They were brick-makers, household servants, shepherds and farm-workers. “Six hundred thousand” untrained, unarmed Hebrew men and their families along with a “huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds” (Exodus 12:37-38), camped at the Red Sea. Six hundred thousand men... two or three million people set free, emancipated from generations of Egyptian oppression.
Ten horrific and horrifying, yet marvelous and and miraculous demonstrations of God’s omnipotence had driven Pharoah to his knees and made it possible for their exodus. These ten divine signs had also generated hope within the hearts of the Israelites propelling them into the wilderness. They left behind the safety and relative comfort of the only home they had ever known, heading for the land promised to their ancient ancestor, Abraham (Genesis 12:7).
They didn’t go alone. “The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel day or night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people” (Exodus 13:21–22). Never alone!
It seemed logical that they would travel north to the Mediterranean and then along the well-travelled highway leading to Canaan, but “God did not lead them along the road” (Exodus 13:17) that was wide and easy (Matthew 7:13). The Pillar of Fire and Clouds “led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness” (Exodus 13:18).
Egyptian scouts must have watched their progress. When Pharoah heard that his nation’s much-needed workforce was “wandering around the land in confusion” (Exodus 14:3), he commissioned his well-trained military to round-up the runaways. “So he got his chariot ready and took his troops with him; he took six hundred of the best chariots and all the rest of the chariots of Egypt, with officers in each one” (Exodus 14:6).
“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and there were the Egyptians coming after them! The Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord for help” (Exodus 14:10).Moses tried to quiet their fears. “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you must be quiet” (Exodus 14:13-14). “Then the angel of God, who was going in front of the Israelite forces, moved and went behind them. The pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and stood behind them. It came between the Egyptian and Israelite forces. There was cloud and darkness, it lit up the night, and neither group came near the other all night long” (Exodus 14:19–20).
As the Lord stood guard, He spoke directly to Moses. “Tell the Israelites to break camp. As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea” (Exodus 14:15–16).
Stand on the banks of the Red Sea in Moses’s sandals. Can you imagine it? What do you do next?
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.