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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Exodus 14

Verses 1-31

Exodus 14:13

In explaining ( Apologia, pp. 262 f.) why he had not come forward in defence of Catholic truth against the scientific heresies of the age, Newman writes: 'It seemed to be specially a time in which Christians had a call to be patient, in which they had no other way of helping those who were alarmed than that of exhorting them to have a little faith and fortitude and to "beware," as the poet says, "of dangerous steps."' In this policy he also felt the Papal authorities would support him. 'And I interpret recent acts of that authority as fulfilling my expectation; I interpret them as tying the hands of a controversialist, such as I should be, and teaching us that true wisdom which Moses inculcated on his people, when the Egyptians were pursuing them, "fear ye not, stand still; the Lord shall fight for you, ye shall hold your peace".'

Faith, whether we receive it in the sense of adherence to resolution, obedience to law, regardfulness of promise, in which from all time it has been the test, as the shield, of the true being and life of man; or in the still higher sense of trustfulness in the presence, kindness, and word of God, in which form it has been exhibited under the Christian dispensation. For, whether in one or other form whether the faithfulness of men whose path is chosen and portion fixed, in the following and receiving of that portion, as in the Thermopylæ camp; or the happier faithfulness of children in the good giving of their Father, and of subjects in the conduct of their king, as in the 'Stand still and see the salvation of God' of the Red Sea shore, there is rest and peacefulness, the 'standing still' in both, the quietness of action determined, of spirit unalarmed, of expectation unimpatient.

Ruskin, Modern Painters (vol. 11.).

References. XIV. 13. H. H. Snell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 395. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 541.

Exodus 14:15

The Elizabethan seamen, says Froude in his essay on 'England's Forgotten Worthies,' in all seas and spheres 'are the same indomitable Godfearing men whose life was one great liturgy. "The ice was strong, but God was stronger," says one of Frobisher's men, after grinding a night and a day among the icebergs, not waiting for God to come down and split the ice for them, but toiling through the long hours himself and the rest fending all the vessel with poles and planks, with death glaring at them out of the rocks.'

Dr. W. C. Smith quoted this text at the Jubilee Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland in 1893. He said: 'When Moses first appeared before Pharaoh, all he asked was that the people might be allowed to go a three days' journey into the desert that they might offer to the Lord those sacrifices which it was not lawful to offer in Egypt, where bulls and goats were not sacrifices but deities. There was no sort of deception in that request. Moses, you may be very certain, honestly meant to return as soon as the religious rites had been performed. But when Israel had left Goshen the very first word that God said to his servant was "Speak to the children of Israel that they go forward". Nulla vestigia retrorsum . Their way lay onward and they were to realize the great history and the noble destiny to which they had been appointed.'

References. XIV. 15. R. Nicholls, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 138. F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 1. J. H. Devonport, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 253. W. Ross Taylor, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 168. H. H. Snell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 395. Bishop Creighton, University and other Sermons, p. 160. J. Vaughan, Sermons Preached in Christ Church, Brighton, (7th Series), p. 15. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x. No. 548; ibid. vol. xlix. No. 2851.

Exodus 14:16

When Moses held the rod over the Red Sea, he was the sign of man holding up the serpent in triumph to the view of the creation, and in right of his victory exercising dominion, long lost but now recovered. That is still a prophecy.... The power by which this is now carrying forward is the spirit of Christ in man's heart. This is the true preparation for the cleansing of the leprosy and the binding of Satan; and the signs are prophetic pictures to animate hope.

Thomas Erskine.

Perhaps it is not improbable that the grand moral improvements of a future age may be accomplished in a manner that shall leave nothing to man but humility and grateful adoration. His pride so obstinately ascribes to himself whatever good is effected on the globe, that perhaps the Deity will evince his own interposition by events as evidently independent of the right of man as the rising of the sun. It may be that some of them may take place in a manner but little connected even with human operation. Or if the activity of men shall be employed as the means of producing all of them, there will probably be as palpable a disproportion between the instrument and the events, as there was between the rod of Moses and the amazing phenomena which followed when it was stretched forth. No Israelite was foolish enough to ascribe to the rod the power that divided the sea; nor will the witnesses of the moral wonders to come attribute them to man.

John Foster, on the Application of the Epithet Romantic, v.

References. XIV. 16. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 320. XIV. 19. N. M. Wright, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 57. XIV. 19, 20. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1793. XIV. 19-31. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Exodus, etc., p. 52. XIV. 20. E. E. Cleal, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv. 1903, p. 425.

Exodus 14:22

The Israelites, marching up to the edge of the Red Sea till the waves parted before their feet, step by step, are often taken as an illustration of what our faith should do advance to the brink of possibility, and then the seemingly impossible may be found to open.

Dr. John Ker, Thoughts for Heart and Life, p. 101.

Exodus 14:24

Compare the dialogue between Helstone and Moore in the third chapter of Shirley, where in answer to the latter's cynical remark that 'God often defends the powerful,' Helstone cries out: 'What! I suppose the handful of Israelites standing dry-shod on the Asiatic side of the Red Sea, was more powerful than the host of the Egyptians drawn up on the African side? Were they more numerous? Were they better appointed? Were they more mighty, in a word eh? Don't speak, or you'll tell a lie, Moore; you know you will. They were a poor overwrought band of bondsmen. Tyrants had oppressed them through four hundred years; a feeble mixture of women and children diluted their thin ranks; their masters, who roared to follow them through the divided flood, were a set of pampered Ethiops, about as strong and brutal as the lions of Libya. They were armed, horsed, and charioted, the poor Hebrew wanderers were afoot; few of them, it is likely, had better weapons than their shepherds' crooks, or their masons' building-tools; their meek and mighty leader himself had only his rod. But bethink you, Robert Moore, right was with them; the God of Battles was on their side. Crime and the lost archangel generalled the ranks of Pharaoh, and which triumphed? We know that well: "The Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore"; yea, "the depths covered them, they sank to the bottom as a stone". The right hand of the Lord became glorious in power; the right hand of the Lord dashed in pieces the enemy!' 'You are all right; only you forget the true parallel: France is Israel, and Napoleon is Moses. Europe, with her old over-gorged empires and rotten dynasties, is corrupt Egypt; gallant France is the Twelve Tribes, and her fresh and vigorous Usurper the Shepherd of Horeb.' 'I scorn to answer you.'

Exodus 14:27

Napoleon, when at Suez, made an attempt to follow the supposed steps of Moses by passing the creek at this point; but it seems, according to the testimony of the people of Suez, that he and his horsemen managed the matter in a way more resembling the failure of the Egyptians than the success of the Israelites. According to the French account, Napoleon got out of the difficulty by that warrior-like presence of mind which served him so well when the fate of nations depended on the decision of a moment; he commanded his horsemen to disperse in all directions, in order to multiply the chances of finding shallow water, and was thus enabled to discover a line by which he and his people were extricated. The story told by the people of Suez is very different; they declare that Napoleon parted from his horse, got water-logged and nearly drowned, and was only fished out by the aid of the people on shore.

Kinglake, Eothen, chap. XXII.

Exodus 14:29

The sack of Jewry after Jewry was the sign of popular triumph during the Barons' War. With its close fell on the Jews the more terrible persecution of the law.... At last persecution could do no more, and on the eve of his struggle with Scotland, Edward, eager for popular favour, and himself swayed by the fanaticism of his subjects, ended the long agony of the Jews by their expulsion from the realm. Of the sixteen thousand who preferred exile to apostasy few reached the shores of France. Many were wrecked, others robbed and flung overboard. One shipmaster turned out a crew of wealthy merchants on to a sandbank, and bade them call a new Moses to save them from the sea. Green, Short History of English People, pp. 198-199.

References. XIV. 30. Phillips Brooks, The Mystery of Iniquity, p. 55. C. Brown, The Birth of a Nation, p. 130.

Exodus 14:31

Some believe the better for seeing Christ's sepulchre; and, when they have seen the Red Sea, doubt not of the miracle. Now contrarily, I bless myself and am thankful that I lived not in the days of miracles; that I never saw Christ nor His disciples. I would not have been one of those Israelites that passed the Red Sea; nor one of Christ's patients, on whom he wrought His wonders; then had my faith been thrust upon me; nor should I enjoy that greater blessing pronounced to all who believe and saw not.

Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (pt. i.).

References. XV. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2301. XV. 1, 2. Ibid. vol. xxxi. No. 1867. XV. 1-21. Ibid. vol. xliv. No. 2569.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 14". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/exodus-14.html. 1910.