And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so.
And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us? And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon. And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord. And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.
In this kind of exegesis, we will appreciate the usefulness of understanding the story’s editorial history. This text is composite because it has undergone several remodeling before to reach its final form, that is, what we read today in the Bible. J. L. Ska observes that at v. 21 are contained in two different versions of the miracle of the opening of the Red Sea: And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
In the version highlighted in green, Moses stretches out his hand to the sea and the waters divide (see also v. 16). In the version highlighted in red, the Lord blows a wind so that the sea becomes a dry land. From these two versions at v. 21, two ancient tales can be recognized.
The water division story. The V. 21 is the execution of an order given in v.16. Here it is also said that the children of Israel shall go on dry ground. This is a phrase that corresponds to what is said in v. 22a. This story also belongs to the observations on the wall of water at v. 22 and v. 29. The tale would thus consist of the following verses: 1-4.7-8.15-18.21 (Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the waters were divided), 22-23.26.27 (And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea), 28-29. The basic theme of these verses, in addition to the division of the sea, is the correspondence between God’s word and its fulfillment, a typical theme of the priestly author (P). The intent of the tale is the manifestation of God’s glory in the face of the Egyptians. However, there is a problem. At v. 15 God asks Moses why he cries to him. But the text doesn’t mention any cry of Moses!
The second story. This second story would consist of the following verses: 13,17-18; 14,5.6-7.10.13-14. 21 (and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land) 24-25.27.28b.30-31. The themes that link these verses – which together offer a less coherent version of the miracle than the former – would be: the cloud, fear, military vocabulary, and time notations. Here is Moses who speaks and God acts; the purpose of the tale is the salvation of Israel. Made the miracle, Israel does not only believe in the Lord, but also in Moses.
The next step in this type of exegesis is to identify the bond of these two versions of the miracle with other texts where the same themes appear, where there is the same theological and theological horizon (To be continued).