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Life of Moses


Exodus 12 - 17

Lesson audio

It is with some trepidation that we bring you this lesson. After all, practically everyone has seen Charlton Heston part the Red Sea – and we don’t think we can beat the special effects. But – as Exodus is the Pilgrim’s Progress of the Old Testament – we shall see if we can find some nuggets along the way.


Exo 12:31-42 NIV During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. (32) Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me." (33) The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. "For otherwise," they said, "we will all die!" (34) So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. (35) The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. (36) The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians. (37) The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. (38) Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. (39) With the dough they had brought from Egypt, they baked cakes of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves. (40) Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt [2] was 430 years. (41) At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD's divisions left Egypt. (42) Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come.

In haste

At this point the Egyptians are dealing with mass funerals and Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and throws them out of Egypt. As in, immediately – now. So it is that the Israelites leave in great haste. As far as they are concerned this is a spur of the moment thing. God, however, sees it differently. He promised Abraham that this would happen, and it happens right on schedule.[1]

Has God ever done that to you? Provided for you so precisely that you can see the hour He had in mind? Or blessed you with exactly the right amount of money for your needs? It is the providence of God.

The longer way

Exo 13:17-22 NIV When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." (18) So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. [1] The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle. (19) Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place." [2] (20) After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. (21) By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (22) Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

It comes as something of a surprise to us that God, while expecting us to “be strong in the Lord,” is also aware of our weaknesses – and sometimes even caters to them. God does so for the Israelites here; for those who pray, “lead us not into temptation” God does it for us.

We see also that Joseph’s bones are carried out with them. It is a promise 400 years old – and a promise kept. God is eternal; his word is sure.

We may also see the pillar of fire or cloud. It is a characteristic of God that He will not leave his people to guess. He will show them the way. Unfortunately, it is a characteristic of his people that they will get lost, turn their back on the signs of God, grumble about the accommodations and test God in the process.


Exo 14:1-31 NIV Then the LORD said to Moses, (2) "Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. (3) Pharaoh will think, 'The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.' (4) And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." So the Israelites did this. (5) When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, "What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!" (6) So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. (7) He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. (8) The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. (9) The Egyptians--all Pharaoh's horses and chariots, horsemen [1] and troops--pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon. (10) As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. (11) They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? (12) Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (13) Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. (14) The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." (15) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. (16) Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. (17) I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. (18) The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen." (19) Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, (20) coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. (21) Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, (22) and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (23) The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. (24) During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. (25) He made the wheels of their chariots come off [2] so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt." (26) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." (27) Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward [3] it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. (28) The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen--the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. (29) But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (30) That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. (31) And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Hardened heart

It is amazing that Pharaoh hasn’t figured out just who is running things here. He’s had plenty of examples. We may attribute the lapse this time to two things:

  • God has hardened his heart for him. (It’s not like Pharaoh is unwilling.)
  • Note that it’s Pharaoh and his officials this time. Group think is not a modern phenomenon.

One thing to note: Pharaoh must have had a colossal ego. He pursues 600,000 Israelite men using 600 or so chariots. I suspect this is not the way it’s written out in the Egyptian army field manuals.

Fear in Israel

At 500 to 1 odds (two men per chariot) you’d think the Israelites would be happy to pound Pharaoh and company into the desert sands, right? Wrong. They’ve been slaves so long that a spirit of fear rests within them. For the next forty years are so you’re going to find fear to be a consistent theme. Many Christians can say the same.

God’s answer is the same now as then: “Why are you crying to me?” If we do what He told us to do, love casts out fear. In short, get on with it.

A section not strictly necessary

Several years ago a physicist named Condon was asked to head Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s study of UFOs. Asked whether he thought UFOs were extraterrestrial, he made an interesting reply, one characteristic of the thought of a physicist. He said, in short, he’d answer that question when he had a sample UFO he could take down to the lab and go over it with a few good people.

The same attitude applies to archeology as well. In that case, samples (of the objects in question) and provenance (just exactly where did you find it, in what layer) are the raw data to be analyzed. When someone brings in something that they “found in the desert”, you naturally look at it with more suspicion because you don’t know where it came from.

I mention this because of an “archeologist” named Ron Wyatt. He’s the man who found the chariot wheels in the Gulf of Aqaba. But may I point out:

  • He found it in 1978 – and no one has been able to find any since. No serious archeologist has found one. And Pharaoh lost quite a few.
  • The artifact in question was taken to the Cairo Museum where it was “authenticated” by someone – and then lost. They can’t find it. We have the tape of the authentication; but not the wheel.
  • This is the same guy who claims to have found:
    • Noah’s Ark[2]
    • The real location of Mt. Sinai
    • The Ark of the Covenant, which is directly under his
    • True site of the Crucifixion.[3]

But at least he’s not Immanuel Velikovsky.

God’s Provision

We might just want to take a look at a map for the moment.


As is evident, we’re not really sure of the route of the Exodus. But wherever it was, God’s provision is all along the way.

Manna and Quail


Exo 16:1-36 NIV The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. (2) In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. (3) The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." (4) Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. (5) On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days." (6) So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, "In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, (7) and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?" (8) Moses also said, "You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD." (9) Then Moses told Aaron, "Say to the entire Israelite community, 'Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.' " (10) While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud. (11) The LORD said to Moses, (12) "I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.' " (13) That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. (14) When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. (15) When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, "It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. (16) This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer [1] for each person you have in your tent.' " (17) The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. (18) And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. (19) Then Moses said to them, "No one is to keep any of it until morning." (20) However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. (21) Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. (22) On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much--two omers [2] for each person--and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. (23) He said to them, "This is what the LORD commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.' " (24) So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. (25) "Eat it today," Moses said, "because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. (26) Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any." (27) Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. (28) Then the LORD said to Moses, "How long will you [3] refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? (29) Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out." (30) So the people rested on the seventh day. (31) The people of Israel called the bread manna. [4] It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. (32) Moses said, "This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.' " (33) So Moses said to Aaron, "Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to be kept for the generations to come." (34) As the LORD commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony, that it might be kept. (35) The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. (36) (An omer is one tenth of an ephah.)

See how God provides – despite our grumbling! We may allow for a bit of puzzlement on the part of Israel (Manna means “what is it?”), but we may also note two common failings:

  • First, these people are not very good at following God’s instructions. Whether it be greed, gluttony or cynicism, these people want to do it their way.
  • Is there thanksgiving for the food? Or ingratitude?
Water from a rock

Exo 17:1-7 NIV  The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. (2) So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink."

Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?" (3) But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?" (4) Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." (5) The LORD answered Moses, "Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. (6) I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. (7) And he called the place Massah [1] and Meribah [2] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

Massah means “testing”; Meribah means “quarreling.” Those are two very good ways to irritate the Lord God. God’s reaction is to tell Moses two things:

  • Follow my instructions to the letter.
  • Bring a long a large number of reliable witnesses.

It seems God understands that these people will take a lot of convincing. In fact, the next thousand years or so will be dedicated to that purpose. The question for us is, have we learned that lesson? Or do we still grumble and test God, letting Him know what hoops He’s going to have to go through?


Exo 17:8-16 NIV The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. (9) Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands." (10) So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. (11) As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. (12) When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset. (13) So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (14) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." (15) Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. (16) He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The [3] LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation."

The Amalekites, should it be than Biblical genealogy is not your hobby, are the descendants of one Amalek (naturally), who is the son of Esau.

This passage seems like magic. As long as Moses isn’t tired, we win. To the point that we have two people help him hold his hands up. Couldn’t God just strike them with a plague or something?

Well, consider it this way: why didn’t Joshua’s arms get tired? Is this perhaps God telling us that we will engage in physical combat much more readily than in spiritual? It is a pattern that we shall see again and again: trust in the Lord for victory, not in your own strength.

[1] Genesis 15:13 is the reference for this, but you have to work out the genealogies and dates to make 430 years work. Most commentaries will show you this. Get a thick one.

[2] In a location in Turkey, the government thereof prohibiting further access. Oh shucks.

[3] From which the blood of Christ dripped down through cracks in the ground to land on the Mercy Seat of the Ark.

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