on Exodus 13 :18
But God led the people about - Dr. Shaw has shown that there were two roads from Egypt to Canaan, one through the valleys of Jendilly, Rumeleah, and Baideah, bounded on each side by the mountains of the lower Thebais; the other lies higher, having the northern range of the mountains of Mocatee running parallel with it on the right hand, and the desert of the Egyptian Arabia, which lies all the way open to the land of the Philistines, to the left. See his account of these encampments at the end of Exodus. See Clarke's note on Exodus 40:38.
Went up harnessed - חמשים chamushim. It is truly astonishing what a great variety of opinions are entertained relative to the meaning of this word. After having maturely considered all that I have met with on the subject, I think it probable that the word refers simply to that orderly or well arranged manner in which the Israelites commenced their journey from Egypt. For to arrange, array, or set in order, seems to be the ideal meaning of the word חמש chamash. As it was natural to expect that in such circumstances there must have been much hurry and confusion, the inspired writer particularly marks the contrary, to show that God had so disposed matters that the utmost regularity and order prevailed; and had it been otherwise, thousands of men, women, and children must have been trodden to death. Our margin has it by five in a rank; but had they marched only five abreast, supposing only one yard for each rank to move in, it would have required not less than sixty-eight miles for even the 600,000 to proceed on regularly in this way; for 600,000 divided by five gives 120,000 ranks of five each; and there being only 1,760 yards in a mile, the dividing 120,000 by 1,760 will give the number of miles such a column of people would take up, which by such an operation will be found to be something more than sixty-eight miles. But this the circumstances of the history will by no means admit - Harmer. The simple meaning therefore appears to be that given above; and if the note on the concluding verse of the preceding chapter be considered, it may serve to place this explanation in a still clearer point of view.
on Exodus 13 :18
Harnessed - More probably, "marshalled" or "in orderly array." There is not the least indication that the Israelites had been disarmed by the Egyptians, and as occupying a frontier district frequently assailed by the nomads of the desert they would of necessity be accustomed to the use of arms. Compare Exodus 1:10.
on Exodus 13 :18
13:18 There were many reasons why God led them through the way of the wilderness of the red sea. The Egyptians were to be drowned in the Red - sea, the Israelites were to be humbled, and proved in the wilderness. Deu 8: 2. God had given it to Moses for a sign, Ex 3:12, ye shall serve God in this mountain. They had again and again told Pharaoh that they must go three days journey into the wilderness to do sacrifice, and therefore it was requisite they should march that way, else they had justly been exclaimed against as dissemblers. Before they entered the lifts with their enemies, matters must be settled between them and their God; laws must be given, ordinances instituted, covenants sealed; and for the doing of this it was necessary they should retire into the solitudes of a wilderness, the only closet for such a crowd; the high road would be no proper place for these transactions. The reason why God did not lead them the nearest way, which would have brought them in a few days to the land of the Philistines, was because they were not yet fit for war, much less for war with the Philistines. Their spirits were broke with slavery; the Philistines were formidable enemies; it was convenient they should begin with the Amalekites, and be prepared for the wars of Canaan, by experiencing the difficulties of the wilderness. God is said to bring Israel out of Egypt as the eagle brings up her young ones, Deu 32:11, teaching them by degrees to fly. They went up harnessed - They went up by five in a rank, so some; in five squadrons, so others. They marched like an army with banners, which added much to strength and honour.