Since some are going around claiming that the Holy Bible NOWHERE says that the Pharaoh of the Exodus drowned, I decided to write this short post and let the readers decide if this is true or not.
Compare what the following biblical passages state in respect to God overthrowing the Egyptians in the Red Sea at the time of Moses:
“So Moses reached out with his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the Lord OVERTHREW (wayna’er) the Egyptians IN THE MIDST OF THE SEA. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; NOT ONE OF THEM REMAINED. But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right and on their left. So the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel SAW THE EGYPTIANS DEAD ON THE SEASHORE. When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.” Exodus 14:27-31
“To Him who divided the Red Sea in parts, For His faithfulness is everlasting, And allowed Israel to pass through the midst of it, For His faithfulness is everlasting; But He OVERTHREW (we’nier) PHAROAH and his army IN THE RED SEA, For His faithfulness is everlasting.” Psalm 136:13-15
Both texts speak of God overthrowing or “shaking off” the Egyptians by drowning them in the sea, resulting in their deaths. This is why the passage speaks of the Israelites seeing the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. Since Psalm 136:15 includes the Pharaoh in this overthrow or “shaking off,” this means that he also was drowned and killed.
“For the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, and the Lord brought back THE WATERS OF THE SEA ON THEM, but the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea.” Exodus 15:19
“To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau, and to Esau I gave Mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt by what I did in its midst; and afterward I brought you out. So I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and Egypt pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. But when they cried out to the Lord, He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, AND BROUGHT THE SEA UPON THEM AND COVERED THEM; and your own eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness for a long time.” Joshua 24:4-7
“How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness And grieved Him in the desert! Again and again they tempted God, And pained the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power, The day when He redeemed them from the enemy, When He performed His signs in Egypt And His marvels in the field of Zoan, And turned their rivers to blood, And their streams, so that they could not drink. He sent swarms of flies among them that devoured them, And frogs that destroyed them. He also gave their crops to the grasshopper And the product of their labor to the locust. He destroyed their vines with hailstones And their sycamore trees with frost. He also turned their cattle over to the hailstones, And their herds to bolts of lightning. He sent His burning anger upon them, Fury and indignation and trouble, A band of destroying angels. He leveled a path for His anger; He did not spare their souls from death, But turned their lives over to the plague, And struck all the firstborn in Egypt, The first and best of their vigor in the tents of Ham. But He led His own people out like sheep, And guided them in the wilderness like a flock; He led them safely, so that they did not fear; BUT THE SEA ENGULFED THEIR ENEMIES. So He brought them to His holy land, To this hill country which His right hand had gained. He also drove out the nations from them And apportioned them as an inheritance by measurement, And had the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents.” Psalm 78:40-55
“Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, So that He might make His power known. So He rebuked the Red Sea and it dried up, And He led them through the mighty waters, as through the wilderness. So He saved them from the hand of one who hated them, And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. THE WATERS COVERED THEIR ADVERSARIES; NOT ONE OF THEM WAS LEFT. Then they believed His words; They sang His praise.” Psalm 106:7-12
In case the readers missed it, here are the specific verses from what the aforementioned references state in regards to the fate of the Egyptians,
“But when they cried out to the Lord, He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, AND BROUGHT THE SEA UPON THEM AND COVERED THEM; and your own eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness for a long time.” Joshua 24:7
“He led them safely, so that they did not fear; BUT THE SEA ENGULFED THEIR ENEMIES.” Psalm 78:53
“THE WATERS COVERED THEIR ADVERSARIES; NOT ONE OF THEM WAS LEFT.” Psalm 106:11
A fate which included the Pharaoh:
“But He OVERTHREW (we’nier) PHARAOH and his army IN THE RED SEA, For His faithfulness is everlasting.” Psalm 136:15
It, thus, seems reasonably clear that the Holy Bible does teach that the Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea as God’s judgment upon him.
Now some have tried to get around this fact by appealing to Psalm 109:23 to prove that the verb “overthrow” doesn’t necessarily mean that Pharaoh actually died by drowning. As one source explains it:
“The same Hebrew verb is used in Ps 109:23, where David laments, ‘I am gone like a shadow when it lengthens; I am shaken off like the locust.’ Here, he describes the sad condition of his suffering, as both lines of this synonymous parallelism indicate his feeling of being cast away, or discarded. The picture painted by the verb is that David has become as a locust that is casually flicked away from a man’s garment. Surely David was not describing his own demise and death!” (Douglas Petrovich, “AMENHOTEP II AND THE HISTORICITY OF THE EXODUS-PHARAOH”)
To call this desperate would be putting it mildly since Psalm 109:23 is not at all a parallel text or a comparable example of how the verb is used in Psalm 136:15.
The more exact parallel is Exodus 14:27 where the same verb is used in the exact same context of God overthrowing the Egyptians at/in the Red Sea. And there the verb clearly means that God overthrew or “shook off” the Egyptians by drowning them in the Red Sea.
An even more desperate means of overthrowing (pun intended) the plain teaching of the Holy Bible is the claim that Psalms are known for employing poetry, and in poetry such statements need not to be interpreted literally.
This response is even more desperate than the previous one since even poetic literature can and does convey historical realities and facts.
Besides, Psalms 136:13-15 is echoing the language of Exodus 14:27-31, which is not a poetic text but historical narrative, which is meant to convey the historical reality of how God overthrew the Egyptians.
Hopefully, the foregoing clears up the gross misinterpretation of the Holy Bible by some well-intended apologists and “scholars,” who think they are doing God a favor by explaining away the plain reading of the Holy Scriptures that Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea, due to their erroneous belief that God’s revelation is in conflict with the archeological and historical data.
All biblical references taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).