In chapter 12, God tells Moses how to prepare for the coming of "the destroyer," that will take all of the firstborn of Egypt while "passing over" the Israelites. He describes how and when they are to prepare a lamb, eat it, dispose of the leftovers and put blood on the tops and sides of the doorframes. He tells them they must prepare a feast with unleavened bread, and clean any yeast out of their houses. These are all instructions for what is still celebrated today as Passover. The LORD tells Moses to "obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants." The Israelites did what the LORD said, and at midnight, the LORD strick down all the firstborn of Egypt - "there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead."
Pharoah summoned Moses and Aaron and told them to "take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go." The Israelites did and also "asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold," which the Egyptians provided. The Israelites, six hundred thousand men plus women and children, traveled from Rameses to Succoth. They had been 430 years in Israel, "to the day." The Lord gave Moses and Aaron the regulations for the Passover.
In chapter 13, the Lord tells Moses that the Israelites must consecrate every firstborn male to God, and that the "first offspring of every womb...belongs to [God], whether man or animal." The Lord then led them with a pillar of cloud to guide them by day, and a pillar of fire to give them light by night.
In chapter 14, the Lord parts the Red Sea, and the Israelites pass between walls of water. First, they wandered in the Egyptian desert for a time. During htis period, Pharoah and his officials changed their minds, and decided to take their chariots and bring them back. All of Pharoah's horses, chariots, horsemen and troops caught up with the Israelites camped by the sea. The Isrelites were terrified, and cried to Moses, "was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?" Moses told them that "the Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." So, at the Lord's instruction, Moses reached out his hand over the sea and the wind drove the sea back, "and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground." As the Egyptians followed, the Lord "made the wheels of their chariots come off." When the Israelites reached the far side, Moses stretched out his hand again, and the waters flowed back, and covered the chariots, "the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived."
Thoughts, questions, issues
- It's interesting that the Egyptians are accommodating when the Israelites ask for "silver and gold." If that's really true, it's hard to come up with a legitimate reason other than "the LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people."
- Six hundred thousand seems like an awfully big number. But it also says that they were in Egypt for 430 years. Assuming that a new generation is born at approximately 20 year intervals, we're talking about 69 men growing to 600,000 in 21 and a half generations. Through the miracle of compound interest, we see that that represents growth of about 52% per generation. That works out to just over 1 1/2 procreating sons per man. Which actually seems conservative.
- One of the key components to the bible story is the people of God repeatedly turning away from him, doing what they are not supposed to do and not doing what they are supposed to do. Sometimes, it's more understandable than others. That the Israelites would cry out to God from the edge of the sea is neither surprising nor disparaging. That their first reaction is to blame Moses for getting them in trouble is indicative of a problem. This is a people that has just watched as God has done miracles to free them from bondage. A little bit more faith would have been appropriate. And, as subsequent acts were to show, justified.
It's a modern cliche to say that "better for 10 (or 100 or 1000) guilty to go free than one innocent man to go to jail." Proverbs seems to say otherwise.
Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—Of course, later in the same chapter, it says
the LORD detests them both.
It is not good to punish an innocent man,Not that anyone would debate it.
or to flog officials for their integrity.