Exodus 14

It would probably be best if you could read the whole chapter before starting this study. Share it among the group if you have good readers. (Possibly split into verses 1-9, 10-18, 19-25, 26-31).

We covered the first section at the end of the last study, but it is worth looking at it again.

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to camp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3 Pharaoh will think, “The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.” 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.’ So the Israelites did this.

Did what (v2)? Turned back and camped by the sea

Why (v4)? To bring Glory to God

Why was that so important?  This was not only for the Egyptians. Everyone needs to know the sort of God we are dealing with. He is still a God who must be worshipped and obeyed. Still the greatest sin is to refuse to give God the glory he is due.

5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, ‘What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!’ 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians – all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops – pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.

The people had fled Egypt in the middle of the night. Chapter 13:18 tells us ‘God led the people around by the desert road towards the Red Sea.’ Chapter 14:2 tells us they now camped ‘between Migdol and the sea.’ We are not told if this was the first night’s camp – it may have taken a few days to get there.

When we try to work out where this was it is impossible: Migdol means ‘fort’ and it is thought that there were many border forts in that area. I’m afraid that where Migdol is shown on a Bible Map it is simply an artist’s guess.

Red Sea is ‘Sea of Reeds’ in Hebrew and some people suggest it could have applied to several lakes or stretches of water that were thought to have been present in the area at that time. But it is most likely to be actually the Red Sea.

When the Lord described the way in which he was going to bring the Israelites into Canaan (Exodus 23:31), the major physical boundaries he used were ‘from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River.’ Again, ‘Red Sea’ is ‘Sea of Reeds’ in Hebrew.

This sea has two gulfs at its head: the one to the west is today known as the Gulf of Suez and is most likely to be where the Israelites crossed. The Gulf to the east, known today as the Gulf of Elath was where Solomon built a fleet of ships (1 Kings 9:26) and is also called by the same name ‘Red Sea’ (Hebrew: ‘Sea of Reeds’).

(Be aware that there are plausible web sites describing the site of the crossing, together with ‘finds’, but they have not been attested by any serious archaeological studies!)

What we do know from the narrative was that the water was large enough to have been referred to as the sea, several miles across, and deep enough to drown the whole Egyptian army. Not just a reed bed as some might suggest!

The Israelites were happy now. They had no Idea of God’s plan, nor that Pharaoh and his army were fast approaching. I imagine that they settled their animals, erected their tents, and got the children to bed. Perhaps they looked forward to a pleasant evening by the sea.

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, “Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians”? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’

This wasn’t part of their plan. They knew they were trapped between the sea and the desert with no escape. They also guessed that by now Pharaoh would be happy to see them dead.

Each tribe would have had leaders, spokesmen who would have voiced their concerns to Moses – backed by two million terrified people.

13 Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’

That’s a good verse (v14) to remember.

What faith in God Moses demonstrated. (But there is nothing wrong if, at the same time we have to demonstrate faith, we are also desperately praying that the Lord will show us his next step!)

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 

God would save his people – but Moses had to do two things first.

What were they, and why?

He had to tell the Israelites to move on (A logistical nightmare with people who were tired, and who thought they were settled for the night).

And he had to stretch his staff out over the sea. God needed to re-enforce in the minds of the people that Moses was truly his chosen leader, and that the people must obey him. Stretching out his staff was simply a ‘visual aid’, but proof that Moses also was obedient.

For his part, God would also act against the Egyptian threat:

17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.’

God was not being vindictive. This was simply what must be expected by those who continually deny God the glory due to him.

19 Then the angel of God, who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other; so neither went near the other all night long.

Another totally unexpected miracle. Maybe the people had already become accustomed to the miracle of the cloud and pillar of fire leading them! But who would have thought that God could simply move it in order to plunge the Egyptians into thick fog? But more than that, ‘the angel of God, who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them’. God also provided angelic ‘back-up’ to ensure his people were safe!

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

Could someone describe the scene in verse 22 (Remember it was during the night (v24)?

All that night, the Israelites hurried to escape. It seems that the pillar of fire led them, while the cloud remained on the Egyptians. Once they were safe, it seems that the cloud followed the Israelites into the sea. Just before dawn it would have appeared to the Egyptians that the fog was lifting, revealing the fact that the Israelites had escaped.

There was plenty of evidence showing which way they had travelled, so:

23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, ‘Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.’

Have you ever tried to pull a buggy with a child in it across a sandy beach? But we are told here that the Lord jammed the wheels! The word ‘jammed’ in the Hebrew is obviously difficult to translate (it only appears once in the Bible) – other versions have ‘twisted’, ‘clogged’, ‘caused them to swerve’, to ‘wobble’, even ‘took them off’ – but we get the picture!

At this point the Israelites, followed by the Egyptians were still in the sea. There is no indication that the Israelites had yet reached the other shore.

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.’ 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing towards it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen – the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

That must have been a truly terrifying sight as the walls of water either side collapsed, engulfing the Egyptian army. (Putting your trust in Egyptian chariots and horsemen was a theme picked up in Isaiah 31:1-3, reinforcing the fact that the things of men are powerless when pitted against Almighty God)

29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Look at the last part of verse 31: ‘the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.’ What a shame that it was not to last! But for now we must allow the Israelites a victory song:

Exodus 15

Read verses 1-18

1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:

‘I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.

2 ‘The Lord is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.
4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.
5 The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.
6 Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy.

7 ‘In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.
8 By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
9 The enemy boasted, “I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.”
10 But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
11 Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

12 ‘You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies.

13 In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
14 The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,

the people of Canaan will melt away; 16 terror and dread will fall on them.
By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone –
until your people pass by, Lord, until the people you bought pass by.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance –
the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.

18 ‘The Lord reigns for ever and ever.’

We will leave this study here. How confident the people were now.

Moses could prophesy about the future: read again verses 13-17 but pause briefly after each phrase

And the people’s praise to the Lord was heartfelt:

Verse 2 ‘The Lord is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

Verse 11: Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

And verse 18: ‘The Lord reigns for ever and ever.’


Exodus 13Exodus 15

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Exodus 14:1-31, 15:1-18 Crossing the Red Sea