Exodus 14:1-12 -
Crossing the Red Sea, pt. 1,
by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
“Speak unto the children of Israel, that
they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over
against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.
For Pharaoh will say of
the children of Israel, ‘They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut
And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and
I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may
know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.
And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh
and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, “Why have we
done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?”
And he made ready his
chariot, and took his people with him:
And he took six hundred chosen chariots,
and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.
And the Lord
hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children
of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his
horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside
Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.
And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and,
behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the
children of Israel cried out unto the Lord.
And they said unto Moses, “Because
there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?
wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
Is not this
the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve
the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we
should die in the wilderness.”
In this lesson we are to have for our consideration one of the most remarkable
miracles recorded in the O.T., certainly the most remarkable in connection with the
history of Israel. From this point onwards, whenever the servants of God would
remind the people of the Lord’s power and greatness, reference is almost always
made to what He wrought for them at the Red Sea. Eight hundred years afterwards
the Lord says through Isaiah, “I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose
waves roared; the Lord of hosts in His name” (Isaiah 51:15). Nahum announced,
“The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are
the dust of His feet. He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry” (Nahum 1:3, 4).
When the Lord renewed His promise to Israel, He takes them back to this time and
says, “According to the days of thy coming out of the Land of Egypt will I show
unto him marvelous things” (Micah 7:15 and cf. Joshua 24:6, 7: Nehemiah 9:9;
Psalm 106:7, 8; Jeremiah 31:35, etc.). It was this notable event which made such a
great impression upon the enemies of the Lord: “For we have heard how the Lord
dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what
ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan,
Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed, and as soon as we have heard these
things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any
man because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above, and in
earth beneath” (Joshua 2:10, 11).
The miracle of the Red Sea occupies a similar place in the O.T. scriptures as the
resurrection of the Lord Jesus does in the New; it is appealed to as a standard of
measurement, as the supreme demonstration of God’s power (cf. Ephesians 1:19,
etc.). Little wonder, then, that each generation of infidels has directed special
attacks against this miracle. But to the Christian, miracles occasion no difficulty. The
great difference between faith and unbelief is that one brings in God, the other
shuts Him out. With God all things are possible. Bring in God and supernatural
displays of power are to be expected.
Before we consider the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea, we must first give a
brief notice to what preceded it. Exodus 14 opens by telling us, “And the Lord
spake unto Moses, saying, ‘Speak unto the children of Israel that they turn and
encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-
zephon; before it shall ye encamp by the sea’” (vv. 1, 2). In this word God
commanded Israel to turn off from the route they were following, and encamp
before the Red Sea. Many attempts have been made to ascertain the precise
location, but after such a lapse of time and the changes incident upon the passing of
the centuries it seems a futile effort. The third verse tells us all that it is necessary
for us to know, and the information it supplies is far more accurate and reliable
than any human geographies Israel were “shut in by the wilderness,” and the Red
Sea stretched before them. Thus Israel were so placed that there was no human way
of escape. In the mountain fastnesses they might have had a chance; but
surrounded by the wilderness, it was useless to flee before the cavalry and chariots
“Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth,
between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon; before it shall ye encamp
by the sea” (14:2). Here, as everywhere in Scripture, these names are full of
meaning. They are in striking accord with what follows. “Pi-hahiroth” is rendered
by Ritchie “Place of Liberty.” Such indeed it proved to be, for it was here that Israel
were finally delivered from those who had long held them in cruel bondage.
“Migdol” signifies “a tower” or “fortress.” Such did Jehovah demonstrate Himself
to be unto His helpless and attacked people. Newberry gives “Lord of the North” as
the meaning of “Baal-zephon,” and in scripture the “north” is frequently associated
with judgment (cf. Joshua 8:11, 13; Isaiah 14:31; Jeremiah 1:14, 4:6; 6:1 Ezekiel 1:4,
etc.). It was as the Lord of Judgment that Jehovah was here seen at the Red Sea.
“For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are entangled in the land,
the wilderness hath shut them in’” (14:3). How this brings out the inveteracy of
unbelief! How it demonstrates the folly of human reasoning! Granting that Israel
were “entangled in the land,” that they were “shut in” by the wilderness, that they
were trapped before the Red Sea, did Pharaoh suppose that they would fall easy
victims before his onslaught? What of Israel’s God? Had He not already shown
Himself strong on their behalf? Had He not already shown Egypt that those who
persecuted His covenant people “touched the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8)!
What a fool man is? How he disregards every warning? How determined he is to
destroy himself? So it was here with Pharaoh and his army. Notwithstanding the
ten plagues which had swept his land, he now marches out against Jehovah’s
redeemed to consume them in the wilderness.
“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be
honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his hosts; that the Egyptians may know that
I am the Lord. And they did so” (14:4). Here was God’s reason for commanding
Israel to “encamp by the sea.” “Terrible as Egypt’s chastisements had been,
something more was still needed to humble her proud king and his arrogant
subjects under the felt hand of God, and to remove from Israel all further fear of
molestation. There was one part of Egypt’s strength, their chief glory, which had so
far escaped. Their triumphant army had not been touched. Moses is told that, when
Pharaoh’s spies carried the tidings to him that the Israelites had gone down by the
Egyptian shore, it would seem to the king that his hour for vengeance had come. A
force advancing rapidly upon the rear of the Israelites would block their only way
of escape, and so the helpless multitude would be at his mercy” (Urquhart).
“And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled; and the heart of Pharaoh
and of his servants was turned against the people, and then said, ‘Why have we
done this, that we have left Israel go from serving us?’ And he made ready his
chariot, and took his people with him; and he took six hundred chosen chariots,
and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the Lord
hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children
of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with an high hand. But the
Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh and his
horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pi-
hahiroth, before Baal-Zephon” (vv. 5-9). All happened as God had foretold.
Pharaoh and his courtiers became suddenly alive to their folly in having permitted
Israel to go, and now a splendid opportunity seems to be afforded them to retrieve
their error. The army is summoned in hot haste, Pharaoh and his nobles arm and
mount their chariots. The famous cavalry of Egypt sally forth with all their glory.
Not only the king, but his servants also, the very ones who had entreated him to let
Israel go (10:7), are urgent that Israel should be pursued and captured. The
judgments of God being no more upon their land, and recollecting the great service
the Hebrews had rendered them, the advantages of having them for slaves, and the
loss sustained by parting with them, they are now anxious to recover them as
speedily as possible.
“And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes and
behold the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid; and the
children of Israel cried out unto the Lord. And they said unto Moses, ‘Because
there were no graves in Egypt hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?
Wherefore hast thou dealt with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the
word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone, that we may serve the
Egyptians?” For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we
should die in the wilderness’” (vv. 10-12). This was a sore trial of faith, and sadly
did Israel fail in the hour of testing. Alas! that this should so often be the case with
us. After all God had done on their behalf in Egypt, they surely had good reason to
trust in Him now. After such wondrous displays of Divine power, and after their
own gracious deliverance from the Angel of Death, their present fear and despair
were inexcusable. But how like ourselves! Our memories are so short. No matter
how many times the Lord has delivered us in the past, no matter how signally His
power has been exerted on our behalf, when some new trial comes upon us we
forget God’s previous interventions, and are swallowed up by the greatness of our
“And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and,
behold, the Egyptians marched after them” (v. 10). Their eyes were upon the
Egyptians, and in consequence they were “sore afraid.” It is always thus. The only
cure for fear is for the eye to remain steadfastly fixed on the Lord. To be occupied
with our circumstances and surroundings is fatal to our peace. It was so in the case
of Peter as he started to walk on the waters to Christ. While he kept his gaze upon
the Lord he was safe; but as soon as he became occupied with the winds and the
waves, he began to sink.
“And they were sore afraid; and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord” (v.
10). Had they prayed unto God in this their distress for help and assistance,
protection and preservation, with a holy yet humble confidence in Him, their crying
had been right and laudable; but it is clear from the next two verses that theirs was
the cry of complaint and despair, rather than of faith and hope. It closely resembles
the attitude and action of the disciples in the storm-tossed ship as they awoke the
Master and said, “Carest Thou not that we perish?” How solemn it is to see that
such unbelief, such despair, such murmuring, can proceed from the people of God!
How the realization that we have the same evil hearts within us should humble us
“And they said unto Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou
taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us to
carry us out of Egypt?’” (v. 11). How absurd are the reasonings of unbelief! If death
at the hands of the Egyptians was to be their lot, why had Jehovah delivered them
from the land of bondage? The fact that He had led them out of Egypt was evidence
enough that He was not going to allow them to fall before their enemies. Besides,
the Lord had promised they should worship Him in Mount Horeb (3:12). How,
then, could they now perish in the wilderness? But where faith is not in exercise,
the promises of God bring no comfort and afford no stay to the heart.
Israel had been brought into their present predicament by God Himself. It was the
Pillar of Cloud which had led them to where they were now encamped. Important
truth for us to lay hold of. We must not expect the path of faith to be an easy and
smooth one. Faith must be tested, tested severely. But, why? That we may learn the
sufficiency of our God! That we may prove from experience that He is able to supply
our every need (Philippians 4:19), make a way of escape from every temptation (1
Corinthians 10:13), and do for us exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or
Originally published in “Gleanings in Exodus”, in the publication Studies in the
© 1994-2017, Scott Sperling