“It happened when Pharaoh sent out the people that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, because it was near, for God said, “Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see a war, and they will return to Egypt” (Shemot 13:17).
The Baal Haturim on this Pasuk wonders why it says, “the people.” The Baal Haturim answers this question by saying that the Gematria of these words, 516, equals that of the words “Gam Eirev Rav,” “also a mixed multitude.” (This phrase is found in last week’s Parsha, where it says, “Also a mixed multitude went up with them” [12:38].) What does this mean, though, and what does it have to do with “the people?” Rashi explains as follows: The “Eirev Rav” was comprised of a large number of non-Israelites who joined Bnai Yisrael when they left Egypt. Without the permission of Hashem, Moshe converted them and accepted them into the nation. However, their conversion was not sincere, and they eventually became degenerate and took others (non-Israelites) along with them in their travels with Bnai Yisrael. Thus, according to the Baal Haturim, it was not the People of Israel with whom Hashem was concerned, but these insincere, potentially disloyal converts.