It seems incredible that Israelites delivered from bondage in Egypt would petition to go back just a few weeks later. Doesn’t it? We’ve all seen the movie. Moses raises him arm, the Red Sea parts, the Israelites cross, the Egyptian army follows, and the Sea closes in on them and drowns them all.
A few weeks later they thought it was all a mistake. They wanted to go back. Would anyone believe it without seeing it in black and white? No. Therefore, here it is:
“And all the sons of Israel began to murmur against Moses and Aaron, and all the assembly began to say against them: “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness! And why is Jehovah bringing us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder. Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?” They even went to saying to one another: “Let us appoint a head, and let us return to Egypt!” (Numbers 14:2-4)
It wasn’t the cakewalk they thought it would be. If God got them out of a jam once, surely it couldn’t happen again. The food had been good. “How we remember the fish that we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers and the watermelons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic!” (Numbers 11:5) True, the slavery sucked, but life wandering about in hopes of a promised lands wasn’t glamorous at all.
It is all a matter of delayed gratification. If you weren’t able to do that, and grumbled about manna— it was fairly versatile stuff, but there are limits—being not cucumbers and watermelons and leeks and onions and garlic, then you started to pine away for the old life. Apparently slavery wasn’t all that tortuous; if you faithfully made your quota of bricks, the taskmaster left you in peace and fed you good when feeding time came.
The reasons not to go back to Egypt? They were all of a spiritual nature. Wanting to worship their God unhindered had triggered the Ten Plague showdown in the first place. To Pharaoh is was: “This is what Jehovah the God of the Hebrews has said: “Send my people away that they may serve me.” (Exodus 9:13) And the “promised land” where they would also worship their God unhindered was but a promise that one had to have faith it would come about.
In short, the reasons to turn back were physical. The reasons to press on were spiritual. It is no different today. If the Reddit characters that the Philly reporter wrote about—the dropouts who carried on about “the absurdities of their experiences” to a reporter who lapped it all up—it could be argued that they remained too shallow for too long to appreciate what was worthwhile.
Wanting to go back to Egypt, my foot! To maneuver to maybe become the bossman’s head lackey? Don’t tell me that in any way compares to the real life that one must, to be sure, exercise faith in and master the art of delayed gratification.