And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the middle of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.…
The Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, etc. On this observe: -
I. THE INFATUATION OF THE PURSUERS (ver. 23). We do not speak of the lessons they had already received as to the folly of contending with Jehovah. The plagues were past. The memory of them had been cast behind their backs. What we do wonder at is, that when the Egyptians reached the shore, and saw there what they did see, they were not deterred from proceeding further. What did they see?
1. They saw the sea divided. They could hardly mistake this for a merely natural phenomenon. The place where the Israelites crossed may have been, under special conditions, and to a limited extent, fordable. But it is safe to say that the division now effected was one the like of which had never been heard of before, and such as, occurring at this particular juncture, ought to have convinced the Egyptians that it was a result of God's special Providence, and intended for the protection of the Israelites. Special interpositions, on behalf of the Church, ought to arrest the attention of her enemies.
2. They saw the ]PGBR> cloud that went with Israel move to the rear, obviously with the design of intercepting their pursuit (vers. 19, 20). This, with the ominous darkness which enveloped them, was a second circumstance which ought to have warned them that Jehovah was fighting for his people.
3. There was the danger, which could not but present itself to them, of being overwhelmed by the returning sea. In whatever way the division of the waters was conceived Of, whether as a natural phenomenon, or as a fact of supernatural origin, it was plainly a perilous experiment to attempt the pursuit. Viewing it as the result of an ebb-tide, aided by a strong east wind, there was the risk of being caught by the returning tide; or if the wind abated, or changed its direction, of being immediately submerged. In the other case there was the danger, almost the certainty, of the supernatural power which restrained the waters permitting them to flow back on the pursuers. What infatuation, then, possessed the Egyptians, prompting them to enter the sea?
(1) A false sense of honour. Having engaged in the pursuit, it would be deemed a point of honour not to desist from it, so long as the faintest chance of success remained. They had gone too far to retreat now at the water's edge.
(2) Rage. Fury and disappointment would possess them, as, in the very hour of their fancied triumph, they saw their prey thus elude them. Was Pharaoh and his mighty host to be thus mocked and set at nought - thus suddenly reined up and baffled? What would Egypt think of her warriors, if, setting out on such an expedition, they returned humiliated and empty-handed? At all hazards Israel must be pursued.
(3) There was the chance of getting through. The distance was short; the way lay open; if Israel had got across, so might the Egyptians. On this chance, in the spirit of the gambler, they would stake everything. What havoc have these same motives - a false sense of honour (cf. Matthew 14:9), a spirit of uncalculating rage, the headstrong gambling disposition, - played in the history of the world! Together, or apart, they account for much of its infatuation. See specially in this conduct of Pharaoh, a picture of the infatuation to which the enemies of Christ's Church have so frequently been given over, and which will linger among them till the end. Compare e.g. the Apocalyptic gathering of the antichristian powers, to do battle with the Lamb (Revelation 16:14-17; Revelation 19:11-21).
II. THE RECEPTION WHICH THEY RECEIVED FROM GOD.
1. In "the morning watch," and when the Egyptians were in "the midst of the sea," God looked forth upon them from the pillar of cloud (ver. 23). The expression is a pregnant one. The look was a "fire-look" - some fire-appearance of a startling kind which issued from the cloud, and shed terror over the pursuers. It was accompanied with thunderings and lightnings (Psalm 77:18, 19). God's looks are potent. When God "looked" on Israel (Exodus 2:25), it meant that he was about to bring salvation to them. When he "locked" on the Egyptians, it was the prelude to their destruction. Through that pillar glares forth an eye which sends a separate dismay into each Egyptian heast and all is felt to be lost. We find two imitations of this in modern poetry - one by Coleridge, in his 'Ode on the Departing Year,' where he prays God to -
"Open his eye of fire from some uncertain cloud,"
and another (by Southey) in the 'Curse of Kehama,' where, after the 'Man Almighty,' holding his Amreeta Cup, had exclaimed -
"Now, Seeva, look to thine abode!"
it is added, when the cup is drunk -
"Then Seeva open'd on the accursed one
His eye of anger - upon him alone
The wrath beam fell He shudders, but too late."
2. God troubled their hosts (vers. 24, 25). There is meant by this some supernatural exertion of power. It was not due to natural causes alone that the chariot wheels were "taken off," and that they drave heavily. It was God who, by his heavy hand upon them, was thus obstructing their progress. The invisible powers were fighting against the Egyptians, as "the stars in their courses fought against Sisera" (Judges 5:20). Those are sure to drive heavily, who drive in the face of God's inhibition, and under his ban.
3. God brought the sea back upon them (ver. 26). Swiftly, fatally, at the stretching forth of Moses' rod, the sea returned in its strength, and utterly overwhelmed them. And such, in its main outline, is the reception which Jehovah must give to all his enemies. His wrath already rests upon them. His fiery look will one day scare them. Even now they are troubled and impeded by it, and by the resistance which he opposes to their plans. Finally, he will overwhelm them in the sea of his wrath. He will visit them with "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Hence -
III. THEIR COMPLETE DESTRUCTION (vers. 27, 28). They perished suddenly, miserably, and all together. Type of the overthrow of God's enemies in the end (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 16:16, 17; Revelation 19:17-21; Revelation 20:9). The blow was a crushing one to Egypt, It filled up the measure of her punishment for the evil she had done to Israel. After the death of the first-born, there could remain nothing to Pharaoh and his servants, in the event of their still hardening themselves, but "a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation" (Hebrews 10:27). Does some one say, what a waste of human life - how unlike a God of mercy! Rather, surely, how striking a testimony to the reality of retribution - how sure a token of the righteous doom which in the end will infallibly overtake every obdurate transgressor! God will not permit sinners always to defy him. His wrath and power are resistless. The "ungodly and sinner" must expect to feel the weight of them (1 Peter 17, 18).
IV. RESULT (vers. 30, 31).
1. Israel was saved.
2. The Egyptian dead were found strewn upon the shore. This -
(1) A memorial of God's vengeance.
(2) An awful satire on so-called human greatness.
(3) A pledge of security to Israel.
3. The people were filled with gratitude and fear. They "believed the Lord." The wonder is that after so marvellous a deliverance they could ever again doubt him. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.