Jan. 22 Reading: Exodus 13-15 Commentary
“And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” (Ex. 14:15-16)
Exodus 13 – Foundational Institutions
As the Israelites leave Egypt, God gives them them several foundational institutions they were to follow going forward:
The Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was to be a 7-day festival observed in the first month of the year in remembrance of God delivering them out of Egypt. They were to eat unleavened bread for seven days and on the 7th day were to hold a feast to the Lord. Of the feast, the people were to tell their children, “…of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt. It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt” (vv. 8-9).
The Law of the Firstborn. Every firstborn male would be set apart (consecrated) to the Lord (vv. 2, 12). This included firstborn sons as well as firstborn male animals. This was a remembrance of how God had killed the firstborn son of the Egyptians because of Pharaoh’s stubbornness (v. 15). In later years, God would replace this law and instead chose the Levites to be in His service (see Numbers 3:40-51).
In the Wilderness
God took the Israelites on an interesting journey. Instead of going the most direct route to Canaan, He led them by way of the Red Sea. It would seem that God was concerned the people might turn back if they were faced with immediate confrontation with the Philistines (v. 17).
Additionally though, He would use the Red Sea as a tool to once again prove His supremacy to Pharaoh and the people of Egypt (see Chap. 14).
It goes to show once again that our direction is not necessarily God’s direction. The wilderness is a dry and barren place. It’s filled with challenges that can test anyone’s resolve. And even still, sometimes God asks us to live in it for a time.
We also read that Moses and the people took the bones of Joseph with them to be buried in the land of his people (v. 19).
Exodus 14 – The Red Sea Crossing
Many have tried to explain away the Red Sea crossing event of Exodus 14. It couldn’t have possibly happened the way it is described. And if it did, there must have been some scientific phenomenon that occurred to make it happen. If we believe the Bible to be true though, then we know it was a miracle shaped by the hand of God.
Moses and the people hadn’t taken the most direct route to Canaan. So it seemed as though they were lost, that they were “bewildered by the land; [that] the wilderness had closed them in” (v. 3). This would cause Pharaoh to harden his heart one more time and pursue the people to bring them back to Egypt. Indeed, that is exactly what happened.
Pharoah ordered his chariot be made ready along with 600 of his best chariots with captains over each of them (vv. 5-7). This would have been quite the fighting force, with much stronger a weapon of war than any Israel had at the time. They pursued the Israelites to their encampment, which we are told was “by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon” (v. 9). The actual location of this place is not known today, although there are many theories about the location of the Red Sea crossing point.
God Protects the People
With the armies of Pharaoh pursing them with speed and with force, the people of Israel are gripped with fear. Who wouldn’t be in that situation? It’s a natural reaction to a very dangerous situation.
But fear wasn’t the problem. What they lacked was faith. They had just witnessed all the miraculous plagues in Egypt that had led to their freedom. One would think the recent memory of those events would lead to trusting God.
However, that was not the case. Their lack of trust led the people to cry out and complain to Moses. They blamed him (and ultimately God) for their predicament, saying that he had brought them into the wilderness to die. They would have preferred to die in Egypt (vv. 10-12). This was the first of many complaints directed at Moses by the people.
Moses responds with this remarkable statement: “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. “The Lord will fight for you…” (vv. 13-14).
And immediately God offers protection. The pillar of cloud that had been leading their journey (Ex. 13:21) moves in between Israel’s camp and Egypt’s army. It “was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night” (v. 20).
This delayed Pharaoh’s pursuit and set the stage for God to do a dramatic miracle to save his people. With the cloud serving as a barrier, the miracle Red Sea crossing begins.
The Red Sea Waters Part
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Ex. 14:21-22)
At some point, the Egyptian army was able to see Israel crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. All of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen pursued the people (v. 23).
God fulfilled the words of Moses when he said in verse 14, “The Lord will fight for you.” God looked down from the pillar of cloud and fire on the Egyptian army and “troubled” them (v. 24). He caused the wheels of their chariots to come off, something that would not have happened under normal circumstances.
It must have been obvious to the Egyptian horsemen that a supernatural force was at work because they exclaimed, “Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians” (v. 25). Remember, the 10 plagues were fresh in the Egyptian’s minds too. They knew from prior experience the handiwork of God.
God’s hand acted one more time on Pharaoh and his army. At God’s command, Moses stretched out his hand over the waters, and the walls of water collapsed in on themselves. The sea returned to it’s original depth, drowning all the army of Pharaoh. (vv. 26-28). We read that “Not so much as one of them remained” (v. 28).
God saved Israel. They would see Egypt no more. And “…the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses” (v. 31).
Exodus 15 – A Worship Song
Chapter 15 contains the first psalm in the Bible. It’s sung by Moses and it all points to the hand of God as their deliverer. Some highlights of the song include the following words:
“The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” (v. 2)
“Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces. And in the greatness of Your excellence You have overthrown those who rose against You…” (vv. 6-7)
“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? (v. 11)
“You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation.” (v. 13)
Moses’ sister Miriam also gets in on the signing, echoing the first words of Moses’ song, saying, “Sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” (v. 21)
Bitter Water Miracle
Three days out into the wilderness from the Red Sea miracle, Israel is without water. They came to a place called Marah, but the water there was bitter so they could not drink it. So the people complained to Moses for the second time.
Moses inquired of the Lord who directed him to a nearby tree and commanded him to cast it into the water. When Moses did so, the waters were healed and became sweet to drink.
God describes himself as “…the Lord who heals” (v. 26). Just like he healed the waters of Marah, so can he physically and spiritually heal those who need him today.
Questions to Consider:
God miraculously led the Israelites out of Egypt. Do you think God still works in miraculous ways today?
What stood before the Israelites and the Promised Land was a wilderness journey that would test the depth of their faith. Has God taken you through the wilderness recently? How were you able to come out on the other side?
Do you praise God through singing worship songs? What keeps you from verbally expressing your gratitude and thankfulness for all He has done for you?
What other points would you want to know about in our Exodus 13-15 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.