(March 2, 2014)
This may be a silly question, but why did the people of Egypt pursue Israel? I think there might be more going on than we know in this chapter, because it is hard to imagine that Pharaoh saw the Red Sea part and giant, towering walls of water on either side and his response was to charge right in and get the Israelites. I think that my view of this miracle was always of it being a wall of water on either side (and the text supports that), but I wonder whether that might have been somehow symbolic.
Of course, the literal interpretation may also be correct. First, it is possible that the pillar of a cloud blocked the view of the Egyptians from what they were doing. Or, and despite it being hard to imagine this is perhaps the most interesting result, it is possible that the Pharaoh was so hard in his heart by this point that he was willing to charge into the Red Sea in open defiance of God. I can think only of Joseph Stalin, who moments before his death sat up on his bed and shook his fist in rage at the heavens before collapsing and dying. Perhaps his unwillingness to listen to the Lord and his unwillingness to accept his own mortality caused him to be so hardened that he pursued, thinking to shake his fist once more at the heavens himself.