For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"It was reported to Pharaoh that the people had fled; and Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, What is this that we have done, that we have released Israel from serving us?" (Ex. 14:5)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi:"It was reported to Pharaoh"
He [Pharaoh] sent officers with them, and as soon as the three days they [the Israelites] had set to go [into the desert] and return had elapsed, and they [the officers] saw that they were not returning to Egypt, they came and informed Pharaoh on the fourth day. On the fifth and the sixth [days after the Israelites’ departure], they pursued them. On the night preceding the seventh, they went down into the sea. In the morning [of the seventh day], they [the Israelites] recited the Song [of the Sea (Ex. 15:1-18)]. Therefore, we read [in the Torah] the Song on the seventh day of Passover.
...Pharaoh had a change of heart from how he had felt previously...
"had a change"
He [Pharaoh] had a change of heart from how he had felt [previously], for he had said to them [the Israelites], "Get up and get out from among my people". (Ex. 12:31) His servants [also] had a change of heart, for previously they had said to him, "How long will this one be a stumbling block to us?" (Ex. 10:7) Now they had a change of heart to pursue them [the Israelites] on account of the money that they had lent them.

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim: "Yahafoch / became transformed"
This appears twice in Scripture: (1) here and (2) "so He became transformed into an enemy to them". (Isaiah 63:10) For after Pharaoh had agreed to send the Jews out of Egypt, upon hearing the report that they would not return he turned into an enemy toward them.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ramban: See Rashi above, as explained in Mechilta[a Midrash—i.e. derosh]. But in line with the [straight-forward] peshat meaning, the verse here must be understood in the light of what G‑d said, "Pharaoh will say of the Children of Israel: They are entangled in the land". When the children of Israel said that this was so, and they turned back, this was reported to the king of Egypt. He said that "the people had fled" and entangled in the desert, and that they were not going to a definite place to offer sacrifices to G‑d. This is the intent of the verse "they went out with a high hand", meaning that they made themselves a banner and a flag for display, and they went out with "mirth and with songs and with tambourine and with harp," like people freed from slavery, and not like slaves who expect to return to their master. This was reported to Pharaoh.

Ohr HaChayim: Why does the Torah mention Israel "fleeing" instead of their going? If the words "Pharaoh changed his mind" mean that Pharaoh now had second thoughts. This would be strange since he had never "done" what he did voluntarily! He dismissed Israel only due to suffering of the plagues, so much so that Egypt was in dire straits. How could the Torah say that Pharaoh sent them out because of something "he had done"? What does this expression "what is this we have done" mean? The Zohar says that every time the Torah speaks about "the People" it means the mixed multitude called 'Erev Rav'. So the report Pharaoh got about "the People" leaving referred to the new converts whom Pharaoh sent along with Israel to bring about Israel's return. These people decided to stay with Israel permanently. So as they were truly Egyptian citizens, their defection could be described as the flight of Pharaoh's people.

...his wise men and sorcerers gathered about him and informed him that the people had fled.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Beshalach 46:
"It was told to the king of Egypt that the people had fled."
Who told him? We have explained that his wise men and sorcerers gathered about him and informed him that the people had fled. Why did they say this? Because they saw, in their wisdom, that they were traveling day and night. They said they were fleeing and they saw that they were not traveling on the straight road, as is written: "They turned and encamped before Pi HaChirot."

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
Ah, the problem of "second thoughts," "buyer's remorse," "changing a horse in midstream," or revisiting a decision. How often have we gotten proverbial cold feet and returned to a course which only made things worse, real worse. Like separating from a spouse, moving back home, and then deciding you were wrong and returning "back into the fire." Or quitting a job because of its oppressive nature, then thinking that the grass is not greener on the other side, and returning back to the slave taskmaster who was your previous Pharaoh? Or any other of myriad decisions that you rethought and went against your initial intuition?

Those who are mindful pay attention to their mind-train, involve the Holy One in the deliberation, perhaps even do the dream-question technique of writing it down, putting under one's pillow, and thinking about it upon awaking. Whatever gets you through the night, it’s all right, it’s all right. A first decision based on intuition (chochma — right brain) and cold-hearted rationality (bina — left brain) one should be wary of revising. Otherwise we could end up like the Egyptians, changing their initial wise decision and ending up at Pi HaChirot, the "mouth of the Rocks" and suffering devastating loss.

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