2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.
3 For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.
The marching host was taken-not through the direct and easy route that lay by the Mediterranean seaboard, but by a road turning southwards, which brought them by the western side of the northern tongue of the Red Sea, into a position from which there was no exit-the Red Sea in front, a mountain barrier to the north and south, and the road to Egypt in the rear.
Israel were not aware of the reasons for this apparent bungle of generalship; but it was not long before it became apparent to them-at all events, in its first, and not at all comforting, aspect.
It was a situation to tempt pursuit and recapture. This was the divine bait, God said to Moses...
Visible Hand of God Ch 14 *4 And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am Yahweh. And they did so.
9 But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.
10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto Yahweh.
Never was a company of human beings in more perilous position than Israel at this moment. Here was a vast defenceless crowd of men, women, and children, encumbered with flocks of sheep, and herds of cattle huddled into a valley that opened only to the sea; and here, behind them, in compact military order, was rapidly approaching a thoroughly equipped corps of the flower of the army of the most powerful monarchy of the earth. *
12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
Could any leader be more sorely tried than Moses in these words? Moses knew what the Lord had said to him as to the upshot of this alarming phase of things, and on this he leant. He tried to quiet the people with the faith which he possessed himself. *
13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
God's mighty judgments on the Egyptians were not yet ended. He proposed a finishing stroke which would give a terrible dramatic completeness to the work, and write the intended lesson in the heart of Israel in characters that would not be effaced by the friction of a hundred generations. This, with consummate wisdom, was accomplished by leading Israel into a trap. *
22 And 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.
'...when Israel was brought to the birth, and stood trembling on the shore of the Red Sea, they were about to be introduced into Moses. They had been begotten of God as His national first-born; but were they to be born of water into the everlasting possession of Canaan; or into a possession in which they were only "strangers and sojourners" in the land?
That would depend upon the question of their national baptism into Moses, or into Christ: if into Moses, they could only inherit according to his law; but if into Christ, then they would obtain an everlasting national possession of the land, of which no other nation, or confederacy of nations, could deprive them.
But they could not be nationally baptized into Christ, for Christ had not come; and until He came, and as the mediatorial testator of the Will, suffered death, neither individual nor nation could have everlasting inheritance in the land; for the Will, or covenant, was of no force while the testator was undeceased.
But there is an end of all question in the case. The apostle in reference to the passage of the Red Sea, writes,
"I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized INTO Moses in the cloud and in the sea"
(1 Cor.10:1, 2).
This was the national baptism. An entire obscuration of a whole nation from the view of all beholders on either shore. It was buried, not in the sea only, but in the cloud and in the sea -- a cloud, which was black with darkness to the Egyptians, but light to Israel between the icy walls of the sea.
But, though buried, the nation rose again to a new life upon the opposite shore, leaving all their tyrant taskmasters, and all their bondage behind them, washed away by the returning waters of the deep. First, then, believing in Moses and in the Lord, they were baptized into Moses, and so "saved that day out of the hands of the Egyptians" who were washed up "dead upon the seashore" (Exod. 14:26-31).
Elpis Israel 2.4.
31 And Israel saw that great work which Yahweh did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared Yahweh, and believed Yahweh, and his servant Moses.
And thus did Yahweh finally put an end to Egyptian hostility, and separate His people Israel for the work to be done. It was a consummate stroke of wisdom. Whichever way it is looked at, it commands our unbounded admiration. It not only destroyed the pursuers of Israel, but it brought destruction in a form that could leave no doubt in the minds of men as to the divine nature of the calamity; for who but God could open a path in the sea for the escape of his people, and hold it open just so long as was needful to allow Israel to get out of it and the Egyptians into it.
It was far more eloquent on this point than if the Egyptian soldiers had been destroyed as they stood in their ranks, after the manner of the Assyrian army nearly a thousand years afterwards. Such a destruction might have been put down to an accidental plague: but the catastrophe of the Red Sea was susceptible of no such explaining away. It was as unanswerable as it was complete; and see, also, how effectually, by bringing Israel to the eastern side of the sea, it protected them from all further molestation from Egyptian reinforcements, and left them at liberty for those spiritual exercises to which they were to be subjected in the wilderness of Sinai...
... This drowning of a whole army in the Red Sea, which had just been safely crossed by the Israelitish multitude, is the most extraordinary event that ever happened in the history of nations, if we except the interview between God and Israel at Sinai. No wonder that it stands out so boldly in all the Scriptures that come after Moses. It is the beacon seen towering from afar-it is a brilliant light streaming from the days of Moses down all the darkness of the centuries since. David refers to it continually in the Psalms. One example:
"Oh, give thanks to the Lord of Lords . . . to Him which divided the Red Sea into parts . . . and made Israel to pass through the midst of it . . . but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for His mercy endureth for ever"
(Psalm 136: 1-15).
Why is it so faintheartedly and uncertainly received nowadays by those who are ostensibly the religious leaders of the people-by those who profess a nominal allegiance to the Scriptures?...
Why are they so prone to sacrifice unmistakable historic truth at the shrine of human speculation and sentiment? The answer is doubtless to be found in what may be called the Egyptians' side of the question. There is a feeling to the effect that, while the exodus was a grand affair from the Hebrew point of view, it has a different aspect when looked at in the light of "broad humanitarian principles."
These "broad humanitarian principles"-presuppose a philosophy which writes down every human being an entity of incomparable preciousness. Here is the worm at the root. God's great and mighty works upon earth are obscured and wrested, because of a false theory of the importance of man. The Greeks held man to be immortal. Christians caught up the pleasing notion; the result has been, to eat away the life and destroy the meaning of the Holy Oracles, and reduce the sublimities of Scripture history to a collection of ancient tales of little further use than to entertain Sunday scholars.
Let man be seen in the light in which the Scriptures always place him-as a creature of vanity (Psalm 39: 4-5; 144: 3-4): of the dust (Genesis 3: 19; 18: 27; Psalm 103: 14-16): as grass of the earth (Isaiah 40: 6-8, 15-17): of no consequence in his intrinsic nature (Daniel 4: 35; Ecclesiastes 3: 18; Psalm 49: 12-20)-let frail man be seen thus in his true light of smallness, and worthlessness, and ephemerality, and God in His true position of sole and sovereign power, greatness, and immortality, and the Mosaic narrative springs into its place of stupendous truth and significance.
Let man be recognised as the clay, and the operations of the Potter will be easily discerned. The Egyptians were "but men" (Psalm 9: 20), the property of God (Ezekiel 18: 4), in whose hand their breath was, and whose were all their ways (Daniel 5: 23). Like Belshazzar, they had not glorified Him: they knew Him not: they were sunk in ways and practices that were abominable to Him (Deuteronomy 18: 12). Therefore, as God says concerning the Sodomites,
"I took them away as I saw good" (Ezekiel 16: 50).
He did with them as with the entire race of man, except Noah's family, before the flood: He drowned them. They were only fit for drowning, and He had the right to drown; and their drowning was made a means of furthering the great purpose of wisdom and goodness He had conceived concerning the earth.
Where is the difficulty? There is none except such as is created by supposing a lie to be the truth. If we suppose man to be immortal, and the drowning of them in judgment to be a sending of them to Dante's hell, then there is great difficulty. The difficulty has been felt by those who believe this to be the truth; and the effect is seen in the general tendency manifested in all educated circles to make out Moses to be a fabulist and the wonderful works of God in Egypt the legends of ancient superstition.
Get rid of the lie, and the truth asserts its great and glorious place, and we are enabled to respond to David's invitation to praise the Lord for the judgments He executed on Pharaoh and his host in the day He brought Israel out of Egypt. It also places us in the position of being able to look forward, with intelligent solicitude for the further exhibition of the visible hand of God, of which God Himself has spoken by the prophet Micah:
"According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things. The nations shall see and be confounded at all their (Israel's) might; they (the nations) shall lay their hand upon their mouth: their ears shall be deaf. They shall lick the dust like a serpent: they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth. They shall be afraid of the Lord our God and shall fear because of thee" (Micah 7: 15-17). *