These are some of my notes for Sunday, March 28, 2010 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.
The book referenced in these notes is:
1. New American Commentary: Exodus by Douglas Stuart
The chief reason for not allowing the traditional Sea Road along the Mediterranean coast was that that way led straight through the territory of the Philistines. They were a warlike people eager to gain territory, and would hardly allow Israel to pass through their land in order to claim territory they themselves would like. While divine intervention might certainly have given the Israelites victory over the Philistines, they were newcomers in Canaan, and the condemnation of Canaanites in Genesis 15:16 did not apply to them. Instead, the “cup of their sins” wasn’t filled until much later, in the time of David, when the Philistines were finally subdued.(2 Sam 8:1, 21:15-22; 1 Kgs 4:21)(Stuart)
Would the Israelites try to return to Egypt when faced with hardship? They did plan just such a return in Num 14:3,14. Egypt was “home” to the Israelites, who had been in Egypt over four hundred years.(Stuart)
“Battle formation/harnessed” is in Hebrew literally “organized by fifties”. This is traditional military organization language, “thousands, hundreds, fifties, tens”. The idea is that the Israelites tried to organize themselves in some defensive formation, but it is highly unlikely they had much military training or available weapons, for Egypt would hardly allow a large subjugated segment of their population to learn military skills or gain deadly weapons. At best they might have gained some weapons (short swords were the common sidearm of the day) amongst the treasures the Egyptians pile on them before the left, but having a weapon and having the ability to use it effectively are two different things. (Stuart)
His army: The Hebrew is ambiguous here as to whether foot soldiers were involved, or Pharaoh merely pursued with his swift chariot-mounted forces.(Stuart)
By the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth in front of Baal-zephon: A repetition of the location from Ex 14:2, using place names we cannot identify with any certainty any more.(Stuart)
The appearance of Pharaoh’s chariots in pursuit, with the poorly armed and hardly soldierly Israelites pinned between the Egyptians and the sea caused the Israelites to panic. Apparently still only thinking in common human terms, at least some of them managed to turn to God in their panic, “cried out to the LORD for help”.(Stuart)
Here is the first use of a common refrain by the Israelites over the next forty plus years: we were better off before we did something new. (Num 14:1-4; Josh 7:6-9). Not also the language of “brought us”, “bring us”, “didn’t we say”. The Israelites want to act as if they had no responsibility in choosing to leave Egypt, though Moses and Aaron could hardly have compelled so large a group to go against their will.(Stuart)
Moses responds from faith and not surprisingly, a better memory for what God had said in Ex 14:4, that Pharaoh would pursue the Israelites, but that God would get glory from the Egyptians in response. Stuart lists several attributes of God pointed to in Moses’ speech here:
1.God is the comforter and assurance for those afraid.
2.God is a deliver for those in trouble.
3.God both asks for and expects calm faith from those who believe in Him.
4.God is a warrior against evil.
Stuart takes an uncommon meaning from the second part of verse 13, that Moses infers that the appearance of the Egyptian chariots is a further proof of God’s power, for it shows his earlier prediction in 14:4 is coming true.
“You must be quiet” is usually taken to be a call for silent faith from the Israelites. Stuart sees it as simply a modifier of “The LORD will fight for you”, meaning “you need do nothing to protect yourselves from these Egyptians”. Others suggest a more scolding meaning, as in “shut up”.
The “you” in this verse is indeed singular, but it is now commonly interpreted as God’s rebuke to the Israelites through Moses, their intermediary. Moses himself has just shown great faith.
God tells the Israelites to ‘go forward” or “break camp” because they are so numerous it will take hours to get them moving through the parted waters of the sea, as indeed it is the rest of the day and into the night that the nation is crossing.(Stuart)
Lift your staff, stretch out your hand: Once more (as in Ex 7:17-20, 8:1-15) the staff symbolizes God’s power and presence, and the order to stretch out his hand is simply for Moses to raise his staff.(Stuart)
Divide the sea so the Israelites go on dry ground: Here is God’s miraculous answer to the seemingly impossible situation the Israelites are in. The sea bed is going to be so dry and firm that the animals and perhaps even carts are able to cross to the other side easily. So dry, in fact, that it will lure the Egyptian chariots to follow the same path, not thinking that the parted waters are a divine intervention under God’s control.(Stuart)
Harden the hearts of the Egyptians: Water and chariots don’t mix, as a second biblical incident (Jdgs 4:1-16) shows. In this case, an obvious miracle is taking place, thus in any normal frame of mind the Egyptians would see the parted sea and say “No way’. Thus God must work on the hearts of the Egyptian commanders, who see the Israelites can cross and who are doubtless under the stern orders of Pharaoh himself to get the Israelites back to Egypt. This is God’s work to make Egypt understand, finally and devastatingly, that Israel’s God is the sovereign God of the world.(Stuart)
A summary of the lesson for believers to learn, then and now, from the destruction of Pharaoh’s chariots: God is to be trusted for deliverance in even the most impossible seeming circumstances. (Stuart)