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Pharaoh in Pursuit The Red Sea Crossing Israel's Deliverance (13:17-14:31) Crossing the Red Sea From Etham to the Red Sea
14:1-4 14:1-4 14:1-4 14:1-4 14:1-4
The Egyptians Pursue the Israelites
14:5-9 14:5-9 14:5-9 14:5-9 14:5-14
14:10-12 14:10-14 14:10-14 14:10-12
The Sea Is Divided
14:13-14 14:13-14 The Miracle of the Sea
14:15-18 14:15-18 14:15-18 14:15-18 14:15-18
14:19-20 14:19-20 14:19-20 14:19-20 14:19-31
14:21-25 14:21-25 14:21-25 14:21-25
14:26-29 14:26-29 14:26-29 14:26-29
14:30-31 14:30-31 14:30-31 14:30-31

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph
  4. Etc.


  1. Exodus 14 is a prose description of the exodus, while chapter 15 is a poetic description. Also note Judges 4 and 5.

  2. For a good discussion of YHWH as the Divine warrior (i.e., Isa. 59:15c-20), see NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 545-549.

  3. There are three main theories of the route of the exodus (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ROUTE OF THE EXODUS (uncertain)).
    1. the northern marshes along the Mediterranean Sea
    2. the central marshes of the Bitter Lakes
    3. the southern route, which took them across the northern tip of the body of water called the Red Sea today


1Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2"Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea. 3For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, 'They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.' 4Thus I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord." And they did so.

14:2 "Tell" This is a Piel IMPERATIVE (BDB 180, KB 210). YHWH is in full control.

  1. He hardened Pharaoh's heart, Exod. 14:4,8,17
  2. He delivered them, Exod. 14:13
  3. He fought for them, Exod. 14:14,25
  4. He (His angel) separated the Egyptian army and the Israelites all night, Exod. 14:20
  5. He split the Red Sea (by His staff in Moses' hand), Exod. 14:21
  6. He threw the Egyptian army into confusion (as He did the Canaanite armies in the conquest), Exod. 14:24
  7. He caused their chariots to swerve (VERB'S meaning uncertain), Exod. 14:25
  8. He closed the split in the Red Sea so as to destroy the entire Egyptian force that pursued, Exod. 14:27-28
Notice how Israel responded, Exod. 14:31!

▣ "turn back and camp" These are two commands (Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE retrace their route. To the Egyptians it looked like aimless wanderings and that the Israelites were trapped by the water.

▣ "Pi-hahiroth" F. B. Huey, A Study Guide Commentary, Exodus, p. 63, suggests the name is Egyptian and could mean

  1. "region of salt marshes"
  2. "house of the goddess Hathor"
The Hebrew root (BDB 809, cf. Num. 33:7) means "a place of meadows." The location of the site is uncertain.
There has been speculation that the phrase means "mouth of the diggings," and refers to a manmade channel which was dug during this period (i.e., 1290 B.C. by Seti I) passing near Qantara (cf. IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 90).

▣ "Migdol" This (BDB 154) means "watch tower." There were many cities by this name. Its location, as most others in this context, is uncertain. Many current Bible study maps have been influenced by which of the three theories of the route of the exodus their producers hold: northern, central, or southern.

▣ "Baal-zephon" This (BDB 128) means "Lord of the north" (cf. Ps. 48:2; Isa. 14:13). This "sea" shows that Canaanite fertility worship had spread to Egypt. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FERTILITY WORSHIP OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST.

▣ "by the sea" The Israelites were trapped between the sea, the desert, and the Egyptian army. This could be the Mediterranean, the Bitter Lakes, or the Red Sea. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ROUTE OF THE EXODUS (uncertain).

NASB, NRSV  "wandering aimlessly"
NKJV  "bewildered"
TEV  "wandering around"
NJB  "wandering to and fro"
JPSOA  "astray in the land"
REB  "in difficult country"
LXX  "wandering in the land"
Peshitta  "strangers in the land"
This VERB (BDB 100, KB 115, Niphal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) is a rare word found only three times in the OT.
  1. Exod. 14:3 - of people
  2. Esther 3:15 - of people
  3. Joel 1:18 - of cattle
The basic idea is "in confusion."

14:4 "I will harden Pharaoh's heart" This emphasizes that God is sovereign. Several times in Exodus it says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart and several times it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (see note at Exod. 4:21). The exact relationship between the two is uncertain. Nevertheless, it is obvious that God used Pharaoh and yet he was still responsible (see SPECIAL TOPIC: PREDESTINATION)! This is similar to Judas Iscariot.

▣ "he will chase after them" This is the fulfillment of Exod. 4:21. YHWH is in control of time, space, history.

▣ "I will be honored" This (BDB 457, cf. Exod. 14:17-18) is the Hebrew word, kabod, "glory." See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (kabod, OT).

▣ "and all his army" The military force that Pharaoh had immediate access to was his royal guard. This was 600 chariots mentioned in Exod. 14:7,23, not the full Egyptian army which would have been spread throughout the Egyptian forts.

▣ "the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord" The plagues lasted about eighteen months and each one of them was an embarrassment to an Egyptian deity. YHWH was working with the Egyptians' faith (cf. Exod. 9:20-21; 10:7) as He was with the Hebrews' (cf. Exod. 14:18; 7:5,17).

5When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, "What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?" 6So he made his chariot ready and took his people with him; 7and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly. 9Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

14:5 "What is this we have done" The Hebrews' freedom made a drastic economic and social disruption to Egyptian culture.

14:6 "chariot" This instrument of war was developed by the Hittites of Asia Minor. They used a two or three-man chariot. At this time Egypt used their chariots for mobility only. See SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARIOTS.

14:7 "select chariots" This (BDB 103, KB 119, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) means that these were the best or newest chariots and soldiers. They made up an elite royal force garrisoned at the delta capital. They were Pharaoh's bodyguard.

▣ "officers" This term (BDB 1026 III) may refer to the second or third man in each chariot. Pictures of Egyptian chariots had only two occupants (see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, p. 122).

NASB, NRSV  "boldly"
NKJV  "with boldness"
TEV  "triumphantly"
NJB  "confidently"
JPSOA, REV, NET  "defiantly"
LXX  "with a high hand"
Peshitta  "victoriously"
The ADVERB (BDB 926, KB 1202, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) basically means "to be high," Here of "an uplifted hand." It can refer to a geographical position, voice, or an attitude. Here it refers to the sense of victory the Israelis had (cf. Num. 33:3). The same form is found in Num. 15:30, translated "who sins defiantly."

14:9 "chased after them" This VERB (BDB 922, KB 1191, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) is a hunting term or military term for an active pursuit (cf. Gen. 31:25).

10As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11Then they said to Moses, "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? 12Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, 'Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."

14:10 "they became very frightened" In their fear they attacked God's love and protection and Moses' leadership (cf. Exod. 14:11-12). This is exactly what YHWH predicted in Exod. 13:17.

14:11-12 This is the first of many complaints from "the mixed multitude" that came out of Egypt (mostly in Exodus 15-17 and Numbers 14-17). They were not yet the covenant people, just a rag-tag bunch!

  1. some unfaithful, cf. Exod. 15:25; 16:2; 17:2-3,7; Num. 20:3,13; Ezekiel 16; Hos. 2:16
  2. some faithful, cf. Jer. 2:2; Hos. 2:14-15,20

13But Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. 14The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent."

14:13 There are more commands in this verse by Moses to the people.

  1. do not fear - BDB 431, KB 432, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense
  2. stand by - BDB 426, KB 427, Hithpael IMPERATIVE
  3. see the salvation of the Lord - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERATIVE; the VERB "see" is repeated three times in this verse.
    1. see YHWH's salvation
    2. never see the Egyptian soldiers again!
    3. Same as b.

▣ "salvation" This OT term (BDB 447) means "physical deliverance." It is from the root "to be spacious" (cf. James 5:15). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (OT).
The Lord is called "Savior" several times in Isaiah (cf. Isa. 19:20; 43:3,11; 45:15,21; 49:26,60; 60:16; 63:8). This is carried over into the NT (cf. Luke 1:47; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 4:10; Titus 1:3; 2:10-11; 3:4; Jude v. 25). What a great title and a great God!

▣ "forever" See SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER ('olam).

14:14 This is the essence of "Holy War." YHWH acts; Israel watches (cf. Exod. 15:3; Deut. 1:30; 3:22; 20:4).

15Then the Lord said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. 16As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. 17As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen."

14:15 "Why are you crying out to Me" There is a time to pray and a time to act!

14:15-16 There are several commands from YHWH to Moses for the people.

  1. tell, Exod. 14:15 - BDB 180, KB 210, Piel IMPERATIVE
  2. go forward, Exod. 14:15 - BDB 652, KB 704, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense
  3. lift up your staff, Exod. 14:16 - BDB 926, KB 1202, Hiphil IMPERATIVE
  4. stretch out your hand, Exod. 14:16 - BDB 639, KB 692, Qal IMPERATIVE. This is often associated with the plagues (cf. Exod. 6:6; 7:5,19; 8:5,6,16,17; 9:22,23; 10:12,13,21,22).
  5. divide it, Exod. 14:16 - BDB 131, KB 149, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Exod. 14:21; Neh. 9:11; Ps. 78:13; Isa. 63:12
  6. go through the midst of the sea, Exod. 14:16 - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense
The staff represented YHWH's power but Moses had to use it (Exod. 14:21). God chose to use human instrumentality (cf. Exod. 3:7-10)!

14:16 "on dry land" God controls the boundaries of water (cf. Gen. 1:9-10; Nah. 1:4). Here He splits and dries the Red Sea (cf. Exod. 14:16,27,29; 15:19; Jos. 2:10; Neh. 9:11); He split and dried the Jordan River in the conquest (cf. Jos. 3:17; 4:18,22,23; 5:1; Ps. 66:6). He splits and dries a river for Elijah and Elisha in 2 Kgs. 2:8.

14:17 This verse clearly shows YHWH's sovereignty. See note at Exod. 14:2.

14:18 See note at Exod. 14:4.

19The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. 20So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night.

14:19 "The angel of God" The angel and the pillar seem to represent one reality--the presence of God (cf. Gen. 16:7-14; 22:15; Exod. 3:2). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ANGEL OF THE LORD.

14:20 "the cloud along with the darkness" Usually the pillar was light at night. Therefore, this phrase

  1. denotes the two aspects of the cloud (i.e., shade in daytime, fire at night)
  2. shows the distinction between Egypt and Israel (i.e., light to Israel, darkness to the Egyptians (Targums, Symmachus)

▣ "one did not come near the other" This cloud kept the Egyptian army from attacking and the Israelites from surrendering. Notice YHWH again used a natural occurrence (i.e., the wind, Exod. 14:21), but with supernatural intensity and timing. It took "all night" for the wind to dry the ground (i.e., sea bed, cf. Exod. 14:16).
Just one more thought, the obvious supernatural aspect of this event is the water piles on both sides (Exod. 14:22,29). One side could be explained by the strong east wind (14:21), but not both sides!
Also note the eyewitness detail!

21Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. 22The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea. 24At the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion. 25He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, "Let us flee from Israel, for the Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians."

14:21 "Moses stretched out his. . .Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind" Notice the three elements mentioned: God, Moses, and the wind. God often uses natural means in supernatural ways.

▣ "east wind" This is ruah (BDB 924), which can mean "wind," "breath," "spirit." See SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE.

14:23 "horsemen" This refers to the two or three men in each chariot.

14:24 "morning watch" The Israelites crossed over between 2 and 6 a.m. Notice how precise the eyewitness' testimony is.

▣ "the Lord looked down" This is anthropomorphic language (cf. Exod. 3:7-9). See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN.

▣ "the pillar of fire and cloud" This is the only place the full title appears. Usually they are listed separately, but often both are listed (i.e., "pillar of cloud," "pillar of fire," cf. Exod. 13:21,22; Num. 14:14; Deut. 31:15).

▣ "into confusion" The VERB (BDB 243, KB 251, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) is used several times of YHWH's acts of defeating Israel's enemies (cf. Exod. 15:16; 23:27; Deut. 7:23; Jos. 10:10; Jdgs. 4:15; 1 Sam. 7:10; 2 Sam. 22:15; 2 Chr. 15:6; Ps. 18:15; 144:6). YHWH fought for them. It was His victory! This is "Holy War" terminology.

14:25 "He caused their chariot wheels to swerve" See note on God's sovereignty shown in this chapter at Exod. 14:2.
This VERB (BDB 693, KB 747, Hiphil IMPERFECT with waw) has several connotations.

NASB  "swerve"
NKJV  "took off"
NRSV, NJB, Peshitta  "clogged"
TEV  "get stuck"
JPSOA  "locked"
LXX  "bound together the axles"

The UBS Text Project (p. 105) suggests the MT's "removed" (ויסר) should be emended to "bound" (ויאסר).
It gives it a "B" rating (some doubt).

26Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen." 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh's entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained. 29But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

14:26 This is the reverse of Exod. 14:16.

14:27 "overthrew" This same Hebrew root (BDB 654 II, KB 707, Piel IMPERFECT, lit. "shook off") relates to YHWH as warrior (cf. Isa. 59:17).

14:29 Pharaoh was not with his army. He was not drowned.

30Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.

14:30 "the Lord saved Israel" This is the VERB form (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil IMPERFECT with waw) of the NOUN "salvation," used in Exod. 14:13. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (OT Term).

▣ "the Egyptians dead on the seashore" The east wind miraculously blew their bodies (which floated in their armor) onto the shore so that Israel could take their armor and weapons (see Josephus, Antiq. 2.14.6).

14:31 "power" This is literally "hand," cf. Deut. 34:12. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND.

▣ "feared" See SPECIAL TOPIC: FEAR (OT).

▣ "believed" This is the root "amen," which means "to be firm." It came to be a metaphor for dependability and trustworthiness. This is the OT term for "faith" (cf. Hab. 2:4; see SPECIAL TOPIC: BELIEVE, TRUST, FAITH, AND FAITHFULNESS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT ). In the New Testament it is translated into English by three different terms: faith, trust, and believe (see SPECIAL TOPIC: "Believe" in the NT).

▣ "His servant Moses" See SPECIAL TOPIC: MY SERVANT.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. What "sea" is referred to in Exod. 14:2? Where is it?
  2. Why is Exod. 14:4 so theologically significant?
  3. How is Exod. 14:10 related to 13:17?
  4. Define OT "salvation."
  5. Define OT "forever."
  6. Who is the "angel of God" (Exod. 14:19)?
    How is he related to the cloud?
  7. Why does Exod. 14:22 demand
    1. literary imagery
    2. a miracle
  8. What is the function(s) of the pillar?
  9. Where did Israel get her weapons of war?

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