Shemot (Exodus): Beshalach > Ch 14

G-d tells Moses to encamp by the sea, so Pharaoh would consider them trapped

  • Speak to the children of Israel, and let them turn back and encamp in front of Pi hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; in front of Baal Zephon, you shall encamp opposite it, by the sea.

Pharaoh pursues the people with an army. Children of Israel fear being killed.

  • G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh took 600 select chariots and all chariots in Egypt, he chased the people and reached the camp.
  • Children of Israel say that Moses should not have taken them out of Egypt and that they would rather be slaves than die.

G-d splits the Red Sea and the children of Israel walk across

  • The angel of God, who had been going in front of the Israelite camp, appearing as a pillar of cloud moved behind the camp, between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. And there were the cloud and the darkness, and it illuminated the night, and one did not draw near the other all night long.
  • Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord led the sea with the strong east wind all night, and He made the sea into dry land and the waters split.
  • The children of Israel came into the midst of the sea on dry land, and the waters were to them as a wall from their right and from their left.

G-d destroys the Egyptian army

  • The Egyptians pursued with all Pharaoh‘s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen into the midst of the sea. In the morning G-d looked down over the Egyptian camp through a pillar of fire and cloud, and He threw the Egyptian camp into confusion. He removed the wheels of their chariots, and He led them with heaviness, and the Egyptians said, Let me run away from the Israelites because the Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians.
  • G-d said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, and let the water return upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen".
  • Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and toward morning the sea returned to its strength, as the Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and G-d stirred the Egyptians into the sea. And the waters returned and covered the entire force of Pharaoh coming after them into the sea; not even one of them survived.
  • But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the water was to them like a wall from their right and from their left.
  • On that day the Lord saved Israel from the hand[s] of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dying on the seashore. And Israel saw the great hand, which the Lord had used upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in Moses, His servant.

Rashi Commentary

  • and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth That is Pithom [one of the cities built by the Israelites, Exod 1:11], but now it was called Pi-hahiroth, since there the Israelites became free men (בְּנֵי חוֹרִין). The Hiroth are two high upright rocks, and because there is the valley between them this is called the mouth (פִּי) of the rocks. — [from Mechilta]
  • It was reported to Pharaoh Pharaoh sent officers with them, and as soon as the three days they [the Israelites] had set to go into the desert and return had elapsed, and the officers saw that they were not returning to Egypt, they came and informed Pharaoh on the fourth day. On the fifth and the sixth [days after the Israelites’ departure], they pursued them. On the night preceding the seventh, they went down into the sea. In the morning [of the seventh day], they [the Israelites] recited the Song [of the Sea (Exod. 15:1-18)]. Therefore, we read [in the Torah] the Song on the seventh day, that is the seventh day of Passover.

Research & Analysis

Route of the Exodus

  • There are many opinions about the route. One theory is that the crossing happened at an underwater land bridge in Nuweiba, Egypt. Another theory is that "Yam Suf" translates as the "Sea of Reeds" and not as the "Red Sea", thus the crossing didn't happen at the Red Sea but at a different location, which is currently covered by the Suez Canal.

Pillar of Fire

  • There is a phenomenon called "Fire Tornado", in which fire rises as a pillar under specific wind conditions. See the How Miracles Work article.