For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

14:1.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


14:2.  “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.”


Pi-hahiroth means the mouth of wrath kindlings: the mouth of caves: Migdol, a tower; and Baal-zephon, lord of the north.  The meanings of all of these places appear to be associated with evil, a fact that is clearly evident in the meanings of Pi-hahiroth, for the significance of wrath is readily apparent, while caves - commonly used as burial places - speak clearly of association with death; and in the present evil context a tower seems to indicate the power of evil.  Baal-zephon likewise appears to imply association with evil, for the north is the biblical direction that speaks of human intelligence almost invariably functioning in opposition to God.


Incidentally there are two Migdols: one on the northwestern coast of the Sinai Peninsula; and the one presently being discussed, just a few miles west of the Bitter Lakes. 


The evil associations would indicate that they combine to present a symbolic picture of the evil world through which believers pass on their way home to heaven; but since the sea represents the world’s unconverted masses, a further truth being declared in Israel’s encamping there, is that we are to be God’s witnesses to those unconverted multitudes amongst whom God has placed us as His witnesses.


14:3.  “For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, they are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.”


Pharaoh, still unrepentant, and adamantly hardened against God and His people, and learning of their wilderness location, determined to make yet another attempt to destroy them; and so is it with Satan.  In spite of his defeat at Calvary he remains relentless in his determination to oppose God, and destroy those who belong to Him.


14:4.  “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.  And they did so.”


God made permanent Pharaoh’s self-willed hardening of his evil heart, so that repentance was impossible.  He must now plunge on to his doom, as must every man who crosses that fatal line that separates God’s mercy from His wrath.


“And they did so,” refers to the Israelites encamping as God had commanded them.


14:5.  “And it was told the King of Egypt that the people fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?”


The Egyptians fear of God was short lived.  They now had second thoughts about permitting the Israelites to leave, as they considered what they themselves would lose by thus depriving themselves of the free slave labor.


The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary on this verse is, “Alas, how soon the obduracy of this reprobate king reappears!  He had been convinced, but not converted - overawed, but not sanctified by the appalling judgments of heaven.”


14:6.  “And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:”


14:7.  “And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.”


He took with him not only six hundred of the best chariots, but also every other chariot which Egypt could furnish, each manned by a captain and several regular soldiers.


14:8.  “And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.”


This continues to be the reminder that the hardening of heart begun by Pharaoh’s self-will had been made irrevocable by God.  He had sinned away his day of grace, thus placing himself for ever beyond hope of mercy.  Hell is filled with countless multitudes who have similarly crossed that same invisible line, and who must therefore continue in torment, first in hell, and then for ever in the lake of fire.


Israel’s going out with “an high hand” means that they left Egypt fearlessly, confidently, under God’s guidance and protection, taking with them much of the wealth of Egypt.  So will it be at the Rapture of the Church.  The departure of the believers to heaven will leave the world impoverished and doomed.


14:9.  “But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, before Baal-zephon.”


See verse 1 for comments on Pi-hahiroth and Baal-zephon.


14:10.  “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 the Lord.”


How quickly the confidence of the Israelites evaporated!  It is one thing to be courageous when there is no enemy in sight, but quite another to be fearless in the face of the foe.  We are slow to learn that as long as we are obedient we need fear nothing, God’s assurance being, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Hebrews 13:5, “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (age),” Paul adding the further assurance, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31.


14:11.  “And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?”


They failed to remember their recent preservation on the night of the Passover when God spared their firstborn, but slew every firstborn Egyptian.


Keeping in mind that Egypt represents the world of business and pleasure living in independent defiance of God, the lesson He would teach us here is that the new birth separates us for ever from that evil world which can neither furnish anything for the promotion of our new spiritual life, nor can it rob us of that new divine life.


14:12.  “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.”


They had much to learn relative to their new relationship with Jehovah, and so have most new converts.  Their reasoning was wrong.  It is better to die in service to God than to live in bondage to Satan and the world of which he is presently the prince.


14:13.  “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever.”


As has been declared by another, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.”  Nor does He require our assistance.  The people were simply to “stand still,” i.e., “stand firm,” and so are we when the problem is beyond our ability to solve.  This same exhortation is given in 1 Corinthians 15:57-58, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”


That day foreshadows the one now imminent when we too shall see no more those whom the Egyptians represent: earth’s unconverted masses, for the Rapture will translate us instantly from earth to heaven.


14:14.  “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”


“... hold your peace” is also rendered forbear: remain quiet: keep still: you won’t need to lift a finger.


14:15.  “And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:”


This wasn’t a rebuke to Moses, but rather the assurance that the appeal was unnecessary.  Israel’s omnipotent God had already seen their plight, and was about to deliver them.  They were simply to march forward, and leave Him to deal with their enemies.  And so is it with us.  What is beyond our power we are to leave with Him, while we continue our march heavenward unperturbed.


14:16.  “But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.”


This is a double faceted typological picture: first, it represents the passage of believers through this world as a separated company; and second, it foreshadows the rapture of the Church, when the generation of believers then living will enter heaven without dying.


14:17.  “And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honor upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.”


Most scholars understand this hardening of the hearts of the Egyptians to be permitted by God rather than compelled.  It would be their own freewilled choice to pursue Israel into the divided sea, and thus bring honor to God by destroying them in the same waters which He had divided for the safe passage of His redeemed people.


14:18.  “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten me honor upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.”


What the Egyptians had refused to learn by all the preceding miracles, they would now learn by divine compulsion, but too late to save themselves.  It is only when they are overwhelmed in the waters of death, and too late to save themselves, that the countless multitudes who daily die unsaved, learn with unutterable and unavailing horror the folly of having refused to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.


14:19.  “And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:”


14:20.  “And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.”


The pillar which guided Israel continuously as a cloud by day and as fire by night, now changed its position and went behind them, separating them from the Egyptians, still giving light to the Hebrews, but enveloping their enemies in darkness.  And so is it with the Scriptures which the pillar represents.  They instruct the saint, but are incomprehensible to the unbeliever, as it is written, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Corinthians 2:14. 


During this world’s spiritual “night time” God also separates believer from unbeliever, for the one walks on the narrow way to heaven: the other, on the broad and crowded road to hell and the lake of fire, His command to His own being, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?  and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belieal? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God ....” 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.


14:21.  “And 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 dry land, and the waters were divided.”


14:22.  “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.”


As discussed already, the east is the scriptural direction that speaks consistently of evil and departure from God; and so here God caused the east wind to divide the sea which is a type of earth’s unconverted masses, see Isaiah 57:20-21, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.  There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”


That division of the sea, for the safe passage of the Israelites, may be symbolic of God’s preparing the way for believers to pass on their journey home to heaven through the midst of the unconverted sea of humanity all around them.  That divine restraint of the waters is also the reminder that our enemies can do no more to us than what God permits, and that knowledge is designed to comfort believers in the midst of earthly trials.


1 Corinthians 10:1-2 declares Israel’s passage through the divided waters to be a figure of the believer’s baptism, “Moreover, brethren, 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 unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”


14:23.  “And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.”


14:24.  “And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,”


The very same way that carried the Hebrews from death to life transported the Egyptians to destruction; and so is it with the roadway of life: it too is the path which believers traverse on their way through this earthly scene of death, to eternal bliss in heaven, but for the unbeliever that same roadway ends in hell and the eternal torment of the lake of fire.


The morning watch is also translated the pre-dawn watch: around 6 a.m.; and “troubled” is rendered discomfited: confused: panicked: doomed.


14:25.  “And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.”


“... took off their chariot wheels” is also translated restrained: stiffened: clogged: locked.  The damaged chariots rendered continued pursuit of the Hebrews impossible, and it seems that in this the Egyptians recognized the hand of Jehovah put forth against them on behalf of His redeemed people, with the result that their pursuit of the Hebrews became instead a panic-stricken route as they sought to save their own lives.


14:26.  “And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.”


14:27.  “And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.”


14:28.  “And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.”


14:29.  “But the children of Israel walked upon the dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.”


The sea, opened by God’s omnipotent hand to be a way of escape for Israel, was now closed again by that same hand and made the tomb of her foes.  Nor was the destruction of the Egyptians partial: they were destroyed to the very last man.  Not one escaped. 


In connection with this miracle the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the OT states, “From this manifestation of Jehovah’s omnipotence, the Israelites were to discern not only the merciful Deliverer, but also the holy Judge of the ungodly, that they might grow in the fear of God as well as in the faith which they had already shown.”


14:30.  “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.”


14:31.  “And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.”


We look back to a greater miracle performed at Calvary when the Lord Jesus Christ, by entering into the waters of death on our behalf, see Psalm 69:1-2, 14-15; Psalm 88:6-7, 16-18, divided them, becoming thereby Himself the “new and living way,” Hebrew 10:20, by which we, through faith in Him as Savior, have passed from death to eternal life.  The response of the Israelites should surely be ours.  As they feared the Lord, and believed Him, so should we also walk daily before Him, not in slavish fear, but in the reverential awe that is the truest expression of worship, as it is written in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

[Exodus 15]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough