Joseph needed to know he was not “out of the family” and that his father still loved him, and Judah came forward and told him the truth, what really happened. That gave Joseph the courage to ask Pharaoh to allow him to bury his father. In the same way, Israel needed to know that they were not “out” and they needed to know the Father in heaven still loved them. The messenger this time was Moses. He will come to the bikur (first-born) and tell them about their Father. Moses has talked with him and was told that he still loved them and knew of their pain (Exo 3.6-7). He was grieving over them, like Jacob did with Joseph.
When Israel heard this, they believed it (Exo 4.29-31). The elders of Israel heard what Moses said, but they still had questions. Why did their Father allow them to go to Egypt? But, they knew that they had not been “thrown out” of the family. They had not been “disowned” or “replaced.” The Father still loved them and wanted to be with them, and that meant everything.
Knowing this, they could make a very difficult choice. They would participate in an offering that would be offensive to the Egyptians called the Passover. They proclaimed their love for their Father, and this act was a commitment to him. They would put the blood of the lamb on their doors. They would also celebrate with him in the wilderness and follow him home to Canaan. God confirmed their status as first-born in Exo 4.22. This alludes to Jacob’s acceptance of Ephraim and Manasseh. Just as Jacob did with Ephraim and Manasseh, God claimed Israel as his own.
There are many similarities between Jacob’s burial and the Exodus, as we have seen already. In the same way, there are differences. How did the choices made by Pharaoh in Joseph’s day differ from the choices made by the Pharaoh in the time of Moses? Joseph’s Pharaoh created a precedent for how to deal with a child you thought was yours and he expresses a loyalty to another father? Joseph’s Pharaoh did what was right and we see how that turned out. What if the Pharaoh with Moses did the right thing and allowed Israel to show their loyalty to their Father, a Father he didn’t know? What would that have looked like? Well, first of all, they would have gone into the wilderness for three days and then returned back. When Moses made his request to allow Israel to go into the wilderness for three days, they were going out there for a worship service.
The idea of a creator God was foreign to Pharaoh. What if the Pharaoh with Moses asked for a sign? Well, Moses was given a sign. His staff became a serpent (Exo 7.9), and this sign would surely impress Pharaoh enough to let them go, right? No, Pharaoh’s magicians duplicated it, but Aaron’s rod devoured the other serpents. In reality, that was the sign. Now, what if Pharaoh looked at this with some unbiased logic and decided that the sign YHVH gave was proof that he was the Lord God? He would have realized that there are many powers, but there was one power that was over everyone, including himself. Had Pharaoh realized that, what would he have done? He would know that there was a creator, a God greater than himself, and it was to that God that Israel wanted to serve.
This revelation would have changed everything. He would have let them go. This God of Israel was the creator of all people, even Pharaoh and Egypt. Had Pharaoh understood this truth and all its implications, he would have wanted to be a part of it. He would have escorts with Israel to Canaan, just like Joseph’s Pharaoh did, his predecessor, centuries before. There would have been chariots and archers, a military honor guard. It would have been hard for a god-king like Pharaoh to acknowledge any “higher power” than himself, but it would not have been impossible. Joseph’s Pharaoh was not afraid to acknowledge this fact. He was being honest with himself, he knew he was powerless over the famine. He knew there was the God of Joseph and he was not afraid to let the Hebrews embrace the customs associated with this God. Joseph’s Pharaoh actually wanted to be a part of Jacob’s burial and wanted everyone to know it. It didn’t matter to him that the people of Jacob did things differently than the Egyptians.
Moses’s Pharaoh could have done that, there was a precedent for it, but he was unable to do it. Pride got in his way. He could not accept the fact that there was a God that was greater than he was. When Israel went into the wilderness, Pharaoh was against it, which is the opposite reaction to what Joseph’s Pharaoh felt. Egypt was not participating in this at all. They went into the wilderness alone. This departure was a mere glimpse into what could have been had Pharaoh acted like Joseph’s Pharaoh.
There could have been many nations watching in awe as Egypt showed respect to the God of Israel by escorting his people home, making sure they arrived safely. This should have happened in the time of Moses, but Israel left by themselves, no escorts, no chariots and horsemen, no archers and no army. Or was there? The Lord made sure the chariots and army were there. Remember we quoted Exo 14.17 where the Lord said, “And as for me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them, and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and horsemen.” However, the Lord was not going to be honored through their death, as some have believed and taught.
Pharaoh was stubborn and was not going along with the program like Joseph’s Pharaoh did. The word for stubborn is “kaved” and the word for “honor” is “ikavdah. As you can see, they have the same Hebrew root (kvd). Pharaoh’s stubbornness (kaved) would be turned to honor (ikavdah). God would strengthen Pharaoh’s heart by giving him the courage, after all he has seen and gone through with the ten plagues, to follow through with his stubbornness. God would use the pursuing army as his tool, for his own ends, not Pharaoh’s.
When God said he would be honored through Pharaoh and his army in Exo 14.17 and he means that Pharaoh thought his chariot force was there to pursue Israel and to bring them back, but that was not their purpose. The Lord was going to use those chariots as an “honor” guard, He was going to have a military escort for Israel as they left, one way or another. They would escort Israel to the waters edge. And the Canaanites would hear about it and look on in fear (Exo 14.14-15). Pharaoh had been shown the truth and he had seen God as the creator, and he turned away from him.
God wanted Egypt to understand this fact. He wanted Egypt to know that he was the Lord, but Pharaoh stood in the way. He wanted no part of that. So, it would be enough for Israel to understand this. It was Israel that would come to know him, and they would tell their children and grandchildren what they saw. But, as we all kn ow, Israel was stubborn, too. But that is for another study.
God was going to use Egypt either way. They could participate together with the Jewish people, as in the days of Joseph and his Pharaoh, or they would participate and be against them. Instead of one camp leaving, there were two (Gen 50.9; Exo 14.20). The choice for Egypt was whether they would be a willing participant, or unwilling. Either way, they were going.
This story will play out again in the future. The Torah is a book of boundaries and declarations, as well as a book of instruction. The Exodus is a guide, not only to what happened in the past, but to what will happen in the future. There is another exodus to come when Yeshua the Messiah returns. There will be a future procession of Jews and Gentiles who believe back to the land. There is coming a time when God will again gather the dispersed of his people Israel, Judah and the nations (Isa 12.11-12; 56.3-8). The last time there was a procession like this was when Israel left Egypt. In the future, it will be different. The Messiah has come in the Second Redemption, and the Kingdom of God is being set up, and it will be not only in the heart, but in the earth as well. Jer 16.14-15 says, “Therefore behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all countries where he had banished them.'” For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.”
There will also be another “Pharaoh” called the False Messiah who will act like the Pharaoh in the time of Moses. He will pursue Israel into the wilderness and fail (Rev 12.1-17), and he will also meet a similar fate (Num 24.24; 2 Thes 2.8; Rev 19.20-21). He will think that he is also a god and will not submit to the creator God, and the Lord will come against him. It didn’t need to be that way, but one way or another, he will know that there is one God in heaven and the earth.