MDB 43: Exodus 14

Iain D Campbell

Suddenly Pharoah awakens to the realisation of what has happened - Israel has left Egypt! How could they have allowed this to happen? Pharaoh marshalls his troops and pursues after Israel with hardened heart in order to prevent them escaping.

This chapter juxtaposes God's sovereign judgement on Pharaoh  ('I will harden Pharaoh's heart - 14:4) with Pharaoh's own wilful rebellion. For God's people, however, the danger soon becomes apparent, as they find themselves trapped between Pharaoh's armies and the Red Sea.

The Israelites are quick to cry out to Moses, and even against Moses. Has he led them out of Egypt only to have them perish in the wilderness? Would it not have been better for them simply to perish where they were, than fill them with false hopes which would be dashed so quickly?

Moses knows, however, that the people need to be reminded of the all-powerful nature of the God who keeps his promises. There are times for moving, and there are times for standing still. Even although the best forces of Pharaoh's army are closing in on them from behind, Moses tells them that this is a time to 'stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord' (14:13), a time to realise that God would fight for them (14:15).

Once again the word of Moses is authenticated with a display of awesome, divine power, as he raises his staff over the waters of the river, in response to the command of God. The people witness the diverging of the waters, as God makes a path through the sea which will allow his people to cross over. This is a second 'passover' experience, as they traverse the wide river, with God's presence standing 'between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel' (14:20), hiding his people and protecting them from their enemies.

Not only does Israel manage to cross on dry ground, but the Egyptians, who drive their chariots along the dry path through the Red Sea, suddenly find themselves submerged beneath the waves of the sea as God brings the wall of water crashing back down into its course. As the sun rises, the Egyptians have either perished or returned. The problem has been taken away. God has made good on his promise.

Throughout the narrative, the reason for this display of power is evident. 'I will get glory over Pharaoh', says God in 14:4, 17 and 18. The greater glory belongs to Jehovah, who fights on behalf of his people. In turn, they have become witnesses of his power, which in turn has confirmed their faith in God and their trust in his spokesmen, Moses and Aaron (14:31). They have learned more of God in this time of danger than in other times of safety.