|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
15:1-21 This song is the most ancient we know of. It is a holy song, to the honour of God, to exalt his name, and celebrate his praise, and his only, not in the least to magnify any man. Holiness to the Lord is in every part of it. It may be considered as typical, and prophetical of the final destruction of the enemies of the church. Happy the people whose God is the Lord. They have work to do, temptations to grapple with, and afflictions to bear, and are weak in themselves; but his grace is their strength. They are often in sorrow, but in him they have comfort; he is their song. Sin, and death, and hell threaten them, but he is, and will be their salvation. The Lord is a God of almighty power, and woe to those that strive with their Maker! He is a God of matchless perfection; he is glorious in holiness; his holiness is his glory. His holiness appears in the hatred of sin, and his wrath against obstinate sinners. It appears in the deliverance of Israel, and his faithfulness to his own promise. He is fearful in praises; that which is matter of praise to the servants of God, is very dreadful to his enemies. He is doing wonders, things out of the common course of nature; wondrous to those in whose favour they are wrought, who are so unworthy, that they had no reason to expect them. There were wonders of power and wonders of grace; in both, God was to be humbly adored.
Verse 21. - Miriam answered them. Miriam, with her chorus of women, answered the chorus of men, responding at the termination of each stanza or separate part of the ode with the refrain, "Sing ye to the Lord," etc. (See the "Introduction" to this chapter.) While responding, the female chorus both danced and struck their tambourines. This use of dancing in a religious ceremonial, so contrary to Western ideas of decorum, is quite consonant with Oriental practice, both ancient and modern. Other examples of it in Scripture are David's dancing before the ark (2 Samuel 6:16), the dancing of Jephthah's daughter (Judges 11:34), and that of the virgins of Shiloh (Judges 21:21). It is also mentioned with approval in the Psalms (Psalm 149:3; el. 4). Dancing was practised as a religious ceremony in Egypt, in Phrygia, in Thrace, by the Phoenicians, by the Syrians, by the Romans, and others. In the nature of things there is clearly nothing unfitting or indecorous in a dedication to religion of what has been called "the poetry of gesture." But human infirmity has connected such terrible abuses with the practice that the purer religions have either discarded it or else denied it admission into their ceremonial. It still however lingers in Mohammedanism among those who are called "dancing dervishes," whose extraordinary performances are regarded as acts of devotion.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Miriam answered them,.... The men, for the word is masculine; that is, repeated, and sung the same song word for word after them, as they had done, of which a specimen is given by reciting the first clause of the song:
sing ye to the Lord; which is by way of exhortation to the women to sing with her, as Moses begins the song thus: "I will sing unto the Lord":
for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea; See Gill on Exodus 15:1, the manner of their singing, according to the Jews (z), was, Moses first said, "I will sing", and they said it after him.
(z) T. Hieros. Sotah, fol. 20. 3. T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 30. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
21. Miriam answered them—"them" in the Hebrew is masculine, so that Moses probably led the men and Miriam the women—the two bands responding alternately, and singing the first verse as a chorus.
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