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Moses 14 – From The Red See To Mara

From the Red Sea the hosts of Israel again set forth on their journey, under the guidance of the pillar of cloud. The scene around them was most dreary, bare, desolate-looking mountains, barren plains, and the sea stretching far away, its shores strewn with the bodies of their enemies; yet they were full of joy in the consciousness of freedom, and every thought of discontent was hushed. {PP 291.1}

With the beautiful choir music still ringing in their ears, the huge crowd noticed a movement in the sky.

The column by day and the fire by night was slowly moving in a westerly direction

Can you see that huge jubilant singing company slowly following the cloud above. The children may have asked the question: “where are we going now? How will it take to get there?
EXODUS 15:22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.

Late that afternoon the huge column stopped and the multitudes came to a standstill. What an experience. All day long they walked in the shade of this friendly cloud above them.

As the sun was setting, the cloud began to change into a huge fire. Instead of shivering in the cold night air of the desert, they enjoyed the head of the fiery column.

What would you have heard walking among the delivered slaves?
Chatting about the passing through the Red Sea.

Then came the next day. The pillar of fire changed into a cloud and move further and further in a southern direction.

The Israelites, no doubt, carried a supply of drinking water in leather pouches, as Oriental peoples from ancient times have done.
Knowing they were to enter the desert, the Israelites would not fail to take water with them, but a march of three days without finding more to replenish their exhausted supply would bring suffering to both man and beast.
What kind of discussion could you hear that third evening?
“Friend. Can you help me with a bit of water?”
The discussion changed from the miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea to the desperate need of water. It was therefore imperative that they find wells or springs at certain intervals.
Of all domestic animals used in the Near East the donkey was the most widely employed beast of burden for desert travel. The camel was found only occasionally prior to the 12th century B.C.
Donkeys are able to travel for four days without water, but cattle, which the Israelites possessed in great numbers, could not possibly live without more frequent watering.
For this reason a march of three days without finding water was about the limit the cattle could endure and not perish.
The supply which they had taken with them was exhausted. There was nothing to quench their burning thirst as they dragged wearily over the sun-burnt plains.

EXODUS 15:22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.

Have you ever been thirsty, terribly thirsty?

Verses 23,25 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?

With intense anxiety Moses watched the guiding cloud. With a sinking heart he heard the glad shout. “Water! water!” echoed along the line. Men, women, and children in joyous haste crowded to the fountain, when, lo, a cry of anguish burst forth from the host–the water was bitter.

Fortunately they were used to miracles and they cried to the Lord for help. “Dear Father in heaven. You have brought us out of Egypt, the land of bondage. Thank you for what You have done in the past. Please change the bitter water into sweet water. We are about to perish. Hear our prayer. We can only depend on you for help. Amen”

No no no! They did not do what you and I do when we are in trouble, falling on our knees and praising God for His goodness of the past and trusting Him for His continues care for us.

In their horror and despair they reproached Moses for having led them in such a way, not remembering that the divine presence in that mysterious cloud had been leading him as well as them.

Have you discovered that it is far easier to blame and complain than to trust God? How did Moses handle this crisis? Did he reprimand the people their unbelief? Did he remind them of the way in which God led them in the past?

Did he lose his temper? Did he give up on them? Have you given up on someone who is continuously murmuring? How do you handle complainers, people who always find fault?

The example of Moses says: Be kind to the disgruntled person. Show them how to act when bitter waters come our way


I shall never forget my first visit to this place. I could visualize the Israelites pulling ugly faces when the tasted the bitter water. I am sure you have seen people tasting bad things and pulling an ugly face.

The first oasis south of Suez is the ‘Ain Hawârah. It lies on the ancient road to the Sinai copper mines, a few miles inland from the gulf and about 80 kilometers from the town of Suez.

The water is bitter. If its identification with the Biblical Marah is correct, the sweetening of its waters by Moses was not of a permanent nature. Although most commentators have accepted this identification, it should be noted that there are several bitter springs in the vicinity, one of them even more bitter than ‘Ain Hawârah.

Verses 23,25 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?

The people murmured

They had murmured once before, on the western shore to the Red Sea (ch. 14:11, 12), and were to murmur many more times before their wanderings were over (see Ex. 16:2; Num. 14:2; 16:41; etc.).

“Murmuring”, burning tyres, would prove to be their common mode of giving vent to bitterness of soul at the difficulties regularly encountered. Since Moses was responsible for their departure from Egypt, and was their leader, their murmurings were in the first place directed against him.

Was it fare to blame Moses? Are you perhaps tasting bitter water, bitter disappointments? Who are you blaming? At times we even blame God who is leading us to the promised land.

The men who serve their nation best are often least appreciated during their lifetime, and monuments are usually erected in their honor only after they have died.

What shall we drink?

Though men will often swallow unpalatable water when their thirst is great, there is a limit beyond which nature cannot go. Even beasts refuse to drink the water of certain bitter wells in the Arabian Desert.

The Lord showed him a tree.

The name of this tree is not revealed. Several trees or plants belonging to different parts of the world are said to possess the quality of rendering bitter water sweet, but none of these have been found on the Sinai Peninsula.

In fact, the Bedouins of the neighborhood, who consider the water of the ‘Ain Hawârah and other similar springs in the vicinity unpalatable, know of no means by which this water can be made drinkable.

Hence there are but two possible explanations for this text. Moses was either directed to take a tree which had the natural quality of changing bitter water into sweet, which tree no longer grows in that area, or the transformation of the water was a direct act of God and the tree was only of symbolic significance.

An ordinance.

After healing the water and satisfying the physical thirst of His people, God gave them an ordinance that was connected with the miracle by a promise (see v. 26).

There he proved them.

From the time of their departure from Egypt to their entry into Canaan, God “proved” His people on many occasions—first at the Red Sea, now at Marah, later at Meribah (ch. 17:1–7), Sinai (20:20), Taberah (Num. 11:1–3), Kibroth-hattaavah (Num. 11:34), Kadesh (Num. 13:26–33), and elsewhere.

These “proofs” were part of God’s attempts to train them, under comparatively easy circumstances, for the experiences they would face in Canaan. Moses, who was familiar with this region, knew what the others did not, that at Marah, the nearest station where springs were to be found, the water was unfit for use.

Verse 26 And said, If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and will do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you, which I have brought on the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that heals you

Here is recorded a wonderful promise. If God’s people would henceforth render strict obedience to all His commandments, then He would “heal” them as He had healed the water, and would keep them free from both physical and moral evil.

Their physical well-being was therefore made dependent upon obedience. This great principle was true not only in the time of the Hebrews but through all ages. The physical well-being of the human race is still to a large extent dependent upon their regard for divine law.

Those who disregard the laws that govern healthful living have but themselves to blame for the consequences. On the other hand, those who live according to divinely imparted instructions on health will experience a marked freedom from diseases.

God is interested not only in man’s spiritual state but also in his physical state (see 3 John 2).

These Diseases

Some of these diseases are enumerated in Deuteronomy 28:27 The LORD will smite you with the botch of Egypt, and with the tumors, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof you can not be healed.

Reference to them is also made in Deut. 7:15.
And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you know, on you. It is known that certain diseases have always been prevalent among the Egyptians with extreme severity, especially skin and eye diseases. During their long sojourn in Egypt the Hebrews were well acquainted with the diseases of Egypt.
From the primary sources (the human remains) and the secondary or mediated sources (depictions and writings, mainly manuscripts), a range of diseases is known from ancient Egypt (Filer 1995; Nunn 1996):
• eye diseases: prominent in healing manuscripts, as to be expected from the sand and dust of Saharan climate, but not detectable in depictions (note that the blind harpist may be an Egyptological concoction: images of singers with eyes closed may represent closing of eyes during singing, rather than permanent blindness)
• illness caused by bites of scorpions or serpents: prominent in healing manuscripts, as to be expected in the Sahara; in the first millennium BC Horus stelae were produced to protect against the threat of such creatures
• diseases affecting internal organs: difficult to detect even in well-preserved bodies
• other internal diseases: kidney stones have been reported from examination of mummified remains
• tuberculosis: several instances of spinal tuberculosis have been reported from human remains from Egypt, see Morse/Brothwell/Ucko 1964 (note that depictions of hump-backed individuals may be result of bad posture, or a disease other than spinal tuberculosis)
• polio: an Amarna Period stela shows a man named Rema with emaciated leg, and leaning on a staff, and this is the principal evidence for the occurrence of polio (poliomyelitis), and Nunn suggests that this may also be the condition causing the abnormalities in the body of king Siptah of Dynasty 19
• parasitic diseases: bilharzia (schistosomiasis), guinea-worm, roundworm, tapeworm
Exodus 15:26 And said, If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and will do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you, which I have brought on the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that heals you.

The Lord that heals you

The Egyptian physicians were famous all over the ancient Near East, but extant texts show that they did not consider the power of healing to be their own, but their gods’.

In their medical handbooks, some of which are now 4,000 years old, diseases are divided into three classes: (1) those that can be treated; (2) those that can be arrested; (3) those that cannot be cured.

Though medical science has advanced tremendously since the days of Moses, the above classification still stands. The surgeon can make an incision, remove an organ, and sew up the wound, but he cannot heal it.

The physician can administer certain drugs, which he knows to have certain effects on certain ailments, but there his skill ends. The actual healing process is performed by a power over which human science has no control. It is still true in the 20th century as it was in the time of Moses that God alone imparts healing. He is the Master Physician.

Dr. McMillan wrote a book “None of these diseases”. From a medical standpoint he proves the value of following the health laws given to Moses by the Lord. The One who designed us, knows what is best for us to eat in order to be healthy.

Verse 27 And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and three score and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.

For every bid of bad news, our heavenly Father has some good news. The bitter waters were changed into sweet waters. If this is your present situation, please place the tree of Calvary into this experience.
And the next stop is a place called Elim. There are many wells and palm trees. Please move on from Mara, life’s bitterness, to Elim with its plenty of goodness.
After the break we will move on to the next disappointment which also changed into a tremendous blessing

Updated on 21st Mar 2022

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