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William Shepard

The Crossing of the Red Sea

In this way the Israelites went out of Egypt. The number of all of them, including the women and children, is not known with certainty, but of those that were able to bear arms there were six hundred thousand.

They left Egypt just two hundred and fifteen years after Jacob had removed there with his sons. But the Egyptians soon repented of having allowed the Israelites to go. Pharaoh also was sorry, and he gathered together his soldiers and his horses and chariots and started off in pursuit of the fugitives. After three days he came in sight of them, just as they had reached the banks of a sea, called the Red Sea, which separates Asia from Africa. Great was the terror of the Israelites when they saw these armed men coming towards them. They were themselves unarmed, and could not fight. They were shut in by the mountains on the right hand and the left, and the Red Sea was in front of them, so they could not flee. In despair they gathered round Moses, and he calmed them and comforted them, telling them that God would not forsake them in their extremity. Then he led the Israelites to the sea. And he took his rod, and having prayed to God, he smote the sea with his rod, and the waters parted and rolled back on each side and left the ground dry. And he went down upon the dry ground, and bade the Israelites follow him upon that divine road.

Now when the Egyptians from a distance saw the Israelites go down into the sea, they thought at first they were distracted, and were going rashly to certain destruction. But when they saw that they were gone a great way without any harm, and that no obstacle or difficulty fell in their journey, they wondered greatly, and made haste to pursue them. By the time they had reached the shore of the sea the last of the Israelites had safely crossed over to the other side. Then Pharaoh with his chariots and horsemen and foot-soldiers went down into the sea in pursuit of them. For the Egyptians were not aware that they went into a road made for the Israelites only; for the deliverance of those in danger, not for those who followed to destroy them. As soon, therefore, as their whole army was in the sea, the waters came together again and covered them. Showers of rain also came down from the sky, and dreadful thunders and lightning and flashes of fire. And thus did all these men perish, so that there was no one left to be a messenger of this calamity to the rest of the Egyptians.

The Israelites were not able to contain themselves for joy at their wonderful deliverance and the destruction of their enemies, so that all the night long they were employed in singing hymns and in mirth. Moses also composed a song unto God, containing His praises and a thanksgiving for His kindness.