What is the significance of Exodus 13:17?

The Lord didn’t lead Israel along the shortest route to Canaan because Israel would have had to fight the Philistines. The Lord wanted to avoid this, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt.” [NIV: “If they face war they might change their minds and return to Egypt”].

A God who faced an exhaustively settled future could not genuinely think in terms of what people might do. He would be eternally certain of exactly what everyone would do. The fact that the Bible records God thinking and speaking using terms like “if,” “perhaps” and “maybe” is evidence that God faces a partly open future. It should be noted that verses such as this one are impossible to explain as “phenomenological” or as “anthropomorphic,” for the author is reporting something we never would have known had he not told us—viz. God’s thought process.

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