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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind.—By “a strong east wind” we are at liberty to understand one blowing from any point between N.Ë. and S.E. If we imagine the Bitter Lakes joined to the Red Sea by a narrow and shallow channel, and a south-east wind blowing strongly up this channel, we can easily conceive that the water in the Bitter Lakes might be driven northward, and’ held there, while the natural action of the ebb tide withdrew the Red Sea water to the southward. A portion of the channel might in this way have been left dry, and have so continued until the wind changed and the tide began to flow. It is true that Scripture does not speak of the ebb and flow of the tide, since in them there was nothing unusual; but an Egyptian tradition distinctly stated that “Moses waited for the ebb tide in order to lead the Israelites across.” (Artipanus, ap. Euseb. Prœp. Ev., 9:27.) Whether the whole effect was purely natural, or whether (as in so many other cases) Goa used the force of nature so far as it could go, and further supernaturally increased its force, we are not told, and may form what opinion we please.
The waters were divided.—The waters of the Bitter Lakes were for a time separated completely from those of the Red Sea. By gradual elevation and desiccation the channel over which the Israelites passed has probably now become dry land.Exodus 14:21-22. And Moses stretched out his hand, &c. — We have here the history of that work of wonder which is so often mentioned both in the Old and New Testaments. An instance of God’s almighty power in dividing the sea, and opening a passage through the waters. It was a bay, or gulf, or arm of the sea, two or three leagues over. The God of nature has not tied himself to its laws, but when he pleases dispenseth with them, and then the fire doth not burn, nor the water flow. They went through the sea to the opposite shore; they walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the pillar of cloud being their rearward, the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left — Moses and Aaron, it is likely, ventured first into this untrodden path, and then all Israel after them; and this march through the paths of the great waters would make their march afterward through the wilderness less formidable. This march through the sea was in the night, and not a moonshine night, for it was seven days after the full moon, so that they had no light but what they had from the pillar of fire. This made it the more awful; but where God leads us, he will light us; while we follow his conduct we shall not want his comforts.Exodus 15:8 note): and the conditions of the narrative are satisfied by the hypothesis, that the passage took place near Suez.
the Lord caused … a strong east wind all that night—Suppose a mere ebb tide caused by the wind, raising the water to a great height on one side, still as there was not only "dry land," but, according to the tenor of the sacred narrative, a wall on the right hand and on the left [Ex 14:22], it would be impossible on the hypothesis of such a natural cause to rear the wall on the other. The idea of divine interposition, therefore, is imperative; and, assuming the passage to have been made at Mount Attakah, or at the mouth of Wady Tawarik, an east wind would cut the sea in that line. The Hebrew word kedem, however, rendered in our translation, "east," means, in its primary signification, previous; so that this verse might, perhaps, be rendered, "the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong previous wind all that night"; a rendering which would remove the difficulty of supposing the host of Israel marched over on the sand, in the teeth of a rushing column of wind, strong enough to heap up the waters as a wall on each side of a dry path, and give the intelligible narrative of divine interference.Genesis 8:13 Exodus 15:8. Yet the wind could never have done so great a work, especially not so speedily, if there had not been a higher, even a Divine hand to manage and improve it.
The waters were divided, so largely, that a great number of the Israelites might march in one rank, and the whole number might go a good way in it in the time here mentioned. Exodus 14:16. What the poet says (z) of Bacchus is more true of Moses, whose rod had been lift up upon the rivers Egypt, and now upon the Red sea:
and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night; and the direction of the Red sea being nearly, if not altogether, north and south, it was in a proper situation to be wrought upon and divided by an easterly wind; though the Septuagint version renders it a strong south wind. No wind of itself, without the exertion and continuance of almighty power, in a miraculous way, could have so thrown the waves of the sea on heaps, and retained them so long, that such a vast number of people should pass through it as on dry land; though this was an instrument Jehovah made use of, and that both to divide the waters of the sea, and to dry and harden the bottom of it, and make it fit for travelling, as follows:
and made the sea dry land; or made the bottom of it dry, so that it could be trod and walked upon with ease, without sinking in, sticking fast, or slipping about, which was very extraordinary:
and the waters were divided; or "after the waters were divided" (a); for they were first divided before the sea could be made dry. The Targum of Jonathan says, the waters were divided into twelve parts, answerable to the twelve tribes of Israel, and the same is observed by other Jewish writers (b), grounded upon a passage in Psalm 136:13 and suppose that each tribe took its particular path.
(z) "Tu flectis amnes, tu mare barbarum--" Horat. Carmin. l. 2. Ode 19. (a) "quum diffidisset se aqua illius", Piscator; so seems to be used in ch. xvi. 20. (b) Pirke Eliezer, c. 42. Targum Jon. & Hieros. in Deut. i. 1. Jarchi, Kimchi, and Arama in Psal. cxxxvi. 13.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verse 21. - Moses stretched out his hand. As commanded by God (ver. 16). Compare the somewhat similar action of Elijah and Elisha, when they divided the Jordan (2 Kings 2:8, 14). The Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind. The LXX. translate "a strong south wind" (ἐν ἀνέμῳ νότῳ βιαίῳ); but the Hebrew kadim is certainly "east" rather than "south." It is not, however, "east" in the sense of due east, but would include all the range of the compass between N.E. and S.E. If we suppose the Bitter Lakes to have been joined to the Red Sea by a narrow and shallow channel, the action of a south-east wind, by driving the water of the Lakes northward, may have easily produced the effect described in the text. A simultaneous ebb of the lower gulf would have further facilitated the passage. The waters were divided. Water remained in the upper extremity of the Gulf, now the site of the Bitter Lakes, and also, of course, below Suez. The portion of the sea dried up lay probably between the present southern extremity of the Bitter Lakes and Suez. By the gradual elevation and desiccation of the region, it has passed into permanent dry land. Exodus 14:17 and Exodus 14:18 repeat the promise in Exodus 14:3, Exodus 14:4. The command and promise were followed by immediate help (Exodus 14:19-29). Whilst Moses divided the water with his staff, and thus prepared the way, the angel of God removed from before the Israelites, and placed himself behind them as a defence against the Egyptians, who were following them. "Upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen" (Exodus 14:17), is in apposition to "all his host;" as Pharaoh's army consisted entirely of chariots and horsemen (cf. Exodus 14:18).
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