God Leads Israel Through The Red Sea


Exodus 14

A. The pursuit of Pharaoh’s armies.

1. God draws Pharaoh to come out against Israel.

‘The LORD spoke to Moses: ‘Tell the Israelites that they must turn and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you are to camp by the sea before Baal Zephon opposite it. Pharaoh will think regarding the Israelites, ‘They are wandering around confused in the land – the desert has closed in on them.’ I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them. I will gain honour because of Pharaoh and because of all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.’ So, this is what they did.’ Exodus 14:1-4

a. God is setting an ambush for Pharaoh, even with the horror of the death of the firstborn, the change in Pharaoh’s heart is only temporary, and he will strike at Israel if he thinks he has a chance.

b. Therefore, God instructed Moses to lead Israel in a way that looked confused, so Pharaoh would believe. They are bewildered by the land, and come to strike Israel.

2. Pharaoh decides to bring the children of Israel back.

‘When it was reported to the king of Egypt that the people had fled, the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people, and the king and his servants said, ‘What in the world have we done? For we have released the people of Israel from serving us!’ Then he prepared his chariots and took his army with him. He took six hundred select chariots, and all the rest of the chariots of Egypt, and officers on all of them. But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he chased after the Israelites. Now the Israelites were going out defiantly. The Egyptians chased after them, and all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh and his horsemen and his army overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, before Baal-Zephon.’ Exodus 14:5-9

a. Pharaoh asks a strange question. Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us? It isn’t hard to think of at least ten good reasons, namely, ten powerful plagues, why Pharaoh let Israel go.

b. We are so quick to forget what God has done and what He has shown us. How often it is that we can go from walking in the Spirit to walking in the flesh in an instant?

i. Maybe Pharaoh thought that the Lord had shot all His arrows, after all, no more died after the plague of the firstborn, but God isn’t short on resources!

c. Pharaoh set out after Israel with six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, chariots were the most sophisticate military technology available at that time. What did Israel have? Nothing, except the children of Israel went out with boldness.

i. The idea behind the Hebrew words with boldness ‘ruwn yad’ include the idea of rebellion against authority.

1 Kings 11:26-27 ‘Also, Jeroboam son of Nebat rebelled against the king. He was one of Solomon’s officials, an Ephraimite from Zeredah, and his mother was a widow named Zeruah. Here is the account of how he rebelled against the king: Solomon had built the terraces and had filled in the gap in the wall of the city of David his father.’

The rebellious nature of Israel was good when it was against Pharaoh and all it stood for, it was bad when it was against the Lord, Moses, and all they stood for. The trouble with rebels is they rebel against the wrong things!

ii. Psalm 106 describes this rebelliousness on the pan of Israel at the Red Sea, also mentioned in Exodus 14:10-12.

‘When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert. He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived. Then they believed his promises and sang his praise.’ Psalm 106:7-12

3. The response of the children of Israel.

‘As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’ Exodus 14:10-12

a. They were very afraid, this made sense, according to all outward observation, Israel was in serious trouble with Pharaoh’s armies on one side and the Red Sea on the other, with no chance for escape.

i. God led Israel right into a cul-de-sac. There was no way of escape except the way they had come in, and the Egyptian army had that covered.

b. They cried out to the Lord. this was good, when we are in such a dangerous position, it is essential that we cry out to God, because God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’ Psalm 46:1

c. Then they said to Moses. this is where the children of Israel begin to lose it, can they realty think Moses was motivated by a desire to see all Israel die in the wilderness?

i. We are often wrong and always on dangerous ground when we claim we can read the intentions of other’s hearts, Moses had said nothing or did nothing that would support such a conspiracy theory, but the children of Israel can still say, ‘this is the real reason he brought us out here.’

d. Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians. they were not a week out of Egypt yet, and they were already distorting the past, thinking that it was better for them in Egypt than it really was.

e. We may have thought that Satan would let us go easily, or that once we had left his kingdom, we would forget about us. It doesn’t work like that! Satan will pursue you, to try and keep you at least on the fringes of his domain, and to destroy you if he could.

4. Moses responds with great courage.

‘Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’ Exodus 14:13-14

a. At this point, Moses can have no idea how God will come through in the situation, all he knows is that God will certainly come through, in a sense, Moses knows he is in such a bad situation that God has to come through.

i. When we see that our only help is God, we are more likely to trust Him. sometimes it is the little things, the things we think we can do in our own strength, that get us down, not the big things, that we know only God can do.

b. Stand still is the Lord’s direction to the believer in dilemma. Despair will try and cast you down, keeping you from standing. Fear will tell you to retreat. Presumption will tell you to do something now. Presumption will tell you to jump into the Red Sea before it is parted. But God would have us to stand, and to stand still.

c. Though Moses doesn’t know what God will do, he knows what the result will be. God will utterly defeat the Egyptian enemies of Israel, because the Lord will tight for you.

d. The idea behind ‘you shall see them no more forever’ implies much more than at first look, Moses may be speaking in terms of eternity as well as the here and now.

B. God leads Israel across the Red Sea.

1. God’s instructions to Moses. stop praying and start doing!

‘Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.’ Exodus 14:15-18

a. Why do you cry to Me? Before the people, Moses was full of faith, but before God he was crying out in desperate prayer. This was good, Moses’ confidence before the nation was necessary for their faith.

b. Why do you cry to Me? There is a time to pray, and a time to act, and it can actually be against God’s will to stop everything and pray in a particular situation.

i. We can pray out of the wrong motives, praying to inform others who listen, praying to control a situation, praying to avoid action or buy time.

c. God gives Moses such simple instructions to such a mighty miracle, lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand. Even so the greatest miracle of salvation happens with a simple action on our part.

d. Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord. God is not finished answering Pharaoh’s question from Exodus 5:2

‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.’

The purpose of the parting of the Red Sea had as much or more to do with what God wanted to show Egypt as with what God wanted to show Israel.

2. God neutralizes the Egyptian army with the fire.

‘Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so, neither went near the other all-night long.’ Exodus 14:19-20

a. The pillar of fire mentioned in Exodus 13 is positioned as a barrier between the attacking Egyptians and the children of Israel, God will protect Israel from the Egyptian attack.

Exodus 13:21-22 ‘By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.’

b. We have little idea how much God does to protect us from attack, we believe ourselves to be overwhelmed in battle right now, but just don’t know what it would be like if the Lord pulled back His protection.

c. The Egyptians didn’t know it, but the same pillar of fire that prevented them from pursuing the children of Israel was also protecting their lives. If they would have submitted to the Lord who was blocking their way with His presence, they would have been spared.

d. The same pillar of cloud was a source of darkness to the Egyptians, but a source of light to the children of Israel. God’s presence, and even the Gospel, can work the same way.

3. The waters of the Red Sea are parted, and the children of Israel cross over safely on dry ground.

‘Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.’ Exodus 14:21-22

a. The Hebrew phrase for Red sea is ‘yam suph’, which clearly means ‘Reed Sea.’ The term aptly describes the lake region north of the Gulf of Suez comprising the Bitter Lakes and Lake Timsah. It is possible that the Israelites went along the narrow neck of land on which Baal-zephon stood and that the Biblical Sea of Reeds was modern Lake Sirbonis. We are certain that the crossing was in this area because the Israelites found themselves in the Wilderness of Shur after crossing the sea.

‘Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur.’ Exodus 15:22

i. We don’t know exactly where the place was, and what the exact geography was, an area like this will change geography every flood or drought season, we do know there was enough water present to trap the Israelites, and then later to drown the Egyptians, perhaps 10 feet of water or so, and we know there had to be enough room for the Israelites to cross over in one night, perhaps a mile-wide stretch.

b. Could this really have happened? Isn’t this just another interesting legend? It is completely plausible, according to a Los Angeles Times article by Thomas H. Maugh titled ‘Research Supports Bible’s Account of Red Sea Parting’.

‘Sophisticated computer calculations indicate that the biblical parting of the Red Sea, said to have allowed Moses and the Israelites to escape from bondage in Egypt, could have occurred precisely as the bible describes it. Because of the peculiar geography of the northern end of the Red Sea, researchers report Sunday in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, a moderate wind blowing constantly for about 10 hours could have caused the sea to recede about a mile and the water level to drop 10 feet, leaving dry land in the area where many biblical scholars believe the crossing occurred.’ 3/14/92

c. Psalm 77 gives more detail in the description of the course of events during the Red Sea crossing.

‘The waters saw you, God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the heavens resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.’ Psalm 77:16-20

4. God troubles the Egyptian army, and they are drowned.

‘The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said,’ Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.’ Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.’ Exodus 14:23-28

a. Could this have really happened’? Isn’t this just another legend? Thomas H Maugh continues in his Los Angeles Times article.

‘An abrupt change in the wind would have allowed the waters to come crashing back into the area in a few moments, a phenomenon that the Bible says inundated the Israelite’s’ pursuers.’

b. Significantly, God tells Moses to stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians. Why? Was it really the motion of Moses’ hand, holding the rod, that parted the sea and made it come back? Of course not, God could have performed this miracle just as easily without Moses’ cooperation.

i. In addition. this was God’s vindication of Moses, Israel had previously accused him of the lowest of motivations, and the most evil state of heart, through His blessing on Moses. God showed the whole nation that Moses was their chosen leader.

‘Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’ Exodus 14:10-12

c. The Red Sea was a turning point in Israel’s history, in this era, though they had many troubles ahead, Pharaoh in the Egyptians never troubled them again.

i. If you are on the other side of the Red Sea, if your course with the Lord is set, and you know there is never any turning back for you, can you comfort a saint who is still on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea?

5. Summary, another act of redemption on Israel’s behalf.

‘But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.’ Exodus 14:29-31

a. Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. ‘Somehow the sight of those dead bodies was the concrete sign that salvation and a new life for Israel were now assured.’ Cole.

b. God came through for Israel! An old saint lay on her death bed declared that Jesus would never forsake her because He had promised so. Someone asked, ‘just suppose that He did not keep His promise, and you were to be lost?’ She answered,

‘Then He would be the greater loser than I. It is true I would lose my soul, but God would lose all His honour and glory if He were not true’.

God’s motive for delivering us is not only His love for us. but also, a desire to guard His own glory and honour.

i. ‘Brethren, if we have trusted in God, and have come out of the Egypt of the world through his grace. and have left all its sins behind us, if we were left to die in the wilderness, the Lord Jesus Christ would lose his glory as a Saviour, the divine Father would lose his name for immutable faithfulness, and the Holly Ghost, would lose his honour for perseverance in completing every work which he undertakes.’ Spurgeon.

c. The result was just as God had intended, the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses. Yet, we may gather this was more a case of feelings than true faith, because they will leave this place of respect for the Lord and Moses quickly.

d. The deliverance of Passover and the miracle of the Red Sea go together, if not for the victory won at the Red Sea, the redemption at Passover would have meant nothing. But, they would have never made it to the Red Sea without the miracle of God’s redemption at Passover.

e. In the same way, the redemption of the cross would have meant nothing without the miracle of the resurrection, the two must go hand in hand.



"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.’"

Acts 18:9