After their deliverance from slavery in the land of Egypt, the Israelites began their long journey toward the Promised Land. God did not lead them by the direct route along the Mediterranean coastline. This was because they were not prepared to war against the peoples that resided there. Rather, God lead them southward, in a roundabout way, through what the Bible calls the wilderness. Many Bible maps show the general direction of this journey. During this time, God manifested His Mighty Acts on many occasions. After parting the Red Sea and destroying the Egyptian army, God manifested Himself by a cloud in the daytime and a pillar of fire by night. When the cloud moved, they followed, and when it stopped, they rested (Ex. 13:21-22, Num. 9:34-36).
Since there were 600,000 men who left Egypt (Ex. 12:37), the total number of Israelites who made this journey, including women and children, is estimated to be from three to five million people. This vast number had to be provided for and protected. In addition, there were large numbers of livestock (v. 38). Before long, they came to a place called Marah, where the water was bitter and could not be drunk. “And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (Ex. 15:23-24). The miracle that God performed here was the first to take place on the east side of the Red Sea. “And he [Moses] cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet . . . and there he proved them” (v. 25).
After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled to the wilderness of Sin. They had been gone from Egypt for one month (Ex. 16:1). Again, the people began to complain. This time they lacked bread. God performed two miracles here. He gave them flesh, and bread in the form of manna.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. (Ex. 16:11-15)
The miracle of the daily manna did not occur on just this one occasion, but continued for 40 years (Joshua 5:12), until the Israelites entered the Promised Land!
After leaving the wilderness of Sin, the Israelites moved to Rephidim where, again, there was no water (Ex. 17:1). Again, the people complained.
And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? . . . And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Ex. 17:4-6)
We may think these people were ungrateful and lacked faith in God. And, indeed, they did. But God knew they were merely men having just come out of slavery. He was very kind and patient with them in these matters.
God not only provided food and water for Israel, but He also protected them from their enemies. The people of Amalek-a warlike tribe-saw the opportunity to attack and loot the Israelites, especially the stragglers. So they attacked. Moses immediately organized a counter attack. “And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill” (Ex. 17:9-10). Moses held up the rod but his arms tired, and he needed help. “And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun” (vv. 11-12). Joshua, who was now the military commander, defeated the Amalekites. “And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword” (Ex. 17:13). Because of what the Amalekites had done, Moses informed the people there would be continual war. The reason: ” . . . Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (v. 16).
Later, Israel was reminded:
Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it. (Deut. 25:17-19)
An incident occurred in the wilderness that led to a Mighty Act of God in the form of retribution. What precipitated it was a serious rebellion that threatened the entire future of the nation. God could not tolerate such an insurrection. While no date has been determined for this incident, the indication is that it took place after God determined to keep the Israelites from entering the Promised Land for 40 years. See Numbers, chapters 13 and 14.
Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face. (Num. 16:1-4)
Korah was a Levite, so this was clearly a case of professional jealousy. These rebels were now put to the test.
Moses instructed them:
And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him. This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company; And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the LORD to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi. And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them? And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also? For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the LORD: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him? (Num. 16:5-11)
Korah and his company took up the challenge, and on the next day they appeared before the tabernacle. “And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation” (v. 19). “And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment” (vv. 20-21).
Then Moses told the people:
If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the LORD hath not sent me. But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also. And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense. (Num. 16:29-35)
What was the reaction from the people? “But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD” (Num. 16:41).
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun. And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed. Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah. And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed. (Num. 16:44-50)
After the plague, the people settled down and there were no more incidents such as this. Toward the end of the 40-year period, the Israelites began their final journey to the land of Canaan. A few more incidents are recorded in the Scriptures. The people had forgotten what had happened earlier, and reverted back to their old ways. They complained about the hardships, and the manna, and lack of water. “And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread” (Num. 21:4-5). They needed another reminder. “And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people” (Num. 21:6-7). To impress upon them the scope of their sin, the Israelites were required to look upon a bronze casting of a serpent. Those who viewed the casting were spared (vv. 8-9). For more a more detailed explanation, the reader may refer to the section on Moses in The Great Men of the Old Testament, found on the home page of the Website.
The last incident of God’s Mighty Acts while Israel was in the wilderness is found in Numbers, chapter 22. The Moabites hired a prophet by the name of Balaam to curse the Israelites. He was a man of great reputation but had allowed himself to be used for the sake of reward. God did not permit him to do so but turned his pronouncements against Israel into blessings. However, Balaam did not give up. He gave the Moabites private counsel on how they could cause Israel to sin, and thus bring about God’s curses upon them (Num. 31:16).
Here is what happened:
“And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel” (Num. 25:1-3). Balaam was correct in realizing this kind of conduct would bring God’s displeasure upon Israel, but it did not have the lasting effect the Moabites had hoped for.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor . . . . So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. (Num. 25:4-5, 8-9)
These examples of God’s Mighty Acts serve to encourage us to have confidence and hope in God. Also, they teach us the importance of obedience to His commands. The Apostle Paul tells us: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor. 10:11). “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). There is much to be learned by studying and meditating on these Mighty Acts of God.