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Bible verses about Mixed Multitude
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The general term God uses to describe these folk tells us they were mixed, and they were many. Apparently not part of a single "family grown great," as the Moabites or Canaanites were, they bear no family or national appellation. Yet, as vague as the term mixed multitude appears, a careful analysis yields an abundance of information.

Multitude. The Hebrew word for multitude is rab meaning "great," "many," or "large." Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words claims that rab, whether referring to people or things, "represents plurality in numbers or amount." In Exodus 5:5: Pharaoh, speaking to Moses and Aaron, alludes to the population of Israel by calling them rab, "many." So, the mixed multitude was large, perhaps consisting of thousands or millions of individuals.

Mixed. The Hebrew word translated mixed, gehrev, appears only 11 times in God's Word. Twice the translators rendered gehrev as mixed (Exodus 12:38; Nehemiah 13:3). In its other nine appearances, however, we get the strongest indication of its meaning. All nine of these instances are in Leviticus 13:48-59, where God gives Moses and Aaron His law concerning leprosy.

Notice Leviticus 13:47-48:

Also, if a garment has a leprous plague in it, whether it is a woolen garment or a linen garment, whether it is in the warp or woof of linen or wool, whether in leather or in anything made of leather.

Both mixed of Exodus 12:38 and woof of Leviticus 13:48 are translations of gehrev.

But how different are the subjects of Exodus 12 and Leviticus 13! The former text concerns the Exodus, the seminal historic event of national Israel. The latter deals with a law concerning leprosy. What could mixed and woof have in common?

Answering that question requires that we look first at woof in the context of its sister word, warp. Warp and woof are weaving terms:

Warp refers to the lengthwise threads in a woven article; they are the threads that hang down in a loom, running parallel to the bolt of cloth being created.

Woof (also called the filling) refers to the threads that crisscross the warp, running at right angles—perpendicular—to them; they interlace among the warp, over and under, over and under.

By extension, woof has come to mean "a basic or essential element or material," according to the dictionary. Clearly, both warp and woof are important to the integrity and strength of a garment. A bolt of cloth lacking either warp or woof simply will not "hang together." The warp and the woof complement each other. Properly united, they form a strong fabric, for example, a carpet, which can take the rough-and-tumble wear of years.

The connection between woof of Leviticus 13 and mixed of Exodus 12 now becomes clear. In Leviticus 13, gehrev refers to the woof or filler of a woven cloth: in Exodus 12, gehrev refers to people. God is speaking by way of analogy. He develops that comparison in Exodus 12:48-49:

And when a stranger sojourns with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who sojourns among you.

In Exodus 12:37-38, God hints at a dualism which verses 47-48 develop. In doing so, He answers at least two important questions for us:

If the mixed multitude is the folk of the woof, what people make up the warp? Exodus 12:37-39 mention two groups of people—Israelite and the mixed multitude marching out of Egypt. Verses 47-48 establish that dualism as a dichotomy, a clear, distinct division. There is "a great gulf fixed" between Gentile and Israelite that only circumcision can bridge.

Thus, metaphorically, God expresses the Israelite-Gentile dualism as the warp and the woof. The Gentile is the woof, the gehrev that marched out of Egypt with the children of Israel. The Israelite is the warp.

What is the relationship of the peoples of the woof to those of the warp? We saw earlier that the defining characteristic of the warp-woof relationship is unity: A woven cloth is useless without both warp and woof. It is a relationship of interdependence. The warp-woof metaphor of Exodus 12 stresses the union of peoples. In fact, the relationship appears almost symbiotic, an "intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship."

The very same chapter records the first Passover, introduces us to the mixed multitude and outlines the condition under which God would accept Israelite and Gentile. God required physical circumcision for both. Through circumcision, the Gentile can take the Passover and become completely united under "one law" with the Israelite (Exodus 12:49). Warp and woof together make one fabric. Israelite and Gentile together make one nation under God. They become one physical nation under one constitution—God's Law.

God uses the warp-woof metaphor behind the word mixed to illustrate an important principle: He can turn a dichotomy into a union. Figuratively, He can weave diverse threads, running crosswise to each other, into a single, strong fabric. This metaphor from weaving describes how He works with His people.

At the time of the Exodus, God was offering the woof—the mixed multitude—the chance of a lifetime. In His grace, God was at that time offering these Gentile folk the opportunity to take their place with the children of Israel, interlaced with them, as an integral part of the fabric of the nation He was building. An essential part! What an opportunity these people had for national greatness! The mixed multitude was on the ground floor of God's nation-building.

We cannot identify with certainty these peoples' ethnic and national backgrounds. Some of them may have been native Egyptians who, witnessing the power of God in their land, forsook their own weak gods and cast their lots with the "winning team." The word mixed certainly indicates that they were not of a single ethnic origin. Rather, it appears that they were a veritable kaleidoscope of peoples, probably black and yellow and red slaves the Egyptians had gathered in their conquests. To God, they were a folk of rich potential, having qualities He wanted as part of His own "rainbow coalition." God was, indeed, weaving a "coat of many colors."

Charles Whitaker
The Mixed Multitude


 

These Gentiles started out on the right path. At least initially, the mixed multitude took the opportunity God offered them. Sometime after the "quail incident" of Numbers 11, though, they chose to separate themselves from God and His people. God's Word does not tell us the exact circumstances. What is important to understand is this: Whatever the reason they cited for their defection, when these peoples made the decision to depart from God and His people, they chose to rejoin the world's nations, the world's system.

God intended Israel to be separate from the world's other nations. It is one of the reasons God separated His people from Egypt—so He could teach them His way of life. Along this line, Balaam's comments in Numbers 23:9 are instructive: "For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him; there! A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations."

God even connects Israel's separateness with His own holiness. "And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine" (Leviticus 20:26). When the mixed multitude rejected the pillar of fire, when it forsook the cloud, it "mixed" with the world! It lost the separateness it possessed as long as it remained with God's people.

What a tragedy of missed opportunity! What potential those people had, physically and nationally—the chance of a lifetime. Literally, somewhere in the Sinai desert, they walked away from it.

The mixed multitude, just like the children of Israel, had been Egyptian slaves—the weak of the world (I Corinthians 1:26-31), nobodies. These peoples, Israelites and Gentiles, were more than witnesses of God's mercy. The warp and woof together experienced it. The Gentiles were there! As long as they stayed with God's people, they were partakers of God's grace.

These nobodies had a chance to enjoy the national blessings God was ready to shower on the Israelites, if they obeyed Him. But the folk of the mixed multitude took another path, one that seemed right to them, and passed out of the pages of Scripture and history. They exchanged the opportunity of national fame for historical anonymity.

The mixed multitude does indeed sound a clarion warning to us today. "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith" (Hebrews 4:2). They died in the wilderness like the unbelieving Israelites, missing the blessings of the Promised Land.

Lacking faith, the peoples of the mixed multitude—Gentiles blessed above all others then living—murmured, complained, lusted. Because they suffered from the leprosy of sin, God eventually tore them out of the fabric He was weaving. Some of them died of plague. Others left for parts unknown. All failed to reach the potential God placed before them.

We of the spiritual Israel of God, "whether in the warp or in the woof," dare not follow their path. If we do, ours will be a tragedy of grander scale, of eternal consequence. As Peter says so encouragingly:

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:10-11)

Charles Whitaker
The Mixed Multitude


 

Exodus 12:37-38   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Exodus 12:38 tells us the "mixed multitude went up with" the children of Israel. These folk fell in step with God's army as it marched out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. For how long? Their presence during the quail incident, cited above, indicates that these peoples were still with the Israelites at least one year after the first Passover. That means that the mixed multitude was present at Mount Sinai, some fifty days after the Red Sea crossing. This means they were present at the giving of the Law!

Whoever they were, the peoples of the mixed multitude were much more than just witnesses of God's strength. Even the unbelieving Egyptians witnessed that! The mixed multitude partook of God's grace, experienced it with the children of Israel. Whoever they were, these people were fellow-travelers with Israel for a time, experiencing with them the power of God as He pulled them "out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 4:20; see also I Kings 8:51; Jeremiah 11:4).

Both Israel and the mixed multitude experienced His might as He destroyed the most powerful nation on earth at that time. They both experienced deliverance from the Egyptians at the Red Sea. They both experienced the shaking of Sinai as God thundered the Ten Commandments. They both ate the manna and drank water from the Rock! They both were baptized in the Red Sea (see I Corinthians 10:1-4). The folk God calls the "mixed multitude" were partakers with Israel!

Charles Whitaker
The Mixed Multitude


 

Matthew 13:31-32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Jesus taught parables as prophecies of the course of the church's history until His return, He provided two views of the one subject: specifically, the outward aspect, shown to the multitude of people; and the inward aspect, as revealed to His disciples. He gave the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19) to the mixed multitude to disclose evidence of a specific characteristic of the church compared to the outside world.

The historical development of the church of God would be one of humble beginnings. However, this parable contains more than this important truth. Hidden within it is a warning about the perversion of the church's method of growth and of satanic attacks upon it. This parable is an analogy, and as with all analogies, the symbolism is not exact but similar. Therefore, the symbolism of the Kingdom of God being likened to a mustard seed is not identical, yet it explains a particular aspect of the process that the church goes through in preparing for God's Kingdom.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Four): The Parable of the Mustard Seed


 

 




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