What does the baptism of Israel in the Red Sea mean?

Are those who teach what is known as “household baptism” justified in using the crossing of the Red Sea, referred to in  1 Corinthians 10: as a type of Christian baptism, and in asserting that,  as undoubtedly infants were carried across the Red Sea by their  mothers, they therefore were baptised unto Moses, and so infants  now should be baptised? 

Certainly these friends must be hard put to it to find authority for  their practice of baptising households to-day, if they have to go back  to this far off Old Testament event to justify it. We are asked, moreover,  to believe that had Moses and the elders held Believer’s Baptism, they  would have been obliged cruelly to leave all the infants on the west bank  of the Red Sea to the mercy of the pursuing Egyptians, on the plea that  such were not fit subjects for baptism. I remember one well-known  clergyman in Brighton (the “Reverend” H. B.), who wrote a tract to  justify the sprinkling of infants, and he built his argument on the  probability of the wind sprinkling the Israelitish infants, as they were  carried through the Red Sea. It seems hard to believe that fancy could  go further. We may be sure that no-one from Moses to the youngest  Israelitish mother had the slightest idea that a figure of Christian  baptism was being carried out during the crossing of the Red Sea. 

But if for the sake of argument, all who shared in the crossing were  baptised, then this was true of “the mixed multitude” and of the flocks  and the herds. Perhaps those who christen bells and ships rely on this  passage. We see, however, from Numbers 4 that the children did not  count, but only those of Israel who were numbered “from twenty years  old and upward,” for in verses 29 and 33 a difference is made between  those who were numbered (v. 29) and their children (v. 33). Whereas  the former (except Caleb and Joshua) would be excluded for good, all  the children would be brought in when their fathers’ carcases were wasted  in the wilderness. We may be sure that the infants no more shared in  the baptism of the Red Sea, than in the daily eating of the manna and  drinking from the rock that followed them. No doubt it is legitimate  to see in the crossing of the Red Sea a figure of the death and resurrection  of Christ and of believers’ association with Him, but it is not,  properly speaking, a figure of Christian baptism, for that would be a  case of a figure representing a figure. Rather what is set forth is what has already taken place for all believers, namely, their baptism in the Spirit. Christi n baptism is in no way in view in 1 Cor 10 and it is a great mistake to think that wherever the slightly different word, “baptismos” that occurs in our Authorised (e.g., Mark 7:4, 8; Hebrews 6: 2; Hebrews 9:10), The reference clearly is to the ceremonial purifications of the Levitical service.

William Hoste