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Escape from the Red Sea


10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the LORD. 11They said to Moses, Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’ 13But Moses said to the people, Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.’
15 Then the LORD said to Moses, Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. 16But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. 17Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. 18And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.’ 19The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. 20It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

The second book of the Pentateuch is called Exodus from the Greek word for “departure,” because the central event narrated in it is the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. It continues the history of the chosen people from the point where the book of Genesis leaves off. It recounts the oppression by the Egyptians of the ever-increasing descendants of Jacob and their miraculous deliverance by God through Moses, who led them across the Red Sea to Mount Sinai where they entered into a special covenant with the Lord.
Historical Background
To escape a famine in what is now Israel, Jacob moves his family to Egypt. They stay about 400 years. Sometime during their extended visit, Jacob’s descendants grow so numerous that the Egyptians fear the Hebrews might take over (Cole 107-109).
The period of oppression followed; the Pharaoh ordered the Jews to build the cities of Pithom and Ramesses. To avoid a population explosion among the Hebrews, Pharaoh ordered each newborn son to be thrown into the river. Moses was nevertheless preserved by his mother for the first three months of his life before she finally decided to put him in a rush basket on the river’s edge. The Pharaoh’s daughter discovered him, rescued him and gave him to a nurse, none other than his own mother. This was because Moses’s sister had watched to see who would find the baby, had pretended not to recognize him and then recommended to the Princess a nurse who was really the child’s mother. He was treated as one of the Pharaoh’s sons and given the name ‘Moses’.

God ordered Moses to go and find the Pharaoh and lead his brothers out of Egypt. Aaron, Moses’s brother, helped him in this task. This is why Moses, once he had returned to Egypt, went with his brother to visit the Pharaoh who was the successor of the king under whose reign he had long ago been born.
The Pharaoh refused to allow the Jews in Moses’s group to leave Egypt. God revealed Himself to Moses once again and ordered him to repeat his request to Pharaoh. According to the Bible, Moses was eighty years old at this time. Through magic, Moses showed the Pharaoh that he had supernatural powers. This was not enough however. God sent the famous plagues down upon Egypt. The rivers were changed into blood, there were invasions of frogs, gnats and swarms of flies, the cattle died, boils appeared on men and animals, there was hail and plagues of locusts, darkness and the death of the first-born. Nevertheless, the Pharaoh still did not allow the Hebrews to leave.
They therefore broke out of the city of Rameses, 600,000 of them “besides women and children” (Exodus 12, 37). At this point Pharaoh “made ready his chariot and took his army. With him, and took six hundred picked charioteers and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them . . . Pharaoh, king of Egypt, pursued the people of Israel as they went forth defiantly.” (Exodus 14, 6 and 8). The Egyptians caught up with Moses’s party beside the sea. Moses raised his staff, the sea parted before him and his followers walked across it without wetting their feet. “The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14, 23) “The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen and all
The host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not so much as one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Exodus 14, 28-29).
The text of Exodus is quite clear: Pharaoh was at the head of the pursuers. He perished because the text of Exodus notes that “not so much as one of them remained.” The Bible repeats this detail moreover in the Psalms: Psalm 106, verse 11 and Psalm 136 verses 13 and 15 which are an act of thanks to God “Who divided the sea of Rushes in sunder . . . and made Israel pass through the midst of it . . . but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the sea of Rushes.” There can be no doubt therefore, that according to the Bible, the Pharaoh of the Exodus perished in the sea. The Bible does not record what became of his body.


Ancient Jewish and Christian writers, such as Ecclesiasticus, Josephus, Philo, and Origen were essentially in full agreement that the book of Exodus was written solely by Moses. The Mishnah and the Talmud also confirm this. Tradition during the first millennium of Christian history agrees with this belief.
Since conservative Christians believe in the inerrancy (freedom from error) of the Bible, the matter of authorship is settled and is not open to debate. Moses wrote at least the vast majority of the Pentateuch. However, some Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians have deviated from traditional Christian teachings. They believe
that selected passages were written by persons other than Moses. Some of these writings are referred to as “post-Mosaica” (material that was added after Moses’ death). Others are called “a-Mosaica” (material that could have been written at the time of Moses but which could not reasonably be attributed to him) (Driver 189-191).
Moses is believed to have written the books after the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt, but before they entered Canaan. This would date the writing to the 40-year period when the Israelites were wandering through the desert, circa 1450 BCE.
Exodus was written to the Israelites. Exodus is comprised of half narrative, giving an historical account of Israel’s delivery from Egyptian slavery, and the other half outlining a system of laws by which God sought to shape the delivered slaves into a holy unified nation. Exodus contains five important themes, which are the basis of Israel’s faith and lifestyle in the Old Testament. 1) God’s mighty acts to save Israel and set it apart. 2) The establishment of the Passover as an annual feast to be performed in remembrance of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, 3) Law as a covenant relationship for the people, 4) The details of the Law, and 5) the establishment of Worship as a priestly and sacrificial system. Through these themes and acts, God reveals Himself in more detail to Israel, and across the ages to us today. He is more than just Creator and moral Judge. He is now ‘ever present’, a God of miracles, a Savior, faithful, and holy. These attributes that are revealed about God are never changing.


10. When Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes–The great consternation of the Israelites is somewhat astonishing, considering their vast superiority in numbers, but their deep dismay and absolute despair at the sight of this armed host receives a satisfactory explanation from the fact that the civilized state of Egyptian society required the absence of all arms, except when they were on service. If the Israelites were entirely unarmed at their departure, they could not think of making any resistance.
13, 14. Moses said, . . . Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord–Never, perhaps, was the fortitude of a man so severely tried as that of the Hebrew leader in this crisis, exposed as he was to various and inevitable dangers, the most formidable of which was the vengeance of a seditious and desperate multitude; but his meek, unruffled, magnanimous composure presents one of the sublimest examples of moral courage to be found in history. And whence did his courage arise? He saw the miraculous cloud still accompanying them, and his confidence arose solely from the hope of a divine interposition, although, perhaps, he might have looked for the expected deliverance in every quarter, rather than in the direction of the sea.
15-18. the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? When in answer to his prayers, he received the divine command to go forward, he no longer doubted by what kind of miracle the salvation of his mighty charge was to be effected.

19. the angel of God–that is, the pillar of cloud. The slow and silent movement of that majestic column through the air, and occupying a position behind them must have excited the astonishment of the Israelites. It was an effectual barrier between them and their pursuers, not only protecting them, but concealing their movements. Thus, the same cloud produced light (a symbol of favor) to the people of God, and darkness (a symbol of wrath) to their enemies.


Exodus is all about God. Exodus is God’s answer to man’s need and God’s supply for man’s sin. It begins immediately with God’s activity and throughout the whole course of the book you see God mightily at work. The book is the picture, therefore, of redemption, of God’s activity to redeem man in his need, in his sin, in his degradation and misery. As such, it is a beautiful picture and contains tremendously instructive lessons to us of what redemption is; that is, what God has done, is doing in our lives, and what he intends to do with us and the steps that he will be taking.
God called Moses, challenged him, and sent him back to Egypt. At first he was reluctant to go. There are wonderful lessons in all of these stories. Here, for example, when God said to Moses, “Moses, I want you to go down and deliver my people.” Moses said to God, “Oh, Lord, I can’t do that; I can’t speak; I am not eloquent; I am not able to talk. I can’t stand before Pharaoh.” God didn’t rebuke Moses for saying that. He wasn’t angry because that was merely Moses’ human inadequacy displaying itself. There is

nothing wrong with that. We were made to be that way. God never holds us guilty for feeling inadequate when he asks us to do something.
God is never concerned when your initial reaction is to draw back. But after he has reminded you that he is with you to do this thing in you and through you and then you draw back, you have insulted God because you have said, “I don’t think you can do it either.”
This is a beautiful reflection of the truth that every Christian discovers. Before he becomes a Christian he is simply an individual struggling to make his way through life. But when he has gone through the experience of the Passover, when he has seen the blood of the Lamb nailed to a cross for him, sprinkled on a cross for him, and has rested in the fact as the people of Israel rested in the symbol of the blood of a lamb sprinkled on the doorposts of their houses on the night of the Passover, and until he has passed through a Red Sea experience, burning his bridges behind him and moving forward onto a Christian stand, having declared himself for God and thus symbolically passing through the waters of the Sea, he will never fully understand that he has now become part of a body, the body of Christ, and that he is joined together in a living unit with all other Christians. This is pictured for us in the book of Exodus.

Works Cited
Cassuto Umberto. A Commentary on the Book of Exodus. Translated
by Israel Abrahams. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1976.

Childs, Brevard S. The Book of Exodus: A Critical Theological
Commentary. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1974.

Cole, Alan. Exodus. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press,

Driver, S. R. The Book of Exodus. Cambridge: At the University
Press, 1911.

Fokkelman, J. P. “Exodus.” In The Literary Guide to the Bible,
pp. 56-65. Edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode.
Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,

Hannah, John D. “Exodus.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An
Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old
Testament, pp. 103-162. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy
B. Zuck. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985.

Jacobs, B. Exodus: The Second Book of the Law. New York: KTAV,

Keil C. F., and Delitzsch F. “The Pentateuch.” In Commentary on
The Old Testament in Ten Volumes. Vol. 1. Reprint (25 vols
in 10). Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982.

Youngblood, Ronald F. Exodus. Everyman’s Bible Commentary.
Chicago: Moody Press, 1983.

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