The Israelites were not devout believers in God; throughout the Old Testament they doubted both Him and His prophets. The Exodus was no different, even after witnessing God's miracles first hand, the Israelites continued to doubt God. This leads to the Israelites wandering the desert for 40 years as well as baring the original generation of Israelites who left Egypt from ever making it to the Promised Land. During the beginning of the Exodus there are many obstacles the Israelites must overcome with the help of God, and each time they doubt the Lord's ability.
God as a Pillar
God goes before the Israelites as a pillar to lead them to the Promised Land. During the day, He appears as a cloud and during the night, He appears as fire. The fire provides light in addition to navigating their way. The pillar of God also stands between the Israelites and Pharaoh when he musters his final attack. Not that this is just one of many instances where God appears as fire.
Taking the Long Way
The quickest way to Canaan would have taken the Israelites through Philistine territory; God knew the hearts and minds of the Israelites, and determined that upon facing war/confrontation with the Philistines, the Israelites would turn back to captivity in Egypt. Instead God leads them through the wilderness.
Pharaoh's Last Stand
When the Israelites do not return, Pharaoh knows that they have fled and questions why he and the Egyptians let them leave. He gathers all of his chariots to stop them and bring back his slaves. Pharaoh's army includes 600 chosen chariots, as well as, all the chariots of Egypt. From the wording, I gather that the chosen chariots may have been gifts from other countries, or allies who fought with Egypt. While a distinction is clearly given in the verse that references Pharaoh's number, no definition is given. When Pharaoh's men go to attack the Israelites, God moves His presence from in front of the Israelites to their rear. From the rear He stands between the Egyptians and the Israelites as they approach sea.
The Parting of the Red Sea
Like Noah's ark and the flood, the account of the parting of the Red Sea is one of the Bible's most famous portions. Much argument and debate surround the story, with various locations and explanations given. One scientist claims to have found a scientific explanation attributing the phenomenon to weather, specifically wind...
Exodus 14 says:
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.
As I've mentioned before "scientific" explanations do not deny God, as some try to claim. Remember, when a sculptor creates a statue it is the tool that chips away and smooths the face of the statue, but it is the sculptor's hand that guides it. Scientific explanations actually only serve to confirm God's presence.
Part of the aforementioned scientist's claim stems from the argument that the phrase translated Red Sea, is a mistranslation and should be the Sea of Reeds. The words translated to the English Red Sea are yam suph, which could also be translated as Sea of Reeds. Much is to be considered when discussing the location of the Israelite's crossing. Is the Red Sea we know today the same Red Sea? Is the translation correct? The Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible—translates yam suph to the Greek eruthros thalassa, which means Red Sea. Arguments for the Red Sea include the inference that the water must have been deep enough to drown the Egyptian's army. With the crashing of the water that was parted, it is possible that the sea did not need to be tremendously deep, however, we must assume it was deep enough to warrant a need for parting (otherwise the Israelites could have walked across without God's intervention). This does not mean that the body of water could not be the Sea of Reeds, only that the Sea of Reeds would need to fulfill the requirement of dept. Studies have been done to determine the location of the Israelites crossing but no conclusion has been made. Regardless of the exact location, the miracle of God parting the water, saving Israel, and defeating the Egyptians still stands as witness and testimony of His majesty.
Song of Moses
Earlier in Exodus, Moses complains of being inarticulate, however after the parting of the Red Sea, we see Moses recording a song they sung to praise God. It is not known if Moses composed the song, though considering the Israelite's constant swaying between admiration and doubt of God, it seems likely that Moses composed the song. Regardless, it is the first example of poetry in the Bible.
Miriam, sister of Moses
Prior to Exodus 15:20, we are not told the name of Moses' sister who watches over him after his mother places him in the river. Yet in this verse we are given both her name and her occupation as a prophetess. This is yet another example of the Bible elevating women to roles of importance contrary to traditional interpretation. To me, it seems entirely natural that God called both men and women to prophesy as each gender would provide different points of views and reach more people. Knowing the mindset of the people, it is also possible that God called on men more often than women because the nature of people constrained them to receive a man's word better than a woman's. I am digressing from the message in these chapters, however, I felt it important to point out the elevated role that Moses's sister is given.
The Troubles of Israel
After wandering in the desert wilderness for 3 days without water, the Israelites find water in Marah. This water, however, is bitter to the taste and the Israelites bemoan God for their predicament. Hearing their cry, God tells Moses to cast a particular tree into the water which makes the water sweet. With this act, God tells them that if they keep His commandments, He will not bring the curses of Egypt upon them. Note that this parallels the protection of God's followers bearing the seal of God during the End of Days as well.
Later in their journey, the 15th day of the second month (almost one month into the journey) to be exact, the Israelites complain of hunger. As a result, God sends them both manna and quail. The quail was a temporary meat, but the manna would go on to appear for the entire 40 years of their journey. God tells the people that they are to collect one omer of manna per man each day with two exceptions: the sixth and seventh days of the week. On the sixth day they were to collect double the portion as the seventh day was the day of rest and no food was to be sent/collected that day. God warned the people that they were not to try to preserve the manna from day to day (with the exception of that which was collected on the sixth day). Those who disobeyed God found their manna with rotten with worms the next day. Some Israelites also tried to collect manna on the Sabbath, to which God chided them. We are told in Exodus 16 that Moses placed one omer of manna as a testimony for the future generations in the Ark of the Testimony (also known as the Ark of the Covenant).
What is an Omer?
The measurement of an omer is given as to how much each man was given to eat. The omer, we are told is one tenth of an ephah (Exodus ?). An ephah is considered to be approximately 21 liters, making the omer approximately 2.1 liters.
What is Manna?
Manna means "what?" in Hebrew; when the Israelites saw the food provided for them by God they didn't know what it was, hence the name. It is described as round, tasting like wafers with honey, and resembling a coriander seed.
The Absence of Water
In Rephidim, the Israelites find themselves once again without water. God tells Moses to stick the rock of Horeb which then spouts water for the Israelites to drink. Moses then names the place Massah and Meribah because here the people were chided for tempting the Lord.
The Battle of Amalek
While still in Rephidim, Amalek attacks the Israelites. Moses appoints Joshua to lead the battle while he stretches out the rod of God over the battle. Moses witnesses that as the rod is stretched out, the Israelites prevail but when the rod is not outstretched, Amalek prevails. We are shown Moses's humanity and weakness as he grows too weary to hold out the rod during the battle. Aaron and Hur aid him in this task and set a rock beneath his hand to prop it up. When the Israelites defeat Amalek, God vows to remove his name from all remembrance.
After the Battle Moses is told to create a memorial. It is thought that the memorial may be the five books of the Pentateuch. Moses also creates an altar, named Jehovah Nissi (meaning "God is my banner"). He reminds us that God has declared war on Amalek from generation to generation.
References and Footnotes
- Mooney, Chris. "No, really: There is a scientific explanation for the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus". Washington Post. December 2014
- Exodus 14:7
- "Did the Israelites in the book of Exodus cross the Red Sea or the Reed Sea?". GotQuestions.org. 2015
- Byers, Gary. "New Evidence from Egypt on the Location of the Exodus Sea Crossing: Part I". Associates for Biblical Research. August 2008
- "Ark of the Covenant, Ark of the Testimony". Biblical Training. 2015
- "Ephah Conversion Chart". Convert-Me.com. 1996
- "Omer Conversion Chart". Convert-Me.com. 1996
- Elwell, Walter A. "Manna". Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. 1997
- Nester, Emery. "The Compound Names of Jehovah: Jireh, Rapha, Nissi". Bible.org. October 2006
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