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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 14

 

 

Verses 1-31


Crossing the Red Sea

2. At Etham the Israelites reached the Egyptian frontier, travelling in a northeasterly direction. Instead of crossing the frontier to the E. side of the Bitter Lakes they are commanded to turn southwards, keeping the Red Sea on their left. The reason for this change of route may have been a repulse by the garrison of one of the line of fortresses on the E. border of Egypt. None of the places mentioned here has been identified with certainty. There is even a doubt as to what is meant by the sea. Some have understood it to be the Mediterranean, in which case the host must have turned northwards, and the supposed Red Sea (Heb. 'sea of reeds'; see on Exodus 10:19) would be the Serbonian Lake, a large bog lying on the shore of the Mediterranean between Egypt and the SW. extremity of Canaan. It is usual, however, to understand by the 'sea of reeds' what is now called the Gulf of Suez. There is little doubt that at the time of the exodus the Gulf of Suez extended much further north than it does now, and that the modern Lake Timsah and the Bitter Lakes were connected with each other and the Gulf of Suez by necks of shallow water which in certain conditions might be swept almost dry. It is pretty certain that the Israelites crossed at some point north of the modern Suez.

3. The wilderness is the Egyptian wilderness, a tract of desert land lying between the Nile and the Red Sea. To the south, in front of the advancing host, rose an impassable mountain chain, so that they found themselves entangled in the land.

7. The Egyptian chariots were low two-wheeled cars open behind and drawn by two horses abreast. Each chariot contained a driver and a warrior, sometimes two. The chosen chariots were probably those of the king's bodyguard. The Hittites are known to have brought 2,500 chariots into the field against Rameses II.

8. With an high hand] Confidently, boldly.

9. Horsemen] It is doubtful whether the Egyptians at this time used cavalry. The horsemen may be the charioteers.

11. No graves in Egypt] cp. Numbers 14:1-3.

14. Hold your peace] The victory will be entirely the work of Jehovah. It is the part of His people to trust in Him and cease from murmuring: cp. Isaiah 30:15; 2 Chronicles 20:15-17.

19. Angel of God] see on Exodus 3:2, and cp. Exodus 13:21.

21. In delivering His people, as in bringing the plagues on the Egyptians, God may have made use of natural means. A strong east wind blowing all night, and acting with the ebbing tide, may have laid bare the shallow neck of water joining the Bitter Lakes to the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to cross in safety: see on Exodus 14:2. Indeed, an Egyptian tradition says that Moses waited for the ebb tide in order to lead the Israelites across. The real difficulty in connexion with the passage of the Red Sea lies not in the baring of the sea bottom, but in the fact that the Israelitish host must have numbered about three millions: see on Exodus 12:37; This enormous multitude, encumbered as it was with young and old herds of cattle, must have taken a long time to cross the soft floor of the estuary. It is not impossible, however, that the number stated was the total of those who escaped from Egypt, but that they left in several companies, that led by Moses being the main detachment: see on Numbers 1.

22. A wall unto them] This need not mean that they stood up like a wall, but that the water on each side was a defence, preventing a flank attack by the enemy: cp. for this use of the term 'wall' 1 Samuel 25:16.

24. In the morning watch] between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., the last of the three watches into which the Hebrews divided the night, in earlier times: cp. Lamentations 2:19; Judges 7:19; 1 Samuel 11:11. The Roman division was into four watches: see Mark 13:35; Matthew 14:25. It is here implied that the previous part of the night sufficed for the passage of the Israelitish host: see on Exodus 14:21.

25. Took off] RM 'bound': made them stick fast. They became clogged with the soft ooze in the sea bed.

27. The sea returned] In Exodus 15:10 this seems to have been effected by a change of wind.

28. And all the host] RV 'even all the host.' It is not said that Pharaoh himself perished. The supposed discovery in modern times of the mummy of Merenptah is no argument against his being the Pharaoh of the exodus or against the truth of this narrative. Even though, he did lead his host in person into the middle of the sea and perished with the others his body might afterwards have been recovered and preserved: see on Exodus 1:8.

31. This notable deliverance naturally made a deep impression upon the Israelites. It justified their faith in Jehovah and it also confirmed the right of Moses to be regarded as their leader. And believed the Lord, and his servant Moses] But when they turned away from the scene of their deliverance and faced the stern realities of the desert march, they were only too ready to give way to mistrust and murmuring: cp Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2-3 etc.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 14:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/exodus-14.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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