Exodus 15
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Moses’ Song of Triumph. The journey of the Israelites to Marah and Elim

The ode of triumph (Exodus 15:1-18) is one of the finest products of Hebrew poetry, remarkable for poetic fire and spirit, picturesque description, vivid imagery, quick movement, effective parallelism, and bright, sonorous (‘Klangvoll,’ Bäntsch) diction. V. 1b states the theme: the praise of Jehovah for the glorious overthrow of Israel’s foe. The theme is developed in the verses following: first (vv. 2–5) the poet praises the mighty God, who had brought His people deliverance, and overwhelmed their enemies in the sea; then (vv. 6–10) he dwells on the details of the deliverance, how by the blast of His nostrils, the waters had parted to let the Israelites pass through, and then, at another blast, had closed upon the pursuing Egyptians, and snatched from them the prize, when it seemed already in their grasp; lastly (vv. 11–18), after once again (vv. 11–12) celebrating Jehovah as their deliverer, he describes how in His goodness He had led Israel through the wilderness, and planted it securely in its home in Canaan, while neighbouring nations looked on in silent amazement, powerless to arrest His people’s advance. The song is thus virtually the poetical development of two thoughts: (1) the destruction of the Egyptians in the sea, vv. 1b–12; (2) Jehovah’s guidance of Israel, till it was settled in Canaan, and a sanctuary established in its midst, vv. 12–18.

As regards the metre and strophical arrangement of the poem, there is at present little unanimity among scholars (see particulars in Haupt, AJSL. 1904, p. 150 f.). Haupt himself, p. 155 f., with several omissions of words and some additions, and also one or two transpositions, arranges it very systematically into three strophes, each strophe consisting of three stanzas, each stanza of two couplets, each couplet (as v. 1b, v. 6, v. 7) of two lines, and each line, in the Heb., having 2 + 2 accented syllables or ‘beats.’ As the poem stands, the lines, it is true, do mostly fall naturally into couplets (vv. 1b, 3, 4, &c.); sometimes, however, they form triplets (vv. 8, 9, 15, 17), twice quatrains (vv. 2, 16), and one stands by itself (v. 18): they also (in the Heb.) consist usually (but not always) of four words (forming two clauses, each of two words), with 2 + 2 accented syllables, or ‘beats.’ We cannot be sure that greater uniformity than this was designed by the original poet. It is wisest, under the circumstances, to leave the poem as it stands; and, so far as he strophes are concerned, simply to divide it, after v. 1, as Di. and Bä. do, in accordance with the natural breaks in the development of the thought, into three paragraphs, vv. 2–5, 6–10, 11–18.

There are several examples of alliteration or assonance in the poem: the fuller forms of the pron. suffix to the verb (-âmô, -çmô), for the usual -âm, -çm, are another poetical ornament which the author loves (9 times; cf. also -enhû in v. 2, and ’êmấthâh in v. 16): while the quick, short clauses,—generally of two words each,—which are not common in Heb. poetry, each suggesting some vivid image, give the poem a force and brightness of its own.

Is the poem, however, Mosaic? That vv. 12–17 are later than Moses’ time is admitted by even such a conservative scholar as Strack: as he says, it clearly presupposes the conquest of Canaan, and it refers to this conquest, not in a tone of prediction, but as an accomplished fact (cf. on vv. 13–17). ‘In its present form,’ says Strack, ‘it is a festal hymn, perhaps,’ as Ewald suggested (see below), ‘composed for a passover at the sanctuary shortly after the conquest of Canaan, to keep alive the recollection of Israel’s great deliverance’; vv. 11–17 are, however, older than the time of David, and vv. 1–10 are Mosaic. Dillm., agreeing substantially with Ewald (Dichter des alten Bundes, i. 1, p. 175; cf. Hist. ii. 354), doubts whether vv. 11–17 can be separated from vv. 4–10, on the ground that v. 10 forms no proper close, and the whole poem seems by its structure to be designed for its present compass: hence he considers that the ode, as we have it, is the poetical development, made at the time and for the object just stated, of an older Mosaic nucleus, to which in any case v. 1b belonged, if not vv. 2, 3 as well. More recent scholars (as Wellh. Hist., p. 352, Bä., Moore, EB. ii. 1450 f., Duhm, EB. iii. 3797, Haupt; cf. Budde, DB. iv. 11b) go further; and while allowing v. 1b—or rather v. 21—to be ancient, and even Mosaic, argue that vv. 2–18 are written in the style of the Psalms, lack the personal and local colouring, such as appears so distinctly in the older historical poems, Judges 5, 2 Samuel 1:19 ff., Numbers 21, and have many affinities, both literary and religious, with the later Heb. literature: ‘the emphatic assertion of Jehovah’s eternal sovereignty in v. 18,’ for instance, ‘implies an advanced stage of the doctrine of the Divine Kingship, such as had found fresh expression during and after the exile, (Carpenter, The Hexateuch, i. 160 [ed. 2, p. 307 f.]). Those who argue thus suppose accordingly that the whole of vv. 2–18 is the poetical expansion of v. 1b, composed at a relatively late date, not earlier that c. 600 b.c.

It is true, there are several words and forms in the poem, which otherwise occur first c. 600 b.c., and are most frequent in Psalms and other writings which are, certainly or probably, later than this. Thus the plur. ‘deeps’ (vv. 5, 8) occurs elsewhere 12 times, first in Deuteronomy 8:7 (7th cent.), then Isaiah 63:13, and in later writings (Pss., Proverbs 3, 8.); ‘depths’ (v. 5) recurs 11 times, first in Micah 7:19, then in Pss., Zechariah 10:11, Job, Jon., Neh. [a quotation from here]; ‘floods’ (v. 8) recurs 6 times, first in Jeremiah 18:14, Song of Solomon 4:15 (of uncertain date), then in Isaiah 44, Pss., Proverbs 5; ‘heart’ (fig. for ‘midst’), v. 8, occurs besides, with sea(s), Psalm 46:2, Proverbs 23:34; Proverbs 30:19, Ezekiel 27:4; Ezekiel 27:25-27; Ezekiel 28:2; Ezekiel 28:8, Jonah 2:3 (לבב) (but cf. with oak 2 Samuel 18:14, and (לבב) with heaven Deuteronomy 4:11); הריק ‘draw’ (the sword), lit. empty out (v. 9), recurs only Leviticus 26:33 (7th cent.), Psalm 35:3; Psalm 35:5 times in Ezek the pron. (vv. 13, 16) recurs 13 times, first in Psalm 32:8, or Habakkuk 1:11, then only in II. Isa. and Pss.; the rare term. -enhû (v. 2) appears elsewhere only in Jeremiah 5:22, Deuteronomy 32:10 (7th cent.), Psalm 72:15; the verbal suff. -âmô,-çmô (here 9 times) occurs elsewhere 14 times, once in prose (Exodus 23:31), otherwise only in the Pss. (2, 5, 21, 22, 45, 59, 73, 80, 83, 140). (The only ἅπαξ εἰρημένα are הִנְוָה v. 2 (text very dub.), נֶעֱרַם v. 8, and (perhaps) צָלַל v. 10.)

With Habakkuk 3 before us, it cannot be denied that a fine ode might be written in the 6th cent b.c.: at the same time in poetic freshness and power, and absence of conventional phrases, this ode seems to resemble the earlier Psalms (such as 18, 24, 29, 46), rather than the later ones: where the same occasion is referred to, the parallels in the later Pss. seem to be reminiscences of this; and though it is curious that several of the words found here do not recur till the 6th cent. b.c. or later, it must be remembered that, if (as the present writer also thinks) there are very few Psalms earlier than the age of Jeremiah, the pre-exilic poetry with which this ode could be compared is small in amount, and words not otherwise represented in the extant poems might easily have been in use: the forms in -mo might also have been chosen by the poet as a rhetorical ornament. On the whole, while acknowledging in the poem a combination of features pointing to a relatively late date, the present writer, in view of the considerations just urged, especially the freshness of vv. 3–10, hesitates to regard them as conclusive; and thinks it more probable that vv. 2–18 are not later than the early years of the Davidic dynasty (cf. on v. 17d). V. 18, also, might easily be a subsequent addition.

Reminiscences of the ode are not met with certainly before the 7th cent. b.c.; they cannot consequently be taken to prove more than its relative antiquity. The following are the principal ones:—Isaiah 12:2 b (ch. 12 is probably later than Isaiah), and Psalm 118:14 (v. 2a, b); Joshua 2:9 b (‘and that,’ &c.), Joshua 2:24 b [both additions of the Deut. editor] (vv. 15c, 16a); Psalm 74:2 (v. 16d ‘purchased’); Psalm 77:13 (‘was in holiness,’ v. 11b; ‘Who, &c.,’ v. 11a), Psalm 77:14 (vv. 11c, 2a), Psalm 77:15 a (v. 13a), Psalm 77:16 b, c ‘were in pangs …, trembled’ (v. 14 ‘trembled, Pangs’), Psalm 77:16 c ‘depths’ (= ‘deeps,’ vv. 5a, 8c Heb.), Psalm 77:20 (v. 13a ‘Thou leddest the people’); Psalm 78:13 b, Psalm 78:53 b, Psalm 78:54 RVm. (vv. 8b, 10a, 13 end, 16 end, 17a); Psalm 106:12 b (note 12a = ch. Exodus 14:31 b, shewing that the author of the Psalm read Exodus 15 in its present connexion); Psalm 118:28 (v. 2c, d); Nehemiah 9:11 b, (v. 5b; cf. v. 10 end [but in Neh. עזים, not אדידים]).

To the latest times, the passage of the Red Sea was remembered with a glow of triumph and enthusiasm, as a signal example of the power of Israel’s God: see Deuteronomy 11:4, Joshua 24:6-7, Isaiah 51:10; Isaiah 63:11-13, Psalm 66:6 a, Psalm 74:13-14, Psalm 81:7 a, b, Psalm 89:10, Psalm 106:9-12, Psalm 114:3 a, Psalm 114:5 a, Psalm 136:13-15; also, for expressions or imagery suggested by it, Isaiah 10:26 b, Isaiah 11:11 RVm., Isaiah 11:15-16, Isaiah 43:16 f., Nahum 1:4 a. Cf. also Revelation 15:3.

The Exodus, in the broader sense of the term, was also ever afterwards regarded as the birthday of the nation, and as the event which secured the nation’s independence: hence it is often referred to as the beginning of the national (Jdg 19:30, 1 Samuel 8:8, 2 Samuel 7:6 al.) and religious (Hosea 12:9; Hosea 13:4) life of Israel; and the deliverance from ‘the house of bondage’ was appealed to both as the great event of which Israel should ever be mindful, and for which it owed gratitude to its God (see, besides many of the passages already quoted above, Exodus 12:27; Exodus 13:8 f., Exodus 13:14; Exo 13:16, Exodus 20:2, Exodus 34:18, Amos 2:10; Amos 3:1, Hosea 11:1; Hosea 12:13, Micah 6:4, Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:21-23; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 11:3 f., Exodus 15:15, Exodus 16:1; Exodus 16:3; Exodus 16:6, Exodus 26:8, Nehemiah 9:9-12); also as the basis of an appeal to God (Exodus 32:11 f., Deuteronomy 9:26-29, Jeremiah 32:21), and as the guarantee of deliverance in subsequent troubles (Micah 7:15, Isaiah 63:11-14).

Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
1a. Then sang, &c.] cf. Numbers 21:17. (In Jdg 5:1 the Heb. is simply, And.)

1b. Exordium. The poet bids himself sing (cf. Jdg 5:3); and briefly, but forcibly, announces his theme (cf. v. 21).

hath triumphed gloriously] This fine paraphrase is based upon the triumphando magnifice egit of Seb. Münster, in his Latin version of the O.T. (1534–5). A more lit. rendering would be hath risen up (see, for the rare word, Job 8:11; Job 10:16, Ezekiel 47:5) majestically or proudly: the root idea of the word is to rise up loftily; but derivatives have generally the fig. senses of majesty or pride (see e.g. v. 7, Psalm 96:1).

The horse, &c.] Thus briefly, but completely, is the ruin of the Pharaoh’s army described: its chariots and horses, the mainstay of its strength, are, by Divine might, cast irretrievably into the sea.

and his rider] רָכַבי means both to ride a horse, and to ride in a chariot (Jeremiah 51:21 ‘the horse and his rider, … and the chariot and its rider’; similarly Haggai 2:22): hence, as the Egyptians at this time has no cavalry (on Exodus 14:9), if the verse is contemporary with the Exodus, either ‘rider’ must be understood of the rider in the chariot, or (as the pron. rather distinctly connects the ‘rider’ with the horse: cf. Genesis 49:17, and Jer. l.c.) we may read for רֹכְבֹו either רֹכֵב (so LXX.), i.e. ‘The horse and the rider’ (viz. in the chariot), or (Haupt) רֶכֶב, i.e. ‘The horse and the chariot’ (Exodus 14:9).

The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.
2. Yah is my strength and a song] i.e. the source of my strength and the theme of my song. Yah, the abbreviated form of Yahweh, occurs otherwise in Exodus 17:16, Isaiah 12:2 (in a citation of the present verse), Exodus 26:4 (post-exilic), Exodus 38:12 (Hezekiah’s song), Song of Solomon 8:6; otherwise only in late Psalms (40 times, mostly in ‘Hallelu-yah’).

my … I] The poet speaks, as Hebrew poets often do (e.g. Isaiah 61:10; Psalm 44:4; Psalm 44:6; Psalm 118:5-21; Psalm 118:28), in the name, and as the representative, of the nation.

is become my salvation] lit. is become to me a salvation, i.e. a source of deliverance (‘salvation,’ as Exodus 14:13): cf. exactly the same Heb. in 2 Samuel 10:11 ‘then thou shalt be to me for salvation,’ EVV. ‘thou shalt help me.’ This and the last line are cited in Isaiah 12:2 b, and Psalm 118:14.

praise] The Heb. word occurs only here. If correct, it would seem to mean beautify or adorn (viz. with praises). But this is a great deal to supply; and probably, by a slight change, we should read acknowledge or thank (Psalm 9:1, &c.; and especially Psalm 118:28 a). AV. prepare him an habitation follows the Targ. and Rabbis in treating hinwâh, improbably, as a denominative from nâweh, ‘habitation’ (v. 13).

My father’s God] my ancestral God; cf. on Exodus 3:6.

I will exalt him] Psalm 30:1; and especially Psalm 118:28 b.

2–5. Jehovah is the object of the poet’s praise, Jehovah, the potent and irresistible ‘man of war,’ who has overwhelmed His enemies in the sea.

The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.
3. a man of war] one who understands how to fight, and to vanquish his foes. The same figure, of Jehovah, Isaiah 42:13 (‘a man of wars’), Psalm 24:8 (‘the mighty man [gibbôr] of battle [or of war]’); cf. also ch. Exodus 14:14.

Yahweh is his name] an exultant ejaculation: ‘Yahweh’ is to the poet the great and powerful God, who helps, defends, and delivers His people. Cf. Amos 5:8; Amos 9:6; and ‘Yahweh of hosts is his name,’ Amos 4:13; Amos 5:27, Isaiah 47:4; Isaiah 48:2 al.

Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.
4. and his host] Cf. Exodus 14:4; Exodus 14:9; Exodus 14:17; Exodus 14:28.

And his chosen (Heb. the choice of his) knights] See on Exodus 14:7.

The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.
5. The deeps] chiefly a poet. word: Psalm 77:16; Psalm 106:9, Isaiah 63:13 (all with reference to the passage of Red Sea); and elsewhere.

did cover them] The tense used represents the action vividly as it was taking place, something in the manner of the Greek imperfect. Song of Solomon vv6, 7. It cannot be reproduced idiomatically in English. ‘Cover’ is probably meant by the Revisers to be a historical present: but even this is inadequate; and the word is very liable to be misunderstood as an actual present (‘cover them now’).

the depths] Micah 7:19, Psalm 68:22; Psalm 107:24, Nehemiah 9:11 (an allusion to the present passage), al. Properly, perhaps, the gurgling-places (cf. on v. 10). Quite a different word from ‘deeps,’ vv. 5, 8.

Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
6.Thy right hand, O Yahweh glorious in power,

Thy right hand, O Yahweh, did dash in pieces the enemy.

The text can only be so rendered, ‘glorious’ (which is masc.) agreeing with ‘Yahweh’ (cf. v. 11), and the subject, ‘Thy right hand,’ being repeated for emphasis in v. 6b before the predicate (just as in Psalm 92:9; Psalm 93:3; Psalm 94:3). If we desire to render as in RV., we must read נאדרה for נאדרי. The figure of the ‘right hand,’ as Isaiah 51:9, Psalm 118:15-16 al.

] Cf. v. 11; and the cognate adj. אדיר, of Jehovah, Isaiah 10:34 (EVV. a mighty one), Isaiah 33:21 (RV. in majesty), Psalm 76:4 (render, ‘Illumined [but read probably Terrible, as vv. 7, 12] art thou and glorious’), Psalm 93:4 (EVV. mighty); cf. Psalm 8:1; Psalm 8:9 (render, ‘How glorious is thy name in all the earth!’). The idea of the word is noble, grand, magnificent.

did dash in pieces] only besides Jdg 10:8 (EVV. weakly vexed: render, ‘brake and crushed’); cf. the same word in Jdg 9:53 Targ.

6–10. How Jehovah, by His power, had annihilated the foe: elated with the hope of plunder, and confident of victory, they pursued Israel into the path cut through the sea; He but blew with His wind, and the waters closed upon them.

And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble.
7. in the greatness of thy majesty] cognate with ‘risen up majestically’ in v. 1: cf. Isaiah 2:10; Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 2:21; Isaiah 24:14, where the same word (gâ’ôn) is rendered majesty in both AV. and RV. The retention of excellency in RV. is unfortunate. It is true, in 1611, when the AV. was made, it still had the etymological force (Lat. excello, to rise up out of) of surpassingness, pre-eminence; but even that is an imperfect rendering of the Heb. here; and now the word suggests little more than a mild type of superiority, just as the cognate ‘excellent’ has been weakened into a term of mild commendation, superior, meritorious. See the note on both ‘excellency’ and ‘excellent’ in the writer’s Joel and Amos (in the Camb. Bible), p. 238 f., or (with a fuller synopsis of their occurrences, including those in the N.T.) in his Daniel, p. 33 f.

thou didst break down them that rose up against thee] viz. like a wall or building (Jdg 6:25 ‘throw down’; Ezekiel 26:4; Ezekiel 26:12; and frequently): the solid, compact masses of the foe are represented as broken to pieces, and thrown in ruins on the earth. The figure is more forcible than when we speak of an army being ‘overthrown.’ The word is quite different from the one rendered ‘overthrew’ in Exodus 14:27.

Thou sentest forth thy wrath, it consumed (or devoured: lit. ate) them as stubble] God’s wrath is pictured as a fire, consuming the foe as quickly as if they were dry stubble (cf. Isaiah 5:24, Obadiah 1:18, Nahum 1:10).

And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.
8. the blast of thy nostrils] Fig. for the wind (v. 10), as Psalm 18:15.

were piled up] The hyperbole, as Exodus 14:22 (the ‘wall’). The Heb. word occurs only here. ‘Heap’ in Ruth 3:7 is cognate.

floods] or streams, lit. the flowing ones. A poet. word; cf. Psalm 78:16; Psalm 78:44, Song of Solomon 4:15, Isaiah 44:3.

an heap] Cf. Joshua 3:13; Joshua 3:16; Psalm 78:13.

congealed] or, solidified (cf. Zephaniah 1:12 RVm.,—the same word).

the heart of the sea] Cf. Psalm 46:2, Ezekiel 27:4.

The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.
9. The enemy’s confidence of victory, dramatically expressed in a series of quick, abrupt sentences, describing the rapid succession of one stage after another of the expected triumphant pursuit.

divide the spoil] A result of victory always looked forward to with satisfaction; cf. Jdg 5:30, Isaiah 9:3; Isaiah 33:23, Psalm 68:12.

My soul shall be filled with them] i.e. sated, or glutted with them. The ‘soul,’ in the psychology of the Hebrews, is the seat of desire, and especially of appetite or greed; see Deuteronomy 12:15; Deuteronomy 14:26; Deuteronomy 23:24 (‘thou mayest eat grapes thy fill according to thy soul), Isaiah 29:8; Isaiah 32:6, Psalm 17:9 (‘my greedy enemies,’ lit. ‘my enemies in soul’), Psalm 27:12 (‘give me not over unto the soul of my enemies, so Psalm 41:2), Psalm 78:18 (‘by asking food for their soul’), Proverbs 23:2 (‘a man given to appetite,’ lit. ‘the possessor of a soul’), Ecclesiastes 6:7, Isaiah 56:11 (‘greedy dogs,’ lit. ‘dogs strong of soul’). See further the Glossary in the writer’s Parallel Psalter, p. 459 f.

shall dispossess them] Often used of the nations of Canaan (see on Exodus 34:24). Fig. here for root out; cf. Numbers 14:12. ‘Destroy’ is a paraphrase, which obliterates the distinctive figure of the original.

Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
10. God did but blow with His wind, and all their hopes were in a moment shattered; they sank and perished in the returning waters.

sank] The word occurs nowhere else in this sense: to judge from its derivatives, the root will have meant to whir, whiz, clang, &c.: so perhaps the idea is whizzed down, or (cf. Southey’s poem, The Inchcape Rock, l. 37, of a bell sinking) sank with a gurgling sound. The usual Heb. word for ‘sink’ is the one in v. 4b.

in the mighty waters] The adj. cognate with the ptcp. rendered glorious in vv. 6, 11. Nehemiah 9:11 uses the more ordinary word ‘azzim (‘strong’).

Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
11. No god is comparable to Jehovah, whether among the gods of Egypt or those of any other country. Cf. Exodus 18:11; Psalm 71:19 c, Psalm 77:13, Psalm 86:8, Psalm 89:6; Psalm 89:8, Psalm 95:3, Psalm 96:4, Psalm 97:9; Jeremiah 10:6.

glorious (v. 6) in holiness] i.e. in loftiness, greatness, unapproachableness,—in a word in all the transcendent attributes which combine to constitute the idea of supreme Godhead; the ethical ideas which we associate with ‘holiness’ seem hardly to be thought of in passages like this. Cf. 1 Samuel 6:20; and Skinner in DB. ii. 396 f.; Davidson, OT. Theol. pp. 145 ff., 155; and below, on Exodus 22:31.

Fearful in praises] i.e. in praiseworthy attributes; so Psalm 9:14; Psalm 78:4, Isaiah 60:6; Isaiah 63:7. Cf. Psalm 66:5 ‘fearful in operation.’

doing wonders] The Heb., as Psalm 77:14 (with allusion to the Exodus), Psalm 78:12 (‘In the sight of their fathers he did wonders’), Isaiah 25:1.

11–17. Jehovah, the Incomparable One, thus saved Israel from its foes (vv. 11–12); and afterwards, in His goodness, led His people whom He had redeemed to their promised home, while the nations of Canaan and surrounding regions looked on, awestruck and powerless to arrest their advance.

Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.
12. The poet, before proceeding to the main theme of the paragraph (v. 13 ff.), reverts for a moment to the thought of Jehovah’s destruction of the foe.

The earth swallowed them] In the Heb., the imperfect, attached ἀσυνδέτως, expresses vividly how the result followed at once the stretching out of Jehovah’s hand. Exactly so v. 14 ‘the peoples heard, they trembled’; Psalm 77:16 ‘the waters saw thee, they were in pangs.’ The ‘earth’ must here be understood as inclusive of the sea. ‘Swallowed,’ i.e. engulphed: cf. Numbers 16:32, Psalm 106:17 (of Dathan and Abiram).

Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.
13. Thou didst lead in thy mercy the people which thou hadst redeemed; Thou didst guide them in thy strength to thy holy habitation.

lead] As Exodus 13:17; Exodus 13:21, Exodus 32:34, Psalm 77:20; Psalm 78:14,—all of the Divine guidance of Israel in the wilderness.

redeemed] See on Exodus 6:6.

guide] Properly, it seems, to judge from the Arabic, to lead to a watering-place; of Jehovah leading His servant, or His people, as a shepherd, Psalm 23:2 (to ‘waters of rest’), Isaiah 40:11 (EVV. ‘gently lead’), Isaiah 49:10 (to ‘springs of water’).

habitation] Heb. נָוֶה, properly homestead, or abode of shepherds and flocks (Isaiah 65:10, Jeremiah 23:3); but often used in poetry of a habitation in general (as Proverbs 3:33, Isaiah 33:20). Here Canaan is probably meant (cf. Jeremiah 10:25, Psalm 79:7), though the reference might be to Zion (2 Samuel 15:25).

13–17. Israel’s providential guidance through the wilderness to its home in Canaan. As translated in Revelation , vv13-16 describe, in anticipation, as if completed, the journey to, and settlement in, Canaan; but it is far from natural to understand the past tenses (in the Heb.) in vv. 13–15, except as referring to events actually past; and there is little doubt that the verses were really written long after Israel was settled in Canaan, as a poetical description of their journey through the wilderness, and establishment in Canaan (cf. Deuteronomy 32:10-14). The verbs should therefore all be rendered as aorists.

The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.
14.The peoples heard, they trembled;

Pangs took hold on the inhabitants of Philistia.

Pangs] Properly, as of a woman in travail. Cf. Psalm 48:6, Jeremiah 6:24; Jeremiah 50:43.

14–16. The poet pictures the neighbouring nations as seized with alarm, when they hear that Israel is advancing on its way to Canaan. The description is idealized: Edom, for instance, according to Numbers 20:18-21, was in no fear of Israel whatever.

Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.
15.Then were the chiefs of Edom dismayed;

The mighty men of Moab, trembling took hold upon them;

All the inhabitants of Canaan melted away (in fear).

Then] when they heard the tidings of the great disaster to the Egyptians. The terror thus inspired into them continued till Israel had passed by them and entered Canaan (v. 16). The Israelites did, 40 years afterwards, pass round Edom and Moab on the S. and E. of the Dead Sea: see Numbers 20:21; Numbers 21:4; Numbers 21:13; Deuteronomy 2:1-9; Deuteronomy 2:18.

chiefs] Properly, clan-chiefs, or heads of clans (from ’eleph, a family or clan, Jdg 6:15, 1 Samuel 10:19, Micah 5:2); a word used specially of the clan-chiefs of Edom (see Genesis 36:15-19; Genesis 36:21; Genesis 36:29-30; Genesis 36:40-43 [= 1 Chronicles 1:51-54]), and rare besides (Zechariah 9:7; Zechariah 12:5-6, only). In EVV., here and in Genesis 36, ‘duke’ represents the Lat. dux (which in its turn is based upon the ἡγεμών of the LXX.), and means simply leader.

dismayed] as Psalm 48:5, for the same Heb. ‘Amazed’ (AS. amasian, to perplex; connected with maze) meant formerly bewildered (cf. ‘to be in a maze’) or confounded by any strong emotion, especially by fear (cf. Jdg 20:41, for the same word as here; Job 32:15 for חתו; and ‘amazement’ for πτόησις in 1 Peter 3:6, RV. ‘terror’: also ‘amazing,’ i.e. bewildering, ‘thunder’ in Shakespeare, Richard II. i. 3. 81); but now it suggests a wrong meaning (‘astonished’).

mighty men] The same rare word recurs 2 Kings 24:15, Ezekiel 17:13; Ezekiel 31:11; Ezekiel 31:14; Ezekiel 32:21 (‘strong’). It seems to be identical with the Heb. word for ‘ram’: if this is really the case, it must have come to be used figuratively for leader; cf. the similar use of ‘he-goats’ in Isaiah 14:9 (see RVm.).

trembling (רעד) took hold upon them] Cf. Psalm 48:6 (רעדה,—both rare words).

melted away] fig. for, were incapacitated and helpless through terror and despair. Cf. Joshua 2:9 b, 24b, (reminiscences of the present passage), Isaiah 14:31, Nahum 2:6 (EVV. ‘is dissolved,’ to be understood in its old fig. sense of relaxed, enfeebled: the Heb. word is the same as here).

Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased.
16.Terror and dread fell upon them;

By the greatness of thine arm, they were as still as a stone:

Till thy people passed through, O Yahweh,

Till thy people passed through, which thou hadst purchased.

Terror, &c.] Cf. Joshua 2:9 ‘and that your terror is fallen upon us.’

as still as a stone] i.e. at once motionless (Joshua 10:13 Heb.) and silent (Psalm 31:17) through fear. For the comparison, cf. the ‘dumb stone’ of Habakkuk 2:19.

passed through] viz. the nations through whom they passed on their progress to Canaan (Di. Bä., &c.): cf. for the expression Deuteronomy 29:16 ‘and how we passed through the midst of the nations through which ye passed.’ The poet idealizes the past; and pictures the neighbouring peoples terror-struck, unable to move a hand to resist Israel, as it marched on to take possession of its inheritance in Canaan. The words do not refer, as the rend. of EVV. would imply that they do, to the passage of the Jordan.

purchased] The word does mean (marg.) to get (Genesis 4:1, Proverbs 16:16 al.) or acquire; but it is commonly used in the sense of to get by purchase, or buy (Genesis 33:19, &c.). And this no doubt is its meaning here; the idea being that Jehovah has ‘redeemed’ Israel (v. 13, Exodus 6:6), like a slave, from servitude, and purchased it as His own possession (cf. Nehemiah 5:8 RVm.). The word is used similarly of Israel in Isaiah 11:11 (see RVm.), Psalm 74:2 (cf. Psalm 78:54 b).

Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.
17.Thou didst bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance,

The place which thou hadst made for thee to dwell in, O Yahweh,

The sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.

The final goal of Israel’s triumphant progress through the nations (vv. 14–16): viz. its settlement in Canaan, with Jehovah’s sanctuary established in its midst.

plant them] fix them in firmly: the figure, as 2 Samuel 7:10, Amos 9:15, Psalm 44:2, and elsewhere.

the mountain of thine inheritance] i.e. Canaan, called a ‘mountain’ on account of the mountainous character of many of its most important parts (Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim, for instance). Cf. Deuteronomy 3:25, Isaiah 11:9, Psalm 78:54 b (with allusion to this passage).

of thine inheritance] in so far as it was His possession: cf. Jer Exo 2:7, Psalm 79:1; and (of the people) 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 26:19, 2 Samuel 14:16; 2 Samuel 20:19; 2 Samuel 21:3.

a place … for thee to dwell in] These words, exactly as 1 Kings 8:13 (‘I have surely built thee an house of habitation, a place for thee to dwell in for ever’), in the poetical fragment (vv. 12, 13), excerpted, it is almost certain (see Skinner’s note on the passage in the Century Bible, or Barnes’ in the Cambridge Bible), from the ancient ‘Book of Jashar’ (hence also the expression, ‘place of thy (or his) dwelling,’ in 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Kings 8:43; 1 Kings 8:49, Psalm 33:14). Di. thinks that the reference is to the sanctuary of Shiloh (which must have been a substantial building, 1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 3:3; 1 Samuel 3:15): others think that the terms used point rather to the Temple on Zion (with ‘established,’ in the next line, cf. Psalm 48:8; Psalm 87:5). Of course, the entire people was not ‘planted’ at either of these places: but the poet, as he goes on, narrows his outlook, and fixes his thoughts on Jehovah’s earthly dwelling, the religious centre of the nation.

The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.
18. With this short concluding verse, ‘glancing at Jehovah’s lasting kingship (Deuteronomy 33:5) over His people, settled round His sanctuary, the hymn is brought to a fine and effective close’ (Di.). The thought of Jehovah as King occurs already in Deuteronomy 33:5, and in the seemingly early Psalm 24:7-10; Psalm 29:10; but the stress laid on His active exertion of sovereignty occurs first in Micah 4:7, but is chiefly later, Isaiah 52:7 (hence Psalm 93:1; Psalm 96:10; Psalm 97:1; Psalm 98:1), Isaiah 24:23 (post-exilic), Psalm 146:10 (with ‘for ever,’ as also Micah 4:7).

For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.
19. Probably an addition by the compiler who united together JE and P, emphasizing once again, in words adapted from Exodus 14:23; Exodus 14:28-29 (P), the great deliverance which the poem celebrated.

brought again] brought back. Cf. on Exodus 14:26.

and the children of Israel, &c.] verbatim as Exodus 14:29 a.

dry land] better, dry ground, to agree with Exodus 14:22; Exodus 14:29 a.

And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.
20. the prophetess] See Numbers 12:2; and cf. Jdg 4:4 (of Deborah).

the sister of Aaron] Miriam being more closely associated with Aaron than with Moses: cf. Numbers 12:1 ff., where Miriam and Aaron act together, even against Moses. See also on Exodus 2:1.

a timbrel] or hand-drum, i.e. a ring of wood or metal, covered with a tightly-drawn skin, held up in one hand, and struck by the fingers of the other. The same Heb. is sometimes rendered tabret. The hand-drum was used on joyous occasions, as Genesis 31:27, 2 Samuel 6:5, and with dances, as here, Jdg 11:34, 1 Samuel 18:6, Jeremiah 31:4. For women celebrating a victory, see Jdg 11:34 (Jephthah’s daughter), Psalm 68:11 (RV.), and esp. 1 Samuel 18:6-7.

went out] viz. from the camp.

dances] For dancing on joyous religious occasions, cf. Exodus 32:19, Jdg 21:21, 2 Samuel 6:14, Psalm 149:3; Psalm 150:4. ‘In the East dancing was, and is, the language of religion. David, to shew his fervour, danced before the Ark with all his might. In Hellas dancing accompanied every rite and every mystery. The choral dance afforded the outlet to religious enthusiasm which elsewhere is provided by services’ (K. J. Freeman, Schools of Hellas 600–300 b.c., 1907, p. 143 f.).

20, 21. How the opening verse of the Song was sung by Miriam.

And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
21. answered] The word means (note the ל), answered antiphonally in song, even if,—as some think, connecting it with the Arab. ghanâ (Lex. 777a),—it does not mean simply sang (comp. Numbers 21:17 b; and esp. 1 Samuel 18:7; 1 Samuel 21:11; 1 Samuel 24:5 [where the same word is rendered, ‘sing one to another’]).

them] The pron. is masc., so the reference might seem to be to the men (v. 1a), after they had sung v. 1b. But this antecedent is rather remote: and as in the 2nd and 3rd plur. the masc. form is often used with reference to women (G.-K. § 135o), it is probably better (with Bä.) to suppose the women in v. 20b to be referred to; cf. 1 Samuel 18:7.

So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.
22. led … onward] properly, made … to journey (Exodus 12:37); so Psalm 78:52 a.

from the Red Sea] The Arabs regard ‘Ayûn (or ‘Oyûn) Mûsâ, the ‘springs of Moses,’ 9 miles below Suez, on the E. side of the gulf, and 1½ miles from the coast, as the station at which the Israelites first halted, after their passage of the Red Sea. ‘Ayûn Mûsâ is a small oasis, where Robinson (1:62), m 1838, counted 7 fountains, some evidently mere recent excavations in the sand, in which a little brackish water was standing, and saw about 20 stunted, untrimmed palm bushes, and a small patch of barley, irrigated from one or two of the fountains. More recently (cf. Ordnance Survey of Sinai, p. 73; Palmer, Desert of the Ex., 1871, p. 34 f.) the irrigation has been artificially improved: several acres of garden ground, containing fruit and vegetables, have been brought under cultivation, which supply the Suez market; and palms and tamarisk trees are more abundant. Whether however ‘Ayûn Mûsâ was really the Israelites’ halting-place, or was only assumed to be such on account of its convenient situation opposite the supposed crossing-place, must remain uncertain: if the passage was made either through, or N. of, the Bitter Lakes (p. 126), ‘Ayûn Mûsâ, being 35, or 50, miles distant, would be too far off for at least the first stopping-place.

Shur] The name of the district on the E. frontier of Egypt (i.e. E. of line extending from Suez to what is now Port Said), mentioned also in Genesis 16:7; Genesis 20:1; Genesis 25:18 (where ‘before,’ or ‘in front of,’ means East of), 1 Samuel 27:8. On theories of the origin of the name see Shur in DB. Shur in Heb. means a ‘wall’; and hence it has sometimes been supposed to denote the ‘wall’ built by the Egyptians, at least as early as Usertesen I, of the 12th dynasty, to protect their E. frontier against invaders from Asia. But it is uncertain whether the Egypt. word means a wall or only a line of military posts or fortresses: Shur also is the regular word for ‘wall’ only in Aramaic, in Heb. it occurs only twice, in poetry (Genesis 49:22; Psalm 18:29 = 2 Samuel 22:30): so it is very doubtful if this theory of the meaning of the name is correct (see further DB. s.v., with the references).

three days] a day’s journey, for a caravan travelling with tents, baggage, and cattle, would be hardly more than 15 miles.

the wilderness] In the itinerary of P in Numbers 33:8, ‘the wilderness of Etham’: i.e., if this interpretation is correct, the part of the wilderness of Shur that was near Etham (Exodus 13:20).

22–27. The journey from the Red Sea to Elim.

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.
23. Marah] Burckhardt, Travels [1810–11] in Syria, &c., 1822, p. 472, suggested that this might be the well of Howarah (or [Palmer] Hawwárah), about 47 miles SE. of ‘Ayûn Mûsâ, and 7 miles from the coast, on the usual route to Mt. Sinai, with water so bitter as to be undrinkable,—though at times (Palmer, Des. Exodus 40) it is palatable. It is ‘a solitary spring of bitter water with a stunted palm-tree growing near it, and affording a delicious shade.’ The identification has been accepted by many since Burckhardt: but it is far from certain (it need hardly be said that there is no etym. connexion between Hawwárah [said by Palmer to mean a small pool of undrinkable water] and Marah), In itself the site would be suitable, supposing that the Israelites crossed the sea at or near Suez: but it agrees badly with Numbers 33:8 (P), if Marah is here correctly placed in the ‘wilderness of Etham’ (see on Exodus 13:20), and it would be much too far, if the Israelites made their crossing at or near the Bitter Lakes: by those who adopt the latter view, ‘Ain Nâba (also called el-Ghŭrkŭdeh), a fountain with a considerable supply of brackish water (Rob. i. 61 f.), about 10 miles SE. of Suez, and 50 miles from Lake Timsâḥ, has been suggested for Marah, and ‘Ayûn Mûsâ (though this is only 6 miles SW. of ‘Ain Nâba) for Elim (v. 27). Under the circumstances, as Di. says, it is impossible to speak with an certainty respecting the site of Marah.

And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
24. murmured] as Exodus 16:2; Exodus 16:7-8, Exodus 17:3, Numbers 14:2; Numbers 14:27; Numbers 14:29; Numbers 14:36; Numbers 16:11; Numbers 16:41; Numbers 17:5, Joshua 9:18†. Cf. ‘murmurings,’ Exodus 16:7-9; Exodus 16:12, Numbers 14:27; Numbers 17:5; Numbers 17:10†.

And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,
25. cried unto Jehovah] Cf. Exodus 14:15, Exodus 17:4.

a tree] ‘That there might be a bush or tree, whose leaves, fruit, bark or wood were able to sweeten bitter water is not impossible (see on such means adopted by the Tamils and Peruvians, Rosenm. Alt. u. neues Morgenland, ii. 28 f.); from the Bedawin of the present time travellers have not been able to hear of such a tree (Rob. i. 67 f., Ebers, Gosen, 116 f.): according to de Lesseps (as quoted by Ebers, pp. 117, 531), however, a kind of barberry growing in the wilderness is so used’ (Di.). Comp. Sir 38:5. Josephus’ account of the incident (Ant. iii. 1, 2) is curious: see on this and other traditions, or interpretations, E. A. Abbott, Indices to Diatessarica (1907), pp. xi–lxiii.

There set he them, &c.] Cf. Joshua 24:25 (the same words). ‘Statute and ordinance,’ as often (in the plur.) in Dt. (Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 4:5; Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 4:14, &c. [in these passages rendered ‘judgement’; see on Exodus 21:1]). What ‘statute and ordinance’ is meant, is not stated: apparently some duty, by the observance or non-observance of which, Israel’s loyalty could be ‘proved’ (cf. on Exodus 17:2). The notice seems imperfectly connected with what precedes; and the second clause reads as if it were originally intended as an explanation of the name Massah (‘Proving’), differing from the one given in Exodus 17:7.

And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.
26. Encouragement to Israel, to obey the commandments laid upon them. The verse approximates in style and tone to Deuteronomy, and is probably one of the parenetic additions of the compiler of JE (see on Exodus 13:3-16); notice Hearken to the voice, as Deuteronomy 15:5; Deuteronomy 28:1 al. (but with ב, not ל, as here); Jehovah thy Goa, as Deuteronomy 1:21; Deuteronomy 1:31, and constantly; that which is right &c., as Deuteronomy 6:18, Deuteronomy 12:25; Deuteronomy 12:28 al.; give ear, as Deuteronomy 1:45 (elsewhere nearly always poet.); commandments … and statutes, as Deuteronomy 4:40, Deuteronomy 6:17, Deuteronomy 10:13, &c.; keep, as Deuteronomy 4:40, Deuteronomy 26:17.

I will put, &c.] Deuteronomy 7:15 is based upon this passage (in spite of the Heb. word for ‘diseases’ being different).

diseases] alluding to the plagues.

that healeth thee] Cf. Psalm 103:3; also ch. Exodus 23:25. The thought seems to be suggested by the incident of v. 25a: unwholesome or bitter water that has been made sweet is sometimes spoken of as ‘healed’ (2 Kings 2:21-22, Ezekiel 47:8).

And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.
27. Elim] i.e. Terebinths, or perhaps Sacred trees in general (the word is quite possibly derived from ’çl, ‘god’), supposed by the common people to be inhabited by a deity, and venerated accordingly. When a tree or grove of trees is specially mentioned in the OT., a sacred tree, or grove, is often meant (cf. Isaiah 1:29): e.g. Genesis 12:6 (see the writer’s note ad loc.), Exodus 35:4; Exodus 35:8, Jdg 9:6; Jdg 9:37 : see further Nature-Worship, §§ 2, 3, in EB. To the present day Palestine abounds in trees, esp. oaks, supposed to be ‘inhabited,’ or haunted by spirits (jinn); and the superstitious peasants hang rags upon them as tokens of homage (L. and B. ii. 104, 171 f., 222, 474).

Elim has been usually, since Burckhardt (p. 473 f.), identified with some spot in the Wady Gharandel1[155], a valley running down from the mountains about 7 miles SE. of Hawwárah, and forming a grateful contrast to the 54 miles of arid wilderness, which the traveller has passed through since leaving ‘Ayûn Mûsâ. Two miles below the point at which the route by Hawwárah enters the valley, there are springs which form the usual watering-place for caravans passing along this route: lower down, as the valley comes within 2 or 3 miles of the coast, ‘water rises in considerable volume to the surface, and nurtures a charming oasis,’ in which waterfowl and other birds are abundant, and there are ‘thickets of palms and tamarisks, beds of reeds and bulrushes, with a gurgling brook and pools’ (Ordn. Survey, p. 75): the thorny shrub called Gharkhad, with a juicy and refreshing berry, of which the Arabs are very fond, is also frequent in it (Burckh. l.c.; cf. Rob. i. 68 f.). The identification must not however be regarded as certain: there is no similarity of name to support it; and as Di. remarks, if the passage of the Israelites took place either through, or N. of, the Bitter Lakes, Elim would be more suitably located at ‘Ayûn Mûsâ.

[155] The identification seems really to have been made as early as the 6th cent.: for the Sarandula visited by Antoninus (Anton. Itinerarium, ed. Gildemeister, 1889, § 41), at about 570 a.d., can hardly be any other place.

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