15. The Exodus – the Parting of the Red Sea

The Jews, after being freed from the clutches of slavery, were on their way to the ‘Promised Land’. The cruel Pharaoh, determined to enslave the Jews once again, was inching closer in hot pursuit. But there was no possibility of escape forwards either. What with the vast expanse of the Red sea in front of them! The Jews literally found themselves between the devil and the deep sea!

Some from this congregation of Jews were ready to take the Pharaoh’s forces head-on; some, apprehensive about victory in case of a conflict, were ready to drown themselves in the sea, preferring this option over having to return to the hellish torment of slavery. Then there were yet others, who were not ready to do any of these, were frightened, and so blamed Moses for landing them in this unwarranted situation.

His heart untouched by hate, Moses however, maintained his calm and pacified his brethren. More importantly, he requested them not to lose their faith in God and the Almighty God would certainly save them from this adversity. Should they keep firm faith in God, they would rid themselves of the fear of the Egyptians. Moreover, while he continued his dialogue, he kept praying to God from the bottom of his heart for mercy and for the protection of his Jewish brethren from the army of the Pharaoh.

Just then God began talking to Moses. Reassuring him, God ordered Moses to raise his staff in the direction of the sea and then to hold out his hands on either side.

And lo! A miracle happened! A strong wind rose and the sea became turbulent with giant waves. In a fraction of a second, the Red Sea that lay endlessly in front of the Jews parted and the stormy wind made the waves soar up to form a wall of sorts on either side, creating a passage right in the middle of the sea, describes the story.

The Parting of Red Sea
The Parting of the Red Sea

While the Hebrews were still spellbound and stunned by the miracle, God commanded Moses to lead them through the newly created passage to the other side of the sea.

As soon as Moses signalled to them, the Jews took to the created passage. Fearing the Pharaoh who was on their trail, the Jews, along with their belongings and flocks, scuffled across the sandy pass as fast as they could.

Though the Pharaoh and his army continued their rapid pursuit using chariots, yet their speed was their asset only on the plains and on flat city roads. The uneven and rocky forest land, narrow pathways and mountainous terrains posed a serious challenge to this fleet and slowed down its speed by a good deal. Hence though the Jews travelled by foot, they reached the opposite shore of the Red Sea much before the Egyptian army could.

It was just when the last of the Jewish groups began to walk on the passage created in the middle of the Red Sea that they happened to come within sight of the Pharaoh’s army. In the mean time, God Who had stood behind the Jewish brethren in the form of the Pillar of Clouds and had protected them by creating pitch darkness behind them, had once again shifted and stationed itself in the front. The darkness that had all along stood in the way of a clear view, now cleared and the Jews became visible to the Pharaoh’s army. They could now see the Jews fleeing using the corridor created with the division of the Red Sea. Pumped up with avid fervour, the Egyptian army stepped up their speed.

By the time the Pharaoh’s army reached the passage created in the middle of the Red Sea, the Hebrews had crossed over barring only the last few who were still trudging on slowly.

Consumed by the burning desire to enslave them again, the army of the Pharaoh now stepped on to this passage. They were closing in on the fleeing Jews. However, the wheels of their chariots were getting stuck in the wet sand while their horses were skidding. But undaunted, they continued their chase, with whatever speed possible.
….God’s plan had now entered its last phase.

The last of the Jewish groups crossed the Red Sea. Holding their breaths, they looked back and stared in fear at the Egyptian army that was fast closing in on them. And suddenly….

….suddenly, the giant waves that had gathered into a wall fell apart, crashed as if from stupor!

Even before the Pharaoh’s army could gather what was happening, massive waves enveloped them from all the sides. Within no time, the passage that was created for the Jews was swallowed by the sea. And with the passage, the sea swallowed also, the entire army of the Pharaoh including the chariots.

Pharaoh's Army Engulfed by the Red Sea
Pharaoh’s Army Engulfed by the Red Sea

God had finally saved the Jews from the Egyptians. Having witnessed the extraordinary power of God, the Jews were convinced that He and He alone was the mightiest, the One supreme God! They also recognized and accepted Moses as a prophet.

With the calamity warded off, the Jews celebrated and hailed God. That was when Moses spontaneously composed a song in praise of God (‘Song of the Sea’, ‘Song of Moses’), says the story. Moses, his sister Miriam and brother Aaron were given a chorus by all as they sang the song together. This was the first song sung in praise of the ‘One Almighty God’ by the Jews, now ‘a community’, one in every way – united and congruent. The song has found a place in the Bible and is regarded as the first of the songs included in it. The Jews were elated to join Moses as he sang ––

“I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.

“The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy.
“In the greatness of Your majesty You threw down those who opposed You.
You unleashed Your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.
By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils;
I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’
But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
Who among the Gods is like you, Lord?
Who is like you — majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
“You stretch out Your right hand, and the earth swallows Your enemies.
In Your unfailing love You will lead the people you have redeemed.
In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling.
The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,
the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away;
terror and dread will fall on them.
By the power of Your arm they will be as still as a stone — until Your people pass by, Lord, until the people You bought pass by.
You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance — the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, Your hands established.
“The Lord reigns forever and ever.”

(To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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