Who Were the "MIxed Multitude"?
Who Were the "MIxed Multitude"?

Various Groups Among our Enemies and Among Us

Moses, Aaron and Miriam and other Israelites joined in writing the magnificent poetry and imagery: Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord…(Ex. 15:1).

Pharaoh and his wicked followers were delusional. Among them were various groups or cliques. : The foe said, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall have its fill of them. I will bare my sword— My hand shall subdue them” (Ex. 15:9).

The midrash (Pesiktah Zutra Exodus 15:9) says that there were 3 groups among the Egyptians pursuing the Israelites. One group only wanted to rob the Israelites and not to kill them: I will divide the spoil.

A second group wanted only to kill Israelites and not rob them: My desire shall have its fill of them.

A third group wanted to both kill and rob the Israelites: I will bare my sword— My hand shall subdue them.

God saved us from all 3 groups and terrified our surrounding enemies:

The peoples hear, they tremble; Agony grips the dwellers in Philistia. Now are the clans of Edom dismayed; The tribes of Moab—trembling grips them; All the dwellers in Canaan are aghast. Terror and dread descend upon them; Through the might of Your arm they are still as stone— Till Your people cross over, O Lord, Till Your people cross whom You have ransomed. (Ex. 15:14-16).

Amalek started war against us: Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim (Ex. 17:8).

The Talmud (Yerushalmi Ta’anit 2:5) says there were 4 groups Moses had to deal with at the Red sea. One group wanted to fall into the sea. To them Moses said “Have no fear! Stand by, and witness the deliverance which the Lord will work for you today; (Ex. 14:13). A 2nd group wanted to return to Egypt.  Moses told them for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again (Ibid. 13).  A 3rd group wanted to fight the Egyptians.  Moses told them for The Lord will battle for you; (Ex. Ibid. 14). The 4rth group wanted to scream at the Egyptians.  To them Moses said you hold your peace! (Ibid. 14).

The Talmud (Yoma 75a) divides the Israelites gathering Manna to 3 groups: righteous, average, and wicked:

“It is written: When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall upon it (Num. 11:9). It is also written: And the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread for you from the sky, and the people shall go out and gather each day that day’s portion—that I may thus test them, to see whether they will follow My instructions or not (Ex. 16:4). It is written too: The people would go about and gather it, grind it between millstones or pound it in a mortar, boil it in a pot, and make it into cakes. It tasted like rich cream (Num. 11:8).

"How all that? Unto the righteous it fell in front of their homes; the average folk went out and gathered, whereas the wicked ones had to go about to gather it. It is written: I will rain down bread for you from the sky and it is written, make it into cakes and it is written, grind it between millstones or pound it in a mortar. How that? The righteous received it as bread, the average Israelites as [dough of] cakes, and the wicked ones had to grind it between millstones or pound it in a mortar."

The mixed multitude: Moreover, a mixed multitude went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds (Ex. 12:38) that accompanied the Israelites, according to the Zohar (Soncino volume II page 191), were wicked Egyptians and did not eat manna:

“And who were the mixed multitude? Were they Lydians, Ethiopians, or Cyprians? Were they not all Egyptians, and did they not all come from Egypt? If they had consisted of a mixture of many different nations, would not the plural verb alu (went up) have been used instead of the singular ala (Ex. 12:38)?

In fact, however, the mixed multitude consisted entirely of one people all the members of which spoke one language: namely, all the sorcerers of Egypt and all its magicians, as it is written, Then Pharaoh, for his part, summoned the wise men and the sorcerers; and the Egyptian magicians, in turn, did the same with their spells; (Ex. 7:11); for they wanted to oppose the wonderful works of the Holy One, blessed be He.

"When they beheld the signs and the wonders which Moses wrought in Egypt they came to Moses to be converted. Said the Holy One to Moses: Do not receive them! Moses, however, replied: Sovereign of the universe, now that they have seen Thy power they desire to accept our Faith, let them see Thy power every day and they will learn that there is no God like unto Thee. And Moses accepted them.

"And why, then, were they called mixed multitude? Because they consisted of all the grades of the Egyptian magicians, at their head being Jannes and Jambres….Observe that all the clouds of glory which moved with the people in the wilderness covered only the children of Israel, and the cloud of Glory went before them, as it is written: The Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day…(Ex. 13:21). But this mixed multitude, and all the cattle, walked on behind, outside the camp.

"Observe also this, that all the forty years that the Israelites walked in the wilderness no unclean object was permitted within that cloud-canopy. Therefore all the cattle, the grass eaters, remained outside together with those who tended them. Said R. Eleazar: Father, in that case, that mixed multitude did not partake of the manna?  R. Simeon replied:  Certainly not, indeed! They only had what the Israelites chose to give them, as one gives to a slave.

"And what part of the food did they eat? Of the husks which remained clinging to the millstones. Scripture proclaims it directly: And the Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a settled land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. (Ex. 16:35).”

Then as today, there are differing groups among our enemies and among ourselves. Some of our enemies today want only to rob us, some to kill us and not rob us and some both. Some of us are righteous, some average, and some wicked.

We also have “mixed multitude” among us---wicked that scheme and plot against us. 

Today we face existential threats from Iran and other enemies. When we study the Bible we study closely what our righteous, learned, and prophetic leaders said and did when they faced dire threats. 

With Pharaoh and his army pursuing us, Moses declared: The Lord will battle for you; you hold your peace!” (Ex. 14:14).

With Amalek making war against us Moses declared: Moses said to Joshua, “Pick some men for us, and go out and do battle with Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in my hand.” (Ex. 17:9).

We pray that God save us as He did our forefathers.