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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Exodus 14

Verse 2

That they turn - i. e. away from the wilderness, and go southwards, to the west of the Bitter Lakes, which completely separated them from the desert.

Pi-hahiroth - The place is generally identified with Ajrud, a fortress with a very large well of good water, situated at the foot of an elevation commanding the plain which extends to Suez, at a distance of four leagues. The journey from Etham might occupy two, or even three days.

Migdol - A tower, or fort, the “Maktal” of Egyptian monuments; it is probably to be identified with Bir Suweis, about two miles from Suez.

Baal-zephon - The name under which the Phoenicians, who had a settlement in Lower Egypt at a very ancient period, worshipped their chief Deity. There can be no doubt it was near Kolsum, or Suez. From the text it is clear that the encampment of the Israelites extended over the plain from Pi-hahiroth: their headquarters being between Bir Suweis and the sea opposite to Baal-Zephon. At Ajrud the road branches off in two directions, one leading to the wilderness by a tract, now dry, but in the time of Moses probably impassable (see next note); the other leading to Suez, which was doubtless followed by the Israelites.

Verse 3

They are entangled ... - The original intention of Moses was to go toward Palestine by the wilderness: when that purpose was changed by God’s direction and they moved southwards, Pharaoh, on receiving information, was of course aware that they were completely shut in, since the waters of the Red Sea then extended to the Bitter Lakes. It is known that the Red Sea at some remote period extended considerably further toward the north than it does at present. In the time of Moses the water north of Kolsum joined the Bitter Lakes, though at present the constant accumulation of sand has covered the intervening space to the extent of 8000 to 10,000 yards.

Verse 5

The people fled - This was a natural inference from the change of direction, which indicated a determination to escape from Egypt. Up to the time when that information reached Pharaoh both he and his people understood that the Israelites would return after keeping a festival in the district adjoining Etham. From Etham the intelligence would be forwarded by the commander of the garrison to Rameses in less than a day, and the cavalry, a highly-disciplined force, would be ready for immediate departure.

Verse 7

Six hundred chosen chariots - The Egyptian army comprised large numbers of chariots, each drawn by two horses, with two men, one bearing the shield and driving, the other fully armed. The horses were thoroughbred, renowned for strength and spirit. Chariots are first represented on the monuments of the 18th dynasty. By “all the chariots of Egypt” we are to understand all that were stationed in Lower Egypt, most of them probably at Rameses and other frontier garrisons near the headquarters of Pharaoh.

Captains - The word שׁלישׁ shâlı̂ysh, literally “third or thirtieth,” may represent an Egyptian title. The king had about him a council of thirty, each of whom bore a title, Mapu, a “thirty man.” The word occurs frequently in the Books of Kings. David seems to have organized the Shalishim as a distinct corps (see 2 Samuel 23:8 Hebrew), retaining the old name, and adopting the Egyptian system.

Verse 9

And his horsemen - See Exodus 14:5.

Verse 11

No graves in Egypt - This bitter taunt was probably suggested by the vast extent of cemeteries in Egypt, which might not improperly be called the land of tombs.

Verse 12

Let us alone - This is a gross exaggeration, yet not without a semblance of truth: for although the Israelites welcomed the message of Moses at first, they gave way completely at the first serious trial. See the reference in the margin. The whole passage foreshadows the conduct of the people in the wilderness.

Verse 13

For the Egyptians whom ... - The true sense is, ye shall never see the Egyptians in the same way, under the same circumstances.

Verse 15

Wherefore criest thou unto me? - Moses does not speak of his intercession, and we only know of it from this answer to his prayer.

Verse 19

The angel of God - Compare the margin reference, and see Exodus 3:2.

Verse 21

A strong east wind - The agency by which the object effected was natural (compare Exodus 15:8 note): and the conditions of the narrative are satisfied by the hypothesis, that the passage took place near Suez.

The waters were divided - i. e. there was a complete separation between the water of the gulf and the water to the north of Kolsum.

Verse 22

Were a wall unto them - Compare Nahum 3:8. The waters served the purpose of an intrenchment and wall; the people could not be attacked on either flank during the transit; to the north was the water covering the whole district; to the south was the Red Sea.

Verse 24

In the morning watch - At sunrise, a little before 6 April.

Troubled - By a sudden panic.

Verse 26

That the waters may come - A sudden cessation of the wind, possibly coinciding with a spring tide (it was full moon) would immediately convert the low flat sand-banks first into a quicksand, and then into a mass of waters, in a time far less than would suffice for the escape of a single chariot, or horseman loaded with heavy corslet.

Verse 27

Overthrew the Egyptians - Better as in the margin, The Lord shook them off, hurled them from their chariots into the sea.

Verse 28

Not so much as one of them - Escape would be impossible Exodus 14:26. Pharaoh’s destruction, independent of the distinct statement of the Psalmist, Psalms 136:15, was in fact inevitable. The station of the king was in the vanguard: on every monument the Pharaoh is represented as the leader of the army. The death of the Pharaoh, and the entire loss of the chariotry and cavalry accounts for the undisturbed retreat of the Israelites through a district then subject to Egypt and easily accessible to their forces. If, as appears probable, Tothmosis II was the Pharaoh, the first recorded expedition into the Peninsula took place 17 years after his death; and 22 years elapsed before any measures were taken to recover the lost ascendancy of Egypt in Syria. So complete, so marvelous was the deliverance: thus the Israelites were “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” 1 Corinthians 10:2. When they left Baal-Zephon they were separated finally from the idolatry of Egypt: when they passed the Red Sea their independence of its power was sealed; their life as a nation then began, a life inseparable henceforth from belief in Yahweh and His servant Moses, only to be merged in the higher life revealed by His Son.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Exodus 14". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.