The Red Sea Crossing
Moses and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea channel—on foot—during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. What does that awesome event mean for you?

Egyptians. The word burned through their ranks like wildfire.

More than 2.5 million people massed in 13 tribes camped under the shadow of the rocky and foreboding Pihahiroth mountains. This teeming sea of people had just experienced a liberation so phenomenal that many still couldn’t believe it was happening. In living memory, they had known nothing but oppression under a harsh regime that squashed freedom, especially freedom of religion, and crushed them under grinding slavery.

But in just a few months the national economy, the vaunted religion and the evil despot of the world’s most powerful state were broken. The agriculturally and religiously vital Nile River became blood; frogs, lice, locusts and other insects—all symbolizing pagan gods—infested fields and residences; and other unnatural disasters wracked the nation until finally the honored firstborn Egyptian children, as well as beasts, suddenly died all in one night.

Then, the humiliated Egyptian dictatorship finally caved in. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people packed up tools, clothes, livestock, cookware filled with unleavened bread, and valuables presented to them by Egyptians and flowed out through the streets and past houses, businesses, plantations, temples, palaces, skyscraper pyramids and broad fields decimated by the God of Israel.

And one man had prophesied it all.

Besides forecasting these unprecedented current events, Moses had also led the people in holy days worshiping this mighty, just, liberating God. Immediately afterward, the largest and most jubilant mass mobilization in recorded history surged out of Egypt by night.

This massive procession of humanity and livestock—under yet another supernatural phenomenon, a pillar cloud during daylight hours and an awesome pillar of fire after nightfall—traveled a few days’ journey south. Even while they walked under the sun-blocking, life-saving cloud, some of the teens could hear adults questioning whether this was the best route.

“I’m not saying I should be the leader,” one said as the multitude marched through the hardscrabble wilderness. “I’m just saying I think we should be heading east, not south.”

Before long, as the cloud and the nation walking beneath it moved closer and closer to Pihahiroth, people throughout the congregation were getting restless; each person had his own idea of exactly how to proceed.

Then they stopped. At the beach.

To the south and west, the craggy Pihahiroth range barred further passage. To the east, the Red Sea shoreline. To the north, where they had just come from ….

Egyptians. The word passed in a shockwave from ranks to ranks. So did fear. Men shouted, some in outrage, women cried out, some of their babies wailing. Frightened teens looked to their parents and other adults for assurance. Horses stamped restlessly at the end of their tethers.

In the distance, the Egyptian pharaoh stormed toward the civilian multitude at the head of the army: 600 elite armored units deployed along with mounted cavalry and support infantry kicking up a man-made squall of dust behind—more than enough troops to force the would-be nation into submission. Once the Israelites were in range, armored chariots would crash at full-speed right through the center of the crowd; the mounted troops would form a perimeter—an easy task, since the Pihahiroths and the Red Sea did more than half the job for them.

It would be a massacre.

At first sight of blood, the millions would fall to the ground, begging for mercy. Once the livestock and valuables were secured, a chariot and mounted phalanx would herd the miserable throng back to Egypt to repair the damage their mysterious God caused under even crueler conditions. Their leaders would be executed.

Meanwhile, more and more men pressed Moses, accusing him of being unfit for command and even of conspiracy to slaughter Israel.

“We reasoned with you before you induced us to leave Egypt,” one bold Israelite said. “Did we not tell you then that we would rather stay in Egypt? Anything would be better than dying in this wasteland!”

In spite of the scathing charges being leveled against him, Moses remained meek, looking to God, who had revealed to him beforehand that Egyptian forces would pursue them. When he realized that the people were throwing their trust in God into the water, however, he stood up and spoke.

“This faithless mutiny must stop—now!” he said forcefully. “God broke your Egyptian slave drivers with 10 miraculous plagues, and protected you from most of them. He covered you with a pillar cloud, lit up the night with a pillar of fire, and yes, brought you here. Now the Egyptian army rides against us. Some of you have seen the dust cloud. You’ve seen the horses. But God says that you will never see them again! Trust Him!”

Some Israelites, and some teens, still frightened, prayed to God, but many still doubted. How could even God make the very real, very near premiere army of the world just vanish?

Even as some Israelites talked in hushed tones about how to flee if and when the Egyptians stormed the camp, the spectacular pillar of fire disengaged and moved overhead, repositioning between the rearmost tribes and the Egyptian forces, which were almost within range. It touched down, and although many Israelites feared the Egyptians could still attack, they didn’t come anywhere close. Meanwhile, a strong, steady wind began to blow.

On the other side of that fiery column, a deep, dark fog masked the Israelite camp from the Egyptians. Army officers who had been giving final orders slowed their squads and finally halted to consult with Pharaoh, who, not wanting to harm any horses or lose any soldiers in their own crossfire, decided to hold off the assault until morning.

On the other side of the darkness, God told Moses it was time to move.

“Tell the children of Israel to go forward,” He said. Moses relayed the command, and the Israelites slowly edged ahead—slowly, because “forward” was onto the beach, right up to the waters’ edge of the great Red Sea!

From the forward ranks—even while some wondered aloud what mass suicide was like if not this—a collective, gut-wrenching gasp.

As though someone were dragging the side of a great pyramid through it, the seawater began to divide. Dark, swirling water on both sides of the beachhead stood up on itself, as if on command, piling up into vertically surging cliffsides. All night, the Israelites watched the miraculous parting of the water, some of them asking each other to confirm whether they were dreaming or actually awake.

Then, Moses went in. Followed by Aaron, God’s man led the nation into the water canyon, several miles long and 200 to 300 feet deep. Walls made out of the sea, as tall as a skyscraper, towered on each side, and the smell of saltwater permeated the air, which went all the way from the surface down to the dry rocks and seashells crunching under the feet, hooves and wheels of the wide-eyed Israelite multitude.

As the next morning broke, scores of Israelites ascended out of the dry depths. Several miles away, however, Pharaoh’s forces broke through the fading darkness—into an empty campsite. But few of them were looking at the smoldering campfires.

Mouths agape, the army stared at the gigantic trench cutting the sea in half. Rushing vertical rivers walled the canyon, and dry ground carpeted the bottom.

Pharaoh’s men snapped back to the situation at hand, as their highly trained combat steeds got skittish, sensing something very powerful and very unusual. Pharaoh, furious at being defeated by Israel’s God once again, charged his army against Him and His pitiful flock of people.

The last of those people were just ascending out of the sea floor and onto the Sinai shoreline. It was the largest channel crossing until the D-Day flotilla almost 3,000 years later—except they walked it.

Pharaoh’s murderous battlegroup plunged into the seawater canyon, galloping toward their prey to crush the miserable creatures and show the God of Israel who ruled the world. As they reached mid-channel, however, the strange, dark fog from the previous night appeared again, blocking the daylight and dropping visibility to almost zero. Three-man, four-horse chariots clanged together, sending some of their spiked wheels spinning off into the water wall. Horses collided; riders, drivers and spearmen fell to the increasingly muddy ground. And it started to rain.

Trapped in the middle, the vengeful and bloodthirsty army began to realize. There was only one God. And He was in Israel.

The waters crashed together.

The murderous Egyptian horde was mercifully killed instantly by overwhelming, pressurized force as thousands of cubic tons of water crashed together, sending a gigantic spray into the sky that Israel watched in shock and awe from the Sinai beachhead.

As some of their would-be killers and their weapons washed up on the shoreline, Israel began to realize just who their God really was. The Almighty. The Creator. The one, true, all-powerful God.

God recorded this awesome account in the Bible for us to read, especially during the wonderful Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Israelites celebrated and sang to God that day, which was the last day of Unleavened Bread, because God had saved their lives from slavery and death. Pharaoh’s pagan Egypt is a perfect symbol of sin. God has delivered us from ignorantly living in miserable slavery to sin, something we should always remember, never yearning to go back into that false, hurtful, fatal way of life.

When you think about God, do you see Him as He really is? Our God is the incredible, awesome Lord God Almighty—still undefeated. If His people need His help and turn to Him, He will break nations to save us! And He will always deliver us out of sin and unhappiness if we will turn to Him—the God of the Red Sea crossing.