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.
Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.
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.
All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.
A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.