Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the sea shore.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.—On one who saw this sight it would be likely to make a great impression; to after generations it was nothing, since it had no further consequences. That it is recorded indicates the pen of an eyewitness.Exodus 14:30. Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore — Rather, Israel upon (or from) the sea-shore saw the Egyptians dead — That is, saw their dead bodies floating upon the waters. It is likely, however, that the bodies of many of them were cast on shore, and became food to the beasts and birds of prey that frequent the wilderness, which may be the meaning of Psalm 74:14; and that the Israelites had the benefit of the spoil, especially of their arms, which they wanted. The Egyptians were very curious in preserving the bodies of their great men; but here the utmost contempt is poured upon the grandees of Egypt: see how they lie, heaps upon heaps, as dung upon the face of the earth!Exodus 14:26. Pharaoh's destruction, independent of the distinct statement of the Psalmist, Psalm 136:15, was in fact inevitable. The station of the king was in the vanguard: on every monument the Pharaoh is represented as the leader of the army. The death of the Pharaoh, and the entire loss of the chariotry and cavalry accounts for the undisturbed retreat of the Israelites through a district then subject to Egypt and easily accessible to their forces. If, as appears probable, Tothmosis II was the Pharaoh, the first recorded expedition into the Peninsula took place 17 years after his death; and 22 years elapsed before any measures were taken to recover the lost ascendancy of Egypt in Syria. So complete, so marvelous was the deliverance: thus the Israelites were "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" 1 Corinthians 10:2. When they left Baal-Zephon they were separated finally from the idolatry of Egypt: when they passed the Red Sea their independence of its power was sealed; their life as a nation then began, a life inseparable henceforth from belief in Yahweh and His servant Moses, only to be merged in the higher life revealed by His Son.
1. By the natural power of the sea, which casteth up its dead bodies after a certain time; till which time God caused the Israelites to abide near the sea, that they might see this for their comfort. Or,
2. By the mighty power of God, which brought them, and their arms too, as many probably conceive, to shore before the usual time.
Quest. How could the Israelites, both they and their cattle, in so little time get over that great sea?
Answ. 1. The Hebrew and some other interpreters deny that they went over, and tell us, they only went into the sea, and fetched a compass in it, that they might allure the Egyptians to follow them, and then by Moses’s conduct returned to the Egyptian shore again. The principal ground of which opinion is this, That as they went into the sea out of the wilderness of Etham, Exodus 13:20, so they came again out of the sea into the wilderness of Etham, Numbers 33:8. But the sameness of the name doth not prove that it is the same place, nothing being more frequent in Scripture, than for divers places to be called by one and the same name. And the Israelites might possibly give the name of Etham to this desert on the Arabian side of the Red Sea, either for its great resemblance to that desert so called on the Egyptian side; or to intimate, that God by dividing the sea, had made that and this to be one continued desert. Or the name of Etham might be common to all that desert at the end of the Red Sea, and on both sides of it.
Answ. 2. They might all conveniently pass over the sea to the Arabian shore in the time allowed for it, either by the mighty power of God, which could easily make both men and beasts to do it in much less than ordinary time, or even by the course of nature; for that part of the sea was not above eight or nine miles over, as geographers and others affirm. And the time allotted for their passage seems to be much more than interpreters have assigned for it. For the Egyptians and Israelites were divided one from another by the cloudy pillar all the night, Exodus 14:20, and a strong east wind blew all that night, Exodus 14:21. The next morning, as I apprehend it, the cloud still keeping between them, and possibly covering the Egyptians with gross and horrible darkness, which hindered their march, the whole body of the Israelites, and their cattle too, are drawn by Moses’s direction near the shore, and, it may be, the cattle were put into the sea, all which might well take up most of that day; then towards the evening they enter into the sea, and so proceed; and the cloud withdrawing further from the Egyptians, and following the Israelites, the Egyptians pursue after them, and, as it is very probable from the nature and reason of the thing, stand debating some considerable time, when they came to the shore, whether they should venture to follow them into the sea or no. At last the worst counsel prevails, as it generally happens when a people are under a Divine infatuation, and into the sea they go; and by the beginning of the morning watch they draw near the Israelites, when God seasonably appears for Israel’s succour, and puts a stop to the march of the Egyptians. So the morning watch, mentioned Exodus 14:24, I take to be, not the morning watch of that night, mentioned Exodus 14:20,21, (for all that night, and therefore the morning watch of that night, which was a third, or at least a fourth part of it, was now past and gone,) but the next morning watch after that night and the succeeding day; which seems much more reasonable, than to shrink up the march, first of the Israelites, and then of the Egyptians, into about three hours’ time, which is the time between the midnight and the morning watch. Nor is there any thing in the text which in the least contradicts this opinion, but only that this day’s interval and work is not mentioned in this story; whereas such omissions are frequent in Scripture relations, in which the substance only is mentioned, and many circumstances omitted, whereof we have seen some instances already, and shall meet with many more hereafter. Exodus 12:16.
and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the sea shore; all along, as a late traveller (h) observes, as we may presume, from Sdur (or Shur) to Corondel, and at Corondel especially, from the assistance and termination of the current there. The word for "dead" (i) is in the singular number, and joined with a plural may denote that they saw everyone of the Egyptians dead, since they were all destroyed, and not one remained of them, as in Exodus 14:28. Aben Ezra thinks the sense of the words is, not that the Egyptians were seen dead upon the sea shore, but that the Israelites standing upon the sea shore saw the dead bodies of the Egyptians, that is, floating on the waters of the sea; but rather the meaning is, that their dead bodies were by the force of the waters cast upon the shore, and there beheld and plundered by the Israelites. Josephus (k) observes, that the day following (that night the Egyptians were drowned) the arms of the Egyptians being cast on the shore where the Hebrews encamped, through the force of the sea and wind, Moses gathered them up and armed the Hebrews with them; and this will account for it how they came to have arms, since it is highly probable they came out of Egypt unarmed; and how they could fight battles as they did in the wilderness, and when they came into the land of Canaan.Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)30. the Egyptians] Heb. Egypt (with a sing. partic. for ‘dead’): cf. vv. 10, 25.
30, 31. Close of the narrative in J.Verse 30. - Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore. Josephus says (Ant. Jud. 2:16, § 6), that, after the passage of the sea by the Israelites, a west wind set in, which (assisted by the current) drove the bodies of the drowned Egyptians to the eastern side of the gulf, where many of them were cast up upon the shore. In this way Moses, according to him, obtained weapons and armour for a considerable number of Israelites. Exodus 14:16) over the sea, "Jehovah made the water go (flow away) by a strong east wind the whole night, and made the sea into dry (ground), and the water split itself" (i.e., divided by flowing northward and southward); "and the Israelites went in the midst of the sea (where the water had been driven away by the wind) in the dry, and the water was a wall (i.e., a protection formed by the damming up of the water) on the right and on the left." קדים, the east wind, which may apply either to the south-east or north-east, as the Hebrew has special terms for the four quarters only. Whether the wind blew directly from the east, or somewhat from the south-east or north-east, cannot be determined, as we do not know the exact spot where the passage was made. in any case, the division of the water in both directions could only have been effected by an east wind; and although even now the ebb is strengthened by a north-east wind, as Tischendorf says, and the flood is driven so much to the south by a strong north-west wind that the gulf can be ridden through, and even forded on foot, to the north of Suez (v. Schub. Reise ii. p. 269), and "as a rule the rise and fall of the water in the Arabian Gulf is nowhere so dependent upon the wind as it is at Suez" (Wellsted, Arab. ii. 41, 42), the drying of the sea as here described cannot be accounted for by an ebb strengthened by the east wind, because the water is all driven southwards in the ebb, and not sent in two opposite directions. Such a division could only be produced by a wind sent by God, and working with omnipotent force, in connection with which the natural phenomenon of the ebb may no doubt have exerted a subordinate influence.
(Note: But as the ebb at Suez leaves the shallow parts of the gulf so far dry, when a strong wind is blowing, that it is possible to cross over them, we may understand how the legend could have arisen among the Ichthyophagi of that neighbourhood (Diod. Sic. 3, 39) and even the inhabitants of Memphis (Euseb. praep. ev. 9, 27), that the Israelites took advantage of a strong ebb, and how modern writers like Clericus have tried to show that the passage through the sea may be so accounted for.)
The passage was effected in the night, through the whole of which the wind was blowing, and in the morning watch (between three and six o'clock, Exodus 14:24) it was finished.
As to the possibility of a whole nation crossing with their flocks, Robinson concludes that this might have been accomplished within the period of an extraordinary ebb, which lasted three, or at the most four hours, and was strengthened by the influence of a miraculous wind. "As the Israelites," he observes, "numbered more than two millions of persons, besides flocks and herds, they would of course be able to pass but slowly. If the part left dry were broad enough to enable them to cross in a body one thousand abreast, which would require a space of more than half a mile in breadth (and is perhaps the largest supposition admissible), still the column would be more than two thousand persons in depth, and in all probability could not have extended less than two miles. It would then have occupied at least an hour in passing over its own length, or in entering the sea; and deducting this from the largest time intervening, before the Egyptians also have entered the sea, there will remain only time enough, under the circumstances, for the body of the Israelites to have passed, at the most, over a space of three or four miles." (Researches in Palestine, vol. i. p. 84.)
But as the dividing of the water cannot be accounted for by an extraordinary ebb, even though miraculously strengthened, we have no occasion to limit the time allowed for the crossing to the ordinary period of an ebb. If God sent the wind, which divided the water and laid the bottom dry, as soon as night set in, the crossing might have begun at nine o'clock in the evening, if not before, and lasted till four of five o'clock in the morning (see Exodus 14:27). By this extension of the time we gain enough for the flocks, which Robinson has left out of his calculation. The Egyptians naturally followed close upon the Israelites, from whom they were only divided by the pillar of cloud and fire; and when the rear of the Israelites had reached the opposite shore, they were in the midst of the sea. And in the morning watch Jehovah cast a look upon them in the pillar of cloud and fire, and threw their army into confusion (Exodus 14:24). The breadth of the gulf at the point in question cannot be precisely determined. At the narrowest point above Suez, it is only two-thirds of a mile in breadth, or, according to Niebuhr, 3450 feet; but it was probably broader formerly, and even now is so farther up, opposite to Tell Kolzum (Rob. i. pp. 84 and 70). The place where the Israelites crossed must have been broader, otherwise the Egyptian army, with more than six hundred chariots and many horsemen, could not have been in the sea and perished there when the water returned. - "And Jehovah looked at the army of the Egyptians in (with) the pillar of cloud and fire, and troubled it." This look of Jehovah is to be regarded as the appearance of fire suddenly bursting forth from the pillar of cloud that was turned towards the Egyptians, which threw the Egyptian army into alarm and confusion, and not as "a storm with thunder and lightning," as Josephus and even Rosenmller assume, on the ground of Psalm 78:18-19, though without noticing the fact that the psalmist has merely given a poetical version of the event, and intends to show "how all the powers of nature entered the service of the majestic revelation of Jehovah, when He judged Egypt and set Israel free" (Delitzsch). The fiery look of Jehovah was a much more stupendous phenomenon than a storm; hence its effect was incomparably grander, viz., a state of confusion in which the wheels of the chariots were broken off from the axles, and the Egyptians were therefore impeded in their efforts to escape.
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