Did Pharaoh drown in the Red Sea?

DID PHARAOH DROWN IN THE RED SEA?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Exodus chapter 14 (the account of the Red Sea experience) does not say conclusively. Pharaoh indeed left Egypt with his armies to pursue the Israelites, as we see now:

“[1] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, [2] Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. [3] For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. [4] And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.” Pharaoh is present with and leading his armies toward the Israelites, verse 4 says. God declares that He will punish Pharaoh and all his soldiers.

“[5] And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us? [6] And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: [7] And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. [8] And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand. [9] But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.” Verses 6-8 have Pharaoh himself preparing and heading toward the Red Sea with his troops.

“[10] And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD. [11] And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? [12] Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” Verse 10 says Pharaoh himself is still advancing toward the shores of the Red Sea.

“[13] And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. [14] The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. [15] And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: [16] But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. [17] And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. [18] And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.” In verses 17 and 18, God speaks of Pharaoh as again being present with his chariots and horsemen. Pharaoh is indeed going to enter the Red Sea.

“[19] And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: [20] And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. [21] And 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, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. [22] And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

“[23] And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. [24] And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, [25] And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.

“[26] And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. [27] And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. [28] And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. [29] But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. [30] Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. [31] And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.”

Strangely, we do not read about Pharaoh specifically named as dying. Verse 28 said, “And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.” Scripture says the water came over the chariots, the horsemen, and all of Pharaoh’s troops. Not one of them survived. But what about Pharaoh? Did he escape? The Bible is ambiguous here. Some have thus suggested that Pharaoh possibly fled before the water came, and he went on living. Is there any merit in this?

Actually, Pharaoh’s fate is revealed later in the Bible. This textual feature is called “subsequent narrative,” and it is one of the Holy Spirit’s frequent methods of encouraging Bible study. He withholds some details about one event until revealing them many chapters, books, days, months, years, decades, centuries, or millennia after. Only the Berean Bible student—the sincere seeker of truth, the studious workman (2 Timothy 2:15)—can gain these “nuggets.” Those who are lazy, who read just a verse or two a day, never getting into the meat of Scripture, they will never know such details.

When the Hebrews sang the Song of Moses in the chapter following the Red Sea miracle, they reveal to us that Pharaoh indeed perished when God closed the waters of the Red Sea. Exodus 15:19 reports: “For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.” Pharaoh’s horse (singular) went in the Red Sea, meaning Pharaoh was physically present on the seafloor when God swiftly reunited the waters. Lest this verse be too obscure and thus inconclusive for some, we offer Psalm 136, the great “His mercy endureth for ever” song. It says of JEHOVAH God in verse 15: “But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.”

In light of these verses, Pharaoh indeed died in the Red Sea. The nation Israel had been so bothersome to him that he went to destroy the Jews himself, to see to it that they were all slaughtered in the Red Sea basin. He was there when the waters flooded back. Furthermore, God would not have allowed wicked Pharaoh to escape. If we look again at Exodus chapter 14, the LORD God said He intended to take Pharaoh’s life with all his armies: “[17] And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. [18] And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.”

We close by remembering that Pharaoh is a type, or picture, of the future Antichrist. Just as God will destroy the Antichrist and his armies at the Second Coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:11-21), so God destroyed Pharaoh and his armies in the Red Sea miracle. Both men take God’s people captive and the only way for God to free the nation Israel in both instances is to make war with and slay all of her oppressors. Whether the Red Sea miracle or Christ’s Second Coming, they both signify to Israel their death to their old life in bondage to sin, and the dawn of their new life in service to God. The Millennial Reign of Christ can therefore begin (which loops back to Exodus 15:13-18).

Also see:
» How long did it take Israel to cross the Red Sea?
» What does “Lord of Sabaoth” mean?
» Why did God kill the Egyptians’ firstborn sons?

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