The Angel of the Lord: Part 5 :: By Randy Nettles

The Egyptians buried their dead on the same day as the Hebrews left Egypt. Israel’s descendants were a free people at last. Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock” (Exodus 12:37-38). The total number of people that left Egypt is estimated to have been about three million people (men, women, and children). Some of them were probably Egyptians and others who had seen the Hebrew God, Jehovah, in action and decided to follow the children of Israel and their God.

There are two theories on the length of captivity of the children of Israel in Egypt. Many Bible students believe they lived in Egypt for 430 years because of the following verses: “Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night of solemn observance to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations” (Exodus 12:40-42).

The other theory for the length of the Hebrews captivity is 215 years. So which is it? Is the duration of the children of Israel living in Egypt 215 years or 430 years? I believe the answer is 215 years for the following reasons. One of the meanings of the word “sojourn” is “strangers.” Abraham and his descendants were strangers in the land of Canaan and Egypt for a total of 430 years. After the end of the 430 years, they left Egypt. The Hebrews made their exodus on the night (midnight) and early morning after the “Passover” event occurred. As several million people were involved, it probably took the next day as well before they completely left the land of Egypt. It was exactly 430 years to the day (Nisan 14) after the Lord made His covenant with Abraham.  

“And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Genesis 15:17-18). This was a theophany of Elohim which pre-figured the Passover of Moses’ generation.

According to Genesis 15:9, Abraham’s pre-Passover event featured the following animals being sacrificed: a heifer of 3 years old, a she goat of 3 years old, a ram of 3 years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. Regarding sacrifices unto the Lord, a male lamb of the first year was required for the original Passover of Moses’ time. The 3rd great event that transpired on Nisan 14 (day of Passover) was Jesus’ crucifixion in the year AD 33. Jesus himself was the sacrifice that was required by God (Elohim/Father) for the Passover to be finally complete.

“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all” (Hebrews 10:4,10).

Significant events sometimes occur in “threes.” The number 3 is one of God’s perfect numbers and represents divine perfection. {1}

Both of these “Pass-over/Pass-between” events for Abraham and his descendants occurred on the first full moon of spring. Spring is the season when the Hebrews’ annual calendar begins. Nisan is the name for the first month (originally it was called Abib), and Passover occurs on the 14th day of this month. Passover always occurs on the first full moon of spring. Some people say extraordinary things happen on a full moon… maybe it’s true!

The Jewish historian, Josephus, comments on the time line of the Jewish exodus events: “They left Egypt on the 15th day of the lunar month (Nisan 15) 430 years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan” (Antiquities of the Jews 2:15:2). Both the Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint add “and in Canaan” in verse 40 of Exodus 12. The Septuagint, quoted by Paul in Galatians 3:17 says: “the sojourning of the sons of Israel who dwelt in the land of Egypt and Canaan was 430 years. Because they lived in Canaan before they dwelt in Egypt. The Lord brought His people out of Egypt in 1446 BC, exactly 215 years after Joseph brought his brethren to Egypt in 1661 BC; and 430 years after He made a covenant with Abraham in 1876 BC. {2}

Why did God allow the children of Israel (Jacob) to live in the land of Egypt for so long? Much of that time was spent under bondage to their Egyptian taskmasters? Why didn’t God lead them back to the land of their forefathers in Canaan sooner? There is only one reason I can think of. God wanted them kept together so they wouldn’t separate from each other and live in different lands. Jacob’s sons were shepherds, and they kept all kinds of livestock. They had to go where the grass was greener, you might say. It was the same reason why Abraham and Lot had to separate from one another. There just wasn’t enough land in one area for all of their flocks. If the descendants of Jacob hadn’t been kept together (even as slaves), they might not have ever developed into a nation.

Of course, God had it all planned out, as usual. His ways are not our ways, and His timing is not the same as ours.

“Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt. 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. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.

“So they took their journey from Succoth and camped in Etham at the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people” (Exodus 13:17-22).

This theophany of Jehovah and the Holy Spirit resembled the earlier one of Abraham’s day (during the covenant) where supernatural objects of nature (fire and light) were involved. These objects never departed from the presence of the children of Israel the whole time they were traveling in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud kept them cool by day, and the pillar of fire kept them warm at night. They also guided the people in the direction the Lord wanted them to go.

Exodus 14 describes the Egyptian army pursuing the children of Israel after their exit from Egypt.

Pharaoh told his servants, “And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us? And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand. But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon” (Exodus 14:5-9).

The Hebrews saw the Egyptians pursuing after them on chariots and became terrified. They had already forgotten how the Lord protected them from the plagues He sent upon the land of Egypt.

“The sons of Israel said unto Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Leave us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. And Moses said unto the people, ‘Fear you not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you to day: for the Egyptians whom you have seen to day, you shall see them again no more for ever” (Exodus 14:11-13).

During the night, the Israelites were confronted by the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them. To keep the Egyptians from overtaking God’s people, Jehovah acted on their behalf.

“And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night” (Exodus 14:19-20).

The Holy Spirit, in the form of a pillar of clouds, covered the Egyptians with darkness, while He supplied light for the camp of Israel. Jehovah, in the form of a mighty angel (Angel of the Lord) stood by as the rear guard for the camp. He was probably not visible as He was shielded by the pillar of cloud. What happens next is one of the greatest miracles recorded in the Bible.

“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14:21).

In the morning the Israelites went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right side, and on their left.

“And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, And took off their chariot wheels, that they drove them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:23-25).

Verse 24 of Exodus says the Lord looked through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, whereas verse 19 mentions the Angel of God. This is proof that the Angel of the Lord and Jehovah are the same Person, albeit in different forms. The Lord then tells Moses to stretch out his hand and rod over the sea, and the walls of water came crashing down on the Egyptian army.

“And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses” (Exodus 12:28-31).

The Lord Jehovah, as the Angel of the Lord, did a supernatural work for the children of Israel and divided the Red Sea by his mighty power. He killed the host of the Egyptians and saved the newly formed nation of Israel from destruction. This was a theophany where the form of the Angel of the Lord was an actual angel and not a man. Of all God’s creation, only an angel has that kind of power.

Many centuries after this historic event for Israel, the great Jewish prophet Isaiah reflected on this supernatural act of the Lord.

“Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying: Where is He who brought them up out of the sea, with the shepherd of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them, who led them by the right hand of Moses, With His glorious arm, dividing the water before them to make for Himself an everlasting name, who led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, so they might not stumble? As a beast goes down into the valley, and the Spirit of the Lord causes him to rest, so You lead Your people, to make Yourself a glorious name” (Isaiah 63:11-14).

Immediately after the Angel of the Lord destroyed Pharaoh’s army, Moses and the children of Israel sang a song of victory unto God. You can read all of it in Exodus 15. It is a very descriptive account of how the Angel of the Lord parted the Red Sea for the children of Israel and destroyed Pharaoh’s army. Here are a few lines of that great old Hebrew song that describes this supernatural event:

“The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The Lord is a man of war; The Lord is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; They sank to the bottom like a stone. Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy to pieces. And in the greatness of Your excellence You have overthrown those who rose against You; You sent forth Your wrath; It consumed them like stubble.

“And with the blast of Your nostrils The waters were gathered together; The floods stood upright like a heap; The depths congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, My hand shall destroy them. You blew with Your wind, The sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand; The earth swallowed them. You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation” (Exodus 15:2-13).

After the celebration at the Red Sea, the Angel of the Lord and the pillars of clouds/fire continued to lead the children of Israel through the wilderness on their long journey to the Promised Land. Moses and Aaron, both descendants of Jacob’s 3rd son Levi, were God’s appointed ruler and priest for the new nation of Israel. Moses, the servant of God, made sure the last words and prophecy of Joseph (11th son of Jacob) were fulfilled:

“I die and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’” (Genesis 50:24-25).

Randy Nettles