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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 14

 

 

Verses 1-31

THE OBSTACLE OF THE RED SEA

(vs.1-2)

By the Word of the Lord Israel was brought now to a spot from which there was no natural way of escape. The Red Sea was before them, three mountains surrounded them except to their rearward. But they could not go back, for God informed them that Pharaoh was having his heart hardened by God so as to pursue them (v.4).

He tells Moses to command the children of Israel to encamp before Pihahiroth. This means "the mouth of wrath kinglings" (v.2). They are not simply to avoid the anger of the enemy: they are to face it. The enemy of our souls wants to put us in fear. If we are afraid, it is no use pretending not to be. How much better to take to heart the words of Psalms 56:3, "When I am afraid I will put my trust in Thee" (NASB).

A second mountain is Migdol, which means "tower." The towers of Egypt, standing out above the common level, are symbolical of the pride of man. This is another enemy within our own hearts that God makes us face. If we think we can do something to save ourselves, this is pride that must be brought down.

Baal-Zephon is the third mountain. It means "Lord of the north." The north tells us of the cold winds of unbelief, which is determined to take the place of lordship, thus undermining the authority of God. These three evils, fear, pride and unbelief are enemies within our hearts. We must face them as enemies if we are to gain victory whatever.

The fear, pride and unbelief of the human heart are enemies that are most imposing, but the Red Sea was an enemy totally impossible for Israel to conquer. The sea speaks of death, called "the last enemy that will be destroyed" (1 Corinthians 15:26). We must face the fact that all are under sentence of death because all have sinned (Romans 5:12). People try to avoid even thinking of the possibility of their own death, but as God made Israel face the Red Sea, so He faces mankind with the stark reality of death. How much better to face it before it suddenly overtakes us, so that when it comes, its sting will not affect us at all.

God knew that Pharaoh would say that Israel had been overtaken by confusion and were "shut in" by the wilderness (v.3). It is true they were shut in, but it was God who had shut them in. Pharaoh seems to have reduced himself to a state of inability to reason sensibly, for after having been so devastated as to demand Israel's expulsion, his mind was changed to consider it a mistake to let them go. Yet God was behind this hardening of Pharaoh's heart, in order to display His own superior power.

Pharaoh mustered an imposing army with which he intended to recapture Israel to bring them back into bondage. Sin, the bitter enemy of our souls, is determined to hinder our being liberated to serve the living God, and the world is sin's army that seems too formidable for us to oppose. Just as Israel had no organized army, so we have in ourselves no protection against the horrible power of sin. Such protection can come only from the living God. He had brought Israel out of Egypt, and He would not fail them.

However, God does not act until Israel sees the Egyptians marching after them. He will put them through the deep distress they need in order to learn His faithfulness. In seeing the Egyptians they were very afraid (v.10). This reminds us of Pihahiroth and its lesson of fear (v.2). They also complained against Moses, telling him that he had brought them out of Egypt only to die in the wilderness. Here was the pride that inferred they were wiser than God if only they had chosen their own way, just as Migdol teaches its lesson of pride (v.2). Coupled with this is their unbelief (Baal-zephon--v.2) that suggests it would be better to die in the wilderness, the only alternative their doubting hearts could conceive.

Finally Moses speaks (v.13). The man of God has words totally in contrast to theirs. "Do not be afraid." This takes care of their fear. "Stand still." What a message to bring down the pride or man! For pride has confidence in its own doings, even if those doings are nothing but complaints! There was nothing they could do: then let them be sensible and "stand still." Thirdly, "see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today." When we see the salvation of God, how this melts away our unbelief! Israel is assured they will not see the Egyptians again forever.

Israel had "cried out to the Lord," but in unbelief. Moses had done so too (v.15), but with true confidence in God's answer. The Lord then tells him to lift up his rod, stretch his hand over the sea and divide it, assuring him that Israel would pass through the sea on dry ground. Then God would harden the hearts of the Egyptians, so that in haughty self-confidence they would follow Israel into the sea (v.17) in order that God would be honored in a way that Egypt would not anticipate.

However, God keeps Israel in suspense for another night, yet encouraging them by having the angel of God and the cloudy pillar removed from before them to behind them, leaving the Egyptians in darkness, but being light to Israel (vs.19-20). Thus God encourages believers even when in a state of apprehension, but their prolonged apprehension was necessary to make them all the more appreciative of the deliverance when it comes.

Moses stretched out his hand with his rod over the sea (v.21). Then the Lord caused the sea to divide by means of a strong east wind blowing all night. He could have done this more quickly, but He did not, for Israel needed the delay. The sea bottom did not remain muddy, but became dry land. The children of Israel did not linger to marvel over the wonder of this great miracle taking place before their eyes, but marched forward between the two vertical walls of water that had been formed altogether by the power of God.

The Egyptians also did not stop to consider the fact of the amazing miracle of water standing up, but marched in with the confident intention of recapturing Israel (v.23). But unbelief cannot succeed in imitating faith. The Lord slowed them down by taking off their chariot wheels (v.25), so that Israel was given time to get safely to the other side. The Egyptians realized that it must be the Lord fighting for Israel that caused their chariot wheels to come off, and decided that they ought to retreat. But it would be as difficult to retreat as to advance with no wheels!

The Egyptians' decision to retreat was too late. The Lord told Moses to again stretch out his hand over the sea, and when he did this the waters of the sea returned with vehement force into the channel through which Israel had passed, and engulfed the army of Egypt (v.27). Not even a strong swimmer could escape from death in the inundation. Not one remained alive (v.28). In case we might think that Pharaoh himself might not have been with his army, Psalms 136:15 tells us that God "overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea."

Verse 29 emphasizes that the children of Israel walked on dry land through the sea, with the waters being a wall on either side. Thus, in type believer have "died with Christ." They have passed through death without being touched by it. "For ye have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). When Israel reached the other side, this pictures the believer having been raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1), now safe on the other side of death. He is given resurrection life because he is identified with Christ both in His death and His resurrection.

This is not only the salvation of souls by virtue of the blood of Christ shed for our sins (as the Passover typifies), but salvation from the power of the enemy by the superior power of God, -- salvation from the power of indwelling sin, with its fear, pride and unbelief. Israel saw their enemies dead on the seashore. Though actually this great work was no more wonderful than the shedding of the blood of Christ for our sins, yet it was salvation by power that so affected Israel to fear and believe the Lord, and His servant Moses.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 14:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/exodus-14.html. 1897-1910.

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