Bitter Water

 followFollow Me: Deliverance[1]

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Exodus 15:23-27[2]

The weeklong festival of Unleavened Bread has been a rollercoaster ride of extreme highs and lows for the Hebrews starting with an all-night vigil as they marched out of Egypt following a pillar of fire. A short rest and they are instructed to go back and camp in an indefensible place should they be attacked. Egypt’s armies swiftly approaching struck them with terror. They cried out to God and then complained to Moses that it would be better to be slaves than die. Another all-night vigil as a strong east wind clears a path for them through the Red Sea that becomes a tomb for their oppressors. They celebrate their freedom with singing and dancing on the opposite shore of the Red Sea with no place to go but forward.

The drama is followed by three days of nothing as they follow the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night to a place of bitter water. For the second time in a week fear prompts the Hebrews to murmur and complain against Moses. “What shall we drink?” Why complain about Moses? He did not lead them to bitter water. God did.

The Hebrews left Egypt to worship God, yet twice they have complained about God. First they complained at the Red Sea and then at the bitter waters of Marah. Why do they want to worship someone they think is stupid?

God responded to Moses prayer for water with more than water. He showed Moses a “piece of wood.”[3] The definitions of the word translated “piece of wood” in the NIV Bible include plural sticks, carpenter, and gallows. The definitions foreshadow the coming of a carpenter who would die on a cross to offer salvation.

The introduction of grace preceded law. God promised healing if the Hebrews did what was right in God’s eyes and kept all of his decrees. God knew they would fail and they did fail. But it would take them a long time to come to the understanding the Apostle Peter did, the law is “a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear.”[4] Only Jesus can sweeten the bitter waters of human failure.

The following day, the last day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, they camped at Elim by seventy palm trees and plenty of water. God had already instructed them to hold a holy convocation on the last day of the feast and without doubt they did.[5] They had a lot to ponder before they continued their journey to worship God.


[1] From the time God promised to change Jacob’s name to Israel, Jacob and his descendants were addressed as both Jacob and Israel, which can be confusing. In Follow Me: Deliverance, I will use “Hebrews” to identify the children of Jacob.

[2] All Scripture is from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] H6086 עץ ‛êts ates From H6095; a tree (from its firmness); hence wood (plural sticks): – + carpenter, gallows, helve, + pine, plank, staff, stalk, stick, stock, timber, tree, wood.

[4] Acts 15:10-11

[5] Exodus 12:16

About Teena Myers

Teena Myers is the Chairman of Southern Christian Writers, a freelance writer and author of three books.
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