Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Exodus, Chapter 14 captures the dramatic story of the utter demise of Pharaoh and his army.
Down to the last man, they all drowned in the Red Sea.

“And God said to Moses saying: Speak unto the Children of Israel, that
they turn back and encamp before Pi-hahiroth…And Pharaoh will say of
the Children of Israel that they are entangled in the land. The wilderness
has shut them in.”

Abravanel asks: Why did the Creator see fit to trick and entice Pharaoh into pursuing the Hebrews? “And
God said to Moses saying: Speak unto the Children of Israel, that they turn back…” Zigzagging gave the
distinct impression that Moses had no clue how to navigate the treacherous wastelands, and so they
marched in circles. Pharaoh believed his former “confuzzled” servants were marching right into his

Abravanel learns that God resolved to obliterate the Egyptians with much fanfare for two reasons. One
stemmed from a divine commitment made from God to the patriarchs. Recall, the Maker promised to
increase their descendants’ seed, to free the Jews from Egyptian bondage, and to bring them into a
comely land.

However, when God beheld the Jewish nation, He saw a people that were in a sorry state. Here was an
abject nation, broken and weak. The mighty Canaanites, God assessed, would make short shrift of the
hapless Hebrews, if nature was to run its course. The mismatch would result in a rout, the Jews
humiliated, not to mention their population decimated.

The compassionate Almighty devised a fix. He would make sure that the news of the Egyptian army’s
defeat would reverberate far and wide. Whoever heard of Pharaoh’s sensational demise would be in
shock. Indeed, the parting of the Red Sea provided the perfect, miraculous backdrop. And, it did the
trick. Canaanites, Philistines, and Edomites to list just three hostile nations, trembled before the Jews, as
the Bible makes explicit.

Here is a second rationale for God’s luring Pharaoh into His trap: divine payback. Justice demanded
retribution for infanticide. Egyptians drowned Hebrew babies. Now the murderers would pay the price.

In summary, divine wisdom crafted a plan that would instill fear into every Canaanite’s heart. When it
came to liberating the Holy Land, Hebrew warriors would conquer it in a cinch. See Abravanel’s World.