Connections 09.13.2020: The Cost of Deliverance

Exodus 14:19-31

Many paintings and films tell the story of the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt, especially their miraculous passage through the sea. As long as we acknowledge that these are artists’ interpretations, I believe they can bring us closer to one of the most powerful events in the history of our faith.

One of my favorite depictions of the sea crossing is part of the 1998 DreamWorks Pictures animated feature, The Prince of Egypt. The film follows Moses from his infancy to the time when he receives the Ten Commandments from God. By the time of the sea crossing, viewers already love Moses and want him to succeed in rescuing his people. Amid a swell of dramatic music, gorgeous animation, and powerful suspense, Moses hears the voice of God reminding him, “With this staff, you shall do my wonders.” He plants the staff in the surf and the waters spring upward, creating a dry path for the weary people. They walk through, awed by the breathtaking sight of the shadowy creatures swimming in the walls of water on either side.

The Hebrews get across, and then we see what happens to the army of the relentless Pharaoh who has pursued them. The film depicts this pharaoh, named Rameses, as a dear friend and even something like a brother to Moses when they were growing up. Regardless of the artistic license taken with the source material, I think it’s important that we recognize the humanity of the enemy. Seeing the pathway through the water, Pharaoh and his army rush forward after the Hebrews. Moses urges the rest of his people onto the seashore as the soldiers gain ground with their angry shouts and raised weapons. Scripture tells us what happens next:

So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. (Ex 14:27-28)

In the film, we see the massive walls of water tumble back down, sweeping the Egyptians away. We know they will drown.

As with other stories in the Bible, this one feels both triumphant and sobering. We are glad that justice is served. The Egyptians oppressed and abused the Hebrew people for many long years, so they deserved to be punished. But maybe we can also understand the magnitude of loss that happens in this story. In our world, we know that sometimes justice comes at great cost. And while we may think those who pay that cost deserve what they get, as followers of Christ we should also work toward more redemptive ways to generate change.

Source: “Red Sea scene,” The Prince of Egypt, dir. Brenda Chapman, Simon Wells, and Steve Hickner, DreamWorks Pictures, 1998, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRUZZLhY5eo.

Discussion

  • How can it be helpful to watch movies or see paintings that depict biblical stories? How might it sometimes be misleading?
  • Consider watching the clip of the “Red Sea scene” available on YouTube. What emotions does it stir for you?
  • Do you think justice was served to the Egyptians?
  • How can you connect this story to events in our world today? Who is being oppressed? Who deserves justice? What would it cost for them to get it?
  • Most important for us as Christians, what do you think is Jesus’ idea of justice? How can we live that out in our everyday lives as we face the difficult problems in our world?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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