Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Beelsephon, means “the lord of the watch-tower.” Some think an idol was thus denominated, whose office it was to prevent people from quitting the country. How vain were his efforts against God’s people!
Ver. 3. In. Between craggy mountains and the Red Sea. (Haydock)
Ver. 4. And he will. Protestants falsely translate, “that he may,” &c., contrary to the Hebrew and other versions. (Worthington)
Ver. 6. People, fit for war, who could be got ready on such short warning. Ezechiel (apud[in the writings of] Eusebius) makes the number amount to a million.
Ver. 7. Captains. Septuagint, “Tristatas.” Three men rode on every chariot; which was armed with scythes, to cut down all that came within contact, the chief warrior, with his armour-bearer and charioteer. (St. Gregory of Nyssa) (Haydock) — Or these three captains may very probably be the three chief officers of state, (Calmet) or the generals of cavalry, and of infantry, and the chief treasurer, or receiver of taxes, principes equitum peditumque erant, & tributorum. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 8. Hand. Without any dread, Numbers xv. 30. (Calmet) — All the army of Egypt could do nothing against them. Yet presently, at their approach, the Hebrews were suffered to fall into dismay, that they might learn not to confide in their multitudes, and might pray with greater earnestness for protection, ver. 10.
Ver. 12. Wilderness. This is the language of dastardly souls. They had begun to be almost in love with their chains. Every difficulty gives them occasion to repine at the gracious purposes of God, and the exertions of his servant Moses. But God bears patiently with the defects of a carnal and long oppressed nation, ver. 13. (Haydock)— The wiser sort pray to God, while others thus upbraid Moses.
Ver. 13. Ever. They saw their floating carcasses the following morning. Hebrew, “you shall not see the Egyptians any more as you see them at present.” They were not in the same condition.
Ver. 14. Peace. You will not have to draw a sword. The Syriac subjoins, “Therefore Moses cried unto the Lord,” which connects this with the following verse. (Calmet)
Ver. 15. Criest. — “A vehement desire is a cry, which reaches the ears of the Lord.” (St. Bernard)
Ver. 17. To pursue. God did not restrain the perverse will of the Egyptians; but suffered them to be guided by their blind passions, and to rush presumptuously into the bed of the sea. If the retiring of its waters had been owing to any natural cause, this wise nation could not be ignorant but that, at the stated time, the ebbing would cease, and consequently that they would be overtaken by the waters. But the waters stood up like walls on both sides, and they were so infatuated as to suppose that the miracle would be continued for their protection. (Haydock)
Ver. 20. A dark cloud, and enlightening the night. It was a dark cloud to the Egyptians; but enlightened the night to the Israelites, by giving them a great light.
Ver. 21. Wind. This served to dry up the sandy channel of the Red Sea, which was mixed with mud and weeds. It blew from the east, Kodim, or from Arabia. — Divided, some say into 12 parts or divisions, Psalm cxxxv. 13. But the words of the psalmist may be verified by the sea opening a spacious passage, such as was requisite for so many millions to travel through, (Haydock) e.g. a distance of perhaps 18 miles, in so short a space of time. Silara Adrichomius thinks the breadth of the division would not be less than nine miles.
Ver. 24. Watch. About four o’clock. The Hebrews divided the night into three equal parts, (Calmet) or four, consisting each of three hours, (Menochius) which varied in length as the night was longer. (Haydock) — Slew many by his thunderbolts, as Artapanus relates, and the Scripture elsewhere insinuates. (Chap. xv. 6, 12; Psalm lxxvi. 16, 18; Josephus, [Antiquities?] ii. 7.
Ver. 25. Lord. thus they reluctantly confess his might, and are forced to glory Him in their destruction. Their change is only the effect of fear and temporal danger, ver. 18. (Haydock)
Ver. 31. Sea-shore. The Hebrews would thus again be enriched by their spoils. (Calmet) — Servant. Those who believe God, submit to the directions of his ambassadors. (St. Jerome in Philemon 5.) In this merited catastrophe of the Egyptians, which fixed the last seal to the mission of Moses, the fathers contemplate how God’s servants are rescued by baptism, and by the merits of Jesus Christ, from Satan and from all sin. (1 Corinthians x. 1, 4; Origen, hom. 5.) (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Pharao pursueth the children of Israel. They murmur against Moses, but are encouraged by him, and pass through the Red Sea. Pharao and his army following them, are drowned.
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 Speak to the children of Israel: Let them turn and encamp over-against Phihahiroth, which is between Magdal and the sea over- against Beelsephon: you shall encamp before it upon the sea.
3 And Pharao will say of the children of Israel: They are straitened in the land, the desert hath shut them in.
4 And I shall harden his heart, and he will pursue you: and I shall be glorified in Pharao, and in all his army: and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord. And they did so.
5 And it was told the king of the Egyptians that the people was fled: and the heart of Pharao and of his servants was changed with regard to the people, and they said: What meant we to do, that we let Israel go from serving us?
6 So he made ready his chariot, and took all his people with him.
7 And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots that were in Egypt: and the captains of the whole army.
8 And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharao, king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; but they were gone forth in a mighty hand.
9 *And when the Egyptians followed the steps of them who were gone before, they found them encamped at the sea side: all Pharao’s horse and chariots, and the whole army were in Phihahiroth, before Beelsephon.
10 And when Pharao drew near, the children of Israel lifting up their eyes, saw the Egyptians behind them: and they feared exceedingly, and cried to the Lord.
11 And they said to Moses: Perhaps there were no graves in Egypt, therefore thou hast brought us to die in the wilderness: why wouldst thou do this, to lead us out of Egypt?
12 Is not this the word that we spoke to thee in Egypt, saying: Depart from us, that we may serve the Egyptians? for it was much better to serve them, than to die in the wilderness.
13 And Moses said to the people: Fear not: stand, and see the great wonders of the Lord, which he will do this day; for the Egyptians, whom you see now, you shall see no more for ever.
14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.
15 And the Lord said to Moses: Why criest thou to me? Speak to the children of Israel to go forward.
16 But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch forth thy hand over the sea, and divide it: that the children of Israel may go through the midst of the sea on dry ground.
17 And I will harden the heart of the Egyptians to pursue you: and I will be glorified in Pharao, and in all his host, and in his chariots and in his horsemen.
18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall be glorified in Pharao, and in his chariots, and in his horsemen.
19 And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, removing, went behind them: and together with him the pillar of the cloud, leaving the fore-part,
20 Stood behind, between the Egyptians’ camp and the camp of Israel: and it was a dark cloud, and enlightening the night, so that they could not come at one another all the night.
21 *And when Moses had stretched forth his hand over the sea, the Lord took it away by a strong and burning wind blowing all the night, and turned it into dry ground: and the water was divided.
22 And the children of Israel went in through the midst of the sea dried up; for the water was as a wall on their right-hand and on their left.
23 And the Egyptians pursuing went in after them, and all Pharao’s horses, his chariots and horsemen, through the midst of the sea.
24 And now the morning watch was come, *and behold the Lord looking upon the Egyptian army through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, slew their host.
25 And overthrew the wheels of the chariots, and they were carried into the deep. And the Egyptians said: Let us flee from Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against us.
26 And the Lord said to Moses: Stretch forth thy hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and horsemen.
27 And when Moses had stretched forth his hand towards the sea, it returned at the first break of day to the former place: and as the Egyptians were fleeing away, the waters came upon them, and the Lord shut them up in the middle of the waves.
28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots and the horsemen of all the army of Pharao, who had come into the sea after them, neither did there so much as one of them remain.
29 But the children of Israel marched through the midst of the sea upon dry land, and the waters were to them as a wall on the right-hand and on the left:
30 And the Lord delivered Israel in that day out of the hands of the Egyptians.
31 And they saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore, and the mighty hand that the Lord had used against them: and the people feared the Lord, and they believed the Lord, and Moses his servant.
9: Josue xxiv. 6.; 1 Machabees iv. 9.
21: Psalm lxxvii. 13. and civ. 37. and cxiii. 3.; Hebrews xi. 29.
24: Wisdom xviii. 15.