Baptism in the Red Sea! (Exodus 14:1-15:21)

We have become so accustomed to the world of animated movie tricks, photoshop and graphic video games, we have lost the ability to be in awe of a large body of water dividing like a bad breakup. This narrative, by itself, should humble us before an all-powerful God. Forget everything you know about this story and allow your imagination to create the scene in your mind.

Exodus 14:21-22, Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on the right and their life. (emphasis mine)

In the great “Song of Moses,” or “Israel’s Song” as it is sometimes called (Ex. 15), we find a hymn of praise for the events in chapter 14. It is Hebrew poetry, meaning it describes, through word pictures, the narrative. It uses poetic license, if you will, to describe the great parting.

Exodus 15:8, The waters heaped up at the blast/ of Your nostrils;/ the currents stood firm like a dam./ The watery depths congealed in the/ heart of the sea. 

That’s pretty cool.

And we are only describing one scene amid many other things happening at the same time –

  • the pursuing Egyptian army in their war tanks (chariots);
  • the Israelites thrown into utter chaos;
  • the Angel of God standing in front of this novice Israelite army;
  • the massive cloud and fire keeping the Egyptian army at bay.

This is drama and suspense at its height, but I just want to peel back the layers of the waters so you can sit in wonder at our God and see the links to our own Red Sea moment.

The narrative takes us to Genesis 1-3.

I know, you’re thinking, “there is no way this story connects to that one.”

Just wait.

Yahweh tells Moses to lift up his staff and stretch it out over the waters (14:16). This is when the LORD drove the sea back with a powerful east wind (רוח). The Hebrew for word for wind is pronounced ROO-ahkh. It can be translated as “wind”, “breath” or “spirit.” It is the exact same word translated Spirit (רוח) in Genesis 1:2 – as in the Holy Spirit! And what was the Spirit doing? Hovering over the watery depths (תהוס), which refers to chaotic waters. The Spirit is God’s presence and power in creation. The ROO-ahkh is suspended over the chaos ready to create order and life. This is the moment before God made the heavens and the good earth. Before, the watery mass was uninhabitable. The Holy Spirit accomplished God’s work in creation and now through the parting of the Red Sea. Want a little more?

In the poetic psalm of praise, Yahweh is described as a warrior (15:3). And as you know, all great warriors have weapons. What was the LORD’s weapon of choice?

The waters.

Exodus 14:26-28, Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back on the Egyptians, on their chariots and horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal depth. While the Egyptians were trying to escape from it, the LORD threw them into the sea. The waters came back and covered the chariots and horsemen, the entire army of Pharaoh, that had gone after them into the sea, None of them survived. (emphasis mine)

Listen to the way the Hebrew poet described it:

Exodus 15:3-5, The LORD is a warrior;/ Yahweh is His name./ He threw Pharaoh’s chariots/ and his army into the sea;/ the elite of his officers/ were drowned in the Red Sea./ The floods covered them;/ they sank to the depths (תהוס) like a stone. (emphasis mine)

Did you catch that? The depths (תהוס) is the same word in Genesis 1:2 where the Spirit (רוח) was hovering. Keep going?

Exodus 15:8-10, The waters heaped up at the blast/ of Your nostrils;/ the currents stood firm like a dam./ The watery depths (תהוס) congealed in the/ heart of the sea./ The enemy said:/ “I will pursue, I will overtake,/ I will divide the spoil./ My desire will be gratified at their/ expense./ I will draw my sword;/ my hand will destroy them.”/ But You blew with Your breath (רוח),/ and the sea covered them./ They sank like lead/ in the mighty waters(emphasis mine)

The Hebrew poet uses imagery depicting the control of Yahweh over his creation! Once again, the Creator God sends His ROO-ahkh (רוח) to bring order amid chaos and life amidst death. Does this sound like another narrative from Genesis? The great flood!

Once again, God uses chaotic waters to destroy evil, save Noah and his family, and bring a renewed creation (Gen. 6-9). The LORD saved Israel from evil (14:30) as their future ancestor will crush the head of humanities greatest enemy (Gen. 3:15). Yahweh crushed the enemy with the Seed being preserved through the Flood and crossing the Red Sea.

Now let me peel back one last layer that should make our jaws drop.

I Corinthians 10:1-2, Now I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea(emphasis mine)

Paul uses a hyperlink to our story.

We read about the cloud (Ex. 14:19-20, 24) and the Israelites passing through the sea (14:29). As Israel’s salvation was symbolized by passing through the watery depths, so our salvation by immersion into Christ. We too have been brought through the chaotic waters to a new life. One that is no longer enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:4-7). We, like the Israelites, have been set free! Israel was finally freed from bondage when they passed through the waters. In the watery depths the enemy was defeated. And God’s ROO-ahkh, Spirit, hovering over the waters, brings new creation (Acts 2:38; I Cor. 5:17), remaking the world. This same Spirit goes with us through our wilderness journey as we march toward the Promised Land (Rom. 8:23-27).

There are so many more layers to peel back, but for now let’s sit here and be swept away by the depth of God’s Word.

*All Scripture is quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible

*Resources for this blog: The Pentateuch As Narrative by John H. Sailhamer; The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible; Lexham English Bible; Faithlife Study Bible; Logos language program

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