Exodus 12:37 – 14:31. The Israelites are finally free, but Pharaoh hasn’t quite given up yet.
Exodus 12:37 – 14:31. The Israelites are finally free, but Pharaoh hasn’t quite given up yet.
“Papa’s Bible Stories” brings the Bible to life for your kids. For each episode, I pick a Bible story to talk to my very own kids about. The stories are entirely Bible-based, scripture is quoted at every opportunity, and the kids are always pointed to the Bible as the authority. And we’re not afraid of having a little fun too! It is my hope and prayer that your kids will be excited to explore God’s Word for themselves after hearing each and every episode. #bible #stories #kids #children #adventist #sda
So last we left our story, Pharaoh had finally freed the Israelites. Egypt had endured 10 horrible plagues…going all the way from bloody water to frogs to flies to hail…all the way to dead children. And after all that…after Egypt had basically been destroyed…and after his own son had died, Pharaoh had finally given up and freed the Israelites. It was time to go home…it was time to go to the Promised Land.
The very next morning after Pharaoh had freed the Israelites, they were already on the move. And boy what a sight that would have been. The Bible says that, “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children” (12:37) left Egypt that day. Six hundred thousand men! If you also include women and children, that’s probably about two million people. Two million people! Have you kidzos ever seen two million people all in one place before? Yah…me either. The biggest crowds that I have seen would be at like a baseball game or something. And maybe some of you kids listening out there have been to a few games like that before. The biggest sports stadiums usually hold around 100,000 people. That means that the number of Israelites that left Egypt that day was like 20 packed stadiums. Now that’s a lot of people!
And with their bags packed, and with their children and livestock in toe, this huge mass of people walked out of Egypt and into the dessert. And as they walked out into the scorching heat, the Bible says that a huge “pillar of cloud” formed in front of them. The cloud covered up the sun so that dessert wasn’t quite so scorching hot. And the Bible says that the cloud wasn’t just a cloud…it was also “the Angel of God” (14:19). God was literally in the cloud. Or maybe more accurately…God was the cloud. And what did the cloud do? Well the cloud moved ahead of the Israelites to let them know what direction to go…kind of like how a father leads his kids on a scary path. But not only did the cloud lead them and keep them cool during the day, but at night the pillar of cloud turned into a pillar of fire which gave the Israelites some light at night…yah know kind of like a nightlight! God sure was taking care of His people.
Now as the Israelites started on their journey, the cloud lead them east…because Canaan was directly to the east of Egypt. In fact, Canaan…the Promised Land…really wasn’t too far from Egypt. Remember that Abraham had gone from Canaan to Egypt during a famine…and Joseph’s brothers had gone back and forth a few times during the famine? Canaan wasn’t exactly close…but it wasn’t really that far either. And at first the pillar of cloud lead them in the right direction…east. But then…at some point…the cloud started taking the Israelites south. Yah south…in the wrong direction. And no doubt some people in the Israelite crowd started to think to themselves, “Uh…where were we going? I mean…God does know where Canaan is, right?” But, keeping their doubts to themselves, the Israelites dutifully followed the cloud to a place called Pi Hahiroth, and camped in a rocky valley that was right next to the sea.
Now back in Egypt, undoubtedly everyone was trying to get back on their feet after all those devastating plagues had destroyed the country. And Pharaoh, well of course he was soooo very happy that the plagues were over…and that this constant devastation had finally come to an end…and that the Israelites were gone…and that he wouldn’t have to deal with any more problems…right? I mean with Egypt in shambles, obviously Pharaoh had way too many things going on to even think about the Israelites…right? Well…apparently not. Pharaoh apparently had had the Israelites followed. And when Pharaoh found out that the Israelites had gone south and camped beside the sea, the Bible says that Pharaoh and his servants, “turned against the people; and they said, "Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” (14:5) Uh…well…I mean…that’s a strange question to ask, don’t you think? I mean…obviously they had “let Israel go” because of all the frogs, and lice, and flies, and boils, and yah know…all the other terrible things that happened…including losing Pharaoh’s own son. I mean…had Pharaoh somehow forgotten that God had done all these things to Egypt for the very clear and obvious reason that Pharaoh hadn’t let the Israelites go when he was told to? I mean…really? Well apparently…Pharaoh had forgotten.
And you know kidzos, people can be like this. When people don’t want to believe something either about themselves or the about the world around them, they often find creative ways of explaining things away. Like for example, after the plagues had stopped probably Pharaoh and his servants had said to themselves…ya know what…maybe the water hadn’t really turned to blood…maybe the rain had washed something into the river…and that had turned the river red. Yah. Yah and maybe whatever that red stuff was, that is what had caused all the frogs to jump out of the river. Yah yah. And of course once all the frogs had jumped out of the river and died…well that’s where all the lice and flies came from because there were no frogs to eat them. Yah…that’s what happened. And before you know it…the Egyptians had explained away all the things that had happened to them. It had all been an accident of nature. God hadn’t done any of those things…God wasn’t all-powerful…God didn’t need to be obeyed… the Egyptian gods were still powerful…and Pharaoh hadn’t done anything wrong…except that he’d let the Israelites go. You see how people can twist things to believe anything they want? And with Pharaoh thinking like this…well of course Pharaoh’s going to kick himself and say “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?”
So…what was Pharaoh going to do? Well, he got it in his head that he was going to get the Israelites back, and the Bible says that he, “made ready his chariot and took his people with him. (7) Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them.” (14:6-7) “(9) So the Egyptians pursued them…” (14:9) And so off Pharaoh went with the best of his army to bring the Israelites back to Egypt.
Now, because Pharaoh and his army were all on horseback, it wouldn’t have taken them long to catch up to the Israelites. And as the evening approached, the Bible says that, “the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them.” (14:10) So the Israelites looked up and saw a huge army of fully armed soldiers riding on chariots and heading straight towards them. Now, this would have been a very intimidating sight. The Egyptian army was one of the most advanced and well equipped armies in the whole world. This was no joke. But…the Israelites…well of course they knew that they had nothing to be afraid of, right? I mean, they had just recently seen all the plagues in Egypt and they knew very well what God was capable of. Even right at that moment God was in a huge pillar of cloud right in front of them. The Israelites knew how powerful God was, and they knew that God was leading them. So of course the Israelites knew they had nothing to be afraid of…right?
Well…apparently not. Because the Bible says that the Israelites were, “very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD.” (14:10) And not only were they very afraid, but they went to Moses and said, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? (12) Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” (14:11-12) Can you believe that kidzos? Despite all the miraculous things they’d seen, despite the pillar of cloud that had led them here and was right there in front of them, and despite knowing full well that God was leading them…they were still afraid…and they still blamed Moses.
And how did Moses react to all this? Well, I’m sure that he was more than a little discouraged by the Israelites’ reaction. But…Moses was not afraid. Moses knew that God had lead them to this place, he knew that God had promised to take them to the Promised Land, and he knew that God keeps His promises. So, Moses got up in front of the people, and confidently and reassuringly said, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (14:13-14) And boy was God going to fight for His people in spectacular fashion. When Moses finished speaking, the Bible says that the pillar of cloud, “went from before them and stood behind them. (20) So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” (14:19-20) So the cloud that had been leading the Israelites leapt up into the air, flew over the Israelite camp, and landed behind them…right in between the Egyptian army and the terrified Israelites. The side of the cloud that faced the Egyptians became darkness, so they couldn’t see the Israelites anymore. But the side of the cloud that faced the Israelites became a light, so that as the evening became the night, the Israelites could see where they were going. Wow…now that would have been a sight to see!
But God wasn’t done yet. And God said to Moses, “Tell the children of Israel to go forward. (16) But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it.” (14:15-16) And so Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and then the Bible says, “the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided.” (14:21) And the Bible also says that the water was “a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (14:22) So the Israelites would have looked at the sea and seen a dry path going right through the middle of the sea…almost like two invisible hands had come down and physically pushed the water to each side. The Israelites could see the bottom of the sea! The dry path went off for miles off into the darkness. Wow…now THAT would have been a sight to see! And Moses turned to them and told them…move forward. And what did the Israelites do? Well…with the pillar of cloud blocking the Egyptian army behind them…and with this dry path through the sea in front of them…the Israelites…all 2 million of them…moved forward…and took the dry path into the sea. All night the Israelites made their way down into the sea to escape the Egyptians.
Now while this had all been happening, the Egyptians had been stuck in the darkness behind the cloud. But as the morning came, Egyptians caught sight of the Israelites…and they looked and…wow there was dry path going right trough the sea with a huge cloud of fire lighting the way for the Israelites to cross the sea. Of course they’d never seen anything like this. Obviously God was using His incredible power to protect the Israelites. And of course…the Egyptians looking at the whole situation though to themselves…better leave well enough alone…and went home…right? Well, no. No that’s not what they did. Somehow, they looked at the situation and said “hey the Israelites are getting away…after them!!” And the Bible says that the Egyptians, “pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.” (14:23) And off went Pharaoh into the sea to catch the Israelites.
But as Pharaoh started after the Israelites, the Israelites were safe-and-sound on the other side. They had all made it to the opposite shore. And as the Egyptians made their way through the sea, the Bible says that God, “looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. (25) And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty.” (14:24-25) So as the Egyptians are trying to quickly get through this precarious situation, all of a sudden, the wheels of the chariots started coming off. Can you imagine going full tilt behind a horse and then looking down and seeing your chariot wheel heading off in a different direction. And then…crash…down you go. And right around this time…as they are sitting there with walls of water on either side of them…with the wheels falling off their chariots…that they realized…hey…this maybe isn’t the best position to be in…and all of a sudden they decided to head back where they’d come from.
But…it was already too late. The Egyptians had shown that they would go after the Israelites no matter where they were and no matter what was going on. And to ensure that the Israelites stayed safe, God was going to have to put a permanent stop to their obsession with enslaving the Israelites. And so God spoke to Moses and said, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen.” (14:26) And Moses did so. And then the Bible says that, “the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them.” (14:28) So as the Egyptians turned to run away, the sea came crashing down on them. And the Bible tells us that every single Egyptian that had followed them into the sea…died. Not even Pharaoh survived that day.
And so ends the Egyptian’s part in this story. After Pharaoh and his army come to their unfortunate end, the Bible doesn’t mention the Egyptians again for several hundred years. It seems that it took the Egyptians a long long time to recover from what happened to them that day. And kidzos…this is a lesson for us to learn. Ultimately, the reason that the Egyptians made such foolish decisions is because they kept a spirit of rebellion. They knew what God wanted them to do…but they decided they didn’t want to do it and they kept a spirit of “I don’t want to” in their hearts. And what happened to the Egyptians as a result? Their thinking became confused, they weren’t able to see the obvious truth about what was going on, they became blind to what God was doing, they could not accept reality, and eventually…that spirit of rebellion led them to go barreling into the sea after the Israelites even when it was so obvious that God was going to protect His people. And kidzos…each one of us everyday has to make a decision…am I going to obey God…or am I going to rebel against Him. And I hope and pray that each day you will make the right decision.
Now, while things had gone very badly for the Egyptians, the Israelites on the other hand were dancing with joy. Things had looked pretty dark for a while there…but God had saved them in spectacular fashion. God was protecting them…God was on their side. He’d freed them from the Egyptians once and for all…and now it was time to head to the Promised Land…it was time to make their way home.