The Israelites leave Egypt
The plagues are over and the Angel of Death has passed over the land killing all first born Egyptians and the first born livestock. Pharaoh has finally agreed to let the Hebrews leave Egypt. Quickly taking what they could carry including the clothing, gold and silver given to them by their neighboring Egyptians (later used in the tabernacle), they begin leaving Egypt under the leadership of Moses and the pillar of clouds by day and the pillar of fire by night. Those leaving numbered 600,000 fighting men on foot armed for battle besides women and children and others who went with them (Ex 12: 37-38). They also took with them livestock, herds and flocks, dough without yeast and the embalmed body of Joseph as promised by an oath 430 years earlier.
Israelites first traveled from Ramses to Succoth. They did not travel on the road through the Philistine country even though it was a shorter distance to the Promised Land. God knew His people would face war, change their minds and return to Egypt. God led them around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. After leaving Succoth they camped at Ethan on the edge of the desert with the pillar of clouds and the pillar of fire.
God’s Plan of Attack
Exodus 14: 1–4 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ 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.”
God’s plan was for Pharaoh to think the Israelites were confused and in a position for him to annihilate the leaders and retrieve some of these rebellious slaves.
Exodus 14: 5-9 “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!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 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.”
Pharaoh, however, once again underestimated who he was dealing with. The God of the universe and all creation, the God of all things had already displayed His power. Did he not think God would come to their aid once again? God’s plan was to demonstrate to Pharaoh and to the Israelites His supreme power once again. He would save the Israelites in another dramatic way in order for Pharaoh, all his army and all the Egyptians to know that He is God.
Pharaoh and his army catch up within sight of the Israelites and their response was exactly as you would expect. They were terrified and began to complain!
Exodus 14: 10-12 “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 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? 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 is just the beginning of their complaining to Moses. His response to them was one we all need to remember when we face trials. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see.”
Exodus 14: 13-14 “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. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
The Lord spoke to Moses:
Exodus 14: 15-18 “…“Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 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. 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. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
What happens next is nothing but miraculous! God works far above what we expect. Read the next part of the story:
Exodus 14: 19-22 “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. 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, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”
What amazing protection! Angels and the pillar of clouds moved from the front to the back and came between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Imagine this, the cloud caused darkness to the Egyptians and light on the side of Israel. Remembering the large number of people and livestock, It took quite a long time for the entire company of Israelites to move across the Red Sea on dry land!! And yet not one was lost! The wall of water remained up the entire night with light to guide them across. And then the Egyptians decided to try…bad mistake on their part.
Exodus 14: 23-25 “The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 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. 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.”
Did they retreat? Nope, not a chance. Pharaoh remains determined and The Lord is still in control. God’s plan to show His power and proclaim His glory is now revealed.
Exodus 14: 26-28 “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.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 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.”
Exodus 14: 29-31 “But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 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.“
Pharaoh’s army has drowned. No more soldiers pursuing them. Israel was saved by the hand of God. Now is the time of rejoicing!
Exodus 15: 1-21 “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord. They said:
I will sing to the Lord,
for He is highly exalted;
He has thrown the horse
and its rider into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
He has become my salvation.
This is my God, and I will praise Him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
The Lord is a warrior;
Yahweh is His name.
He threw Pharaoh’s chariots
and his army into the sea;
the elite of his officers
were drowned in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.
Lord, Your right hand is glorious in power.
Lord, Your right hand shattered the enemy.
You overthrew Your adversaries
by Your great majesty.
You unleashed Your burning wrath;
it consumed them like stubble.
The waters heaped up at the blast of Your nostrils;
the currents stood firm like a dam.
The watery depths congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said:
“I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil.
My desire will be gratified at their expense.
I will draw my sword;
my hand will destroy them.”
But You blew with Your breath,
and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.
Lord, who is like You among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
revered with praises, performing wonders?
You stretched out Your right hand,
and the earth swallowed them.
You will lead the people
You have redeemed
with Your faithful love;
You will guide them to Your holy dwelling
with Your strength.
When the peoples hear, they will shudder;
anguish will seize the inhabitants of Philistia.
Then the chiefs of Edom will be terrified;
trembling will seize the leaders of Moab;
the inhabitants of Canaan will panic;
and terror and dread will fall on them.
They will be as still as a stone
because of Your powerful arm
until Your people pass by, Lord,
until the people whom You purchased pass by.
You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of Your possession;
Lord, You have prepared the place
for Your dwelling;
Lord, Your hands have established the sanctuary.
The Lord will reign forever and ever!
When Pharaoh’s horses with his chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them. But the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.
Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with their tambourines and danced.
Miriam sang to them:
Sing to the Lord,
for He is highly exalted;
He has thrown the horse
and its rider into the sea.”
Listen to the Jewish version of this song.
Or maybe you prefer the English version of this song.
After the miraculous parting of the Red Sea and the rejoicing and praise to God for their deliverance, God’s people begin their journey toward the Promised Land. This journey that should have taken about forty days ends up taking forty years because of their unbelief, lack of faith and their failure to obey God’s laws. Isn’t it the same with us? We see God’s mighty hand working in our life but for some reason we forget and focus on what we lack. Such is the case with the Israelites just a little way from their Red Sea experience-just three days later to be exact. When life became hard these people started to grumble and complain. Sound familiar?
Exodus 15: 22-27 “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink. There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.”
And God still provides!
The following questions are for individual reflection or small group discussion
1. What oath was given concerning Joseph? Why did Joseph make them swear an oath? How long did it take to fulfill this oath?
2. After the death of Pharaoh’s first born son, why did Pharaoh change his mind about Israel leaving Egypt and pursue them?
3. What items did the Israelites take with them on the journey from Egypt to the promised land?
4. What was the purpose of bringing the Israelites back to Pi Hahiroth to camp by the Red Sea?
5. Why didn’t God just take them the closest route to the Promised Land instead of into the desert? Why does He sometimes us the hardest way to teach you what He has for you?
6. What were the conditions God place on His people in Exodus 15: 25-26 in a decree and law He gave at Marah?
7. What was God’s purpose for bringing Israel to the Red Sea?
Where did the crossing of the Red Sea take place? There are many theories about this and many differences of opinion. Does it really matter? Taking God’s miracles on faith is required but it’s also nice to see archeological discoveries emerging that prove Biblical events. If you are interested in investigation this question, there are many websites and YouTube videos available to search. Included below are a few links to get you started. Other info may be found by Googling: “Crossing of the Red Sea” or “the Exodus”.