Moses or God?
Who Split the Sea of Reeds?
The story of the parting of the Sea of Reeds and the Israelites crossing on dry land, as it appears in the book of Exodus, preserves a certain balance between the greater role played by God and that played by God’s servant, Moses.
The Israelites, fearful of the Egyptian oppressors who nip at their heels, cry out to their God: “As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites caught sight of the Egyptians advancing upon them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to the LORD” (Exodus 14:10). At the same time, they complain to Moses and hold him responsible for their suffering: “Was it for want of graves in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, saying ‘Let us be, and we will serve the Egyptians, for it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness?’” (vv. 11–12). Moses’s answer expresses his absolute confidence in God’s salvation, and he attributes no role to himself in the people’s deliverance: “Have no fear! Stand by, and witness the deliverance that the LORD will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The LORD will battle for you; you hold your peace!” (vv. 13–14).
God, however, gives Moses a role, “And you lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the sea and split it, so that the Israelites may march into the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:16), and Moses obeys — “Then Moses held out his arm over the sea” — but, the verse continues, it is