Author: Ron Graham
—And miracles in the wilderness
Time ~ 3. Wandering in the Wilderness
Span ~ 40 years
Books ~ Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Figures ~ Moses
Begins with ~ Exodus from Egypt across Red Sea
Ends with ~ Entry into promised Land across Jordan
Our third period of Israel's history —Wilderness Wandering— covers only 40 years, although it could have been but 40 days if not for the Exodus generation's disqualification from entering the promised land.
This time of Wandering in the Wilderness starts with the crossing of the Red Sea (marking the Exodus from Egypt) and ends with the crossing of the Jordan River (marking the entry into the promised land). The period includes an encampment at Sinai, where God gave the Law to Moses on the mountain. In this lesson we look at the first part of the wilderness wanderings —from crossing the Red Sea to the arrival at Sinai.
1 Moving a Multitude
The Exodus from Egypt actually begins with the journey from Ramases to Succoth (Exodus 12:37-41).
The number of 600,000 men on foot does not include women and children. Possibly a mixed multitude of some two million people and a huge number of livestock began the journey that was to last 40 years. Some scholars think of this number as a problem. However, to move and encamp such a large number is by no means impossible logistically. We must remember, too, that God was providing miraculous help.
2 Bible Summary (Exodus 14-19)
- The Exodus (14)
- Pharaoh pursues the Israelites (14)
- Crossing the Red Sea (14 cf 1Corinthians 10)
- Egyptian army destroyed (14)
- Song of Israel (15)
- Grumbling begins (15)
- Bitter water turned sweet (15)
- Quail and manna given to eat (16)
- Water from the rock (17)
- War with Amalek (17)
- Jethro advises Moses on a judicial system (18)
- Arrival at Sinai (19)
3 Background to the Wilderness Wandering
In the providence of God, one of the Israelites, Moses, was privileged and powerful in Egypt. After forty years he tried to deliver his people from slavery, but they rejected him. Having killed one of the cruel slave masters, Moses fled to Midian and was forty years a shepherd.
Moses saw an angel in a bush that was burning yet unconsumed. The angel sent Moses back to Egypt. There he brought ten plagues upon Egypt and led the children of Israel across the Red Sea into the sandy wastes of Sinai.
Moses led the Israelites wandering through the wilderness forty years, because they were too disobedient and unthankful to enter Canaan the promised land. At Sinai, the law was given and the tabernacle of worship was prepared.
Behind this story is the amazing power demonstrated by God in dealing with the Pharaoh and helping his people to get out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses (Exodus 14:31). God's power is acknowledged in Moses's Song, "In Thy strength Thou has guided them" (Exodus 15:13).
4 The Miracles in the Wilderness
Moses said, "Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord!"
- An angel of God and a pillar of cloud and fire guarded the multitude (Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19).
- A strong wind made a path for the Israelites through the sea (Exodus 14:21-22,29).
- The Egyptian's chariot wheels were made to swerve, and when the army tried to flee, the waters of the sea returned to normal and drowned them all (Exodus 14:25,28,30-31)
- Bitter waters were made sweet and drinkable (Exodus 15:22-25).
- Guaranteed freedom from disease (Exodus 15:26).
- Manna rains from heaven for bread (Exodus 16:4,14-18).
- Quail are sent to provide meat (Exo16:13)
- Water comes from a rock (Exodus 17:2-6)
- Moses’s raised hand allows the Israelites to prevail over Amalek (Exodus 17:9-13).
- God speaks from the mountain (Exodus 19:2-6; 16-20)