt the change began as soon as Israel commenced its march. The emigration left Eastern Egypt a solitude, suspended all the royal works that were in progress, threw the whole course of commerce and business into disorder. Beforehand, neither the king nor the people had understood what the loss of six hundred thousand labourers—some of them highly skilled—would be. When Israel was gone they realised it; consequently both king and people regretted what they had done.

Exodus 14:5. It was told the king that the people fled — As they had been ordered by the Lord to turn a different way from that which led directly to mount Horeb, it is probable that, as soon as Pharaoh heard of it, he concluded they had no intention of going thither, but were escaping out of Egypt. He either forgot, or would not own, that they had departed with his consent; and therefore was willing it should be represented to him as a revolt from their allegiance. Why have we done this? — They, who never truly repented of their sins, now heartily repent of their only good action.14:1-9 Pharaoh would think that all Israel was entangled in the wilderness, and so would become an easy prey. But God says, I will be honoured upon Pharaoh. All men being made for the honour of their Maker, those whom he is not honoured by, he will be honoured upon. What seems to tend to the church's ruin, is often overruled to the ruin of the church's enemies. While Pharaoh gratified his malice and revenge, he furthered the bringing to pass God's counsels concerning him. Though with the greatest reason he had let Israel go, yet now he was angry with himself for it. God makes the envy and rage of men against his people, a torment to themselves. Those who set their faces heavenward, and will live godly in Christ Jesus, must expect to be set upon by Satan's temptations and terrors. He will not tamely part with any out of his service.The people fled - This was a natural inference from the change of direction, which indicated a determination to escape from Egypt. Up to the time when that information reached Pharaoh both he and his people understood that the Israelites would return after keeping a festival in the district adjoining Etham. From Etham the intelligence would be forwarded by the commander of the garrison to Rameses in less than a day, and the cavalry, a highly-disciplined force, would be ready for immediate departure. 5. the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, &c.—Alas, how soon the obduracy of this reprobate king reappears! He had been convinced, but not converted—overawed, but not sanctified by the appalling judgments of heaven. He bitterly repented of what he now thought a hasty concession. Pride and revenge, the honor of his kingdom, and the interests of his subjects, all prompted him to recall his permission to reclaim those runaway slaves and force them to their wonted labor. Strange that he should yet allow such considerations to obliterate or outweigh all his painful experience of the danger of oppressing that people. But those whom the Lord has doomed to destruction are first infatuated by sin. That the people fled; did not only depart for three days to sacrifice at Horeb, as Moses pretended, but designed an escape and flight, as appeared by their speedy march, and other circumstances.

Why have we done this? They who never truly repented of their sins, now heartily repent of their only good action. That the people fled; did not only depart for three days to sacrifice at Horeb, as Moses pretended, but designed an escape and flight, as appeared by their speedy march, and other circumstances.

Why have we done this? They who never truly repented of their sins, now heartily repent of their only good action. And it was told the king of Egypt,.... By some of the Egyptians, or mixed multitude that went out with Israel, but returned upon their encampment at the Red sea, or by some spies Pharaoh sent with them to observe their motions: the Targums of Jonathan and Jarchi make use of a word which Buxtorf translates military officers: and the latter says, they went out with them the three days' journey, but the Israelites not returning to Egypt (as expected), they tell Pharaoh of it the fourth day; and on the fifth and sixth he pursued them, and in the night of the seventh went into the sea after them, and on the morning they (the Israelites) sung the song, which was the seventh of the passover: these reported to Pharaoh:

that the people fled; that under a pretence of going three days' journey into the wilderness, to serve and sacrifice to the Lord, they were about to make their escape out of the land:

and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants were turned against the people; who had so much favour in their sight, not only to give them leave to go, and to hasten their departure, but to lend and give them things of great value; but now their hearts were filled with hatred of them, and with malice and revenge:

and they said, why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us? not Pharaoh only, but his servants said so, even those who had entreated him to let them go, Exodus 10:7 yet now repent of it, and cannot think what reason they had to do it, when at that time they saw reason, and gave a very sufficient one, namely, the destruction of Egypt; but now the judgments and plagues of God being no more upon them, they recollect the great service of the Israelites to them and the benefits and advantages they had reaped by it, and the loss they had sustained by parting with them, and therefore reflect upon themselves for such a piece of conduct.

And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?
5. were fled] i.e. were not gone merely on a pilgrimage, to ‘serve’ Jehovah (Exodus 4:23, Exodus 7:16, &c.), but had departed altogether.

the heart … was changed] i.e. their mind, or opinion, was altered; they regretted that they had given the permission of Exodus 12:31 f.; they felt that they had lost the services of the Israelites, and wished, if possible, to get them back.

from serving us] ch. 5, &c.Verses 5-9. - THE PURSUIT OF ISRAEL BY THE EGYPTIANS. A short respite from suffering was sufficient to enable Pharaoh to recover from his extreme alarm. No further deaths had followed on the destruction of the firstborn; and he might think no further danger was to be apprehended. The worst of Moses' threats had been accomplished- perhaps Jehovah had no more arrows in his quiver. At any rate, as he realised to himself what it would be to lose altogether the services of so vast a body of slaves, many of them highly skilled in different arts, he more and more regretted the permission which he had given. Under these circumstances intelligence was brought him of the change which the Israelites had made in their route, and the dangerous position into which they had Brought themselves. Upon this he resolved to start in pursuit, with such troops as he could hastily muster. As his chariots were six hundred, we may presume that his footmen were at least 100,000, all trained and disciplined soldiers, accustomed to warfare. The timid horde of escaped slaves, unused to war, though it might be five or six times as numerous as his host, was not likely to resist it. Pharaoh no doubt expected an unconditional surrender on the part of the Israelites, as soon as they saw his forces. Verse 5. - It was told the King of Egypt that the people fled. Pharaoh, when he let the Israelites go, must have felt tolerably certain that they would not voluntarily return. Formally, however, he had only consented to their going a three days' journey into the wilderness (Exodus 12:31). When, being at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness, they did not enter it, but marched southward to Pi-hahiroth, the Egyptians might naturally report that instead of sacrificing, they were flying - hasting forwards - placing as much distance as they could between themselves and the Egyptian headquarters. But this report alone would scarcely have moved Pharaoh to action. It was in the accompanying circumstances, in the particular line of route, that he thought to find his opportunity. The people "were entangled" (ver. 3). They might be taken at a disadvantage, and might be reduced to choosing between starvation and a. return to Egypt. The heart of Pharaoh, and of his servants, was turned against the people. The reaction of feeling was not confined to Pharaoh. His subjects participated in it. The loss of such a large body of labourers would be generally felt as a severe blow to the prosperity of the nation. It would affect all classes. The poor labourers might be benefited; but the employers of labour are the influential classes, and they would be injured. So "Pharaoh's servants" were of one mind with their master, and they "turned against" the Israelites. Why have we done this? In the retrospect, the afflictions which they had suffered did not seem so very great. They at any rate had survived them, and were not perhaps even seriously impoverished. Royal favour will find a way of making up any losses which court minions have suffered, out of the general taxation of the country. But in prospect, the loss of 600,000 (more or less skilled) labourers appeared a terrible thing. The official class was quite ready to make a strenuous effort to avert the loss. From Etham, at the edge of the desert which separates Egypt from Asia, the Israelites were to enter the pathless desert, and leave the inhabited country. Jehovah then undertook to direct the march, and give them a safe-conduct, through a miraculous token of His presence. Whilst it is stated in Exodus 13:17, Exodus 13:18, that Elohim led them and determined the direction of their road, to show that they did not take the course, which they pursued, upon their own judgment, but by the direction of God; in Exodus 13:21, Exodus 13:22, it is said that "Jehovah 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," i.e., that they might march at all hours.

(Note: Knobel is quite wrong in affirming, that according to the primary work, the cloud was first instituted after the erection of the tabernacle. For in the passages cited in proof of this (Exodus 40:34.; Numbers 9:15., Exodus 10:11-12, cf. Exodus 17:7), the cloud is invariably referred to, with the definite article, as something already known, so that all these passages refer to Exodus 13:21 of the present chapter.)

To this sign of the divine presence and guidance there was a natural analogon in the caravan fire, which consisted of small iron vessels or grates, with wood fires burning in them, fastened at the end of long poles, and carried as a guide in front of caravans, and, according to Curtius (de gestis Alex. M. V. 2, 7), in trackless countries in the front of armies also, and by which the direction of the road was indicated in the day-time by the smoke, and at night by the light of the fire. There was a still closer analogy in the custom of the ancient Persians, as described by Curtius (iii. 3, 9), of carrying fire, "which they called sacred and eternal," in silver altars, in front of the army. But the pillar of cloud and fire must not be confounded with any such caravan and army fire, or set down as nothing more than a mythical conception, or a dressing up of this natural custom. The cloud was not produced by an ordinary caravan fire, nor was it "a mere symbol of the presence of God, which derived all its majesty from the belief of the Israelites, that Jehovah was there in the midst of them," according to Kster's attempt to idealize the rationalistic explanation; but it had a miraculous origin and a supernatural character. We are not to regard the phenomenon as consisting of two different pillars, that appeared alternately, one of cloud, and the other of fire. There was but one pillar of both cloud and fire (Exodus 14:24); for even when shining in the dark, it is still called the pillar of cloud (Exodus 14:19), or the cloud (Numbers 9:21); so that it was a cloud with a dark side and a bright one, causing darkness and also lighting the night (Exodus 14:20), or "a cloud, and fire in it by night" (Exodus 40:38). Consequently we have to imagine the cloud as the covering of the fire, so that by day it appeared as a dark cloud in contrast with the light of the sun, but by night as a fiery splendour, "a fire-look" (כּמראה־אשׁ, Numbers 9:15-16). When this cloud went before the army of Israel, it assumed the form of a column; so that by day it resembled a dark column of smoke rising up towards heaven, and by night a column of fire, to show the whole army what direction to take. But when it stood still above the tabernacle, or came down upon it, it most probably took the form of a round globe of cloud; and when it separated the Israelites from the Egyptians at the Red Sea, we have to imagine it spread out like a bank of cloud, forming, as it were, a dividing wall. In this cloud Jehovah, or the Angel of God, the visible representative of the invisible God under the Old Testament, was really present with the people of Israel, so that He spoke to Moses and gave him His commandments out of the cloud. In this, too, appeared "the glory of the Lord" (Exodus 16:10; Exodus 40:34; Numbers 17:7), the Shechinah of the later Jewish theology. The fire in the pillar of cloud was the same as that in which the Lord revealed Himself to Moses out of the bush, and afterwards descended upon Sinai amidst thunder and lightning in a thick cloud (Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:18). It was a symbol of the "zeal of the Lord," and therefore was enveloped in a cloud, which protected Israel by day from heat, sunstroke, and pestilence (Isaiah 4:5-6; Isaiah 49:10; Psalm 91:5-6; Psalm 121:6), and by night lighted up its path by its luminous splendour, and defended it from the terrors of the night and from all calamity (Psalm 27:1., Psalm 91:5-6); but which also threatened sudden destruction to those who murmured against God (Numbers 17:10), and sent out a devouring fire against the rebels and consumed them (Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 16:35). As Sartorius has aptly said, "We must by no means regard it as a mere appearance or a poetical figure, and just as little as a mere mechanical clothing of elementary forms, such, for example, as storm-clouds or natural fire. Just as little, too, must we suppose the visible and material part of it to have been an element of the divine nature, which is purely spiritual. We must rather regard it as a dynamic conformation, or a higher corporeal form, composed of the earthly sphere and atmosphere, through the determining influence of the personal and specific (specimen faciens) presence of God upon the earthly element, which corporeal form God assumed and pervaded, that He might manifest His own real presence therein."

(Note: "This is done," Sartorius proceeds to say, "not by His making His own invisible nature visible, nor yet merely figuratively or ideally, but by His rendering it objectively perceptible through the energy it excites, and the glorious effects it produces. The curtain (velum) of the natural which surrounds the Deity is moved and lifted (revelatur) by the word of His will, and the corresponding intention of His presence (per dextram Dei). But this is effected not by His causing the light of His countenance, which is unapproachable, to burst forth unveiled, but by His weaving out of the natural element a holy, transparent veil, which, like the fiery cloud, both shines and throws a shade, veils and unveils, so that it is equally true that God dwells in light and that He dwells in darkness (2 Chronicles 6:1; 1 Timothy 6:16), as true that He can be found as that He must always be sought.")

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