Reading 19/341, Exodus 13-15

The Lord tells Moses to consecrate all firstborns. God leads the Israelites to the shore of the Red Sea, where it seems they will be captured by the pursuing Egyptians, but he protects them with fire and splits the Red Sea. They cross on dry land, but the Egyptians go in after them and are drowned when the waters return. The Israelites are without water, but God purifies a poisonous lake for them.
[A] The song that the Israelites sing after escaping from the Egyptians is often considered by scholars to be the oldest part of the Bible, which is to say that the song was sung among the Israelites before someone wrote down all the rest of the story.
[B] There is an archaeological problem in that ancient Egypt has some of the best records of any ancient country. If 2 million people had left the country and all of the officers and Pharaoh were defeated so completely, it ought to be in the records from 1500 BC, which are available. The only saving grace is that the Egyptians are known liars and often covered up even major events that made them look bad. The existence of two Pharaohs is only known from records found in landfills. Still, is it possible that the numbers are exaggerated? That there were not 2 million and not every officer of Egypt died? It is similar to the problem of ages in early Genesis. It could be true, but if it is exaggerated it does not necessarily call into question the rest of the story. The essential truth is that the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, and God led them out of slavery.


The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of humans and of animals, is mine." Moses said to the people, "Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. Today you go forth in the month Abib. So it shall be, when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days, and no leavened bread shall be seen with you, nor shall there be yeast seen with you, in all your borders. You shall tell your son on that day, saying, 'It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.' It shall be for a sign to you on your hand and for a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.

"It shall be, when the Lord shall bring you into the land of the Canaanite, as he swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it you, that you shall set apart for the Lord all that opens the womb, and every firstborn male you have that comes from an animal shall be the Lord's. Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck, and you shall redeem all the firstborn of human among your sons. It shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is this?' that you shall tell him, 'By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage, and it happened, when Pharaoh stubbornly would not let us go, that the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of human, and the firstborn of animal. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that opens the womb, being males; but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.' It shall be for a sign on your hand, and for symbols between your eyes: for by strength of hand the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt."

It happened, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt;" but God led the people around by the way of the desert near the Red Sea, and the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the children of Israel swear, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones away from here with you." They took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, at the edge of the desert. The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them on their way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light, that they might go by day and by night: the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, did not depart from before the people.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn back and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon. You shall encamp opposite it by the sea. Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, 'They are wandering in the land. The desert has shut them in.' I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will follow after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh, and over all his armies, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord." They did so, and it was told to the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was changed towards the people, and they said, "What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?" He made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt, and captains over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel; for the children of Israel went out defiantly. The Egyptians pursued after them: all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his charioteers, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal-zephon.

When Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they were very afraid. The children of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the desert? Why have you treated us this way, to bring us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, 'Leave us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?' For it were better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the desert." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today, for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall never see them again. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall stand still. The Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it, and the children of Israel shall go into the midst of the sea on dry ground. I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall go in after them, and I will get myself glory over Pharaoh, and over all his armies, over his chariots, and over his charioteers. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten myself honor over Pharaoh, over his chariots, and over his charioteers."

The angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them, and stood behind them. It came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel, and there was the cloud and the darkness, yet it gave light by night while the one did not come near the other. Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. The children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the midst of the sea: all of Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his charioteers. It happened in the morning watch that the Lord looked out on the Egyptian army through the pillar of fire and of cloud, and panicked the Egyptian army. He took off their chariot wheels, and they drove them heavily, so that the Egyptians said, "Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians!" The Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come again on the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their charioteers." Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its strength when the morning appeared. As the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the charioteers, all Pharaoh's army that went in after them into the sea. There remained not so much as one of them. But the children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to 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 on the seashore. Israel saw the great work which the Lord did to the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said, "I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant. Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song. He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him; my father's God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war. The Lord is his name. He has cast Pharaoh's chariots and his army into the sea. His chosen captains are sunk in the Red Sea. The deeps cover them. They went down into the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O Lord, is glorious in power. Your right hand, O Lord, dashes the enemy to pieces. In the greatness of your excellency, you overthrow those who rise up against you. You send forth your wrath. It consumes them like stubble. With the blast of your nostrils, the waters were piled up. The floods stood upright as a heap. The deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, 'I will pursue. I will overtake. I will divide the spoil. My desire shall be satisfied upon them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.' You blew with your wind. The sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand. The earth swallowed them. You, in your loving kindness, have led the people that you have redeemed. You have guided them in your strength to your holy habitation. The peoples have heard. They tremble. Pangs have taken hold on the inhabitants of Philistia. Now the chiefs of Edom are dismayed. Trembling takes hold of the mighty men of Moab. All the inhabitants of Canaan are melted away. Terror and dread falls upon them. By the greatness of your arm they are as still as a stone--until your people pass over, O Lord, until the people pass over whom you have purchased. You shall bring them in, and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance, the place, O Lord, which you have made for yourself to dwell upon; the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The Lord shall reign forever and ever."

For the horses of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his charioteers into the sea, and the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea. Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dances. Miriam answered them, "Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously. Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea."

Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea, and they went out into the desert of Shur, and they went three days in the desert and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink from the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. The people murmured against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?" Then he cried to the Lord. The Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the waters, and the waters were made sweet. There he made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there he tested them, and he said, "If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and will do what is right in his eyes, and will pay attention to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you." They came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water, and seventy palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.

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