This section begins with a command from God: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.’” This was combined with the remembrance of Passover to commemorate the Lord’s rescuing the people from Egypt. Twice it is repeated that “This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips (Ex 13:9, 16). Presumably having a sign on head or hand was a way of remembering things when they were in Egypt. It will later become a way to remember God’s law through placing it in boxes on the hand or forehead and in Revelation it is a way of identifying the people of the beast in contradistinction to God’s people.
After the Hebrews left Egypt, Pharaoh realised that he had lost his best workforce so he pursued them into the desert and once they were between him and the sea he was certain that they would soon be his captives again. The Hebrew people shared his belief and said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? (14:11). This is the first of many complaints from the people as they realised that a life of freedom from bondage is not always a convenient, easy life. God will have to take measures to turn this nation of former slaves into a nation that can demonstrate his plan for the world. The people had concluded that “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” In other words, it would be better for them to serve Pharaoh than God. God provided a way through the Sea as Moses lifted up his staff and the wind blew the water back.
The Egyptians followed the Hebrews into the sea but God clogged their chariot wheels and once the Hebrews were safely through he closed the water back up. Even with everything that God had done in Egypt with the plagues it was not until this point when the Hebrews saw firsthand God’s deliverance from immediate danger that they really came to believe. “When the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant” (14:31).
The first half of chapter 15 is a celebratory song that Moses and the people sang. Miriam also got into the act playing her timbrel and leading the women in dancing. It must have been quite a sight! The people continued into the desert and walked for three days without finding water. At Marah, they discovered some bitter water which they could not drink so they grumbled against Moses. God showed him how to make the water drinkable and made a test and promise to the people: “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you” (15:26). Needless to say, they soon broke the commandments from the Lord and suffered as the Egyptians had done.