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Pharaoh pursues the Israelites: Moses stretches his hand over the sea; which is divided; and the Israelites pass through the midst of it, as upon dry land: the Egyptians, following them, are drowned.
Before Christ 1491.
Exodus 14:2. Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn— Dr. Shaw is of opinion, that this expression to turn, &c. may serve to determine the geography of Etham, the second station of the Israelites; which, if it appertain to the wilderness of the same name, the edge of it may be well taken for the most advanced part of it towards Egypt; and, consequently, to lie contiguous with some portion or other of the mountains of the lower Thebais, or of Mocattee, near Kairo. Removing from the edge of this wilderness, the Israelites are immediately ordered to turn (to the southeast) from the course, as we may imagine, of their former marches, which was hitherto in an easterly direction, and to encamp before Pi-hahiroth. As Pi-hahiroth, therefore, must lie to the right hand of the wilderness of Etham, within or on the side of these mountains; so the second station, or the particular portion of this wilderness of Etham, may be fixed about fifty miles from Kairo, at or near the breach mentioned in the note on Exo 14:18 of the last chapter.
Pi-hahiroth— Or, the chops of Hhiroth. A geographical description of the route of the Israelites at this interesting time must be so pleasing to the learned reader, that I shall be excused if I give Dr. Shaw's account at large: "That the Israelites," says the doctor, "before they turned towards Pi-hahiroth, had travelled in an open country, appears to be further illustrated from hence; that upon their being ordered to remove from the edge of the wilderness, and to encamp before Pi-hahiroth; it immediately follows, Exodus 14:3 they are entangled in the land: the wilderness (betwixt the mountains, we may suppose, of Gewoubee and Attackah, for the Hebrews call all uncultivated land, which is fit only for pasture, מדבר midbar, wilderness) hath shut them in: or, is it is in the original, סגר saggar, hath shut up the way against them; for, in these circumstances, the Egyptians might well imagine, that the Israelites could have no way to escape, inasmuch as the mountains of Gewoubee would stop their flight or progress to the southward, as those of Attackah would do the same towards the land of the Philistines: the Red-sea likewise lay before them to the east, while Pharaoh closed up the valley behind them with his chariots and horsemen.
This valley ends at the sea in a small bay, made by the eastern extremities of the mountains which I have been describing, and is called Tiah Beni Israel, i.e. the road of the Israelites, from a tradition, which is still kept up by the Arabs, of their having passed through it; and is also called Baideah, from the new and unheard-of miracle (which the word signifies in the Arabic) which was wrought near it by dividing the Red-sea, and destroying therein Pharaoh, his chariots and horsemen. The third encampment, then, of the Israelites was at this bay. It was before Pi-hahiroth, betwixt Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon; and according to Num 33:7 it was before Migdol, where the word לפני lipni, before, being applied to Pi-hahiroth and Migdol, may signify no more than that they pitched within sight of, or at a small distance from, the one and the other of those places. Baal-zephon may be interpreted the god, or idol of the north; for baal signifies god or lord, and zephon is rendered north in many places of Scripture; and he is so called, perhaps, in contradistinction to other idols of the Lower Thebais, whose places of worship were to the south or east. If zephon be related to צפה tzape, to spy out or observe, then Baal-zephon will, probably, signify the god of the watch-tower, or the guardian god; such as was the Hermes of the Romans, &c. Now, whether Baal-zephon may have relation to the northern situation of the place, or to some watch-tower, or idol-temple erected upon it; we may properly take it for the eastern extremity of the mountains of Suez or Attackah, the most conspicuous of these deserts, as it overlooks a great part of the Lower Thebais, as well as the wilderness which reaches towards, or which rather makes part of the land of the Philistines. Migdol then might lie to the south, as Baal-zephon did to the north of Pi-hahiroth; for the marches of the Israelites from the edge of the wilderness being to the sea-ward, i.e. towards the south-east, their encampments between Migdol and the sea, or before Migdol, could not well have another situation." Migdol signifies a tower. The LXX render it Magdolos; and it is supposed to be the same with the place so called by Herodotus. Pi-hahiroth, or chiroth rather, without regarding the prefixed part of it, may have a more general signification, and denote the valley, or that whole space of ground which extends from the edge of the wilderness of Etham to the Red-sea. For that particular part only, where the Israelites were ordered to encamp, appears to have been called Pi-hahiroth, i.e. the mouth of Hhiroth; for when Pharaoh almost overtook them, it was (with respect to his coming down upon them, Exodus 14:9.) החירת פי על al pi hachirot, i.e. besides, or at the mouth, or the most advanced part of chiroth, to the eastward. likewise, in Num 33:7 where the Israelites are related to have encamped before Migdol, it follows, Exo 14:8 that they departed החירת מפני miphni hachirot, from before chiroth, and not from before Pi-hahiroth, as it is rendered in our translation. And in this sense it is taken by the LXX, by Eusebius, and St. Jerome. It has been already observed, that this valley is closely confined betwixt two rugged chains of mountains. By deducing chiroth, therefore, from חר chor or chour, i.e. a hole or gullet, (as the Samaritan and Syriac copies understand it,) it may, by a latitude very common in these cases, be rendered a narrow defile, road, or passage; such as the valley of Baideah has been described. Pi-hahiroth, therefore, upon this supposition, will be the same as the mouth, or the most advanced part of this valley, to the eastward toward the Red-sea. But as the Israelites were properly delivered at this place from their captivity and fear of the Egyptians, Exo 14:13 we may rather suppose, that chiroth denotes the place where they were restored to their liberty; as חרר chorar and חירות chiruth are words of the like import in the Chaldee. In Rashi's Commentary, we have a further confirmation of this interpretation. Pi-hahiroth, says he, is so called because the children of Israel were made חרים בני Beni chorim, free-men at that place, in the Targum likewise, בןאּחרין ben chorin is used to explain חפשׁי chapsi, ch. Exodus 21:2; Exodus 21:5 a word which denotes liberty and freedom in these and other parts of Scripture. And it may be further urged in favour, as well of this explication as of the tradition still preserved, of the Israelites having passed through this valley, that the eastern extremity of the mountain, which I suppose to be Baal-tzephon, is called, even to this day, by the inhabitants of these deserts, Jibbel Attackah, or the Mountain of Deliverance; which appellation, together with those of Baideah and Tiah Beni Israel, could never have been given, or imposed upon these inhabitants at first, or preserved by them afterwards, without some faithful tradition that such place had once been the actual scene of these remarkable transactions. The sea, likewise, of Kolzun, i.e. Destruction, as the correspondent part of the Red-sea is called in the Arabian Geography, is a further confirmation of this tradition. Moreover, the Icthyophagi, who lived in this very neighbourhood, are reported by Diodorus Siculus, (lib. 3: p. 122.) to have preserved the like traditionary account from their forefathers of this miraculous division of the Red-sea.
There are likewise other circumstances to prove, that the Israelites took their departure from this valley in their passage through the Red-sea. For it could not have been to the northward of the mountains of Attackah, or in the higher road which has been before taken notice of; because, as this lies for the most part upon a level, the Israelites could not have been here, as we find they were, shut up and entangled. Neither could it have been on the other side, viz. to the south of the mountains of Gewoubee; for then (besides the insuperable difficulties which the Israelites would have met with in climbing over them; the same likewise which the Egyptians would have had in pursuing them,) the opposite shore could not have been the desert of Shur, where the Israelites landed, ch. Exo 15:22 but it would have been the desert of Marah, which lay a great way beyond it. What is now called Corondel, might, probably, be the southern portion of the desert of Marah, the shore of the Red-sea from Suez hitherto having continued to be low and sandy; but from Corondel to the port of Tor, the shore is, for the most part, rocky and mountainous, in the same manner with the Egyptian coast which lies opposite to it; neither the one nor the other of them affording any convenient place either for the departure of a multitude from the one shore, or the reception of it upon the other. And besides, from Corondel to Tor, the channel of the Red-sea, which from Suez to Shur is not above nine or ten miles broad, begins here to be so many leagues; too great a space certainly for the Israelites, in the manner they were encumbered, to pass over in one night. As the Israelites then, for these reasons, could not have landed, according to the opinion of some authors, either at Corondel or Tor, so neither could they have landed at Ain el Mousah, according to the conjectures of others; for, if the passage of the Israelites had been so near the extremity of the Red-sea, it may be presumed, that the very encampments of six hundred thousand men, besides children, and a mixed multitude, would have spread themselves even to the farther, or the Arabian side of this narrow isthmus, whereby the interposition of Providence would not have been at all necessary; because in this case, and in this situation, there could not have been room enough for the waters, after they were divided, to have stood on an heap, or to have been a wall unto them, particularly on the left hand. This, moreover, would not have been a division, but a recess only of the waters to the southward. Pharaoh likewise, by overtaking them, as they were encamped in this open situation by the sea, would have easily surrounded them on all sides; whereas the contrary seems to be implied by the pillar of the cloud, (Exodus 14:19-20.) which divided or came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel, and thereby left the Israelites (provided this cloud should have been removed) in a situation only of being molested in the rear: for the narrow valley which has been described, and which, we may presume, was already occupied and filled up behind by the host of Egypt, and before by the encampments of the Israelites, would not permit or leave room for the Egyptians to approach them, either on the right hand or on the left. Besides, if this passage was at Ain Mousah, how can we account for that remarkable circumstance, ch. Exo 15:22 where it is said, that when Moses brought Israel from the Red-sea, they went out into, or landed in, the wilderness of Shur? For Shur, a particular district of the wilderness of Etham, lies directly fronting the valley from which, I suppose, they departed, but a great many miles to the southward of Ain Mousah. If likewise they landed at Ain Mousah, where there are several fountains, there would have been no occasion for the sacred historian to have observed, at the same time, that the Israelites, after they went out from the sea into the wilderness of Shur, went three days in the wilderness (always directing their marches towards Mount Sinai) and found no water. For which reason Marah is recorded, in the following verse, to be the first place where they found water; as their wandering thus far before they found it seems to make Marah also the first station after their passage through the Red-sea. Beside, the channel over against Ain Mousah is not above three miles over, whereas that betwixt Shur or Sedur, and Jibbel Gewoubee and Attackah, is nine or ten, and therefore capacious enough; as the other would have been too small for drowning or covering therein (ch. Exodus 14:28.) the chariots and horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh. And therefore, by impartially weighing all these arguments together, this important point in the sacred geography may, with more authority, be fixed at Sedur, over against the valley of Baideah, than at Tor, Corondel, Ain Mousah, or any other place. Over-against Jibael Attackah, and the valley of Baideah, is the desert, as it is called, of Sdur, the same with Shur, ch. Exo 15:22 where the Israelites landed, after they had passed through the interjacent gulph of the Red-sea. The situation of this gulph, which is the Jam Suph, ףּסו ים, the weedy sea, or the tongue of the Egyptian sea, in the Scripture language; the gulph of Heroopolis in the Greek and Latin Geography; and the western arm, as the Arabian geographers call it, of the sea of Kolzun; stretches itself nearly north and south, and therefore lies very properly situated to be traversed by that strong east wind which was sent to divide it, ch. Exodus 14:21. The division which was thus made in the channel, the making the waters of it to stand as on an heap, (Psalms 78:13.) they being a wall to the Israelites on their right hand, and on their left, ch. Exo 14:22 besides the twenty miles distance, at least, of this passage from the extremity of the gulph, are circumstances which sufficiently vouch for the miraculousness of it; and no less contradict all such idle suppositions as pretend to account for it from the nature and quality of tides, or from any extraordinary recess of the sea. See Dr. Shaw's Travels, p. 310, &c.
REFLECTIONS.— They were now got well out of Pharaoh's reach; but God hath farther designs for his own glory in the overthrow of that haughty monarch. He therefore commands Moses to wheel to the right, to that part hemmed in by the sea and the wilderness, knowing the heart of Pharaoh, and that the difficulties of their situation would induce him to follow them, where he should meet with merited destruction. God has wise designs, even in the straits to which he reduces his people, that, in their deliverance, he may make his power, grace, and love more evidently appear.
Exodus 14:5. It was told the king of Egypt, that the people fled— That is, were flying away, and wholly removing out of the land. It appears from the whole tenor of the history, that Pharaoh never intended absolutely to part with the Israelites; and his disposition was such, that he never regarded his word or promise when the hand of punishment was removed from him: but now, perceiving that the Israelites were about to depart wholly from his kingdom, and the angel having ceased to destroy the first-born, he returns to his old temper, and, accordingly, meets the destruction which he so justly deserved.
Exodus 14:7. He took six hundred chosen chariots— These six hundred, most probably, were those which appertained to the king's guard, and were always ready to attend him, being the very choice and strength of his army. Besides these, it is said, he took all the chariots of Egypt. Chariots were very early, and especially in the eastern countries, used in war; we read of them as quite common in Homer: Xenophon says, they were usually drawn by four horses. Egypt was a plain country, and very fit for them; and accordingly we read that its strength consisted in them. 2 Chronicles 12:3.Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 31:1. If these chariots were all drawn by four horses, the number required on this occasion must have been very great; and as it is said, ch. Exo 9:6 that all their cattle was destroyed, some have wondered whence they should have procured so many. But it is to be observed, that this is said only of the cattle which was in the field; the cavalry, as is usual, being kept in stables, and so preserved. "Of all the infatuated resolutions (to use the words of the learned Dr. Jackson, b. 10: ch. 11.) which either king or people adventured on, the pursuing the Israelites with such a mighty army, after they had so intreated and urged them to leave their country, may well seem, to every indifferent reader, the most stupid that ever was taken;" and so, indeed, the author of the Book of Wisdom, ch. Exo 19:3 justly censures it: for whilst they were yet mourning, says he, and making lamentation at the graves of the dead, they added another foolish device, and pursued them, as fugitives, whom they had intreated to be gone. But how much soever the Egyptians had suffered for detaining the Hebrews, yet, now that they were gone, they possibly might be of the same mind with the Syrians; (1 Kings 20:23.) who fancied that the God of Israel might not be alike powerful in all places; or, if he was, they might, nevertheless, think that Moses's commission extended no farther than the meridian of Egypt; or that, if it did, it might, however, have no power over mighty hosts and armies. They knew, at least, that the Israelites had no skill in military matters; no captains of infantry, no cavalry at all, no weapons or engines of war; whereas they were well furnished, and equipped with every thing of this nature: and upon these, and the like presumptions, it was that they became foolhardy and desperately resolute, either to bring back the Israelites to their slavery, or to be revenged upon them for all the losses they had sustained, and the penalties they had suffered. See Patrick's Commentary.
Exodus 14:8. The children of Israel went out with an high hand— This may be rendered, agreeably, to the Hebrew, pursued after the children of Israel, even the children of Israel going out with an high hand; that is, in an uncontrouled manner, independent upon, and defying the Egyptians. See 2 Samuel 20:21. The Chaldee renders it, with uncovered or open head; that is, boldly, cheerfully. 2 Samuel 15:30. Jeremiah 14:4.
Exodus 14:9. By the sea— This sea, which has been mentioned frequently before, is commonly called the Red-sea, or the sea of Suph; which is supposed to be a species of alga, or a marine moss. But Robert Southwell, being at Lisbon, learnt there, from the mouth of an able jesuit, (who had travelled into Ethiopia, and made a voyage on the Red-sea,) the following remarkable particular. The jesuit had seen the Red-sea covered with reddish spots, and he derives from the colour of them, that name which the Greeks gave to it. The particles of these spots proceed from a plant, like to that which is called sargazo; and it is fixed by its root to the bottom of the sea, while its leaves float upon the surface. An Indian, whom they caused in their presence to dive into the sea, brought up such a sufficient quantity of this plant, that it was immediately perceived to be the marine vegetable, which is called by the Egyptians supho. Hence, it is evident, that it is the true suph of the Hebrews, and that hence comes the name which they have given to the Red-sea; and what is decisive is, that even still it has the very same name in the Ethiopian language.
REFLECTIONS.—Now the Egyptians begin to recover from their fright, accuse their own folly in parting with their slaves, and call their march a flight, though themselves had thrust them out: so easily can misrepresentations be made. Hereupon they determine, horse and chariots, to pursue and bring them back to the house of their prison; encouraged by the dangerous encampment they had made, where they quickly found them, and promised themselves an easy prey. Note; (1.) They who are merely frightened by God's word, will quickly be sorry for the little good they did, and be ashamed even of their pretended repentance. (2.) He that will escape out of a sinful world, must expect a hot pursuit from the devil and his servants. (3.) He that brings us out with a high hand, can bear us up with everlasting strength.
Exodus 14:10. And they were sore afraid— We shall have frequent occasions to remark this unbelieving and pusillanimous spirit in the Israelites; who, though they had seen to many miracles wrought in their favour, and though they came forth from Egypt with so high an hand, Exo 14:8 no sooner saw danger before them, than their hearts fainted, and they forgot that Jehovah had already done so great things for them. It is said, they cried out unto the Lord; but not with the cry of supplication and faith, as the context proves. Theirs was the language of timidity and despair: Is not this the word, say they, Exodus 14:12 that we did tell thee in Egypt? &c. See ch. Exodus 5:21 Exodus 6:9.
Exodus 14:13. Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not— The sublimity and grandeur of this reply of Moses can be equalled by nothing but the calmness and moderation of mind wherewith he addresses these servile and desponding Israelites. See Numbers 12:3. The phrase, in the 14th verse, and ye shall hold your peace, expresses, that they, in the deepest silence and attention, shall contemplate the great work which Jehovah will perform. This is the exact meaning of the Hebrew verb חרשׁ choresh.
REFLECTIONS.—How soon are the songs of liberty turned into the sorrows of death. Observe,
1. The terrible dismay which seizes the Israelites: surrounded with insurmountable obstacles, and no door open for escape, except the Lord interpose. Blessed be God, though troubled on every side, we can still say, Sursum corda, Look up and hope. Could not he, who had done wonders in Egypt, do as great in the wilderness? and had he shewn them so much grace, to forsake them now? But they are as desponding of God, as ungrateful to Moses; and by their murmuring provoke the judgment they otherwise need not fear. They were now delivered; but their continued perverseness brought on them at last, as on the Egyptians, after ten plagues, the same destruction. Unbelief, if uncured, must be fatal at last.
2. Moses encourages them against their fears: he does not reproach their cowardice, but pities their weakness. Sharp rebukes will not suit all sins; we must direct our advice to the circumstances of the patient. They have but one business: to rest upon God: he who has brought them into danger, will bring them out of it. Note; (1.) Sedateness in danger, is the most likely means to extricate ourselves from it. (2.) To encourage our heart in God, is the way, not only to remove our fears, but to surmount our difficulties.
Exodus 14:15. And the Lord said unto Moses— We may observe once for all, that though ו vau, in the Hebrew, and και in the Greek, have various significations; yet our translators have almost invariably rendered them by the particle and. A little variety had certainly added elegance and propriety to their version: for if, in the present passage for instance, we read, now the Lord had said unto Moses, a reason will be given for that confidence which Moses shews in the former verse; and which, as the next words prove, was grounded on his prayer to God. It is not to be conceived, that when the Lord says, Wherefore criest thou unto me? he was displeased at Moses for so doing: it only implies, that, his prayers being heard, he was now to exert all those rational endeavours, which are well consistent with the state of prayer and absolute dependence upon God. Though we are to apply to God by prayer, in the midst of distress; yet we are not to rest only therein: but, with a firm reliance on that Power to whom we pray, are to exert every prudent and proper endeavour for our own relief. Mr. Chais renders the former part of this verse agreeable to our remark: Or l'Eternel avoit dit a Moise, Now the Lord had said unto Moses.
Exodus 14:16. Lift thou up thy rod—over the sea, and divide it— See Exodus 14:21. It is very common in Scripture to attribute those actions to a person, which are only done by his agency at the command and by the power of another. So here, it was by the immediate power of God that the sea was divided: Moses was so far honoured, as to give the command for that miraculous interposition.
Exodus 14:17. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians— That is, I will suffer the hearts of the Egyptians to be hardened by their own violent and infatuating passions. See the note on ch. Exodus 9:34. I will get me honour] The original word signifies, to be glorified. Exodus 14:19. The Angel of God, which went] The Divine Messenger and Leader of the Israelites, who, as we have heretofore shewn, was Christ, caused the miraculous pillar to intervene between them and the Egyptians, in such a manner, that it gave perfect light in the night (in that night, about the beginning of which the dreadful order was given to Moses, Exodus 14:16.) to the Israelites, while it was complete darkness to the Egyptians, and entirely secluded the host of Israel from their sight, Exodus 14:20. Houbigant remarks, that it is plain, from this place, that the cloud was dark on one side, and lucid on the other.
REFLECTIONS.—Moses speaks the language of confidence to the people, and lifts up his heart in prayer to God. Prayer and faith are mutual helpers: faith quickens prayer, and prayer strengthens faith, Observe,
1. God's direction to Moses: Go forward. Whither, into the sea? No, to the sea, and trust for the rest. Note; However dangerous and dark the way of duty; when we go forward, God will take care of the event. The sea shall be divided; and that which affords a passage to Israel, shall be the grave of the Egyptians. Thus God will get honour from both; in his mercies on the one, in his judgments on the other. Note; The damnation of the sinner shall as surely redound to the glory of God, as the salvation of his saints.
2. The guard he sets to preserve his people from the Egyptians. The cloud removes between them; a light to guide the one through the sea, and a barrier to prevent the other from approaching to hurt them. This pillar of the cloud still stands in the same aspect. To the impenitent sinner, every prospect is covered with darkness: to the child of God, light surrounds his path: and as their present ways are directed, so will be their end. The darkness of sin will lead down to the darkness of eternal death: the light of Grace will conduct us to eternal light and life in glory.
Exodus 14:21. Moses stretched out his hand, &c.— Nothing can be more plain from the context, than that the Almighty power of the Lord, by the instrumentality of a strong east wind, caused an absolute division in the body of the waters of the Red-sea; and therefore those commentators seem much to blame, who endeavour to lessen the greatness of this miracle, by suppositions plausible to human reason, but derogatory from the Omnipotence of God, and the true meaning of the sacred Scriptures. Whatever instruments the Almighty might think fit to use; it is unquestionable that the power was derived wholly from him; and that it was by an immediate act of his will, not by any regular process of natural causes, that the sea, divided into two parts, gave a free passage to the Israelites; the waters being a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left, Exo 14:22 the pillar of cloud conducting them; and the same waters, which, obedient to the word of God, had opened to give a passage to his people, equally obedient to his command of death, overwhelming the enemies of Israel in the waves of destruction. What we render by a strong east wind, the Vulgate renders by a violent and burning wind; see note on ch. Exodus 10:13. This wind blew all night; so that the division of the sea was some time in perfecting: the strong east wind put the waters in motion, and gradually effected this wonderful separation. The word which we render to go back, does not signify, strictly, to go back; it denotes local motion, going or moving, in whatever manner; and so you may observe, that back, in our version, is printed in Italics. The Psalmist, in Psa 136:13 says expressly that the Red-sea was divided into two parts; which some of the Jews, very absurdly, have imagined to signify twelve several parts for their twelve several tribes to pass through. The original says, that he divided the Red-sea into divisions; which most obviously and clearly expresses a division into two parts.
Exodus 14:22. The waters were a wall—on their right hand, and on their left— A lively tradition of this passage of the Israelites through the Red-sea, has been preserved in many writers: and Diodorus, the master of St. Chrysostom, has amply refuted all those objections against the real passage of the Israelites, which we have but barely hinted at; thinking an attention to the text, and a true exposition of it, the best and most satisfactory confutation.
Exodus 14:24. In the morning-watch— A watch was a fourth part of the time from sun-setting to sun-rising; so called, from soldiers keeping guard by night; who being changed four times during the night, the periods came to be called watches. See Matthew 14:25.Mark 13:35; Mark 13:35.Luke 12:38; Luke 12:38. It was in the morning-watch, the last of the four, that the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians, through the pillar of fire and of the cloud. It is difficult to say, what is implied by this look of the Lord; or how, by means of it, the host of the Egyptians was troubled: it was, no doubt, a look of anger and displeasure; see Psa 104:32 but, whether it was attended, as some suppose, with dreadful thunders, lightning, and hailstones, shot from the cloud, is difficult to determine. Dr. Hammond supposes, that the 77th psalm, Exo 14:16-20 refers to this event; and if so, it is a noble exposition of it. Some render troubled the host, by debilitated the host: but the true meaning of the word המם hamam, seems to be that which our translation gives; to trouble, or put into tumult and confusion. It does not appear by the text, that the Egyptians were sensible that they were entering into the sea; and it is more than probable, that they were too eager after their pursuit, and had too little light, to perceive the danger they were running into: unless we should suppose, with Josephus, that, because they saw the Israelites march safely through the sea, they vainly hoped that they might do the same; and were not undeceived till it was too late.
Exodus 14:25. And took off their chariot-wheels— Houbigant renders this, irretivit, seu ligavit rotas curruum: he entangled, or bound the wheels of the chariots; which making them to drive more heavily, the Egyptians said, &c. The Egyptian host, it is to be remembered, consisted only of chariots and cavalry, which might find great difficulty in passing through this channel, where the children of Israel, who were all on foot, found none; for, naturalists of the first authority unanimously testify, that this gulph has an extremely foul and clayey bottom, abounding with aquatic plants and shrubs, and, in many places, with extremely rugged rocks; all of which, easily passable by footmen, might very much incommode chariots and cavalry, embarrass and entangle them, and indeed render their passage impracticable: therefore, though it may be truly said that the Lord entangled their chariot-wheels, yet we may well suppose, that nature here fought with its Great Master against the unwise; and that second causes concurred with the immediate agency of GOD. See Genesis 11:7. The Egyptians seem to have considered this as the immediate operation of Jehovah: they said, let us flee,—for Jehovah (as it should constantly be rendered,) fighteth for them.
Exodus 14:27. And Moses stretched forth his hand, &c.— The Israelites having been safely landed on the opposite shore, the words of Moses, Exo 14:13 were now about to be fulfilled; the terrible moment of destruction being arrived to the Egyptians. The Lord gave the command: Moses stretched forth his hand, and the sea returned to his strength. The expression seems to import, that the sea, whose waves had been miraculously suspended by the power of Jehovah, now returned to its usual force; and, with its wonted violence, rushed impetuously, a strong wind urging it on (ch. Exodus 15:10.) to overwhelm the devoted Egyptians. God had made use of the agency of a wind to suspend the waters; and now he uses the same instrument to urge them with more precipitancy, and to give more terror to the scene; winds and waves uniting to fulfil his awful commands.
Exodus 14:29. But the children of Israel walked— Or, had walked. In order more strongly to point the contrast, after the sacred historian has mentioned the utter extirpation of the infidel Egyptians, he repeats, that the Israelites had passed safely through those waters, which became so pernicious to Egypt, while they were to the Israelites as a wall on their right hand, and on their left. They had passed in the morning-watch; that is, in somewhat less than twelve hours, (compare Exodus 14:20-21; Exodus 14:24; Exodus 14:27.) which might have been easily accomplished, as the place of their passage, according to the best writers, was not so much as twenty miles over.
Exodus 14:30. Saved Israel that day— We have observed before, ch. Exo 12:15 that this deliverance was perfected on the last day of unleavened bread; i.e. on the twenty-first of Abib; and it has been thought that the command, Deu 5:15 took place from this day; or, at least, from this time became an additional motive for the observation of the Sabbath. See Mede's Works, Discourse 15:
And Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore— Or, as others, and Israel, upon [or, from] the shore, saw the Egyptians dead. Either interpretation may be justified: for we may easily suppose, agreeably to the first sense, that the dead bodies of the Egyptians were, many of them, borne by the waves, and cast upon the shore: or that, agreeably to the second, the Israelites saw, from the shore, whereon they stood, the bodies of the Egyptians floating upon the waves. Some have conceived, that the dead bodies of the Egyptians, cast upon the shore, became a prey to the beasts of the wilderness; and they have imagined, that this is referred to in the 14th verse of the 74th Psalm.
We must not conclude our notes on this chapter, without referring the reader to the observation of St. Paul, who considers this whole transaction as a type, or sensible representation, of baptism; 1 Corinthians 10:2.
REFLECTIONS.—Now the full measure of Egypt's sin is come, and her punishment is accordingly.
1. God's own people are secure. Moses, as commanded, stretches out his rod. Straight the east-wind ariseth, the stormy billows part their curling heads, and deep divided foam around above them, while Israel's hosts, safe under His wings whom winds and waves obey, march fearless through: nor, though amid the darkness of the night, with such a Guide and such a Light, need apprehend mistake or danger. Note; God's people in every age have found him a very present help in trouble; and shall not we remember the days of old, and trust him? Surely we shall never be ashamed when we do so.
2. The presumption of sinners is their ruin. The Egyptians, infatuated with rage, drive furiously between the parted waters, and madly press to overtake those who were borne, as it were, on eagles' wings. But in their mid career, terrors seize them: one look from the offended God of Israel strikes every heart with dire dismay: their chariots hang entangled in the sands, the clay, and the weeds; their wheels start from their axles, their way is embarrassed, they can neither fly nor pursue. Too late convinced, they fain would turn, but now the approaching watery walls prevent escape: in vain they cry, in vain they urge the fiery steed, or press towards the distant shore; every avenue is closed. Advancing slow, the overwhelming waves first kill with fear, then burst impetuous on these devoted heads. Proud Pharaoh and his horsemen now lie low, no more the terror of the mighty, but breathless corpses floating on the waters, or cast upon the shore. Learn, (1.) To tremble before an offended God: if his wrath be kindled, yea, but a little, who can abide it? (2.) It is too late for the sinner to cry for mercy, or fly for life, when death unbars the gates of the grave. (3.) They must fall at last, who are found fighting against God.
3. Observe Israel's triumph over them. Their bodies are cast on shore, as despicable now, as once they were fearful. Oh, what alterations doth the cold hand of death make! Now, the Israelites gratefully acknowledge the hand of God, and believe in his care, and Moses's mission from him. Who would have thought such a scene could have been forgotten, or that they should ever again refuse credence to his word? We are ready in our prosperity to say, "I shall never be removed, shall never doubt again;" but the sensible impressions of present mercies decay, and unbelief, like these mighty waters, returneth to its strength again. Lord, not only remove my unbelief, but preserve the faith thou dost bestow!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 14". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27