Click here to read Exodus 13:17-14:31

Today’s entire passage is centered on God’s glory. God repeats three times (Exodus 14:4, 17, 18) that the purpose of everything that is happening is so that God can “gain glory for [Himself]” through Pharaoh, his horsemen, and his chariots. And He does just that through the events leading up to the actual crossing of the Red Sea.

God first directs His people to travel to the south so they can avoid all of fighting that would take place travelling through the land of the Philistines along a heavily guarded Egyptian trade route. Then God has them back track a bit so that it looks to the Egyptians as though they are lost.  God’s glory is made known to all when the He protects His people from the most advanced, skilled, and confident army at the time.  Not only does God completely defeat the Egyptian horses and chariots that chased the Israelites, but He alone accomplishes it all.  The Israelites have to do nothing but move to where God leads them.  God protects them, guides them, miraculously parts the Red Sea, slows down the Egyptians, and then closes the sea over them.  The Israelites’ fear of death is quelled as they see these events unfold and they respond in the only appropriate way; they were filled with reverential awe (fear) and they placed their trust in Him and the person He appointed to lead them.

Through out this passage God’s presence is clear to the Israelites as He protects and leads them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  If they ever doubted that God wasn’t there, they only needed to look up as see Him.  God’s visible presence is an important part of their travels through the desert and what comes after. We’ll see a lot more of this in the passages ahead.

Names Places

God – God

Moses – baby drawn from water and saved

Pharaoh – ruler of Egypt


Egypt – where the sons of Jacob/Israel lived

Red Sea – the sea that God parted and Israel crossed




Pharaoh’s army of chariots and horsemen


Joseph – son of Jacob who promised God would return Israel to her promised land


Succoth – city where Israel received more Passover instructions and consecrated their firstborn

Philistine country – land God lead Israel south to avoid

Etham – camp at the edge of the desert

Pi Hahiroth – where Israel went when they headed back to make Pharaoh think they were lost

Migdol – camp on the opposite side of Pi Hahiroth as the Red Sea

Baal Zephon – on the opposite side of Pi Hahiroth

Yesterday’s stops are indicated with arrows. Click to Enlarge (From Logos Bible Software)

Interesting facts:

1) There is specific mention of the Israelites taking Joseph’s bones with them in accordance with what Joseph made his brothers promise in Genesis 50:24-25:

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

This is just another reminder that God does indeed keep His promises!

2) The exact location of the campsites mentioned today and the crossing of the Red Sea are the source of much discussion.  Part of the reason is because there are different views on the correct translation of the Hebrew for “Red Sea.”  Some have argued that it means “Reed Sea” and the name comes from an Egyptian root.  Others have argued that it means “Red Sea” and the name can be traced from a Hebrew root. Still others have been uncomfortable with such a supernatural miracle and have tried to explain the events in a way that doesn’t require God’s supernatural power to accomplish all of this.

To make the discussion even more difficult, there is no record in Egyptian history of these events.  That doesn’t mean that these things didn’t happen, because the Pharaoh’s and historians of Egypt made a habit of not recording any defeats and it wouldn’t be inconceivable for them to remove any hints of such a humiliating defeat to Israel.

All of that to say that there are many arguments for the exact locations and they all offer supporting evidence.  But what is important here is that the events of this passage happened just as they are written and God did the miracles described.

3) In this passage we see a theme that will continue on throughout Israel’s journey to the Promised Land—the people complaining against God and Moses.  They will complain against God and Moses 9 more times and it will result in God’s judgment against them at Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 14:21-23).