What Can We Learn from the Crossing of the Red Sea?

The imagery of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea must have been particularly vivid for Nephi and his brothers as they traveled to their promised land. Shortly after leaving Jerusalem, their family set up camp “by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea.” Thereafter, they traveled “in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5). They must have been easily able to visualize an enormous crowd of men, women, and children passing through the sea on dry ground with a wall of water on either side, while the formidable Egyptian army was kept at bay, and was eventually buried in the water (Exodus 14).

The imagery must have still been vivid when Nephi and his brothers returned to Jerusalem on a mission to retrieve a sacred record. When the keeper of the record, Laban, tried to kill them, two of the brothers wanted to give up and go back to camp. Nephi persuaded them to stay by reminding them of the ancient Israelites:

Let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea….
Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians (1 Nephi 4:2-3).

Later, as they camped on another seashore, Nephi’s brothers refused to help him build a ship. They called him a fool for thinking “that he can cross these great waters” (1 Nephi 17:17). Nephi appealed again to the same historical event:

Ye know that Moses was commanded of the Lord to do that great work; and ye know that by his word the waters of the Red Sea were divided hither and thither, and they passed through on dry ground.
But ye know that the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, who were the armies of Pharaoh (1 Nephi 17:26-27).

For Nephi, the lesson is simple: Don’t be afraid to do what God commands, even if it seems impossible. He has proven that He can help His children overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Move forward with faith. Don’t retreat.

Three subsequent Book of Mormon prophets reminded their listeners of the crossing of the Red Sea:

  • King Limhi used the story to build the confidence of his people that the Lord would help them escape from captivity (Mosiah 7:19).
  • Alma referenced the event as evidence that God can deliver us from every obstacle, including death (Alma 36:27-29).
  • Another prophet named Nephi used the story as evidence that God can give one person great power (Helaman 8:11).

When the children of Israel saw the Egyptian armies pursuing them and recognized that they were trapped between the armies and the sea, their immediate reaction was despair: “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” they asked Moses (Exodus 14:11). But the Lord said to Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (Exodus 14:15).

Today, I will go forward. Like the children of Israel walking into the Red Sea and away from slavery, like Nephi finishing his mission to obtain the brass plates and later building a ship, and like Limhi, Alma, and the other Nephi, I will remember that God can help me do seemingly impossible things, that He can help me overcome apparently insurmountable barriers, that He can deliver me from all forms of captivity. I will move forward in faith, knowing that He will help me succeed.

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