Moses and the Israelites sing a song of praise to God for their late deliverance, in which they celebrate the power of God, gloriously manifested in the destruction of Pharaoh and his host, Exodus 15:1; express their confidence in him as their strength and protector, Exodus 15:2, Exodus 15:3; detail the chief circumstances in the overthrow of the Egyptians, Exodus 15:4-8; and relate the purposes they had formed for the destruction of God's people, Exodus 15:9, and how he destroyed them in the imaginations of their hearts, Exodus 15:10. Jehovah is celebrated for the perfections of his nature and his wondrous works, Exodus 15:11-13. A prediction of the effect which the account of the destruction of the Egyptians should have on the Edomites, Moabites, and Canaanites, Exodus 15:14-16. A prediction of the establishment of Israel in the promised land, Exodus 15:17. The full chorus of praise, Exodus 15:18. Recapitulation of the destruction of the Egyptians, and the deliverance of Israel, Exodus 15:19. Miriam and the women join in and prolong the chorus, Exodus 15:20, Exodus 15:21. The people travel three days in the wilderness of Shur, and find no water, Exodus 15:22. Coming to Marah, and finding bitter waters, they murmur against Moses, Exodus 15:23, Exodus 15:24. In answer to the prayer of Moses, God shows him a tree by which the waters are sweetened, Exodus 15:25. God gives them statutes and gracious promises, Exodus 15:26. They come to Elim, where they find twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees, and there they encamp, Exodus 15:27.
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.Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song - Poetry has been cultivated in all ages and among all people, from the most refined to the most barbarous; and to it principally, under the kind providence of God, we are indebted for most of the original accounts we have of the ancient nations of the universe. Equally measured lines, with a harmonious collocation of expressive, sonorous, and sometimes highly metaphorical terms, the alternate lines either answering to each other in sense, or ending with similar sounds, were easily committed to memory, and easily retained. As these were often accompanied with a pleasing air or tune, the subject being a concatenation of striking and interesting events, histories formed thus became the amusement of youth, the softeners of the tedium of labor, and even the solace of age. In such a way the histories of most nations have been preserved. The interesting events celebrated, the rhythm or metre, and the accompanying tune or recitativo air, rendered them easily transmissible to posterity; and by means of tradition they passed safely from father to son through the times of comparative darkness, till they arrived at those ages in which the pen and the press have given them a sort of deathless duration and permanent stability, by multiplying the copies. Many of the ancient historic and heroic British tales are continued by tradition among the aboriginal inhabitants of Ireland to the present day; and the repetition of them constitutes the chief amusement of the winter evenings. Even the prose histories, which were written on the ground of the poetic, copied closely their exemplars, and the historians themselves were obliged to study all the beauties and ornaments of style, that their works might become popular; and to this circumstance we owe not a small measure of what is termed refinement of language. How observable is this in the history of Herodotus, who appears to have closely copied the ancient poetic records in his inimitable and harmonious prose; and, that his books might bear as near a resemblance as possible to the ancient and popular originals, he divided them into nine, and dedicated each to one of the muses! His work therefore seems to occupy the same place between the ancient poetic compositions and mere prosaic histories, as the polype does between plants and animals. Much even of our sacred records is written in poetry, which God has thus consecrated to be the faithful transmitter of remote and important events; and of this the song before the reader is a proof in point. Though this is not the first specimen of poetry we have met with in the Pentateuch, (see Lamech's speech to his wives, Genesis 4:23, Genesis 4:24; Noah's prophecy concerning his sons, Genesis 9:25-27; and Jacob's blessing to the twelve patriarchs, Genesis 49:2-27 (note)), yet it is the first regular ode of any considerable length, having but one subject; and it is all written in hemistichs, or half lines, the usual form in Hebrew poetry; and though this form frequently occurs, it is not attended to in our common printed Hebrew Bibles, except in this and three other places, (Deuteronomy 32, Judges 5, and 2 Samuel 22)., all of which shall be noticed as they occur. But in Dr. Kennicott's edition of the Hebrew Bible, all the poetry, wheresoever it occurs, is printed in its own hemistich form.
After what has been said it is perhaps scarcely necessary to observe, that as such ancient poetic histories commemorated great and extraordinary displays of providence, courage, strength, fidelity, heroism, and piety; hence the origin of Epic poems, of which the song in this chapter is the earliest specimen. And on the principle of preserving the memory of such events, most nations have had their epic poets, who have generally taken for their subject the most splendid or most remote events of their country's history, which either referred to the formation or extension of their empire, the exploits of their ancestors, or the establishment of their religion. Hence the ancient Hebrews had their Shir Mosheh, the piece in question: the Greeks, their Ilias; the Hindoos, their Mahabarat; the Romans, their Aeneid; the Norwegians, their Edda; the Irish and Scotch, their Fingal and Chronological poems; the Welsh, their Taliessin and his Triads; the Arabs, their Nebiun-Nameh (exploits of Mohammed) and Hamleh Heedry, (exploits of Aly); the Persians, their Shah Nameh, (book of kings); the Italians, their Gerusalemme Liberata; the Portuguese, their Lusiad; the English, their Paradise Lost; and, in humble imitation of all the rest, (etsi non passibus aequis), the French, their Henriade.
The song of Moses has been in the highest repute in the Church of God from the beginning; the author of the Book of The Wisdom of Solomon attributes it in a particular manner to the wisdom of God, and says that on this occasion God opened the mouth of the dumb, and made the tongues of infants eloquent; The Wisdom of Solomon 10:21. As if he had said, Every person felt an interest in the great events which had taken place, and all labored to give Jehovah that praise which was due to his name. "With this song of victory over Pharaoh," says Mr. Ainsworth, "the Holy Ghost compares the song of those who have gotten the victory over the spiritual Pharaoh, the beast, (Antichrist), when they stand by the sea of glass mingled with fire, (as Israel stood here by the Red Sea), having the harps of God, (as the women here had timbrels, Exodus 15:20), and they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, the Son of God," Revelation 15:2-4.
I will sing unto the Lord - Moses begins the song, and in the two first hemistichs states the subject of it; and these two first lines became the grand chorus of the piece, as we may learn from Exodus 15:21. See Dr. Kennicott's arrangement and translation of this piece at the end of this chapter. See Clarke's note on Exodus 15:26.
Triumphed gloriously - כי גאה גאה ki gaoh gaah, he is exceedingly exalted, rendered by the Septuagint, Ενδοξως γαρ δεδοξασται, He is gloriously glorified; and surely this was one of the most signal displays of the glorious majesty of God ever exhibited since the creation of the world. And when it is considered that the whole of this transaction shadowed out the redemption of the human race from the thraldom and power of sin and iniquity by the Lord Jesus, and the final triumph of the Church of God over all its enemies, we may also join in the song, and celebrate Him who has triumphed so gloriously, having conquered death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
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.The Lord is my strength and song - How judiciously are the members of this sentence arranged! He who has God for his strength, will have him for his song; and he to whom Jehovah is become salvation, will exalt his name. Miserably and untunably, in the ears of God, does that man sing praises, who is not saved by the grace of Christ, nor strengthened by the power of his might.
It is worthy of observation that the word which we translate Lord here, is not יהוה JEHOVAH in the original, but יה Jah; "as if by abbreviation," says Mr. Parkhurst, "for יהיה yeheieh or יהי yehi. It signifies the Essence Ὁ ΩΝ, He who Is, simply, absolutely, and independently. The relation between יה Jah and the verb היה to subsist, exist, be, is intimated to us the first time יה Jah is used in Scripture, (Exodus 15:2): 'My strength and my song is יה Jah, and he is become (ויהי vajehi) to me salvation.'" See Psalm 68:5; Psalm 89:6; Psalm 94:7; Psalm 115:17, Psalm 115:18; Psalm 118:17.
Jah יה is several times joined with the name Jehovah יהוה so that we may be sure that it is not, as some have supposed, a mere abbreviation of that word. See Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4. Our blessed Lord solemnly claims to himself what is intended in this Divine name יה Jah, John 8:58 : "Before Abraham was, (γενεσθαι, was born), εγω ειμι, I Am," not I was, but I am, plainly intimating his Divine eternal existence. Compare Isaiah 43:13. And the Jews appear to have well understood him, for then took they up stones to cast at him as a blasphemer. Compare Colossians 1:16, Colossians 1:17, where the Apostle Paul, after asserting that all things that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, were created, εκτισται, by and for Christ, adds And He Is (αυτος εστι, not ην, was) before all things, and by him all things συνεστηκε, have subsisted, and still subsist. See Parkhurst.
From this Divine name יה Jah the ancient Greeks had their Ιη, Ιη, in their invocations of the gods, particularly of Apollo (the uncompounded One) the light; and hence ei, written after the oriental manner from right to left, afterwards ie, was inscribed over the great door of the temple at Delphi! See Clarke's note on Exodus 3:14, and the concluding observations there.
I will prepare him a habitation - ואנוהו veanvehu. It has been supposed that Moses, by this expression, intended the building of the tabernacle; but it seems to come in very strangely in this place. Most of the ancient versions understood the original in a very different sense. The Vulgate has et glorificabo eum; the Septuagint δοξασω αυτον, I will Glorify him; with which the Syriac, Coptic, the Targum of Jonathan, and the Jerusalem Targum, agree. From the Targum of Onkelos the present translation seems to have been originally derived; he has translated the place ואבני לה מקדש veebnei leh makdash, "And I will build him a sanctuary," which not one of the other versions, the Persian excepted, acknowledges. Our own old translations are generally different from the present: Coverdale, "This my God, I will magnify him;" Matthew's, Cranmer's, and the Bishops' Bible, render it glorify, and the sense of the place seems to require it. Calmet, Houbigant, Kennicott, and other critics, contend for this translation.
My father's God - I believe Houbigant to be right, who translates the original, אלהי אבי Elohey abi, Deus meus, pater meus est, "My God is my Father." Every man may call the Divine Being his God; but only those who are his children by adoption through grace can call him their Father. This is a privilege which God has given to none but his children. See Galatians 4:6.
The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.The Lord is a man of war - Perhaps it would be better to translate the words, Jehovah is the man or hero of the battle. As we scarcely ever apply the term to any thing but first-rate armed vessels, the change of the translation seems indispensable, though the common rendering is literal enough. Besides, the object of Moses was to show that man had no part in this victory, but that the whole was wrought by the miraculous power of God, and that therefore he alone should have all the glory.
Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.Pharaoh's chariots - his host - his chosen captains - On such an expedition it is likely that the principal Egyptian nobility accompanied their king, and that the overthrow they met with here had reduced Egypt to the lowest extremity. Had the Israelites been intent on plunder, or had Moses been influenced by a spirit of ambition, how easily might both have gratified themselves, as, had they returned, they might have soon overrun and subjugated the whole land.
The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.
Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.Thy right hand - Thy omnipotence, manifested in a most extraordinary way.
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.In the greatness of thine excellency - To this wonderful deliverance the Prophet Isaiah refers, Isaiah 63:11-14 : "Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he that put his Holy Spirit within him? That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name? That led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble? As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest; so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name."
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.The depths were congealed - The strong east wind (Exodus 14:21) employed to dry the bottom of the sea, is here represented as the blast of God's nostrils that had congealed or frozen the waters, so that they stood in heaps like a wall on the right hand and on the left.
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.The enemy said - As this song was composed by Divine inspiration, we may rest assured that these words were spoken by Pharaoh and his captains, and the passions they describe felt, in their utmost sway, in their hearts; but how soon was their boasting confounded? "Thou didst blow with thy wind, and the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters!"
Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.Exodus 15:16 Thou sentest forth thy wrath,
Consuming them as stubble.
And with the blast of thy nostrils
The waters were gathered together.
Thou didst blow with thy wind:
The sea covered them.
Terror and dread shall fall upon them:
By the might of thine arm they shall be still as a stone. Job Deuteronomy Job 20:27
Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? - We have already seen that all the Egyptian gods, or the objects of the Egyptians' idolatry, were confounded, and rendered completely despicable, by the ten plagues, which appear to have been directed principally against them. Here the people of God exult over them afresh: Who among these gods is like unto Thee? They can neither save nor destroy; Thou dost both in the most signal manner.
As the original words מי כמכה באלם יהוה mi chamochah baelim Yehovah are supposed to have constituted the motto on the ensign of the Asmoneans, and to have furnished the name of Maccabeus to Judas, their grand captain, from whom they were afterwards called Maccabeans, it may be necessary to say a few words on this subject It is possible that Judas Maccabeus might have had this motto on his ensign, or at least the initial letters of it, for such a practice was not uncommon. For instance, on the Roman standard the letters S. P. Q. R. stood for Senatus Populus Que Romanus, i.e. the Senate and Roman People, and מ כ ב י M. C. B. I. might have stood for Mi Chamochah Baelim Jehovah, "Who among the gods (or strong ones) is like unto thee, O Jehovah!" But it appears from the Greek Μακκαβαιος, and also the Syriac makabi, that the name was written originally with ק koph, not כ caph. It is most likely, as Michaelis has observed, that the name must have been derived from מקב makkab, a hammer or mallet; hence Judas, because of his bravery and success, might have been denominated the hammer or mallet by which the enemies of God had been beaten, pounded, and broken to pieces. Judas, the hammer of the Lord.
Glorious in holiness - Infinitely resplendent in this attribute, essential to the perfection of the Divine nature.
Fearful in praises - Such glorious holiness cannot be approached without the deepest reverence and fear, even by angels, who veil their faces before the majesty of God. How then should man, who is only sin and dust, approach the presence of his Maker!
Doing wonders? - Every part of the work of God is wonderful; not only miracles, which imply an inversion or suspension of the laws of nature, but every part of nature itself. Who can conceive how a single blade of grass is formed; or how earth, air, and water become consolidated in the body of the oak? And who can comprehend how the different tribes of plants and animals are preserved, in all the distinctive characteristics of their respective natures? And who can conceive how the human being is formed, nourished, and its different parts developed? What is the true cause of the circulation of the blood? or, how different ailments produce the solids and fluids of the animal machine? What is life, sleep, death? And how an impure and unholy soul is regenerated, purified, refined, and made like unto its great Creator? These are wonders which God alone works, and to himself only are they fully known.
Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.The earth swallowed them - It is very likely there was also an earthquake on this occasion, and that chasms were made in the bottom of the sea, by which many of them were swallowed up, though multitudes were overwhelmed by the waters, whose dead bodies were afterward thrown ashore. The psalmist strongly intimates that there was an earthquake on this occasion: The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven; the lightnings lightened the world; the Earth Trembled and Shook; Psalm 77:18.
Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.Thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation - As this ode was dictated by the Spirit of God, It is most natural to understand this and the following verses, to the end of the 18th, as containing a prediction of what God would do for this people which he had so miraculously redeemed. On this mode of interpretation it would be better to read several of the verbs in the future tense.
The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.
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.The dukes of Edom - Idumea was governed at this time by those called אלפים alluphim, heads, chiefs, or captains. See Clarke's note on Genesis 36:15.
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.Till thy people pass over - Not over the Red Sea, for that event had been already celebrated; but over the desert and Jordan, in order to be brought into the promised land.
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.Thou shalt bring them in - By thy strength and mercy alone shall they get the promised inheritance.
And plant them - Give them a fixed habitation in Canaan, after their unsettled wandering life in the wilderness.
In the mountain - Meaning Canaan, which was a very mountainous country, Deuteronomy 11:11; or probably Mount Zion, on which the temple was built. Where the pure worship of God was established, there the people might expect both rest and safety. Wherever the purity of religion is established and preserved, and the high and the low endeavor to regulate their lives according to its precepts, the government of that country is likely to be permanent.
The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.The Lord shall reign for ever and ever - This is properly the grand chorus in which all the people joined. The words are expressive of God's everlasting dominion, not only in the world, but in the Church; not only under the law, but also under the Gospel; not only in time, but through eternity. The original לעלם ועד leolam vaed may be translated, for ever and onward; or, by our very expressive compound term, for Evermore, i.e. for ever and more - not only through time, but also through all duration. His dominion shall be ever the same, active and infinitely extending. With this verse the song seems to end, as with it the hemistichs or poetic lines terminate. The 20th and beginning of the 21st are in plain prose, but the latter part of the 21st is in hemistichs, as it contains the response made by Miriam and the Israelitish women at different intervals during the song. See Dr. Kennicott's arrangement of the parts at the end of this chapter.
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.
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.And Miriam the prophetess - We have already seen that Miriam was older than either Moses or Aaron: for when Moses was exposed on the Nile, she was a young girl capable of managing the stratagem used for the preservation of his life; and then Aaron was only three years and three months old, for he was fourscore and three years old when Moses was but fourscore, (see Exodus 7:7); so that Aaron was older than Moses, and Miriam considerably older than either, not less probably than nine or ten years of age. See Clarke's notes on Exodus 2:2. There is great diversity of opinion on the origin of the name of Miriam, which is the same with the Greek Μαριαμ, the Latin Maria, and the English Mary. Some suppose it to be compounded of מר mar, a drop, (Isaiah 40:15), and ים yam, the sea, and that from this etymology the heathens formed their Venus, whom they feign to have sprung from the sea. St. Jerome gives several etymologies for the name, which at once show how difficult it is to ascertain it: she who enlightens me, or she who enlightens them, or the star of the sea. Others, the lady of the sea, the bitterness of the sea, etc. It is probable that the first or the last is the true one, but it is a matter of little importance, as we have not the circumstance marked, as in the case of Moses and many others, that gave rise to the name.
The prophetess - הנביאה hannebiah. For the meaning of the word prophet, נביא nabi, see the note on Genesis 20:7. It is very likely that Miriam was inspired by the Spirit of God to instruct the Hebrew women, as Moses and Aaron were to instruct the men; and when she and her brother Aaron sought to share in the government of the people with Moses, we find her laying claim to the prophetic influence, Numbers 12:2 : Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not Spoken Also By Us? And that she was constituted joint leader of the people with her two brothers, we have the express word of God by the Prophet Micah, Micah 6:4 : For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt - and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Hence it is very likely that she was the instructress of the women, and regulated the times, places, etc., of their devotional acts; for it appears that from the beginning to the present day the Jewish women all worshipped apart.
And with dances - מחלת mecholoth. Many learned men suppose that this word means some instruments of wind music, because the word comes from the root חלל chalal, the ideal meaning of which is to perforate, penetrate, pierce, stab, and hence to wound. Pipes or hollow tubes, such as flutes, hautboys, and the like, may be intended. Both the Arabic and Persian understand it as meaning instruments of music of the pipe, drum, or sistrum kind; and this seems to comport better with the scope and design of the place than the term dances. It must however be allowed that religious dances have been in use from the remotest times; and yet in most of the places where the term occurs in our translation, an instrument of music bids as fair to be its meaning as a dance of any kind. Miriam is the first prophetess on record, and by this we find that God not only poured out his Spirit upon men, but upon women also; and we learn also that Miriam was not only a prophetess, but a poetess also, and must have had considerable skill in music to have been able to conduct her part of these solemnities. It may appear strange that during so long an oppression in Egypt, the Israelites were able to cultivate the fine arts; but that they did so there is the utmost evidence from the Pentateuch. Not only architecture, weaving, and such necessary arts, were well known among them, but also the arts that are called ornamental, such as those of the goldsmith, lapidary, embroiderer, furrier, etc., of which we have ample proof in the construction of the tabernacle and its utensils. However ungrateful, rebellious, etc., the Jews may have been, the praise of industry and economy can never be denied them. In former ages, and in all places even of their dispersions, they appear to have been frugal and industrious, and capable of great proficiency in the most elegant and curious arts; but they are now greatly degenerated.
Exodus 15:20, 21So Jephthah's daughter collected a chorus or virgins, and with dances and songs came out to meet her father, and to celebrate his victory, Judges 11:34. After David's conquest of Goliath, "all the women came out of the cities of Israel singing and dancing to meet Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music;" and, forming themselves into two choruses, they sang alternately: -
"Saul has slain his thousands:
And David his ten thousands."
And this gives us the true sense of a passage in the sixty-eighth Psalm, which has frequently been misunderstood: -
"Jehovah gave the word, (that is, the joyful news),
The women, who published the glad tidings, were a great company;
The kings of mighty armies did flee, did flee:
And even the matron, who stayed at home, shared the spoil."
The word signifying the publishers of glad tidings is the same, and expressed in the same form by the feminine participle, as in this place, and the last distich is the song which they sang. So in this place, Jehovah having given the word by his prophet, the joyful tidings of the restoration of Zion, and of God's returning to Jerusalem, (see Isaiah 52:8), the women are exhorted by the prophet to publish the joyful news with a loud voice from eminences, whence they might best be heard all over the country; and the matter and burden of their song was to be, "Behold your God!" See on Psalm 68:11 (note).
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.
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.The wilderness of Shur - This was on the coast of the Red Sea on their road to Mount Sinai. See the map.
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.Marah - So called from the bitter waters found there. Dr. Shaw conjectures that this place is the same as that now called Corondel, where there is still a small rill which, if not diluted with dews or rain, continues brackish. See his account at the end of Exodus (Exodus 40:38 (note)).
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?The people murmured - They were in a state of great mental degradation, owing to their long and oppressive vassalage, and had no firmness of character. See Clarke's note on Exodus 13:17.
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,He cried unto the Lord - Moses was not only their leader, but also their mediator. Of prayer and dependence on the Almighty, the great mass of the Israelites appear to have had little knowledge at this time. Moses, therefore, had much to bear from their weakness, and the merciful Lord was long-suffering.
The Lord showed him a tree - What this tree was we know not: some think that the tree was extremely bitter itself, such as the quassia; and that God acted in this as he generally does, correcting contraries by contraries, which, among the ancient physicians, was a favourite maxim, Clavus clavo expellitur. The Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem say that, when Moses prayed, "the Word of the Lord showed him the tree ארדפני ardiphney, on which he wrote the great and precious name of (Jehovah), and then threw it into the waters, and the waters thereby became sweet" But what the tree ardiphney was we are not informed.
Many suppose that this tree which healed the bitter waters was symbolical of the cross of our blessed Redeemer, that has been the means of healing infected nature, and through the virtue of which the evils and bitters of life are sweetened, and rendered subservient to the best interests of God's followers. Whatever may be in the metaphor, this is true in fact; and hence the greatest of apostles gloried in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world was crucified to him and he unto the world.
It appears that these waters were sweetened only for that occasion, as Dr. Shaw reports them to be still brackish, which appears to be occasioned by the abundance of natron which prevails in the surrounding soil. Thus we may infer that the natural cause of their bitterness or brackishness was permitted to resume its operations, when the occasion that rendered the change necessary had ceased to exist. Thus Christ simply changed that water into wine which was to be drawn out to be carried to the master of the feast; the rest of the water in the pots remaining as before. As the water of the Nile was so peculiarly excellent, to which they had been long accustomed, they could not easily put up with what was indifferent. See Clarke's note on Exodus 7:18.
There he made for them - Though it is probable that the Israelites are here intended, yet the word לו lo should not be translated for them, but to him, for these statutes were given to Moses that he might deliver them to the people.
There he proved them - נסהו nissahu, he proved Him. By this murmuring of the people he proved Moses, to see, speaking after the manner of men, whether he would be faithful, and, in the midst of the trials to which he was likely to be exposed, whether he would continue to trust in the Lord, and seek all his help from him.
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.If thou wilt diligently hearken - What is contained in this verse appears to be what is intended by the statute and ordinance mentioned in the preceding: If thou wilt diligently hearken unto 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, etc. This statute and ordinance implied the three following particulars:
1. That they should acknowledge Jehovah for their God, and thus avoid all idolatry.
2. That they should receive his word and testimony as a Divine revelation, binding on their hearts and lives, and thus be saved from profligacy of every kind, and from acknowledging the maxims or adopting the customs of the neighboring nations.
3. That they should continue to do so, and adorn their profession with a holy life. T
hese things being attended to, then the promise of God was, that they should have none of the diseases of the Egyptians put on them; that they should be kept in a state of health of body and peace of mind; and if at any time they should be afflicted, on application to God the evil should be removed, because he was their healer or physician - I am the Lord that healeth thee. That the Israelites had in general a very good state of health, their history warrants us to believe; and when they were afflicted, as in the case of the fiery serpents, on application to God they were all healed. The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel states that the statutes which Moses received at this time were commandments concerning the observance of the Sabbath, duty to parents, the ordinances concerning wounds and bruises, and the penalties which sinners should incur by transgressing them. But it appears that the general ordinances already mentioned are those which are intended here, and this seems to be proved beyond dispute by Jeremiah 7:22, Jeremiah 7:23 : "For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices: but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you."
And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.They came to Elim - This was in the desert of Sin, and, according to Dr. Shaw, about two leagues from Tor, and thirty from Marah or Corondel.
Twelve wells of water - One for each of the tribes of Israel, say the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem.
And threescore and ten palm trees - One for each of the seventy elders - Ibid.
Dr. Shaw found nine of the twelve wells, the other three having been choked up with sand; and the seventy palm trees multiplied into more than 2000, the dates of which bring a considerable revenue to the Greek monks at Tor. See his account at the end of this book, (Exodus 40:38 (note)) and see also the map. Thus sufficient evidence of the authenticity of this part of the sacred history remains, after the lapse of more than 3000 years.
In the preceding notes the reader has been referred to Dr. Kennicott's translation and arrangement of the song of Moses. To this translation he prefixes the following observations: -
"This triumphant ode was sung by Moses and the sons of Israel: and the women, headed by Miriam, answered the men by repeating the two first lines of the song, altering only the first word, which two lines were probably sung more than once as a chorus.
"The conclusion of this ode seems very manifest; and yet, though the ancient Jews had sense enough to write this song differently from prose; and though their authority has prevailed even, to this day in this and three other poems in the Old Testament, (Deuteronomy 22; Judges 5; and 2 Samuel 22)., still expressed by them as poetry; yet have these critics carried their ideas of the song here to the end of Exodus 15:19. The reason why the same has been done by others probably is, they thought that the particle כי for, which begins Exodus 15:19, necessarily connected it with the preceding poetry. But this difficulty is removed by translating כי when, especially if we take Exodus 15:19-21 as being a prose explanation of the manner in which this song of triumph was performed. For these three verses say that the men singers were answered in the chorus by Miriam and the women, accompanying their words with musical instruments. 'When the horse of Pharaoh had gone into the sea, and the Lord had brought the sea upon them; and Israel had passed, on dry land, in the midst of the sea; then Miriam took a timbrel, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dances; and Miriam (with the women) answered them (להם lahem, the men, by way of chorus) in the words, O sing ye, etc.' That this chorus was sung more than Once is thus stated by Bishop Lowth: Maria, cum mulieribus, virorum choro identidem succinebat - Praelect. 19.
"I shall now give what appears to me to be an exact translation of this whole song: -
Moses. Part I
1. I will sing to Jehovah, for he hath triumphed gloriously; The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
2. My strength and my song is Jehovah; And he is become to me for salvation: This is my God, and I will celebrate him; The God of my father, and I will exalt him.
3.((Perhaps a chorus sung by the men)Jehovah is mighty in battleJehovah is his name!(Chorus, by Miriam and the women. Perhaps sung first in this place. )O sing ye to Jehovah, for he hath triumphed gloriously: The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
Moses. Part II
4. Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea; And his chosen captains are drowned in the Red Sea.
5. The depths have covered them, they went down; (They sank) to the bottom as a stone.
6. Thy right hand, Jehovah, is become glorious in power; Thy right hand, Jehovah, dasheth in pieces the enemy.
7. And in the greatness of thine excellence thou overthrowest them that rise against thee. Thou sendest forth thy wrath, which consumeth them as stubble.
8. Even at the blast of thy displeasure the waters are gathered together; The floods stand upright as a heap, Congealed are the depths in the very heart of the sea. O sing ye to Jehovah, etc. Chorus by the women.
Moses. Part III
9. The enemy said: 'I will pursue, I shall overtake; I shall divide the spoil, my soul shall be satiated with them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.'
10. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them; They sank as lead in the mighty waters.
11. Who is like thee among the gods, O Jehovah? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness!
12. Fearful in praises; performing wonders! Thou stretchest out thy right hand, the earth swalloweth them!
13. Thou in thy mercy leadest the people whom thou hast redeemed; Thou in thy strength guidest to the habitation of thy holiness! O sing ye to Jehovah, etc. Chorus by the women.
Moses. Part IV
14. The nations have heard, and are afraid; Sorrow hath seized the inhabitants of Palestine.
15. Already are the dukes of Edom in consternation, And the mighty men of Moab, trembling hath seized them; All the inhabitants of Canaan do faint.
16. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; Through the greatness of thine arm they shall be still as a stone.
17. Till thy people, Jehovah, pass over [Jordan]; Till the people pass over whom thou hast redeemed.
18. Thou shalt bring them and plant them in the mount of thine inheritance: The place for thy rest which thou, Jehovah, hast made; The sanctuary, Jehovah, which thy hands have established.
Grand Chorus by All.
Jehovah for ever and ever shall reign."
1. When poetry is consecrated to the service of God, and employed as above to commemorate his marvellous acts, it then becomes a very useful handmaid to piety, and God is honored by his gifts. God inspired the song of Moses, and perhaps from this very circumstance it has passed for current among the most polished of the heathen nations, that a poet is a person Divinely inspired; and hence the epithet of προφητης, prophet, and vates, of the same import, was given them among the Greeks and Romans.
2. The song of Moses is a proof of the miraculous passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea. There has been no period since the Hebrew nation left Egypt in which this song was not found among them, as composed on that occasion, and to commemorate that event. It may be therefore considered as completely authentic as any living witness could be who had himself passed through the Red Sea, and whose life had been protracted through all the intervening ages to the present day.
3. We have already seen that it is a song of triumph for the deliverance of the people of God, and that it was intended to point out the final salvation and triumph of the whole Church of Christ; so that in the heaven of heavens the redeemed of the Lord, both among the Jews and the Gentiles, shall unite together to sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. See Revelation 15:2-4. Reader, implore the mercy of God to enable thee to make thy calling and election sure, that thou mayest bear thy part in this glorious and eternal triumph.