In Exodus 14:15, God challenges Moses just as Pharaoh approaches and the people stand on the edge of the sea: “Why do you cry out to Me; speak to the children of Israel that they go forward.”
I tend to think that I have a nice sense of what this verse means, and I’ll share that view below. But what impresses me most is how many sages have read it very differently over the years.
Here are a but a few of their fine and provocative perspectives:
- Wouldn’t it be natural for Moses and the people whose salvation from Egypt was entirely due to God to continue to pray at this moment?
- Was the problem that there was a certain weakness or shallowness in the prayer that was bothersome to God, especially given the people’s complaining spirit at the time?
- Is it possible that God had heard the prayers of the people and that was why they were saved, but it was continuing prayer from Moses, as leader, at this time that had no further purpose?
- Or was it that Moses was seen by God as crying out of frustration at the people’s complaining rather than their peril, and was told to stop it and get going?
- I rather think with many commentators that this is a different struggle than what the people faced in Egypt. Now they’ve been freed. They need to take on the responsibility of a free people. This moment is for action, not prayer. They must begin to take charge, as God’s partners, in shaping their destiny.
Yet, however much I favor this view, I like reading all good accounts of the words and believe we’re all the richer for them. The Bible invites us to look deeper and rewards us for doing so.