“And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.” (Exodus 12:38)
Exodus 12:37 gives us our first “census” of the population of Hebrews who left Egypt for the Land of Promise. We are told that around 600,000 men departed from Ramses, not to mention children and, presumably, women. Some conservative estimates have suggested that, even by placing just one woman and one child with each man, the numbers would swell to nearly 2 million. And, if we learned anything about the typical Jewish families from the Book of Genesis, we can safely assume that being an only child was a rarity. More realistic approximations have been made by scholars of anywhere from 3 to perhaps as many as 6 million Hebrews leaving Egypt in the Exodus, although we really have no way of knowing for sure.
One thing we do know from the text, a “Mixed Multitude” accompanied the Twelve Tribes of Jacob as they set out toward Palestine. Neither fully Jewish nor fully Egyptian, these racially mixed people were the sons and daughters of one Hebrew parent and one Egyptian. The product of two separate and competing cultures, these “half-breeds” were perhaps too Egyptian to really fit in with the Children of Israel, and definitely too Jewish to be completely comfortable among their Egyptian brethren.
“And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (Numbers 11:4)
A portrait of those even to this day who divide and subvert the Body of Christ from within, the mixed multitude were those with split loyalties, coming close to the presence of God yet never fully committing to Him. These were the people who pined for the things they left behind in Egypt whenever times grew tough, the first to grumble and complain when hardships arose. They were an ever-present source of trouble and discord among the Hebrews, eroding the morale of the entire nation by their own negativity.
The mixed multitude did not leave Egypt because they were weary of Egypt, hungering for the rest and redemption that God alone can provide. They followed after Moses more out of curiosity and a fascination for the sublime. Power had been demonstrated in the land, supernatural manifestations had stirred the imagination of those with one foot planted firmly in the land of the Pharaohs and one foot tenuously stepping toward the other half of their heritage. Like a young man raised on a rural farm, accepting his first invitation to see the bright lights of a far off city, it was the lure of novelty, the draw of the strange and unfamiliar that the mixed multitude were responding to — not the promise of deliverance.
The mixed multitude of the Exodus have been compared with unconverted church members of today. As were the mixed multitude drawn toward a demonstration of power, so are many who fill our pews each Sunday morning. Wherever the Spirit of God is moving, there will always be inquisitive spectators, curious onlookers who will readily identify themselves as true believers in order that they might retain an up close seat to the action. These are not folks hungering for God, but hungering for entertainment, diversions from the ordinary that might delight their emotions rather than feed their souls.
These are tares among the wheat of God’s true people, grumblers and complainers who gnaw away at the unity of the Body of Christ. They will drink deeply while the waters are flowing, but are the first to protest during seasons of drought. Uncommitted to the Lord, these people are never contented to simply walk away, to return to “Egypt” where their allegiance really lies; they will invariably sow seeds of discontent among those who genuinely belong to the Lord.
To those who sit astride the fence today, know that you can do so only for so long. The time will come when you must decide which side you will stand on. You are either committed to the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not. Pretending to follow Christ might fool others, but God is fooled by no one. Won’t you fully commit to Him today?
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,