SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS)-Week 43 Exodus 14+15

Welcome to the SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS). This week we will be discussing Exodus 14+15. Since the discussion can turn into a very broad and hijackable thread, we would like the following rules to be adhered to:

  1. These SDMBWBS threads are to deal with the books and stories in the Bible as literature. What I’m hoping to achieve is an understanding of the stories, the time in which they were written, context, and possibly its cultural relevance.

  2. While it is up to the individual to choose to believe or disbelieve any portion, that is not to be the discussion of the thread. If you must, please choose to witness/anti-witness in Great Debates.

  3. The intention is to go through the Bible from front to back in order. While different books are needed to be referred to in order to understand context, please try and keep the focus on the thread’s selected chapter(s)/verse(s).

  4. Since different religions have chosen which books to include or omit, the threads will use the Catholic version of 46 Old Testament Books and 27 New Testament Books. It’s encouraged to discuss why a book was included/omitted during the applicable threads only. BibleHub, as far as I know, is a good resource that compiles many different versions of the verses into one page.(Also the SDMB Staff Reports on Who Wrote the Bible). Please feel free to use whatever source you want, including-and even more helpfully-the original language.

  5. Hopefully we can get through these threads with little to no moderation. A gentle reminder that if a poster comes in and ignores these rules, please use the “report post” function instead of responding.

Links to previous threads:
Genesis 49 & 50 (this includes links to all previous Genesis threads)
Exodus 1
Exodus 2
Exodus 3
Exodus 4
Exodus 5&6
Exodus 7-10
Exodus 11-12
Exodus 13

[Exodus 14

New International Version (NIV)](

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3 Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.

5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”

19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

[Exodus 15

New International Version (NIV)](

The Song of Moses and Miriam

15 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.

2 “The Lord is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is his name.
4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
5 The deep waters have covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.
6 Your right hand, Lord,
was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
shattered the enemy.

7 “In the greatness of your majesty
you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
it consumed them like stubble.
8 By the blast of your nostrils
the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall;
the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
9 The enemy boasted,
‘I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils;
I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
and my hand will destroy them.’
10 But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.
11 Who among the gods
is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?

12 “You stretch out your right hand,
and the earth swallows your enemies.
13 In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.
14 The nations will hear and tremble;
anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,
the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people of Canaan will melt away;
16 terror and dread will fall on them.
By the power of your arm
they will be as still as a stone—
until your people pass by, Lord,
until the people you bought pass by.
17 You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling,
the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.

18 “The Lord reigns
for ever and ever.”

19 When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.”

The Waters of Marah and Elim

22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
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I am struck by the implication that Pharaoh would have let the Israelites leave except for God ‘hardening his heart’. since, apparently, God might well have rescued the Israelites from Pharaoh’s army by many other means – sandstorms, impenetrable clouds of darkness, mechanical breakdowns, etc., and simply closed the sea behind them…why was it really needed to kill thousands of Egyptians? the text seems to say that people had to be killed in order to show the Israelites how powerful their particular God was (the scripture says, paraphrasing, ‘our God is more powerful than all other Gods’)…

By implication, then…God is saying, “Don’t mess with me. do what I say, or I will treat with you as I have treated with the Egyptians.” Or, as Cosby’s father might say, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out.”

A God who proves himself by imposing fear? Sort of makes me doubt the whole of the text as being a fairy tale for children, written centuries after the fact of the Israelites leaving Egypt, little by little until their camps outside Canaan were large enough to support an invasion.

A lot of the pre-captivity history of God’s relationship with the Israelites seems to stress the personality of a young, immature God, ready to kill as his first choice.

First, let’s deal with “hardening his heart.” The text is deliciously ambiguous: verses 4 and 8, God says He will harden Pharaoh’s heart. Verse 5 says Pharaoh and his courtiers “changed their minds.” My interpretation is that God set Pharaoh up, tempting him with the zig-zag tactic, but that Pharaoh made his own decision.

The show of power is necessary for Israel. They have been enslaved for generations, they have a slave mortality. They still don’t understand that they’re free, and at every inconvenience, they look nostalgically back on Egypt. They think of themselves as weak, they are docile and fearful. They need to become a nation. They need to understand that God is more powerful than Egypt. Arguably, the Israelites didn’t really see the plagues up close – most of them didn’t affect Goshen, and the drama was all staged for Pharaoh (name when the plague starts, throw dust into the air, strike the water, etc). So they need a show of power, to help forge them into a nation.

I’ve only got a few comments: “the king of Egypt was told the people had fled,” – that is, they were further away than the three-day holiday that Moses had requested. So Pharaoh decides to give chase.

Verse 11, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt…?” is, of course, deeply ironic. Egypt is a necropolis; there are zillions of graves in Egypt. Mummification and building elaborate tombs is an obsession in Egypt.

Faced with a crisis, Moses and the people do nothing, waiting for God to help. God says, “Don’t cry out to me, move forward!” The relationship between God and humans is seen as partnership. There are times for prayer and times for action.

Note the bracketing verb “to know”, in verse 4 and in verse 18, “The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD” is one of the culminating uses of the verb “to know” that has been echoing (and I’ve been mentioning) throughout the first chapters of Exodus.

In verses 19-20, the pillar of cloud becomes a protective shield. Moses stretches his staff over the sea, he does not strike it. It’s clear this is God taking action, and not some magic trick of Moses’ waving his staff/wand. The “east wind” of v 21 is presumably the witheringly hot wind known as sirocco.

V 24, I think that the imagery of God looking down from atop the “pillar of fire and cloud” is beautiful poetry.

I also like the poetry that the Egyptians are thrown into darkness and water. These were the two elements of chaos before creation. The first steps of creation, God created light and split the waters. The Israelites emerge from split waters as a sign of new birth, new creation.

Summary: when Pharaoh asked “Who is God?” the story up to now has been to answer that question: God is the One who is master of creation (via the plagues), splits the waters, and pushes chaos (darkness and waters) onto Pharaoh’s army. And the Israelites also (we’ll see one final use of “know” later in 16:6, the Israelites must also come “to know” that God is the One who brought them out of Egypt.)


In the song of the sea, the term “deep waters” in verse 5 and 8 is the plural of the cosmic, chaotic waters of Genesis 1:2. Again, the imagery is that God threw chaos back onto Egypt.

For traditional Jews, this song is included in daily morning prayer, every day of the year. It is NOT a simple retelling of the story as poetry rather than prose, it assumes that the reader knows the story. It’s not a song about human events, but a praise of God’s intervention in human history. Moses plays no role in the song, it’s the “right hand of God” (metaphorically) that stretches over the waters, not the hand and staff of Moses.

The second grumbling is a lack of water, in verses 22 – 25. The “three days” of travel would be at most 45 miles, but “three days” is a literary convention that usually means “a while.” That leads to the critical event, the “ruling and instruction” and test, a deal between God and Israel: If you listen, THEN I’ll save you. “It took an instant to take the Jews out of Egypt, but it would take a generation to take Egypt out of the Jews.”

Verse 27: Seven and ten are both numbers of completion, so 70 is a number of super-completion, and 12 is ditto. The combination of numbers says this is a resting place, a completion of a major drama.

Let me give that some more thought. My initial reaction: I think it’s more that the text represents the personality of a young, immature people. They need to learn that they are a people, that they can survive, that they can learn to defend themselves. And it’s a very harsh world they are born into, war is the only way to survive. (The notion that the “meek will inherit” comes about a millennium later, when a nation even stronger than Egypt has crushed and oppressed, and there’s no warrior-God to fight for them.)

New thread Exodus 16-18