Book 2, Chapter 16


1. WHEN Moses had said this, he led them to the sea, while the Egyptians looked on; for they were within sight. Now these were so distressed by the toil of their pursuit, that they thought proper to put off fighting till the next day. But when Moses was come to the sea-shore, he took his rod, and made supplication to God, and called upon him to be their helper and assistant; and said “Thou art not ignorant, O Lord, that it is beyond human strength and human contrivance to avoid the difficulties we are now under; but it must be thy work altogether to procure deliverance to this army, which has left Egypt at thy appointment. We despair of any other assistance or contrivance, and have recourse only to that hope we have in thee; and if there be any method that can promise us an escape by thy providence, we look up to thee for it. And let it come quickly, and manifest thy power to us; and do thou raise up this people unto good courage and hope of deliverance, who are deeply sunk into a disconsolate state of mind. We are in a helpless place, but still it is a place that thou possessest; still the sea is thine, the mountains also that enclose us are thine; so that these mountains will open themselves if thou commandest them, and the sea also, if thou commandest it, will become dry land. Nay, we might escape by a flight through the air, if thou shouldst determine we should have that way of salvation.” 

2. When Moses had thus addressed himself to God, he smote the sea with his rod, which parted asunder at the stroke, and receiving those waters into itself, left the ground dry, as a road and a place of flight for the Hebrews. Now when Moses saw this appearance of God, and that the sea went out of its own place, and left dry land, he went first of all into it, and bid the Hebrews to follow him along that divine road, and to rejoice at the danger their enemies that followed them were in; and gave thanks to God for this so surprising a deliverance which appeared from him. 

3. Now, while these Hebrews made no stay, but went on earnestly, as led by God’s presence with them, the Egyptians supposed first that they were distracted, and were going rashly upon manifest destruction. But when they saw that they were going a great way without any harm, and that no obstacle or difficulty fell in their journey, they made haste to pursue them, hoping that the sea would be calm for them also. They put their horse foremost, and went down themselves into the sea. Now the Hebrews, while these were putting on their armor, and therein spending their time, were beforehand with them, and escaped them, and got first over to the land on the other side without any hurt. Whence the others were encouraged, and more courageously pursued them, as hoping no harm would come to them neither: but the Egyptians were not aware that they went into a road made for the Hebrews, and not for others; that this road was made for the deliverance of those in danger, but not for those that were earnest to make use of it for the others’ destruction. As soon, therefore, as ever the whole Egyptian army was within it, the sea flowed to its own place, and came down with a torrent raised by storms of wind, (30) and encompassed the Egyptians. Showers of rain also came down from the sky, and dreadful thunders and lightning, with flashes of fire. Thunderbolts also were darted upon them. Nor was there any thing which used to be sent by God upon men, as indications of his wrath, which did not happen at this time, for a dark and dismal night oppressed them. And thus did all these men perish, so that there was not one man left to be a messenger of this calamity to the rest of the Egyptians. 

4. But the Hebrews were not able to contain themselves for joy at their wonderful deliverance, and destruction of their enemies; now indeed supposing themselves firmly delivered, when those that would have forced them into slavery were destroyed, and when they found they had God so evidently for their protector. And now these Hebrews having escaped the danger they were in, after this manner, and besides that, seeing their enemies punished in such a way as is never recorded of any other men whomsoever, were all the night employed in singing of hymns, and in mirth. (31) Moses also composed a song unto God, containing his praises, and a thanksgiving for his kindness, in hexameter verse. (32) 

5. As for myself, I have delivered every part of this history as I found it in the sacred books; nor let any one wonder at the strangeness of the narration if a way were discovered to those men of old time, who were free from the wickedness of the modern ages, whether it happened by the will of God or whether it happened of its own accord; – while, for the sake of those that accompanied Alexander, king of Macedonia, who yet lived, comparatively but a little while ago, the Pamphylian Sea retired and afforded them a passage (33) through itself, had no other way to go; I mean, when it was the will of God to destroy the monarchy of the Persians: and this is confessed to be true by all that have written about the actions of Alexander. But as to these events, let every one determine as he pleases. 

6. On the next day Moses gathered together the weapons of the Egyptians, which were brought to the camp of the Hebrews by the current of the sea, and the force of the winds resisting it; and he conjectured that this also happened by Divine Providence, that so they might not be destitute of weapons. So when he had ordered the Hebrews to arm themselves with them, he led them to Mount Sinai, in order to offer sacrifice to God, and to render oblations for the salvation of the multitude, as he was charged to do beforehand. 


(30) Of these storms of wind, thunder, and lightning, at this drowning of Pharaoh’s army, almost wanting in our copies of Exodus, but fully extant in that of David, Psa_77:16-18, and in that of Josephus here, see Essay on the Old Test. Append. p. 15,1, 155. 

(31) What some have here objected against this passage of the Israelites over the Red Sea, in this one night, from the common maps, viz. that this sea being here about thirty miles broad, so great an army conld not pass over it in so short a time, is a great mistake. Mons. Thevenot, an authentic eye-witness, informs us, that this sea, for about five days’ journey, is no where more than about eight or nine miles over-cross, and in one place but four or five miles, according to De Lisle’s map, which is made from the best travelers themselves, and not copied from others. What has been further objected against this passage of the Israelites, and drowning of the Egyptians, being miraculous also, viz. that Moses might carry the Israelites over at a low tide without any miracle, while yet the Egyptians, not knowing the tide so well as he, might be drowned upon the return of the tide, is a strange story indeed ! That Moses, who never had lived here, should know the quantity and time of the flux and reflux of the Red Sea better than the Egyptians themselves in its neighborhood! Yet does Artapanus, an ancient heathen historian, inform us, that this was what the more ignorant Memphites, who lived at a great distance, pretended, though he confesses, that the more learned Heliopolitans, who lived much nearer, owned the destruction of the Egyptians, and the deliverance of the Israelites, to have been miraculous: and De Castro, a mathematician, who surveyed this sea with great exactness, informs us, that there is no great flux or reflux in this part of the Red Sea, to give a color to this hypothesis; nay, that at the elevation of the tide there is little above half the height of a man. See Essay on the Old Test. Append. p. 239, 240. So vain and groundless are these and the like evasions and subterfuges of our modern sceptics and unbelievers, and so certainly do thorough inquiries and authentic evidence disprove and confute such evasions and subterfuges upon all occasions. 

(32) What that hexameter verse, in which Moses’s triumphant song is here said to be written, distinctly means, our present ignorance of the old Hebrew metre or measure will not let us determine. Nor does it appear to me certain that even Josephus himself had a distinct notion of it, though he speaks of several sort of that metre or measure, both here and elsewhere. Antiq. B. IV. ch. 8. sect. 44; and B. VII. ch. 12. sect. 3. 

(33) Take here the original passages of the four old authors that still remain, as to this transit of Alexander the Great over the Pamphylian Sea: I mean, of Callisthenes, Strabu, Arrian, and Appian. As to Callisthenes, who himself accompanied Alexander in this expedition, Eustathius, in his Notes on the third Iliad of Homer, (as Dr. Bernard here informs us,) says, That “this Callisthenes wrote how the Pamphylian Sea did not only open a passage for Alexander, but, by rising and did pay him homage as its king.” Strabo’s is this (Geog. B. XIV. p. 666): “Now about Phaselis is that narrow passage, by the sea-side, through which his army. There is a mountain called Climax, adjoins to the Sea of Pamphylia, leaving a narrow passage on the shore, which, in calm weather, is bare, so as to be passable by travelers, but when the sea overflows, it is covered to a great degree by the waves. Now then, the ascent by the mountains being round about and steep, in still weather they make use of the road along the coast. But Alexander fell into the winter season, and committing himself chiefly to fortune, he marched on before the waves retired; and so it happened that were a whole day in journeying over it, and were under water up to the navel.” Arrian’s account is this (B. I. p. 72, 73): Alexander removed from Phaselis, he sent some part his army over the mountains to Perga; which road the Thracians showed him. A difficult way it was, but short. he himself conducted those that were with him by the sea-shore. This road is impassable at any other time than when the north wind blows; but if the south wind prevail, there is no passing by the shore. Now at this time, after strong south winds, a north wind blew, and that not without the Divine Providence, (as both he and they that were with him supposed,) and afforded him an easy and quick passage.” Appian, when he compares Caesar and Alexander together, (De Bel. Civil. B. II. p. 522,) says, “That they both depended on their boldness and fortune, as much as on their skill in war. As an instance of which, Alexander journeyed over a country without water, in the heat of summer, to the oracle of [Jupiter] Hammon, and quickly passed over the Bay of Pamphylia, when, by Divine Providence, the sea was cut off – thus Providence restraining the sea on his account, as it had sent him rain when he traveled [over the desert].” 

N. B. – Since, in the days of Josephus, as he assures us, all the more numerous original historians of Alexander gave the account he has here set down, as to the providential going back of the waters of the Pamphylian Sea, when he was going with his army to destroy the Persian monarchy, which the fore-named authors now remaining fully confirm, it is without all just foundation that Josephus is here blamed by some late writers for quoting those ancient authors upon the present occasion; nor can the reflections of Plutarch, or any other author later than Josephus, be in the least here alleged to contradict him. Josephus went by all the evidence he then had, and that evidence of the most authentic sort also. So that whatever the moderns may think of the thing itself, there is hence not the least color for finding fault with Josephus: he would rather have been much to blame had he omitted these quotations.