I always wondered why God left Jacob’s family in Egypt when he knew that they would get dumped on, abused, and turned into slaves, necessitating the miraculous rescue through the Red Sea. They could have left before it turned bad: once the famine that put them there in the first place was done … when the Pharaoh that Joseph served had died … or when they started to see the signs that they were no longer welcome. For quite a while, they could have just decided it was time, thanked the Egyptians, and relocated back where they came from.
What would have happened if they had left? They would have gone back up into Caanan (or beyond, where Abraham’s family came from), intermarrying with the local people and ending up dispersed into the land. Over several generations, they would lose whatever identity they might have had as a culture. While this did eventually happen, it happened on God’s schedule.
Instead, God gave them every reason to stay. Joseph told them to tell Pharaoh that they were shepherds, knowing that the Egyptians loathed shepherds, so they would be set apart and left alone: they were given the land of Goshen, a fertile area ideally suited to their lifestyle. They had ample resources, so there was no real reason to leave. These things allowed the Israelites to grow from a large family group (but still probably less than 100 people) into a nation of over a million people in 430 years while still retaining a unique cultural identity. Combined with the additional solitude of a generation wandering in the wilderness, this created a culture that was more solid than any before or since.
When they emerged from Egypt, they were ready to be used by God to reclaim Caanan as the Jewish homeland, driving out all the other peoples to create the theocratic nation God wanted. We know from the stories related in Judges, Kings, and Chronicles that it didn’t happen quite the way that God had intended … but that’s another lesson.
So — while God can protect us and keep us from harm, sometimes he also uses adverse circumstances to shape us into the tools he wants us to be.
- Saving Egypt: The Story of the Ten Plagues (924jeremiah.wordpress.com)