The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth with about 600,000 men on foot, besides women and children.
this history; while if the narrative of the exodus, as here recorded, is admitted to be true, we are in immediate contact with supernatural facts of the most stupendous order. We do not mean to discuss the question in detail, but the following points may be indicated as suitable for popular treatment.
I. OBJECTIONS. We touch only on that which relates to the number of the people (ver. 37). The difficulty here is two-fold.
1. To account for the growth of the nation of Israel from seventy persons to over 2,000,000 in the space of time allowed for that increase. On this see the exposition. The difficulty is not serious
(1) if we take the plain wording of the history, and admit that the sojourn in Egypt lasted 430 years (ver. 40);
(2) if we do the narrative the justice of allowing it to remain consistent with itself, the increase, on its own showing, being exceptional and marvellous (Exodus 1:7, 14, 20).
(3) If we admit that the descendants of the households which doubtless accompanied Jacob into Egypt, are included in the numbers. But this supposition, however probable in itself, is really not necessary to vindicate the numbers. The truth is, that granting a highly exceptional rate of increase, with 430 years to increase in, the numbers, as will be seen on calculation, appear small, rather than too great. They certainly could not have been much less than the history makes them. The problem is quite soluble even on the hypothesis of the shorter reckoning, in favour of which there is not a little to be said (see Birk's "Exodus of Israel").
2. To account for the possibility of so vast a multitude, including women and children, with flocks and herds, effecting an exodus in a single night (and day). The feat in question is certainly unparalleled in history. Even granting what the narrative (as against Colenso) makes perfectly clear, that the Israelites were in a state of tolerably complete organisation, had ample warning to prepare for starting on that particular night, and had for months been on the tip-toe of expectation, as plague after plague descended on Egypt, it is still an event so stupendous as to be difficult of realisation. The narrative itself, however, does not fail to represent it as very extraordinary. And in pronouncing on its possibility, there are several circumstances not always, perhaps, sufficiently taken into account. Justice is not always done
(1) to the perfectly superhuman efforts a nation can sometimes make in a great crisis of its history. Even an individual, at a time when feeling is highly strained, is capable of efforts and achievements, which, to read of them in cold blood, we might judge to be impossible.
(2) To the order and discipline of which masses of people become capable when called to face an emergency on which they feel that existence itself depends. The picture sometimes drawn of a disorderly rabble pouring out of Egypt has no foundation in the history, and is false to psychology and experience. The narratives of shipwrecks (the Kent, the London, etc.), show us what crowds are capable of in the way of order and discipline, even with certain death staring them in the face. When a people, under the influence of one great overmastering idea, are called upon to execute difficult movements, or to unite their efforts towards one great end, it is incredible what they can accomplish. The feeling of solidarity takes possession of them. They are of one heart and soul. The mass moves and works as if one mind possessed it, as if it were a machine. Orders are obeyed with promptitude; movements are executed with rapidity and regularity; men are lifted for the time out of their littlenesses, and display a spirit of willingness, of helpfulness, and of self-sacrifice truly wonderful. All these conditions were present on the night of the exodus: the result was what might have been anticipated - the people were brought out with wonderful rapidity, and in regular order; "they went up harnessed" - "five in a rank" (Exodus 13:18).-
(3) We must add to these considerations, the singularly exalted state of the religious consciousness in the companies of the Israelites. Everything in their position combined to awe and solemnize them; to fill them with an overmastering consciousness of the Divine presence; to inspire them with boundless and grateful joy, yet a joy tempered with the awful sense of death, as forced upon them by the destruction of the first-born, and the lamentations of the bereaved Egyptians. This also would exercise a powerful and steadying influence upon their thoughts and behaviour, and would aid them in taking their measures with decision and speed.
II. PROOFS. Those who pile up the difficulties of the Bible seldom do justice to the difficulties on the other side. We have to ask -
1. Is it not absurd to say that so extraordinary an event as, in any case, this exodus of Israel from Egypt must be admitted to have been, happened in the full light of the most powerful civilisation of ancient times, while yet the people who came out did not know, or could not remember, or could ever possibly forget how it happened? (Cf. ver. 42.) The Israelites themselves did not believe that they did not know. They had but one story to give of it - the story that rings down in their psalms to latest generations - the same story which, with minute circumstantial detail, is embodied in these chapters.
2. If this is not how the children of Israel got out of Egypt, will the critic show us how they did get out? It is admitted on all hands that they were once in; that they were in bondage; that Egypt was at that time ruled by one or other of its most powerful monarchs; that they came out; yet did not come out by war, but peaceably. How then did they make their way out? If the whole history was different from that of which we have a record, how came it that no echo of it was preserved in Israel, and that this sober and matter-of-fact relation has come to take its place?
3. There is the institution of the Passover - a contemporary memorial. We have already expressed our belief that this ordinance was of a kind which could not have been set up at a time later than the events professedly commemorated by it. Glance at the alternative hypothesis. The basis of the institution, we are asked to believe, was an ancient spring festival, on which were grafted by degrees, as the tradition formed, the rites and ideas of a later age. This hypothesis, however, is not only unproved, but violates every law of historical probability. It must in any case be admitted
(1) that the exodus took place at the time of the alleged agricultural festival.
(2) That the festival thereafter assumed a new character, and was observed, in addition to its agricultural reference, as a memorial of the escape from Egypt.
(3) That the use of unleavened bread in connection with it had reference to the haste of the flight.
(4) Further, that an essential part of this festival was the offering of a sacrifice.
(5) That, being at bottom a spring festival, it must have been observed, with but few interruptions, all down the later history of Israel. But if so much is admitted, we seem driven to admit more. For it is undeniable that the festival, as observed among the Jews, was connected most especially of all with the fact of a great judgment, which was believed to have fallen on Egypt on the night of the exodus, and from which the Israelites had been mercifully delivered by the sprinkling of the lamb's blood upon the door-posts; a memorial of which was preserved in the name (Pass-over). "The relation to the natural year expressed in the Passover, was less marked than that in Pentecost or Tabernacles, while its historical import is deeper and more pointed. That part of its ceremonies which has a direct agricultural reference - the offering of the omer - holds a very subordinate place." (Dict. of the Bible.) It is for the sceptic, therefore, to explain how that which enters into the inmost meaning and heart of the observance, could possibly have been engrafted on it as an accident at a later period - yet a period not later than accords with the ritual prescribed in these very ancient written laws: how, moreover, the people could not only be persuaded to accept this new reading of an old familiar ordinance, but to believe that they had never known any other: that this had been the meaning and ritual of the ordinance from the beginning.
4. We have not as yet alluded to the Pentateuch, but of course the fact is not to be overlooked that the work before us claims to be historical; that it was probably written wholly or in large part by Moses himself; and that in style, circumstantially, vividness of narration, and minute accuracy of reference, it bears all the marks of a true and contemporary history. - J.O.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THIS MIXED MULTITUDE. Some, perhaps, were mere idolaters; others had outwardly renounced their superstitions. Some might be connected in marriage with the sons or daughters of Israel; for such are mentioned: and some, perhaps, were a thoughtless rabble, whom curiosity had called from their homes, that they might go three days' journey with the people, to sacrifice to the Lord in the wilderness.
Journeyed from Rameses.1. The sons of Israel, or Church of God, are in a moving state below.
2. From countries and cities with habitations, God leads His people sometimes to pitch in booths.
3. The number of the seed of God's visible Church is great and multiplied according to His word.
4. Men, women, and children, God numbers with His Church or Israel (ver. 37).
5. Providence so ordering, all sorts of people may join themselves to God's Church, though not in truth.
6. God's Word fails not in giving His Church great substance when He seeth it good (ver. 88).
7. Liberty from Egypt is Israel's good portion with unleavened cakes.
8. Sufficiency and contentation God giveth His people in their straits.
9. In working liberty for His Church, God may put them upon some hardship. 10. God sometimes prevents the providence of His Church for themselves, that He may provide for them (ver. 39).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
The nominal followers of the Christian Church; the motives by which they are actuated, and the perplexities by which they are tested: —
I. THE MOTIVES BY WHICH THE NOMINAL ADHERENTS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH ARE ANIMATED.
1. They are acquainted and impressed with the history of the Church, and hence are induced to follow it.
2. They have an inner conviction that the Church is right, and hence they are sometimes led to follow it.
3. They are associated by family ties with those who are real members of the Christian Church, and hence they are induced to follow it.
4. They are troubled by ideas of the retributive providence of God, and so are induced to seek shelter in the Church.
5. They have an idea that it is socially correct to be allied to the Church, and therefore are induced to follow it.
6. They always follow the multitude.
II. THE PERPLEXITIES BY WHICH THE NOMINAL ADHERENTS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH ARE TESTED. We read elsewhere that "the mixed multitude that was among the Israelites fell a lusting" (Numbers 11:4). Their unhallowed desires were not gratified. Their deliverance had not been so glorious as they had imagined. Trial was before them, and they rebelled against the first privations of the wilderness. And so it is, nominal members of the Christian Church are soon tested, and they often yield to the trying conditions of the pilgrim Church life.
1. The nominal members of the Church are tested by the outward circumstances of the Church.
2. They are tested by the pilgrim difficulties of the Church.
3. They are tested by the pilgrim requirements of the Church.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
1. With such a view of the mixed multitude, we may reasonably imagine that they had a very imperfect knowledge of the God of Israel.
2. This mixed multitude had been induced to follow Israel, probably because they had seen the miraculous interpositions of God in behalf of His people, and wished to partake of them.
3. Others, again, had probably accompanied the Israelites in unreflecting carelessness, without anticipating the difficulties and trials before them.
4. The mixed multitude seem never to have entirely united themselves to the community of Israel.
II. THEIR CONDUCT IN THE HOUR OF TEMPTATION. The passage in the book of Numbers informs us that they fell a lusting. We know not the peculiar nature of the trials to which they were exposed; but we find them soon yielding to the power of temptation, and the love of sin.
1. They speedily became discontented with their condition.
2. The inspired penman speaks no more of this mixed multitude; and therefore we are justified in supposing that they who escaped the fire of the Lord, quitted the camp of Israel, and returned to Egypt. In that mixed multitude which throng around the Church of the living God, and profess communion with it, there are, I fear, not a few who sin after the similitude of the transgression committed in the wilderness.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
II. THAT TRIALS ARE NECESSARY PROOF OF FAITH AND LOVE.
III. THAT EVIL COMMUNICATIONS CORRUPT GOOD MANNERS.
(R. P. Buddicom.)I. THE EMISSARIES OF SATAN. In all ages there have been these corrupters of the truth in the Church, who have bred schisms of all kinds, "creeping into houses," and "leading captive silly women"; and, as they have gained power and position, becoming more bold in the propagandism of error, both in doctrine and form.
II. THE HYPOCRITES. Worldly men come into the Church for the purpose of making "gain of godliness," and using religion as a "cloak of covetousness." I remember very well, when I was a young man, going away from home into a newer part of our country with a view of making my fortune. I was advised by a respectable business man to "connect myself with the most popular church in the town," as a means of "getting on," and securing the recognition-and help of the best people. Soon after I became a pastor, I overheard a merchant talking to a young man, and endeavouring to persuade him to join the church; he used as an argument the fact that when he cams to that village a young man, that was the first thing he had done; and he affirmed that it was "the best stroke of business he had ever done." He attributed his success in life to that fact. And no doubt the hypocrite was right. Verily he had his reward.
III. THE FORMALISTS. By these I mean those who are more or less apprehensive of the future, and somewhat troubled about their sins, and who take to the formalism of Christianity as a means of security against the possible dangers of another world. They know nothing of Christ and His salvation; are strangers to conversion and regeneration: but seize upon the forms and ceremonies of religion as being all that is needful. Among this number may be classed a vast number who have fled for refuge to the "Church" in serious earnest, but who are at best the merest parasites, or semi-parisites. They have no life in themselves, but are clinging to persons or things from whom or from which they fancy they can draw lifo for themselves. Poor souls! did they only flee to Christ, and be joined to Him, they would indeed be saved; but, as it now is, they are mere Egyptians who are in the midst of the camp of Israel without the mark or sign of blood upon them.
IV. THE SELF-DECEIVED.
(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Scientific Illustrations.The remora, instead of swimming far by its own exertions, greatly prefers being transported from place to place on ships' bottoms, or even the bodies of sharks. When one of the sharks to which a remora is clinging is caught by a hook, and is pulled out of the water, the little parasite is shrewd in its own interest, for it drops off and makes for the bottom of the ship. As long as a ship remains within the tropics, numbers of remorse cling to its bottom, whether that be coppered or not, whence they dart off occasionally to pick up any morsels of greasy or farinaceous matter that may be thrown overboard, retiring again rapidly to their anchorage. These hangers-on resemble our social ones in the following particulars: they like travelling about; they do not care what they attach themselves to so long as it suits their purpose for the time; they will not get along by their own exertions if they can find others to carry them; they are sharp in their own interests, and know quite well when to desert a supporter; and they are ready to avail themselves of discarded or accidental ailment.
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