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Exodus: Chapter 14

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1The LORD said to Moses: 2Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp before Pi‐hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal‐zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, “They are astray in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.” 4Then I will stiffen Pharaoh's heart and he will pursue them, that I may gain glory through Pharaoh and all his host; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.

And they did so.

5When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his courtiers had a change of heart about the people and said, “What is this we have done, releasing Israel from our service?” 6He ordered a See on Gen. 46.29 . his chariot and took his men with him; 7he took six hundred of his picked chariots, and the rest of the chariots of Egypt, with officers b Heb. shalish; originally “third man on royal chariot”; hence “adjutant,” “officer.” in all of them. 8The LORD stiffened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he gave chase to the Israelites. As the Israelites were departing defiantly, c Lit. “with upraised hand.” 9the Egyptians gave chase to them, and all the chariot horses of Pharaoh,his horsemen, and his warriors overtook them encamped by the sea, near Pi‐hahiroth, before Baal‐zephon.

10As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites caught sight of the Egyptians advancing upon them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to the LORD. 11And they said to Moses, “Was it for want of graves in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? 12Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us be, and we will serve the Egyptians, for it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness’?” 13But Moses said to the people, “Have no fear! Stand by, and witness the deliverance which the LORD will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. 14The LORD will battle for you; you hold your peace!”

15Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. 16And you lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the sea and split it, so that the Israelites may march into the sea on dry ground. 17And I will stiffen the hearts of the Egyptians so that they go in after them; and I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his warriors, his chariots and his horsemen. 18Let the Egyptians know that I am LORD, when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

19The angel of God, who had been going ahead of the Israelite army, now moved and followed behind them; and the pillar of cloud shifted from in front of them and took up a place behind them, 20and it came between the army of the Egyptians and the army of Israel. Thus there was the cloud with the darkness, and it cast a spell a From root’rr, “cast a spell” or “curse.” Others “and it lit up.” upon the night, so that the one could not come near the other all through the night.

21Then Moses held out his arm over the sea and the LORD drove back the sea with a strong east wind all that night, and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split, 22and the Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 23The Egyptians came in pursuit after them into the sea, all of Pharaoh's horses, chariots, and horsemen. 24At the morning watch, the LORD looked down upon the Egyptian army from a pillar of fire and cloud, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. 25He locked b From root’sr, with several ancient versions. Others “took off.” the wheels of their chariots so that they moved forward with difficulty. And the Egyptians said, “Let usflee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

26Then the LORD said to Moses, “Hold out your arm over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians and upon their chariots and upon their horsemen.” 27Moses held out his arm over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal state, and the Egyptians fled at its approach. But the LORD hurled the Egyptians into the sea. 28The waters turned back and covered the chariots and the horsemen—Pharaoh's entire army that followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. 29But the Israelites had marched through the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

30Thus the LORD delivered Israel that day from the Egyptians. Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the shore of the sea. 31And when Israel saw the wondrous power which the LORD had wielded against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD; they had faith in the LORD and His servant Moses.


a See on Gen. 46.29 .

b Heb. shalish; originally “third man on royal chariot”; hence “adjutant,” “officer.”

c Lit. “with upraised hand.”

a From root’rr, “cast a spell” or “curse.” Others “and it lit up.”

b From root’sr, with several ancient versions. Others “took off.”

Text Commentary view alone

14.1–31 :

The crossing of the Sea of Reeds. The compositeness of this narrative is indicated by inconsistencies and redundancies. For example, God's stiffening Pharaoh's heart to chase the Israelites (vv. 8–9 ) is redundant after Pharaoh has already decided to give chase (vv. 5–7 ). V. 19a says that the angel leading the Israelites moves to their rear, while 19b says that it was the cloud. V. 21b (through “dry ground”) presents a relatively naturalistic picture of God causing a strong wind to blow back the waters of the sea, while the remainder of the v. and v. 22 present a more miraculous picture of the sea splitting, with the waters forming walls on either side of the Israelites. Source critics assign the components of the narrative to J, E, and P. By skillfully combining the sources, the redactor has harmonized the differences so as to show, for example, that Pharaoh's independent decision to pursue the Israelites is, in a mysterious way, carrying out God's plan (cf. v. 4 ), that the cloud is indeed the angel, and that God used the natural means of the wind to carry out His miraculous splitting of the sea.

2 :

Pi‐hahiroth cannot be clearly identified with any known Egyptian toponym. Migdol (“watchtower”) figures in several toponyms in and near the eastern delta. An Egyptian letter (see 12.37 n. ) mentions one apparently in or near the Sinai desert not far from Wadi Tumilat. Baal‐zephon must refer to a site at which the Canaanite deity of that name was worshipped in Egypt. Several in the eastern delta region are known.

4 :

Gain glory, more lit. “weightiness,” honor, authority, by punishing those who disobey Him. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, see 6.2 n.

5 :

Only now do the Egyptians realize that the Israelites have left for good (see 12.31 ).

11–12 :

The Israelites' continual complaining in the wilderness, a dominant theme of the Torah, is introduced here. (See 15.24; 16.2–3; 17.2–3; Num. 11.4–6; 14.2–3; 16.13–14; 20.2–5, 13; 21.4–5; Deut. 1.27–28.)

12 :

We told you in Egypt: No such comment is recorded earlier, but the Samaritan Pentateuch adds it after 6.9. (See 11.4–8 n. )

15–31 :

Some believe that the action of the sea corresponds to the rising and falling tides or shallow waters being blown back by wind in the southern part of the isthmus, or a combination of both. A document from Mari, in Syria, reports that an army escaped across a river one night at low tide and the pursuing army was prevented from overtaking them when the tide later rose again. In the present case the heavy Egyptian chariots became mired in the mud and were engulfed by the returning waters. The text, however, claims that miraculously the waters were split and stood up like walls (vv. 16, 22, 29 ).

19 :

The first clause of the v. (from the E source) says that the angel of God was at the head of the Israelites; the next clause (from J) indicates that the pillar of cloud led them, while 13.21 (also J) says that it was the LORD in the cloud. These three statements picture the divine manifestation in different ways (cf. 3.2 n. ).

20 :

Cast a spell, turned it totally dark so that the Egyptians could not approach the Israelites (cf. 10.22–23a; Josh. 24.7 ). The one could not come near the other all through the night: According to a midrashic interpretation, this refers to the angels, who sought to sing a hymn to God as the Egyptians were drowning; God rebuked them, saying: “While my creatures are drowning in the sea you would sing a hymn?!” showing that He does not rejoice in the death of the wicked (b. Sanh. 39b, prompted either by the similar phraseology in Isa. 6.3 or by an interpretation of “k‐r‐v” [“come near”] as a term for prayer).

25 :

Locked: They became stuck in the mud.

31 :

Feared: No longer frightened of the Egyptians (v. 10 ), they were awe‐struck at God's power. Had faith, i.e., trusted, now that their fears were proven groundless. “Faith” in the Bible regularly means trust, rather than belief in the existence of God or assent to a doctrine. His servant Moses: The people now realize that Moses is truly God's servant. Cf. Num. 12.7–8; Deut. 34.10.

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