Exodus 14

CHAPTER XIV

The Israelites are commanded to encamp before Pi-hahiroth,

1, 2.

God predicts the pursuit of Pharaoh, 3, 4.

Pharaoh is informed that the Israelites are fled, and regrets

that he suffered them to depart, 5.

He musters his troops and pursues them, 6-8.

Overtakes them in their encampment by the Red Sea, 9.

The Israelites are terrified at his approach, 10.

They murmur against Moses for leading them out, 11, 12.

Moses encourages them, and assures them of deliverance, 13, 14.

God commands the Israelites to advance, and Moses to stretch

out his rod over the sea that it might be divided, 15, 16;

and promises utterly to discomfit the Egyptians, 17, 18.

The angel of God places himself between the Israelites and the

Egyptians, 19.

The pillar of the cloud becomes darkness to the Egyptians,

while it gives light to the Israelites, 20.

Moses stretches out his rod, and a strong east wind blows, and

the waters are divided, 21.

The Israelites enter and walk on dry ground, 22.

The Egyptians enter also in pursuit of the Israelites, 23.

The Lord looks out of the pillar of cloud on the Egyptians,

terrifies them, and disjoints their chariots, 24, 25.

Moses is commanded to stretch forth his rod over the waters, that

they may return to their former bed, 26.

He does so, and the whole Egyptian army is overwhelmed, 27, 28,

while every Israelite escapes, 29.

Being thus saved from the hand of their adversaries, they acknowledge

the power of God, and credit the mission of Moses, 30, 31.

NOTES ON CHAP. XIV

Verse 2. Encamp before Pi-hahiroth] pi hachiroth,

the mouth, strait, or bay of Chiroth. Between Migdol,

migdol, the tower, probably a fortress that served to defend the

bay. Over against Baal-zephon, baal tsephon, the lord

or master of the watch, probably an idol temple, where a continual

guard, watch, or light was kept up for the defence of one part of

the haven, or as a guide to ships. Dr. Shaw thinks that chiroth

may denote the valley which extended itself from the wilderness of

Etham to the Red Sea, and that the part in which the Israelites

encamped was called Pi-hachiroth, i.e., the mouth or bay of

Chiroth. See his Travels, p. 310, and his account at the end of

Exodus.

Verse 3. They are entangled in the land] God himself brought

them into straits from which no human power or art could extricate

them. Consider their situation when once brought out of the open

country, where alone they had room either to fight or fly. Now

they had the Red Sea before them, Pharaoh and his host behind

them, and on their right and left hand fortresses of the Egyptians

to prevent their escape; nor had they one boat or transport

prepared for their passage! If they be now saved, the arm of the

Lord must be seen, and the vanity and nullity of the Egyptian

idols be demonstrated. By bringing them into such a situation he

took from them all hope of human help, and gave their adversaries

every advantage against them, so that they themselves said, They

are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.

Verse 4. I will harden Pharaoh's heart] After relenting and

giving them permission to depart, he now changes his mind and

determines to prevent them; and without any farther restraining

grace, God permits him to rush on to his final ruin, for the cup

of his iniquity was now full.

Verse 5. And it was told the king-that the people fled] Of

their departure he could not be ignorant, because himself had

given them liberty to depart: but the word fled here may be

understood as implying that they had utterly left Egypt without

any intention to return, which is probably what he did not expect,

for he had only given them permission to go three days' journey

into the wilderness, in order to sacrifice to Jehovah; but from

the circumstances of their departure, and the property they had

got from the Egyptians, it was taken for granted that they had no

design to return; and this was in all likelihood the consideration

that weighed most with this avaricious king, and determined him to

pursue, and either recover the spoil or bring them back, or both.

Thus the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the

people, and they said, Why have we let Israel go from serving us?

Here was the grand incentive to pursuit; their service was

profitable to the state, and they were determined not to give it

up.

Verse 7. Six hundred chosen chariots, &c.] According to the most

authentic accounts we have of war-chariots, they were frequently

drawn by two or by four horses, and carried three persons: one was

charioteer, whose business it was to guide the horses, but he

seldom fought; the second chiefly defended the charioteer; and the

third alone was properly the combatant. It appears that in this

case Pharaoh had collected all the cavalry of Egypt; (see

Ex 14:17;) and though these might not have been very numerous,

yet, humanly speaking, they might easily overcome the unarmed and

encumbered Israelites, who could not be supposed to be able to

make any resistance against cavalry and war-chariots.

Verse 10. The children of Israel cried out unto the Lord.] Had

their prayer been accompanied with faith, we should not have found

them in the next verses murmuring against Moses, or rather against

the Lord, through whose goodness they were now brought from under

that bondage from which they had often cried for deliverance.

Calmet thinks that the most pious and judicious cried unto God,

while the unthinking and irreligious murmured against Moses.

Verse 13. Moses said-Fear ye not] This exhortation was not

given to excite them to resist, for of that there was no hope;

they were unarmed, they had no courage, and their minds were

deplorably degraded.

Stand still] Ye shall not be even workers together with God;

only be quiet, and do not render yourselves wretched by your fears

and your confusion.

See the salvation of the Lord] Behold the deliverance which God

will work, independently of all human help and means.

Ye shall see them again no more] Here was strong faith, but

this was accompanied by the spirit of prophecy. God showed Moses

what he would do, he believed, and therefore he spoke in the

encouraging manner related above.

Verse 14. The Lord shall fight for you] Ye shall have no part

in the honour of the day; God alone shall bring you off, and

defeat your foes.

Ye shall hold your peace.] Your unbelieving fears and clamours

shall be confounded, and ye shall see that by might none shall be

able to prevail against the Lord, and that the feeblest shall take

the prey when the power of Jehovah is exerted.

Verse 15. Wherefore criest thou unto me?] We hear not one word

of Moses' praying, and yet here the Lord asks him why he cries

unto him? From which we may learn that the heart of Moses was

deeply engaged with God, though it is probable he did not

articulate one word; but the language of sighs, tears, and

desires is equally intelligible to God with that of words. This

consideration should be a strong encouragement to every feeble,

discouraged mind: Thou canst not pray, but thou canst weep; if

even tears are denied thee, (for there may be deep and genuine

repentance, where the distress is so great as to stop up those

channels of relief,) then thou canst sigh; and God, whose Spirit

has thus convinced thee of sin, righteousness, and judgment, knows

thy unutterable groanings, and reads the inexpressible wish of thy

burdened soul, a wish of which himself is the author, and which he

has breathed into thy heart with the purpose to satisfy it.

Verse 16. Lift thou up thy rod] Neither Moses nor his rod could

be any effective instrument in a work which could be accomplished

only by the omnipotence of God; but it was necessary that he

should appear in it, in order that he might have credit in the

sight of the Israelites, and that they might see that God had

chosen him to be the instrument of their deliverance.

Verse 18. Shall know that I am the Lord] Pharaoh had just

recovered from the consternation and confusion with which the late

plagues had overwhelmed him, and now he is emboldened to pursue

after Israel; and God is determined to make his overthrow so

signal by such an exertion of omnipotence, that he shall get

himself honour by this miraculous act, and that the Egyptians

shall know, i.e., acknowledge, that he is Jehovah, the omnipotent,

self-existing, eternal God.

Verse 19. The angel of God] It has been thought by some that

the angel, i.e., messenger, of the Lord, and the pillar of cloud,

mean here the same thing. An angel might assume the appearance of

a cloud; and even a material cloud thus particularly appointed

might be called an angel or messenger of the Lord, for such is the

literal import of the word malach, an angel. It is however

most probable that the Angel of the covenant, the Lord Jesus,

appeared on this occasion in behalf of the people; for as this

deliverance was to be an illustrious type of the deliverance of

man from the power and guilt of sin by his incarnation and death,

it might have been deemed necessary, in the judgment of Divine

wisdom, that he should appear chief agent in this most important

and momentous crisis. On the word angel, and Angel of the

covenant,

See Clarke on Ge 16:7; "Ge 18:13"; and "Ex 3:2".

Verse 20. It was a cloud and darkness to them, &c.] That the

Israelites might not be dismayed at the appearance of their

enemies, and that these might not be able to discern the object of

their pursuit, the pillar of cloud moved from the front to the

rear of the Israelitish camp, so as perfectly to separate between

them and the Egyptians. It appears also that this cloud had two

sides, one dark and the other luminous: the luminous side gave

light to the whole camp of Israel during the night of passage; and

the dark side, turned towards the pursuing Egyptians, prevented

them from receiving any benefit from that light. How easily can

God make the same thing an instrument of destruction or salvation,

as seems best to his godly wisdom! He alone can work by all

agents, and produce any kind of effect even by the same

instrument; for all things serve the purposes of his will.

Verse 21. The Lord caused the sea to go back] That part of the

sea over which the Israelites passed was, according to Mr. Bruce

and other travellers, about four leagues across, and therefore

might easily be crossed in one night. In the dividing of the sea

two agents appear to be employed, though the effect produced can

be attributed to neither. By stretching out the rod the waters

were divided; by the blowing of the vehement, ardent, east wind,

the bed of the sea was dried. It has been observed, that in the

place where the Israelites are supposed to have passed, the water

is about fourteen fathoms or twenty-eight yards deep: had the wind

mentioned here been strong enough, naturally speaking, to have

divided the waters, it must have blown in one narrow track, and

continued blowing in the direction in which the Israelites passed;

and a wind sufficient to have raised a mass of water twenty-eight

yards deep and twelve miles in length, out of its bed, would

necessarily have blown the whole six hundred thousand men away,

and utterly destroyed them and their cattle. I therefore conclude

that the east wind, which was ever remarked as a parching, burning

wind, was used after the division of the waters, merely to dry the

bottom, and render it passable. For an account of the hot drying

winds in the east, See Clarke on Ge 8:1. God ever puts

the highest honour on his instrument, Nature; and where it can

act, he ever employs it. No natural agent could divide these

waters, and cause them to stand as a wall upon the right hand and

upon the left; therefore God did it by his own sovereign power.

When the waters were thus divided, there was no need of a miracle

to dry the bed of the sea and make it passable; therefore the

strong desiccating east wind was brought, which soon accomplished

this object. In this light I suppose the text should be

understood.

Verse 22. And the waters were a wall unto them on their right

and on their left.] This verse demonstrates that the passage was

miraculous. Some have supposed that the Israelites had passed

through, favoured by an extraordinary ebb, which happened at that

time to be produced by a strong wind, which happened just then to

blow! Had this been the case, there could not have been waters

standing on the right hand and on the left; much less could

those waters, contrary to every law of fluids, have stood as a

wall on either side while the Israelites passed through, and then

happen to become obedient to the laws of gravitation when the

Egyptians entered in! An infidel may deny the revelation in toto,

and from such we expect nothing better; but to hear those who

profess to believe this to be a Divine revelation endeavouring to

prove that the passage of the Red Sea had nothing miraculous in

it, is really intolerable. Such a mode of interpretation

requires a miracle to make itself credible. Poor infidelity! how

miserable and despicable are thy shifts!

Verse 24. The morning watch] A watch was the fourth part of the

time from sun-setting to sun-rising; so called from soldiers

keeping guard by night, who being changed four times during the

night, the periods came to be called watches.-Dodd.

As here and in 1Sa 11:11 is mentioned the

morning watch; so in La 2:19, the

beginning of the watches; and in Jud 7:19, the

middle watch is spoken of; in Lu 12:38, the

second and third watch; and in Mt 14:25, the

fourth watch of the night; which in Mr 13:35 are named

evening, midnight, cock-crowing, and day-dawning.-Ainsworth.

As the Israelites went out of Egypt at the vernal equinox, the

morning watch, or, according to the Hebrew,

beashmoreth habboker, the watch of day-break, would answer to

our four o'clock in the morning.-Calmet.

The Lord looked unto] This probably means that the cloud

suddenly assumed a fiery appearance where it had been dark before;

or they were appalled by violent thunders and lightning, which we

are assured by the psalmist did actually take place, together with

great inundations of rain, &c.: The clouds POURED OUT WATER; the

skies sent out a SOUND: thine ARROWS also went abroad. The

VOICE of thy THUNDER was in the heaven; the LIGHTNINGS LIGHTENED

the world; the earth TREMBLED and SHOOK. Thy way is in the sea,

and thy path in the great waters. Thou leddest thy people like a

flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron; Ps 77:17-20. Such

tempests as these would necessarily terrify the Egyptian horses,

and produce general confusion. By their dashing hither and thither

the wheels must be destroyed, and the chariots broken; and foot

and horse must be mingled together in one universal ruin; see

Ex 14:25. During the time that this state of horror and

confusion was at its summit the Israelites had safely passed over;

and then Moses, at the command of God, (Ex 14:26,) having

stretched out his rod over the waters, the sea returned to its

strength; (Ex 14:27;) i.e., the waters by their natural gravity

resumed their level, and the whole Egyptian host were completely

overwhelmed, Ex 14:28. But as to the Israelites, the waters had

been a wall unto them on the right hand and on the left,

Ex 14:29. This the waters could not have been, unless they

had been supernaturally supported; as their own gravity would

necessarily have occasioned them to have kept their level, or, if

raised beyond it, to have regained it if left to their natural

law, to which they are ever subject, unless in cases of miraculous

interference. Thus the enemies of the Lord perished; and that

people who decreed that the male children of the Hebrews should be

drowned, were themselves destroyed in the pit which they had

destined for others. God's ways are all equal; and he renders to

every man according to his works.

Verse 28. There remained not so much as one of them.] Josephus

says that the army of Pharaoh consisted of fifty thousand horse,

and two hundred thousand foot, of whom not one remained to carry

tidings of this most extraordinary catastrophe.

Verse 30. Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore.] By

the extraordinary agitation of the waters, no doubt multitudes of

the dead Egyptians were cast on the shore, and by their spoils the

Israelites were probably furnished with considerable riches, and

especially clothing and arms; which latter were essentially

necessary to them in their wars with the Amalekites, Basanites,

and Amorites, &c., on their way to the promised land. If they did

not get their arms in this way, we know not how they got them, as

there is not the slightest reason to believe that they brought any

with them out of Egypt.

Verse 31. The people feared the Lord] They were convinced by

the interference of Jehovah that his power was unlimited, and that

he could do whatsoever he pleased, both in the way of judgment and

in the way of mercy.

And believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.] They now clearly

discerned that God had fulfilled all his promises; and that not

one thing had failed of all the good which he had spoken

concerning Israel. And they believed his servant Moses-they had

now the fullest proof that he was Divinely appointed to work all

these miracles, and to bring them out of Egypt into the promised

land.

Thus God got himself honour upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and

credit in the sight of Israel. After this overthrow of their king

and his host, the Egyptians interrupted them no more in the

journeyings, convinced of the omnipotence of their Protector: and

how strange, that after such displays of the justice and mercy of

Jehovah, the Israelites should ever have been deficient in faith,

or have given place to murmuring!

1. THE events recorded in this chapter are truly astonishing;

and they strongly mark what God can do, and what he will do, both

against his enemies and in behalf of his followers. In vain are

all the forces of Egypt united to destroy the Israelites: at the

breath of God's mouth they perish; and his feeble, discouraged,

unarmed followers take the prey! With such a history before their

eyes, is it not strange that sinners should run on frowardly in

the path of transgression; and that those who are redeemed from

the world, should ever doubt of the all-sufficiency and goodness

of their God! Had we not already known the sequel of the

Israelitish history, we should have been led to conclude that this

people would have gone on their way rejoicing, trusting in God

with their whole heart, and never leaning to their own

understanding; but alas! we find that as soon as any new

difficulty occurred, they murmured against God and their leaders,

despised the pleasant land, and gave no credence to his word.

2. Their case is not a solitary one: most of those who are

called Christians are not more remarkable for faith and patience.

Every reverse will necessarily pain and discompose the people who

are seeking their portion in this life. And it is a sure mark of

a worldly mind, when we trust the God of Providence and grace no

farther than we see the operations of his hand in our immediate

supply; and murmur and repine when the hand of his bounty seems

closed, and the influences of his Spirit restrained, though our

unthankful and unholy carriage has been the cause of this change.

Those alone who humble themselves under the mighty hand of God,

shall be lifted up in due season. Reader, thou canst never be

deceived in trusting thy all, the concerns of thy body and soul,

to Him who divided the sea, saved the Hebrews, and destroyed the

Egyptians.

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