“He sent Moses His servant and Aaron whom he had chosen. They performed His signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham . . . He also brought them out with silver and gold . . . Egypt was glad they departed, for fear of them had fallen upon them” (Psalm 105:26-28).
“He rebuked the Red Sea also and it dried up; so He led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, and redeemed them out of the hand of the enemy. The waters covered their enemies; there was not one of them left” (Psalm 106:9-11).
“He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand like a heap. In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.” (Psalms 78:13-14)
“By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned” (Hebrews 11:29).
“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea . . . But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness . . . Therefore let him who think he stands take heed lest he falls” (1 Corinthians 10:1-12).
The Exodus fascinates Bible Students. Charlton Heston’s 1956 movie, – The Ten Commandments; was a big hit. Wikipedia says “it is . . . one of the most financially successful films ever made, grossing $122.7 Million at the box office during its initial release; it was the most successful film in 1956, and the second highest grossing film of the decade . . . it is the seventh most successful film of all time when the box office gross is adjusted for inflation.”
There are common questions asked about the Exodus. This writing will provide concise answers to some of these common questions.
1. Do the ten plagues have special significance?
Many believe that the ten plagues were attacks on the various gods of Egypt. Consider:
(1) Waters to blood (Exodus 7:14-25). Rex Turner, Sr., “This plague was a wonderful stroke at the idolatry of the Egyptians for both the Pharaoh and the people worshipped the river Nile” (The Book of Exodus, 1987 Memphis School of Preaching Lectureship, p.94). Hapi was the god of the Nile. Jehovah was showing His power over their “god.” (2) Frogs (Exodus 8:1-5). Rex Turner Sr., “This was also a wonderful stroke at the idolatry of the Egyptians. These people worshipped the amphibian animals, and they displayed Heka, a frog headed goddess . . .” (ibid, p.96) This goddess was considered the goddess of birth. Jehovah was showing His power over this “goddess.” (3) Lice (Exodus 8:16-19). The term is uncertain. Some think it refers not to “lice” but “gnats,” or “ticks.” Rex Turner Sr., suggest that this was an attack on the Egyptian priesthood. They were obsessed with cleanliness and would not carry out their duties if such pests were upon them (ibid, p.97).(4) Flies (Exodus 8:20-31). One writer said, “Judgment was upon either Re or Uatchit who were both depicted as flies” (gotquestion.org). Rex Turner Sr., “This plague was another wonderful stroke at the idolatry of Egyptians, for those Egyptians feared and worshiped those flies” (ibid, p 98). (5) Disease on the livestock (Exodus 9:1-7). Rex Turners Sr., “This plague was another wonderful stroke at the idolatry of Egyptians, for they worshipped domesticated animals” (ibid, p 100). James Coffman commented, ‘Like all the plaques, this one also struck at the pagan deities of Egypt. This one was Ptah (Apis) the god of Memphis, represented as a bull, as well as other gods represented by goat, the ram, the cow and other animals” (commentary on Exodus). (6) Boils (Exodus 9:8-11). Rex Turner Sr., “This plague was another wonderful stroke at the idolatry of Egyptians. The Egyptians worshipped the idol Typhon, This idol consisted of a grate wherein the Egyptians burned (Sacrifices) . . . then Egyptians were under the wild conception that if a particle of their ashes fell upon a person, that person would be safe from body defilement” (ibid, p. 101). There were several gods of health including Sekhmet, Sunu, and Isis. This could also be an attack upon them. (7) Hail (Exodus 9:13-35) Rex Turner Sr., ‘The Egyptians worshipped the fig tree, the peach tree, the pomegranate tree, wheat, barely sorghum and the vine” (ibid, p.102). (8) Locust (Exodus 10:1-20). Rex Turner Sr., “These Egyptians worshipped the verdue of the land; that is, they worshipped all nature’s beautiful growth which came in addition to the food growth of the several food-producing vegetables” (ibid, p. 103). (9) Darkness (Exodus 10:21-29). Rex Turner Sr., This period of thick darkness was another wonderful stroke at the idolatries worship of the Egyptians, for they regularly worshipped the sun, the moon, and the stars.” (ibid, p. 104-105). “Darkness was aimed at the god, Re, who was symbolized by Pharaoh himself” (gotquestions.org) (10) Death of first-born (Exodus 11:1-12; 30). This was “judgment on Isis, the protector of children” (gotquestions.org).
Another theory is that this ties to creation. Ten times in Genesis 1, it says, “God said” (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28, 29). There are ten plagues. The plagues affected all of creation: water (Genesis 1:9); water animals (Genesis 1:20); land animals (Genesis 1:24); man (Genesis 1:26); plants (Genesis 1:11; 29) and the firmament (Genesis 1:11, 29); visible light (Genesis 1:3; 14); man’s offspring (Genesis 1:28). Thus, God is over all. This is an interesting theory, but Exodus does not follow the creation order which would make such easier to see if this is the point.
2. Could the waters have been parted by natural means alone?
Many, who have difficulty with believing in the super-natural, sometimes look for natural explanations for biblical events. This is an attempt to remove God from the true history of these events. This is the common approach by A & E, Discovery and The History Channel. Be careful when listening to such television programming about Biblical events.
Some have postulated that the dry land appearing and the water returning upon the Egyptians can be explained by a tsunami. However, this does not seem to fit the Biblical record. The sea was “a wall to them on their right side and on their left” (Exodus 14:22). “He divided the sea . . . He made the water stand up like a heap” (Psalm 78:13). This is not water ebbing and flowing in one direction. This I the parting of waters, and waters standing like walls on each side of them.
Some have postulated that the answer is in “wind setdown” wind setdown is the opposite effect as storm surge. The wind blows the water back. Trevor Major explains, “Doran Nof and Nathan Paldor suggests that the wind in Exodus 14:21 pushed the waters in the Gulf of Suez toward the main body of the Red Sea, thus exposing the sea bed . . . . The authors calculate that a northwesterly wind blowing at around 45 miles per hour for 10 hours could lower the sea level 8 feet, and cause the shore to receded ¾ of a mile. Recognizing that the Bible specifies water on both sides of the fleeing Israelites (Exodus 14:22; 29), Nof and Paldor further purpose that a ridge existed across the gulf in biblical times” (AP Article: Parting The Red Sea: Scripture Or Speculation, Nov 1992).
Trevor Major points out several problems with this theory:
(a) the wind in Exodus 14:21 was from the east and not the northwest, as this model would seem to require. (b) There is no evidence of an east-west ridge beneath the Gulf of Suez, either now or then. (c) The Bible does not just refer to water on both sides, but to a “wall of water on the left and right” (Exodus 14:22; 29). Wind setdown moves water in one direction. (d) However this was accomplished, the text credits the LORD and not nature randomly acting. Though, it does seem that God used wind in some way in this crossing of the sea. He may have used wind to part the sea, or He may have used wind to dry the ground.
3. Did they cross the Red Sea or the reed sea?
Some have suggested that they did not cross the Red Sea, but the reed sea, a shallow marsh farther north. Why the suggestion? The Hebrew term is yam-sup. The first word, yam, means “sea.” However, the second word, sup, is not the Hebrew word for “red.” Some suggest that sup may be a corruption of an Egyptian word. Trevor Major says, “The favorite candidate . . . is the Egyptian phase Pa-tjuf, meaning “papyrus marshes.” The idea is that the Hebrews borrowed sup from the Egyptian to speak about papyrus reeds” (ibid).
There are several difficulties with this view: (a) the location of the yam-sup does not fit a papyrus marsh near or on the Nile Delta (Numbers 33:10-11). The location spoken of is thought to be on the Sinai Peninsula. (b) Solomon located his fleet of ships on the yum sup (1 Kings 9:26). “This ancient port was at the northern end of the Gulf of Aquba” (ibid). (c) The New Testament writers used the Greek words meaning “Red Sea” (Acts 7:36; Hebrews 11:29). (d) The water is refered to as “the great deep” (Isaiah 51:6). Keep in mind that the water they crossed was deep enough to destroy the Egyptians. “The sea returned to its full depth . . . so the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea . . . the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and the all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained . . . Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore” (Exodus 14:27-31).
So how should sup be translated? It may be related to the Hebrew sop meaning “end” (ibid). The Red Sea connects to the Indian Ocean and things south. It was the end waters to the south for these people.
Admittedly the exact location of the crossing is not certain. Some dispute even which arm of the Red Sea was crossed. However, it appears to this writer that it was the Red Sea which was crossed.
4. Did the Israelites steal from the Egyptians?
This question is asked due to the reading found in the King James Version. It says that the Israelites “borrowed” of the Egyptians jewels of silvers, and jewels of gold, and raiment (Exodus 12:35; 3:22; 11:2). Moreover, it says that the Egyptians “lent” such to them (Exodus 12:36). Furthermore, they left Egypt with silver and gold (Psalm 105:37). Yet, the Bible says “The wicked borrows and does not repay” (Psalm 37:21).
The New King James used the words “asked” and “granted.” The original word means “ask” (Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Lexicon). It can mean “ask… for temporary use i.e. borrow… it is however, not clear that there is any pretext of mere temporary use” (ibid). The term can also mean “let one ask [successfully], give or lend on request” (ibid). Adam Clark, “The original word shaal signifies simply to ask, request, demand, require, inquire, etc., but it does not signify to borrow in the proper sense of that word, though in a very few places of scripture it is thus used” (Commenting on Exodus 3:22).
This was slavery reparations. God had promised such (Genesis 15:14). The asking was instructed by God (Exodus 3:21-22; 11:1-2; 12:35-36).
5. How did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?
While the Bible says that God, in some way, hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21; 9:12; 10:1; 10:20; 10:27; 11:10; 14:8), it also says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15; 8:32; 9:34; 9:35). Therefore, it must be that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart indirectly and not directly, mediately and not immediately.
Consider: (1) Pharaoh’s heart was hardened after his magicians were able to simulate the signs done through Moses and Aaron (Exodus 7:10-13; 7:19-23). (2) Pharaoh’s heart was hardened after God gave him “relief” from plagues (Exodus 8:12-15; 8:29-32; 9:34-35). While the plagues were in progress, Pharaoh’s heart was softened (Exodus 8:8; 8:24-25; 9:27-28; 10:4-8). He even acknowledged personal sin (Exodus 9:27; 10:16-17). However, when relief was granted, he hardened his heart. (3) Pharaoh’s heart was hardened when learning of Israelite exemption (Exodus 9:6-7). Guy Woods said, “The first three plagues… appear to have fallen upon all the territory of Egypt, and thus to have included the enslaved Israelites. From the fourth… to the tenth… the land of Goshen where the Israelites had their houses were granted immunity (or at least provision for immunity cf. Exodus 12:21-23, B.H.) from the affliction which fell upon the people of Egypt (Questions and Answers, Vol. 2, p. 162). Israelites were exempted from at least some of the plagues (Exodus 8:21-23; 9:3-6; 9:25-26, 29; 10:21-23; 11:5-7). Some non-Israelites may have been wise enough and God-fearing enough to prepare for some of the plagues (Exodus 9:18-20; 12:38).
Man today can be hardened the same ways. (1) Some allow false teachers to deceive them into rejecting God’s words (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; 1 Kings 22:5-25, 28). God will let man hear and see things to justify in his mind his actions, if he does not really want to follow God’s word. (2) Some turn to God when times are bad, but forget Him when things get better. (3) Some allow envy to lead to bitterness and hardness of heart.
6. Did Pharaoh’s magicians work real miracles?
Consider the following: (1) The used “enchantments” (NKJV) or “secret arts” (ESV) according to Exodus 7:11. Rex Turner Sr. remarked, “Magicians had some knowledge of the laws of nature which were not accessible to people in general” (Daniel, p. 32). Perhaps, this is so. (2) Magicians and wisemen could not do everything. They did not possess all knowledge (Genesis 41:8; Daniel 2:1-3, 17). They did not possess all power (Exodus 8:16-19). (3) When the magicians of Egypt had prior knowledge of what they were to duplicate, they were able to do so (Exodus 7:17-18; 8:1-7). Even in the case of the rod becoming a serpent Pharaoh’s magicians had same advanced warning. Darrell Conley has written, “Pharaoh sent for his magicians… you can be sure they knew what was required of them before they got there” (The Gospel Versus Occultism, p. 19). (4) When they had no advanced warning, things were different (Exodus 8:16-19). Darrell Conley has written, “It is both interesting and significant to note that Moses and Aaron announced beforehand that God would turn water to blood, and bring a plague of frogs upon Egypt. Being forewarned, the magicians of Egypt were able to counterfeit these miracles. But when, without prior announcement, Aaron smote the dust of the ground and produced lice, the magicians, caught off-guard were unable to imitate it. It is also interesting to notice that in explaining and excusing their failure they told Pharaoh, regarding this production of lice by Aaron, ‘this is the finger of God'” (ibid). (5) Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron to entreat the LORD to take away the frogs (Exodus 8:8-15). Why did he not call for his magicians to do so? Moreover, Have you noticed that they simulated water to blood, but they did not remove the blood and purify the water? Have you noticed that they added frogs, instead of removing them? Did they not have this power? Wouldn’t it be more useful to undo a plague, than to reproduce it? (6) There are fake miracles. (a) Simon evidently performed such (Acts 8:9-13). (b) Elymas did so (Acts 13:8-12). (c) Consider the words of 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10. Leon Crouch commented, “the word ‘lying’ evidently describes all three nouns: powers, signs, wonders” (1 & 2 Thessalonians, p. 126). (7) Clever magicians can do amazing things. Such does not mean that supernatural power is involved. I see no reason to conclude that supernatural power was involved in what the Egyptian magicians did.
Adam Clark commented “If it be asked why God did suffer the Egyptian magicians… it was necessary that these magicians should be suffered to exert the utmost of their power against Moses, in order to clear him from the imputation of magic or sorcery; for as the nation of such an extraordinary art was very rife not only among the Egyptians, but all other nations, if they had not entered into this strenuous competition with him, and had been at length overcome by him, both the Hebrews and the Egyptians would have been apter to have attributed all his miracles to his skill in magic, than to the Divine power” (Commenting on Exodus 7:22).
7. How long were the children of Israel in Egypt?
Many people believe that they were in Egypt 430 years (Genesis 15:13; Exodus 12:40-41; Acts 7:6). However, it seems to me that the 430 years refers to the entire sojourn in Canaan and Egypt (Galatians 3:16-17).
Josephus indicates that they were in Egypt 215 years (Ant. 2:318). It was 215 years from Haran to Egypt (Genesis 12:4 cf. 21:5 cf. 25:26 cf. 47:8-9). If 430 years included the entire sojourn, then they would be in Egypt 215 years. It is much easier to make 215 years fit with the genealogical record. Kohath was the grandfather of Moses (1 Chronicles 6:1-3; 23:12-13). He seems to have been born before the Israelites went into Egypt (Genesis 46:11). He lived 133 years (Exodus 6:18). Moses father Amram lived 137 years (Exodus 6:20). Moses was 80 years old at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 7:7). How can one get to 430 years?
Some might wonder if they could get to an estimated population of 2 million people at the time of the Exodus, if they had only 215 years in Egypt [Remember that we know that there were 603,550 males numbered at Sinai (Numbers 1:45-46)]. Henry Morris suggested that such was indeed possible. He wrote, “with an initial number of five people (Jacob and his four wives), they had already became a clan of, say one hundred people (that is, the seventy mentioned in Genesis 46:27 plus the wives of the sons and grandsons who accompanied them into Egypt). This growth had taken place in approximately fifty years, representing on average increase of over 6 percent each year. With a population of one hundred when they entered Egypt and over two million when they left… this large growth rate of 5 percent annually, for example, would increase the population from one hundred to two million in only 215 years” (The Genesis Record, p. 642).