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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Exodus

Last evening we watched a documentary video on the archaeological evidence for the Exodus of Israel from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. Archaeologists have uncovered ruins and artifacts in Egypt and ancient writings that verify the presence of Hebrews in Egypt during the time of Joseph. By comparing what the Bible says about their flight from Egypt to the Red Sea with ancient maps and other sources, researchers were led to what is now called the Gulf of Aqaba. This is a large gulf at the northern tip of the Red Sea, east of the Sinai peninsula and west of the Arabian mainland. 
When God called Moses at Mount Horeb (or Sinai) in Exodus 3, He said that Moses would bring the people back to the same place in Midian (Arabia). Exodus 13:17-18 says God told Moses to lead the Israelites through the wilderness instead of the shortest route which would have taken them through the land of the Philistines who would have fought to keep them from passing through. So Moses led the people down the same trade route he would have taken from Midian to Egypt and back again forty years later. The road, which was familiar to him, went from Egypt down the east side of the Gulf of Suez and across the Sinai peninsula to the Gulf of Aqaba. (The Suez Canal did not exist then.)
In Exodus 14:1-2, God told Moses to turn before Pihahiroth and camp between there and the sea. This route took them down a winding 18-mile wadi, hemmed in with mountains on both sides. By this time, Pharaoh regretted having let them go and sent his army after them. A small army of 600 horses and chariots could quickly overtake the millions traveling on foot. And when Pharaoh knew they had gone into this wadi he was sure he had them. The Israelites knew they were trapped with the Egyptian army behind them, mountains on both sides, and the impassable sea ahead of them. 
I'm sure you know the story in the rest of chapter 14 and how they were delivered by God parting the waters so they could go through on dry ground. This is where the archaeological exploration comes in. 
The place where the 18-mile wadi ends is a large sandy beach on each side of the Gulf of Aqaba and the spot believed to be where the crossing occurred. The Israelites would have spilled out of the wadi onto this sandy beach with no way to go backward or forward. The water lies in a gorge as deep as a mile in some places. How could have they walk down into this rocky gorge and up again on dry land to get to the other side? Robotic underwater cameras show there is a wide flat plateau of sand across the rocky ridge. So when God rolled back the water and made it stand in walls on both sides, the Israelites had a smooth sandy highway across the sea. Isaiah alluded to this in Isaiah 11:16 (emphasis mine). "And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.
Exodus 14 says Pharoah's army foolishly followed and were drowned when the water closed in over them. Further underwater exploration of this area showed the floor of the sea is littered with coral growths that resemble wheels, axles, and other shapes that could be pieces of Egyptian chariots. It is illegal to remove them but they have been photographed. 
I have never doubted the story of the Exodus. If God says it, I believe it. But it is exciting to me to see science and archaeology supporting what the Bible says. While the evidence supports the story, there is nothing to prove the water actually divided. The wind is gone and the water is back in place. It still takes faith to believe what the Bible says is what literally happened. Those who don't WANT to believe will scoff regardless of the amount of evidence.
Why did God tell Moses to lead His people into such an impossible situation? Wouldn't it have been easier for them to win a war with the Philistines than to get out of this desperate trap? Either way, God was going to deliver His people and dividing the Red Sea wasn't any harder for Him than to help them win a war. God wanted to make it clear that HE had delivered them and forever remove the threat of recapture by the Egyptians. He knew where that sandy road lay across the water and the way to get to it was through the wadi. 
The spiritual application is too big to miss. Sometimes God takes us through the wilderness and puts us in a position where He is our only hope. And when He takes us through our Red Sea, we can sing the song of Moses, "The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation."

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