14.9. The Egyptians Perish in the Sea of Reeds (14:23-31)

 (23) The Egyptians came in pursuit after them into the sea, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and horsemen.

(24) At the morning watch, the Lord looked down upon the Egyptian army from a pillar of fire and cloud, and threw the Egyptian army into panic.

(25) He locked the wheels of their chariots so that they moved forward with difficulty. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

(26) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Hold out your arm over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians and upon their chariots and upon their horsemen.”

(27) Moses held out his arm over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal state, and the Egyptians fled at its approach. But the Lord hurled the Egyptians into the sea.

(28) The waters turned back and covered the chariots and the horsemen — Pharaoh’s entire army that followed them into the sea; not one of them remained.

(29) But the Israelites had marched through the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

(30) Thus the Lord delivered Israel that day from the Egyptians. Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the shore of the sea.

(31) And when Israel saw the wondrous power which the Lord had wielded against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord; they had faith in the Lord and His servant Moses.

(23) The Egyptians came in pursuit after them into the sea, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and horsemen: Had the Egyptians found within themselves the strength to halt in their tracks, they would not have perished.

(24) At the morning watch, the Lord looked down upon the Egyptian army: Hebrew, va-yashkef, “He looked down strictly, condemningly.” This is Divine judgment giving the Egyptians their deserts.

From a pillar of fire and cloud, and threw the Egyptian army into panic: The bright light of the pillar of fire and the utter darkness of the pillar of cloud fell upon the Egyptians at the same time. This overwhelmed and confused them, and they became disoriented.

(25) He locked the wheels of their chariots so that they moved forward with difficulty: The chariot wheels were consumed in the heat of the pillar of fire (or the wheels simply fell off their axles), and the chariots dragged along.

And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt”: At the very last moment the Egyptians are aware of what is happening, but it is too late for them to be able to change anything.

(26) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Hold out your arm over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians and upon their chariots and upon their horsemen”: The return of the waters also had to happen at Moses’ direction, once again to increase and reinforce the trust that the Jews placed in Moses.

(27-29) Moses held out his arm over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal state … But the Israelites had marched through the sea on dry ground: While the Egyptians were drowning, the Jews continued to cross the sea. Although the natural order had already been restored where the Egyptians were, and the returning waters buried them under it, the miracle continued for the Jews at their location, and they were able to complete their crossing.

(30) Thus the Lord delivered Israel that day from the Egyptians. Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the shore of the sea: Literally, “Israel saw Egypt dead on the shore of the sea.” Now finally and completely free of their enslavement and subjugation to Egypt, the Jews were now seeing not only the death of the Egyptians, but the death of Egypt itself. For the Jews, Egypt was now totally dead.

(31) And when Israel saw the wondrous power which the Lord had wielded against the Egyptians: The Midrash describes it this way: “A lowly maidservant at the Sea of Reeds saw things that, centuries later, even the great prophet Ezekiel would not see [when the heavens were opened and he saw visions of God and the celestial Chariot]” (see Ezek. ch. 1). The crossing of the sea was a monumental emotional experience, but, as we have noted, all that was only short-lived. Although a burst of emotion can spring the Jews out of Egyptian bondage, it does not yet make them a free people. This will happen only six weeks later, when they receive the Torah on Mount Sinai.

The people feared the Lord; they had faith in the Lord and His servant Moses: Because Moses had “performed” the miracles with his staff, the Jews believed that Moses was indeed the messenger of God.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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