The Signs of the Times


April 1, 1880

Israel Leaves Egypt


The children of Israel had followed the directions given them of God; and while the angel of death was passing from house to house among the Egyptians, they were all ready for their journey, and waiting for the rebellious king, and his great men to bid them go. “At midnight, there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” All the first-born in the land, “from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of cattle,” had been smitten by the destroyer. When the Egyptians had seen the great preparations made by the people of God for that dreadful night, they had mocked at their hopes, and ridiculed the token of blood upon their door-posts. But now there was wailing throughout all Egypt. Pharaoh remembered his proud boast, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.” His haughty pride was now humbled. He called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, “Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.” He hoped that a blessing from God would protect him from the further effects of that dreadful plague. The officers of the king, and the people, united in imploring the Israelites to be gone, for, they said. “We be all dead men.” ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 1

“And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders. And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment. And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required; and they spoiled the Egyptians.” ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 2

The Lord revealed this to Abraham about four hundred years before it was fulfilled: “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 3

Although the Israelites left Egypt in haste, yet they were arranged in order, being divided into companies, with a leader for each. A “mixed multitude” accompanied them, and “flocks and herds, even very much cattle.” The latter were the property of the Israelites, who had never sold their possessions to the king. Jacob and his sons had brought their flocks and herds with them to Egypt, where they had greatly increased. The children of Israel also had become exceedingly numerous, and it was a vast company that at the dawn of day were on their way from the land of bondage. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 4

“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt. But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.” “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you. 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 a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 5

The Lord knew that his people would meet with opposition, should they attempt to pass through the land of the Philistines. The latter would regard the Israelites as fugitives escaping from their rightful masters, and would make war upon them. In bringing them by the way of the Red Sea, the Lord revealed himself a compassionate God, as well as a God of judgment. He informed Moses that Pharaoh would pursue them, and he directed him just where to encamp before the sea. He told Moses that he would be honored before Pharaoh and all his host. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 6

After the Hebrews had departed from Egypt, the counselors of Pharaoh informed him that his bondmen had fled, and would never return to serve him again. The Egyptians regretted that they had been so foolish as to think the death of their first-born was the result of the power of God. In bitterness they asked of one another, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” It was a great loss to be deprived of the service of these laborers, and notwithstanding all that the Egyptians had suffered from the judgments of God, they were so hardened by their continual rebellion that they decided to pursue the Israelites and bring them back by force. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 7

Pharaoh prepared a well-equipped army, composed of the priests of their idol gods, and of the rulers, and of all the great men of his kingdom. They thought if their priests accompanied them, they would be more sure of success. The most mighty of Egypt were selected, that they might intimidate the Israelites with the grand display of their power and greatness. They thought that when the news should reach other nations, that they were compelled to yield to the power of the God of Israel, whom they had despised, they would be looked upon with derision. But if they should go with great pomp, and bring Israel back by force, they would redeem their glory, and would also have the service of their bondmen again. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 8

On the third day of their journey, the Hebrews encamped by the Red Sea, whose waters presented a seemingly impassable barrier before them, while on the south a rugged mountain obstructed their further progress. Suddenly they beheld in the distance the flashing armor, waving banners, and moving chariots of a great army. As they drew nearer, the hosts of Egypt were seen in full pursuit. Terror filled the hearts of Israel. Over all the encampment rose a tumultuous sound. Some cried unto the Lord, but far the greater part hastened to Moses with their complaints: ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 9

“Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? for it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 10

Moses was greatly troubled because his people were so wanting in faith, especially as they had repeatedly witnessed the manifestations of the power of God in their favor. He felt grieved that they should charge upon him the dangers and difficulties of their position, when he had simply followed the express commands of God. True, they were in a place from which there was no possibility of release unless God himself interposed to save them; but having been brought there in obedience to divine commands, Moses felt no fear of the consequences. His calm and assuring reply to the people was, ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 11

“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.” ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 12

It was not an easy thing to hold the hosts of Israel in waiting before the Lord. They lacked discipline and self-control. Impressed by the horrors of their situation, they became violent and unreasonable. They expected speedily to fall into the hands of their oppressors, and their wailings and recriminations were loud and deep. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 13

The wonderful pillar of cloud which had accompanied them in their wanderings and served to protect them from the fervid rays of the sun, had moved grandly before them all day, subject neither to sunshine nor storm, and at night it had become a pillar of fire to light them on their way. They had followed it as the signal of God to go forward; but now they questioned among themselves if it might not be the shadow of some terrible calamity that was about to befall them, for had it not led them on the wrong side of the mountain, into a impassable way? Thus the angel of God appeared to their deluded minds as the harbinger of disaster. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 14

But now, as the Egyptian host approaches them, expecting to make them an easy prey, the cloudy column rises majestically into the heavens, passes over the Israelites, and descends between them and the armies of Egypt. A wall of darkness interposes between the pursued and their pursuers. The Egyptians can no longer discern the camp of the Hebrews, and are forced to halt. But as the darkness of night deepens, the wall of cloud becomes a great light to the Hebrews, illuminating the whole camp with the radiance of day. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 15

Then hope came to the hearts of Israel that they might yet be delivered. And Moses lifted up his voice unto the Lord. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? 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.” ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 16

Then Moses, obedient to the divine command, stretched out his rod, the waters parted and Israel went into the midst of the sea, upon dry ground, while the waters stood like congealed walls on either side. The light from God's pillar of fire shone upon the foam-capped billows, and lit the road that was cut like a mighty furrow through the waters of the Red Sea, and was lost in the obscurity of the farther shore. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 17

All night long sounded the tramping of the hosts of Israel, but the cloud hid them from the sight of their enemies. The Egyptians, weary with their hasty march, had seen the Hebrews only a short distance before them, and as there seemed to be no possibility of escape, they decided to take a night's rest, and make an easy capture in the morning. The night was intensely dark, the clouds seemed to encompass them like some tangible substance. Deep sleep fell upon the camp, even the sentinels slumbered at their posts. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 18

At last a ringing blast arouses the army! The cloud is passing on! The Hebrews are moving! Voices and the sound of marching come from toward the sea. It is still so dark they cannot discern the escaping people, but the command is given to make ready for the pursuit. The clattering of arms, and the roll of chariots is heard, the marshalling of the captains, and the neighing of the steeds. At length the line of march is formed and they press on through the obscurity, in the direction of the escaping multitude. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 19

In the darkness and confusion, they rush on in their pursuit, not knowing that they have entered upon the bed of the sea, and are hemmed in on either hand by beetling walls of water. They long for the mist and darkness to pass away, and reveal to them the Hebrews and their own whereabouts. The wheels of the chariots sink deep into the soft sand, the horses become entangled and unruly, and angels of God go through the host and remove their chariot wheels. Confusion prevails, yet they press on feeling sure of victory. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 20

At last the mysterious cloud changes to a pillar of fire before their astonished eyes. The thunders peal, and the lightnings flash, waves roll about them, and fear takes possession of their hearts. Amid the terror and confusion the lurid light reveals to the amazed Egyptians the terrible waters massed up on the right hand and on the left. They see the broad path that the Lord has made for his people across the shining sands of the sea, and behold triumphant Israel safe on the farther shore. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 21

Confusion and dismay seizes them. Amid the wrath of the elements, in which they hear the voice of an angry God, they endeavor to retrace their steps and fly to the shore they have quitted. But Moses stretches out his rod, and the piled up waters, hissing, roaring, and eager for their prey, rush together, and swallow the entire Egyptian host in their black depths. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 22

As the Hebrews witnessed the marvelous work of God in the destruction of the Egyptians, they united in an inspired song of lofty eloquence and grateful praise. Miriam, the sister of Moses, a prophetess, led the women in music. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 23

God in his providence brought the Hebrews into the mountain fastnesses, with the Red Sea before them, that he might work out their deliverance and forever rid them of their enemies. He might have saved them in any other way, but he chose this method in order to test their faith and strengthen their trust in him. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 24

There are times when the Christian life seems beset by dangers, and duty seems hard to perform. The imagination pictures impending ruin before, and bondage or death behind. Yet the voice of God speaks clearly above all discouragements, “Go forward!” We should obey this command, let the result be what it may, even though our eyes cannot penetrate the darkness, and we feel the cold waves about our feet. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 25

The Hebrews were weary and terrified, yet if they had held back when Moses bade them advance, if they had refused to move nearer to the Red Sea, God would never have opened the path for them. In marching down to the very water, they showed that they had faith in the word of God, as spoken by the man Moses. They did all that was in their power to do, and then the Mighty One of Israel performed his part and divided the waters to make a path for their feet. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 26

The clouds that gather about our way will never disappear before a halting, doubting spirit. Unbelief says, We can never surmount these obstructions, let us wait until they are removed, and we can see our way clearly. But faith courageously urges an advance, hoping all things, believing all things. Obedience towards God is sure to bring the victory. Through faith only can we reach Heaven. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 27

There is a great similarity between our history and that of the children of Israel. God led his people from Egypt into the wilderness, where they could keep his law and obey his voice. The Egyptians, who had no regard for the Lord, were encamped close by them; yet, what was to them a great flood of light, illuminating the whole camp, and shedding brightness upon the path before them, was to the hosts of Pharaoh a wall of clouds, making blacker the darkness of night. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 28

So, at this time, there is a people whom God has made the repository of his law. To those who obey them, the commandments of God are as a pillar of fire, lighting and leading the way to eternal salvation. But unto those who disregard them, they are as the clouds of night. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Better than all other knowledge is an understanding of the word of God. In keeping his commandments there is great reward, and no earthly inducements should cause the Christian to waver for a moment in his allegiance. Riches, honor, and worldly pomp are but as dross that shall perish before the fire of God's wrath. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 29

The voice of the Lord bidding his faithful ones “Go forward,” frequently tries their faith to the uttermost. But if they should defer obedience till every shadow of uncertainty was removed from their understanding, and there remained no risk of failure or defeat, they would never move on at all. Those who think it impossible for them to yield to the will of God and have faith in his promises until all is made clear and plain before them, will never yield at all. Faith is not certainty of knowledge, it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. To obey the commandments of God is the only way to obtain his favor. “Go forward,” should be the Christian's watchword. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 30

Pharaoh, who would not acknowledge God and bow to his authority, had delighted to show his power as ruler over those whom he could control. Moses had declared to the haughty monarch, that God, whom he pretended not to know, would compel him to yield to his claims, and acknowledge his authority, as supreme ruler. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 31

In the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the Lord plainly showed his distinguished mercy to his people, before all the Egyptians. He saw fit to execute his judgments upon Pharaoh, that he might know by sad experience, since he would not otherwise be convinced, that the power of God was superior to all other. That his name might be declared throughout all the earth, he would give proof to all nations of his divine power and justice. It was the design of God that these manifestations should strengthen the faith of his people, and that their posterity should steadfastly worship Him alone who had wrought such merciful wonders in their behalf. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 32

It had been very hard for the Egyptian monarch and a proud and idolatrous people to bow to the requirements of the God of Heaven. While under the most grievous affliction the haughty king would yield a little, but when the scourge was removed he would take back all he had granted. Thus, plague after plague was brought upon Egypt, and he yielded only while he was compelled by the dreadful visitations of God's wrath. The king even persisted in his rebellion after Egypt had been ruined. Moses and Aaron related to him the nature and effect of each plague, before it came, that it might not be said to have happened by chance. He saw these plagues come, exactly as he was told they would come; yet he would not yield. At first he would only grant the Israelites permission to sacrifice to God in the land of Egypt. After Egypt had suffered by God's wrath, he consented that the men alone should go; and when the land had been nearly destroyed by the plague of locusts, he granted that the women and children might go also, but still refused to allow them to take their cattle. It was then that Moses warned the king that the Lord would slay the first-born. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 33

Every plague had come a little closer, and had been more severe than the preceding; and the last was to be more dreadful than any before it. But Pharaoh humbled not himself. And although, when the first-born of Egypt lay dead in every house, the rebellious monarch relinquished his grasp upon his bondmen, yet, after his people had buried their dead, and felt assured that the judgments had ceased, he dared once more to array himself against Jehovah. His last act of rebellion, in pursuing the hosts of Israel to the Red Sea, filled up the measure of his iniquity. This place was appointed for the closing display of the power of God before the infatuated Egyptians. Then were fulfilled the words which the Lord spake to Moses, “And against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am the Lord.” The judgment of God was manifested in the utter destruction of the Egyptian host. ST April 1, 1880, Art. A, par. 34