|This story also shares God's mastery over|
the sea which was a mysterious and destructive
force to the Hebrew people.
My case in point, today's scripture if taken literally, sets God up to be rather sadistic toward Pharaoh. Whether Pharaoh deserved it or not is beside the point. A literal reading is that God hardened his heart to pursue his former slaves and then killed him for doing so.
At this point, he becomes a pawn in a larger cosmic game in which he has no real say in his own destiny.
What is important is for us to hear this story in the same way the ancients would have heard it.
One difference is that Pharaoh had set himself up as a deity. If others looked upon him as a god made flesh, this story shows that God has ultimate power over any that claim godhood.
Another difference is that people that lived as slaves would have lived in fear of a former master. The anxiety of being returned to the collar and the lash would be real for anyone ever under the thumb of another. People freed from the modern sex slave trade shows us that psychological damage doesn't heal overnight.
So for these people to hear this story, Pharaoh is shown to have less freedom than they did. He is entirely at the whim of God. His own freedom is imaginary.
It is not to be taken as a treatise on free will but rather as a story that lets the oppressed know they have God on their side.
Think of a time when you needed God on your side. How would you tell that story today?
Picture by Oliver Clarke, flickr.com, used through the Creative Commons license.