MemberFebruary 25, 2021 at 1:48 am
But when we come to the poetic texts regarding the Red Sea crossing, all restraint is cast off. The first poetic account is the Song of the Sea in Exodus 15, just one chapter after the matter-of-fact account of the crossing. This song, attributed to Moses, but couched in an archaic language that may indicate another source, is a military-style victory song, probably common to the times. The verbs are more dramatic and metaphors abound (“sank like a stone”, “blast of your nostrils”, “stood up in a heap”, “the deeps congealed”, “consumed like stubble”, “sank like lead'”, “earth swallowed them”).
Over my years of study, I have been coming to realise a pattern in regard to the wilderness era: most of the phenomena are explicable in terms of natural events and effects in the region. Moses is motivated for historical truth, hence the naturalistic account of events in the narratives. Yet he always credits a divine cause and begs the people to remember their deliverance from Egypt in terms of God’s presence and provision. The prophets who follow, not having been there, reframe the events in terms of spectacular miracles, endowing a legendary quality to the story.
This is all fit to purpose until we get to the modern scientific age when we have to decide what stance we will take regarding the miracles of the biblical era. How does God act upon the world to bring about His purpose? Through the use and manipulation of natural laws or through spectacular inexplicable interventions? Or both? I would say “both” (taking Jesus’ healings into account) but would observe that the ‘natural laws’ avenue is far more common. There are mechanisms for most of the miracles of the exodus era, so to insist on ‘special effects’ risks bringing ridicule on biblical history. Moses’ attitude should be ours: yes, this was arranged and effected by Almighty God, who commanded the resources of the region and the physical laws of nature to rescue the people of Israel from Egypt and deliver them to Canaan. The whole process was conducted in such a way that the people could still choose to doubt; faith and discernment are so precious to God that He rewards those who have them despite the option of disbelief.