Hebrews 11:29 NASB

By faith they passed through the Red Sea as through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were [t]drowned.

But we are told in the original narrative that when they came to the red sea they were so afraid

Exodus 14:10 NASB

As Pharaoh approached, the sons of Israel [e]looked, and behold, the Egyptians were coming after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord.

It is further reiterated that they murmured against God

Exodus 14:11 NASB

Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, [f]bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘[g]Leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness!”

How can one balance their fear,murmuring and faith in the above text?

  • 2
    'These all died in faith' is the precursor to 'by faith they passed ...' The chapter deals with the faithful (such as Moses and Caleb and Joshua and Phinehas). It does not speak of those whose 'carcasses fell in the wilderness' 'through unbelief'. Those are they who murmured against God and against Moses ; not the faithful. The faith of the faithful was that which made the dry path for many (a mixed multitude) to make use of. But up-voted nevertheless for it is something to take note of. +1.
    – Nigel J
    May 30, 2022 at 9:54
  • 1
    "Faith without works is dead". Real faith is demonstrated when one is willing to act on that faith. Walking between two walls of water would be a terrifying experience, something impossible to do without faith. May 30, 2022 at 13:27
  • Your quote shows them being skeptical of Moses, not necessarily God.
    – Barmar
    May 31, 2022 at 0:14

2 Answers 2


The scriptures present us with two extremes:

  • to live by faith trusting in God for results
  • to live by works trusting in one's own efforts for results

The facts are these when the Israelites left Egypt:

  • They trust in God to protect them from the plagues of Egypt
  • The trusted God to preserve them from the destroying angel at the first Passover by painting blood on the door posts
  • They trusted in God to preserve them when they marched into the red sea and not be drowned.

This last miracle is in direct contrast to the Egyptians who were drowned.

The fact that someone has faith in God does not make them immune to fear of the unknown! When on the shores of the red sea, Israel was being pursued by the most powerful army in the world, it is no surprise that they were afraid! As David (who was often afraid) once said:

Ps 56:3 - When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.

It appears, based on Heb 11:29 and Ex 14:10 that is exactly what the Israelites had to do before they crossed the red sea.

  • +1 for 'the fact that someone has faith in God does not make them immune to fear of the unknown' May 30, 2022 at 12:30

The answer is found in Exodus chapter 14. From verse 10 the instant cause of their fear is shown: "And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid."

They had good cause to be afraid, so they cried out to Moses with what we might call today, "a knee-jerk reaction". But note from verse 12 that those speaking up were the same ones who had been reluctant to leave Egypt in the first place. They admitted to having told Moses, while they were still in Egypt, to leave them alone to continue serving the Egyptians.

It wasn't until Moses - full of faith - cried out to God about the apparently imminent problem (i.e. threatened massacre) that God told Moses to lift up his rod and to stretch out his hand over the sea, and then it would divide so that the Israelites could go on dry land through the midst of the parted waters (vs. 16).

Then the pillar of cloud removed to the back of the camp of the Israelites. That would be the point at which fear would be replaced with wonder and awe. The Egyptians were stopped in their tracks. Then, as Moses obeyed God's commands, the waters parted and the nation began to go through to the other side.

However, it would still take faith to go between the towering walls of water on either side. They had to have faith that God would keep that mighty east wind blowing all night long till the vast company had made the crossing. Once they began to step out in faith, there could be no turning back!

Hence Hebrews 11:29 stating that it was by faith that they crossed the Red Sea. It was only faith in God that resulted in their natural (understandable) fear being replaced with confidence that God truly was acting miraculously on their behalf, and so they stepped out in faith. Prior to that, they could step nowhere as they were utterly hemmed in! But when they saw God open up a way of safety - miraculously - then their faith enabled them to make the crossing.

That is how their fear and complaining can be balanced with the faith that followed.

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