On the night of the final punishment from God, the Israelites celebrated a very special dinner. It would be the first of a new yearly holiday for them.
“Remember this night,” God told them. “I brought you out of Egypt. I rescued you. The destroyer will pass over the homes that are prepared for Me.”
God told the Israelites to bake flat bread because they would be leaving Egypt in a hurry and wouldn’t have time for the dough to rise. He told them to eat their meals while dressed and ready to go. They should have their walking sticks already in their hands and their sandals buckled.
“When your children ask you why you celebrate this dinner every year,” God explained, “it will give you a reason to tell them the story of this rescue.”
The Egyptians were so frightened after all the punishments they had received, they were ready to let the Israelites go. In fact, they couldn’t wait for them to leave.
“Get out of here!” they said. “Go before we have any more problems.”
The Egyptians gave them clothes, gold and silver as parting gifts. Over a million Hebrews marched proudly out of the city of Rameses, prepared for battle. They were no longer the worn out slaves living in fear, but were prepared to become a new nation.
But as they journeyed, Pharaoh had a change of heart.
“What am I doing?” he asked himself. “How can I build my cities without the Hebrew workers?”
The Pharaoh ordered six hundred of his best chariots to chase after the Israelites. The Israelites traveled on foot, with children and old people. They carried all their belongings. It took very little time for the Egyptian soldiers to catch up to them. Moses and the children of Israel found themselves pinned between a frightening army approaching in the distance, and the Red Sea-too wide and too deep to get across.
When the Israelites saw Pharaoh coming with his army, they were terrified and cried out to God for help.
“Being a slave in Egypt couldn’t possibly be as bad as what is about to happen to us!” they argued with Moses. “Who will get us? The Egyptians or the water?”
“Don’t be afraid!” Moses cried out to them. “Be brave! God will save you. Just wait and see.”
“Tell the Israelites to move forward toward the water,” God called out to Moses from an enormous cloud that hovered in front of them. “Hold out your walking stick over the sea. I will lead My people out of Egypt across dry land. Watch!”
So Moses held his stick across the water, and as he did, God sent a strong wind from the East to blow the water back on both sides. The Israelites walked through on dry ground.
As they crossed, God moved the cloud between the Israelites and the Egyptians, shining light toward the Hebrews, but surrounding the Egyptian soldiers in darkness.
All night long the Israelites walked to freedom. As morning dawned, the last of them had reached the other side. God removed the cloud and pulled back the wind that had held up the waters. The Egyptians were the ones who were trapped now.
Moses and his sister Miriam led the people in songs of praise to God. The children of Israel danced for joy and played their tambourines. Parents gazed lovingly at the children who would have a new life. They were free at last.