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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Exodus 14

Verses 1-31

FOURTH SECTION
Direction of the Exodus. The Pursuit. The Distress. The Red Sea. The Song of Triumph

Exodus 13:17 to Exodus 15:21

A.—Direction of the march. The distress. Passage through the Red Sea. Judgment and deliverance

Exodus 13:17 to Exodus 14:31

17And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through [by] the way of the land of the Philistines, although [for]2 that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the [Lest the] people repent, when they see war, and they return to Egypt: 18But God led the people about through [by] the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up harnessed 19[armed] out of the land of Egypt. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for he had straitly [strictly] sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you. 20And they took their journey [they journeyed] from Succoth, and encamped in Etham in 21[on] the edge of the wilderness. And Jehovah went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud [of cloud], to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night. 22He took not away the pillar of the cloud [of cloud] by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Chap. Exodus 14:1-2 And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn [turn back] and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against [before] Baal-zephon; before [over against] it shall 3ye encamp by the sea. For [And] Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled [bewildered] in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. 4And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall [and he will] follow after them, and I will be honored [get me honor] upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that [and] the Egyptians may [shall] know that I am Jehovah. And they did Song of Song of Solomon 5:0 And 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 [What is this that we have done], 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 8one [all] of them. And Jehovah hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, 9and he pursued after the children of Israel, and the children of Israel went out with an [a] high hand. But [And] the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots [chariot-horses] of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, before Baal-zephon. 10And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians [Egypt] marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto Jehovah. 11And they said unto Moses, Because [Is it because] there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou [that thou hast] taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with [what is this that thou hast done to] 12us, to carry [in bringing] us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell [spake unto] thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been [is] 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 Jehovah, which he will shew to [work for] you to-day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall 14see them again no more forever. Jehovah shall fight for you, and ye shall hold 15your peace. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak 16unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But [And] lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine [thy] 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 honor upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. 18And the Egyptians shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have gotten [get] me honor upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. 19And the angel of God, which [who] went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud [of cloud] went [removed] from before their face 20[before them], and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them [and darkness], but it gave light by night to these [it lightened the night]:3 so that [and] the one came not near the other all the night. 21And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and Jehovah caused the sea to go back [flow] by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land [bare ground],4 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 Jehovah looked unto [looked down at] the host of the Egyptians through [in] the pillar of fire and of the cloud [of cloud], and troubled the host of the Egyptians, 25And took off [turned aside] their chariot wheels, that they drave them [and made them drive] heavily: so that [and] the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for Jehovah fighteth for them against the Egyptians. 26And Jehovah said unto Moses, Stretch out thine [thy] hand over the sea, that the waters may come again [back] 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 [to its course] when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and Jehovah overthrew [shook] the Egyptians in [into] the midst of the sea. 28And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen and [of]5 all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them [of them not even one]. 29But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a 30wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Thus [And] Jehovah 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 [the] great work which Jehovah did upon the Egyptians, and the people feared Jehovah, and believed in Jehovah and his servant Moses.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[Exodus 13:17. “For that was near.” A. V., Murphy, Kalisch, Gesenius, Glaire, Alford retain the rendering “although” for כִּי in this sentence. But such a meaning for כִּי cannot be well substantiated. Psalms 49:10, adduced by Fürst, is certainly not an instance of such use. Psalms 116:10 is more plausible. The A. V. rendering: “I believed, therefore [כִּי] have I spoken,” is incorrect. But it is not necessary, with some, to translate: “I believed, although I speak.” The particle here probably has the meaning “when.” In Psalms 49:19, adduced by Gesenius (Thesaurus), it means “because,” the apodosis following in Exodus 13:20. The same may be said of Genesis 8:21; Job 15:27-29; Zechariah 8:6. The rendering “when” suffices in Jeremiah 4:30; Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 49:16; Jeremiah 50:11; Jeremiah 51:53; Micah 7:8; Psalms 27:10; Psalms 21:12. The rendering “for” suffices in Hosea 13:15; Nahum 1:10; Deuteronomy 18:14; Deuteronomy 29:19; Jeremiah 46:23; Psalms 71:10; 1 Chronicles 28:5. The rendering “ where as,” or “while,” may be adopted in Malachi 1:4; Ecclesiastes 4:14. Probably these comprise all the passages in which the meaning “though” can with any plausibility be maintained. כִּי can be assumed to have the meaning “although” only as being equivalent to גַּם כִּי, “even when.” Even though this should be assumed sometimes to occur, still the case before us is not of that sort. The true explanation of such constructions is to assume a slight ellipsis in the expression: “God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, [as might have been expected], seeing that was near.” Or: “for that was near [and return to Egypt in case of danger would be more readily resorted to].”—Tr.]

[Exodus 14:20. וַיְהִי הֶעָנָן וְהַחשֶׁךְ וַיָּאֶר אֶת־הַלָּיְלָה. The construction is difficult. The only literal rendering is: “And it was (or, became) the cloud and the darkness, and it illumined the night.” The difficulty is gotten over by Knobel and Ewald by altering וְהַחשֶׁךְ into וְהֶחֱשִׁיךְ, reading: “And it came to pass us to the cloud, that it made darkness.” But even with this conjectural change, it is no less necessary to assume an ellipsis of “to the one” and “to the other,” or “on the one side” and “on the other,” as is done by A. V. and the great majority of versions and commentators. The article may be explained as pointing back to Exodus 13:21 : “And it was the cloud and the darkness which have been already described.” Or it is even possible to take מַלאַךְ (Exodus 14:19) as the subject of the verb: “And he became the cloud and darkness; but he illumined the night.”—Tr.]

[Exodus 14:21. The Hebrew word here used, חָרָבָה, is different from the one rendered “dry ground” in the next verse; and there is a clear distinction in the meaning, as is quite apparent from a comparison of Genesis 8:13, where it is said, that on the first day of the first month the ground was חָרֵב, with Exodus 14:14, where it is said, that on the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was יָבֵשׁ. The first means: free from water, drained; the second means: free from moisture, dry. The distinction is generally clear, though sometimes not exactly observed.—Tr.]

[Exodus 14:28. The preposition לְ certainly cannot here be rendered “and;” but it may have a sort of resumptive force, equivalent to “even,” “namely,” “in short.”—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Exodus 13:17. Not by the way of the land of the Philistines. Decidedly wise, theocratic policy on the part of Moses, rightly ascribed to God. The people, disheartened by servitude, could not at once maintain a conflict with the warlike Philistines, without being driven back to Egypt. They must first acquire in the wilderness the qualities of heroes. And that, according to Goethe, was accomplished in a few years! On the exodus, comp. Introduction; Keil, II. p. 42; Knobel, p. 131.

Exodus 13:18. Led the people about. It is a question whether the round-about way spoken of has reference simply to the absolutely direct route through the Philistine country, or to another more direct one which they had already begun to take, but which they were to give up. According to Exodus 14:2, the latter is to be assumed. Moreover, reference is made not only to the small distance to the Red Sea, but to the whole distance through the wilderness along the Red Sea, first southward along the Gulf of Suez, then along the Elanitic Gulf northwards, (see Knobel, p. 131). For we have here to do with an introductory and summary account. It was natural that nothing but the prophetic divine word of Moses should have the control of the march, inasmuch as the people would have rushed impetuously towards the old caravan road of their fathers. Moses himself was further influenced by his former journey to Sinai and the revelation there made to him. “From Raemses to the head of the Gulf would be a distance of some 35 miles, which might easily have been passed over by the Israelites in three days” (Robinson I., 80). The deviation from the direct way must, however, be taken into consideration, even though it may have added little to the distance. On the three routes from Cairo to Suez, see Robinson, p. 73.—Of the Red Sea. See the Lexicons, Travels, Knobel, p. 131, sqq.6Especially as the children of Israel went up armed for battle. So we understand the force of the ו before חֲמֻשִׁים. A march in order of battle would have looked like a challenge to the Philistines. Moreover, חָמַשׁ signifies, among other things, to provoke to anger.7

Exodus 13:19. The bones of Joseph. Another testimony to the tenacity with which the Israelites retained moral impressions and old traditions. The vow, 480 years old, and the oath which sealed it, were still fresh. Vid. Genesis 1:25. On the fruitfulness of the land of Goshen, see Robinson, p. 76. “From the Land of Goshen to the Red Sea the direct and only route was along the valley of the ancient canal” (Ibid. p. 79).

Exodus 13:20. From Succoth. Inasmuch as they had already, according to Exodus 12:37, gone from Raemses to Succoth in battle array, Succoth (Tent-town, or Booths) would seem to designate not the first gathering-place of the people (Keil), but the point at which the first instinctive movement towards the Philistine border was checked by the oracle of Moses, and by the appearance of the pillar of fire and of smoke. While they at first wished to go from Succoth (say, by the northern extremity of the Bitter Lakes, or even farther on), directly to Palestine, they now had to go along on the west side of the Bitter Lakes towards the Red Sea. Thus they come from Succoth to Etham. “Etham lay at the end of the wilderness, which in Numbers 33:8 is called the wilderness of Etham; but in Exodus 15:22, the wilderness of Shur, that is, where Egypt ends and the desert of Arabia begins” (Keil). “Etham is to be looked for either on the isthmus of Arbek, in the region of the later Serapeum, or the south end of the Bitter Lakes. Against the first view (that of Stickel, Kurtz, Knobel), and for the second, a decisive consideration is the distance, which, although Seetzen went from Suez to Arbek in eight hours, yet according to the statement of the French scholar, Du Bois Aymé, amounts to 60,000 metres (16 hours, about 37 miles), a distance such that the people of Israel could not in one day have traveled from Etham to Hahiroth. We must therefore look for Etham at the south end of the basin of the Bitter Lakes, whither Israel may have come in two days from Abu Keisheib, and then on the third day have reached the plain of Suez between Ajrud and the sea” (Keil). Abu Keisheib is Heroopolis near Raemses; Ajrud is thought to be identical with Pi-Hahiroth. Vid. Numbers 33:5 sqq.8

Exodus 13:21. And Jehovah went before them. According to Keil this first took place at Etham; but it is to be observed that the decisive movement began at Succoth. Keil says indeed that in verse 17 it reads that Elohim [God] led them, not till here that Jehovah went before them. But Jehovah and Elohim are not two different Gods. Jehovah, as Elohim, knew the Philistines well, and knew that Israel must avoid a contest with them. God, as Jehovah, was the miracle-working leader of His people.—By day in a pillar of cloud.—“This sign of the divine presence and guidance has a natural analogue in the caravan fire, viz. small iron vessels or stoves containing a wood fire, which, fastened on the tops of long poles, are carried as way-marks before caravans, and according to Curtius (de gestis Alex. mag. Exodus 5:2; Exodus 5:7), in trackless regions, are also carried before armies on the march, the smoke indicating to the soldiers the direction by day, the flame, by night. Comp. Harmar, Observations II., p. 278, Pococke, Description of the East, II., p. 33. Still more analogous is the custom (mentioned by Curtius III. 3, 9) of the ancient Persians, who carried before the marching army on silver altars a fire quem ipsi sacrum et æternum vocant. Yet one must not identify the cloudy and fiery pillar of the Israelitish exodus with such caravan or army fires, and regard it as only a mythical conception or embellishment of this natural fact” (Keil). He opposes Köster’s view, that the cloud was produced by an ordinary caravan fire, and became a symbol of the divine presence, thus setting aside also Knobel’s theory (Comm., p. 134) of a legend which was derived from this usage. Here too Keil is concerned about supernaturalism in the abstract, and about something purely outward, so that we do not need here to move in the sphere of faith, of vision, of symbol, and of mystery. The internal world is left out of consideration, while the inspired letter has to serve as evidence for the miraculous appearance. According to him the phenomenon was a cloud which inclosed a fire, and which, when the Israelites were on the march, assumed the form of motion [“a dark pillar of smoke rising towards heaven,” Keil], but, when the tabernacle rested, “perhaps more the form of a round ball of cloud.” It was the same fire, he says further, in which the Lord revealed Himself to Moses out of the bush (Exodus 3:2), and afterwards descended upon Sinai amidst thunder and lightning. He calls it the symbol of the divine fiery jealousy. Even the Prophets and Psalms are made to share in this literalness (Isaiah 4:5 sq.; Isaiah 49:10; Psalms 91:5 sq.; Psalms 121:6). A sort of solution is cited from Sartorius in his Meditations, to the effect that God, by special action on the earthly element, formed out of its sphere and atmosphere a body, which He then assumed and permeated, in order in it to reveal His real presence. But is not that Indian mythology as much as is the modern theological doctrine of the κένωσιζ? We leave the mystery in its uniqueness suspended between this world and the other, only observing that the problem will have to be solved, how, in later times, the smoke of the offering which rose up from the tabernacle was related to the pillar of cloud. Likewise the question arises: What was the relation between the light of the perpetual lamp, or the late expiring and early kindling fire of the burnt-offering, and the pillar of fire? Vid. Exodus 29:39; Numbers 28:4. The burnt-offering derives its name from the notion of rising; comp. especially Judges 13:20. The ark, as the central object in the tabernacle, which generally preceded the host, retired in decisive moments behind the host, according to Joshua 4:11; so the pillar of cloud here, Exodus 14:19. Rationalism finds nothing but a popular legend in the religious and symbolic contemplation of the guidance of the living God; literalism seeks to paint the letters with fantastic, golden arabesques. Assumption (ascension) of a cloud in the form of a ball whose interior consists of fire!

Exodus 14:2. Turn back and encamp before Pi-hahiroth.9—In Numbers 33:8 Hahiroth; Pi is the Egyptian article. This camping-place is identified by many with the place named Ajrud or Agirud, “now a fortress with a well two hundred and fifty feet deep, which, however, contains such bitter water that camels can hardly drink it, on the pilgrims’ road from Cairo to Mecca, four hours’ distance northwest of Suez, comp. Niebuhr, Reise I., p. 216; Burckhardt, Syria, p. 626, and Robinson, Researches I, p. 68. From Ajrud there stretches out a plain, ten miles long and as many broad, towards the sea west of Suez, and from the foot of the Atakah to the arm of the sea north of Suez (Robinson I., p. 65). This plain very probably served the Israelites as a camping-place, so that they encamped before, i.e. east of Ajrud towards the sea. In the neighborhood of Hahiroth (Ajrud) must be sought also the other places, of which thus far no trace has been discovered” (Keil). On Migdol and Baal-zephon, vid. Keil II., p. 43. Since the names Migdol and Baalzephon are without doubt designed to mark the line of travel, it is natural to assume that they indicate the whence and the whither of the route. According to Robinson (I., p. 64) a rocky defile called Muntula leads to the region of Ajrud (Pi-hahiroth) on the left, and Suez on the right, on the Red Sea. Strauss (Sinai und Golgotha, p. 122) called the defile Muktala, and identifies Baal-zephon with Suez. The question about the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea is obscured by theological bias in both directions. It is regarded as a natural event, raised by legendary tradition into a miracle, by Knobel, p. 135 sq., where the historical remarks on the Red Sea and the analogies of the passage are very noteworthy. Karl von Raumer, on the contrary (Palästina, p. 478, under the head, Zug der Israeliten aus Egypten nach Kanaan). regards as rationalistic even the view of Niebuhr, Robinson and others, that the passage took place at Suez or north of Suez, quoting the opinion of Wilson and other Americans (p. 480). He adopts the view of Schubert, Wilson and others, that the Israelites marched south of Suez by Bessantin to the Red Sea. Robinson’s remark, that the hypothesis that the Israelites passed over from the plain of Bede (Wady Tawarik) is overthrown by the circumstance that there the sea is twelve miles wide, and that the people did not have but two hours for the passage, Von Raumer overthrows by means of a dictum of Luther s concerning the miraculous power of God. Von Raumer also will not hear to any natural event as the substratum of the miracle. “The Holy Scriptures,” he says, “know nothing of a N. N. E. wind, but say that an east wind divided the waters, that they stood up on the right and the left like walls; there is nothing said about an ebb, hence the duration of the ebb is not to be taken into account.” He seems even to be embarrassed by the fact that there is an alternation of ebb and flood in the Red Sea; and in places where others also, in individual cases, at the ebb-tide have ridden through, he holds that the passage could not have take place, e.g. where Napoleon in 1799 crossed the ford near Suez, and thus endangered his life (Robinson I., p. 85). Even the co-operation of the wind, he holds, can be taken into account only in the interest of the magnified miracle, although it is designated not only in Exodus 14:21 as the cause of the drying of the sea, but the like fact is also referred to in Moses’ song of praise (Exodus 15:8; comp. Psalms 106:9 and other passages). Hence, too, he holds, the east wind must not be understood as being, more exactly, a north-east wind.10 Similar biblical passages are given by Knobel, p. 139. The objection that north of Suez there is not water enough to have overwhelmed Pharaoh’s host, is removed by the observation of Stickel and Kurtz, that, according to travellers, the Gulf of Suez formerly extended much farther north than now, and in course of time through the blowing in of sand has become shorter, and hence also more shallow (Knobel, p. 140). Also Strauss (Sinai und Golgotha, p. 123) regards the hypothesis that the passage took place as far south as below the mountain Atakah, where the sea is nearly twelve miles wide, as inadmissible, although he insists, on the other hand, that natural forces are insufficient to explain the event. While the subject has been very carefully examined in this aspect, two principal factors of the miracle have been too little regarded: (1) the assurance and foresight of the prophet that in the moment of the greatest need a miracle of deliverance would be performed; (2) the miraculously intensified natural phenomenon, corresponding to the harmonia præstabilita between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of nature, such that an extraordinary ebb, by the aid of a continuous night-storm which blew against the current, laid bare the whole ford for the entire passage of all the people of Israel with their flocks, and that an equally violent wind from the opposite direction might have made the flood, hitherto restrained, a high tide, which must have buried Pharaoh. He who in all this sees only a natural occurrence will of course even press the letter of the symbolic expression, that the water stood up on both sides like a wall.11

Exodus 14:3. For Pharaoh will say.—We must here remember the law regulating the writing of theocratic history, according to which, as the record of religious history, it puts foremost the divine purpose, and passes over the human motives and calculations, by means of which this purpose was effected, yet without leaving, in the spirit of an abstract supernaturalism, such motives out of the account. Here, accordingly, Moses cannot from the first have had the intention, in marching to the Red Sea, of alluring Pharaoh to the extreme of obduracy, and thereby into destruction. But he may well have anticipated that Pharaoh, pursuing him on the highway around the sea, might be quite as dangerous to him as a collision with the Philistines. As one long acquainted with the Red Sea, he saw only a single means of deliverance, viz., the taking advantage of the ebb for his people, who then by means of the returning flood could get a long distance ahead of Pharaoh, in case he should follow them. So far human calculation could reach; but it received a splendid transformation through the Spirit of revelation, who disclosed to the prophet, together with the certainty of deliverance, the ultimate object of this form of deliverance, viz, the final judgment on Pharaoh, which was yet to be inflicted.—They are bewildered in the land.—The round-about way from Etham to the sea might seem like an uncertain marching hither and thither.—The wilderness hath shut them in.—They cannot go through, and are held fast. The section Exodus 14:1-4 is a comprehensive summary.

Exodus 14:5. That the people fled.—This statement probably preceded Pharaoh’s judgment, that the people wished to flee, but were arrested. So much seemed to be proved, that they were not thinking only of a three days’ journey in the wilderness in order to hold a festival.—The heart of Pharaoh … was turned.—Pharaoh may have been stirred up alike by the thought of a fleeing host, and by that of one wandering about helplessly. For they seemed to be no longer a people of God protected by God’s servants, but smitten at the outset, and doomed to slavery. But the king and his courtiers needed to use an imposing military force in order to bring them back, seeing they were at least concentrated and armed. All the more, inasmuch as his pledge, their right, and the consciousness of perjury, determined the tyrant to assume the appearance of carrying on war against them. Whatever distinction may in other cases be made between camping places and days’ journeys, the three stations, Succoth, Etham and Pi-hahiroth, doubtless designate both, that there may be also no doubt concerning Pharaoh’s injustice.12 Useless trouble has been taken to determine when Pharaoh received the news, and pursued after the Israelites; also where he received the news, whether in Tanis or elsewhere. According to Numbers 33:7 they pitched in Pihahiroth; but this was probably not limited to an encampment for a night. Here then after three days’ journey they were to celebrate a feast of Jehovah in the wilderness in a much higher sense than they could before have imagined.

Exodus 14:6-7. And he made ready his chariot.—The grotesque preparations made by heathen powers are described in detail, as if with a sort of irony. So the arming of Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:0, comp. also 2 Chronicles 32:0; Daniel 4:5. Knobel, in a droll manner, puts together Pharaoh’s army, from the several narratives of the Elohist and the Jehovist—שָׁלִישִים, “Three men.” “On the Assyrian chariots one and two persons are represented, but sometimes three (Layard, Nineveh, Fig. 19, 51)” [Knobel].

Exodus 14:8. And Jehovah hardened.—Not a repetition of Exodus 14:4. There we have the summary pre-announcement, here the history itself. Over against Pharaoh’s obduracy (which here also is represented as effected by Jehovah, because occasioned by Israel’s seemingly bewildered flight, because Jehovah by the appearance of the impotence of Israel brought this judgment of blindness upon him) is raised the high hand of Jehovah; the divine sovereignty, which Pharaoh, to his own destruction, failed to recognize, has decided in favor of Israel’s deliverance.

Exodus 14:10-12. The children of Israel lifted up their eyes.—Their condition seemed to be desperate. On the east, the sea; on the south, the mountains; on the north-west, the host of Pharaoh. True, they cried unto the Lord; but the reproaches which they heap upon Moses show that the confidence of genuine prayer is wanting, or at least is disappearing.—No graves in Egypt.—As Egypt was so rich in sepulchral monuments and worship of the dead, this expression has a certain piquancy; it also expresses the thought that they saw death before their eyes.—Is not this the word?—Here he has the foretoken of all similar experiences which he is to encounter in leading the people. The exaggeration of their recollection of a doubt formerly expressed reaches the pitch of falsehood.

Exodus 14:13-14. Over against the despondent people Moses appears in all the heroic courage of his confidence.

Exodus 14:15. Wherefore criest thou unto me?—The Israelites cried to Jehovah, and Jehovah did not hear them. Moses outwardly was silent; but Jehovah heard how he inwardly cried to Him. The confidence, therefore, which he displayed to the people was founded on a fervent inward struggle of spirit. While therefore Jehovah’s word is no reproof, there is something of a contrast in what follows: Speak unto the children of Israel, etc. That is: No further continuance of the spiritual struggle; forward into the Red Sea!

Exodus 14:16. And lift thou up thy rod.—The miraculous rod is for the present still the banner of the people. It marks the foresight of Moses, his confidence, and the sacramental union of the divine help with this sign. Or shall we take this also literally: “while Moses divides the water with his rod” (Keil)?

Exodus 14:17. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians.—The obduracy which spread from Pharaoh over the whole host was brought on by the strong fascination of overtaking a fugitive people and by the miraculous condition of things on the sea.—I will get me honor.—God’s miraculous sway was to become manifest as His just judgment.

Exodus 14:19. The angel of God.—He is the angel of Elohim for the Egyptian heathen. The invisible movement of the angel was recognized in the visible motion of the pillar of cloud.

Exodus 14:20. Darkness, but it lightened the night.—What the pillar of cloud at other times was alternately, it was this time simultaneously: darkness for the one, light for the other. The direction of the smoke under the north-east wind is not sufficient to explain the symbolically highly-significant phenomenon. That which gives light to the believers constitutes nocturnal darkness for the unbelievers; and that is the irremovable barrier between the two. The Egyptians are unable for the whole night to find the Israelites; all night long the east wind blows, and dries the sea, and in the same night the passage of the Israelites through the sea began, and was finished in the morning.

Exodus 14:21. East wind.—The east wind, קָדִים, under which term the south-east and north-east wind may be included, inasmuch as the Hebrew language has developed special terms only for the four cardinal points. The notion that a simple east wind could have divided the waters to the right and left, as Von Raumer and Keil hold, implies that the wind itself was a simple product of miraculous power. A mere natural east wind would have driven the water which remained against the Israelites. And this all the more, the more the wind operated, as Keil says, “with omnipotent power;” but, apart from that, it would, merely as an opposite wind, alone have made it almost impossible for the Israelites to proceed. The notion of such a wind enables us to hold fast the literal assertion that the water stood up on the north side also like a wall, although in regard to the phrase “like a wall” religious poetry and symbolism must be allowed to have a word. Keil’s quotations from Tischendorf and Schubert point to the natural substratum of the miracle. See also Knobel, p. 149. “How wide the gulf was in the places made bare, cannot be exactly determined. At the narrowest place above Suez it is now only two-thirds of a mile wide, or according to Niebuhr 3450 [German] feet, but was probably formerly wider, and is also at present wider farther up, opposite Tell Kolzum (Robinson, p. 81 and 71). The place where the Israelites crossed must have been wider, since otherwise the Egyptian army with more than six hundred chariots and many horsemen could not have been overtaken and destroyed by the return of the water” (Keil). According to Tischendorf (Reise I., p. 183), it is the north-east wind which still serves to increase the ebb-tide. When a strong north-west wind drives the floods southward, one can cross the gulf; but if the wind changes to the south-east, it drives the water northward, so that it then rises to a height of from six to nine feet (see Schubert, Reise II., p. 269; Döbel, Wanderungen II., p. 12; Knobel, p. 149).

Exodus 14:24-25. Out of the pillar of cloud and fire.—Without this addition, we should have to understand the effect to be purely supernatural. But since it is said: out of the pillar of cloud and fire, this must in some way have been made by Jehovah a token of terror to the Egyptians. It may be conjectured that, instead of cloudy darkness, the pillar of fire, when the further shore was reached, appeared to the Egyptians as a lofty body of light, and brought confusion into the Egyptian ranks, especially by its movement. So Keil. Josephus (Ant. II. 16, 3) and Rosenmüller understand thunder and lightning to be meant, according to Psalms 77:18. Keil regards a thunder-shower as something too slight in comparison with the fiery glance of Jehovah. But compare Psalms 18:0 and Psalms 29:0. Here, however, only the pillar of smoke and fire is spoken of. Fear now arises with the confusion, and with the fear new confusion, as so often happened in the history of the enemies of Israel. Comp. Judges 7:21 sqq.; 1 Samuel 14:20; 2 Kings 3:20 sqq.

Exodus 14:26. Stretch out thy hand.—Again the prophetico-symbolic action, with an opposite result. And again is the wind in league with Israel, this time to destroy the Egyptians. Vid. Exodus 15:10. That can only mean that the wind, in accordance with God’s sovereign control, changed to the south, in order miraculously to increase the flood now released. According to Keil, the wind now blew from the west. But if the east wind made a dry path for the Jews, without reference to the ebb, we should expect that the west wind would have made a path for the Egyptians. According to Keil, we are also to assume that the host perished “to the last man.” But generally in this sphere of dynamic relations the important point is not that of absolute universality, but that of thorough effectiveness.

On the traces of the passage through the Red Sea in heathen legends and secular history, especially in Diodorus of Sicily (III. 39), in Justinus (Exodus 36:2), in Artapanus, quoted by Eusebius, see the monograph of K. H. Sack, “Die Lieder in den historischen Büchern des Alten Testaments,” p. 51.13

Footnotes:

[1][Keil says: “ In what way they were to consecrate their life to the Lord depended on the Lord's direction, which prescribed that they should perform the non-sacerdotal labors connected with the sanctuary, and so be the priests’ servants in the sacred service. Yet even this service was afterwards transferred to the Levites (Numbers 3:0); but in place of it the people were required to redeem their first-born sons from the service which was incumbent on them, and which had been transferred to the Levites who were substituted for them, i.e., to ransom them by the payment to the priests of five shekels of silver for every person, Numbers 3:47; Numbers 18:16.” Numbers 3:12, above referred to as confuting keil's view, says simply that the Levites were substituted for the firstborn, but does not say that the first-born were originally destined to be priests. Lange's statement, therefore, seems to be unwarranted.—Tr.].

[2][Exodus 13:17. “For that was near.” A. V., Murphy, Kalisch, Gesenius, Glaire, Alford retain the rendering “although” for כִּי in this sentence. But such a meaning for כִּי cannot be well substantiated. Psalms 49:10, adduced by Fürst, is certainly not an instance of such use. Psalms 116:10 is more plausible. The A. V. rendering: “I believed, therefore [כִּי] have I spoken,” is incorrect. But it is not necessary, with some, to translate: “I believed, although I speak.” The particle here probably has the meaning “when.” In Psalms 49:19, adduced by Gesenius (Thesaurus), it means “because,” the apodosis following in Exodus 13:20. The same may be said of Genesis 8:21; Job 15:27-29; Zechariah 8:6. The rendering “when” suffices in Jeremiah 4:30; Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 49:16; Jeremiah 50:11; Jeremiah 51:53; Micah 7:8; Psalms 27:10; Psalms 21:12. The rendering “for” suffices in Hosea 13:15; Nahum 1:10; Deuteronomy 18:14; Deuteronomy 29:19; Jeremiah 46:23; Psalms 71:10; 1 Chronicles 28:5. The rendering “ where as,” or “while,” may be adopted in Malachi 1:4; Ecclesiastes 4:14. Probably these comprise all the passages in which the meaning “though” can with any plausibility be maintained. כִּי can be assumed to have the meaning “although” only as being equivalent to גַּם כִּי, “even when.” Even though this should be assumed sometimes to occur, still the case before us is not of that sort. The true explanation of such constructions is to assume a slight ellipsis in the expression: “God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, [as might have been expected], seeing that was near.” Or: “for that was near [and return to Egypt in case of danger would be more readily resorted to].”—Tr.]

[3][Exodus 14:20. וַיְהִי הֶעָנָן וְהַחשֶׁךְ וַיָּאֶר אֶת־הַלָּיְלָה. The construction is difficult. The only literal rendering is: “And it was (or, became) the cloud and the darkness, and it illumined the night.” The difficulty is gotten over by Knobel and Ewald by altering וְהַחשֶׁךְ into וְהֶחֱשִׁיךְ, reading: “And it came to pass us to the cloud, that it made darkness.” But even with this conjectural change, it is no less necessary to assume an ellipsis of “to the one” and “to the other,” or “on the one side” and “on the other,” as is done by A. V. and the great majority of versions and commentators. The article may be explained as pointing back to Exodus 13:21 : “And it was the cloud and the darkness which have been already described.” Or it is even possible to take מַלאַךְ (Exodus 14:19) as the subject of the verb: “And he became the cloud and darkness; but he illumined the night.”—Tr.]

[4][Exodus 14:21. The Hebrew word here used, חָרָבָה, is different from the one rendered “dry ground” in the next verse; and there is a clear distinction in the meaning, as is quite apparent from a comparison of Genesis 8:13, where it is said, that on the first day of the first month the ground was חָרֵב, with Exodus 14:14, where it is said, that on the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was יָבֵשׁ. The first means: free from water, drained; the second means: free from moisture, dry. The distinction is generally clear, though sometimes not exactly observed.—Tr.]

[5][Exodus 14:28. The preposition לְ certainly cannot here be rendered “and;” but it may have a sort of resumptive force, equivalent to “even,” “namely,” “in short.”—Tr.]

[6][Knobel after a learned discussion comes to the conclusion that the Hebrew name for the Red Sea, יַס־סוּף (literally “sea of sedge”) was probably derived from some town on the sea, named from the abundance of sedge growing near it. He takes this view in preference to the one which derives the name of the sea directly from the sedge, for the reason that the sedge is not a general feature of the sea, and from the uniform omission of the article before סוּפ.—Tr.].

[7][It is hardly possible to translate the simple conjunction ו by “especially as.” If any such connection of thought had been intended כִּי would more probably have been used. Besides, such a statement would be almost contradictory of that in the preceding verse. The fact that they were armed, would make them less likely to be afraid of war than if they were unarmed. The remark that חָמַשׁ signifies, among other things, to provoke to anger, has little force in this connection, for the reasons: (1) that it is doubtful whether that is its etymological significance; (2) that, even if this were its etymological significance, it is a meaning nowhere found in actual use; (3) that this meaning cannot possibly have any application here, since the participle is passive, and we should have to translate, “went up provoked to anger.”—Tr.].

[8][Notice may here be taken of a theory of the Exodus propounded by Brugsch at the International Congress of Orientalists in London, Sept. 1874, also published at Alexandria in French (“La Sartie des Hebreux d’ Egypte et les monuments Egyptiens”). The theory is stated and criticised by Dr. J. P. Thompson in the Bibliotheca Sacra for Jan. 1875. In brief it is as follows: Rameses he identifies with Zan, the Zoan of the Scriptures, situated near the moath of the Tanitic branch of the Nile. Succoth is identified with Thukut, a place mentioned on the Egyptian monuments as lying to the right of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile. Etham is found in the place known by the Egyptians as Khatom, east of Lake Menzaleh. Migdol is identified with the town called Magdolos by the Greeks, a fortress on the edge of the desert, not far from the Mediterranean. Thus Brugsch holds that the line of the journey lay much farther north than is commonly assumed. And the sea which the Israelites crossed was, according to him, not the Red Sea, but Lake Serbonis, between which and the Mediterranean the Israelites marched in their flight from Pharaoh, and in which the latter with his host was destroyed. The principal objections to this theory are stated by Dr. Thompson: (1) In order to reach their rendezvous, the Israelites, according to Brugsch, must have travelled nearly twenty miles north, crossing the Pelusiac branch of the Nile; and then on the next day must have recrossed it—a great improbability. (2) It would have been a blunder in strategy for Moses to have led the people into the treacherous Serbonian bog. (3) The sacred narrative plainly declares that the Israelites were commanded not to go by the way towards the Philistine country (Exodus 13:17), whereas this way led directly towards it. (4) The Scriptures declare that it was by the way of the Red Sea that the Israelites were to go (Exodus 13:18). and that it wast the Red Sea through which they passed (Exodus 15:4).—Tr.].

[9][The significance of the term שׁוּב, used here and in Numbers 33:7, is generally overlooked or unwarrantably modified by the commentators. Knobel (on Exodus 5:22 and here) argues that it means here only to turn; but the passages he adduces (among them one, Psalms 35:11 (Psalms 35:13?), in which the word does not occur at all) are none of them in point. The word uniformly means to turn back, return, especially when physical motion is intended. If merely turning aside had been meant, סוּר or פָּנָה would have been used. The use of this word is conclusive against the hypothesis, that Etham lay on the west of the Bitter Lakes. Ewald (Hist. of the People of Israel, II. p. 68) argues that the use of it also disproves the more current view of Robinson and others, that it lay south of the basin of these lakes. Possibly, however, this is not necessary; for Etham, being in the “edge of the wilderness,” may have been just east of the line of the Gulf or canal (as Robinson suggests); and if Pi-hahiroth is to be found in the present Ajrud, the people may, indeed, in going from Etham thither, have had to turn “back.” Still there is no conclusive evidence that Etham may not have been north or north-east of the Bitter Lakes, and that, in stead of passing down on the east side of the basin, they turned back, and went along the west side. So, among others, Canon Cook (in the Speaker’s Commentary).—Tr.]

[10][Hengstenberg also, History of the Kingdom of God, II. p. 292, while agreeing with Robinson, against Wilson, Von Baumer, etc., in regard to the place of the passage, rejects the theory of an. ebb tide, aided by a northeast wind, assenting that קַדִים never denotes anything but an east wind.—Tr.]

[11][This seems at first sight almost self-contradictory. Those who see in the events described only natural occurrences would seem to be just those who, disbelieving in anything supernatural, would not press, or would reject, the Biblical statement, that the water stood up as a wall on both sides. But probably Lange means that the literal, prosaic cast of mind which could not discern the supernatural element in the apparently natural phenomena, would also be unable to discern in the Biblical style the poetico-symbolic element, and so, whether accepting the Biblical statements or not, would understand them only in their most literal, prosaic sense.—Tr.].

[12][I.e. Pharaoh must be supposed to have set out within the three days through which the furlough extended. But this is an unsafe and inconclusive mode of reasoning. Moreover, Pharaoh may in any case have begun to make his preperations for pursuit before the three days had expired, even though it may have been longer than that before he actually pursued the fugitives.—Tr.].

[13][“Diodorus of Sicily, who had been in Egypt shortly before the birth of Christ, tells of a saying prevalent among the Ichthyophagi, a people on the east of the Arabian Gulf, to the effect that the whole gulf once became dry, and that there then followed a violent flood. Justinus, the Roman historian, who drew from an older source, relates that the Egyptians pursued Moses and the Israelites, but were forced to return by a violent thunder-shower. Eusebius, the Christian Church historian, in his Preparatio Evangelica ix. 27, quotes from Artapanus, a Greek writer, who flourished some time before the birth of Christ, who reports that the priests at Memphis had a saying about Moses being acquainted with the ebbs and floods, and that the priests at Heliopolis had one about Moses miraculously smiting the waters with his rod, and the consequent destruction of the Egyptians.” Sack, l. c.—Tr.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 14". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/exodus-14.html. 1857-84.