Pharaoh pursues Israel. — V.1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v.2. Speak unto the children of Israel that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon; before it ye shall encamp by the sea. Instead of proceeding on their journey into the desert, the children of Israel were to turn back, toward the west, and pitch their tents over against Hahiroth and Baalzephon, on the west side of an arm of the Red Sea. V.3. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, their turning back from Etham might seem like an act of bewilderment, of uncertainty, causing them to march back and forth without definite object; the wilderness hath shut them in; there was no road toward Canaan on the west side of the Gulf of Suez, and so the children of Israel would be held fast in the desert. V.4. 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. This was the final hardening which the Lord wanted to inflict upon Pharaoh, and it would result in bringing honor and glory to the Lord as the one true, just, and mighty God. And they, the children of Israel, did so; they encamped at a place where they were apparently shut in as in a prison, a fact which caused Pharaoh to plan their capture and return to their former slavery in Egypt. V.5. And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled, the report of all the events that transpired was brought to him; 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? What foolishness possessed us that we let these excellent workmen go? The apparent aimlessness of the journeying may have caused Pharaoh to believe that the Lord had withdrawn His hand from the people, and that he would have no difficulty in recapturing them. V.6. And he made ready his chariot, he had his servants hitch the horses to his own chariot, and took his people, his army, with him, all the soldiers that were available upon short notice. v.7. And he took six hundred chosen chariots, the pick of his supply, the flower of his army, and all the chariots of Egypt, whatever other wagons were available, and captains over everyone of them, all the necessary officers. V.8. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel, he was blinded in his foolishness by the apparent helplessness of his former slaves. And the children of Israel went out with an high hand. It was not a case of secret flight with them, but of a bold departure in the sight of all the Egyptians. V.9. 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 Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon. The detailed enumeration of Pharaoh’s host serves to emphasize the greatness of his destruction. It is thus that obdurate sinners deliberately close their eyes against the manifest works of God and force God, as it were, to execute justice and judgment upon them.
The great fear of the Israelites. — V.10. 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. As the attention of the Israelites was drawn to the pursuing host, they realized the desperate situation in which they found themselves: on the east of them, the sea; on the south, the mountains; on the northwest, the army of Pharaoh. Moreover, they lacked both the weapons and the courage for a successful stand against the armies of the tyrant. It was not a confident prayer which they sent up in this emergency, but a cry of terror. V.11. 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? This was a mixture of bitter irony and unreasoning terror; for Egypt was rich in great sepulchers and monuments. They also forgot that they had received the revelations of Moses with grateful hearts and had willingly followed his directions. V.12. Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? That had happened in only one case, chap. 5, 21, whereas the Israelites had otherwise been eager to accept the advice of Moses. For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness. These were unjust reproaches and foreshadowed the subsequent behavior of the children of Israel in the wilderness. V.13. And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salva tion of the Lord which He will show to you today; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today ye shall see them again no more forever. This heroic confidence of Moses stands out all the more splendidly by contrast with the cringing fear of the people, as the Lord had not revealed to him the form which His deliverance would take. V.14. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace, Moses knew that the deliverance which the Lord would bring about would be of a nature to make the Israelites hush all their laments; they would, in fact, stand by in idle astonishment while the Lord glorified Himself before them. V.15. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto Me? Although Moses was outwardly silent, his heart was praying to the Lord with anxious cries. Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward; they were to march straight ahead. V.16. But lift thou up thy rod, the same shepherd’s staff that had figured so largely in Egypt, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it. He was not merely to cause an unusually low ebb-tide, together with a strong wind to hold the water back, but he was to separate, to cut apart, the waters of the sea, the purpose of the wind afterward being merely to assist in drying off the bottom of the sea. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. V.17. And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them, in blind obstinacy, And I will get Me honor upon Pharaoh and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. God’s judgment upon Pharaoh was to redound to the everlasting honor of His name. V.18. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord when I have gotten Me honor upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. Thus the Lord strengthens those that believe in Him in the hour of danger and tribulation by giving them the assurance that He Himself will battle for them and deliver them from all their enemies.
The Israelites delivered, the Egyptians destroyed. — V.19. And the Angel of God, Jehovah, the Son of God, chap. 13, 21, which went before the camp of Israel, who led their armies, removed and went behind them. And the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them; v.20. and it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them (the Egyptians), but it gave light by night to these, the children of Israel; in its protecting capacity the cloud revealed a double character, an effectual barrier of impenetrable darkness to the enemies, a cheering and comforting light to the believers, so that the one came not near the other all the night. V.21. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. As the waters of the sea, by the miraculous power of God, were separated from each other, the strong east wind from the desert caused the moisture at the bottom to evaporate, thus making the ground dry under foot and enabling the children of Israel to march forward without difficulty. V.22. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left. It is distinctly stated that the water stood on either side, not only on the south; neither did the waters merely recede in an unusually low ebb, for they stood like walls. Thus the angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him and delivers them. V.23. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen, their obstinacy making them blind toward all the dangers about them. V.24. And it came to pass that in the morning watch, between three o’clock in the morning and sunrise, the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, by some unusual manifestation the Lord struck terror to the hearts of the Egyptians, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, v.25. and took off their chariot wheels, that they slipped from their axles, that they drave them heavily, with difficulty; so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians. Now at last, when it was too late, they realized the true state of affairs. V.26. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen, upon the entire host which by this time was in the bed of the sea. V.27. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength, to its usual full level everywhere, when the morning appeared, before the face of the morning, as dawn gave way to light; and the Egyptians fled against it. They had turned back to flee to the west side of the sea and were met by the waters as they were flowing together from both sides. And the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea, He literally shook them out in utter disorder and confusion, driving them right into the face of their destruction. V.28. And the waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. Cp. Ps. 136, 15. V.29. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left. This statement is repeated in order to emphasize the greatness of the miracle which the Lord performed, and to set forth the climax of the punishment which had begun with the slaughtering of the first-born in Egypt. V.30. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore. Thus the Lord delivered His people, not only from the slavery of Egypt, but also from their entire host, which intended to recapture them. V.31. And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians, they had concrete evidence before them of the manner in which God carried out His judgment upon the Egyptians; and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses. The weak faith of the Israelites was strengthened in a miraculous manner, Heb. 11, 29, and they now, in consequence of the miracle, again placed full trust and confidence in the words of Moses, as the representative of God, the final praise and glory thus being the Lord’s. Whereas death, destruction, judgment, condemnation is the lot of hardened sinners, of the enemies of the Church, the believers will be kept safe unto life everlasting.