Exodus 12:29–15:27 the Final Plague.
How Israel Passed Over Into Freedom.

12:29–36  It was  a night of watching. (12:42). In the middle of the night, God struck down all of the first-born of Egypt—man and beast. The whole nation cried out in a crescendo of  agony— too late.  Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron at night and ordered them to get their people out  and ended with  a petition for a prayer of blessing for himself. The Egyptians hurried them out with whatever  they asked—clothing , jewelry—and they left with their kneading troughs in their shawls.

12:37- 50 Six hundred thousand men with women and children,  with immigrants (and ?Egyptians) mixed in with  herds and flocks, marched out. The sojourners who were circumcised were permitted to eat Passover meal as well, and presumably had their first-born saved in the process. They had been in Egypt 430 years.

13:1–16  Moses’ teaching  here is divided into two  parts.

Keep Passover as a memorial year after year.
Dedicate the first-born of man and beast to the Lord. Small animals were sacrificed; working  animals (donkey) were redeemed with small animals (lamb). Humans a month after birth were redeemed with five shekels. Num.18:16

13:17–14:4 Passover could have been the end of the story, but it was not.  The crisis was not over when Pharaoh relented and the Hebrews ran.  When Pharaoh saw them making uncertain progress, like a confused mob,  he decided to recapture them. God set a trap for Pharaoh, knowing that he had not given up his claim to Israel.  They were not to go through Philistine country, along the Mediterranean coast of Gaza. They would be met with war,   and although they were armed, they were too upset to fight. However,  they were organized enough to acquire the bones of Joseph and take them with them on their flight. [Joseph’s request was an act of faith. Heb.11:22]. They went to the edge of the desert,  led by the pillar of cloud and fire.

14:5–9 God ordered Moses to lead the people south, then to backtrack north, as if they were confused, and to camp in front of the sea.  Sure enough, Pharaoh and his servants had regret that they has lost their huge work-force and set out to get them back. He may have had his mind of revenge as well.

14:10–31 Phase 1. The scene is a battle map : 2–3 million slaves stand with  the sea in front of them and 600 elite Egyptian charioteers behind them,  hemmed in by the wilderness on either side (14:3).  The people panicked:
“Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?”
God asked Moses why he was crying to Him. Evidently Moses was also panicky. He was commanded to take his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea and divide it.

Phase 2. The angel of the Lord and the pillar of cloud now moved from in front of the Hebrew horde to stand between  them and the Egyptian army. There was a cloud in one direction, light in the other. Neither side moved. It was for Israel a second night of watching. (12:42)

Phase 3. A strong east wind blew that night and created a causeway for safe passage, with water heaped up on either side of the channel.

Phase 4. Israel went  pouring  through the channel  dry-shod and the Egyptian chariots came right in after them.

Phase 5. The pillar of cloud and fire now stood over the sea and upset the Egyptians. Their chariot wheels were clogged  and came off. It was a trap.

Phase 6. God told Moses to stretch out his hand a second time and the sea rolled back from either side, drowning the Egyptian army.  The dead littered the shore.  Whether Pharaoh was among the dead we are not told.

For the  moment there was relief and praise to God for their miraculous freedom. Moses and Miriam burst into song.  The words are still sung today.

15:1—21  Moses’ song.

15:1–3 The Lord is my strength, my song and my salvation.
15:14–10 God won the victory over Pharaoh.
15:11–12 Who is like God?
15:13–16 The leaders of Philistia, Edom and Moab are intimidated.
15:17–18 God will bring Israel in to His own sanctuary.

A second outline breaks the song into repeated stanzas.

15:1 Address to God: I will sing to the Lord.
15:2–3 Praise: the Lord is my strength and my song.
15:4–5 Narrative:  they went down like a stone.

15:6 Address: Thy right hand, O Lord.
15:7–8 Praise: in the greatness of Thy majesty.
15:9–10 Narrative:  they sank as lead.

15:11 Address: who is like Thee, O Lord?
15:12–13 Praise: Thou hast guided them by Thy strength.
15:14–18 Narrative:  they are still as a stone.

Miriam, Moses’ sister and prophetess, took up the song, leading the women  in dancing.

15:22–25 They journeyed three days into the desert and came to a well but the water at Marah (bitter) was  not drinkable. It may have been alkaline, or contaminated with arsenic or metals. God showed Moses as tree which. made the water safe and pleasant. We do not know what tree could restore a water supply.

15:26–27 God promised to keep them from the diseases of Egypt if they would keep His laws.  The only diseases mentioned are the plagues that afflicted man and animals-- sores and boils. (Ex.9:8–12; Deut.28:27).  Deut.7:12 suggests that “diseases” includes all the plagues associated with the Exodus.

“And the Lord will take away from you all sickness; and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will He inflict upon you….”(Deut.7:12)

Comments:

What became of Pharaoh’s relationship to God? What happened to  Egyptian religion? Was there any sign of turning to the God of Jacob? The trouble with punishment is that it only works on the teachable. Pharaoh talked about God and saw the evidence of His power. He asked for forgiveness and a blessing, but remained a pagan. God let him survive as a testament to His power. (Rom.9:17).  The evidence is that ten plagues including the death of his first-born son, the devastation of his economy and the loss of his elite charioteers did not move Pharaoh or the priests. 

“The Lord is a Man of War.”  This name was clearly demonstrated in the war Israel had just won over Egypt, by standing still and watching God at work.  We will see God as a warrior repeatedly in the OT by His name JHWH Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts. (“The Lord is a Man of War” is not listed as a formal name of God as JHWH Rophe is.) God will be their savior in the next war, with Amalek. But God’s support of the judges, Saul and David in battles, as well as in the battles of the later kings is a neglected aspect of our knowledge of God.  God was even involved in the sack of Jerusalem in 586BC. Jer.38:17–23

“I am the Lord your healer” . Jahweh Rophe, “God who heals” is one of the rarer names of God.  His healing is comprehensive.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renew like the eagle’s.” (Psa.103:2–5)
“He heals the brokenhearted  and binds up their wounds.” (Psa.147:3)

The New Testament reveals the Healing God in the person of Christ.

The Lord is a man of war,  and the Lord is our healer. The two names are given in the same chapter.  We make a mistake when we say He is one and not the other, a healer but not a warrior, or that one concept belongs to the Old Testament and the other to the New.

Waiting for the Lord in crisis is a hard discipline. In Israel’s case, there was no other option except stampede. They were boxed in with nowhere to move.  God had put them in this untenable position. Panic did not help; it only showed the cowardice of people who were ready to go back to Egypt as slaves. “Better red than dead” was a slogan of the Cold War, of ordinary Americans preparing to give in to the Communists.  We may see the same response to the “terrorists”.

“Fear not, stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today.” (14:13)

But the instruction applies to our individual lives as well. There are many times when we do not know what to do. What do we do when we don’t know what to do? We pray

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (IIChron.20:12).
So Jehoshaphat prayed in front of his people at the start of a war with the Moabites and Ammonites.  It is my everyday prayer.

What do we do when we don't know what to do? We pray. That was the theme of a board of deacons confronted with overwhelming anxiety and grief, with the pastor gone and the church in turmoil. They stood still and waited for the salvation of the Lord.            

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage;
            yea, wait for the Lord.” (Psa.27:14)

PS . We do not know the time of the Exodus. The International  Standard Bible Encyclopedia  devotes eight pages to the question of the time of the Exodus, assuring us that there is no clear answer.  The route away from Egypt is also not clear. Three routes have been outlined in various maps. It is very hard to reconstruct the geography of an unstable region after 3500 years. The prevailing opinion is that they passed through the “Reed Sea” a swampy area near the Mediterranean. This seems to me less likely because of the much greater difficulty of walking through a swamp  however  dried up rather than walking on the hard bottom of a previously open body of water.  I think we are better off not trying to rationalize the miracle of the sea crossing.