The Long Route

What is the reason, one may ask, that the children of Israel were led from Egypt to Canaan by such a roundabout course when there lay to the northeast a more direct way? The answer is given in the book of Exodus, thus: "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."

Left to their own devices, these freedmen might have chosen differently. We can imagine them saying among themselves: Naturally, we shall go by the nearest way, and quickly reach our destination; that is the only sensible thing to do. But, no! divine Love had another and a wiser plan; and so they were conducted in a wide circuit to the southeast, by way of the Red Sea. They needed preparation. They were not ready to enter the promised land even when they first reached its borders, but, because of their fear and unbelief, they sentenced themselves to wander in a desolate region for forty years. So they certainly would not have been able to cope with and vanquish the Philistines, had they straightway attempted an advance through their territory. Testing and training were requisite to their success; hence the long route which they followed and the experiences of the forty years.

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