V 1-4 God speaks to Moses and instructs him “turn back”, directing them to a place that is next to the “Sea”. This is most likely the Northern end of the Gulf of Suez which is a branch of the Red Sea. The place God led them to was strategically a location that Pharaoh would believe would entrap them with no way out. Pharaoh thinks they are lost and wandering and that this is a sure victory, God won’t be able to rescue them this time. God tells Moses that He will once again harden Pharaoh’s heart and receive glory so that the “Egyptians will know that I am the Lord”.
V 5-9 A hardened heart lacks sense and memory. Pharaoh and his servants have forgotten the plagues and God’s power and did not want to lose their slaves. The chosen chariots were an elite force, while the rest complimented his mighty army. Israel’s defiant Exodus was based on the rout by the plagues and the wealth of Egypt given to them as their spoils of victory. It had to have been humbling to Pharaoh and his servants and they once again rebelled against God. His army caught up and surrounded them and he thought they were trapped with no way out.
V 10-14 The scene now shifts to Israel and their response to God’s leading through Moses. Their defiance was immediately turned to fear as they beheld the armies of Egypt. Moses told them that they would never see the Egyptian army again. Jewish irony and perhaps sarcasm and humor appear here with the question about graves in Egypt, that’s what they were building when they were in slavery. They forgot the bitterness of their bondage, and their minds lacked faith in God. They needed to learn to fear God rather than men which is the lesson of this chapter and in fact the entire Scriptures. This is why we need to read God’s Word, it is how our faith is strengthened. That is what gave Daniel and the three courage in the face of death, they chose to trust the eternal God rather than fear mortal men (Dan. 3:16–18; 6:10). Moses told them “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Isa. 30:15). This is a lesson that God desires we all understand and believe. David knew this 1 Sam. 17:47; As did King Jehoshaphat 2 Chron. 20:15ff.
15-18 Moses, responding to the fear of Israel, cries out to the Lord. They were in an impossible situation; Moses knew that God would deliver them but there didn’t seem to be a way out from all appearences. The sea was in front the Mountains were around them and Egypt’s army behind them. Moses is told to stop praying and to tell the people to prepare to go forward. Further he was told to take his staff in hand and place it over the sea to divide it so that Israel could pass through. Moses and the people could find comfort in the presence of the Lord in the pillar of cloud that led them by day and the pillar of fire by night (13:21-22). This pillar is the presence of God which in the New Covenant is within all of God’s children who have been born of God’s Spirit or born again. God tells Moses, once again that through this miraculous deliverance He will receive glory. God was keeping His promise that He would carry Israel and take them as His people (3:7-8). In years to come, Jews throughout history would measure everything by the demonstration of God’s great power at the Exodus. God also states that these miracles were also to reveal Himself to Egypt.
19-20 The angel of God is God. In the Tenach (Older Covenant) there are quite a few instances where the angel of the Lord speaks and acts in a way only God does (Gen 16:7-14). The Lord protects Israel as they prepare and enter the Red Sea. The hosts (tsvaot) is a reference to the armies of Egypt and Israel, God is described in Scripture as the Lord of hosts. Here we see the pillar of cloud lighting the way for Israel to see where they were going and protecting them from the Egyptian armies.
21-25 In response to Moses, the Lord parts the Sea and dries the land so that Israel could walk across. The water was a wall on each side for them, the wall speaks of protection (1 Sam. 25:16; Jer. 15:20). Without a second thought the Egyptian army pursues them in the following morning and the Lord begins to fight on Israel’s behalf. The Egyptians realize that it is the Lord’s fighting on behalf of Israel. Psalm 77:16-20 indicates that a severe rainstorm accompanied the high winds, and after Israel had crossed, the rain turned Israel’s dry bed into a muddy road bogging down the chariots. God threw the Egyptians into confusion. The Lord did this on a number of occasions (23:27; Jos 10:10; 1 Sm 5:9,11; 7:10; 2Kg 7:6-7). The parting of the water here will not be the only time this will happen in Israel’s history. Similar events will take place when Joshua leads Israel across the Jordan into the land, (Josh. 3:14–17), and when Elijah and Elisha cross the Jordan together on the way to Elijah being taken to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11).
26-29 The Lord then instructs Moses to stretch his hands over the sea again and the sea returned to its position. From Ex 15:10, we learn that the wind began immediately to blow from the west and drove the waves in the face of the attacking Egyptians. God then caused Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen, to be buried in the sea.
30-31 Israel saw God’s deliverance (literally the Lord saved Israel), this is also how the Psalmist described it in Ps 106:10-12. The display of power by God against the Egyptians engendered faith in the Lord and in Moses. Since the Lord has chosen Moses as the one through whom he will reveal his word, it is necessary for Israel to learn to follow Moses as a demonstration of their fear of the Lord (see vv. 10, 13).