So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 13:18)
For all the reasons that we have addressed over the last few days, God determined to lead Israel through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. By the way, the Hebrew term Yam Suf is literally translated as “sea of reeds.” Perhaps the most intriguing Hebrew word to consider in this verse is the one that is translated “orderly ranks.” Other versions of the Bible translate it as “harnessed” or “martial array” or “armed.” The Hebrew word is chamushim and is literally translated as “fives.” However, it is understood to infer being “equipped for battle” which is why it is taught in Jewish commentary that Israel marched out of Egypt, according to their tribes, fully armed.
The root word chamash means “to prepare, to equip in order to exert power.” Therefore, the idea is that Israel left Egypt as a roving mob running for their lives is not accurate; they left in orderly fashion, marching out in ranks and with a “heavy hand.” Furthermore, it is logical that they would need to be armed because, as we understand from the Scripture, even though God was their deliverer they would, indeed, fight.
And so there are two main points I wish to make here. First of all, being armed as they leave Egypt speaks to the fact that God’s people should conduct themselves in a logical, natural manner as we walk through this life. More specifically, there are things that we must, at times, be prepared to do. In this case, they had to be equipped and prepared to defend themselves against their enemies. God does what is impossible and intervenes on behalf of His people when it is necessary. Still, there are things He expects us to do and, most of the time, it is so we will learn to trust Him and see how He does, in fact, reward our obedience.
The second thing is this: though they were armed, they did not yet possess the heart and soul of warriors. Remember, the previous verse acknowledged that if they saw war, they would be inclined to return to Egypt. That is why God did not lead them directly into the land of Canaan. Thus we understand that, though they looked like an army, they were not a functioning army; they had to go through more training before they were prepared to do battle with the inhabitants of the land. So then, He led them through the Sea and to Sinai.
It is not enough to carry a Bible around in our hand and convey, in an outward expression, that we are in the army of the LORD. We must keep the Word — the Sword if you will — in our heart. We must be have a heart that believes and trusts our Master goes before us as we go into battle. We must believe that He will deliver us from our enemies. To get to that point in our life, He leads us through the wilderness; He allows us to feel the heat of the desert and desolation of the wilderness so that we might learn to trust Him for everything. If you find yourself in such a situation, keep the faith.
Blessings and Shalom,