A couple of weeks ago various news providers picked up on a supposed scientific model for the parting of the Red Sea in the Biblical Book of Exodus. According to a team from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, the waters could have been divided by an east wind of 63 mph blowing for 12 hours… not on the Red Sea proper, but the shallow, but still treacherous Sea of Reeds some miles to the north… Apparently such winds could have created a land bridge about two miles long and three miles wide for four hours. They don’t, however, explain how the Israelites could possibly have crossed this land bridge in the teeth of such a gale.
Given meteorologists inability to predict the weather tomorrow with any accuracy I’m not pinning my belief structure on the scientific truth of this fanciful computer model. Actually, I’m not interested trying to find modern scientific models to explain these and other events described in scripture, but to see what light such stories shine on the modern world… For example, in the Bible we get two radically different pictures of Egypt… at the end of Genesis Egypt is a land of refuge, taking the Israelites in during a time of famine… But turn the page over to Exodus and we find that years have gone by, the Israelites have prospered and are perceived as a threat to the Egyptians… resulting in their persecution and enslavement. When the Israelites finally escaped from Egypt, be it by miraculous or other means, the laws they were given through Moses to govern life in their new land included stipulations protecting aliens and refugees, referring repeatedly to their experience in Egypt… Sadly they subsequently ignored such rules, and this was later cited by the prophets as a reason for God’s judgment on them…
It was interesting that around the same time that news bulletin were relating this supposed scientific model for the Red Sea story, there were also stories, later denied, that the crackdown on Roma migrants in France, might also happen in Germany… And other stories about splits in the Con-Dem coalition government over their strict cap on economic migrants. According to some of our newspapers we’re being swamped by asylum seekers and refugees, and at our synod a few weeks ago I was surprised to hear that here in Northern Ireland we did have a radical up-turn in applications for asylum last year… up from less than 100 to about 200 in total… That should put a strain on public services!
In the light of this, I’m left asking questions, not about the historical and scientific accuracy of miracle stories like the dividing of the Red Sea in Exodus, but whether it would take a miracle to make us a less selfish society? Whether we are we more like the generous and welcoming Egypt of Genesis, or the fearful and oppressive Egypt of Exodus?
(this is a revision of the Thought for the Day on Radio Ulster last Thursday)