From Eternity Past


The Pillar of Cloud

“And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord 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 by night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” Says the psalmist, “He spread a cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the night.” Psalm 105:39. See also 1 Corinthians 10:1, 2. It served as a protection from the burning heat, and by its coolness and moisture afforded grateful refreshment in the parched, thirsty desert. By night it became a pillar of fire, illuminating their encampment and constantly assuring them of the divine presence. EP 195.1

Across a dreary, desertlike expanse they journeyed. Already they were becoming weary with the toilsome way, and some hearts began to fear pursuit by the Egyptians. But the cloud went forward, and they followed. Now the Lord directed Moses to turn aside into a rocky defile and encamp beside the sea. It was revealed to him that Pharaoh would pursue them but that God would be honored in their deliverance. EP 195.2

Pharaoh's counselors declared to the king that their bondmen had fled, never to return. Their great men, recovering from their fears, accounted for the plagues as the result of natural causes. “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” was the bitter cry. EP 195.3

Pharaoh collected his forces, “six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt,” horsemen, captains, and foot soldiers. The king himself, attended by the great men of his realm, headed the attacking army. The Egyptians feared lest their forced submission to God should subject them to the derision of other nations. If they should now go forth with a great show of power and bring back the fugitives, they would redeem their glory, as well as recover the services of their bondmen. EP 196.1

The Hebrews were encamped beside the sea, a seemingly impassable barrier before them, while on the south a rugged mountain obstructed their further progress. Suddenly they beheld in the distance flashing armor and moving chariots. Terror filled the hearts of Israel. The greater part hastened to Moses with their complaints: “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? ... It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” EP 196.2

True, there was no possibility of deliverance unless God Himself should interpose for their release; but having been brought into this position in obedience to the divine direction, Moses felt no fear of the consequences. His calm and assuring reply to the people was, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” EP 196.3

The hosts of Israel, lacking discipline and self-control, became violent and unreasonable. Their wailings and lamentations were loud and deep. The wonderful pillar of cloud had been followed as the signal of God to go forward; but now had it not led them on the wrong side of the mountain, into an impassable way? The angel of God appeared to their deluded minds as the harbinger of disaster. EP 196.4

As the Egyptian host approached them, the cloudy column rose majestically into the heavens, passed over the Israelites, and descended between them and the armies of Egypt. The Egyptians could no longer discern the camp of the Hebrews and were forced to halt. But as night deepened, the wall of cloud became a great light to the Hebrews. EP 196.5

Then hope returned to the hearts of Israel. “And the Lord said unto Moses, ... speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: but lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” EP 197.1

As Moses stretched out his rod, the waters parted, and Israel went into the midst of the sea, upon dry ground, while the waters stood like a wall upon each side. The light from God's pillar of fire lighted the road cut like a furrow through the waters. EP 197.2