Exodus 14

Exodus 14

Crossing the Red Sea

14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so.

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the LORD threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not 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.

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.


Exodus 14 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Like the Canaanites, ancient Israel thought of the sea as an uncontrollable beast. At creation the Lord hovered over the waters of chaos. At the flood, the raging waters engulfed the sinful generation that rebelled against Him and there was no escape from its grasp. Many times in Scripture, the authors used water and specifically the sea to symbolize this unpredictable, untamable, all-powerful force that no man could grapple with and survive.

The Hebrew authors personified the sea as if it was a living breathing creature with a will of its own, showing no mercy and bowing to no one except the Lord.

The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.  4  Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!  5  Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.

Psalms 93:3-5 ESV

The Leviathan

In the same way that we personify evil as mass murders, serial crimes and human trafficking, to the Israelites, evil was directly tied to the sea.  In fact, in the book of Job, we read about the most feared creature within the sea, the leviathan. The entire chapter of Job 41 focuses on describing this sea creature. We don’t know if it was a general description of a terrifying sea creature or if it was a specific one such as a giant alligator or even a prehistoric animal. But here is a summary of that chapter…

The leviathan cannot be tied down or tamed (Job 41:1, 5); it is frightening to even look at (verse 9); it is best left alone (verses 8, 10). The leviathan has a graceful form (verse 12) but is incredibly well protected with scales (verses 13, 15–17). Its chest is as impenetrable as its back (verses 15, 24). It has fearsome teeth (verse 14), and death awaits anyone who approaches its mouth (verses 18–21). Even mighty men are terrified of the leviathan (verse 25).

No sword, spear, dart, javelin, arrow, stone, club, or lance can defeat it (verses 26, 28–29). It cannot be caged, because it breaks iron like straw (verse 27). On land, the leviathan leaves a trail of ruts; in the water, it produces a deep, churning wake (verses 30–32). God’s description of the leviathan concludes with a statement that it is the true king of the beasts: “Nothing on earth is its equal—a creature without fear” (verse 33).

But, the point God makes in Job 41 is that even the Leviathan (the most fearsome and evil creature within the most fearsome and evil element of nature) is absolutely under God’s sovereign authority.

Through The Waters

When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.  17  The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side.  18  The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.  19  Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.  20  You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Psalms 77:16-20 ESV

After the firstborn sons are taken from the Egyptians, finally, Pharaoh agrees to let them go. But, as many of us know, just as the Israelites are at the beginning stages of their journey to freedom, Pharaoh changes his mind and begins to pursue the Israelites. Fear sweeps over the people. God has led them to the edge of the Red Sea but the Egyptian army is bearing down on them.

They are trapped. They find themselves in an impossible situation. Sandwiched between the most fearsome force of nature, the untamed sea, and the bondage of their past under the Egyptians, it is Moses who speaks such timely and powerful words bringing clarity and truth to his people.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  14  The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Exodus 14:13-14 ESV

Consider, the Israelites traveled through the Red Sea all night in the chaos of the storm, but they arrived on the other side different than how they entered.

Consider, this was not a 30 minute or hour-long walk. This lighting of the path which God provided, according to Scripture, was an all-night journey. When we take into account the width of the Red Sea, and simply do the math, the journey itself was most likely a minimum of 3 hours and a maximum of 12.

Additionally, God brought darkness to the enemy but light to His people. He brought a strong east wind which hurled the waters up on each side of their path. But also consider the paradox. It was chaotic peace. It was unpredictable certainty. It was unfathomable assurance. Just as He hovered over the chaos during Creation, His divine power and presence were tangible within the pandemonium of Israel’s greatest fears!

In God, the crashing thunder, the flashing arrows of lightning, the trembling earth, and the torrential whirlwind all become a beautiful and orderly symphony of praise that glorifies the Maker of all Creation and lights up the path to redemption. When life feels chaotic and that’s all we can see, His Mighty Hand holds firm control of the Universe, but He still asks us to walk forward and trust Him despite.

God took Israel through their greatest fear. He did not take them around or over, but through the waters, through the darkness of night, and through the chaos. In the same way, we too toss and turn and wrestle with God through the night trying to discern where He is leading and what He is doing, but in the end, for those who persevere by faith, transformation and redemption is always His final work!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments