And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the middle of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The Egyptians pursued.—All the Israelites having entered the bed of the sea, the pillar of the cloud, it would seem, withdrew after them, and the Egyptians, who, if they could not see, could at any rate hear the sound of the departure, began to advance, following on the track of the fugitives. What they thought concerning the miracle, or what they expected, it is difficult to say. They can scarcely have entered on the bed of the sea without knowing it. Probably they assumed that, as the bed had somehow become dry, it would continue dry long enough for their chariots and horsemen to get across. The distance may not have been so much as a mile, which they may have expected to accomplish in ten minutes; but when once they were entered, their troubles began. “The Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar . . . and troubled the host of the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:24). By some terrible manifestation of His presence and of His anger, proceeding from the pillar of the cloud in their front, God threw the Egyptian troops into consternation and confusion. A panic terror seized them. Some probably stopped, some fled; but there were others who persevered. Then followed a second difficulty. The progress of the chariots was obstructed. According to the present reading of the Hebrew text, the wheels parted from the axles, which would naturally bring the vehicles to a stand. According to the LXX. and a reading found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, the wheels “became entangled,” as they would if they sank up to the axles in the soft ooze. Hereby the advance was rendered slow and difficult: “they drave them heavily.” To the Egyptians the obstruction seemed more than could be accounted for by natural causes, and they became convinced that Jehovah was fighting for Israel and against them (Exodus 14:25). Hereupon they turned and fled. But the flight was even harder than the advance. A confused mass of horses and chariots filled the channel—they impeded each other—could make no progress—could scarcely move. Then came the final catastrophe. At God’s command, Moses once more stretched his hand over the sea, and the waters returned on either side—a north-west wind brought back those of the Bitter Lakes (Exodus 14:10), the flood tide those of the Bed Sea—and the whole of the force that had entered on the sea-bed in pursuit of the Israelites was destroyed.
(23) All Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.—The chariot and cavalry force alone entered the sea, not the infantry. (Comp, Exodus 14:28 and Exodus 15:1.) The point is of importance as connected with the question whether the Pharaoh himself perished. If all his force entered, he could not well have stayed behind; if only a portion, he might have elected to remain with the others. Menephthah, the probable Pharaoh of the Exodus, was apt to consult his own safety. (Records of the Past, vol. iv., pp. 44-45.)Exodus 14:23. And the Egyptians went in after them into the midst of the sea — They thought, Why might they not venture where Israel did? They were more advantageously provided with chariots and horses, while the Israelites were on foot.Nahum 3:8. The waters served the purpose of an intrenchment and wall; the people could not be attacked on either flank during the transit; to the north was the water covering the whole district; to the south was the Red Sea.
and went in after them into the midst of the sea; which if fearful of, they might conclude it was as safe for them to go in as for the Israelites; but perhaps through the darkness of the night, and the eagerness of their pursuit, they might not perceive where they were, nor the danger they were exposed unto:
even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen: which is observed to show, that as all that did go in perished, not one was saved, as after related, so all he brought with him, the whole of his army, went in, so that all that went out of Egypt were destroyed.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verses 23-31. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE EGYPTIANS. As the rearguard of the Israelite host having entered the tract from which the waters had retired, proceeded along it, and left the western end of the isthmus vacant, the pillar of the cloud seems to have followed it up and withdrawn with it. The Egyptians immediately advanced. Notwithstanding the preternatural darkness, they had become aware, perhaps by means of their ears, of the movement that was taking place, and with early dawn they were under arms and pressing on the line of the Israelite retreat. They found the channel still dry, and hastily entering it with their chariot force, they hurried forward in pursuit. The first check which they received was wholly supernatural. "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" (ver. 24). Details here are wanting; but less cannot be meant, than that some strange phenomena connected with the retiring "pillar" caused a panic and threw the ranks of the army into confusion. Then followed natural impediments. The Lord "took off," or "clogged" their chariot Wheels, and made them go heavily - i.e., the chariot wheels, not by miracle, but by the operation of God's natural laws, sank into the soft sand over which the Israelites had passed easily, having no wheeled vehicles, and the chariots were consequently dragged forward slowly and with difficulty. The double hindrance, from the confusion and the stoppage of the chariots, so discouraged the Egyptians, that after a time they resolved on beating a retreat (ver. 25). They had set out on their return, when Moses, at God's instance, stretched forth his hand once mere over the sea, and the waters on both sides began at once to return. The Egyptians saw their danger, and "fled against" the advancing tide, racing against it, as it were, and seeking to reach the shore. But in vain. The waves came on rapidly, and (in the language of ver. 28) there was not a man of all those who had entered the dry bed of the sea that was not overwhelmed and drowned in the waters. We should he wrong to press this language to the extreme letter. In graphic narrative the sacred writers uniformly employ universal expressions, where they mean to give the general fact or general result. The true meaning is, that the pursuit altogether failed. Not an Egyptian made his way alive across the strait. All that the Israelites ever saw afterwards of the army that they had so much dreaded (ver. 10) was a ghastly mass of corpses thrown up by the tide on the Asiatic shore (ver. 30).
Exodus 14:23 Verse 23. - All Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. Here, as elsewhere, the word translated "horsemen" probably means the men who rode in the chariots. Observe that the Pharaoh himself is not said to have gone in. Menephthah was apt to avoid placing himself in a position of danger (Records of the Past, vol. 4. pp. 44, 45). Nor is any of the infantry said to have entered the bed of the sea. 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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