Bible Commentary

Exodus 14

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Exodus 14)

Verse 2

[2] 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.

They were got to the edge of the wilderness, Exodus 13:20, and one stage or two would have brought them to Horeb, the place appointed for their serving God, but instead of going forward, they are ordered to turn short off, on the right-hand from Canaan, and to march towards the Red-sea. When they were at Etham, there was no sea in their way to obstruct their passage; but God himself orders them into straits, which might give them an assurance, that when his purposes were served, he would bring them out of those straits.

Before Pi-hahiroth — Or the straits of Hiroth, two great mountains, between which they marched. Migdol and Baal-zephon were cities of Egypt and probably garrison'd.

Verse 3

[3] For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.

They are entangled — Inclosed with mountains, and garrisons, and deserts.

Verse 5

[5] 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?

And it was told the king that the people fled — He either forgot, or would not own that they had departed with his consent; and therefore was willing it should be represented to him as a revolt from their allegiance.

Verse 7

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

Captains over every one of them — Or rather over all of them; distributing the command of them to his several Captains.

Verse 8

[8] 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.

With an high hand — Boldly, resolutely.

Verse 9

[9] 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.

Chariots and horsemen — It should seem he took no foot with him, because the king's business required haste.

Verse 10

[10] 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.

They were sore afraid — They knew the strength of the enemy, and their own weakness; numerous indeed they were, but all foot, unarmed, undisciplined, dispirited, by long servitude, and now pent up, so that they could not escape. On one hand was Pi-hahiroth, a range of craggy rocks unpassable; on the other hand were Migdol and Baal-zephon, forts upon the frontiers of Egypt; before them was the sea, behind them were the Egyptians; so that there was no way open for them but upwards, and thence their deliverance came.

Verse 13

[13] 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.

Moses answered not these fools according to their folly: Instead of chiding he comforts them, and with an admirable pretence of mind, not disheartened either by the threatenings of Egypt, or the tremblings of Israel, stills their murmuring, Fear ye not, It is our duty, when we cannot get out of our troubles, yet to get above our fears, so that they may only serve to quicken our prayers and endeavours, but may not prevail to silence our faith and hope. Stand still, and think not to save yourselves either by fighting or flying; wait God's orders, and observe them; Compose yourselves, by an entire confidence in God, into a peaceful prospect of the great salvation God is now about to work for you. Hold your peace, you need not so much as give a shout against the enemy: the work shall be done without any concurrence of yours. In times of great difficulty, it is our wisdom to keep our spirits calm, quiet, and sedate, for then we are in the best frame both to do our own work, and to consider the work of God.

Verse 15

[15] 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 — Moses though he was assured of a good issue, yet did not neglect prayer. We read not of one word he said in prayer, but he lifted up his heart to God, and God well understood, and took notice of. Moses's silent prayer prevailed more with God, than Israel's loud out-cries. But is God displeased with Moses for praying? No, he asks this question, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Wherefore shouldst thou press thy petition any farther, when it is already granted? Moses has something else to do besides praying, he is to command the hosts of Israel.

Speak to them that they go forward — Some think Moses had prayed not so much for their deliverance, he was assured of that; as for the pardon of their murmurings, and God's ordering them to go forward, was an intimation of the pardon. Moses bid them stand still and expect orders from God: and now orders are given. They thought they must have been directed either to the right hand, or to the left; no, saith God, speak to them to go forward, directly to the sea-side; as if there had lain a fleet of transport ships ready for them to embark in. Let the children of Israel go as far as they can upon dry ground, and then God will divide the sea. The same power could have congealed the waters for them to pass over, but infinite wisdom chose rather to divide the waters for them to pass through, for that way of salvation is always pitched upon which is most humbling.

Verse 19

[19] 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:

The angel of God — Whose ministry was made use of in the pillar of cloud and fire, went from before the camp of Israel, where they did not now need a guide; there was no danger of missing their way through the sea, and came behind them, where now they needed a guard, the Egyptians being just ready to seize the hindmost of them. There it was of use to the Israelites, not only to protect them, but to light them through the sea; and at the same time it confounded the Egyptians, so that they lost sight of their prey, just when they were ready to lay hands on it. The word and providence of God have a black and dark side towards sin and sinners, but a bright and pleasant side towards those that are Israelites indeed.

Verse 21

[21] 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.

We have here the history of that work of wonder which is so often mentioned both in the Old and New Testament. 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 rereward, 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 afterwards through the wilderness less formidable. This march through the sea was in the night, and not a moon-shine 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.

Verse 23

[23] 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 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.

Verse 24

[24] 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 Lord — Called the angel before, looked - With indignation, upon the Egyptians, and troubled the Egyptians - With terrible winds and lightnings and thunders, Exodus 15:10; Psalms 77:18,19. Also with terror of mind.

Verse 25

[25] 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.

They had driven furiously, but now they drove heavily, and found themselves embarrassed at every step; the way grew deep, their hearts grew sad, their wheels dropt off, and the axle-trees failed. They had been flying upon the back of Israel as the hawk upon the dove; but now they cried, Let us flee from the face of Israel.

Verse 26

[26] 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.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thy hand over the sea — And give a signal to the waters to close again, as before upon the word of command they had opened to the right and the left. He did so, and immediately the waters returned to their place, and overwhelmed all the host of the Egyptians. Pharaoh and his servants, that had hardened one another in sin, now fell together, and not one escaped. An ancient tradition saith, That Pharaoh's magicians Jannes and Jambres perished with the rest. Now God got him honour upon Pharaoh, a rebel to God, and a slave to his own barbarous passions; perfectly lost to humanity, virtue, and all true honour; here be lies buried in the deep, a perpetual monument of divine justice: here he went down to the pit, though he was the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.

Verse 28

[28] 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 — That is, after the Israelites.

Verse 30

[30] Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.

And Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the shore — The Egyptians were very curious in preserving the bodies of their great men, but here the utmost contempt is poured upon all the grandees of Egypt; see how they lie heaps upon heaps, as dung upon the face of the earth.

Verse 31

[31] 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.

And Israel feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and his servant Moses — Now they were ashamed of their distrusts and murmurings; and in the mind they were in, they would never again despair of help from heaven; no not in the greatest straits! They would never again quarrel with Moses; nor talk of returning to Egypt. How well were it for us, if we were, always in as good a frame, as we are in sometimes!

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