BIBUOTHECA SACRA / January-March 2004
as the Lord commanded, all the Egyptians perished in the waters (vv. 27-28). Because God had delivered His people from the Egyp- tians and brought them through the sea on dry ground, the peoples' earlier fear (v. 10) turned into reverential trust in the Lord and full confidence in Moses (vv. 30-31).
This account in chapter 14 has all the elements of good prose narrative. It has an observable plot that is carefully crafted with distinct sections and subsections. It presents strong characteriza- tion. Although much of the focus centers on Moses in contrast to his fearful followers, Yahweh is the main character. As is typical in biblical narrative, so here one of the distinctive features is "the overwhelming presence of God."15 The pursuing Egyptians were clearly the chief foil, serving as antagonists to the Lord. That the story is all about Israel's redeeming Lord is particularly empha- sized in the narrator's threading of sections of dialogue throughout the narrative. As Alter points out, "The biblical writers ... are of- ten less concerned with actions in themselves than with how indi- vidual character responds to actions or produces them; and direct speech is made the chief instrument for revealing the varied and at times nuanced relations of the personages to the actions in which they are implicated." 16
The subsections featuring direct communication between Yahweh and Moses (14:1-4, 15-18, 26) take on particular impor- tance and underscore the fact of God's sovereign direction and guidance. The dialogue portions also call attention to the Egyp- tians' haughtiness and self-confidence (vv. 3, 5), the people's fear (vv. 11-12), and Moses' unwavering trust in the Lord (vv. 13-14). Further, great themes and phrases stitch the fabric of the ac- count into its whole cloth. The Lord's sovereignty, as seen in His instructions to Moses, His hardening of the hearts of the Egyp- tians, and His assurances that He will gain glory over the Egyp- tians so that both the Israelites and Egyptians will know His power, is felt throughout the narrative. The theme of the waters of the sea pervades the whole, giving unity to the passage (vv. 2, 15-16, 21-23, 26-28). The effect is to emphasize the miraculous. The sovereign God, Israel's Redeemer, delivered His people by causing the waters of the sea to part in the middle, enabling them to pass on dry ground, while destroying the superior force of the Egyptians in those same waters.
15 Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001), 174. Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic, 1981), 66. 16