Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,God commandeth the Israelites to encamp at Pi-hahiroth, Exodus 14:1,2; the reason why, Exodus 14:3,4. Pharaoh and his servants repent for letting the people go, Exodus 14:5; pursue and overtake the Israelites, Exodus 14:8,9. The Israelites are afraid, Exodus 14:10; and murmur against Moses, Exodus 14:11,12. Moses encourages the people with a promise of deliverance, Exodus 14:13,14. God encouraging Moses, Exodus 14:15, bids the people go forward, Exodus 14:16. God defends the Israelites by the pillar of cloud, Exodus 14:19,20. Moses dividing the sea, Exodus 14:21, the Israelites pass over on dry ground, Exodus 14:22. The Egyptians with all their forces pursue them into the sea, Exodus 14:23. God commands Moses to cause the waters to return on the Egyptians, Exodus 14:26. The waters return, Exodus 14:27. The Egyptians drowned, 14:28. Israel’s safety, Exodus 14:29,30, and faith, Exodus 14:31.
Or rather, had spoken, to wit, before they came to Succoth, Exodus 12:37. For what was there briefly and generally expressed, is here more largely and particularly declared, together with the occasion of it, which was God’s command.
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.Pi-hahiroth, Heb. the month of Hiroth, i.e. the entrance or straits of Hiroth, two great mountains, between which they marched, and were enclosed on both sides.
Migdol, a city in Egypt, Jeremiah 44:1, wherein it is thought there was a garrison.
Baal-zephon, another place of note, situated in a high place, and having a fair and large prospect, and possibly a garrison too.
For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.There are enclosed with mountains, and garrisons, and deserts.
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.I will be honoured, by the manifestation of my power and justice. I will be honoured, by the manifestation of my power and justice.
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?That the people fled; did not only depart for three days to sacrifice at Horeb, as Moses pretended, but designed an escape and flight, as appeared by their speedy march, and other circumstances.
Why have we done this? They who never truly repented of their sins, now heartily repent of their only good action. That the people fled; did not only depart for three days to sacrifice at Horeb, as Moses pretended, but designed an escape and flight, as appeared by their speedy march, and other circumstances.
Why have we done this? They who never truly repented of their sins, now heartily repent of their only good action.
And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:No text from Poole on this verse.
And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.Quest. How. could he use or carry his chariots, when all his horses were killed by that plague? Exodus 9:6.
Answ. That plague slew only the horses which were in the field, Exodus 9:3, not those kept in houses, as the chariot-horses generally were, and now are.
All the chariots, i.e. a great number; all that could be got together in haste, which the present service required.
Over every one of them; over the men that fought out of every chariot. Or, over all of them; the command of all these chariots being distributed to several captains or commanders.
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.Either,
1. Of God, with a Divine hand or power, by comparing Exodus 13:16. Or,
2. Their own, not with hands hanging down, a posture betraying weakness and fainting, fear and shame, Hebrews 12:12, but with hands lifted up; with courage and confidence, not like fugitives, but like valiant and victorious soldiers, openly, boldly, resolvedly; as men are said to sin with a high hand, Numbers 15:30, that sin in such a manner.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Which is not strange; these being now a people of low spirits, depressed by long and grievous servitude; being also generally unarmed, wearied with their journey, and their fears aggravated by the presence and outcries of their wives and children. But they should have supported themselves by the consideration of the mighty power of God, of which they had late and great experience. They cried out, partly by petition, and partly by complaint and expostulation. Which is not strange; these being now a people of low spirits, depressed by long and grievous servitude; being also generally unarmed, wearied with their journey, and their fears aggravated by the presence and outcries of their wives and children. But they should have supported themselves by the consideration of the mighty power of God, of which they had late and great experience. They
cried out, partly by petition, and partly by complaint and expostulation.
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?No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Stand still; Heb. make yourselves to stand; let not and your hearts fail and sink, or stagger through unbelief, but with quiet minds look up to God. It notes the frame of their minds, not the posture of their bodies. Whom ye have seen; or, as ye have seen them, to wit, alive and armed, ready to devour you; for otherwise they did see them dead, and disarmed, Exodus 14:30.
The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.Ye shall contribute nothing to the victory, neither by your words nor by your deeds; for this Hebrew word signifies a cessation not only from speech, but from action too, as 2 Samuel 19:11 Psalm 83:1 Isaiah 42:14,15. Or rather, do you hold your peace, the future tense for the imperative, as it is very frequent; cease your murmuring against the Lord and me.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:Wherefore criest thou unto me, by fervent, though secret prayer? for which he doth not reprove him, but only bids him turn his prayer into action. Compare Joshua 7:10,13.
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.Divide it, i.e. do thou command it in my name to divide itself hither and thither, and I will divide it.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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:Not changing his place, for he was the omnipresent God, Exodus 14:15; but his operation, from leading the Israelites forward in their way, to the protecting of them from their pursuers.
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.It was a cloud and darkness to the Egyptians, to whom it brought their former horrible darkness to mind, and did both exceedingly affright them, and altogether hinder them from motion or action, as that also did for three days.
But it gave light by night to the Israelites, as the opposition showeth.
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.A strong east wind; a proper instrument both to divide that sea, which lay north and south, and to dry and harden the mud at the bottom of the sea, that the Israelites might walk upon it. See 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.
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.This was about midnight, as may be gathered from Exodus 14:24.
The waters were a wall, both for height, and for their defence.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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,The night was anciently divided, not by hours, as now it is, but by watches, which sometimes were accounted four, and sometimes but three; howsoever the last of them was called the morning watch. Then when they hoped for most advantage in the pursuit, they met with their greatest disaster.
The Lord; called the Angel of God, Exodus 14:19. By which promiscuous use of these titles it sufficiently appears that this was no ordinary angel, but the Son of God.
The Lord looked with an eye of indignation and vengeance, (as that phrase is used, Job 40:12 see also Amos 9:4), and troubled them with most terrible and prodigious winds, and rains, and lightnings, and both claps and bolts of thunder, as may be gathered from Exodus 15:10 Psalm 77:18,19; and, as some ancient historians relate, with terrors also in their minds, &c.
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.Took off their chariot wheels; either burning them with lightning, or tearing them in pieces with thunder-bolts, or loosening them, and making them to fall off.
That they drave them heavily; Heb. and he made him, or them, the singular number for the plural, i.e. the Egyptians, or their chariots, to go heavily, hardly and slowly, either for want of wheels, or for breaches in them, or because the rain had softened the bottom of the sea, or because the lightnings and thunders affrighted and dispirited their horses.
For the Lord fighteth for them. Prodigious stupidity! They did not understand and consider this, though it was notorious, to them especially, by many great and fresh instances, till it was too late to prevent it; therein being a type of most sinners, who will not be convinced, nor repent, till they be past all benefit by it.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.The sea returned to his strength; to its natural and it ordinary course and motion, which is swift and strong, which had been hitherto restrained by a stronger hand, and rendered in a manner impotent and weak. But now, Samson-like, when its bonds are broken, it puts forth its former and natural strength. But indeed this word may belong to the morning, and so a learned man translates the place, and that very agreeably to the use and order of the Hebrew words, The sea returned, to wit, to its course, when the morning appeared according to, or in his strength, i.e. when it was full and clear morning; as we oft read of the strength of the day. See Genesis 7:13 Job 21:23. So the strength of the morning is here opposed to the morning watch.
Against it; against the sea, for which way soever they fled the waters met them, and fought against them.
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.After them, i.e. after the children of Israel. Note here, the relative is put without an antecedent before it; the antecedent being to be understood and gathered out of the following verse, or out of the course of the story. An observation which is very useful for the understanding of many scriptures. See Poole "Genesis 3:1".
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.Which was done either,
1. By the natural power of the sea, which casteth up its dead bodies after a certain time; till which time God caused the Israelites to abide near the sea, that they might see this for their comfort. Or,
2. By the mighty power of God, which brought them, and their arms too, as many probably conceive, to shore before the usual time.
Quest. How could the Israelites, both they and their cattle, in so little time get over that great sea?
Answ. 1. The Hebrew and some other interpreters deny that they went over, and tell us, they only went into the sea, and fetched a compass in it, that they might allure the Egyptians to follow them, and then by Moses’s conduct returned to the Egyptian shore again. The principal ground of which opinion is this, That as they went into the sea out of the wilderness of Etham, Exodus 13:20, so they came again out of the sea into the wilderness of Etham, Numbers 33:8. But the sameness of the name doth not prove that it is the same place, nothing being more frequent in Scripture, than for divers places to be called by one and the same name. And the Israelites might possibly give the name of Etham to this desert on the Arabian side of the Red Sea, either for its great resemblance to that desert so called on the Egyptian side; or to intimate, that God by dividing the sea, had made that and this to be one continued desert. Or the name of Etham might be common to all that desert at the end of the Red Sea, and on both sides of it.
Answ. 2. They might all conveniently pass over the sea to the Arabian shore in the time allowed for it, either by the mighty power of God, which could easily make both men and beasts to do it in much less than ordinary time, or even by the course of nature; for that part of the sea was not above eight or nine miles over, as geographers and others affirm. And the time allotted for their passage seems to be much more than interpreters have assigned for it. For the Egyptians and Israelites were divided one from another by the cloudy pillar all the night, Exodus 14:20, and a strong east wind blew all that night, Exodus 14:21. The next morning, as I apprehend it, the cloud still keeping between them, and possibly covering the Egyptians with gross and horrible darkness, which hindered their march, the whole body of the Israelites, and their cattle too, are drawn by Moses’s direction near the shore, and, it may be, the cattle were put into the sea, all which might well take up most of that day; then towards the evening they enter into the sea, and so proceed; and the cloud withdrawing further from the Egyptians, and following the Israelites, the Egyptians pursue after them, and, as it is very probable from the nature and reason of the thing, stand debating some considerable time, when they came to the shore, whether they should venture to follow them into the sea or no. At last the worst counsel prevails, as it generally happens when a people are under a Divine infatuation, and into the sea they go; and by the beginning of the morning watch they draw near the Israelites, when God seasonably appears for Israel’s succour, and puts a stop to the march of the Egyptians. So the morning watch, mentioned Exodus 14:24, I take to be, not the morning watch of that night, mentioned Exodus 14:20,21, (for all that night, and therefore the morning watch of that night, which was a third, or at least a fourth part of it, was now past and gone,) but the next morning watch after that night and the succeeding day; which seems much more reasonable, than to shrink up the march, first of the Israelites, and then of the Egyptians, into about three hours’ time, which is the time between the midnight and the morning watch. Nor is there any thing in the text which in the least contradicts this opinion, but only that this day’s interval and work is not mentioned in this story; whereas such omissions are frequent in Scripture relations, in which the substance only is mentioned, and many circumstances omitted, whereof we have seen some instances already, and shall meet with many more hereafter.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.