Exodus 14

Sunday Morning Bible Study

February 10, 2008

Introduction

The last couple of weeks we’ve followed as Israelites were finally released from their slavery in Egypt. 

Illustration

Joey and his Sunday School lesson....

Nine year old Joey, was asked by his mother what he had learned in Sunday school. “Well, Mom, our teacher told us how God sent Moses behind enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea, he had his engineers build a pontoon bridge and all the people walked across safely. Then he used his walkie - talkie to radio headquarters for reinforcements. They sent bombers to blow up the bridge and all the Israelites were saved.” “Now, Joey, is that really what your teacher taught you?” his mother asked. “Well, no, Mom. But if I told it the way the teacher did, you’d never believe it!”

We’re going to look at one of the most amazing stories in the Bible.  Lots of people besides Joey have had trouble believing it over the years.

Though we’re going to look at some pretty cool stuff that’s been uncovered over the last 15 years, the bottom line is still the same: If you don’t believe there’s a God, you’re going to have a difficult time with this story.

Exodus 14

:1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

:2 "Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea.

turn – We’ve seen that God has helped the Israelites get away from Egypt with a pillar of cloud and fire.  This would have allowed the Israelites to travel during the cool of the evening and the night time through the Sinai desert, and then rest under the cloud during the day. They could have made it across the desert in about three weeks.

Up to this point, the Israelites were following a well known trade route from Egypt to Midian. It would have been the same trade route that Moses would have followed forty years earlier when he fled from Pharaoh and ended up living in Midian.  But instead of taking the route across land into Midian, God is going to take them a different direction.

the sea – it’s not identified in this chapter, but in the next chapter we are told that it was the Red Sea (Ex. 15:4), the Hebrew is “yam cuwph”, which can be translated “reed sea”.

Though some commentators want to say this means they didn’t cross at the Red Sea, “yam cuwph” is clarified in another place:

(1 Ki 9:26 NKJV) King Solomon also built a fleet of ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom.

Elath is an Israeli town on the far northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba.  My point is to simply show that Aqaba is considered to be part of the “Red Sea” in the Bible.

Pi HahirothPi ha-Chiyroth – “mouth of the caves” or “mouth of the gorges”

MigdolMigdowl – “tower”

Baal ZephonBa‘al [email protected]lord of the north”

Where did they cross?

There are about five theories that you will find on most Bible maps. They tend to place the crossing on the border of Egypt, either in the north, across a region of lakes which some call the “sea of reeds”, or some will put it on the Gulf of Suez. (three clicks)

There are some problems with these locations, mostly that they don’t fit the Biblical description of the place.

One problem of the classical crossing proposals is that they are all within the ancient Egyptian border. But the Bible says,

(Exo 14:11 NKJV) Then they said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?
The people already considered themselves outside the borders of Egypt, not on the border.

Most theories of where they crossed are based on the assumption that the people have to get to the traditional place referred to as Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula.

Around the 6th century AD, the traditions started that placed Mount Sinai on what is now known as the Sinai Peninsula, on a mountain known today as Jabal Musa (Mountain of Moses). For centuries pilgrims travel to this mountain where there is a monastery. During the brief period of time that Israel had control of the Sinai Peninsula, extensive archaeological research was done, looking for evidence of two million people camping out there for a year while Moses received the Ten Commandments. Very little substantial evidence was found.

What if the traditional view of Sinai’s location is wrong?

There were other ancient records that placed Mount Sinai in the ancient region of the Midianites, on the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba, in modern Saudi Arabia. Paul the apostle mentions Sinai as being in Arabia (Gal. 4:25). Josephus also places Mt. Sinai in the area of Midian. Some have suggested that it is a mountain called Jabal al-Lawz. We’ll talk more about that in a couple of weeks.

Under the possibility that the region in Saudi Arabia was the correct direction, some scientists began to look in other places for the crossing and have found some interesting things.
They found a possible location for a crossing of the Red Sea that makes much more sense, a place called Nuweiba.

Lesson:

God might lead me to a Red Sea.

They're soon going to be trapped by Pharaoh's army.
And who led them there?  God did.
This isn't one of those situations where they got themselves into a mess.
It's going to look like the wrong place, between a rock and a hard place, but it's just where God wants them.
Why does God want them trapped between the Sea and the Egyptian army?
So they will learn to trust Him.

I’m not sure we’d learn to trust Him if we never encountered a Red Sea.

If we never encountered a Red Sea, we’d never see God part a Red Sea.

:3 "For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, 'They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.'

The report has gotten back to Pharaoh that the Israelites are lost.

:4 "Then I will harden Pharaoh's heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD." And they did so.

God wants to make one last statement of who He is.

:5 Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, "Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?"

Why did they do this? How quickly he’s forgotten the death of his firstborn son.

Maybe Pharaoh is beginning to realize that they aren’t coming back.

:6 So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him.

:7 Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them.

captainsshaliysh – third part; sometimes there would be two men in each chariot, a driver and a warrior. But these are the best equipped chariots, there are three men in each chariot, most likely a driver, a fighter, and a commander to direct.

:8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness.

:9 So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon.

:10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD.

Josephus writes (Antiquities, Book 2:15:324-325),

“…They also seized on the passages by which they imagined the Hebrews might fly, shutting them up between inaccessible precipices and the sea; for there was [on each side] a [ridge of] mountains that terminated at the sea…”

The areas leading up to Nuweiba sound exactly like what Josephus and the Bible describe.  It’s full of deep canyons with high cliffs on either side.

As you come out of the canyons, you find a beach (where there’s now a Hilton hotel).  From the beach you look across the ten miles of Aqaba the mountains of Midian (now Saudi Arabia).

Lesson

Helpless without God

In reality, this is the case of every human on earth, though not many realize it.
We think that we can do anything.
But we are helpless without God. 
This doesn’t mean that we’re even beyond God’s help.
Some people get to the place where they feel like even God can’t help them.  They feel that God could no longer love them. They are wrong.
(Rom 5:8 NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

:11 Then they said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?

Just a little bit of sarcasm here. Egypt was known for its many tombs. Perhaps Moses didn’t feel there were enough tombs for them all to die?

Do you understand why they were so desperate? They have mountains to the north and south, sea to the east, and the Egyptians closing in on the west. There is nowhere to turn.

:12 "Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?' For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness."

This won’t be the last time they wished they could go back to Egypt.

:13 And Moses said to the people, "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.

:14 "The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."

The Israelites aren’t strong enough to fight the Egyptians. God is going to have to take care of Pharaoh.

:15 And the LORD said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.

Don’t just stop here and talk, get going.

Lesson

Stand and go

These are two parts of the same deliverance.
Stand – there is a truth to the fact that all we can do is stand and watch God work.
Our salvation is not accomplished by us, but by Christ. He had to die on a cross to pay the horrible penalty of our sins.
Go – there’s a point that if you want to be saved, you need to respond and take a step.
The Israelites aren’t going to be saved by standing on the seashore. They have to walk across to the other side.
We aren’t going to be saved from our sins unless we make a choice to trust Jesus. We must make a choice to follow after Him.
Addictions – you have to “stand and go”. You must get to the point where you realize you are helpless to fight the battle. But then you also must get up and walk across to the other side.

:16 "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.

:17 "And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen.

:18 "Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen."

:19 And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them.

the Angel of God – could this be the Angel of the LORD? Jesus?  Note that the Angel is in the cloud.

:20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus 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.

Now we see the pillar acting as a defensive weapon, hiding the Israelites from the Egyptians, while they make their escape.

The cloud puts the Egyptians in darkness on one side, and on the other side it is giving light to the Israelites, so they can cross the Red Sea at night.

:21 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.

:22 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.

:23 And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

:24 Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians.

the morning watch – between 2:00am and dawn

He troubled – Psalm 77:16-18 mentions that there was also a rainstorm, lightening, and an earthquake.

(Psa 77:16-18 NKJV) The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were afraid; The depths also trembled. {17} The clouds poured out water; The skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. {18} The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; The lightnings lit up the world; The earth trembled and shook.

There was also a rainstorm, lightening, and an earthquake.
Paul talks about the people being “baptized” in the cloud and in the sea” (1Cor. 10:2), indicating water on the sides and water on top with the rain.

:25 And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, "Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians."

took off their chariot wheels – broken or clogged

:26 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen."

:27 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.

Note:  The water was deep enough to drown the Egyptian army.

:28 Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained.

Video Clip from “The Exodus Revealed”; Dr. Lennart Möller; 39:50 - 44:20

I’m only giving you the tip of what they’ve uncovered…

They also did scans with metal detectors which showed the circular structures having metal rims. They did dives on the Saudi side as well and found the same sort of coral structures.

Though there are places in the Gulf of Aqaba that plunge to 5500 feet, there is a land bridge under the waters at this point. Other places in Aqaba have large sharp coral formations, but this place has sand on the bottom of the ocean floor.

Even if you choose to accept the things that have been found the last couple of years, and you begin to accept the possibility that the Israelites did cross the Red Sea, you’re still going to be faced with the fact that this didn’t happen naturally. 

Somebody still had to part the waters.

There is a God that you still need to believe in.

:29 But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

:30 So the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

:31 Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses.

Lesson

Believe

None of us like being caught between a rock and a hard place.
But it’s times like this that we have the opportunity to trust God.  In fact, it seems that this is the only way to survive a Red Sea.  We must believe God.
Matthew talks about a time when Jesus sent the disciples into a storm…
(Mat 14:24-33 NKJV) But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. {25} Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. {26} And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. {27} But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." {28} And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." {29} So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. {30} But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" {31} And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" {32} And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. {33} Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God."
Peter liked the idea of being able to walk on water.
But when he took his eyes off of Jesus and paid more attention to the wind and the waves, he began to sink.
If all I look at is my circumstances, I’m going to be pretty depressed.
It’s when I put my eyes back on Jesus that I find help in the storm.
What did Jesus gently rebuke Peter for?  Doubting.
We like to know what’s up ahead.  We want to know how God’s going to solve our problem.  But if we knew, then we wouldn’t need faith.
Who ever heard of an ocean parting in front of you? 
God can do anything.  I need to trust Him.