Torah Portion for week 16: Exodus 13:17 – 17:16
Beshalach (When he let go)
This week’s Torah portion includes the Exodus, the great miracle of God delivering the children of Israel from Egypt. Why is the Exodus so important? Despite modern skepticism, the Exodus needs to be seen in light of the opening words of the Torah, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” If God could create the entire universe, then parting the sea is certainly doable.
The Exodus event has a unique place in the history of God’s plan. It is referred to about 120 times throughout the Old Testament, and it symbolizes God’s power. It is an example of why he is worthy to be worshipped. Even the Ten Commandments – which are included in next week’s portion – begin with a reference to this event. Exodus 20:2-3 reads, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Indeed, obedience to God begins with an understanding of who he is and what he has done. The Exodus is not just a symbol; it really happened. And believing it is inextricably linked with the Law of Moses.
Exodus 14 describes this famous story. The children of Israel have left Egypt after the ten plagues, and now Pharoah and his army begin to pursue them. As their pursuers got closer, the Israelites went into a panic. They cried out to Moses and to God. Moses responded to them in verse 13 by saying, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today.” God then gave instructions to Moses and he obeyed: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exod 14:21-22).
This miracle served to physically deliver the children of Israel out of the land of bondage. But, there was a spiritual application as well. As we read in Exodus 14:31, “Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.”
It’s true – seeing is believing. But what about us today? Do we believe this actually happened? Some have suggested that the Red Sea – actually the Reed Sea, or Sea of Reeds – was just a kind of swamp, and therefore crossing it was not such a big deal. But, the Sea of Reeds is also mentioned later, in 1 Kings 9:26, as the place where King Solomon had a whole fleet of ships. And also, remember, an entire army drowned in this body of water.
The Exodus from Egypt was the beginning of a pattern. Throughout history, the Jewish people have been in bondage to many types of “pharaohs.” We see this in the pages of Scripture itself, beginning with nations such as the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians. This pattern continues to be seen throughout history. While these examples of deliverance may seem less supernatural than the Exodus, they are every bit as miraculous. And today God continues to preserve his Jewish people.
The Exodus event is a foreshadowing of another event, one which is also a deliverance from bondage – namely, the resurrection of Yeshua. This event is also a display of God’s great power. But it is not merely symbolic. Like the Exodus, it really happened. And believing in this event is inextricably linked with deliverance from the bondage of sin. The Apostle Paul was very clear when he said in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” It is important to remember that the God who worked in history is alive and working today.
 ESV reads “Christ.”