Why did God lead the people by a roundabout way to the Red Sea?


Exodus 13:17 - 18

ESV - 17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, "Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt. 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.

Clarify Share Report Asked February 02 2016 Screenshot 2016 01 25 at 8.19.25 pm Taylor Dawson

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Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
I believe there were three primary reasons for this.

As indicated by the verse cited in the question, even though there was clear evidence of God's presence with Israel in the very circumstances of the exodus itself, the shortest route to Canaan would have required the people to immediately fight the Philistines, who were an established and very warlike people.

Although God was certainly capable (as He had already displayed) of aiding Israel in defeating the Philistines, He was also aware of the way in which the people (as they had indicated on previous occasions (Exodus 5:19-21; Exodus 6:9), and also would continue to indicate on repeated subsequent occasions) were prone to quickly lose their faith, no matter in what way or how many times God demonstrated His presence among them and His protection of them. They might therefore seek to return to Egypt when confronted by the Philistines. 

Also, God knew that the Egyptians were going to pursue Israel in an attempt to return the nation to slavery. As such, He may have directed the people (for their own sake) by a circuitous route in order that the people would not have to have their faith tested by being faced with a "two-front war" (that is, the Egyptians coming at them from behind, and the Philistines facing them in front). 

In addition, this roundabout route would provide a means (through the crossing of the Red Sea) by which, through a single event, the people might evade the Philistines, and God could also accomplish destruction of the Egyptians without the necessity of forcing the Israelites to engage in armed combat to do it, while once again providing Israel with further unmistakable proof of His active presence among them, in order to strengthen their faith.

February 02 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Cliff Farris
During the time of the wanderings, the Israelites changed from a class of slaves with slave mentalities to a nation. Their numbers increased to perhaps several hundred thousand people. No one who had lived in Egypt survived to enter the Holy Land. 

This was a cultural way to ensure that the future nation of Israel would be of its own culture and not corrupted by Egyptian experiences. Under the laws of Moses, they forged a body of their God's and their own laws. They learned how to govern themselves. 

There would have been time, impetuous, and training to learn how to fight and defend themselves, as well as take over the Holy Land. 

They matured into a nation.

January 11 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini John Appelt
According to Exodus 13:17-18, God did not lead the people of Israel by the Philistine Road but led them on the Wilderness of the Red Sea Road. It was His plan, for He knew if they proceeded on the Philistine Road and were subjected to battle with the Philistines, they would rapidly retreat to Egypt. 

But there was more to His plan. God wanted the people to become dependent on Him and become His people. Each experience would strengthen them and mature them to enter the Land of Canaan. Someone remarked that after God took out His people from Egypt, He had to take Egypt out of His people, hence, the book of Leviticus with its training and giving of the Law.

The very first lesson was the Red Sea crossing. The Israelites were led southeast to the Red Sea. In Hebrew it is ‘Yam Suph.’ The word ‘suph’ is neither a color as ‘red’ or botanical as ‘reeds,’ but a word dealing with ‘end,’ ‘termination,’ ‘edge,’ or ‘gulf,’as the ‘Sea of Gulfs.’ The Red Sea has two extensions, Gulf of Suez to the west and Gulf of Aqaba to the east. They were led to the Gulf of Suez northern tip. 

After heading to the border of Egypt, God had Israel backtracking going south, becoming hemmed in by the Attakah Mountains to the west, the Egyptian army descending from the north and the Red Sea to the east. Near here is the Ras el-‘Adabiya, a peninsula that juts out into the gulf and where the sea is narrow, about 4 miles wide. It is about 26 feet deep with a smooth sandy floor which explains how those on foot crossed easily but the chariot wheels became stuck.

Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, said of the Red Sea crossing,

“The Troglodytes, [Arab cave-dwellers on either side of the west branch of the Red Sea], the indigenous inhabitants of that very spot, had a tradition from father to son, from their very earliest ages, that once this division of the sea did happen there; and that, after leaving its bottom some time dry, the sea again came back, and covered it with great fury.” 

On the east shore at this place is ‘’Ayun Musa’ meaning ‘Springs of Moses’ which Menashe Har-El of Tel Aviv University, 1968, proposed to be Elim. He cited the 1907 observation by geologist Thomas Barron of 12 springs along with palm trees in this oasis, Exodus 15:27.

It was at this crossing, when Israel seemed hopelessly trapped and sure to be killed, that God assured them through Moses that they would not die, Exodus 14:13-14. God would deliver them. On only one other occasion was anyone directed to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.’ That was in II Chronicles 20:17 when Hezekiah and Judah faced a multi-national army ready to attack them. 

God led the people to and through the Red Sea. He wisely knows what is best for His people.

February 13 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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