The Lord is a Warrior

Pesach ~ Exodus 13:17 – 15:27

The weekly Torah portion (Hebrew: פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ Parashat ha-Shavua, popularly just parasha) is a section of the Torah read publicly and aloud in weekly Jewish prayer services, usually in full during the Shabbat (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath). There are 54 such parashiyot in Judaism, and the full cycle is read over the course of a Jewish year. Each week, the ECI Young Adults are providing us with a commentary on the week’s parasha.

The parashot (plural for parasha) of last week were linked to the feast of Pesach. The portions that were read in the synagogue commemorated Pesach by reading its account as described from Exodus 12 to Exodus 15:27. The portion starts by mentioning that the Lord did not let his people travel on a road that led to the land of the Philistines. This would have been around a month travel for the people of Israel in order to get to the land of Canaan. The reason that the Lord leads them on an alternative route is given: ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’(Ex 13:17) Though the Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle and marched out boldly, they were spared from direct confrontation with adversaries on their journey to the Promised Land.

The Pursuit

When the king of Egypt was told that the people of Israel had fled, he and his officials changed their minds about them and they whipped up six hundred of their best chariots in pursuit of the Israelites that resided with their camp at that time at the Red sea. Picture that: all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops rushing with all their resentment to Pi Hahiroth to avenge themselves on the Israelites.

The Fight

Seeing these Egyptians approaching, the reaction of the Israelites is quite understandable: they were trapped between the Egyptians and the sea and they cried out to the Lord (Exodus 14:10). But Moses then gets clear instructions from the Lord for the Israelites: ‘See His salvation’, ‘do not be afraid’, ‘stand firm’, and:…‘move on’. Move on? In this kind of situation? Yes ‘move on’ is what He tells His people, because He will fight for them. He will once and for all deal with the Pharaoh and his army that have enslaved His people and illustrates to His people that He has their back: His angel and pillar of cloud move together behind them, as they themselves march through the Red Sea to the land of their promise.

The Defeat

And so the Egyptians have to experience that ‘the Lord is fighting for the Israelites’ in the sea. This will be their last march, this will be place where they are humiliated and defeated. The chariots of Pharaoh’s army get stuck in the Red Sea and his soldiers cry: ‘Let’s get away from the Israelites!’ (Exodus 14:23). The Lord looks down on his army and brings over them: a total defeat.

The nations will hear and tremble (Exodus 15:14).

What the Lord had done with the Pharaoh and his army  made a very big impact on the surrounding nations and people groups in that time. We read in Exodus 15 that all those enemies that Israel would come across along the way to the promised land (and also in the promised) land were terrified and gripped with fear. It was spoken of in the promised Land, still even after forty years had passed by (Joshua 2:10). The news of the event at the Red Sea had gone internationally and it had shaken dozens of societies. The Lord had shown Himself as a warrior and it was known among the nations.

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