(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
In this Gem I am using the same featured Scripture as in the last Gem, Heroes With Feet of Clay! – XI: “By faith…[the Israelites] passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, drowned.” I have been thinking about this miraculous Red Sea crossing, and I want to bring these thoughts to you.
How many Israelites left Egypt under the leadership of Moses?
- According to the first census recorded in Numbers 1:45 and 46:
...all who were numbered of the children of Israel, by their fathers' houses, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war in Israel – all who were numbered were six hundred and three thousand five hun- dred and fifty.
603,550 men of fighting age, 20 years old and above! The passage does not say anything about an upper age limit for soldiering. It does say that Caleb, at 85 years old, was still ready to fight the Canaanites (see Joshua 14:10-12). But there must have been a number of older men who could not be counted as soldiers.
- What about women, children, and young men under twenty? By the census records in I Chronicles, the first ten chapters, some of the Hebrew families were quite large – even up to ten or more children! (see Judges 8:30; I Chronicles 8:38, 40; 21:20).
- Also, according to Exodus 12:38, “A mixed multitude went up with them also….” How many, we don’t know, but they are called a multitude.
Conservative estimates of the number of people who, led by Moses, left Egypt are about two to three million! But if 75% of the men of soldier age were married and had families, and the average family consisted of six people, then a better estimate of Israel’s size (plus the mixed multitude and older non-soldiers) would be three to four million people!
As discussed in the last Gem, the Gulf of Suez is the most likely route the Israelites took as they crossed that northern arm of the Red Sea:
- The Gulf of Suez is 12 to 20 miles wide. If we take a median width, the crossing of this gulf would be 16 miles.
The average depth of the Gulf of Suez is 130 feet, with a maximum depth of 230 feet. Again, taking the median depth of 180 feet, that is about how high the walls of water would be on either side of the Israelites as they crossed the dry seabed!
How long would it take for the children of Israel to cross the Gulf of Suez?
- Let’s take for example a wagon train traveling west 150 years ago. With oxen or horses pulling the covered wagons; with children sometimes walking; with herds of cows, horses, sheep, goats – a wagon train might travel at about 2 miles per hour, and cover ten miles a day, maybe 20 miles on a very good day! (see https://www.californiatrail center.org).
- Although we don’t know the width of the path through the water, let’s work with some figures:
✡ If the width of the path between the walls of water was 100 feet wide, maybe 20 people (plus animals) could form the first line (although I’m quite sure it was not an orderly marching body of people). That would give each person five feet of left-to-right space. But the length of the crossing Israelites would be 150,000 lines of people! And if each line had five feet front-to-back in which to walk, the line of Israelites would be 142 miles long! ✡ So if we widen the path through the Gulf of Suez to 500 feet, the line would be almost 28 and 1/2 miles long! ✡ Widen the path to a mile wide between the walls of water. The length of the line of the crossing Israelites would be 2 and 7/10 miles long!
All this to say, it was a massive movement of people and animals that crossed the Gulf of Suez! It probably took a full 24 hour day! The Scripture does not say exactly how many hours it took to cross the gulf, but here is what is written:
✡ Exodus 14:21 – “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night....” ✡ Exodus 14:22, 23 – “So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground ....And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea....” ✡ Exodus 14:24, 26 – “...in the morning watch... the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians....’” ✡ Exodus 14:27 – “...and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth....So the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.”
From these Scriptures, it seems to indicate that when God parted the waters, the east wind He sent blew all night, and completed the job by the morning of the next day. The next 24 hours, the Israelites crossed. Then, on that morning, when His chosen people were safe on the Sinai side of the gulf, God made the sea waters return, and the Egyptians drowned!
It must have been an exhausting day for the Hebrew people!
- They marched all day and night across the dry seabed!
- I think many were terrified, especially at the beginning of the march, to walk a path through the gulf with waters standing on either side up to 180 feet high!
- Also, the entire Egyptian army began to follow them, with chariots, horses, and foot soldiers rushing to overtake the fleeing Israelites!
But they had a leader with total confidence in the LORD! For He had told Moses, and Moses told the people:
Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. (Exodus 14:13 and 14).
What can we learn from this? God is mighty, and He can accomplish anything! Also, He raises up leaders who are in touch with the Almighty, and who will help us find a way through to victory! And He gives us His Word…
...thus says the LORD, who created you...and He who formed you...“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not over- flow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One... your Savior....” (Isaiah 43:1 through 3).
It is as Jesus says to us in Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20:
I will never leave you, nor forsake you….
I am with you always, even to the end of the age.