Josephus, Antiquities, The Red Sea (2.328-349)

328 So there was sorrow and lamentation among the women and children, who had nothing but destruction before their eyes, while they were surrounded with mountains, the sea, and their enemies, and discerned no way of escaping from them. 329 But Moses, though the multitude looked fiercely at him, did not, however, relinquish the care of them, but despised all dangers, out of his trust in God, who, as he had afforded them the various steps already taken for the recovery of their liberty, which he had foretold them, would not now suffer them to be subdued by their enemies, to be either made slaves or be slain by them; 330 and, standing in midst of them, he said,

“It is not just of us to distrust even men, when they have hereto well managed our affairs, as if they would not be the same men hereafter; but it is no better than madness, at this time, to despair of the providence of God, by whose power all those things have been performed which he promised, when you expected no such things: 331 I mean all that I have been concerned in for deliverance and escape from slavery. Nay, when we are in the utmost distress, as you see we are, we ought rather to hope that God will help us, by whose operation it is that we are now surrounded within this narrow place, 332 that he may deliver us out of such difficulties as are otherwise insurmountable and out of which neither you nor your enemies expect you can be delivered, and may at once demonstrate his own power and his providence over us. Nor does God use to give his help in small difficulties to those whom he favours; but in such cases where no one can see how any hope in man can better their condition. 333 Depend, therefore, upon such a protector as is able to make small things great, and to show that this mighty force against you is nothing but weakness; and be not frightened by the Egyptian army, nor do you despair of being preserved, because the sea before, and the mountains behind, afford you no opportunity for escape, for even these mountains, if God so please, may be made plain ground for you, and the sea become dry land.”

334 When Moses had said this, he led them to the sea, while the Egyptians looked on; for they were within sight. Now these were so distressed by the toil of their pursuit, that they thought proper to put off fighting till the next day. But when Moses was come to the sea shore, he took his rod, and made supplication to God, and called upon him to be their helper and assistant; and said

335 “You are not ignorant, O Lord, that it is beyond human strength and human contrivance to avoid the difficulties we are now under; but it must be your work altogether to procure deliverance to this host, which has left Egypt at your appointment. 336 We despair of any other assistance or contrivance, and have recourse only to that hope we have in you; and if there be any method that can promise us an escape by your providence, we look up to you for it. And let it come quickly, and manifest your power to us; and do raise up this people to good courage and hope of deliverance, who are deeply sunk into a disconsolate state of mind. 337 We are in a helpless place, but still it is a place that you possess; still the sea is yours, the mountains also that enclose us are yours; so that these mountains will open themselves if you command them, and the sea also, if you command it, will become dry land. Nay, we might escape by a flight through the air, if you should determine we should have that way of salvation.”

338 When Moses had thus addressed himself to God, he smote the sea with his rod, which parted asunder at the stroke, and receiving those waters into itself, left the ground dry, as a road and a place of flight for the Hebrews. 339 Now when Moses saw this appearance of God, and that the sea went out of its own place, and left dry land, he went first of all into it, and bade the Hebrews to follow him along that divine road, and to rejoice at the danger their enemies that followed them were in; and gave thanks to God for this so surprising a deliverance which appeared from him.

340 Now, while these Hebrews made no delay, but went on earnestly, as led by God's presence with them, the Egyptians supposed first that they were distracted, and were going rashly upon manifest destruction. But when they saw that they were going a great way without any harm, and that no obstacle or difficulty happened in their journey, they made haste to pursue them, hoping that the sea would be calm for them also. They put their cavalry foremost, and went down themselves into the sea.

341 Now the Hebrews, while these were putting on their armour, and therein spending their time, were beforehand with them, and escaped them, and got over first to the land on the other side without any harm. Hence the others were encouraged, and more courageously pursued them, as hoping no harm would come to them either: 342 but the Egyptians were not aware that they went into a road made for the Hebrews, and not for others; that this road was made for the deliverance of those in danger, but not for those who were earnest to make use of it for the others' destruction. 343 As soon, therefore, as ever the whole Egyptian army was within it, the sea flowed to its own place, and came down with a torrent raised by storms of wind, and surrounded the Egyptians.

Showers of rain also came down from the sky, and dreadful thunders and lightning, with flashes of fire. Thunderbolts also were darted upon them; 344 nor was there anything which used to be sent by God upon men, as indications of his wrath, which did not happen at this time; for a dark and dismal night oppressed them. And thus did all these men perish, so that there was not one man left to be a messenger of this calamity to the rest of the Egyptians.

345 But the Hebrews were not able to contain themselves for joy at their wonderful deliverance, and destruction of their enemies; now, indeed, supposing themselves firmly delivered, when those that would have forced them into slavery were killed, and when they found they had God so evidently for their protector; 346 and now these Hebrews having escaped the danger they were in, after this manner, and besides that, seeing their enemies punished in such a way as is never recorded of any other men whomever, were all the night employed in singing of hymns, and in mirth. Moses also composed a song to God, containing his praises, and a thanksgiving for his kindness, in hexameter verse.

347 As for myself, I have delivered every part of this history as I found it in the sacred books; nor let anyone wonder at the strangeness of the narration, if a way were discovered to those men of old time, who were free from the wickedness of the modern ages, whether it happened by the will of God or whether it happened of its own accord, 348 while, for the sake of those who accompanied Alexander, king of Macedonia, who yet lived, comparatively, but a little while ago, the Pamphylian Sea retired and afforded them a passage through itself, had no other way to go; I mean, when it was the will of God to destroy the monarchy of the Persians: and this is confessed to be true by all that have written about the actions of Alexander: but as to these events, let everyone determine as he pleases.

349 On the next day Moses gathered together the weapons of the Egyptians, which were brought to the camp of the Hebrews by the current of the sea, and the force of the winds assisting it; and he conjectured that this also happened by Divine providence, that so they might not be destitute of weapons. So when he had ordered the Hebrews to arm themselves with them, he led them to Mount Sinai, in order to offer sacrifice to God, and to render oblations for the salvation of the multitude, as he was charged to do beforehand.