Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Did Pharaoh die in the Rea Sea?

Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? is my first or second most viewed post.

Rasec asks
Where does it say that the Exodus Pharaoh died in the Red Sea?
I think this a useful question because it reflects attentiveness to what Scripture does and does not say. The Bible specifies many things, it implies or suggests many more things that are likely to be what Scripture intends. However we can think the Bible says something when it does not clearly say so, or we misread what it does say. Implication is legitimate, but we need to also focus closely on specifics at times. This is not to say that we can isolate small phrases from larger contexts and have the Bible say contrary things, rather our small assumptions may not always be completely correct.

In Exodus it says that Pharaoh took his army in pursuit of the Israelites
When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.
It says "he [Pharaoh] pursued the people of Israel" and the "Egyptians pursued them." These are parallel. Pharaoh and his army are pursuing the Israelites. Further, "Egyptians" means the army, not every Egyptian citizen. Contextual clues tell us this.

Later when the Israelites lament leaving Egypt "Egyptian" is more generic, it need not be limited to a soldier.
“Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
When it comes to the Israelites' deliverance there is an emphasis on the complete destruction of the Egyptians,
The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.
God threw them into panic, clogged their wheels, returned water on them, threw them into the midst of the sea, covered the chariots and horsemen. Of all who followed the Israelites into the sea not a single person remained and the Egyptians were seen dead on the shore. The repeated emphasis here is to demonstrate not a single person survived,
of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea

Now it is possible that just the charioteers followed Israel into the sea and the army and Pharaoh remained on dry land. But this seems less likely given the victory song
“Pharaoh's chariots and his host he cast into the sea,/
and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea. (Exodus 15)
I think the emphasis on the chariots and horses is because they were representative of a powerful army whereas the Israelites were all on foot. The best of the army are used to emphasis the degree of deliverance. Exodus does not appear to be implying the all the infantry stayed on the shore while the cavalry pursued.

Pharaoh may have survived, and Exodus does not specify his death, though it seems to be implied in the exhaustive destruction of the army and the identification of Pharaoh with his army. If Pharaoh survived this detail would need to be specified as an exception.

Though we also have firm confirmation of Pharaoh's death elsewhere. In the Psalms we read of this battle,
to him who divided the Red Sea in two,/
for his steadfast love endures forever;/
and made Israel pass through the midst of it,/
for his steadfast love endures forever;/
but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,/
for his steadfast love endures forever; (Psalm 136)
Pharaoh died at the parting of the Red Sea. Exodus strongly implies it and Psalm 136 specifies it.


  1. I had an Egyptiaa officemate in Doha Qatar. His name is Hussien.Of course he is a Muslim. We talked about Moses and and how he lead the Israelites through the red sea.
    He along with other Egyptians do not consider the Pharaoh during the time of Moses as Egyptian. Instead they called him and his people -the Pharaohnics.
    Hussein told me this Pharaonics Kings was drowned in the reeed see as he pursued Moses. In fact, according to Hussein, there is a musseum in Egypt that preserved the body of this Pharaohnics king. Somehow this was identified because there was a residue of salt all over his body and a fish stucked in his throat. That is according to Hussein.
    As for me. Yuo are right. Pharaoh was indeed drowned, it was not specified in Exudos 14 and 15 but it was clearly mentioned in Psalms 136:15.

  2. Your Egyptian friend is confused and adding rumor to rumor. The body they claim has salt all over it is the body of Ramasses II and no fish was found stuck in his throat. No Mummy would be left with a fish in his throat. Mummies were thoroughly washed and embalmed. Any salt residue would have occurred from conditions the mummy was preserved in. Ramasses II died of old age and possible complications from a severely abscessed tooth.

  3. 15 But shook off and overthrew Pharaoh and his host into the Red Sea, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever; Psalms 136:15



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