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1.And the Lord spoke unto Moses. God, by closing up all the ways by which the Israelites might have escaped, now opens a course for His wonderful power, and by bringing them for one moment to despair, provided for the safety of His Church through a long period of time. This final act, then, marvelously illustrated the grace of God, so that the people, however ungrateful and disaffected they might be, should still acknowledge God as their deliverer; besides, its consequence was, that the forces of Egypt not only being broken, but the whole nation being destroyed, or, at least, the flower of it extinguished, it brought no further trouble upon the people until they were established in the land of Canaan. If they had freely and peacefully gone forth, with the king and the people of Egypt quiet, the former miracles would not have sufficiently availed to testify their redemption; but when, being everywhere shut in, they see nothing but death before them, whilst the sea suddenly and unexpectedly affords them a passage, and overwhelms their enemies pressing on them from behind, they are obliged to confess that they were not only saved from death but from the deepest abysses by the hand of God. But it appears that, when they were commanded by Moses to cast themselves, and, as it were, to ingulf themselves in the narrow passage, of which mention is made, they were astonished by the miracles, and like them that dream, since they obeyed without hesitation, although the very aspect of the place must have inspired them with horror. For, if they had apprehended danger, their readiness to obey would not have been so great, as we shall presently see. Wherefore it was the intention of Moses not so much to praise them, as the providence of God. For it is plain, that unless they had been amazed by the miracles, of which they had seen so many, they scarcely could have been induced willingly to throw themselves into. defiles from whence there was no retreat. From the word
3.For Pharaoh will say. God here explains to Hoses His design; although, in His engagements with Pharaoh, he had so often gained glorious victories, that the last act still remained to overwhelm him and his army in the sea. He says that Pharaoh, then, will be caught in riffs snare, so as to rush upon his destruction. For, if the people had come into the land of Canaan by a direct course, they could not have been so readily pursued; therefore God, for the sake, of magnifying His glory, set a bait to catch the tyrant, just as fish are hooked. The word here used
5.And it was told the king. Moses does not simply mean, that the king then first heard of the flight of the people, which had been anything but secret; but that the circumstances were reported to him, which stirred him up to make an attack upon them. When, then, he hears that the people fled in haste, he thinks that they may be retained by the slightest obstacle. Nor is he alone influenced by this foolish thought, but all his courtiers blame their own inertness for letting the people go. They inquire among themselves, Why they have let the children of Israel depart? as if they had not endeavored in every way to prevent their free exit — as if their pertinacity had not been ten times divinely overcome — as if God had not at length torn the people from them, in spite of their reluctance. But this is the stupidity of the wicked, that they only dread God’s present hand, and immediately forget all that they have seen. They were worn out by the fierce and dreadful punishments; but now, as if nothing had happened, they discuss why they had not resisted God even to the end, when he had compelled them to submit with extreme reluctance, after they had ten times found out that they struggled against Him in vain. But such is the pride by which the reprobate must be blinded, that they may be driven onwards to their own destruction, while they are persuaded that there is nothing difficult to them, and fight against. God.
6.And he made ready his chariot. Moses briefly describes the warlike preparation of Pharaoh, not only to magnify the greatness of God’s power in delivering the people, but also to show with what violent and obstinate audacity the wicked go forwards, when they give way to their depraved and criminal lusts. Just now the Egyptians were almost frightened to death, and cried out that all was over with them; scarcely has a day passed, when they collect a powerful army as if their forces were uninjured. If any object that 600 chariots, and even many more, although filled with armed men, were insufficient to conquer 600,000 men: I reply, that, since they knew that the battle would be with an unwarlike multitude, amongst which, too, women and children were mingled, they relied on this consideration, and hoped that they would have no difficulty in routing this enormous number, since it was both inexperienced and undisciplined. Nor would their hope have been disappointed, had not God been against them. But the event, proved how truly Solomon says,
“There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord,” (Proverbs 21:30;)
and how justly Isaiah defies the enemies of the Church:
“Associate yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak the word, and it shall not stand.” (Isaiah 8:9.)
For this presumption brings the wicked to naught; and, whilst they rush forward with unbridled violence, they conceive not that God has a secret bridle to restrain their lusts.
8.And the children of Israel went out. (153) Moses indirectly reproves their too great security, which had freed them altogether from care and fear; and whence even the desire of calling on God had grown cold in them, as security always produces drowsiness and an idle spirit. Hence it came to pass, that this great danger, which they had not expected. produced the greater fear. But, on the other hand, Moses exalts God’s grace, because he so opportunely and so critically came to the help of the wretched Israelites exulting in their foolish joy; for otherwise, being suddenly overtaken, they would have fallen at once into confusion at the first shout of the enemy. Thus are we admonished by this example, that, while we are safe under God’s protection, the dangers, which might happen, are to be apprehended, not that we may be anxious and alarmed, but that we may humbly repose under His wings, and not be uplifted with inconsiderate joy. In the next verse Moses briefly relates, how formidable a sight presented itself to the Israelites, when they saw themselves shut in on one part by the sea, ingulfed, as it were, on both sides by the jaws of the defile, and the army of Pharaoh at the same time pressing upon them. He expressly mentions the strength of this army, in order that the glory of the aid divinely afforded them might more fully appear from the opposition.
(153) Exierant. — Dathe.
10.And when Pharaoh drew nigh. Moses implies that the alarm was greater from its suddenness, because no messenger had preceded, so that a very short time indeed was given them for preparation. There was, then, just ground for fear even in the bravest hearts, unless there had been something very extraordinary about them. But they sinned doubly; because both the hope of divine assistance had abandoned their hearts together with the recollection of God’s mercies; and they advanced to such an extent of ingratitude as to revolt insolently against God and Moses. Although there is an appearance of two contrary facts being here reported, viz., that they cried out unto the Lord, and mutinied against His minister; yet we may easily gather that this cry neither arose from faith nor from serious and! well-ordered affections, but that it was extorted by a confused impulse; since the natural sense impels all men, in their adversity, promiscuously to offer their prayers to God, although they neither embrace His mercy nor rely on His power. Thus David, in Psalms 107:0, says that all the distressed have recourse to God when any trouble oppresses them; because God, by the leadings of nature and by secret instinct, draws them to Him in their danger, in order that the most careless and most profane may be rendered more inexcusable. Yet in this way do they not render due honor to God, although by the utterance of their mouths they ask for safety from Him. It is, then, little to be wondered at, that the Israelites being reduced to such sore anxiety should have offered prayers and vows accompanied with God’s name; especially since He had recently manifested Himself to them in so many miracles, and they always had in sight the cloud, or the pillar of fire. But their insane cries against Moses were plain proof that, as in amazement, they had thoughtlessly hastened to call upon the name of God. For the exposition (154) is unreasonable which some give, that certain of them piously prayed to God, whilst others of the multitude wickedly mutinied against Moses; because these two statements are made in conjunction, and cannot be referred to different persons.
(154) The interpretation only noticed to be set aside is found inS. M. — W.
11.Because there were no graves. This (155) is the more proper sense; for the double negative is put for a single one. It is a bitter and biting taunt; for, not contented with preferring the graves of Egypt to the death which they feared, they scoffingly inquire how he could have thought of bringing them into the wilderness, as if the land of Egypt was not large enough to bury them in. But God had openly and clearly proved Himself to be the leader of their departing; and, again, it was basely insensible of them to forget that they were not long since like dead men, and had been miraculously brought out of the grave. Their madness is wilder still, when they daringly call to remembrance the impious blasphemies which should have been a matter of shame and detestation to themselves. For how sad was their ingratitude in rejecting the proffered favor of deliverance, and in shutting the door against the advances of God, in order that they might rot in their misery! True, that God had pardoned this great depravity; but it was their part unceasingly to mourn, and to be as it were overwhelmed with shame, that their crime might be blotted out before God’s judgment-seat. But now, as if God and Moses were accountable to them, they boastfully and petulantly reproach them for not believing them, when they would have prudently prevented the evil. Hence are we taught how far men’s passions will carry them, when fear has extinguished their hopes, and they wait not patiently for God’s aid.
(155) This sentence is omitted in the French.
13.And Moses said unto the people. Although with his characteristic kindness Moses courteously exhorts them to be of good hope, yet it is not probable that he passed over in silence those wicked cries with which he saw that God was atrociously assailed. I conceive, then, that he discharged the duty of a faithful teacher by freely chastising their insolence, which was intolerable; and since he spoke under the inspiration of the preventing Spirit of God, there is no doubt but that God himself severely reproved their blasphemies, lest, by indulgence, they should grow worse. But Moses omits the reproof, and only shows that God’s loving-kindness went beyond the execrable impiety of the people, giving them consolation to assuage their grief and to calm their troubled hearts. Moreover, by bidding them not to fear, and “to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord,” he implies that, as long as fear has possession of our minds, they are blinded, and confounded in their stupidity so as not to receive the help of God. By the expression, “stand still,” he means “keep quiet;” as much as to say, that there was no occasion for any one to move a finger, because God alone would preserve them, though they were quiet and unmoved; and this he confirms in the next verse, where God promises to conquer for them whilst they hold their peace. But, in my opinion, it is not that he exhorts them to be quiet; but intimates that in God alone there would be strength enough to prevail, although they might be torpid like men entranced.: Now the Israelites, when, though preserved by God’s hand, they reject as much as possible His proffered grace, are an example to us how many repeated salvations are necessary for us, in order that God may bring us to perfect salvation; because, by our ingratitude, we nullify whatever He has given us, and thus should willfully perish, if God did not correct our apathy by the power of His Spirit.
15.And the Lord (156) said I have used the praeter-pluperfect tense for the sake of avoiding ambiguity; for the reason is here given why Moses so confidently reproved the hesitation of the people, and promised that they should be safe under the present help of God; viz., because he had already been assured by divine revelation that God was willing to aid His people, and had in readiness a new means for their preservation. For he could not have been the proclaimer and witness of their safety if he had not received the promise. Therefore he relieves his confidence from the imputation of rashness, since he advanced nothing which he had not already heard from the mouth of God himself. These words, “Wherefore criest thou unto me?” some interpreters extend to the whole people, whose representative Moses was; but this sense is too far-fetched, and I have recently observed, that the prayers of the people were by no means directed to God. I doubt not., therefore, that the holy man had prayed apart in the insurrection of the people. Nor is this pious duty disapproved of in the passage; but rather shows that he had not spent his labor in vain, nor poured forth his words into the air. The sense, then, is, “Weary not yourself by crying any more; the event will prove that you are heard. Lift up your rod, then, whereby you may divide the sea, so that the children of Israel may go dry shod through the midst of it.” This passage shows that they are guilty of rashness who promise anything either to themselves or others, as to particular blessings, without the special testimony of God.
(156) Had said. — Lat.
17.I will harden. God once more affirms, for the greater exaltation of His own power, that He will harden the Egyptians, so that, as if devoted to destruction, they may cast themselves into the midst of the sea; which they certainly would never have done, unless He had guided their hearts by his secret influence; because it could not have escaped them that a passage for the Israelites was opened by His special gift, from whence they might gather that the elements were at war with them. Therefore they would never have dared to enter the sea, which they saw to be armed against them, unless they had been blinded by God. Whence it appears how unworthy is the imagination of those who pretend that there was but a bare permission here, where God would make His power conspicuous. It would have been enough that after the Israelites had passed over to the opposite shore the sea should have returned to its place and prevented the Egyptians from following; but God was willing, by a double miracle, to consult for the security of His people for a long’ time to come. And this, indeed, came to pass; for the flower of the whole nation being destroyed, the Egyptians were unable to recruit their army; especially when the heir to the throne had already been slain, and the king himself was now taken away. On this account it is said, that the Egyptians should know that the God of Israel was the Lord; because in this last act they found that the power of rebellion was altogether taken from them.
19.And the angel of God. A sudden change which occurred to prevent a battle is here described; for the angel:, who used to go before the Israelites to show the way: turned to the other side, that he might be interposed between the two camps; and this, in two respects, because the pillar of fire shone upon the Israelites to dissipate the darkness of the night, whilst thick darkness held the Egyptians as it were in captivity, so that they were unable to proceed further. Thus did God both prevent them from advancing, and also held out a torch for His people all night to light them on their way. He, who has been called “Jehovah” hitherto, is now designated by Moses “the Angel;” not only because the angels who represent God often borrow His name, but because this Leader of the people was God’s only-begotten Son, who afterwards was manifested in the flesh, as I have shown upon the authority of Paul. (1 Corinthians 10:4.) It may be remarked, also, that he is said to have moved here and there, as He showed some token of His power and assistance. Most clearly, too, does it appear, that the glory of God, whilst it enlightens the faithful, overshadows the unbelievers, on the other hand, with darkness. No wonder, then, if now-a-days the brightness of the Gospel should blind the reprobate. But we should ask of God to make us able to behold His glory.
21.And Moses stretched out. We have already said that the passage was free and convenient for the Israelites by night, since the pillar of fire replenished their side with light: and certainly so great a multitude could not reach the opposite shore in an hour or two. The Israelites then passed over from evening even till dawn; and then the Egyptians having discovered that they were gone, hastened to follow that they might fall upon their rear. Now, though Moses uses no ornaments of language in celebrating this miracle, yet the bare recital ought to be sufficient; and, therefore, is more emphatic to awaken our admiration than any rhetorical coloring and magnificent eloquence. For who would desire sounding exclamations, in order to be ravished to the highest admiration of the divine power, when he is told simply and in a few words that the sea was divided by the rod of Moses; that space enough for the passage of the people was dry; that the mighty mass of waters stood like solid rocks on either side? Designedly, then, has he set the whole matter before our eyes bare of all verbal splendor; although it will both be celebrated soon after, in accordance with its dignity, in the Canticle, and is everywhere more splendidly magnified by the Prophets and in the Psalms. In this passage let us learn, just as if Moses were leading us to the actual circumstance, to fix our eyes on the prospect of God’s inestimable power, which cannot be sufficiently expressed by any number or force of words. But Moses is very careful not to arrogate more than enough for himself, so as to detract from the praise of God. He had been before commanded to divide the sea with his uplifted rod; he now changes the form of expression, viz., that the waters went back by the command of God. Thus, content with the character of a minister, he makes God alone, as was fit, the author of the miracle. But although it was competent for God to dispel the waters without any motion of the air, yet, that He might show that all nature was obedient to Him, and governed at His will, He was pleased to raise the strong east wind. Meanwhile it is to be remembered, that the sea could not be dried by arty wind, however strong, unless it had been effected by the secret power of the Spirit, beyond the ordinary operation of nature. On which point see my previous annotations on chap. 10:13 and 19.
24.And it came to pass, that, in the morning-watch. In the morning the angel began to look upon the Egyptians, not that they had escaped his sight before; but for the purpose of destroying them by sudden submersion, though he had seemed previously to forget them, when hidden by the cloud. (157) And first, He opened their eyes, that too late they might see whither their mad impetuosity had brought them; and also that they might perceive how they were contending not with man only, but with God; and that thus, being overwhelmed with sudden astonishment, they might not be able to escape to the shore in time; for they were on this account overtaken in the midst of the sea, because terror had thrown them into utter confusion, when they perceived that God was against them. They saw that there was no greater hope of safety than to retreat, because God fought for Israel; but being in complete disorder, they could make no way, and whilst they rather proved hindrances to each other, the sea ingulfed them all.
(157) La nuit. — Fr.
26.And the Lord said unto Moses. Moses here relates how the sea, in destroying the Egyptians, had no less obeyed God’s command than when it lately afforded a passage for His people, for it. was by the uplifting of the rod of Moses that the waters came again into their place, as they had been before gathered into heaps. The Egyptians now repented of their precipitate madness, and determined, as conquered by God’s power, to leave the children of Israel, and to return home; but God, who willed their destruction, shut up the way of escape at this very crisis. But, that we may know how evident a miracle was here, Moses now adds the circumstance of time, for he says that the morning then appeared, so that the broad daylight might show the whole transaction to the eyes of the spectators. The waters, indeed, were heaped up in the night; but the pillar of fire, which shone on the Egyptians, and pointed out their way, did not allow God’s blessing to be hidden from them. The case of the Egyptians was otherwise: therefore it behooved that they should perish by day, and that the sun itself should render their destruction visible. This also tends to prove God’s power, because, whilst they were endeavoring to fly, He openly urged them on, as if they were intentionally drowning themselves.
28.And the waters returned. In these two verses also Moses continues the same relation. It plainly appears from Josephus and Eusebius what silly tales Manetho (158) and others have invented about the Exodus of the people; for although Satan has attempted by their falsehoods to overshadow the truth of sacred history, so foolish and trifling are their accounts that they need not refutation. The time itself, which they indicate, sufficiently convicts them of ignorance. But God has admirably provided for our sakes, in choosing Moses His servant, who was the minister of their deliverance, to be also the witness and historian of it; and this, too, amongst those who had seen all with their own eyes, and who, in their peculiar frowardness, would never have suffered one, who was so severe a reprover of them, to make any false statements of fact. Since, then, his authority is sure and unquestionable, let us only observe what his method was, viz., briefly to relate in this place how there was not one left of Pharaoh’s mighty army; that the Israelites all to a man passed over in safety and dry-shod; that, by the rod of Moses, the nature of the waters was changed, so that they stood like solid walls; that by the same rod they were afterwards made liquid, so as suddenly to overwhelm the Egyptians. This enumeration plainly shows an extraordinary work of God to have been here, for as to the trifling of certain profane writers (159) about the ebb and flow of the Arabian Gulf, it falls to nothing of itself. From these things, therefore, he at last justly infers, that the Israelites had seen the powerful hand of God then and there exerted.
(158) Les ennemis de Dieu. — Fr.
(159) “Artapanus, an ancient heathen historian, informs us that this was what the more ignorant Menophites, who lived at a great distance, pretended, though he confesses that the more learned Heliopolitans, who lived much nearer, owned the destruction of the Egyptians and the deliverance of the Israelites to have been miraculous.” — Whiston’s Josephus, Notes on Jew. Ant., 2:16. “At an early period, historians (particularly in Egypt) hostile to the Jews, asserted that Moses, well acquainted with the tides of the Red Sea, took advantage of the ebb, and passed over his army, while the incautious Egyptians, attempting to follow, were surprised by the flood and perished. Yet, after every concession, it seems quite evident that, without one particular wind, the ebb-tide, even in the narrowest part of the channel, could not be kept back long enough to allow a number of people to cross in safety. We have thus the alternative of supposing that a man of the consummate prudence and sagacity, and the local knowledge attributed to Moses, altered, suspended, or at least did not hasten his march, and thus deliberately involved the people whom he had rescued at so much pains and risk, in the danger of being overtaken by the enemy, led back as slaves, or massacred, on the chance that an unusually strong wind would blow at a particular hour, for a given time, so as to keep back the flood, then die away, and allow the tide to return at the precise instant when the Egyptians were in the middle of the passage.” — Milman’s Hist. of the Jews, b. 2. Dr. Kitto says that, in those regions, the blowing of an easterly wind would be in itself a miracle.
31.And Israel saw. After he has said that the Israelites saw the dead bodies spread upon the seashore, he now adds that in this spectacle God’s hand, (160) i.e., His power, appeared, because there was no difficulty in distinguishing between God’s wrath and His fatherly love, in preserving so miraculously an unwarlike multitude, and in destroying in the depths of the sea an army formidable on every account. Moses, therefore, does not unreasonably conclude here that the Divine power was conspicuous in the deliverance of the people. He afterwards adds, that, not without their profit, did the Israelites see God’s hand; because they feared Him, and believed Him, and His servant Moses. “Fear” is here used for that reverence which kept the people in the way of duty, for they were not only affected by dread, but also attracted to devote themselves to God, whose goodness they had so sweetly and delightfully experienced. But although this pious feeling was not durable, at any rate with the greater number of them, it is still probable that it rooted itself in some few of them, because some seed ever remained, nor was the recollection of this blessing entirely destroyed. By the word “believed,” I think that the principal part of fear is marked, and I understand it to be added expositively, as if it were said, “that they reverenced God, and testified this by faithfully embracing His doctrine and obediently submitting themselves to Moses.” I understand it that they were all generally thus affected, because the recognition of God’s hand bowed them to obedience, that they should be more tractable and docile, and more inclined to follow God. But this ardor soon passed away from the greater number of them, as (hypocrites (161)) are wont to be only influenced by what is visible and present; although I hold to what I have just said, that, in some small number, the fear of God, which they had once conceived from a sense of His grace, still abode in rigor. Meanwhile, let us learn from this passage that God is never truly and duly worshipped without faith, because incredulity betrays gross contempt of Him; and although hypocrites boast of their heaping all kinds of honor upon God, still they inflict the greatest insult upon Him, by refusing to believe His revelations. But Moses, who had been chosen God’s minister for governing the people, is not unreasonably here united with Him, for although God’s majesty manifested itself by conspicuous signs, still Moses was the mediator, out of whose mouth God willed that His words should be heard, so that the holy man could not be despised without God’s own authority being rejected. A profitable doctrine is gathered from hence, that whenever God propounds His word to us by men, those who faithfully deliver His commands must be as much attended to as if He himself openly descended from heaven. This recommendation of the ministry ought to be more than sufficient to refute their folly, who set at naught the outward preaching of the word. Let us, then, hold fast this principle, that only those obey God who receive the prophets sent from Him, because it is not lawful to put asunder what He has joined together. Christ has more clearly expressed this in the words, —
“He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me.” (Matthew 10:40.)
But it is more than absurd, that the Pope, with his filthy clergy, should take this to himself, as if he was to be heard when he puts forward God’s name; for (to pass over many other reasons which I could mention) it will be, first of all, necessary that he should prove himself to be God’s servant, from whence I wish he was not so far removed. For here the obedience of the people is praised on no other grounds but because they “believed the Lord,” and, together with Him, “His servant Moses.”
(160) So in margin, A.V.
(161) This word, added in the Fr., seems necessary to complete the sense.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Exodus 14". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26