The Red Sea

            In A History of Israel, Theodore H. Robinson wrote that the Red Sea crossing took place at the shallow marsh land in northern Egypt near the Mediterranean Sea as follows: “Shallow water of this kind may easily be driven back by a strong wind, leaving the sand bare. With the dropping of the wind the water returns, coming, probably, under the sand first, as it does in so many such places with the tide, and forming a quicksand in which the wheels of the chariots would first sink. Finally, as the dried space filled with water, the infantry and others would be caught and drowned.”[1] How a whole army was drowned in shallow water, neither Parker nor anyone else has ever adequately explained. It is incredulous to even imagine that soldiers would remain in their chariots while the tide returned and would not attempt to escape. Or, that such shallow waters would prove sufficient to drown Pharaoh and his whole army.

            In John 10:31-39, Jesus defended His divinity by a quote from Psalm 82:6: “I said, you are gods” when the Jews accused of Him only being a man. In verse 35 of that passage, He also stated: “and the Scripture cannot be broken.” That verse has often struck me as one of the greatest proofs for the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scripture. From the beginning of the creation, Satan has attacked the truthfulness of Scripture. To Eve he asked, “Indeed, has God said?” (Genesis 3:1) and got her to doubt the veracity of God’s Word. What Jesus taught is that the integrity of the Bible hangs together or falls together. That is a truth that is often missed when so-called Biblical scholars start finding fault with the Scripture or suggesting reasons to doubt some part of it. Jesus said, “the Scripture cannot be broken.”

            What happens when a miracle such as the crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground is denied? Is the damage confined to that one passage that is denied? Can the verses of one chapter be explained away without doing harm to the rest of Scripture? Progressive and liberal theologians tell us that the essentials of the faith are not harmed or damaged whether we interpret the Scriptural account of the Red Sea crossing literally or not. Can we really deny the Biblical account of Exodus 14:13-31 and maintain the integrity of Scripture? Let us consider some of the other places where the Red Sea crossing is mentioned in Scripture.

            When Israel was entering the promised land 40 years later, Joshua sent out spies to the city of Jericho. They stayed with a harlot named Rahab for a night before going back to their camp on the other side of the Jordan the next day. After they laid down, Rahab came to them on the roof and informed them of the fears of the citizens, stating, “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt. . . When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:10, 11). Israel crossing through marsh land would not have melted the hearts of people 40 years later. Joshua later recounted those events at the Red Sea to the Israelites and specifically told them that the Lord had covered the Egyptians, their chariots, and their horses with the waters (Joshua 24:6, 7). Many of those to whom Joshua spoke had been eye-witnesses to those events. They knew that his words were true.

            Nehemiah 9:9-11 mentions the Red Sea events in the prayer of confession by the people for their sins. One of the great works of God that they specifically remembered is how God had hurled their pursuers into the depths of the sea like a stone into raging waters” while the Israelites “passed through the midst of the sea on dry ground” (Nehemiah 9:11). The recounting of the Red Sea crossing in Nehemiah is perfectly consistent with what Exodus says about it.

            There are numerous passages in the Book of Psalms about the Red Sea crossing. Psalm 106:7-12 recounts those events in the same way they are presented in Exodus—God dries up the sea, the Israelites walk through on dry land, and the Egyptian army is drowned in the waters without a sole survivor. Psalm 78:13 says, “He made the waters stand up like a heap.” Psalm 136:15 says that God “overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea.” These are just a few of the testimonies from the Psalms concerning the great miracle God performed at the Sea.

            Isaiah 63:11-14 speaks about the Lord bringing His people up out of the sea and causing His arm to divide the waters at the right hand of Moses. Those words are also clear references to what God did for His people in rescuing them from the Egyptians.

            There are also references to the Red Sea crossing in the New Testament. Stephen mentions it in Acts 7:36 as he recounted all the ways God had led His people despite their obstinacy. In 1 Corinthians 10:1, 2, Paul likens the Red Sea crossing to the work of salvation in the hearts of New Testament believers. And, Hebrews 11:29 makes the point that the Israelites passed through on dry ground while the Egyptians were drowned. Thus, the Scripture from beginning to end is consistent whenever if retells the account of those events.

            Before closing this article, I want to return to the interpretation of liberal or progressive scholars that Israel only passed through the marsh land in northern Egypt. If that had happened, Pharaoh and his army might have gotten stuck in the mud or quicksand, but they surely would have recovered and continued to pursue the Israelites. Something more needed to happen in order to protect the people of God—Pharaoh and his army needed to be destroyed, and they were. That miracle sent a chilling fear into the hearts of people throughout the Middle East.

            Here is a modern example of why Israel could not have escaped through shallow water with the Egyptian army following close behind. In 1991, I was a chaplain with a medical clearing company in Desert Storm. In early January of that year, we were attached to the only field hospital that was operational in that theater at the time. President George H. W. Bush then announced that the US would attack on January 16th if Iraq did not withdraw their troops from Kuwait. Saddam Hussein had no such plans, but instead was planning a surprise attack of his own before the 16th. When the peace talks between the US and Iraq broke down on January 10th, Hussein announced that he would shock the world on January 13th, a Sunday. He planned to attack the field hospital where I was stationed, withdraw and call it a war. The field hospital was 35 miles away from six Iraqi tank divisions; we were on the front lines without any ground troops to protect us; and, the Iraqi forces could travel down the Wadi Al-Batin to make their attack. (I know it seems unimaginable, but that was indeed Gen. Schwarzkopf’s battle plan. His plan was to put supply units on the front lines and the ground troops in the rear until the ground war started.) Then, God intervened as Americans gathered to pray for the impending war on that Lord’s Day. The largest rain storm in more than twenty years turned the Wadi Al-Batin into a river. Hussein’s tank divisions got stuck in the mud and could not make their attack. When they tried to attack the next day American ground troops and tanks had been moved into position to engage them in battle, but the Iraqi tanks pulled back. And, you know the rest of the story. But, if there had been no ground troops or tanks, the field hospital and supply units would have been as vulnerable on January 14, 1991, as they were the day before. Likewise, if God had not destroyed the Egyptian army at the Red Sea, they would have attacked the next day or the day after. The Egyptians would not have given up because of the returning tide in a shallow body of water.   

            So here is where things stand with reference to the Red Sea account in Exodus and repeated throughout other books of the Bible. If Exodus 14:13-31 is not true, then the testimony of that book is impeached. We cannot trust any other part of Exodus if that part is false. Yet, it is worse. Joshua, Nehemiah, the Book of Psalms, Isaiah, the Book of Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Hebrews are also impeached because they recount the same story described in Exodus 14. That would mean that eight different books of the Bible are untrustworthy due to the one incident at the Red Sea. How true it is that “the Scripture cannot be broken.” The Scripture from beginning to end gives the same consistent account of what happened at the Red Sea because that is what God really did to deliver His people from Egyptian tyranny. It was a miracle and it really happened. Praise to God!

Dewey Roberts, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL You may support Vanguard Presbytery by sending donations to: PO Box 1862, Destin, FL 32540. May you be blessed on this Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.    

[1] Theodore Henry Robinson, William Oscar Emile Oesterley, A History of Israel, I (Berkeley, CA: Clarendon Press, 1932), 87.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: