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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Ex. 13:17–15:27]

Now God himself conducted the Israelites in their march, going before them by day in a pillar of cloud, by night in a pillar of fire. They at length reached the shores of the Red Sea, where they pitched their tents. Suddenly Pharao repented of having allowed the Israelites to go, and pursued them with chariots (Fig. 23, p. 146) and horsemen, and with his whole army (Fig. 24, p. 147); and he overtook them at nightfall near the Red Sea.

When the Israelites saw the Egyptians behind them, they were seized with fear, and cried to the Lord for help. Moses,

however, calmed and encouraged them, saying: “The Lord will fight for you.” At the same time the pillar of cloud, which had gone before them, went back and stood between their camp and the army of the Egyptians. Moreover the cloud gave light to the Israelites, but it made the night darker for the Egyptians, so that they could not see nor stir for the rest of the night. Then Moses, commanded by God, stretched his rod over the sea, and inmediately the waters divided and stood like a wall on either side, leaving a dry road between for the children of Israel to pass over. And the children of Israel went in through the midst of the sea.

 

Fig. 23. Egyptian King (Ramses II.) on hit chariot, taking a hostile fortress. Painted sculpture from Abydos.

At the dawn of day the Egyptians pursued them into the midst of the sea. But suddenly a great tempest arose, and overthrew their chariots and horsemen. And the Lord said to Moses: “Stretch thy hand over the sea”; and behold! the divided waters came together again, swallowing up Pharao and his whole army, so that not one of the Egyptians escaped.

Thus did the Lord, by a splendid miracle, deliver the Hebrews that day from the Egyptians. And the people feared the Lord, and believed in Him, and in Moses, His servant. “And the children of Israel came into Elim, where there were twelve fountains of waters and seventy palm-trees, and they encamped by the waters.”

The almighty Power of God divided the waters, held them up as walls on either side, made the burning wind to blow, and the lightning to strike the Egyptians.

God’s Goodness to His people is shown throughout the whole story. First, He led His people by a visible means, the pillar of cloud. Then He worked a great miracle, and saved them, for good and all, from the power of the Egyptians. By the destruction of their army the Egyptians were so weakened, and the damage done to them so lasting, that they were unable to molest the Israelites, the whole time they were wandering in the wilderness.

The retributive Justice of God. Pharao’s terrible end was a punishment for his impenitence and obstinate resistance to God’s grace. His people were punished also, and perished with him. The Egyptians drowned the Israelite babes in the Nile, and, in punishment for this, their sons were drowned in the sea. How terrible is God’s justice!

 

Fig. 24. Egyptian soldiers. Old Egyptian painting.

Confidence in God. While the Israelites, filled with fear, called upon the Lord for help, Moses remained perfectly calm. Full of confidence in God, he said to the people: “Fear nothing! The Lord will fight for you”: and his confidence was justified and rewarded; for God, to whom nature is subject, sent thunder and lightning, wind and rain to their aid. God can help us, when all other help is useless. The greater the need, the nearer is God!

Apparent conversion. Pharao was not really converted. The death of the first-born so frightened and staggered him that he let the Israelites go. But when the first terror was over he returned to his former obduracy, and again defied God. He wished to overcome God’s will, and bring back His people by force of arms. But at last the measure of his sins was full. He had despised the warnings of God’s mercy, so now God’s justice overtook him, and he died a miserable death. He was like those sinners who in times of tribulation, such as sickness or misfortune, promise to amend their ways, but who, when the trial is removed, do not keep their promise, and fall back into their old habits and forgetfulness of God.—Such sinners will die an impenitent death, as Pharao did, and be lost eternally. “Hell is paved with good intentions.”

The object of miracles. The people feared God, because they saw His power and justice with their own eyes; and they believed that Moses was sent by God, because it was through him that His great miracles were wrought.

The Passage of the Red Sea, a type of Baptism. The passage of the Red Sea was (according to 1 Cor. 10:1) a type of holy Baptism. As the Israelites had to pass through the Red Sea in order to escape from the slavery of Pharao, and reach the Promised Land, so must we pass through the waters of Baptism in order to be freed from the slavery of sin and Satan, and finally attain to heaven.

Faith, our guide. We also want a guide on our way through life. Who will be our guide? God leads us through the wilderness of this life to the promised land of heaven, by His holy faith, which Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, taught and deposited in His Church. If we follow the light of faith, that is, if we live up to our faith, we are sure to arrive at our heavenly home. “I am the Light of the world: he that followeth Me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

APPLICATION. Moses and the children of Israel sang a canticle of praise in thanksgiving for their wonderful deliverance. It began by the words: “Let us sing to the Lord for He is gloriously magnified: the horse and the rider He hath thrown into the sea.”

You too should thank the Lord God frequently for your creation, preservation and redemption. Thank Him daily for your Baptism, and for the holy Catholic faith.








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