Exodus 14:1-31 . GOD INSTRUCTS THE ISRAELITES AS TO THEIR JOURNEY.
19. the angel of God--that is, the pillar of cloud The slow and silent movement of that majestic column through the air, and occupying a position behind them must have excited the astonishment of the Israelites ( Isaiah 58:8 ). It was an effectual barrier between them and their pursuers, not only protecting them, but concealing their movements. Thus, the same cloud produced light (a symbol of favor) to the people of God, and darkness (a symbol of wrath) to their enemies (compare 2 Corinthians 2:16 ).
21. Moses stretched out his hand, &c.--The waving of the rod was of great importance on this occasion to give public attestation in the presence of the assembled Israelites, both to the character of Moses and the divine mission with which he was charged.
the Lord caused . . . a strong east wind all that night--Suppose a mere ebb tide caused by the wind, raising the water to a great height on one side, still as there was not only "dry land," but, according to the tenor of the sacred narrative, a wall on the right hand and on the left ( Exodus 14:22 ), it would be impossible on the hypothesis of such a natural cause to rear the wall on the other. The idea of divine interposition, therefore, is imperative; and, assuming the passage to have been made at Mount Attakah, or at the mouth of Wady Tawarik, an east wind would cut the sea in that line. The Hebrew word kedem, however, rendered in our translation, "east," means, in its primary signification, previous; so that this verse might, perhaps, be rendered, "the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong previous wind all that night"; a rendering which would remove the difficulty of supposing the host of Israel marched over on the sand, in the teeth of a rushing column of wind, strong enough to heap up the waters as a wall on each side of a dry path, and give the intelligible narrative of divine interference.
22. the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea, &c.--It is highly probable that Moses, along with Aaron, first planted his footsteps on the untrodden sand, encouraging the people to follow him without fear of the treacherous walls; and when we take into account the multitudes that followed him, the immense number who through infancy and old age were incapable of hastening their movements, together with all the appurtenances of the camp, the strong and steadfast character of the leaders' faith was strikingly manifested ( Joshua 2:10 , 4:23 , Psalms 66:6 , 74:13 , 106:9 , 136:13 , Isaiah 63:11-13 , 1 Corinthians 10:1 , Hebrews 11:29 ).
23. the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea--From the darkness caused by the intercepting cloud, it is probable that they were not aware on what ground they were driving: they heard the sound of the fugitives before them, and they pushed on with the fury of the avengers of blood, without dreaming that they were on the bared bed of the sea.
24, 25. Lord looked . . . through . . . the cloud, and troubled them--We suppose the fact to have been that the side of the pillar of cloud towards the Egyptians was suddenly, and for a few moments, illuminated with a blaze of light, which, coming as it were in a refulgent flash upon the dense darkness which had preceded, so frightened the horses of the pursuers that they rushed confusedly together and became unmanageable. "Let us flee," was the cry that resounded through the broken and trembling ranks, but it was too late; all attempts at flight were vain [BUSH].
27. Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, &c.--What circumstances could more clearly demonstrate the miraculous character of this transaction than that at the waving of Moses' rod, the dividing waters left the channel dry, and on his making the same motion on the opposite side, they returned, commingling with instantaneous fury? Is such the character of any ebb tide?
28. there remained not so much as one of them--It is surprising that, with such a declaration, some intelligent writers can maintain there is no evidence of the destruction of Pharaoh himself ( Psalms 106:11 ).
30. Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore, &c.--The tide threw them up and left multitudes of corpses on the beach; a result that brought greater infamy on the Egyptians, but that tended, on the other hand, to enhance the triumph of the Israelites, and doubtless enriched them with arms, which they had not before. The locality of this famous passage has not yet been, and probably never will be, satisfactorily fixed. Some place it in the immediate neighborhood of Suez; where, they say, the part of the sea is most likely to be affected by "a strong east wind" ( Exodus 14:21 ); where the road from the defile of Migdol (now Muktala) leads directly to this point; and where the sea, not above two miles broad, could be crossed in a short time. The vast majority, however, who have examined the spot, reject this opinion, and fix the passage, as does local tradition, about ten or twelve miles further down the shore at Wady Tawarik. "The time of the miracle was the whole night, at the season of the year, too, when the night would be about its average length. The sea at that point extends from six and a half to eight miles in breadth. There was thus ample time for the passage of the Israelites from any part of the valley, especially considering their excitement and animation by the gracious and wonderful interposition of Providence in their behalf" [WILSON].