The waters of the Red Sea, which had parted for Moses and his followers, come rushing back to engulf the Egyptian soldiers and their horses. The artist has made this scene more accessible to his medieval audience by dressing these ancient characters in contemporary dress and by placing a picturesque medieval town on one bank of the sea.
A familiar Biblical story, the Crossing of the Red Sea is told to Josaphat by the learned monk Barlaam who has come from a foreign land to seek out the disillusioned young prince. Barlaam gained access to King Avenir's palace by claiming to be a merchant in possession of a splendid gem whose magical properties and beauty are unsurpassed. The gem is the hopeful message of Christianity. This particular Biblical story is one of many that Barlaam told to Josaphat in order to impress upon him God's miraculous powers.