By Edward Dennett
IN chapter 12 God appears as a Judge, because when once the question of sin was raised, the holiness of His nature necessitates that He should deal with it - and deal with it righteously. God therefore was there against His people on account of their sin, although means were found, in His gracious provision and according to His direction, to satisfy, through the blood of the Paschal Lamb, His righteous claims. But in this chapter, He who was against the people because of their sin, is now for them because of the blood. His righteousness, His truth, His majesty - yea, all that He was, had been satisfied by the sprinkled blood.1 A propitiation had been made on the ground of which He could undertake the cause of those who had been brought under its value. Consequently He appears here as a Saviour - a Deliverer. Historically there is an interval between these two characters. He was a Judge on the passover night, and a Deliverer at the Red Sea ; and this is the order of apprehension in the case of the majority of awakened souls. When first convicted of sin, when it is really the work of the Spirit of God, God appears to the soul as a Judge because of guilt. But when there is peace of conscience through the apprehension by faith that the blood of Christ has met God's claims, and cleansed from guilt, then the soul perceives that God Himself is on its behalf; and sees the proof of it in His raising the Lord Jesus from the dead. These two stages are clearly marked in Romans 3 and 4. Thus in Romans 3 it is faith in the blood, believing in Jesus (v.25,26); while in chapter 6 it is faith in God (v.24). And there is no settled peace until this second stage is reached. But while these two things are separated historically in connection with the children of Israel, and generally in the experience of souls, it must not be forgotten that they are but two parts of one and the same work. The Red Sea, therefore, in this aspect, while it presents more striking effects in the display of God's power, on the one hand in the redemption of His people, and on the other, in the destruction of Pharaoh and his host, is but the consequence of the sprinkled blood on the passover night. The blood was the foundation of all God's subsequent actings for Israel. Hence, while it is quite true that redemption was not known until the Red Sea was crossed, the blood-shedding was a deeper work, because it was that which glorified God concerning the question of the people's sin, and enabled Him, in harmony with every attribute of His character, to work for their complete deliverance. It is only when this distinction between the two things, and, at the same time, their connection, are remembered, that this chapter can be understood. Bearing it in mind, the key to its interpretation will be possessed, and it will be seen that every action it records is in relation to the truth thus explained.
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahimth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them: and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so" (v.1-4).
The first thing which the Lord did was to shut up His people, as far as man was concerned, in a perfectly hopeless position. Encamped by the sea, and surrounded by the wilderness, He so placed them that if Pharaoh followed after them, as He purposed he should, that there would be positively no human way of escape. This was done to entice Pharaoh to his destruction, and to reduce the children of Israel to entire dependence upon Himself. Both things were accomplished; for the Egyptians were to know that He was the Lord, and the Israelites were to confess that He was their salvation. This will be brought before us in the narrative.
"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 he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. 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. 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 Pi-hahiroth, before Baal-zephon" (v.5-9).
What a revelation of the possibilities of the human heart is seen in the case of Pharaoh! Though the Lord had made bare His arm in successive judgments, and at length had extorted a cry of anguish from every household in the land of Egypt, we yet find the king and also his servants recovering from the blow which had for the moment overwhelmed them with sorrow, repenting of the release of Israel, and daring to follow after to bring them back to their former servitude. They thus pursued them, "all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, before Baal-zephon." This, as explained, had been arranged of the Lord. To Pharaoh and his people, it would appear utter folly to occupy such a position, and an evidence, it might be, that they were guided by human folly rather than divine wisdom. They march on therefore in full confidence of an easy victory. For what could rescue a nation of fugitives, encumbered with women and children, from their grasp? So also it appeared to the unbelieving children of Israel. They were sheltered by the blood, they were guided by the pillar of cloud, and they surely might have said, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" But sight was stronger than faith. The sea was before them, and Pharaoh and his mighty armies behind. To the natural eye escape was impossible, and captivity or death certain. This was the effect produced on their minds.
"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. And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt ? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness" (v.10-12).
Unbelief marked every word they uttered, and because they were judging according to the sight of their eyes. They were sore afraid; they would die in the wilderness; they had known it would be so, and servitude in Egypt was far better than the death that now awaited them. The mistake they made was in leaving the Lord out of their calculations - as unbelief ever does - and thus making it a question between themselves and the Egyptians. Moses was sustained; his faith was unfaltering, and he could therefore encourage their hearts as well as rebuke their unbelief.
"And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you to-day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" (v.13, 14).
In truth a work was to be wrought that day in which the people could have no part. For there were two things from which they needed to be delivered - Satan's power as represented by Pharaoh and his host, and death and judgment which were shown in figure by the Red Sea. And these two are connected. For through man's sin Satan has acquired rights, and wields death as the just judgment of God. It is quite true that the children of Israel were already sheltered by the blood of the paschal lamb, and that they might therefore have rested in perfect peace. But they knew not the value of that blood. That it had saved them from the stroke of judgment, that their houses escaped when God smote the firstborn of Egypt they knew; but they had not yet learned, that this same blood had secured everything for them, deliverance from their foes, guidance through the wilderness, and even the possession of the promised inheritance. Hence the moment Pharaoh appears on the scene they "were sore afraid," and "cried out unto the Lord." The Lord met them in their weakness and doubt, and reminds them by this message which Moses delivered that the work was His, both to save them from the land of Egypt 's king, and from the waves of the Red Sea. They were to cease from their fears, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord; for their enemies should disappear for ever from their eyes, the Lord would fight for them, and they should hold their peace. Blessed truth, that salvation is of the Lord! It is one, however, that we are slow to learn. How many become entangled in the thought that they must do something. But no; He who has provided the Paschal Lamb, whose blood cleanses us from our sin, will do all the rest. Salvation is His own perfect, finished work. To add to it in any way by our own doings or strivings is only to mar its beauty and completeness. Nay, what is there that man can do when Satan and death are in question? Man is helpless in the presence of such foes. He cannot escape, he cannot overcome them, and hence perforce - if he would but learn the lesson - he must stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. How quieting to the heart of the timid and the anxious! Let them then enter upon the full enjoyment of this precious message, if terrified by Satan's power in the prospect of death: "The Lord shall fight for you and ye shall hold your peace."
Following the record we shall perceive how the Lord verified the words of His servant.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: but lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen" (v.15-18).
There is no inconsistency between the command of Moses, "Stand still," and that now given, "Go forward." They had truly to be reminded that they could do nothing; but faith should have perceived that the work was done, and marched boldly forward through the sea which seemed to bar their advance. Death, and the power of death, had been overcome, the salvation had been completed, and hence they were to go forward. The order and the teaching of the order are beautiful. The Lord completes the work, and by the finished work of salvation a way of escape from Satan's power through death has been opened. Being opened, it is for the believer to walk through it, to go boldly forward in confidence in Him who, having been their Judge, has now become their Saviour. This the Lord proceeds to unfold by the further command addressed to Moses. He will show His power over the sea before the eyes of His people, to pacify their fears, and to assure them of His protection and care. But this must be explained more fully. Together with the command to the children of Israel to go forward, Moses was directed to lift up his rod, and stretch his hand over the sea, and divide it, so that the children of Israel might go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. The Egyptians should be hardened to follow, and to follow for their own destruction, and God would be glorified both in the salvation of His people and the destruction of their foes. Having thus directed Moses, the Lord proceeds to act.
"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: and it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. 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. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left.
"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 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, 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.
"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 Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 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. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. 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 that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and His servant Moses" (v.19-31).
The several points in this miraculous deliverance may now be noted. First, the angel of God removed and went "between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel." God thus interposed between His blood-bought people and their pursuers. For indeed all that He was, in every attribute of His character, was engaged on their behalf. That panic-stricken multitude might well be scorned by the flower and chivalry of Egypt, but they were under the ęgis of Omnipotence, and before they could be reached God Himself must be met and overcome. Oh, what strength and consolation lie in this precious truth, that God Himself undertakes the cause of the feeblest of those who are under the shelter of the blood of Christ! Satan may set all his legions in battle array, and seek to terrify the soul by the display of his power, but his vauntings and threats may alike be disregarded, for the battle is the Lord's. It is therefore not what we are, but what God is. And it should be observed, that He that is for the believer is against the enemy. That which gave light to the children of Israel was a cloud and darkness to Pharaoh and his army. The presence of God terrifies all but those who are cleansed from sin by the precious blood. Hence the camp of Egypt was shut off from Israel, and "the one came not near the other all the night" (v.20). How fearless, then, we ought to be, when this truth, God for us, is so plainly revealed. Elisha knew its power when, in answer to the expressed fears of his servant, he said, "Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them;" and then, when in answer to the prophet's prayer the young man's eyes were opened, "he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha" (2 Kings 6:15-17). Be it, however, repeated, that the alone foundation of God being for us is the precious blood of Christ. This, then, is the first thing here taught, that God protects His people as against the power of Satan. The second thing to be remarked is, the division of the waters of the Red Sea. Moses was to lift up his rod, and stretch out his hand over the sea. (v.16). The rod is a symbol of the authority and power of God; and hence it was before it that the waters retired. The strong east wind was used as an instrumentality, but in connection with the mandate of His power as expressed in the use of the rod. Thus God opened a way through death for His people. As, on the one hand, He shielded them from Satan's power, so, on the other, He through death delivered them from death. This is the typical significance of the Red Sea - death, and also resurrection - inasmuch as the people were brought through to the other side. "As a moral type," therefore, to use the language of another, "the Red Sea is evidently the death and resurrection of Jesus, so far as the real effecting of the work goes, in its own efficacy as deliverance by redemption, and of His people as seen in Him; God acting in it, to bring them through death out of sin and this present world, giving absolute deliverance from them by death, into which Christ had gone, and consequently beyond the possibility of being reached by the enemy." This is beautifully illustrated by two particulars. They "went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground." Wherefore? Because - we speak of the typical teaching - Christ had gone down into death, and exhausted its power. He "death by dying slew," and in death met and vanquished the whole power of Satan. Through death He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb.2:14, 15). All the force and power of death were therefore expended upon Christ, and as a consequence believers pass through on dry ground. Then, moreover, we find that "the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left" (v.22). Not only had death no power over them, but it became a defence. Thus "the very sea they dreaded, and which appeared to throw them into Pharaoh's hands, becomes the means of their salvation." It was the way of their deliverance from Egypt, and instead of being their enemy had become their friend. How blessedly all this is fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Christ, every believer should know. It is not only that we have been sheltered from judgment through the sprinkled blood, but through the death and resurrection of Christ, and our death and resurrection in Him, we have been brought out from Egypt, and delivered both from the power of Satan and of death. Already we have passed from death unto life, have been brought completely out of our old condition on to new ground in Christ Jesus. We might still go farther, and point out how this type will be fulfilled in another way. Death, which is the enemy of the sinner, has become the friend of the believer, and will but prove the means of our passage, should we depart before the Lord returns, into His presence.
" The last thing to be noted is the destruction of the Egyptians. In the temerity of their daring presumption they "pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the - sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horse-men." That pillar of fire even did not keep them back, but, in vain confidence in their own strength, they pressed onward, but to a sure and certain doom. "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, and took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily." They were now convinced of the hopelessness of the contest, and would fain have fled; but it was all too late. At the Lord's bidding, once again Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and it returned and covered all Egypt's host, so that "there remained not so much as one of, them" (v.28)."By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned" (Heb.11:29). The solemn lesson is thus conveyed, that to face the power of death in human confidence is certain destruction. Only the blood-bought people can pass through in safety. All others will surely be overwhelmed; and yet how many a soul dares to meet death and judgment in its own strength. Let all such be warned by the fate of Pharaoh and his army. There can be no escape apart from Christ. He only is the way of safety, because He alone has met and overcome death, is the One who has died, has risen again, and is alive for evermore, and has the keys of hades and death.
Three things conclude the chapter. There is first the repetition of the fact that Israel walked through the sea upon dry land, and found the waters a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. It is the contrast emphasized between the salvation of Israel and the destruction of the Egyptians. There are only then two classes. There could be no other - the lost (the Egyptians) and the saved (the Israelites). The former were swallowed up in death and judgment, while the latter were brought through in safety, because they were covered with the value of the blood of the Lamb. We then read that "the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians" (v.30). He had before sheltered them from judgment, but now He saved them from the foe. Satan's power was brought to nought, and they were consequently delivered. The full meaning of this term will appear in the next chapter; but it may be remarked that it is here for the first time that the word "saved" acquires its full significance. Lastly, the effect produced upon the minds - in the souls of the children of Israel - is noted. They "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." Such a display of power - destructive on the one hand, and redemptive on the other - had bowed their hearts, and begotten reverent fear in their souls. In Egypt they had no doubt feared the Lord in the sense of dread - dreading Him as a holy Judge; but now it was fear of another kind - fear begotten by the manifestation of His wonder-working power, and which led them to look upon Him as their Lord. It was the fear of an intimate relationship - the fear which would desire to please, and dread above all things to offend. It was the offspring of recognizing the holiness of God in their salvation. This is shown by the fact that they also believed the Lord, and His servant Moses. The testimony of what and who He was had been unfolded before their eyes. They received it, and now not only had Jehovah chosen them to be His people, but they also by faith recognized and owned Him as their Lord. They also believed Moses - as their divinely-appointed leader. Indeed they were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1 Cor.10:2). There was therefore both a work wrought for them and in them - and both alike proceeded from the power and grace of God. He who so marvellously brought them out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, produced a response in their hearts to what He was, and what He had done for them. Salvation is never entered into or enjoyed until these two things are united. Thus the work, on the foundation of which God can save sinners, has long been completed; but until it can be said that the sinner believes he is not saved. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation ("the judgment"); but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).
1) When we say, "a propitiation," it will be understood that we are speaking of the typical value of the blood. Propitiation proper was made by the blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat. (Compare Lev.16:14 and Rom.3:25).