Exodus — In Egypt

 

The Oppression — 1:1-2:25 Moses Confronts Pharoah — 5:1-12:51
The Call From God — 3:1-4:31 The Great Escape — 13:1-15:27

 

The Opression — 1:1-2:25

From Joseph to Moses — 1:1-22

When we left the book of Genesis we learned how the sons of Israel came to live in Egypt as slaves. Pharaoh installed Joseph as second in command to administer the food supply through the seven year famine. When the famine came, the Canaanites moved to Egypt where there was food. They sold everything they had to Joseph to buy food until they had nothing left to sell except their bodies. Jacob had seventy kin when he came to Egypt.

Joseph and his generation died. Pharaoh and his generation died. The Israelite population multiplied until the land was filled with them. Many generations must have passed until all memory of Joseph had ceased. The new king saw that the Israelites outnumbered the Egyptians and feared an uprising. So he tightened control by oppressing them into hard labor. But the more he oppressed the more they multiplied. He tried birth control by ordering the Hebrew midwives to kill all the male newborns. But the midwives would not obey. They told Pharaoh instead that Hebrew women were more vigorous then Egyptian women and gave birth without them. So Pharaoh commanded his people to dispose of all male Hebrew newborn into the Nile.

Moses’ Boyhood — 2:1-25

Moses was born to a married Levite couple at the time of Pharaoh’s decree. By three months it became impossible for her to hide him. So she sent him floating away down the Nile on a float worthy papyrus basket. His sister tracked his course. Pharaoh’s daughter noticed the basket and had it retrieved. She took pity on the baby but realized he was Hebrew. Moses’ sister came nearby and offered to get a wet nurse for the baby and Pharaoh’s daughter consented. The wet nurse turned out to be, of course, Moses’ real mother. She nursed him until he grew up and returned him to Pharaoh’s daughter. She accepted him in as a son and named him “Moses.”

After Moses grew up he once saw the forced labor and an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Seeing no one nearby, he killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. Later, Moses found two other Hebrews who knew what he did and word got to Pharaoh. Moses fled to Midian to save his life. One day when he is sitting by a well, a Midianite priest’s seven daughters came to draw water. Other shepherds attempted to chase them away but Moses came to their rescue. Their father repaid Moses with his hospitality. Moses married Zipporah, one of the daughters. When Pharaoh died; “the Israelites groaned under their slavery” and cried for help. God heard and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Comment: Unlikely events are a mythologist’s prerogative. Moses survived by fortuitous circumstance; Jesus greatness was supposed to be known when he was born. That an Egyptian princess could get away with defying her father is incredible. That Moses young sister had access to the princess is incredible. That Moses’ mother, who at first couldn’t hide him, nursed him with Pharaoh’s knowledge and consent is incredible. The writer did not even know Pharaoh’s name and to this day, no Pharaoh can be matched to the events of the Exodus. The name of Moses is mentioned nowhere outside the Bible and Egyptian historical records do not confirm any mass exodus of slaves or mass death of first born. The evidence that Moses was largely a mythical character accumulates as the story of the Exodus unfolds.

There is a parallel myth that preceded the Bible, and probably the source for Moses’ origin. Cuneiform texts say this about King Sargon of Akkad, about 2360 BCE.

“I am Sargon, the powerful king, the king of Akkad. My mother was an Enitu priestees, I did not know any father . . . . My mother conceived me and bore me in secret. She put me in a little box made of reeds, sealing its lid with pitch. She put me in the river. . . . The river carried me away and brought me to Akki the drawer of water. Akki the drawer of water adopted me and brought me up as his son. . .”

Moses Illegitimate Marriage:

Leviticus 21:13-14 forbids a priest from marrying outside his tribe, otherwise his offspring will be socially low.

The Call From God — 3:1-4:31

The Burning Bush — 3:1-22

One day Moses took his father-in-law’s sheep to Horeb [Mt. Sinai]. An angel of God appeared to Moses from a burning bush that did not consume itself. When Moses turned to look, God called out from the bush. “Moses, Moses. Here I am. Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place you are standing on is holy ground. I have seen the Israelites cry out in suffering and I have decided to send you to Pharaoh to lead the people out of Egypt.” ‘Who are you,” asked Moses? “I am who I am,” responded God, “You will tell the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ This is my name and title for all generations. Tell them ‘The God of your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has sent me to you.’ I will bring you out of the misery of Egypt…to a land flowing with milk and honey.’ The people will listen to you. Whereupon you will ask the king of Egypt to let your people go on a three days’ journey into the wilderness so we may sacrifice to our God (3:18). I know he will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will have to stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with my powers and he will let you go. (3:1-20)

“The people will not go empty handed because I will make the Egyptians generous to you. The Israelite women will ask the Egyptian women for silver, gold and clothing for their sons and daughters. In this way, you will plunder the Egyptians.” (3:21-22).

Comment: If we are to take this Bible seriously, we should be convinced that those who proclaim divine revelation are credible. What we know about Moses so far is that he has killed out of self-righteous indignation; he tried to hide his crime; and he fled to escape punishment. For centuries, his supporters claimed that he wrote these verses. If that were true, we have the word of a murderer and a liar, and no other witnesses. If it were not true then we have no idea of where, when and by whom these stories originated.

Modern believers often maintain that we need God to promote social order. If that were true then we should consider what kind of social order God had in mind when he anointed a liar-murderer to act on his behalf? The reason given is self-promotion — he is going to rescue the Israelites and bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey. He will make them a super race provided they must obey his priests perfectly. What this forthcoming rescue has to do with modern Jews is absolutely nothing. After two thousand years, the mythical power of God has failed to produce a theocratic world order, but his supporters haven’t given up their fantasy.

Today, any peon, clergy or even if the Pope himself claimed to have talked to an inanimate object, he would be perceived as a fool. Therefore, by what logic should we believe an ignorant and superstitious culture if we can’t believe such an occurrence could happen today? Surely the human mind is infinitely more capable of imagining things that can’t exist in nature. Nature does not conform to human beliefs.

Think of how stupid this is: The great God Almighty, the Creator of the entire universe, the holy king of humankind, representing himself as a lowly burning bush! If there were such thing as a ruler of mankind, he wouldn’t be making his presence obscure. A burning bush that does not consume itself is dubbed a miracle because it is not a natural phenomenon; thus it accuses God of acting unnaturally. If there were such thing as compatibility between the fixed laws of nature and the whimsical divine laws of a god, the natural laws would have to be so weak that God would have to intervene when events don’t go his way. But if God has to intervene, then he is not omniscient.

The expression, “I am who I am,” is a case of superstition mistaken for revelation. The Hebrews believed thoughts and words had magical powers that could affect the course of nature. When God said, “Let their light,” there was light. God did not give his personal name because it was taboo to know his name. The words “God” or “Lord” are titles; they are not a personal name. Familiar terms like Jehovah or Yahweh mean, “I am.” If we look at this from the secular point of view, these phrases hint that Moses is personifying God. The phrase in 3:14, “I am has sent me to you,” can be translated to mean, “I have sent myself to you.”

A second example of the Biblical superstition is the phrase in 3:8, when God says, “I have come down to deliver them….” This goes back to Genesis 1:6-8, when God separated the waters with a dome. They believed that God lived above the dome. Pagan gods were often believed to live in high places. The Greek gods lived in the highest point in Greece — Mt. Olympus. It is no coincidence that Horeb is the highest point on the Sinai Peninsula.

The mountain of God known as Horeb is Mt. Sinai. Horeb is located near the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. It is straight east from the land of Midian (2:15), separated by 35 miles of land and a 15-mile waterway known as the Gulf of Aqaba. Moses could not possibly have herded Jethro’s flock across the water.

The term, “In God we trust,” is sprinkled throughout American currency as if God was trustworthy. “Plunder the Egyptians,” orders God. The eighth commandment — Thou shall not steal — does not restrict the Israelites from stealing from anyone outside the tribe. The Egyptian people were probably almost as oppressed by Pharaoh as the Israelites but they are guilty by association.

Moses the Humble — 4:1-31

“What if the people do not believe me or listen to me,” said Moses. God answered by telling Moses to throw his staff on the ground. When he did, it turned into a snake. Then he told Moses to grab the snake by the tail. When he did, it turned back into a staff. God told Moses to stick his hand under his cloak. He did. When he pulled his hand out, it was leprous. “Put your hand back into your cloak,” said God. So he stuck his hand back under his cloak and the leprosy disappeared. “If those two tricks don’t convince Pharaoh,” said God, “pour some water from the Nile onto the ground. When you do, the water on the ground will turn to blood.” (4:1-9)

But Lord,” said Moses, I am not eloquent; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue. Please send someone else?” “Your brother Aaron is fluent and he is eagerly on his way to meet you. You will tell him what I tell you and I will make sure he understands you. He will speak for you and you shall serve as his God. With your staff, you will perform the signs,” said an angry God. (4:10-17)

It was safe to return to Egypt, God told Moses, “Because those who wanted your life were dead.” So Moses returned to Midian for permission from his father-in-law, Jethro, to return with his wife and children. Moses did not tell Jethro of his true mission; instead he told him he desired to visit relatives and to see if they were still alive. With permission granted, Moses headed back to Egypt with his family. When Aaron and Moses met, they told the elders and showed their magic tricks. The Israelites united behind them.

Comment: Some of the wording looks awfully close like Moses is personifying God. In the days when these scriptures were written, they were not all intended for public consumption. The Bible was hand written and modified for hundreds of years, so it is not inconceivable that we see traces of magicians passing on their tricks. If this was a real God, he could kill or cripple Pharaoh in an instant.

We can rationalize that Moses was justified in lying to Pharaoh. As for Jethro, apparently, Moses did not want Jethro to know he wasn’t coming back.

God Almost Kills Moses — 4:24-26

One night on the way to Egypt, God met Moses and tried to kill him. To save him, Moses’ wife, Zipporah, circumcised their first-born son and wiped the bloody foreskin on Moses’ feet and chanted “You are truly a bridegroom of blood to me.” God let him alone. Then she said, “Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!”

Comment: Moses must have had an accident. Medical cures in those days focused on magic. To eat blood was a sin (Gen 9:14); but sacrificial blood pleased God; and a happy God would not destroy you (Gen 8:21). Blood can also protect you from harm: During the Passover, sheep’s blood on the doorway protected the firstborn from death (12:7).

A bridegroom is a man about to be married — the ritual has the earmark of an ordination. When Abraham’s made his covenant with God, he had to circumcise all the males (Gen 17:11-14). From Abraham’s time though, all males must be circumcised by the eighth day, otherwise they were to be ostracized from the tribe for breaking the covenant (Gen 17:12-14). Moses violated the Covenant, but still, his son was supposed to leave the tribe; to be sure he would have died. It was not so easy for Moses to enforce the law when it affected him personally.

 

Moses Confronts Pharoah — 5:1-12:51

Straw and Bricks — 5:1-6:13

When Moses and Aaron asked Pharaoh for a three-day vacation (5:3) for the Israelites to celebrate a festival, Pharaoh got angry. Don’t give the people any more straw to make bricks, he ordered. Make them gather their own straw; increase their workload; but do not diminish their quotas. The taskmasters complied; the people fell behind their quotas, so the taskmasters beat the elders. The elders complained to Moses and Aaron and they in turn pleaded to God for help. And once again, God reassured Moses and Aaron. By this time the people were broken and would not listen.

Comment: We learn the secret of what the Bible means when it says, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Moses was lying when he asked for a three-day vacation for his people to celebrate a festival. Pharaoh knew Moses was lying; he knew the Israelites would not return if he let them go. If God gave man free will then he cannot affect human behavior. He had no more power to harden Pharaoh’s heart than he had power to make Adam and Eve obey him; the phrase just means that Pharaoh was obstinate.

There is another reason why this story is implausible: it was too easy for Pharaoh to have Moses and Aaron imprisoned or killed. Echelon

Moses’ Illegitimacy — 6:16-20

Of what value is God’s law if God isn’t more selective in whom he picks for the priesthood? Moses and Aaron’s parents were both descendants of Levi, but his father Amram married Jochebed, his father’s sister. Leviticus 20:19 specifically forbids sexual relationships between a man and his father’s sister. The marriage was therefore, incestuous, adulterous and illegitimate. Deuteronomy 23:2 forbids bastards and their descendants from participating in religious matters to the tenth generation.

Moses was the lucky seventh descendant of Abraham: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram and Moses.

Snakes and Blood — 7:1-25

The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet” (7:1). “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt” (7:3). So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh to do as God told them. When Aaron asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, he would not budge. So Aaron threw down his staff in front of Pharaoh and it turned into a snake. Pharaoh’s sorcerers did likewise, but Aaron’s snake swallowed it. (Ex. 7:10-12)

Plague 1: The next day Aaron’s touched the water with his staff and it turned to blood. It killed all the fish; the river stank and the water became undrinkable. Pharaoh’s sorcerers did the same trick, so Pharaoh was not impressed. Seven days elapsed while the river remained polluted. (Ex. 7:20-22)

Comment: The definition of a prophet is one who interprets God’s word. Moses spoke for God and Aaron spoke for Moses. This is the third time Moses played God. He played God to himself, he played God to Aaron and now he played God to Pharaoh.

If the river is already in a bloody, smelly and undrinkable state, it is not possible to do it twice over. Are the sorcerers competing to damage themselves?

It is not plausible that Pharaoh would not execute these two troublemakers. Moses and Aaron would probably not get through Pharaoh’s front door without being cut down on the spot.

God has to show his power by destroying the Egyptian people. The quote in verse 7:3 should trouble those who think of God as being interested in reducing death and destruction.

Frogs, Mosquitoes and Flies — 8:1-32

Plague 2: Then on the eighth day Aaron stretched out his hands with his staff and made frogs swarm all over the land. The sorcerers showed too that they could make frogs swarm over Egypt. “If you remove the frogs I will let the people go for three days like you asked,” said Pharaoh. The next day, Moses cried out and they died wherever they were; the land stank. Then Pharaoh changed his mind. (Ex. 8:6-7)

Plague 3: So Aaron stretched out his staff and struck the ground. Swarms of mosquitoes attacked humans and animals alike; the sorcerers could not duplicate this trick. They became convinced that Aaron and Moses had greater power; but Pharaoh was unmoved. (Ex. 8:17-18)

Plague 4: So the next day, Moses went to Pharaoh and made flied swarm all over his house and all over Egypt. Goshen where the Israelites lived was unaffected. Pharaoh relented for the second time; so Moses removed the flies. (Ex. 8:24, 31) And again, Pharaoh changed his mind when God hardened his heart.

Comment: By doubling the frog population, the sorcerers, for the second time, damaged themselves. The Israelites were inflicted by the bloody water, frogs and mosquitoes until God decided to keep the flies away from the Israelite enclave of Goshen. How absurd that a Pharaoh would stand by helplessly as these two magicians destroyed his kingdom!

Livestock, Boils and Hail — 9:1-35

Plague 5: The next day, Moses went to Pharaoh with another warning; Pharaoh remained steadfast. So Moses killed all the livestock in Egypt, but none of the Israelites. Pharaoh held firm. (Ex. 9:6-7)

Plague 6: Next they threw ashes in the air and it caused festering boils on all the animals and Egyptians. Even the sorcerers were afflicted. Pharaoh wouldn’t budge. (Ex. 9:10-11)

Plague 7: The next day Moses went to Pharaoh and raised his staff up high until thunder, hail and fire fell upon the earth. The hail struck down every animal, human and plant left in the open. Goshen was unaffected. It was enough to make Pharaoh relent. (Ex. 9:23-28) But when the hail stopped Pharaoh hardened again.

Comment: Plagues 5 and 7 would have killed every useful animal in Pharaoh’s kingdom; and let’s not forget the human death toll of innocent Egyptians. God defines livestock as horses, donkeys, camels, herds and flocks (9:3). Pharaoh would have had no animals to pull his chariots to the Red Sea. All the animals are dead by plague 5, but they still alive in plagues 6 and 7.

Locusts and Darkness — 10:1-29

“I have hardened his heart and the heart of his officials…I have made fools of the Egyptians…so that you may know that I am the lord,” boasted God (10:1-2).

Plague 8: So the next day, Moses and Aaron went to warn Pharaoh again. This time they brought a dense swarm of hungry locusts that devoured every plant and tree left by the hail. Nothing green was left in Egypt (Ex. 10:13-15). When Pharaoh admitted his sins a wind blew the locusts away. When the locusts were gone, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart again.

Plague 9: Moses stretched out his arms toward heaven and the land became dark for three days. It was so dark that people could not see each other, but the Israelites had light where they lived (Ex. 10:22-23). Pharaoh still would not relent. So Moses promised never to return to his court again.

Comment: Anytime a plague affected all of Egypt, the Israelites had to be affected too. It is a cosmological impossibility for complete darkness to last three days; earth would have to stand still. That the Israelites had light, while the Egyptians experienced darkness makes this myth doubly impossible. The three days of darkness would have given the Israelites an excellent chance to flee. So why didn’t they?

God Promises One More Plague — 11:1-10

God promised Moses one more plague, a plague so bad that Pharaoh will drive him away. “But first, tell the people to ask [a polite word for steal] the Egyptians for objects of gold and silver. Then at midnight I will kill every firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh and the firstborn of female slaves to the firstborn of all livestock. After I do this deed, the people will follow you out of Egypt.”

Comment: Let’s reflect as God and Moses plan their crime. This God cannot distinguish the difference between Pharaoh and those who live under Pharaoh’s oppression. He sees guilt by association. He could have softened Pharaoh’s heart or he could have inflicted pain on Pharaoh’s body but instead he chooses the criminal approach. The God, who says thou shall not steal, is a petty thief. Egyptian charity towards the Israelites was nonexistent; there is no reason to presume a sudden change in generosity. The same God, who says thou shall not kill, kills innocents. What is even more amazing is that he has the power to kill livestock two or three times over.

The Passover — 12:1-51

“You are to observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance. Tell your children it is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses,” says God to Moses (Ex. 12:24-27).

The Israelites did what God commanded Moses and Aaron. They sacrificed lambs and ate them according to ritual. Then they smeared lambs blood on their doorways so God would know who they were. At midnight that night God killed every firstborn in Egypt, from Pharaoh’s own, to slaves and prisoners and even livestock. There was not a house without someone dead (12:29-30). Shortly afterwards, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and told them to leave with their people immediately. God had made the Egyptians generous to the Israelites. So after 430 years of living in Egypt, 600,000 men with women and children packed up and left. They took with them their dough of unleavened bread, and the jewelry and clothes the Egyptians had given them (12:35-38).

Comment: This story is as morally despicable as it is fictional. Israelites did not live among the Egyptians; they lived in a northeast region called Goshen (Gen 47:27). If the angel of death had the power to recognize firstborn, then surely it could tell who was an Israelite without the mark of blood stained doors. In the minds of the Hebrews, blood kept away the evil spirits. How could God kill all firstborn livestock when he had already killed all livestock? A king is always the oldest son of the royal family, but Pharaoh was spared. Without Pharaoh alive, the narrators had no story.

If the population of Hebrews went from a total of seventy (1:5) to 600,000 able men in 430 years then how many Hebrews were there? How fast did their population grow? Let’s assume a common general population distribution of an equal amount of able women, 30% children and 20% too old or incapacitated to walk long distances. That adds up to 2.5 million Hebrews. The population would have to double 15 times to grow from seventy to 2.5 million; it would be doubling every 29 years. That is equal to the growth rate of modern Egypt, Iraq, and Mexico. Modern Syria doubles every 21 years; modern Iran, 25 years; Jordan, 23 years. Slow growth countries like U.S., Europe and Japan double every 100 years. There isn’t any truth to the claim that the Hebrew population growth rate exceeded Egypt’s; it might have been less.

A population of 2.5 million people is close to the population of Chicago, Illinois. The logistics of feeding, clothing and sheltering would take months and months of preparation. They were dependent on the Egyptians; so how could they accumulate enough supplies to last more then a couple of weeks? What about their livestock? The topography of the Sinai Peninsula extremely hostile is composed of rocks and dunes; rainfall is no more than five inches a year. There was no grass for the livestock to feed on, nor forests for any type of construction; the wild animal population is sparse. In plain English, the peninsula cannot support 2.5 million people without a continuous supply of rations from outside sources. Was it a miracle that the Israelites survived or what it nonsense?

Let’s piece together how fast 2.5 million people can march. We know from 12:37 that they journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. The distance according to my atlas is about 24 straight miles. That is equivalent to eight hours of walking at three miles an hour. Ladies and gentlemen, I remember from my Boy Scout days that 24 miles was about as far as my troop could walk in one day. This is the same hoard that took 40 years to get to the Promised Land.

Because blood symbolized life, they thought of it as a good luck charm. “When I see blood, it will pass over you and no plague shall destroy you.” (1:13).

According to verse 12:48, if any alien and all the males in his family were circumcised, they were accepted as natives and may participate in the Passover celebration. The mystery of circumcision is commonly ascribed to hygienic practice, but these ancients had no concept of hygiene. The Hebrews accepted aliens so they were not interested in racial purity either. The answer is not so mysterious: They adopted fetishes to differentiate themselves from other tribes. The practice is as common in contemporary cultures as it was common then. Teenagers go out of their way to dress different then their parents. Motorcycle gangs sport unique tattoos. A circumcised male belonged to the clan of Moses.

 

The Great Escape — 13:1-15:27

The Passover Sacrifice — 13:1-22

Says Moses: “The firstborn of animals and human beings must be consecrated to God. When God brings you into the land flowing with milk and honey you will repay him for what he did for you. Redeem the firstborn males of your livestock and the firstborn males of your children. God killed the firstborn in Egypt from humans to animals; therefore I must redeem every firstborn male. This is so you don’t forget that it was God who brought you out of Egypt.”

“They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness.” (13:20).

So God went in front of the people as a pillar of cloud by day and by a pillar of fire by night, so they may see the way. He led them away from the hostile Philistines and towards the Red Sea. “If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.”

Comment: Verses 13:2, 12-15 spell human sacrifice. Supporting verses can be found in Ex. 22: 29-30 and Ex 34:19-20. “Redeem” in this context does not mean to set free; it means to send back to God’s world. To consecrate a person or place alone means to make it holy, but to consecrate to God means to make a sacrificial offering.

The distance from Succoth to Etham is almost 40 miles. Accordingly, 2.5 million men, women, children, sick and elderly people and livestock are supposed to have walked 40 miles in one day. An athletic hiker can hike about 30 miles in one day. Generously, allowing for necessary rest stops, the Israelites could not travel more than 15 miles daily.

The most direct route to the Promised Land was north and then eastward along the coast; but God led the people along the most southern out-of-the-way route towards the Red Sea. The pretence was to avoid panic if they met the Philistines. Surely a God, who was so powerful, that he could kill livestock three times over and make three days of darkness, had no need to make the people avoid the Philistines. It was easy circle around the Philistines without going as far south as Mount Sinai. The focus of this preposterous story is to make the journey stretch to Mt. Sinai, the mountain of God.

The Red Sea Crossing — 14:1-31

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart again. With his army and over 600 chariots he pursued the Israelites until he overtook them camped by the sea. The Israelites thought they were about to die but Moses told to not be afraid because God will fight for them. The angel that guided the Israelites went between them and the Egyptians. The cloud and the fire were there at the same time. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the waters divided. The Israelites walked on the sea bottom as two walls of water surrounded them. The Egyptians pursued them but the pillar of fire and the cloud threw them into a panic. Then Moses stretched out his hands again and the water engulfed the army; no one remained. But the Israelites walked through on dry land and they believed in God and his servant Moses.

Comment: The Bible does not say the Israelites crossed the Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds — there was never a body of water known as Reed Sea or Sea of Reeds. The crossing is said to occur “by the sea by Pihahiroth” (14:9); that would define the Mediterranean Sea. The Red Sea is located at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, where Moses divined the Ten Commandments. If they crossed there they would have been on the Arabian Peninsula. Also, it would have been an incredible journey for the Israelites to cross the Red Sea. It is 150-200 miles across and as deep as a mile and a half; the water is too salty to be drinkable. The Gulf of Suez is closer to the route that Moses took from Egypt to Mount Sinai. It is not more than six miles across and at the extreme northern end. But it is about 100 miles south of Pihahiroth, so they couldn’t have taken that route. Or if they crossed at a marshy area called Bitter Lakes, which could have been interpreted as a sea of reeds, the water was shallow enough to walk across without need of divine miracles. It is possible that the scripture really did say Red Sea. What we see over and over again is that the narrators had no knowledge of the geography they were writing about.

During the fifth plague, God killed any animal capable of pulling a chariot (9:3-7). Verse 14:9 says that horses pulled the chariots. So where did Pharaoh get the horses?

Could the Egyptians have been that stupid that the twin pillars of cloud and fire did not panic them before they rode through the wall of water? To this day, no one knows who that mysterious Pharaoh was and where he drowned. The best reason I can find is that the narrators did not know the names of any Pharaohs. It wasn’t important to them because the story has all the characteristics of a myth and was intended as a myth.

Of Song and Drink — 15:1-27

The people sang a song to celebrate their salvation. The verses 15:9-15 refer to a time that hasn’t happened yet or as if it happened in the past: “I will divide the spoil, I will draw my sword, They sank like lead in the mighty waters, The earth swallowed them, Pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia, Chiefs of Edom were dismayed; trembling seized the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away.”

When the singing and dancing was over they went into the wilderness of Shur. For three days they could find no water in the wilderness. At a place called Marah, where the water was too bitter [probably too salty], the people said to Moses, “What shall we drink.” So Moses said a prayer; threw a piece of wood into the water, and it became sweet. At their next camp in Elim they found twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees (15:22-27).

Comment: The actor playing God is Moses. In verse 15:26, Moses does not say if you disobey God, God will punish you. He says, if you disobey me, Moses, I will punish you. The Israelites cannot obey God because they cannot communicate with him; they can only communicate with Moses. Moses would like to take credit for whatever disease befalls the Israelites, but today we know that disease is caused by factors unrelated to supernatural sources.

He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.”