The Unbelief of the Israelites

by Shelley Hitz

As I continue to read through Exodus, I have been watching the reactions of the Israelites. I am interested in how they reacted in Egypt because the bible tells us they struggled with unbelief. Actually, it tells us in Hebrews 3:19, "So we see that they were not able to enter (the Promised Land), because of their unbelief."

I realize I'm getting ahead of myself. I just read through chapter 15 of Exodus today where they spent their first 3 days in the wilderness or desert. I know they will be there for 40 more years.

But, since I struggle so much with unbelief, I want to know and understand where their stronghold of unbelief originated.

  • Was it just something that suddenly cropped up in the desert or was it a way of life for them, a habit they developed in Egypt?

  • Was it something passed down to them during the 430 years they lived in Egypt, most of those years enslaved by the Egyptians?

  • Even after they saw the miracles of God and his mighty deliverance, why did they still have a hard time trusting Him?


I can see the same trends in my own life.

  • Habits of fear and distrust formed in my life.

  • Fear and unbelief deeply rooted in my family

  • Even after seeing God deliver me from so much, I still have difficulty trusting Him.


I want to learn from the Israelites, so that I can do differently in my own life.

When Moses and Aaron first came to the Israelites, they believed.

Gen 4:29-31, "Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, 30 and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped."

Then, Pharaoh made the work harder for the Israelites on account of Moses. Pharaoh accused them of being lazy and wanting to go worship God for 3 days, and so made their work harder for them. They had to go get their own straw and still deliver the same quota of bricks. When they didn't, the Israelite foreman were beaten (see ch. 5 & 6).

Things were not going as they planned...

This unfair treatment was probably not what the Israelites expected when they heard that God was going to rescue them from Egypt. So, as things got more difficult, it became more difficult for them to truly believe that God came to rescue them.

"Moses told this to the Israelites, but they refused to listen to Moses because of their impatience and anguish of spirit and because of their cruel bondage." (Exodus 6:9 AMP)

I have to ask myself...when times get tough and the circumstances don't look like God is working on my behalf...what will my reaction be?

Then, the plagues came to Egypt.

We don't hear much about the Israelites during this time. I wonder if they were still undergoing cruel punishment from the Egyptians. I wonder if the plagues were not only for Pharaoh and the Egyptians to see the power of God, but also for the benefit of the Israelites. To increase their faith in the power of God.

Once Pharaoh finally asked them to leave, the Israelites wavered in unbelief again as Pharaoh and his army changed their minds and began to pursue them (Exodus 14:10-14). Again, a seemingly bad circumstance triggered their unbelief.

In the same way, a seemingly good circumstance triggered their belief when God parted the Red Sea and rescued them from the Egyptians.

"Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore. And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did against the Egyptians, and the people reverently feared the Lord and trusted in (relied on, remained steadfast to) the Lord and to His servant Moses." Exodus 14:30-31 (AMP)

The application question is... Will I choose to base my belief or trust in God on my circumstances or will I choose to base it on God's character and sovereignty?

I'm an emotional person, so it's so easy for me to get caught up in my circumstances. However, circumstances always change. Therefore, I think I want something more steady, something more secure.

Like Job, I want to base my belief and trust on God's character and sovereignty and not on my circumstances. Because God doesn't change.

Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

How about you?

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