The pharaoh knows it is time to let go, but he still won’t. HaShem, we are told, has hardened his heart.
And look at what that has cost him after 10 plagues. Not only has it caused the death of his first born, but the first born of all his people and their animals. It has cost him Egypt itself.
Yet after that 10th plague, he says he is going to finally let the Hebrew slaves go. He has at last admitted defeat. But has he? Not really. He boards his war chariot and leads his army to overtake the Israelites at the sea of reeds.
There, after the Israelites have walked through a divided sea to arrive on dry land, the Pharaoh’s splendid army is drowned.
With all of Egypt truly in ruins, why don’t Moses and the Israelites direct their attention to finding further ways to punish the tyrant Pharaoh for his excessive behavior?
Part of an answer might be that HaShem is well aware of the Israelites’ shortcomings. Later he will call them a stiff-necked people. They are hardly in a position to judge others as regards stubbornness and ego.
Also, however, after much celebratory partying, HaShem knows that the Israelites will awaken from their hangover and face a new challenge. They must become a people, ready to enter their promised land, and have many trials and adventures ahead of them.
Questions for discussion: Why does HaShem harden the Pharaoh’s heart? What, if anything, do the Israelites learn about having a hardened heart?