Exodus 14
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The passage of the Red Sea

The narrative is composite, and shews the same, or similar, characteristics to that of the Plagues. It may suffice here to point to some of the features which connect the parts assigned to P with each other, or with P’s narrative elsewhere: v. 1 And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, as Exodus 6:10; Exodus 6:29, Exodus 13:1, Exodus 25:1, and frequently; vv. 2, 15 Speak unto the children of Israel, as Exodus 25:2, Leviticus 1:2; Leviticus 4:2, &c.; vv. 4, 8, 17 ḥizzëḳ for ‘harden’ as Exodus 7:13, &c.; get me honour, vv. 4, 17, 18, Leviticus 10:3; Leviticus 10:4; Leviticus 10:18 and … shall know, as Exodus 6:7, Exodus 7:5, Exodus 16:12; Exodus 16:9; Exodus 16:23 and the Egyptians pursued; vv. 22, 29 ‘the dry ground’ and ‘the wall’; vv. 16, 21 divide; the repetitions, in the manner of P, in vv. 17, 18 as compared with v. 4, in v. 28a as compared with v. 23, and in v. 29 as compared with v. 22.

The two principal narrators, while agreeing with each other and with the Song in the main facts, viz. that the Israelites passed safely, while the Egyptians perished in the waters, give different representations of some of the details. In particular, in effecting the parting of the waters, Jehovah in J acts through natural causes: by a strong east wind (v. 21b) He drives along the waters of the Red Sea, so that a part of the bottom is laid bare; in the morning the sea returns to its wonted flow, and the pursuing Egyptians are drowned in it (v. 27b): in P Moses lifts up his hand, as in E (v. 16a) his rod, and at the signal the waters divide automatically, forming a pathway, with a wall of water on each side; upon the signal being given a second time, the waters reunite, and close upon the Egyptians (vv. 21a, c, 22, 27a, 28a). In P,—and also in E probably (for but little of E has been preserved),—the miracle is thus much greater than in J. The Song (ch. 15) agrees with J in emphasizing the operation of the wind (v. 8, cf. v. 10): whether the expressions in v. 8 about the waters standing up as a heap are to be taken literally, and regarded as supporting the representation of P, may be doubted: the language may be hyperbolical; nor is it certain (see p. 130f.) that the poem is contemporary with the events. See further p. 123 ff.

On the passage of the Red Sea

The fact of the passage of the Red Sea can be questioned only by an extreme and baseless scepticism. As was remarked above (p. 114), on the principal facts involved, the successful passage of the Israelites, and the destruction of the pursuing Egyptians in the returning waters, the principal narratives, and also the Song, all agree: they differ only in details (on the uncertainty as to the place of crossing, see p. 124 ff.). Dillm. (p. 133, ed. 2, p. 146) remarks that these details are described most simply, if only we do not understand as prose what is intended to be poetry, in the Song (which is regarded by him as older than any of the prose narratives): a strong wind drives back the waters in such a way as to permit the Israelites to pass through (Exodus 15:8); another wind, suddenly arising in an opposite direction (v. 10), causes the water to return and close upon the pursuing foe. ‘That natural causes were in operation, is taken for granted: Jehovah is glorified for setting them in action, and achieving by such simple means the salvation of His own people, and the destruction of their foes. The marvel lay in the deliverance of the people, whom its leader had ever taught to trust in its God, in the extremity of danger, without its own cooperation (cf. Exodus 14:13 f., 31 J), this was also the reason why the event had such immense significance in the subsequent history of the people.’ But the story of the great deliverance, as it was handed down from generation to generation in the mouths of the people, was variously embellished by the unconscious play of the imagination. And so in the later writers the occurrence is attributed far more to the direct supernatural power of God. While J,—no doubt following the Song,—still mentions a strong east wind as the cause, E and P represent the water as dividing and forming two walls, and afterwards as reuniting, at a signal given by the hand or rod of Moses, in E and J the angel, or pillar of cloud and fire, cooperates to keep the two hosts apart, and throw the Egyptians into a panic, the passage of the whole body of Israelites, and the destruction of the Egyptians, take place in a single night, and not one of the enemy is left alive. ‘It would be unjustifiable,’ continues Dillmann, ‘on account of such differences between the narrators, and because of such purely legendary traits, to deny the reality of the occurrence itself; but it would be still more foolish to seek to maintain the strictly historical character of the details as described by these narrators. Especially the idea that a people numbering some 2,000,000 souls, with their tents and baggage, and large flocks and herds (Exodus 12:37 f.), could have crossed the sea, however broad the ford was, in the course of a single night, must be entirely given up; either the numbers were very much smaller, or the narrative must be supposed to speak of only the principal body of the Israelites.’

The actual point at which the passage of the Red Sea took place can be fixed only by conjecture; for the site suggested for Pi-haḥiroth (p. 122) is too conjectural, and that suggested for Migdol is too uncertain, to be used for the purpose of determining it, and the site of Baal-ẓĕphôn depends entirely upon those adopted for these two places. Formerly, indeed, it used to be supposed, on the strength of the expressions in Exodus 14:22; Exodus 15:8, that the passage took place in the deep water, some miles S. of Suez, that the sea there literally parted asunder, and that through the chasm thus formed the Israelites passed, with a sheer wall of water on each side of them. But, if only for the reason that it is impossible to understand how any ‘wind’ could have produced a chasm of this kind, or, even if it could have done so, how any man or body of men could have stood against it, this view has now been for long entirely abandoned. The following are the two views that have been more recently advocated. (1) That the passage took place near the modern Suez, either in the narrow arm of the gulf, some ¾ mile broad, which extends now about 2 miles N. of Suez, but,—to judge from the character of the soil, consisting of sand blown in from the desert on the East,—in ancient times probably extended further (Rob. i. 49), or a little S. of Suez: above Suez the water is shallow, and there are parts which can be crossed at low tide (Ebers saw Arabs crossing them, Gosen, p. 530; cf. Rob. p. 50); immediately below Suez also there is a shoal, 1 mile broad, dry at low water1[144]. The Gulf of Suez is at this part enclosed by a range of hills on each side—the Jebel ‘Atâḳa on the W. coming close down to the sea, and the ridge of er-Râḥah, 12–15 miles off on the E.; and partly on account of these hills the ebb and flow of the tide is here unusually dependent on the direction of the wind. ‘As is well known to observant men accustomed to navigate the Red Sea, a north-easterly gale, on reaching Suez, would then be drawn down between the high ranges which bound the gulf on either hand, in such a manner as to change its direction from NE. to N., or even a little W. of N. It would gather strength as it advanced, and by its action on an ebb tide would make it abnormally low, and prevent, while it lasted, at least for a time, the return of the usual flood tide. In this way a good passage across the channel might soon be laid bare, and remain so for several hours. In the morning, a shift of wind to the S., probably of a cyclonic nature; takes place: the pent-up flood-tide, now freed from restraint, and urged on by the S. gale “returns to its wonted flow,” and sweeps suddenly up the gulf, probably in a “bore” or tidal wave, and so overwhelms the pursuing Egyptians.’2[145]

[144] See Map, Gulf of Suez, at end. According to Rob. p. 50, however, the shoal could only be crossed by wading, the water being 5 ft. deep.

[145] Abridged from Major Palmer’s Sinai (S.P.C.K.), p. 169f. Ewald [Hist. ii. 73), ‘if the Red Sea had then its present limits,’ and Ebers (Gosen, p. 102 f.) would also place the passage across the fords N. of Suez. Robinson (i. 58f.) supposes that the wind drove the water off the shallow shoals, either just above or just below the present Suez, and so made them passable, while leaving the deeper water N. and S. of these shoals unaffected.

(2) The other view takes the Israelites across a presumed ancient northern extension of the Gulf of Suez, which is considered highly probable by many modern authorities. The isthmus of Suez, at its narrowest part, is 70 miles across3[146]. Near the N. end of the Gulf of Suez there extends for some ten miles a ‘sort of marshy lagoon’ (Murray’s Guide); then comes the Shalûf, a plateau 20–25 ft. above the sea-level, and 6 miles long; after this, stretching in a NW. direction, the two ‘Bitter Lakes,’ altogether about 25 miles long by 2–6 broad, connected by a shallow marshy channel a mile long, which, until an immense volume of water was let into them at the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 from the Medit. Sea, were nothing more than two great salt marshes, though 20–40 ft. deep in many parts; at the N. end of these Lakes there is again for 8 miles a stretch of sand, rising in parts into dunes, with a stelè of Darius in the middle, which, from the ruins found there being supposed by the French engineers to have been a temple of Osiris, is now known as the Serapeum; then comes Lake Timsâḥ (the ‘Crocodile Lake’), at the E. end of W. Ṭumîlât, 5 miles long by ½–2 miles broad, which, like the Bitter Lakes, till it was flooded for Suez Canal, was another salt marsh, filled with reeds: 3 miles N. of Lake Timsâḥ, the land rises to about 50 ft. above the sea, and the highest point between the Medit. Sea and the Gulf of Suez is reached, called el-Gisr (‘the Embankment’), the cutting through of which for the Suez Canal was a work of immense labour: two or three miles N. of el-Gisr is Lake Ballâḥ; and N. of this, between L. Ballâḥ and L. Menzaleh, was the isthmus called el-Ḳanṭara, or the ‘Bridge,’ over which went the old caravan route between Egypt and Palestine.

[146] There are excellent maps of the Isthmus in both Bädeker’s and Murray’s Guide.

There is no doubt that in remote pre-historic times (before the Pleistocene period) the Gulf of Suez and the Medit. Sea were connected with each other (see the map in EB. ii. 1205–6); and it has been supposed that in ancient historic times the Gulf of Suez extended as far N. as L. Timsâḥ, on the S. of the ridge el-Gisr, just referred to: Sir J. W. Dawson, for instance, writing as a geologist, points out that the ground S. of L. Timsâḥ is for the most part lower than the Red Sea, and is composed of recent deposits holding many Red Sea shells (Egypt and Syria, pp. 67–69). And so it has been held that the passage of the Israelites was made at some part of this northern extension of the Red Sea. Thus the French engineer Linant, R. S. Poole the Egyptologist (in Smith’s DB., 1863, i. 599b, iii. 1016a, 1017a), and M. Naville in his Store-City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus4, 1903, p. 31 (see also his art. Exodus in Smith’s DB., vol. i., ed. 2, with maps) suppose them to have crossed by what is now the neck of land between L. Timsâḥ and the Bitter Lakes, a little N. of the ‘Serapeum,’ where (Naville) ‘the sea was not wide, and the water probably very shallow,’ and ‘liable to be driven back under an east wind’; while Sir J. W. Dawson (l.c. p. 65) thinks that the best place for the passage would have been at the S. end of the Great Bitter Lake1[147], where ‘it is narrow, and its shallow part begins, and a NE. wind, combined with a low tide, would produce the greatest possible effect in lowering the water.’ Dillm., after a full discussion of the question, reached in 1880 substantially the same conclusion, thinking it probable that there was some extension of what is now the Gulf of Suez as far as L. Timsâḥ, both upon independent grounds (see below), and also because, if at the time of the Exodus the distribution of land and water upon the isthmus was as it is now, it is not apparent why Moses should have led the Israelites S. of the N. end of the Gulf of Suez, instead of crossing the isthmus between the N. end of the Gulf and the Bitter Lakes, by the present pilgrim track to the desert of Arabia: he did not, however, define more closely where the crossing took place, but thought it might be at any point N. of the present gulf, where the water was fairly shallow (p. 144 f., ed. 2, p. 159).

[147] Between the present railway stations Fâyid and Geneffa (see the Map).

Did this N. extension of the Gulf of Suez exist, however, as late as the time of the Exodus, in the 13th cent. b.c.? (1) The ‘Bitter Lakes’ seem to have existed already in the time of the 12th dynasty. Sinuhit, a political exile from Egypt under Usertesen I (b.c. 1980–1935 Breasted), in describing his flight, says (Petrie, Egypt. Tales, i. 100 f.1[148]) that he ‘reached the walls (anbu) of the Ruler, built to repel the Sati,’ then after ‘crouching in a bush for fear of being seen by the guards doing duty there, who watch on the top,’ he ‘set forth at night-fall, and at day-break reached Peten, and came to the island of Kem-uçr,’ i.e. the ‘Great Black (water).’2[149] Now Ptolemy II is said, in l. 20 of the inscription found at Pithom by M. Naville (Pithom, ed. 4, p. 20b), to have gone to Kem-uçr, and founded there a large city in honour of his sister, which can be only Arsinoe; and this is stated by Strabo (p. 804; xvii. 1. 26) to have been near Heroopolis, i.e. (see below) Pithom, 10 miles W. of L. Timsâḥ. These data seem to shew that Kem-uçr must have included L. Timsâḥ. The sequel (ll. 22–24), now, speaks of vessels going from Kem-uçr to the Red Sea, and returning again, with elephants and other imports, to Kem-uçr. Though Kem-uçr is distinguished from the Red Sea, there seems thus to have been some water-connexion between them: L. Timsâḥ was apparently united with the Bitter Lakes, forming the ‘Great Black (water)’; and there was some navigable connexion between this and what is now the Gulf of Suez (cf. W. M. Müller, Asien u. Eur. nach den Aeg. Denkm. p. 42; Di. pp. 140, 145, ed. 2, pp. 153, 159; Naville, p. 25 f.). Geology offers no demur to this conclusion. Geologists generally are agreed that the whole of the isthmus from el-Gisr to Suez is a recent (Quaternary) formation; and Th. Fuchs, who examined it carefully in 1876, and whose conclusions are summarized by Guthe (ZDPV. Exo 1885, 222–9, esp. 225; cf. PRE.3[150] xii. 499), writing purely as a geologist, regards it as quite possible that ‘the Bitter Lakes, even in historical times, were connected with the Red Sea.’ In particular, Fuchs (against Fraas and others)3[151] denies that the Shalûf plateau (p. 125) is as a whole a formation of the Miocene period; and says that such isolated Miocene rocks as may have been found in it could never have formed a real barrier between the Medit. and the Red Seas (p. 225). Comp. Guthe’s statement (p. 227 f.), with which the well-known geologist, Credner, is stated fully to agree. The land, from L. Timsâḥ southwards has gradually risen, causing the waters of the Red Sea gradually to recede.

[148] Latest and best edition by A. H. Gardiner, Die Erzählung des Sinuhe, Berlin, 1909, whose translation (p. 9 f.) has in two places been followed.

[149] So-called in contradistinction to the ‘Great Green (water),’ i.e. the Mediterranean and other seas.

[150] Realencyklopädie für Protestantische Theologie und Kirche, ed. 3, edited by A. Hauck, 1896–1909.

[151] Comp. Dawson, Modern Science in Bible Lands (1888), 396–8, Eg. and Syr. 68.

(2) In a wall in Pithom M. Naville found a stone with the inscription (in four lines) loero " polis " ero " castra (where lo doubtless stands for locus); and very near it a milestone of a.d. 306 with the note ‘Ab Ero in Klysma M. VIIII.—Θ’ (Pithom, pp. 9a, 21b, 22a, 23b, and Plate XI). Plainly Heroopolis is meant, a place often mentioned by the classical geographers as the starting point of the Ἀράβιος κόλπος or the Red Sea (e.g. Strabo, p. 767 ἀπὸ Ἡρώων πόλεως ἥτις ἐστὶ πρὸς τῷ Νείλῳ μυχὸς τοῦ Ἀραβίου κόλπου; cf. 803), as giving its name to this gulf, and as the place at which voyagers embarked on the ‘Arabian Gulf’ (Theophr. Plant. iv. 7. 2 ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τῷ καλουμένῳ Ἡρώων, ἐφʼ ὃν καταβαίνουσιν οἱ ἐξ Αἰγύπτου). Pithom Isaiah 10 miles W. of L. Timsâḥ; so these statements would seem to shew that the ‘Arabian Gulf’ in classical times extended as far N. as that lake1[152]. M. Naville (p. 25b) even judges, from the appearance of the soil, that the head of the gulf extended westwards from L. Timsâḥ to within three miles of Heroopolis itself.2[153] This conclusion would be clear, and, as Di. remarks, a welcome confirmation of the conclusion reached by him, upon independent grounds, in his Commentary (pp. 139 f., 144 f., ed. 2, pp. 152 f., 159), were it not for a passage of Pliny (HN. vi. § 165), which seems to imply that there were 34 (al. 37) miles from the Red Sea to the Bitter Lakes: if this is correct, the Gulf of Suez must have ended where it does now (see further Dillm.’s full discussion in his review of Naville’s Pithom, ed. 1, in SBAk. 1885, p. 889 ff.). Perhaps, however, too much weight ought not to be attached to an isolated statement, not made in a detailed description of the country3[154].

[152] Ptolemy (Exodus 4:5; Exodus 4:7-8) also places the ‘bay (μυχὸς) of the Arabian Gulf by Heroopolis’ a degree (about 60 miles) N. of Klysma (Kolzum, just N. of Suez).

[153] See the Map of Ancient Egypt, shewing this, in Maspero, i. 75.

[154] Naville (p. 26a) understands the passage, not of a canal from the Bitter Lakes to the Red Sea, but of the canal from the Nile (near Bubastis) to the Bitter Lakes, in which case the distance would be approximately correct, and the difficulty would vanish: but he hardly does justice to Pliny’s et (‘also’); see Dillm. p. 894.

As there is no reason (Pithom, ed. 4, p. 23 f.) for supposing either of the stones found by M. Naville to have been moved appreciably from its original site, they establish the identity of Heroopolis with the place at which they were found, i.e. with Pithom. The ancient Klysma, according to the Arabian geographers (see Di. l.c.), was at the extreme head of the Gulf of Suez (N. of the modern town of Suez; see the Map): if this, therefore, be the Klysma meant, Heroopolis must have been some 50 miles distant from it, instead of 9, as stated on the milestone. The supposition made by Mommsen (SBAk. 1885, p. 898, 1887, p. 364) for overcoming this difficulty, viz. that the inscription means not ‘9 miles from Ero to Klysma’ but ‘the 9th mile on the way from Ero to Klysma,’ being negatived by the improbability (Naville, l.c.) that the stone had been removed from its original place, Naville (p. 24a) argues that Klysma (properly ‘a place washed by the sea’) means here not the ‘Klysma’ near Suez, but the sea-beach of L. Timsâḥ, which would be about 10 miles from Pithom.

On the whole, the language of the ancients, with the exception of the one passage of Pliny, is best satisfied by the supposition that, as late as classical times, the Gulf of Suez extended as far N. as L. Timsâḥ.

1–4 (P). The sequel in P to Exodus 13:20 (P). In Etham the Israelites are bidden turn back, and encamp on the W. side of the sea (i.e. either of the Gulf of Suez, or of an ancient northern extension of it: see p. 126 f.) in order that the Pharaoh, seeing them shut in, with the sea in front of them, may be tempted to pursue after them, and that God may get Him glory by his overthrow.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.
2. turn back] viz. from the route past Etham, straight on to Palestine. The ‘turn’ is the same as that mentioned by E in Exodus 13:18. The motive assigned for it is however a different one: in Exodus 13:17 fear lest the Israelites should shrink from facing the Philistines; here (v. 4), that Jehovah might get Himself glory by the overthrow of the Egyptians. See further the last note on v. 4.

Pi-haḥiroth, &c.] None of these places have been as yet identified: they consequently afford no help in determining the place where the passage of the Red Sea took place. M. Naville’s identification of Pi-haḥiroth, with Piḳereḥet, which he argues was on the SW. edge of Lake Timsâḥ, depends upon most precarious grounds (see p. 122). And no independent data whatever exist for determining the sites of Migdol and Baal-ẓěphön: their sites can only be fixed conjecturally, after the place of the passage has been already fixed upon other grounds.

On the sites of Pi-haḥiroth, Migdol, and Baal-ẓĕphôn (Exodus 14:2)

(1) Pi-haḥiroth. M. Naville identifies Pi-haḥiroth with the Egypt. Piḳereḥet or Piḳeḥeret. In lists of the ‘nomes’ of Egypt (Naville, Pithom, ed. 4, p. 24b, cf. pp. 6b, 8a), sometimes the temple of Pithom, sometimes that of Piḳereḥet or Piḳeḥeret, is mentioned as the principal sanctuary of the 8th nome of lower Egypt, in the ‘region of Thukke’ (Succoth: Exodus 12:37); and in the Inscription of Ptolemy II, found by M. Naville at Pithom (ibid. p. 18b), this temple of Piḳeḥeret is mentioned as an abode of Osiris; and it is stated (l. 7; ibid. p. 19b) that Ptolemy, in his 6th year, went to Nefer ab (i.e., probably, the capital of the nome, Heroopolis), visited the temple of Piḳereḥet, and dedicated it to ‘his father Etôm (see on Exodus 1:11), the great living god of Thukke, at the festival of the god.’ A temple of Osiris would be called by the Greeks a Serapeum; and as the Itinerary of Antonine mentions a Serapiu, 18 miles from Heroopolis, and 50 from Klysma (Kolzum, a little N. of the modern Suez), M. Naville identifies the temple of Piḳereḥet with this, and places it at the foot of Jebel Mariam, on the SW. edge of L. Timsâḥ, 12 miles E. of Pithom (p. 25; cf. p. 22a, and see the Map at the end of his volume). Not only, however, does Piḳereḥet not agree phonetically with Pi-haḥiroth as closely as could be desired; but the arguments by which M. Naville seeks to fix its site are anything but cogent: in fact (Griffith) such data as we possess all tend to shew that the temple of Piḳereḥet was the shrine of a serpentine god (Ḳerḥ(et) = ‘serpent’) in Pithom itself, and not 12 miles E. of it (cf. W. M. Müller in DB. ii. 1439, n. 5)1[139]

[139] The identification (Kn. al.) of Pi-haḥiroth with ‘Ajrûd (12 m. NW. of Suez) is quite out of the question: the phonetic equation implied is, as Di. justly objects, too ‘grässlich’ (‘frightful’).

(2) Migdol is a Heb. word meaning tower; and in the Egypt, form Mektol occurs frequently in the inscriptions; but the situation of these ‘towers’ is mostly either uncertain, or unsuited to the present context1[140]. There is however one which, if the Israelites really crossed the sea at or near L. Timsâḥ, may be the ‘Migdol’ here mentioned. In the reign of Merenptah’s successor, Seti II, an officer who had been sent to overtake two fugitive slaves tells us that he followed them first to the sgr (fortified enclosure) of Thukke (see on Exodus 12:37), then, turning to the S., to the khetem, or castle (see on Exodus 13:20), of Thukke, and afterwards to ‘the northern wall of the mektol of Seti’ (see Authority and Archaeology, p. 60f.; W. Max Müller, Migdol in EB.)2[141] This mektol must certainly have been somewhere E. of Thukke (or Pithom): it might therefore well be near L. Timsâḥ, and so would fulfil all conditions for those assuming that the ‘sea’ which the Israelites crossed was a northern extension of the Gulf of Suez, at a point a little S. of this lake.

[140] The Migdol of Ezekiel 29:10; Ezekiel 30:6, mentioned as a frontier-city of Egypt (render each time as RVm.), is probably the Magdolo of the Itin. Anton., 12 m. S. of Pelusium: but this is far too N. for the present ‘Migdol’. See Migdol in EB.

The ‘khetem which is in Thukke near the lakes of Pithom’ (L. Timsâḥ and the Bitter Lakes?) is mentioned also in another inscription: see Auth. and Arch. p. 59.

(3) The site of Baal-ẓĕphôn is quite unknown; all that can be said of it is that as the Israelites were to encamp over against it, i.e. (as we should now say) opposite to it, it will have been on the Asiatic side of the sea, opposite to Migdol (wherever ‘Migdol’ was).

The name ‘Ba‘al-ẓephon’ is interesting. We know that there were many local Baals (Ba‘al of Lebanon, of Tarsus, &c.), some of whom gave their names to places (as ‘Ba‘al of Peor’). Ba‘al-ẓephon either means ‘Baal of the North,’ or is a combination of Baal with the Phoen. god Ẓaphon (Rel. Sem.2[142], p. 95); cf. Baal-Gad. We know, now, from a treaty between Esarhaddon (b.c. 681–668) and the Phoenicians, that there was a Tyrian god, bearing the same name, viz. Baal-ṣapûna (KAT.3[143] 357), and also, from the annals of Tiglath-pileser and Sargon (ib. p. 479), that there was a mountain Ba’li-ṣapûnah, evidently so named from this deity. The place, Ba‘al-ẓephon, no doubt, either was, or had been, a sanctuary of the same deity. In Egypt itself, also, among the deities worshipped at Memphis, mention is made of a goddess Ba‘alath-ẓaphon (EB. s.v. Baal-zephon; W. M. Mülller, As. u. Eur. 315), who may have had some connexion with the corresponding male deity.

[142] W. R. Smith, The Religion of the Semites, ed. 2, 1894.

[143] Die Keilinschriften und das A T., 1903, by H. Zimmern (pp. 345–653) and H. Winckler (pp. 1–342).

For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.
3. entangled, &c.] rather, perplexed, confused (Esther 3:15, Joel 1:18) in the land: they do not know which way to turn in order to escape: the wilderness (the Egyptian wilderness, S. of Wâdy Ṭumîlât) hath shut them in: the implicit thought being, They will not dream of crossing the sea; so we have but to follow them (v. 4), and they will be in our power.

And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.
4. harden] lit. make strong or firm: P’s regular word (on Exodus 7:13).

follow] better, pursue, as vv. 8, 9, 23.

get me honour (or glory)] viz. by Pharaoh’s overthrow: cf. especially Ezekiel 28:22; Ezekiel 39:13 (EVV. ‘will be glorified’). So vv. 17, 18.

and the Egyptians shall know, &c.] as Exodus 7:5. Cf. on Exodus 6:7.

V. 4 is not to be understood as giving the actual reason why the Israelites ‘turned back’ (for which see Exodus 13:17): rather (Di.) ‘it gives merely the ideal ground, deduced correctly from the event, that God would get Him glory by the Egyptians’ overthrow.’

5–7 (J). The Pharaoh prepares to follow after them.

And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?
5. were fled] i.e. were not gone merely on a pilgrimage, to ‘serve’ Jehovah (Exodus 4:23, Exodus 7:16, &c.), but had departed altogether.

the heart … was changed] i.e. their mind, or opinion, was altered; they regretted that they had given the permission of Exodus 12:31 f.; they felt that they had lost the services of the Israelites, and wished, if possible, to get them back.

from serving us] ch. 5, &c.

And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:
6. made ready] Heb. bound, i.e. attached to the horses (Genesis 46:29 al.).

chariot] marg. ‘Or, chariots.’ The Heb. word may be used either of in individual chariot (2 Kings 9:21; 2 Kings 9:24), or collectively (vv. 7, 9, 17, &c.). Here, however, the Pharaoh’s own chariot appears to be meant.

his people] i.e. his warriors (Numbers 21:23 al.).

And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.
7. all the chariots] i.e. all the other chariots.

and knights upon (not ‘over’) all of them] The Heb. shâlîsh is not the word usually rendered ‘captain’; but denotes apparently some superior kind of military officer: in 2 Kings 7:2; 2 Kings 7:17; 2 Kings 9:25; 2 Kings 10:25; 2 Kings 15:25 it is used of a military attendant of the king,—or, in the plural, of a body of such attendants,—such as we might, for distinction, call a knight: the same rend. would suit also Exodus 15:4, Ezekiel 23:15; Ezekiel 23:23, 2 Chronicles 8:9 (in 2 Samuel 23:8 = 1 Chronicles 11:11 RVm. ‘three’ [שלשה] should probably be read for ‘captains’ [שלשם]). From the resemblance of the word to the Heb. for ‘three’ it has often been supposed to denote the third man in a chariot (cf. LXX. in Ex. and Kings, τριστάτης), i.e. the shield-bearer (by the side of the driver and the bowman). But (1) as appears from pictorial representations (see ill. in Wilk.-B. i. 223 f.), the Egyptian war-chariot was manned, except in triumphal processions (Wilk.-B. l.c.; EB. i. 726), by only two occupants, the driver and the bowman (EB. l.c.; Erman, p. 547); the chariots of the Hittites had three occupants (see ill. in EB. i. 729, or Erman, l.c.), but this, at the battle of Kadesh on the Orontes, under Rameses II, surprised the Egyptians (Erman, l.c.); the Assyrian chariots also carried only two occupants. (2) The shâlïshim, are not in any of the other passages where they are mentioned specially associated with chariots,—even in 2 Kings 9:25, Bidkar is not necessarily Jehu’s chariot-attendant; and in Exodus 15:4 the expression, ‘the choice of his shâlîshim,’ would seem to suggest some more select and distinguished body than those who took only the third place in the chariots. We cannot be sure of the precise sense which was felt to attach to the word; but knight seems to suit all the passages in which it occurs. It may mean properly (Di.) ‘a man of the third rank.’

8–9 (P). The sequel to v. 4.

And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
8. and the children of Israel were going: out, &c.] cf. the participle in v. 10.

with an high hand] i.e. proudly and defiantly; cf. Numbers 33:3 (P): in Numbers 15:30 used of sins committed wilfully, in deliberate defiance of God’s will. The ‘high hand’ is properly the hand uplifted to deliver a blow: cf. Job 38:15 (‘the high arm is broken’), Micah 5:9; Deuteronomy 32:27 (the same Heb.). The representation of P differs from the of J (so Di.): in J the Israelites ‘flee’ (v. 5) after obtaining the Pharaoh’s leave for a temporary absence (Exodus 12:31 f.): in P they from the first leave Egypt defiantly, regardless of the Pharaoh’s wishes. Cf. on Exodus 6:11.

But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.
9. In the Heb. the order is, ‘And the Egyptians pursued after them, and overtook them encamping by the sea, [all the horses (and) chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army,] by Pi-haḥiroth, before Baal-zephon’; and the awkward position of the bracketed words makes it almost certain that they are a misplace gloss upon ‘the Egyptians,’ suggested by the similar words in Exodus 14:17 b, Exodus 14:18 b, 23b, Exodus 14:26 b, Exodus 14:28.

horsemen] so Exodus 14:17-18; Exodus 14:23; Exodus 14:26; Exodus 14:28; Exodus 15:19, Joshua 24:6. The term seems to be an anachronism: the Egyptians used chariots in warfare; and though barbarians are represented on the monuments as fleeing on horseback, ‘we have no representations of Egyptians on horseback’ (Erman, p. 492). ‘For a much later time Egyptian cavalry is indeed attested by Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 36:9; and so it is the more intelligible, when later Biblical writers presuppose it also for the Mosaic age’ (Di.). There is a similar anachronism in Genesis 50:9.

And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
10. the Egyptians marched] Heb., more graphically, Egypt was marching. Cf. on v. 25, and v. 30.

cried out, &c.] cf. Joshua 24:7 (E).

10–14. The sequel to vv. 5–7. The alarm of the Israelites, as they see the Egyptians approaching, and their encouragement by Moses, ‘told very graphically by J’ (Di.).

And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
11. Comp. similar expostulations in Exodus 16:3, Exodus 17:3, Numbers 11:4 f., Exodus 14:3, Exodus 16:13, Exodus 20:3 f., Exodus 21:5.

the wilderness] as v. 3, the Egyptian wilderness, W. of the Isthmus and Gulf of Suez.

Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
12. They even declare that while they were still in Egypt they had been unfavourable to Moses’ plan. This is not mentioned before: in Exodus 4:31 they listen to Moses gladly; at most, they had blamed Moses when they found increased labour imposed upon them (Exodus 5:21). Even in Exodus 6:9 (P) nothing like the words here used is placed in their mouth.

And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
13. stand still] rather, stand firm, without fleeing; cf. Deuteronomy 7:24; Deuteronomy 11:25, 2 Samuel 21:5. Comp. the quotation in 2 Chronicles 20:17 (EVV. set yourselves [not ‘stand still’]).

salvation] The Heb. word is used here in its original etym. sense—which, as Arabic shews, was properly breadth, spaciousness, freedom—of a material deliverance; so Exo 1 Samuel 14:45, Psalm 3:2 (EVV. help), 8 (see RVm.), Psalm 18:50, Psalm 28:8, Job 30:15 (EVV. welfare), Isaiah 26:18, &c. Elsewhere in the prophets and Psalms the word often implies spiritual blessings as well. Cf. the writer’s Parallel Psalter, p. 455 f.

13b. The marg. gives the correct meaning.

The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
14. shall fight for you] Cf. v. 25. Hence often in Dt. (Deuteronomy 1:30, Deuteronomy 3:22, Deuteronomy 20:4), and the Deuteronomic sections of Joshua (Joshua 10:14; Joshua 10:42, Joshua 23:3; Joshua 23:10).

And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
15. Wherefore criest thou unto me?] This has not been mentioned before in the existing narrative. Moses, after what he had said in v. 13 f., would hardly have occasion to appeal to Jehovah: so the words will not be from J: probably (Di.) they are a notice from E (cf. Exodus 15:25, Exodus 17:4,—both E).

15–18. (in the main P). The Israelites are commanded to advance through the sea, by a path to be opened for them through it: the Egyptians will enter in after them, to their destruction.

But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
16. And thou (emph.), lift up thy rod] For the rod in Moses’ hand, as a mark of E, see on Exodus 4:17, and p. 56.

divide] So v. 21. Cf. Isaiah 63:12, Nehemiah 9:11, Psalm 78:13.

And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
17, 18. The Pharaoh’s heart is still further ‘hardened,’ in order that he may be emboldened even to enter the sea after the Israelites. The expressions are substantially as in v. 4.

get me honour (or glory)] See on v. 4.

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
18. when I have gotten, &c.] For the form of sentence, cf. Exodus 7:5.

And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
19, 20. The angel of God, and the pillar of cloud, instead of being: as hitherto, in front of the Israelites, now take their place behind them. ‘That here two accounts of the same thing have been placed side by side, is as clear as anywhere (e.g. Genesis 21:1)’ (Di.). The parts relating to the ‘angel of God’ (Genesis 21:17; Genesis 31:11) will belong naturally to E; those referring to the pillar of cloud, as in Exodus 13:21 f., to J.

And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
20. and he came] viz. the ‘angel of God’ (v. 19a). ‘Came’ follows ‘went’ (v. 19a) better than ‘stood’ (v. 19b).

and there was, &c.] The rend. (in ‘yet’) is forced; the Heb. would naturally be rendered, and it lit up the night, viz. so as to deter the Egyptians from approaching the Israelites. There must be some error in the text. ‘And when it was dark, the cloud lit up the night’ (We.) would in itself yield a suitable sense: but the existing Heb. text is not an easy corruption of it. According to Joshua 24:7 (E) Jehovah ‘put thick darkness [ma’ǎphçl] between’ the Egyptians and the Israelites.

And 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 dry land, and the waters were divided.
21, 22. The sea is divided; and the Israelites enter into it.

21a (P). stretched out his hand] v. 16a.

21b (J). to go back] The Heb. is simply, to go along.

east wind] In our ignorance of the exact topography of the place at which the crossing took place, it is difficult to be certain what precisely was the effect of the E. wind. A strictly E. wind would be directly in the face of the advancing Israelites: so probably a NE. wind is to be thought of, such as at a shallow ford might cooperate with an ebb tide in keeping a passage clear (cf. DB. i. 802b). See further p. 124 ff.

21c. and the waters were divided] The immediate sequel of v. 21a in P: cf. v. 16b ‘stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it.’ In P there is no thought of any wind: the waters divide automatically at the signal given by Moses.

And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
22. and the waters were a wall, &c.] ‘A very summary poetical and hyperbolical (Exodus 15:8) description of the occurrence, which can at most be pictured as the drying up of a shallow ford, on both sides of which the basin of the sea was much deeper, and remained filled with water’ (Di.).

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.
And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
24. the morning watch] The Hebrews divided the night into three ‘watches,’ each of about four hours, the ‘morning watch’ (also Exo 1 Samuel 11:11) would be from about 2 to 6 a.m.; the ‘middle watch’ is mentioned in Jdg 7:19. Cf. Luke 12:38. In the NT., however, the Roman division into four watches is also followed, Matthew 14:25 = Mark 6:48; cf. Mark 13:35.

looked forth] Notice the graphic anthropomorphism. Perhaps the idea is, with fiery flashes, startling the Egyptians, and throwing them into a panic. The author of Psalm 77:17-19 pictured torrents of rain, with brilliant lightnings and loud thunder (cf. Psalm 81:7), as accompanying the passage of the Red Sea: Jos. Ant. ii. 16. 3 describes it similarly.

host (twice)] Heb. camp, as v. 20. Not the word (ḥayil) rendered ‘host’ in vv. 4, 17, 28, and ‘army’ in v. 9.

discomfited] i.e. threw into panic or confusion: Exodus 23:27, Deuteronomy 2:15; Deuteronomy 7:23, Joshua 10:10 al.

24, 25. Premonitory warnings of the disaster about to fall upon the Egyptians.

And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
25. removed. The marg. bound (Sam. LXX. Pesh.; ויאסר for ויסר), i.e. clogged,—presumably by their sinking in the wet sand,—is probably to be preferred (so Di. Bä.).

and made them to drive (them) heavily. The marg. is preferable, for grammatical reasons.

and Egypt said, Let me flee. The same idiomatic and forcible singular as in v. 10. So frequently, as Numbers 20:18-19, Deuteronomy 2:27-29, Joshua 17:14 f., 17 f., besides often in the prophets (cf. LOT. p. 390).

fighteth] as v. 14.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
26, 27a. The sequel in P to v. 23. The waters are to return, as they were divided (v. 21a, c), at the signal given by Moses’ hand.

26. come again] come back; the word rendered ‘returned’ in vv. 27, 28. ‘Again’ in EVV., as in Old English generally, often means back.

27b. and the sea returned, &c.] By the cessation of the E. wind (v. 21b); or, if Exodus 15:10 is to be pressed, by a contrary wind beginning.

to its wonted flow] The marg. is right: lit. to its perennial state. The word signifies properly everflowing (Amos 5:20 RVm., Psalm 74:15 RVm., Deuteronomy 21:6 RV.); but its meaning was lost by the Jews; and as it occurs in many passages in which the rend. mighty, or strong, strength, would satisfy the context, the Jews interpreted it by these words, and hence the usual rendering of it in AV. The true meaning of the word was not recovered till in the 18th cent. Arabic began to be studied and compared with Hebrew, when Albert Schultens pointed out that the root in Arabic was used of a stream, and signified to be perennial, ever-flowing. Cf. the writer’s note on Amos 5:24; and Lex. p. 450b.

appeared] Heb. turned (to approach): an idiom, expression, occurring also Jdg 19:26, Psalm 46:5, and, with ‘evening’ for ‘morning’, Genesis 24:63, Deuteronomy 23:11.

and the Egyptians, &c.] The Heb. is more forcible: and (= as) the Egyptians were fleeing against it.

shook off] The marg. is again right, ‘overthrew’ being a paraphrase: see Nehemiah 5:13, where ‘overthrow’ for ‘shake out’ would obviously be impossible. Cf. the allusion in Psalm 136:15 RVm. (the same word). (In Exodus 15:7 the Heb. word is different.)

28a. The continuation of v. 27a in P, just as v. 21c is the continuation of v. 21a.

And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
29. A repetition, in P’s manner (cf. on Exodus 12:17-20), of the substance of the preceding narrative. The expressions, as v. 22, with ‘walked’ for ‘went into, because here the reference is to the entire passage through the Sea.

the dry land] better, the dry ground, as vv. 16, 22, and for distinction from v. 21b J (where the Heb. word is different). So Exodus 15:19.

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
30. the Egyptians] Heb. Egypt (with a sing. partic. for ‘dead’): cf. vv. 10, 25.

30, 31. Close of the narrative in J.

And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.
31. The effects of the great deliverance thus wrought for Israel: an increased fear of God, and belief in God, and also in Moses’ Divine commission.

work] Heb. hand, fig. for act or work; cf. Deuteronomy 34:12, Psalm 78:42.

believed in] ‘The idiom rendered “he believed in” (האמין ב) is a very striking one: the belief intended is, not merely a crediting of a testimony concerning a person or a thing (this would be האמין ל), but a laying firm hold morally on a person or a thing, without the help of any intermediate agency’ (Cheyne, s.v. Faith in EB.). Cf. Genesis 15:6. The root idea of האמין is to shew firmness or steadiness towards (ל) or on (ב) a person or a word: cf. Job 39:24 RVm., and the cognate subst. in ch. Exodus 17:12 (Lex. ‘Moses’ hands were firmness’).

his servant] A title applied to Moses elsewhere in the Pent. only Numbers 12:7-8, Deuteronomy 34:5 (both JE). It is very common in the book of Joshua (mostly in parts which are the work of the Deuteronomic editor): Joshua 1:1-2; Joshua 1:7; Joshua 1:13; Joshua 1:15, Joshua 8:31; Jos 8:33, Joshua 9:24, Joshua 11:12; Jos 11:15, Joshua 12:6, Joshua 13:8, Joshua 14:7, Joshua 18:7, Joshua 22:2; Joshua 22:4-5.

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