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14. Crossing the Red Sea

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2Speak 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. 3For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. 4And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so.

5And 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? 6And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: 7And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. 8And 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. 9But 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.

10And 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. 11And 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? 12 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.

13And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. 14The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

15And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: 16But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. 17And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. 18And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.

19And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: 20And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. 21And 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. 22And 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.

23And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, 25And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.

26And 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. 27And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28And 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. 29But 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. 30Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. 31And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.

1. And the Lord spoke unto Moses. God, by closing up all the ways by which the Israelites might have escaped, now opens a course for His wonderful power, and by bringing them for one moment to despair, provided for the safety of His Church through a long period of time. This final act, then, marvelously illustrated the grace of God, so that the people, however ungrateful and disaffected they might be, should still acknowledge God as their deliverer; besides, its consequence was, that the forces of Egypt not only being broken, but the whole nation being destroyed, or, at least, the flower of it extinguished, it brought no further trouble upon the people until they were established in the land of Canaan. If they had freely and peacefully gone forth, with the king and the people of Egypt quiet, the former miracles would not have sufficiently availed to testify their redemption; but when, being everywhere shut in, they see nothing but death before them, whilst the sea suddenly and unexpectedly affords them a passage, and overwhelms their enemies pressing on them from behind, they are obliged to confess that they were not only saved from death but from the deepest abysses by the hand of God. But it appears that, when they were commanded by Moses to cast themselves, and, as it were, to ingulf themselves in the narrow passage, of which mention is made, they were astonished by the miracles, and like them that dream, since they obeyed without hesitation, although the very aspect of the place must have inspired them with horror. For, if they had apprehended danger, their readiness to obey would not have been so great, as we shall presently see. Wherefore it was the intention of Moses not so much to praise them, as the providence of God. For it is plain, that unless they had been amazed by the miracles, of which they had seen so many, they scarcely could have been induced willingly to throw themselves into. defiles from whence there was no retreat. From the word מגדל, migdol, we may conjecture that a fortress was built on the rock to prevent access to it. I do not quite understand the meaning of החירת151151     פיהחירת C. has not borrowed anything from S.M. here. In Dr. Wilson’s “Lands of the Bible,” vol. 1, chap. 5, he has observed that if Pi-hahiroth is to be supposed to be a name given to the place, in the Hebrew tongue, it is well fitted to describe the mouth of the defiles, on emerging from which, the traveler comes in sight of the Red Sea, and enters on ground shut in between mountain barriers and that sea; but he also mentions that Gesenius has said, on the authority of Tablonski, that these syllables form the Egyptian name for a place where sedges grow. — W. hachiroth, nor do I see why the Greeks should have translated it “the mouth of the valley;” yet from the word signifying “a mouth,” it may be probably conjectured that it was contracted by piles. Because the word חור, chor, signifies a cave or hole, I know not whether the place might not have obtained its name, as the mouth of the holes or caverns; for the letter ו, vau, is often converted into י, yod, and the change of the gender in the plural number is frequent with the Hebrews. Or perhaps some may think it more likely, that though it was written החירות, hachiroth, the letter ח crept in in place of ה from its similarity. If we so take it, the feminine gender is put for the masculine, and it will be “the mouth of the mountains.” But although we may be ignorant of the etymology of the second word, the word “mouth” makes it certain that the defile was inclosed by rocks, and of narrow access. Although, if I may tender my own judgment in a doubtful matter, I rather consider that it is derived from the word חרת charath, which means to engrave, or to furrow, because the rocks were cut as by a mallet. But on the opposite side, the place was surrounded by the sea, as though the Israelites had been cast into a sepulcher.


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