Why did Moses give Pharaoh the impression the children of Israel would only go to wilderness to worship 3 days then return? Was He lying? Did God participate in this by commission or by omission?
I had to think about this one for a while. To be honest, I am not absolutely sure whether Moses was being disingenuous when he said that the people would only go out to worship God for three days and return after three days, or if he honestly thought that this is what they would do. My guess (but it is really more or less a guess) is that he did not fully understand what God intended to do. What I do know is this. As the ten plagues occurred, the Egyptians and Pharaoh became increasingly fearful of the Jews. By the time we get to Exodus 12, both Pharaoh and the Egyptians were begging the Jews to leave and, presumably, not to come back. The events surrounding the plagues–events brought on by God, not Moses–led to the Jews leaving Egypt for good. I get the sense that God was not only convincing Pharaoh to let his people go, but also convincing his people to be willing to take the drastic step of leaving Egypt to wander in the wilderness. In other words, the plagues also convinced Moses that Israel would be leaving for good and not returning to Egypt.
Was Moses lying? Was he misleading Pharaoh? Honestly, I am not sure. I am not sure Moses completely understood God’s intent. Moses was not a sinless person, and God does not step in and prevent us from sinning. Maybe he kind of did and kind of did not fully understand that their leaving Egypt to go into the desert to worship God was to be a permanent thing. Either way, the events determined that they left and never returned, and the events were governed by God, not by Moses. By the time of the tenth plague, the option of returning was no longer in play.