Exodus 14:10 MEANING

Exodus 14:10
(10) The children of Israel . . . were sore afraid.--It has been objected that 600,000 men above twenty years of age had no need to be afraid of such an army as the Pharaoh could have hastily gathered. The entire armed force of Egypt is reckoned by Herodotus (2:166-168) at 410,000, and it is tolerably clear that not one-half of these could have been mustered. It would imply, indeed, more facility of mobilisation than we should have expected in this early age, if Pharaoh was able to bring 100,000 men into the field upon a sudden emergency. Why, then, it is asked, should the Israelites have been "sore afraid" of a force but one-sixth of their number? Were they "arrant cowards?" The answer is that the Egyptian army, whatever its number, was composed of trained soldiers, well-armed and used to war; the 600,000 Israelites were, in the main, unarmed, ignorant of warfare, and trained very imperfectly. Above a million Persian soldiers were defeated and slaughtered like sheep by 47,000 Graeco-Macedonians at Arbela. A similar result would, humanly speaking, have followed on a conflict between the Israelites and the Egyptians at Pi-hahiroth. The fear of the former was therefore perfectly legitimate.

The children of Israel cried out unto the Lord.--If Israel had been unduly timid--which we have shown not to have been the case--at any rate they knew where to make their appeal for succour. There is no help like that of Jehovah.

Verses 10-14. - THE TERROR OF ISRAEL AND THE COURAGE OF MOSES. It has been argued that the Israelites, if they were so numerous as stated (Exodus 12:37), must have been wretched cowards, if they were afraid to risk an engagement with such an army as that hastily levied one which Pharaoh had brought with him. But the difference between an army of trained soldiers, thoroughly equipped for war, with helmets, shields, breastplates, swords and spears, and an undisciplined multitude, unarmed for the most part, and wholly unaccustomed to warfare, is such, that the latter, whatever its numbers, may be excused if it does not feel able to cope with the former, and declines an engagement. Numbers, without military training and discipline, are of no avail - nay, are even a disadvantage, since the men impede one another. It is not necessary to suppose that the Israelites were debased in character by their long servitude to account for their panic on seeing the army of Pharaoh. They had good grounds for their fear. Humanly speaking, resistance would simply have led to their indiscriminate massacre. The alarm of the Hebrews, and even the reproaches with which they assail Moses, are thus quite natural under the circumstances. What is surprising is, the noble courage and confidence of Moses. Moses, though only vaguely informed, that God would "be honoured upon Pharaoh and all his host" (ver. 4), is perfectly certain that all will go well - how the result will be achieved, he knows not; but he is sure that Israel will be delivered and Egypt discomfited; his people have no reason to fear - they have but to "stand still and see the salvation of God" (ver. 13); "the Lord will fight for them;" they will have simply to "hold their peace" (ver. 14). Verse 10. - They were sore afraid. Before the Israelites are taxed with cowardice, let it be considered -

1. That they were unarmed. Egypt was so settled a government that civilians generally went unarmed; and slaves, like the Hebrews, would scarcely have been allowed to possess any arms, if the case had been otherwise.

2. They had no military training. Whatever had been done to teach them order and arrangement in connection with their proposed journey, we may be sure there had been no drill or training in the use of arms, since this would have been regarded by the Egyptians as open rebellion.

3. They were quite unaccustomed to warfare. The Pharaohs main-rained large garrisons of Egyptian and mercenary troops in the frontier provinces, to resist the invasions to which they were liable. The Hebrews may have had occasionally to defend themselves against a hasty raid: but in real war they had stood aloof, and left the fighting to the regular Egyptian army. The children of Israel cried out unto the Lord. The appeal to Jehovah showed that, with all their weaknesses and imperfections, the Israelites were yet true at heart. They knew where alone help was to be obtained, and made their appeal accordingly. No cry is more sure of an answer than the despairing one - "Lord, save us; we perish."

14:10-14 There was no way open to Israel but upward, and thence their deliverance came. We may be in the way of duty, following God, and hastening toward heaven, yet may be troubled on every side. Some cried out unto the Lord; their fear led them to pray, and that was well. God brings us into straits, that he may bring us to our knees. Others cried out against Moses; fear set them murmuring as if God were not still able to work miracles. They quarrel with Moses for bringing them out of Egypt; and so were angry with God for the greatest kindness ever done them; thus gross are the absurdities of unbelief. Moses says, Fear ye not. It is always our duty and interest, when we cannot get out of troubles, yet to get above our fears; let them quicken our prayers and endeavours, but not silence our faith and hope. Stand still, think not to save yourselves either by fighting or flying; wait God's orders, and observe them. Compose yourselves, by confidence in God, into peaceful thoughts of the great salvation God is about to work for you. If God brings his people into straits, he will find a way to bring them out.And when Pharaoh drew nigh,.... Or "caused to draw nigh" (t); that is, his army, brought it very near to the camp of the Israelites:

the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; in great numbers, with full speed, threatening them with utter destruction:

and they were sore afraid; being an unarmed people, though numerous, and so unable to defend themselves against armed and disciplined troops; and besides, through their long time of slavery their spirits were broken, and were a mean, abject, dispirited people; and especially were so on the sight of the Egyptians, whom they had so many years looked upon and served as their lords and masters:

and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord: had they prayed unto him in this their distress for help and assistance, protection and preservation, with an holy and humble confidence in him for it, they had acted a right and laudable part; but their crying out to him seems to be only an outcry of the troubles they were in, and rather the effect of despair than of faith and hope; and was by way of complaint and lamentation of their miserable condition and circumstances, as appears by what follows, which shows what temper of mind they were in.

(t) "fecit accedere", Pagninus, Montanus; "admovit castra", Junius & Tremellius.

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