The Children of Israel is the term used to refer to the descendants of Jacob. Their increasing numbers alarmed the Pharaoh, who placed them in bondage. He then ordered the midwives to kill all baby boys born, but they refused to do so. Since they would not kill the babies themselves, he ordered the children of Israel to drown the baby boys.
After Pharaoh died, the children of Israel were upset with their condition and prayed to God. God remembered the promises he had made their ancestors and told Moses, during an appearance in a burning bush, to go to Egypt to free the children of Israel. He promised to bring them to a wonderful place flowing with milk and honey.
Moses and Aaron delivered this promise to the children of Israel. They began to see new blessings in their lives. When God sent plagues to Egypt, He spared the children of Israel and the land of Goshen. All firstborn children among the Egyptians were killed, but the Israelites were spared, upon which Pharaoh told them to leave. This brought to an end 430 years in Egypt. It was during their departure that God began to command the practice of Passover, to help them remember that they had been passed over in Egypt.
The Lord traveled with them as they left. When they needed to cross the Red Sea, God parted it so they could safely travel through, while their enemies were stopped by the water as it returned to its normal form.
Despite their blessings, they complained when the waters of Marah were bitter. God warned them that they must keep the commandments in order to avoid the plagues suffered by the Israelites.
They complained about the lack of food and wanted things they should not have. However, God sent them manna to serve as food. It rained down from the sky but they were to gather only enough for that day. On the day before the Sabbath, they would receive just enough so they did not have to gather on the Sabbath. They received the manna for forty years. When they complained about the lack of water, God sent water from a rock he instructed Moses to open.
Early in the second year, they were reminded to keep Passover. They found a cloud over the Tabernacle and at night, a pillar of fire. When the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, they could travel again.
The next time the Israelites complained, God sent fire to consume the people in the outermost parts of the camp. Despite this warning, they started complaining because they wanted meat. God told them He would send them meat then—so much it would come out of their nostrils. He sent them quail and a plague to remind them to be thankful for what they have.
God told Moses to have a leader from each tribe go ahead to scout out the land of Canaan. All but Joshua and Caleb returned with negative reports and the children of Israel believed their stories about giants in the land. They started complaining about Moses and Aaron. As punishment, God told them they could wander in the wilderness for forty years. He also said that none of them who were twenty or older would be allowed into the promised land except for Caleb and Joshua, who had given honest reports. The other ten scouts died by plague.
Some people rebelled and decided to ignore God’s announcement. They chose to go into the land and try to conquer it. They were, of course, killed by the people who lived in that land. Four of the children of Israel led a rebellion of famous people in the congregation against Moses and Aaron. God had the four rebels swallowed up by the earth and those they led killed by fire.
Once again, as they traveled to Edom, they ignored God’s warnings and began to murmur. God sent fiery serpents that killed many of the people. Finally, they realized they had sinned with their rebellions. They asked Moses to help them ask God to take away the serpents. Instead, God told Moses to make a fiery serpent to place on a pole. Anyone bitten could go to the model and look at it to be healed.
While livingin Shittim, they committed a great many sins and some even chose to worship the false Moabite gods. Moses was instructed to kill anyone who followed the Moabite god.
While they camped in the Moab plains, they were instructed to take a census and to divide the land by lot based on the numbers of people in each tribe. They were instructed to drive everyone else out of the land, since it was to be their land of inheritance.
When Moses died, it was Joshua who was chosen by God to lead the children of Israel. He would lead them into their promised land. The pattern set in these first days would be the pattern followed throughout their history in the Old Testament. Sometimes they would be strong and faithful. Other times they would be ungrateful or stray completely. Prophets would continue to lead them except during periods of apostasy and would issue many prophecies concerning their place in the course of history, even into the last days of the earth.
Adapted from Every Person in the OT by Lynn F. Price; Horizon Publishers and the Bible Dictionary.