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What Is the Significance of Parting the Red Sea?

God’s mighty act of deliverance reflects His work of salvation in sending His Son to die for us. We are all slaves of sin, but Jesus came to save us through His death and resurrection. All who believe in Him receive a new life and freedom from sin.

Contributing Writer
May 25, 2022
What Is the Significance of Parting the Red Sea?

At night, when the Israelites were blocked in by the Red Sea and the attacking Egyptians, God parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-21). All the people of Israel, along with their livestock, were able to cross on dry land with towering walls of water on the right and left as Moses led them (Exodus 14:21-22; Psalm 78:13).

Even though the Egyptians tried to chase after the Israelites by crossing through the sea, God enclosed the waters around them, which caused Israel’s oppressors to drown (Exodus 14:27-28). On that day, the Lord displayed His power and might through the miraculous parting of the Red Sea.

1. An Act of Salvation in Freeing the Israelites

The parting of the Red Sea is one of the most significant events in the Old Testament. It is repeatedly mentioned to emphasize God’s amazing act of salvation in freeing the Israelites from slavery.

For 400 years, the Israelites had been enslaved and mistreated in Egypt (Acts 7:6). God had previously told Abraham: “know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there” (Genesis 15:13).

However, He also promised to punish Egypt and bring out Israel with an abundance of possessions (Genesis 15:14).

When the Lord heard the cries of His people, He responded by sending Moses and Aaron to the Israelites (Exodus 2:24; Exodus 3:9-10; 4:29). Through them, He pronounced judgment on Pharaoh and sent ten plagues against Egypt to show that He alone is God (Exodus 7-12; 7:5).

After the plague of the death of the firstborn son, Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave but then changed his mind (Exodus 12:31; 14:5). He chased after them until Israel was hemmed in by the sea. God used this situation to display His power in parting the Red Sea.

On that day, God set Israel free. They were no longer slaves to Egypt. In response to God’s act of salvation, the Israelites sang to God a song of praise: “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea” (Exodus 15:1).

Repeatedly in Israel’s years of wandering and entrance into the Promised Land, God would remind them of His miraculous act of freeing them from slavery (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6).

2. A Display of God’s Power over Nature

Another reason the parting of the Red Sea is significant is that it displays God’s power over nature. The Israelites crossing through the sea on dry land was a miracle by the Lord.

This is a crucial point because many scholars and commentators attempt to explain the parting of the Red Sea as a natural phenomenon.

Some commentators have argued that the Red Sea mentioned in Exodus 14 refers to a reedy marsh and that the Israelites crossed through the low waters.

Other scholars have posited that a volcanic eruption caused a tidal wave to part the Red Sea. These explanations, though, dismiss the biblical account.

The Israelites did not merely wade through a shallow river. They recorded that they passed through on dry ground (Exodus 14:29; Hebrews 11:29).

God was the cause of the parting of the Red Sea when he sent a strong wind to push back the waters (Exodus 14:21-22). He is the Creator and has power over His creation to control the wind and sea (Psalm 89:9; Mark 4:39).

While it is popular for people to explain away biblical miracles with naturalistic explanations, Christians should listen to God’s Word. The parting of the Red Sea was a miracle from God and a wonderful display of His power.

3. A Reminder of God’s Faithfulness

In the rest of the Old Testament, we see followers of God looking back to the parting of the Red Sea to remind themselves of God’s faithfulness. When Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, God parted the Jordan River to lead them into their new home (Joshua 3:17).

He did this to remind the Israelites of what He did in parting the Red Sea and freeing them from slavery.

As it is recorded in the Book of Joshua, “For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over” (Joshua 4:23).

In Psalm 74, there is another reminder of God’s faithfulness connected to the parting of the Red Sea. Asaph talks about the enemy who ransacked God’s sanctuary (Psalm 74:4-7). Worrying about Israel’s enemy, Asaph asks if God would reject His people forever (Psalm 74:1).

In reply to his own question, Asaph reminds himself and others of God’s past deeds of faithfulness. As he wrote, “But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth. It was you who split open the sea by your power;” (Psalm 74:12-13).

Although he goes on to describe the Lord’s power over creation (Psalm 74:16-17), Asaph specifically mentions the parting of the Red Sea to remind himself of God’s salvation. The Lord had saved them before from the enemy and He would do it again.

4. A Picture of Jesus’ Act of Salvation

The parting of the Red Sea is also important because it provides a picture of Jesus’ act of salvation. Like the Israelites who were in slavery to Egypt, all people are in bondage to sin (John 8:34; Romans 7:14).

We have no hope of saving ourselves, which is why God did a mighty act to free us from our slavery to sin.

During the exodus, God parted the Red Sea and led Israel out of the land of their oppressors (Exodus 1:11-14). Likewise, God the Son willingly gave up his life to die on a cross (John 10:18).

Jesus paid the price for our sin, taking the punishment we deserve (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). He died but rose to life on the third day after His burial (Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:15).

Because of what Jesus did, anyone who trusts in His death and resurrection will be saved (1 Corinthians 15:2-4).

Believers in Christ have passed from the dominion of darkness — the “land” of oppression from sin — into a new kingdom.

As Paul wrote in Colossians 1:13, God “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”

We no longer live in darkness but are now children of the light, belonging to Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

Furthermore, just as Israel was set free from bondage to Egypt, the chains that bind us to sin are loosed at salvation. Believers “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18).

The Christian life consists of living free from bondage to our sinful nature and tendencies. Just as the Israelites received a new life after passing through the waters of the Red Sea, we have a new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Why Does This Matter?

The parting of the Red Sea is the prominent act of deliverance in the Old Testament. When the Lord pushed back the waters and led Israel through on dry ground, He not only was doing a miraculous deed that displayed his power over creation, but He also freed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.

As the psalmist recorded, “He commanded the Red Sea to dry up. He led Israel across the sea as if it were a desert. So he rescued them from their enemies and redeemed them from their foes” (Psalm 106:9-10, NLT).

God’s mighty act of deliverance reflects His work of salvation in sending His Son to die for us. We are all slaves of sin, but Jesus came to save us through His death and resurrection. All who believe in Him receive a new life and freedom from sin.

Therefore, Israel’s exodus from Egypt through the parted Red Sea is a significant event worth studying and meditating on in Scripture.

For further reading:

Who Was Moses in the Bible?

Why Did Moses Remove His Shoes in Front of the Burning Bush?

What Does Exodus Mean?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/rudall30

Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening. 

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