Exodus 14:21-29 records the parting of the Red Sea (or sea if reeds) and the “pillar of fire and cloud” as if they were miracles. Do you agree with those theologians who explain all this as natural events such as very high winds parting the sea, and a volcano causing the pillar of fire and cloud. Doesn’t this create doubt that at least these two events were miracles from God?

Even if I accept a natural explanation of these events in Exodus 14, the fact that they occurred in this “precise” geographic location and that they occurred at this “precise” moment in time gives me reason enough to conclude they were miracles from God.

It is true that most people are under the impression that Moses lifted his rod and the sea immediately divided and see this as a virtually unparallel supernatural miracle. A careful reading of the text gives some credibility to your interpretation that God intended this even to appear more natural than supernatural since the splitting of the sea did not occur instantaneously but over the course of an entire night (Exodus 14:21).

The more immediate miracle is that God placed a pillar of fire and cloud (or in your interpretation a volcano) between the Israelite and Egyptian camps, making it impossible for Pharaoh’s troops to advance against the Hebrews. While the Egyptians were held in check by this pillar and cloud, God causes an enormous east wind to divide the sea in half by forcing the waters to both sides. Eventually, this enables the Israelites to cross over the dry land in the middle.

Because God made the sea’s splitting occur in a seemingly natural manner, Pharaoh and his troops, who are obsessed with the overtaking of the runaway slaves, fail to perceive the miracle occurring before their eyes. Years later the inability of someone who is obsessed to see the hand of God is similarly reflected in the tale of Balaam, who is too furious at his disobedient donkey to wonder at the peculiarity of the animal’s talking (see Numbers 22:28-35). And millenniums later we have theologians who are unable to see the hand of God in miracles, either those that are supernatural or those that may be natural in occurrence but are unexplainable as to why they occur at such a time and place.

The Egyptians follow the Israelites into the sea but as soon as the Israelites finish crossing, God instructs Moses to extend his hands over the water. He does so and the waters quickly rush back in and Pharaoh and all his troops drown.

Only when the Israelites see their oppressors dead do they finally express faith in God and believe his servant Moses. But their faith, often like our faith, lasts only until the next crisis occurs.

What is the least read book in the Bible?

If you think you have a high threshold of boredom begin reading I Chronicles and see how far you get. If you can make it through all the genealogies of “begots” in the first nine chapters, congratulations are in order.

Starting with chapter 10, Chronicles becomes a historical account of King David and the royal dynasty he established. The narrator starts with the death of Saul, Israel’s first king, followed by all Israel’s appeal to David to become its monarch. The material covered in Chronicles is much the same as that recorded in the books of Samuel and Kings extending from the reign of David (c. 1000 B.C.) to Cyrus’s decree authorizing the Jews to return from exile (538).

As was the case with David, the author of Chronicles chooses to exclude the unflattering details about Solomon that the author of Kings mentions. After Solomon’s death the kingdom of Israel is split in two. The 10 northern tribes formed the kingdom of Israel while the southern kingdom of Judah continued to be ruled by the descendants of David and Solomon. Although the northern kingdom existed for over two hundred years until the Assyrians destroyed it in 722 B.C. the author is quite uninterested in that kingdom. His concern is exclusively with the house of David which he regarded as the only legitimate royal household.

Consistent with his pious approach, the author of Chronicles devotes most of his attention to Judah’s righteous kings (Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah). Writing of the wicked King Manasseh whose reign lasted 55 years, he adds a detail found nowhere in the book of Kings. He records that Manasseh in his later years repented of his evil deeds (II Chronicles 33:12-13), perhaps to account for the king’s long and materially successful reign.

Most Jewish scholars credit Ezra as Chronicles main author and assume Nehemiah made some additions. Originally the two books of Chronicles were one long volume that was later divided, as was the case with the two books of Samuel and Kings.